Standards, Testing & Accountability

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

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....

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...

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...

Guest Blogger

Race to the Top finalists are starting to make their presentations today. As a service to the U.S. Department of Education, Flypaper reader Ron Tomalis suggests these ten questions that might be asked of each state delegation. Tomalis was an Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education in the first term of the George W. Bush Administration, and now serves as a director at Dutko Worldwide.

1.???????????? If you don't get 100% of the funding requested, how will you modify your proposals???What programs are on the chopping block; which aspects will receive priority funding?

2.???????????? How will you hold your school districts accountable for full implementation? What penalties will you have for lack of implementation at the local level? How will you police implementation??? Do you have metrics in place to constantly monitor both implementation and outcomes?

3.???????????? The Federal Government could make an investment of several hundred million dollars in your state. Specifically, for that amount of money, how far will the academic needle move in 3 years? 5 years?

4.???????????? Reform initiatives have come and gone, with limited amount of success. What makes your plan under this application different???...

The Education Gadfly

Just why are the Common Core standards good for American education? In today's National Review Online, Checker Finn comes up with five good reasons, starting with this one:

First, they're good, solid ??? indeed very ambitious ??? academic standards for primary and secondary schooling, at least in the two essential subjects of English and math. Students who attained them would be better off ??? readier for college, readier to get good jobs, readier to compete in the global economy ??? than most are today. (An overwhelming majority of states, according to analyses by my own Fordham Institute and other organizations, currently rely on standards that range from mediocre to abysmal.)

You can read more at NRO.

Several governors are signaling that their states like their own academic standards better than the Common Core drafts and aren't going to make the change. This, actually, is a good thing, at least for now. It signals that they're examining their own standards and taking Common Core seriously and beginning to make comparisons. (Later this year, Fordham will do the same--for every state.) Nobody should hastily or blindly change their standards. It's way too important a decision. Common Core isn't likely to make sense everywhere, at least not everywhere at the same time. Some states will observe others before deciding. This is inevitable and unreprehensible. What would be reprehensible would be for states to reject Common Core because they don't have what it takes--and it'll take a lot--to implement these new standards in a conscientious way. Of course some states--one cannot avoid California in this context--already have good standards that they don't conscientiously implement.

--Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Most of the Fordham office was over at the AEI-Fordham event yesterday for Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. (If you missed our live tweeting, you can watch the event video here.) The event's moderator, Rick Hess, has (as promised) now posted his response to Ravitch's book. The headline? Ravitch and Duncan are making the same mistake about choice and accountability.

Choice and accountability, explains Hess, are not supposed to improve teaching and learning, curriculum, or achievement. They are supposed to create an environment where we can improve teaching and learning, curriculum, and achievement. And posing it--or condemning it--as the former will only create more disappointment when we all see, yet again, our favorite choice and accountability techniques not fulfilling their promises. Read the rest of this very thoughtful piece here.

--Stafford Palmieri

Here at the Fordham office, the draft Common Core standards has not only brought an air of excitement, but also a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The illustrative texts included in the English Language Arts appendix are strong examples of what students should be learning from kindergarten to high school graduation. But instructional merit aside, they're also great books. Oh, to be a kid again???

Frog and Toad Together (K-1) by Arnold Lobel: Who didn't love this endearing amphibian duo? In kindergarten, they were the greatest pair since Bert and Ernie. And back before cars had TV screens, they had the added bonus of portability.

Charlotte's Web (2-3) by E. B. White: Some book. A classic at any age, so good that even obvious questions such as ???How did the spider learn to spell???? are overshadowed by an engrossing?? plot and an enduring friendship.

Tuck Everlasting (4-5) by Natalie Babbitt: Right about the time that you first realize you're eventually going to grow up, this book gives you hope that you can stay a kid forever. Or maybe that's just how we around the office remember it now???...

I haven't closely examined the new draft??"Common Core" math standards (and am??in any case shy about judging them, having myself forgotten the difference between cosines and tangents), but the??draft "reading/language arts/literacy" standards are pretty darned impressive. Some of what makes them impressive, however, is buried deep in their infrastructure and won't necessarily be obvious on first inspection. At least it wasn't to me. Not until one of the drafters walked me through them did I grasp what they've built here.

Besides doing justice to the "skill side" of English/language arts (from early reading on up through sophisticated writing), they've taken language "conventions" and content seriously--and cumulatively--in a dozen ways. They've devised deft ways of incorporating literature (including means by which monitors of??state/district curricula can gauge the quality and rigor of what students are actually asked to read). They've delicately balanced between "traditional" and "modern" approaches, between "basic" and "21st Century" skills, etc. They've imaginatively incorporated the reading sides of science and history as well as English per se. They've supplied plenty of compelling examples of what kids at various levels should be reading. And they haven't overpromised. Indeed, they state plainly at the very start that proper...

Pages