Additional Topics

A new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools assesses the health of the public charter school movement by examining its progression and performance in twenty-five states and Washington, D.C. To qualify, states had to participate in the 2013 CREDO study and have at least 1 percent of public school students served by charters. They ranked the strength of each locale using fifteen indicators in three categories: growth, or the overall number of schools available and students served; innovation, defined as the “use of various innovative practices,” such as an extended school year; and quality, measured in additional days of learning for both reading and math. Washington, D.C. and Louisiana came in first and second, respectively, earning high marks for offering multiple charter school options for families, serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged youth, and showing strong student achievement gains. Nevertheless, the report suggests that both ought to make efforts to secure equitable operational funding. At the other end of the spectrum, Oregon and Nevada occupied the bottom two spots because they serve a low percentage of the state’s population of public school children, and their charters aren’t producing gains in reading and math. For these low performers, the report suggests changes in law that would allow for more in-school autonomy and more accountability for authorizers. The Alliance acknowledges that improvement can be made in identifying and collecting comprehensive data on public charter schools. Indeed. But, in the meantime, this debut analysis offers clarity to a movement...

Categories: 

Call it the Iron Law of Pedagogy: Every good teaching idea becomes a bad idea the moment it hardens into orthodoxy.

The latest example might be “close reading,” which has become yet another hot-button issue among Common Core critics. But complaints about it bother me less than its potential overuse, or the creeping notion that close reading is what all reading instruction should look like under Common Core. That would be bad for the standards, and even worse for reading achievement in the U.S.

Close reading is “an intensive analysis of a piece of text, in order to come to terms with what it says, how it says it, and what it means,” writes literacy expert Tim Shanahan of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Common Core expects students to “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.”

Sounds simple, benign, even obvious. Would anyone not want students to be able to do this? Close reading for evidence and to support inferences is a far more rigorous and academically useful standard to meet than, for example, expecting student to produce a “personal response” to literature—the kind of content-free literacy practice Common Core is intended to supplant. The mischief comes in translating “reading closely” into sound classroom practice. Some of the guidance teachers have...

Categories: 

Though the occasional political firecracker still flares across the night sky, as of mid-2014 it seems likely that most of the forty-six jurisdictions that originally embraced the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will stick with them.

That’s a seismic development for American public education, but whether it produces a 1.0 or an 8.0 on the Richter scale remains to be seen. It depends on (1) the thoroughness of implementation, (2) the selection (and scoring) of assessments, and (3) perhaps most of all, the ways in which results revealed by those assessments affect the lives of real people and their schools.

Today, all three are up for grabs.

The most important thing to know about the Common Core standards is that learning what they say you should learn is supposed to make you ready for both college and career, i.e., for a seamless move from twelfth grade into the freshman year at a standard-issue college, where you will be welcomed into credit-bearing courses that you will be ready to master.

That’s the concept. It’s a really important one and the main justification for the heavy lifting and disruption that these standards will occasion.

Today, far less than half of U.S. twelfth graders are “college ready.” (Never mind those who have already dropped out of high school.) The National Assessment Governing Board estimates that not quite 40 percent are college ready. The ACT folks estimate 26 percent are college ready across the...

Categories: 

The Sopranos edition

Common Core reading wars, union endorsements of convicted felons, schools that encourage patriotism, and the health of the charter movement.

Amber's Research Minute

"Examining the Relationship Between Teachers' Instructional Practices and Students' Mathematics Achievement," by Janine M. Firmender, M. Katherine Gavin, and D. Betsy McCoach, Journal of Advanced Academics vol. 25, no. 3 (August 2014).

  1. As you may have heard, the OEA and Innovation Ohio have launched a website (KnowYourCharter.com) to ostensibly provide comparison information between charter schools and Ohio’s districts. There’s tons wrong with this picture, of course, but suffice it to say that it’s akin to the Confederation of Wolves launching a website called KnowYourHenHouse.com, to let you know how secure chicken coops are around the state. It definitely isn’t for the purpose of making the coops more secure. But seriously folks, the Dispatch coverage quotes our own Chad Aldis talking about the apples-to-bowling-balls comparison to be had. (Columbus Dispatch). Gongwer’s coverage has other voices raising the same concerns. (Gongwer Ohio) Most other coverage around Ohio is limited to this same piece with only token information and token response. (Willoughby News Herald)
     
  2. Back in the real world, CEO Eric Gordon gave his annual State of the Schools speech in Cleveland yesterday. Although playing heavily on the story of Sisyphus, he averred that the Cleveland Plan is starting to show signs of success. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Still hanging in the real world, officials in the inner-ring Columbus suburb of Whitehall say that their schools are ready for PARCC, especially in the area of appropriate technology for the online version of the tests. How’d they get there so easily, despite the well-known challenges? By participating in last year’s test piloting. (ThisWeek News/Whitehall News)
     
  4. Sliding back into the realms of fantasy for a moment, check out this
  5. ...
Categories: 

DIFFERENT MINDS THINK ALIKE
At a Colorado gubernatorial debate last night, Governor John Hickenlooper and Congressman Bob Beauprez discussed their views on education. The consensus: To improve the state's standing in national rankings, more federal funding is necessary. Good luck with that, fellas.

