Flypaper

Following hard on the heels of Fordham’s own reportEvaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments, the Center for American Progress looks at the exams offered by the PARCC and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing consortia and largely likes what it sees for students with special challenges.

It’s a larger population than many perhaps realize. English language learners (4.4 million) and students with disabilities (6.4 million) constitute more than 20 percent of American school enrollment. “Given these numbers, it is critical that students with disabilities and English language learners have the same opportunities as their peers to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and receive appropriate supports to meet their needs,” the report notes.

Testing “accommodations” have typically meant extra time, questions read out loud or translated into native languages, and so on. While PARCC and SBAC “improve on previous state tests in terms of quality, rigor, and alignment” (Fordham’s report reached the same overarching conclusion) they also represent a significant advance in “universal design”—a principle that considers the user with the greatest physical and cognitive need and makes it a “feature,” not a “fix.” Consider the authors’ example of sidewalk “curb cuts.” Designed to make sidewalks wheelchair accessible, they ended up...

A new report by the National Charter School Resource Center examines the unique position of rural charter schools across America.

Citing a lack of research on the subject, as well as the demand for more examples of successful practice, the authors identify some of the unique difficulties that rural charter schools face: attracting and holding onto diverse local talent, paying to transport students over large distances, and maintaining and securing school facilities.

These challenges are often more acute for rural charter schools than their urban counterparts. There are hidden costs to teachers living and working in rural areas, such as a lack of suitable housing, professional growth opportunities, and good transportation. Providing transportation to students in areas with few alternative options may be prohibitively expensive. Simply locating appropriate buildings in which to operate a charter school is usually easier in an urban environment, where disused structures are more frequently available. When rural charters need to construct their own, costs rise exponentially.

Using examples in five states, the authors showcase a handful of rural charters that have overcome this adversity by using their position to their advantage.

  • Having struggled to retain good staff, the remote Upper Carmen Charter School in Idaho
  • ...

Recently, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a list of recommendations for states and local education agencies to use as a guide for designing and reforming teacher support and evaluation systems. The recently passed ESSA removes the federal waiver requirement for teacher evaluations, but most states have remained committed. And CCSSO’s guiding principles offer a solid foundation on which state and local authorities can refine their evaluation structures and teacher support systems to ensure a “productive balance” between support and accountability.

CCSSO worked alongside teachers, principals, state chiefs, expert researchers, and partner organizations to develop three key principles. The first highlights the importance of integrating teacher support and evaluation into more comprehensive efforts to develop teaching practice and improve student learning. This includes regularly communicating the purpose of evaluation and support systems; building systems that are based on clearly articulated standards for effective practice; connecting evaluation and support to talent management and using results to inform decisions related to career advancement, leadership opportunities, and tenure; aligning teacher support and evaluation to student standards, curricula, and assessment; and clarifying the roles and responsibilities of states, districts, and schools. States play the largest role in making the system work because,...

When the history of this era’s urban-education reform movement is written, four big policy innovations are sure to get attention: the nation’s first voucher program, first charter law, first mayor-controlled charter authorizer, and first “extraordinary authority” unit (the RSD).

The people mostly responsible for these have two important things in common.

First, unless you’re an old hand in this business, you may not know of them.

Second—Polly Williams, Ember Reichgott Junge, Teresa Lubbers, Leslie Jacobs—they’re all women.

Unfortunately, those two facts are probably related.

Much has been written recently about the social forces pushing women below the radar in professional settings. In an excellent NYT piece, “Speaking While Female,” Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In) and Adam Grant (a Wharton professor) argue that “speaking up” at work generally helps men but not women.

“When a woman speaks in a professional setting,” they write, “she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s...

After roughly a year of presidential politicking during which education has been given short shrift, two primary debates over the past few days have restored the issue to news cycle relevance. Both were held in troubled Michigan cities in advance of today’s crucial primary. It’s not clear what about the state suddenly brought public focus back to K–12 schooling, but there’s undeniably something in the water.

During last Thursday night’s Republican conclave in Detroit, Fox moderator Megyn Kelly asked John Kasich the first substantive question on education posed to any GOP candidate in over half a year. (Jeb Bush was queried on Common Core at the very first debate, held in August.) The Motor City’s schools are burdened with billions in debt, Kelly said, and kids are often forced to study in filthy, unsafe classrooms. Should the next president intervene with a windfall of federal cash, as the present one did with the auto industry?

It’s to Kasich’s credit that he gave a reasonably germane and detailed answer, especially given the rhetorical bloodbath being waged to his right. The governor drew a comparison between Detroit’s public schools and those in Cleveland, a similarly blighted district that has made some strides during his time...

