Curriculum & Instruction

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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You can find whatever your heart desires on the internet, and that's in part thanks to something called open source. It's a bit of an amorphous term, but that hasn't stopped this Utah virtual charter school from diving in to this potentially revolutionizing movement. Open source is just as its name implies--open. In terms of general internet material, that means that the source code (i.e., the program code behind the information) is available alongside the content, to be used and modified as the consumer desires. At an open source virtual charter, that means being able to personalize learning materials to a new level. (Read more about Open Source here.)

So what does this mean for Open High School? No commercial textbooks, which means that lesson materials aren't copyrighted and can be used and modified to a greater degree of specificity for each student. It also means that a staff of four teachers can give personalized attention to 125 ninth graders (tenth grade will open next year). That's a student-teacher ratio of 31.25:1. And that's all in addition to the more traditional benefits of virtual schools, like flexible learning time (the teachers often respond to midnight homework questions on their Blackberries) and basically no overhead (teachers and students work from home). The school is still in its infancy, so we have no metrics by which to evaluate it academically, but using the open copyright laws of the internet to get access to more content, make it more specified,...

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The Education Gadfly

Quotable:

"I think it would be a tragedy to talk about Martin Luther King Jr., while not being able to talk about the fact that he had a strong Christian faith. I'm hoping that's not the direction we're headed."

- Jonathan Saenz, Lobbyist, Free Market Foundation

"Texas Braces for Fight over Social Studies Lessons," Washington Post

Notable:

$3.95:

Price for a lesson plan on apartheid in South Africa on teacherspayteachers.com.

"Intellectual Property at Issue," Centre Daily Times

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What are the implications of "tracking," or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement? Many schools have moved away from this practice and reduced the number of subject-area courses offered in a given grade. In this new Thomas B. Fordham Institute report, Brookings scholar Tom Loveless examines tracking and detracking in Massachusetts middle schools, with particular focus on changes that have occurred over time and their implications for high-achieving students. Among the report's key findings detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. The report also finds that detracking is more popular in schools serving disadvantaged populations. Read the full report to find out more.

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