GOOD NEWS FOR LOW-INCOME UNDERGRADS
The University of Chicago will announce today a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the enrollment of low-income students. “This is all part of a strategy to create a common and equal platform for all students,” said the school’s dean.

TOOTHLESS STANDARDS
Mathew Chingos writes that although California has passed laws to remove ineffective teachers and end tenure abuse, this legislation will have a minimal impact, dismissing poor teachers at an annual rate of only 0.0008 percent. 

THINK DIFFERENT
While technology in the classroom opens the door for versatile lessons, some worry that automated programs rob children of the ability to solve complex problems on their own. ...

Categories: 

I’m excited about a recent shift in the reform conversation. After years of focusing on Common Core, common assessments, and teacher evaluation, many of those interested in large-scale K–12 improvements are turning their attention back to state accountability systems.

The Obama administration’s ESEA waiver policy had the potential to spur imaginative state-level thinking. But thanks to a combination of NCLB’s legal strictures, the administration’s fixation on particular policy conditions, and state leaders who just wanted to get out from under AYP ASAP, the new state systems look a whole lot like the old ones. (In fairness, some states have smartly experimented with A–F systems and “super subgroups.”)

Despite this arrested development, I think two important events provide the outlines for a new approach to state-level accountability.

First, under the auspices of CRPE and TBFI, a group of experienced policymakers and thought leaders have penned an “Open Letter on Accountability To State Superintendents and Governors.” It explains and defends K–12 accountability, concedes problems with current systems, and offers eight smart principles for next-generation systems. The group doesn’t get into specifics; instead, it hopes to get people thinking about what’s possible (though within certain guidelines).

This is important because of the second event: Increasingly, people are arguing that a unitary statewide accountability system stymies innovation and fails to capture important elements of schooling that some communities prioritize.

Mike Petrilli has argued that about 10 percent of a state’s public schools should be allowed to “opt...

Categories: 

ATLANTA’S SHAME
Yesterday saw opening statements in the criminal trial of a dozen Atlanta teachers and administrators who allegedly engaged in a “widespread, cleverly disguised” conspiracy to cheat on standardized test scores “to protect their jobs and win favor and bonuses from administrators,” the New York Times reports.

FORDHAM (AND CRPE) IN THE NEWS
Tom Vander Ark weighs in on the accountability reboot from Fordham-CRPE noting, “I love the idea of a 'good school promise' (best captured by #3) and think it should form the backbone of every states ed code. This list is a good start but doesn't adequately capture the opportunity of next generation learning.”

REFORM: A NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
At The Hill, Basil A. Smikle Jr. examines the growing split between ed reformers and unions, with parents caught in the middle: “They also have agency, but there is a growing sense that their support is being appropriated for purposes that go beyond the classroom and their children.”

PATRIOTISM OR CENSORSHIP?
The protests in Jefferson County, Colorado against proposed changes to the history curriculum have engendered some great debates over the place of patriotism in the classroom. A longtime Colorado teacher shares his thoughts in The Denver Post.

    ...

Categories: 
  1. Not much for the Gadfly to bite into today, so we’ll make the most of what we have. Starting with this very nice profile of Fordham-sponsored Village Prep :: Woodland Hills school in Cleveland. The story centers on the pervasive college-prep mentality in the school, down to the classroom doors all decorated with college logos/flags/mottos. "It's a literal and figurative door to college," says Head of School Chris O’Brien, and the students interviewed echo that mindset. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There is very little mention above of the economic conditions of Village Prep students, but it is noted that many students come to the school behind in their learning and that the school works hard to bring their students up to grade level as quickly as possible. Editors in Columbus are thinking on similar lines as they opine on the quandary of raising the achievement levels of economically disadvantaged students when non-academic factors weigh so heavily against them. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The website WalletHub has released a study ranking states based on the best opportunities for teachers. Among the 18 metrics used are median starting salary and teacher job openings per capita. Ohio ranked 8th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This in itself is fascinating, but I would be remiss if I did not note that the Plain Dealer, from which I clipped this story, is the only major daily paper in Ohio whose website is still free and open to the
  4. ...
Categories: 

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES PATRIOTISM
“In the long and deadly battle against those who hate Western ideals, and hate America in particular, we must be powerfully armed, morally as well as materially,” writes historian Donald Kagan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT
Former President Bill Clinton made waves with “stunning remarks” arguing charters that don’t outperform public schools should be closed. If “stunning” means saying the same thing charter advocates have been saying for twenty years, responds NACSA head Greg Richmond, “then yes, his remarks were stunning.”

“NOBODY WANTS TO BE ATLANTA”
The Wall Street Journal reports on “a burgeoning industry in detecting cheating on standardized exams.” School districts from Delaware to Idaho are hiring anti-cheating consultants, buying software to spot wrongdoers, and requiring testing companies to offer anti-cheating plans when seeking contracts. 

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH
Literacy expert Tim Shanahan enters the fray on teaching with complex text, not just “leveled” text. “Teachers should pay attention to evidence—not opinion,” he writes. Read Fordham’s take by Mahnken and Pondiscio here.    

HISTORY LESSONS
In Philly, students are required to take a one-year course in African American history, but many find the course frustrating, says the New Republic. And teachers “sometimes fear that introducing current events and encouraging interpretation and debate will lead to...

Categories: 

Pages