Standards, Testing & Accountability

The last two days have been extremely educational.

On Wednesday, I was with a group of state leaders, convened by CCSSO, wrestling with Common Core implementation and all of the issues tied to it (assessments, accountability, human capital, etc.).

Today, I attended an excellent panel on Common Core and school districts at AEI. (I tweeted from the event; check out my play-by-play here.)

The combined effect of these events is my heightened concern about the chances for the kind of implementation that produces the ground-shaking results so many have forecast.

The good news is that lots of talented people are engaged in this work. That gives me hope.

The bad news is that the work is extremely complicated and this is getting obscured by lots of sycophantic cheerleading. (Two bright spots from today: Rick Hess’s general skepticism about CC implementation and USED’s Joanne Weiss’s encouragement of a “continuous improvement” mindset that will accept setbacks and lead to course corrections.)

I’m going to write more about these matters in the days to come. But for now, I’d like to call your attention to a recent report. Before I went to work for a state department of education, I...

After three years, $45 million, and a staggering amount of video content, the Gates Foundation has released the third and final set of reports on its ambitious Measurements in Effective Teaching (MET) project (the first two iterations are reviewed here and here). The project attempted to ascertain whether it’s possible to measure educator effectiveness reliably—and, if so, how to do it. According to the project’s top-notch army of researchers (led by Tom Kane), it ain’t easy but it can be done and done well.

First, the research team used predictive data from the 2009–10 school year to randomly assign about 800 teachers in grades four through eight to classrooms (within their original schools) for 2010–11. The data showed a strong correlation between the predicted achievement of teachers’ students and their actual scores, as well as the magnitude of success. That the study randomly assigned teachers offers credence to the researchers’ contention that teachers’ success can be determined (and isn’t merely a byproduct of the quality of students who enter their classrooms in September). Second, they conducted a series of weightings to determine the ideal mix of past student-achievement data (value-added metrics, or VAM), classroom observations, and...

Ohio remains an education reform leader, comparatively, yet still has a ways to go to be top in the country in school reform efforts. That’s the conclusion from this week’s StudentsFirst’s inaugural State Policy Report Card.

StudentsFirst, a national organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, rates how closely each states’ education policies align with broader education reform goals. This ambitious research project examines whether states’ policies embolden and encourage reform along three dimensions: Quality teaching, parental choice, and school finance. StudentsFirst, for example, looks at whether states have established policies requiring teacher evaluations, teacher tenure based on effectiveness, and clear accountability for school performance—including charter schools.

Deservedly so, Ohio receives high marks in its education reform policies relative other states. In fact, Florida and Louisiana were the only two states that received markedly higher grades in “ed-reformedness.” With a C-minus letter grade, Ohio ranks tenth. Ohio scores especially high along the parental choice indicator—not surprising given the multitude of school choice options available to parents. These choices include the state’s 350-plus charters, and voucher programs for students in failing schools or students with special needs. StudentsFirst also righty recognizes improvements in Ohio’s accountability laws, most recently ...

Ohio remains an education reform leader, yet still has a ways to go to lead the country in school reform efforts. That’s the conclusion from today’s StudentsFirst’s inaugural State Policy Report Card.

StudentsFirst, a national organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, rates how closely each states’ education policies align with broader education reform goals. This ambitious research project examines whether states’ policies embolden and encourage reform along three dimensions: Quality teaching, parental choice, and school finance. StudentsFirst, for example, looks at whether states have established policies requiring teacher evaluations, teacher tenure based on effectiveness, and clear accountability for school performance—including charter schools.

Deservedly so, Ohio receives high marks in its education reform policies relative other states. In fact, Florida and Louisiana were the only two states that received markedly higher grades in “ed-reformedness.” With a C minus letter grade, Ohio ranks tenth out of the 51 examined jurisdictions. Ohio scores especially high along the parental choice indicator—not surprising given the multitude of school choice options available to parents. These choices include the state’s 350 plus charters, and voucher programs for students in failing schools or parents of students who want to access a special education voucher. StudentsFirst...

The NYT turns in a piece about TFA, recruiting, and today’s underwhelming job market. This quote from a recent recruit will certainly stir the passions: “It wasn’t until I was desperate that I said ‘I’ll check this out.’” My Bellwether colleague Andy Eduwonk weighs in thoughtfully here. The bigger question, I think, is this: Given the great need for drastic change in our urban school systems, are TFA and the other ed-reform human-capital providers sustaining or disrupting the establishment?

I argue in the Urban School System of the Future that we need to replace big-city districts because they will never produce the results we need. This tragic piece about the mess in Detroit gives another reason for replacement: Many of these districts (possibly including Philadelphia) are on the brink of dissolution due to financial and other pressures. We need to have a Plan B should these systems break down; better yet, we should carefully choreograph their exit so we get ahead of these impending crashes.

