Curriculum & Instruction

The superintendent of Ohio's Twin Valley Community Local School District has come under fire in his first year on the job from the local teachers union for, among other grievances, trying to make teachers do lesson plans:

???????I asked the teachers to do lesson plans, which they hadn't done in years. Sheryl Byrd [the local teacher union president] said that was a change in work expectations," he said Wednesday. "It's a requirement by the Ohio Revised Code, and we're going to follow it."

Here's what I want to know: when did lesson planning stop being a regular part of a teacher's job????? Don't most teachers view the process as fundamental to organizing their instruction, planning assignments, and ensuring they deliver the right content at the right time to their students?

It's no surprise when teachers unions fight education reforms, but resisting lesson planning????? Really?

--Emmy Partin

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Eric Ulas

The 2009 NAEP reading scores were released this morning with little fanfare for Ohio. There has been virtually no growth in the Buckeyes State's NAEP reading results, with only 36 percent offourth graders and 37 percent of eighth graders in Ohio proficient or above in reading.

These scores come as no surprise as they've remained virtually unchanged over the last ten years, as illustrated in the graphic below.

As we've noted before a troubling gap continues to exist between Ohio's own measure of student proficiency (the Ohio Achievement Test, or OAT) and the NAEP. According to 2009 OAT results, 72 percent of eighth graders and 82 percent of fourth graders were considered proficient in reading. The graph below highlights this disparity.

Both the stalled achievement in reading according to NAEP scores, and the discrepancy between OAT and NAEP results highlight the need for strong common standards nationally correlated with a system of comprehensive assessments.

One thing is for sure ??? too few Ohio fourth and eighth graders have been scoring below proficient in reading for too long. Ohio is on the right path by choosing to adopt the Common Core State Standards, but it needs to ensure that it commits to establishing a properly aligned and comprehensive system of assessment, one strategy among several necessary to boost student achievement in the Buckeye State.

(A...

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There's a debate brewing about how much???if at all???great standards contribute to education reform. This week, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial saying that they are not as important to student achievement as universal choice. And recently, Cato's Neal McCluskey published a report (and yesterday a blog post) arguing, essentially, that standards don't really drive achievement and thus that the move to draft rigorous common standards is distracting us from pushing reforms that might actually drive student achievement. Namely, universal choice.

At face value, this argument just doesn't sit well with me. To be clear, I'm a huge proponent of school choice. In fact, in the nine years I've spent working directly in and with schools, I've only worked in schools of choice???both public charter and private schools that were part of the DC opportunity scholarship program.

But, to say that advocating for more rigorous standards is a distraction from reforms that will drive student achievement seems so far removed from everything I've ever experienced in education.

First, the DC Catholic Schools Consortium (now the Center City Consortium), which has served hundreds of at-risk students thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship Program, was able to realize the dramatic student achievement gains they've achieved in part because they made the bold choice to adopt Indiana's standards, which were far superior to their hometown DC and Maryland standards. And they very intentionally used these standards to drive curriculum, assessment, professional development, and consequently, student achievement across...

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The Fordham Institute's expert reviewers have analyzed the draft Common Core K-12 education standards (made public on March 10) according to rigorous criteria. Their analyses lead to a grade of A- for the draft mathematics standards and B for those in English language arts.


Our reviewers:

Sheila Byrd Carmichael served as reviewer for English language arts. Ms. Carmichael is an education consultant based in Washington, D.C., who has taught English in the District of Columbia Public Schools and in Italy and Japan. She was the founding director of the American Diploma Project and is the former deputy executive director of the California Academic Standards Commission. She is the co-author of Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2009), of Why We're Behind: What Top Nations Teach Their Students But We Don't (Common Core, 2008) and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status? (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2007). In addition, Sheila has also served as an external reviewer of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards for the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers.

W. Stephen Wilson served as co-reviewer for mathematics. Dr. Wilson is Professor of Mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University where he has chaired the Department of Mathematics. In 2006, he was the Advisor for Mathematics in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Wilson also helped revise Washington State’s K-12 mathematics standards...

Anyone who's been following the debate over national standards knows that two weeks ago, the National Governors Association (NGA) together with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) released the much-anticipated public draft of the K-12 math and English language arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards.[quote]

These standards had already garnered a lot of attention even before this draft was released, with people weighing in with praise and criticism about the details of the standards themselves, about what rigorous, college-readiness standards should look like, and about whether states should even have (voluntary) common standards.

Today, thanks to our expert reviewers???Sheila Byrd Carmichael for ELA and W. Stephen Wilson and Gabrielle Martino for math???we are releasing our appraisal of these standards.

While there are certainly ways to improve these drafts, which are detailed in the reviews, our experts believe that these are rigorous college-readiness standards that would raise expectations in math and ELA classrooms across the country.

On the math side, while some tweaks are needed, particularly to the organization of the high school expectations, our reviewers found rigorous, internationally-competitive standards that earn an impressive A-.

On the ELA side, the draft standards earn a solid B. And with some clarification of vague standards and the addition of more references to specific content that students must know in order to demonstrate mastery of the essential college-readiness skills outlined by the draft, these standards have the potential to be top notch.