I have no idea if Lin-Manuel Miranda has read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me; nor am I aware if Coates has seen Miranda’s Hamilton on Broadway. But it would be fascinating to listen to the two of them discuss each other’s work and their views on what it means to be young, brown, and American today.

All of us who work in classrooms with children of color would be richer if we could eavesdrop on such an exchange.

The parallels are striking. Both are young men of color who have created two of the most praised and dissected cultural works of the moment. Both were recent and richly deserving Macarthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipients. Each turns his creative lens on our nation. But their respective visions of America, signaled through their work, could scarcely be more different.

We can be a bit promiscuous in our use of the word “genius,” but if it applies to anyone, it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. Anyone who can read, as he did, Ron Chernow’s seven-hundred-page doorstop biography of Alexander Hamilton and think “Hip hop musical!” has a mind like few others.

But where Miranda’s genius burns bright, Coates’s burns hot. He is, by a...

Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of blog posts that takes a closer look at the findings and implications of Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments, Fordham’s new first-of-its-kind report. The prior five posts can be read here, here, herehere, and here.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty-two months (!) since I first talked with folks at Fordham about doing a study of several new “Common Core-aligned” assessments. I believed then, and I still believe now, that this is incredibly important work. State policy makers need good evidence about the content and quality of these new tests, and to date, that evidence has been lacking. While our study is not perfect, it provides the most comprehensive and complete look yet available. It is my fervent hope that policy makers will heed these results. My ideal would be for states to simply adopt multi-state tests that save them effort (and probably money) and promote higher-quality standards implementation. The alternative, as many states have done, is to go it alone. Regardless of the approach, states should at least use the results of this study and other recent and forthcoming investigations of test quality...

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that takes a closer look at the findings and implications of Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments, Fordham’s new first-of-its-kind report. The prior four posts can be read here, here, here, and here.

When one of us was enrolled in a teacher education program umpteen years ago, one of the first things we were taught was how to use Bloom’s taxonomy. Originally developed in 1956, it is a well-known framework that delineates six increasingly complex levels of understanding: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. More recently—and to the consternation of some—Bloom’s taxonomy has been updated. But the idea that suitably addressing various queries and tasks requires more or less brainpower is an enduring truth (well sort of).  

So it is no surprise that educators care about the “depth of knowledge” (DOK) (also called “cognitive demand”) required of students. Commonly defined as the “type of thinking required by students to solve a task,” DOK has become a proxy for rigor even though it concerns content complexity rather than difficulty. A clarifying example: A student may not have seen a...

A new joint study from the University of Kentucky and Indiana University examines the potential effects of exclusionary school discipline polices—particularly school suspensions—on racial differences in reading and math achievement.

They use a hierarchical and longitudinal dataset drawn from the Kentucky School Discipline Study (KSDS) to create a final sample of 16,248 students drawn from grades 6–10 across seventeen different public schools with a demographic roughly representative of the southeastern United States. Data was collected over a three-year period between August 2008 and June 2011. Authors controlled for school-level variables (within-school variation on percent minority, percent free and reduced-price lunch, percent in special education, expenditures per student, school size, and total number of disciplinary offenses committed in a school in a given year), as well as student and non-school factors (race, socioeconomic status, the neighborhood in which the school is located, and a student’s likelihood of suspension).

They found that black students were nearly six times more likely to be suspended than whites, while other ethnic and racial minorities were over two times more likely. Schools with larger concentrations of black students had significantly higher rates of out-of-school suspension, while students who have been suspended in a given year scored...

America’s schools are staffed disproportionally by white (and mostly female) teachers. Increasing attention has been paid to the underrepresentation of teachers of color in American classrooms, with research examining its impact on expectations for students, referral rates for gifted programs, and even student achievement. This paper by American University’s Stephen Holt and Seth Gershenson adds valuable evidence to the discussion by measuring the impact of “student-teacher demographic mismatch”—being taught by a teacher of a different race—on student absences and suspensions.

The study uses student-level longitudinal data for over one million North Carolina students from kindergarten through fifth grade between the years 2006 and 2010. The researchers simultaneously controlled for student characteristics (e.g., gender, prior achievement) and classroom variables (e.g., teacher’s experience, class size, enrollment, etc.), noting that certain types of regression analysis are “very likely biased by unobserved factors that jointly determine assignment to an other-race teacher.” For example, parental motivation probably influences both student attendance and classroom assignments. The researchers conducted a variety of statistical sorting tests and concluded that there was no evidence of sorting on the variables they could observe, and likely none occurring on unobservable dimensions either. All of which is to say that students’...

Pages