MOOCs are all the rage now in higher education (check out this WJS piece). They seem to have countless benefits. The problem is that the technology has gotten...

In the biggest non-surprise of 2012, the U.S. Department of Education rejected California’s request for an ESEA waiver after the Golden State refused to play by Arne Duncan’s rules (i.e., agreeing to the conditions he demanded) in return for greater flexibility. The next move is California’s—do we smell a lawsuit?

In Italy, where job prospects for the young are few and far between, the possibility of landing a rare teaching gig at a public school set off a frenzied rush of applicants. Their Education Ministry has not held certification exams since 1999 (citing budget concerns), opting instead to fill “vacancies with temporary hires, making aspiring teachers and unions furious.” This certainly puts our own problems in perspective.

Education leaders panicking over the Common Core’s shift to online assessments should print out, highlight, underline, and memorize this recent publication from Digital Learning Now!, the third in a series aimed at preparing schools for the Common Core and personalized digital learning. The paper provides two sets of recommendations: one for state and districts making the shift to Common Core and one for the state testing consortia building the assessments.

In a month characterized by tragedy and loss,...

Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg will give away $500 million to Newark schools.
Photo by deneyterrio via photopin cc.

After a massive donation to district schools of Newark, NJ, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is planning to give away $500 million to education and health, with details TBD. I’d love to see Mr. Zuckerberg invest in the urban school system of the future instead of jamming more money into broken urban districts. My intellectual doppelganger, Neerav Kingsland, feels the same way.

The ladies of Politics K-12 always know what to write about. This piece about RTTT-D scoring by Michele McNeil is a great example. It has all of the pertinent information that a casual RTTT-D follower could want and valuable insights for those closer to the competition. It’s a must-read for people interested in federal education policymaking and implementation—and for anyone trying to learn how to blog.

Add Indianapolis to the list of cities doing chartering right: Stanford’s CREDO found that not only are its...

This week, Student Achievement Partners—the group co-founded by Common Core architects David Coleman and Jason Zimba—announced a partnership with the NEA and AFT to develop and disseminate Core-aligned curriculum at no cost to teachers, thanks to a three-year, $11-million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. As Kathleen Porter-Magee noted in yesterday’s Common Core Watch, “Given the dearth of quality, CCSS-aligned materials available to teachers who are already working to align their practice to the new standards, this additional investment is welcome.” We eagerly await the materials.

A task force convened to determine whether D.C. charter schools ought to give admissions preference to nearby students came up with a verdict on Friday: While the District should allow charters that move into closed public school buildings to give neighborhood preference, other charter schools should not be compelled (or even allowed) to do so. This is a sensible compromise that will ease the burden on students transitioning from schools that are closing while maintaining a central tenet of the charter school idea: to be open to all students, regardless of home address.

As part of its “30 under 30” series,...

Hard on the heels of the AFT’s proposed “bar exam” for teachers, the Council of Chief State School Officers brings forth this sober, comprehensive, and exceptionally well-thought-out set of recommendations for fundamentally revamping the preparation and licensure of both teachers and principals. It’s a thirty-eight-page blueprint containing ten big recommendations that, if put into practice by states, would indeed be transformative.

Written in straightforward, non-inflammatory prose, the report, in some respects, doesn’t go as far as it could. It does not, for example, do away with state-level certification of educators—which it could justify on grounds that research has found no link between such credentials and actual effectiveness. But it does seek to make certification meaningful by building exacting standards into the framework, standards that rely on evidence of knowledge and performance rather than a checklist of courses taken. Also tucked into the recommendations are such worthy ideas as serious acceptance of alternative pathways and “residency”-style preparation; insistence on real standards for entering prep programs and getting certified; the demand that prep programs respond to K–12 education’s actual supply-demand numbers rather than enrolling as many people as possible (thus probably killing the proverbial ed-school “cash cow” within universities); and tracking the performance of those emerging from various prep programs and...

Fordham's annual analysis of school academic performance relies on the Ohio Department of Education's 2011-12 preliminary Report Card data as well as other ODE data sources. Our analysis of Ohio's public schools (district and charter) answers the following questions (among others):

  • How many students attend a charter school in Ohio's urban areas?
  • How do charter schools, as a group, perform compared to traditional public schools?
  • Has the performance of charter and district schools improved over time?
  • How many students attend high-performing schools versus failing schools?
  • How far will the pass rate on standardized tests fall when Ohio moves to the Common Core?

 

This year's analysis also examines how Ohio's move to the Common Core and the PARCC exams in English language arts and math will impact the pass rates on standardized tests. The fall in pass rates is likely to be dramatic in 2014-15, and could stall the implementation of the Common Core. Despite this initial fall in test scores--and the shock that may ensue--Ohio must remain faithful to implementing these higher academic standards and more challenging exams, in order to ready all of its students for success in career and college. ...

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