To...

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Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy just released a proposal for ???America's Teacher Corps,??? a federally funded program that would recognize highly effective teachers in Title I schools, award them a salary bonus ($10,000), and give them a ???portable credential??? transferrable from state to state so as to encourage the best teachers to flow to the highest-need schools. Perhaps most important, ATC would encourage states and districts to develop metrics to identify highly effective teachers in the first place. (All exciting stuff.)

The authors of the paper are spot-on in pointing out the rationale for such a program. There are general problems with the profession not recruiting the best and brightest, being plagued with high turnover, inequitable distribution of talent, etc. The ATC would minimize credentialing barriers. Ohio needs this desperately, as it doesn't always grant reciprocity for out-of-state teachers ??? i.e. making Teach For America alums jump through certification hoops regardless of prior classroom experience/performance.

Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat has a good write-up about it. He also expresses concern over a few ???potential pitfalls,??? among them the fact that a program like ATC would rely on districts having valid and reliable teacher evaluation systems.

Which is where the excitement stops.

The paper suggests that teachers will be advocates within their districts for the creation of evaluation systems that would make them eligible for the program.

We believe that the incentives of extra compensation, a portable credential, and national recognition??? will...

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OhioFlypaper

This week's edition kicks off with a great piece by Terry discussing the unprecedented move by the Ohio Department of Education to close a charter school sponsor (aka authorizer) for fiscal mismanagement. Terry dives into the academic track record of the sponsor's schools (which is abysmal) and argues that Ohio is right to take action to close them. Nelson Smith from NAPCS says ???bravo to Ohio??? for this.

Next, read Checker's review of Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System. The Dayton Daily News covers the Finn-Ravitch buzz and asks ???So we have, from right to left, Finn, Obama, and Ravitch? Or is it left to right????

Be sure to check out Mike Lafferty's report on Ohio's STEM meeting for excellent on-the-ground perspectives from parents, teachers, and business folks as to why STEM is important (and fears about how to fit it into the curriculum). Also read Mike and Tim's analysis of how much money Ohio could save through district ???consolidations??? (as in, sharing services, not consolidation ala Brookings' recent recommendations), and Emmy's piece that points out if Ohio is not a round 1 RttT finalist, we've lost a month of valuable time to make real changes to our round 2 application in order to be more competitive.

Finally, if you're curious to know what will.i.am and Pell (as in, Pell grant) have in common, or what Drew Carey is up to these days,...

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???Teacher effectiveness??? has made its way to the top of the education policy agenda, supplanting the focus on ???highly qualified??? teachers from No Child Left Behind and treading into the dangerous (but necessary) territory of measuring effectiveness, in part, with student test scores. President Obama and Secretary Duncan's decision to use the language of teacher ???effectiveness??? in the application for the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants (with student growth a ???significant factor??? in measuring teacher effectiveness ) was no small shift. We'll find out soon how serious Obama and Duncan are about ensuring ???great teachers and leaders??? ??? the RttT category worth almost a third of the application points -- as first round finalists will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda Gates have their sights set on the concept of teacher effectiveness as well, investing $290 million in four cities that are developing ???groundbreaking plans to improve teacher effectiveness.??? And just to be sure we all know what effectiveness means, they're pumping another $45 million into the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an initiative that will gather data on 3,700 teachers and try to create a more precise definition of effective teaching. (The MET project will use a variety of data including student surveys, teacher surveys, and videotaped teacher observations ??? sounds a lot like the teacher training program at Hunter College that was formed...

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OhioFlypaper

It's no surprise that Ohio's economy is in crisis, but you might be amazed at the price tag for some of Gov. Strickland's new education mandates. Terry points out the implications of decreasing class size in grades K-3 alone (to 15:1), which will cost $784 million per year by 2014. If you're wondering how, where, and when Ohio plans to come up with that money while facing an upcoming $8 billion deficit, join the club.

Meanwhile, Kathryn (the Fordham Foundation's director of charter school sponsorship) discusses Fordham's new contract with its charter schools. We're proud of Fordham's strict sponsorship (authorizing) contract, which allows schools maximum operational freedoms but requires that schools be held to high standards of operational and academic excellence. Be sure to check this piece out to learn what types of provisions are necessary for a high-quality contract between schools and their authorizers.

Also on the lineup is Emmy's response to the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU), which recently asked why the district would want to utilize charter schools as part of its transformation plan. Emmy says, ???For starters, how about better-educated students???? and points out that six of the top ten schools in Cleveland are charters. As CTU moves to unionize charters, find out what's at stake.

And don't miss several great reviews and Editor's Extras, including Teach for America alum Jamie's review of TFA'S new book, Teaching as Leadership, which outlines six principles embodied by TFA's most highly effective teachers,...

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The Education Gadfly

Watch our debate on school turnarounds vs. closures, and don't miss insightful and provocative comments from the panelists, including this one from Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools:

My friend Michelle Rhee, who I'm sure you all know here in DC, I've heard her say that she's heard from Warren Buffet, I think, that the quickest way to fix public schools is to get rid of private schools. Because then it would not be acceptable for half the kids not to graduate. It wouldn't be acceptable.

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