Standards, Testing, & Accountability

We've got a fantastic coffee mug at the Fordham office, gifted to us by the kind folks over at the Schwab Foundation. On it is printed a single cartoon image, two boys standing outside a classroom holding white pieces of paper. The caption on the bottom of the picture says: ?Big deal, an A in math. That would be a D in any other country.?

The recent PISA results shocked America into a heightened sense of global educational awareness. For the first time in a long time?since Sputnik some have argued?policymakers and pundits are now, en masse, peering into the bowels of education systems abroad. They're dissecting the teaching profession in Finland (it's true that the Finns only accept the top 10 percent of college graduates into teacher preparation programs) and ogling over the curriculum in Singapore.

But they're all missing key exemplars?and the point of the whole exercise to begin with. If America is to regain its prominence in the international arena, it must look to all nations for best practice notions. Focusing solely on those who fit into the top 5 percent of PISA scorers will ensure that we draw policies from the best, from those nations that have found their ideal education cocktail. But ignoring those below us will also ignore some key ingredients in our own magical education elixir.

The digital-learning sphere is a prime example of this close-mindedness. Nations across the developing world have been experimenting with online learning,...

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Amy Fagan

In case you missed it, Mike?Petrilli?was a guest yesterday on the Pat Morrison (radio) show on Southern California Public Radio (the NPR affiliate for LA). The topic? No Child Left Behind and possible reforms to it. Kim Anderson of the National Education Association also was a guest on the show. Check out the discussion.

?Amy Fagan

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Fordham gives its advice to Governor-elect Kasich and the incoming leaders of the Ohio House and Senate as it relates to the future of K-12 education policy in the Buckeye State. To move Ohio forward in education, while spending less, we outline seven policy recommendations. 1) Strengthen results-based accountability for schools and those who work in them. 2) Replace the so-called “Evidence-Based Model” of school funding with a rational allocation of available resources in ways that empower families, schools, and districts to get the most bang for these bucks. 3) Invest in high-yield programs and activities while pursuing smart savings. 4) Improve teacher quality, reform teacher compensation, and reduce barriers to entering the profession. 5) Expand access to quality schools of choice of every kind. 6) Turn around or close persistently low-performing schools. 7) Develop modern, versatile instructional-delivery systems that both improve and go beyond traditional schools.

Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio. We found that in 2009-10, 26 percent of public school students (district and charter) in Ohio's Big 8 urban communities attended a school rated A or B by the state, 28 percent attend a C-rated school, and 47 percent attended a school rated D or F.

In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2009-10 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities:

Ohio Urban School Performance Report, 2009-10

Ohio Education Gadfly: Special Edition (our coverage of 2009-10 data)

We also conducted city-specific analyses:

Note: The pdf for Dayton's performance has been updated as of September 1, 2010. The old version had an error in Table 1 - the list of charter and district schools in the city, and has since been corrected....

The K-12 academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and math produced in June 2010 by the Common Core State Standards Initiative were clearer and more rigorous than ELA standards in 37 states and math standards in 39 states, according to this Fordham Institute study. In 33 of those states, the Common Core bested both ELA and math standards. Yet California, Indiana and the District of Columbia had ELA standards clearly superior to those of the Common Core. And nearly a dozen states had ELA or math standards in the same league as Common Core. Read on to find out more and see how your state fared.

The "common core" state standards for grades K-12 have been released. Some states have already adopted them. Others are considering this step. Much will need to happen if these standards and related assessments are to get traction in American education over the next few years. But we at the Fordham Institute are looking even further ahead: we’re considering the issues that will determine the long-term viability of this endeavor. Simply stated: in 2020, who will be in charge of the common standards-and-testing effort? How will this work? Who will pay for it?

To spur discussion and smart thinking about these crucial issues, we commissioned a set of background papers from authoritative observers and analysts. Read on to find out what they have to say.

The Oversight of State Standards and Assessment Programs: Perspectives from a Former State Assessment Director
Pasquale J. DeVito, Ph.D.
Director, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAS)
Measured Progress

Networked Governance in Three Policy Areas with Implications for the Common Core State Standards Initiative
Paul Manna
Associate Professor, Department of Government
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy
College of William and Mary

E Pluribus Unum in Education? Governance Models for National Standards and Assessments: Looking Beyond the World of K-12 Schooling
Patrick McGuinn
Associate Professor, Departments of Political Science and Education
Drew University

What Can the Common Core State Standards...

Amy Fagan

Checker shared his thoughts in this recent interview, posted on the Economist's blog, Democracy in America. The discussion touched on some key education topics including the education establishment, testing and accountability and charters.

On the DIA blog you'll find similar interviews with Teach For America's Wendy Kopp and other education leaders.

--Amy Fagan

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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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