Curriculum & Instruction

Wisdom from the land of ten thousand slushy lakes

Mike and MinnCAN’s Daniel Sellers talk Pearson, Common Core dustups, and the President’s pre-K proposal. Amber highlights funding disparities between district and charter schools.

Amber's Research Minute

Education’s Fiscal Cliff, Real or Perceived? by Larry Maloney, Meagan Batdorff, Jay May, and Michelle Terrell (University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, April 2013)

Nearly two years ago, Achieve and the National Research Council (NRC), together with two dozen states, a handful of heavy-hitter foundations, and several other organizations, teamed up to develop a set of K–12, “next generation” science standards for states to consider for adoption. Their hope was to strengthen science education by setting clearer and more rigorous expectations than those that guide instruction in this crucial subject in most states today.

We urge states considering NGSS to exercise caution and patience
At the present time, we urge states considering NGSS to exercise caution and patience.
Image by moominsean.

The NRC initiated the process by developing a “framework” (National Research Council’s Framework for K–12 Education) setting forth the “key ideas and practices in the natural sciences and engineering that all students should be familiar with by the time they graduate from high school.” The Achieve team then embarked on a long process of building K–12 standards based on and faithful to that framework. They released two public drafts, received comments, made revisions, and then, the week before last, unveiled the final version of these “Next Generation Science Standards” (NGSS).

States are being encouraged to embrace and adopt these standards—and it’s no secret that most would benefit from far stronger standards for science than those they’ve been...

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Mirroring trends in twelfth-grade NAEP scores in other subjects, this second round of economics assessments shows that U.S. high school seniors are, on the whole, no better versed in the subject than they were in 2006. While those scoring at or above “basic” did rise from 79 percent in 2006 to 82 percent in 2012, there were no gains at or above the “proficient” level; the gender gap remains from '06, with boys outscoring girls by six points on average (on a 300-point scale); and private school pupils still best their public school peers by sixteen points. On the better news front, as we have seen in other subjects, Hispanic students’ scores ticked up: Those at or above “basic” increased from 64 to 71 percent over the six-year period, probably because they’re also reading better. Despite the generally gloomy data presented here, it’s a good thing that NAEP continues to assess kids in subjects beyond English and math. To ensure a comprehensive, content-based curriculum for all, we must recognize that all core subjects matter—and monitor our students’ progress in learning them.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Economics 2012 (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, 2013)....

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Ohio’s bright-eyed freshmen aren’t ready for college coursework. That’s the story from the Ohio Board of Regents, which reports that 40 percent of Ohio’s college freshman at public colleges and universities take remedial (high-school level) coursework in either math or English. Moreover, 14 percent of incoming freshman are required by their colleges to take both a remedial math and English class.

These are staggering numbers, with massive implications for students and taxpayers. For students who take a remedial course, Complete College America found that only 35 percent graduate in six years. This compares to 56 percent of all students. Similarly, the Ohio State University found that students who took remedial coursework graduated at a rate 30 points lower than their non-remedial peers. With these dismal results in mind, remedial coursework largely wastes the $130 million per year Ohio spends to support remedial education.

The chart below takes a closer look at the remediation rates for incoming freshman who attend an Ohio public college or university, by the public high school from which they graduated. The performance index generally indicates the quality of the high school. The chart shows three things:

  • As expected, higher-performing schools tend to have lower remediation rates;
  • A small portion of Ohio high schools have remarkably high remediation rates—above 70 and 80 percent—and four schools break the 90 percent mark;
  • A modest-sized section of high-performing high schools also have high remediation rates. This is unexpected—and indicates that remediation is a problem for students
  • ...
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In a previous review, I examined The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) Index of Essential Practices 2012 which discusses how states are doing in accomplishing the “essential practices” for charter school authorizing. Ohio sponsors performed well, even though they met some difficulty reaching higher marks because of Ohio’s charter school law. One of the critiques I had was that these essential practices were self-reported and did not fully unpack the policy implications for these authorizers and the states where they work. Recently, however, NACSA released an accompanying report called The State of Charter School Authorizing 2012 that elaborates on the Index by attaching policy recommendations for both authorizers and states. This report, using authorizer demographics and survey data from authorizers, shows that charter school authorizers and states can better serve their charter schools and hold them to higher accountability standards. NACSA finds that the authorizers are performing well on the index but still suffer challenges in closing schools, hiring experts, and working with state laws. Based on the survey findings, NACSA recommends the following for charter school authorizers and the state lawmakers:

  • Authorizers need to develop strong policies for both replication and closure of charters;
  • Authorizers must invest in human capital development to increase both the quantity and quality of charter school educators; and
  • State policy makers must work with charter authorizers to develop stronger measures of school accountability.

Even though the report finds that authorizers are moving in the right direction with details like...

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  • Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. sees headwinds ahead for the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortia, the organizations that are developing assessments aligned to the Common Core.
  • Mike Petrilli urges the Republican National Committee to rescind their draft resolution rejecting the Common Core.
  • Terry Ryan and the rest of the Fordham Ohio gang debunk the fabrications and hyperbole swirling in Ohio from those who oppose the Common Core.
  • Emmy Partin debates the Common Core—in a manner worthy of the setting—with a panel of Ohio elected officials and advocates.
  • Read all this, but still sure what’s going on with the Common Core? See our FAQ on the Common Core here!

Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) earns attention from national media

  • DECA’s principal Dave Taylor joins the Huffington Post to discuss what makes DECA special for its students. Check out the video here. And, be sure to congratulate DECA for its bronze medal awarded by U.S. News and World Report.
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This prediction will puzzle, upset, and maybe infuriate a great many readers—and, of course, it could turn out to be wrong—but enough clues, tips, tidbits, and intuitions have converged in recent weeks that I feel obligated to make it:

Common Core assessment consortia to be replaced?
Will PARCC and Smarter Balanced be eclipsed by longer-established, fleeter-footed testing firms like the College Board and ACT?
Image by Benjamin Chun.

I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business.

In particular, I predict (as does Andy Smarick) that the new ACT-Aspire assessment system, which is supposed to be ready for use in 2014 (a full year earlier than either of the consortium products) and which some states are considering as their new assessment vehicle, will be joined by kindred products to be developed and marketed by the College Board. And the two of them will dominate the market for new Common Core assessments.

One straw in the wind: Alabama’s announcement last week that...

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The last few weeks in Ohio have seen a torrent of anti-Common Core literature, comments, blogs, and letters aimed at lawmakers and state board of education members. Much of this chatter has been perpetrated by two organizations with a lot to say and claims to make. See here and here. Such critics and criticisms need a response, and in the following we provide rebuttals to four widely circulated fabrications about the Common Core.

It is well known that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been a long-time champion of high academic standards and aligned assessments. We are also supporters of the Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics, mainly because they are superior to what Ohio and most other states currently have in place for their schools.

There is no doubt that the Common Core and the PARCC assessments aligned to them will face challenges in the coming months and years ( e.g. preparing all teachers, getting the necessary technology in place, developing pacing guides). But, despite the challenges superintendents, school principals, and teachers are remarkably supportive of the Common Core in Ohio and across the country. For example, Fordham recently surveyed Ohio’s superintendents (344 of the state’s 614 superintendents – a 56 percent response rate), and discovered that 81 percent of the respondents believe that five years from now the Common Core standards “will be widely and routinely in use in Ohio.” Only one in ten say it “will have faded away by then.”...

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Clearing the air

Dara and Daniela fume over the RNC’s Common Core action, consider the implications of Alabama’s move to the ACT, and clear the air over Florida’s teacher-evaluation mess. Amber probes Caroline Hoxby’s plan to close the college-admissions information gap facing high-achieving, low-income youngsters.

Amber's Research Minute

Expanding College Opportunities for High-Achieving, Low Income Students by Caroline Hoxby and Sarah Turner (Stanford, CA: Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, 2013).

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