Standards, Testing & Accountability

In 2010-11, 40 percent of public school students (enrolled in both district and charter schools) in Ohio's eight major urban areas attended a school rated D or F by the state. This is an improvement from the previous year, when 47 percent of students attended such schools.

The percent of students attending schools rated A or B has remained roughly the same. However, the percent of students in these cities attending a school that has met or exceeded "expected growth" (according to Ohio's value-added metric) has risen significantly, from 67 percent in 2009-10 to 78 percent in 2010-11.

City by City Analyses:

    The Education Gadfly

    In case you missed it or were distracted by, say, the D.C. earthquake, the video of yesterday's thought-provoking ?When Reform Touches Teachers? discussion between American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess is up on our website. ?Fordham's Mike Petrilli moderated the discussion and posed some tough questions about whether reformers and educators could find common ground.? A peek at some of the lively conversation about teacher compensation, evaluation, and collective bargaining, and you watch the whole conversation or check out some of the highlights below.

    How teachers are perceived and the negative tone in some education debates was a point of contention.

    Weingarten: New poll says teachers are respected more than ever, but 2/3 of reporting on education is negative.

    Hess:? Republican governors are making measured cases for reform and are threatened or compared to tyrants.

    Weingarten:? ?Educators have a right of freedom of speech, but we have a responsibility as to how we use it.?? Both sides of the debate are guilty of ?demagoguery.?

    Both speakers reflected on the value of disagreement,...

    Last June, the Wyoming Board of Education adopted the Common Core, making the Equality State one of the first states to do so. And implementation of the core standards has begun in earnest, with teachers around the state beginning to align their curriculum and instruction to the new standards.

    Now it seems like Wyoming lawmakers are beginning to question the Board's decision and have actually told districts to ?slow down implementing standards not yet adopted.? (See here.)

    In short, it seems that last year's adoption decision by the State Board did little more than include the Common Core ELA and math standards ?in the next revision of the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards,? which is currently underway. And those standards are still being vetted and changes can still be made through the end of this year. (See here for more.) And now lawmakers are starting to get cold feet and they're trying to decide whether the challenge the adoption decision writ large.

    What's more, even if Wyoming does move forward the Common Core ELA and math standards, there is still some question about whether the state will opt to administer the assessments developed by one of the national assessment consortia, or whether it will opt to go it alone. (Wyoming joined the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) as a participating state, but has not yet fully committed to implement the assessment system.) Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill, assures that "the Common Core standards will...

    [caption id="" align="alignright" width="199" caption="Photo by Jim Bowen"][/caption]

    With Gov. Rick Perry officially stepping into the GOP presidential-candidate pool over the weekend, we thought this piece?written on June 15, 2011 for the National Review Online?timely once again.

    Deep in the heart of Texas is where some education-policy lessons might best stay.

    But they tend not to. Rick Perry's seemingly imminent entry into the 2012 GOP race suggests that, for the second time in less than a dozen years, we could very well see an ardent effort by a Texas governor to make the federal role in education conform to his own preconceptions and to lessons drawn from his experience in Austin.

    That's what happened in 2001 when Governor George W. Bush carried with him from Texas the essential elements of policy and practice that (after much fiddling by Congress) became the No Child Left Behind Act.

    And that's what could happen again in 2013 should Perry win the Oval Office and endeavor there to magnify and replay the conclusions he has reached about education during his dozen years running the Lone Star State.

    Besides (and partly due to) its enormity, Texas is a proud, sometimes arrogant, and seriously self-absorbed place. One need only stand under the immense dome of the state capitol?taller than the one in Washington?and gaze at the six flags depicted in the terrazzo floor....

    Adding fuel to a small but growing anti-Common Core fire, Andrew Porter penned an op-ed in Education Week this week that questioned the value and rigor of the Common Core ELA and math standards. He explains:

    I hoped that new national curriculum standards would be better than the state standards they replaced, and that new student assessments would be better, too.

    I wish I could say that our progress toward common-core standards has fulfilled my hopes. Instead, it seems to me that the common-core movement is turning into a lost opportunity.

    His critique of the Common Core is grounded in a study that he and a team of U Penn researchers conducted that compared the both the topics covered and the ?cognitive demand? of the Common Core standards with the state standards they are going to replace. (According to Porter and his team, there are five categories of cognitive demand: memorize; perform procedures; demonstrate understanding; conjecture, generalize, prove; and solve non-routine problems. All objectives from the state and Common Core English Language Arts and math standards are grouped under one of these headings.)

    Before even diving into a discussion of the substance of their analysis, the metric that Porter et al use is problematic. The researchers dive immediately into the weeds by dividing content into different topics and categorizing each objective under different headings. And, by doing so, Porter and his team lose sight of the forest for the trees.

    Take, for example, a common...

    Arnius Duncanus is at it again. Unmoved by pleas that he "first do no harm" when it comes to promising reforms like the Common Core State Standards Initiative, he seems compelled to attach mandates to his forthcoming NCLB waivers that will require adoption of the Common Core standards.

    No, his team won't mention the Common Core, but everybody knows that's what he's talking about when he calls for "college and career-ready standards."

    Duncan says that he doesn't want to be tone-deaf to state officials' concerns about No Child Left Behind. Fair enough. But why be so tone-deaf to the politics around all of this?

    I once heard Arne talking about winning gracefully. That's what's called for now. Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core. Most are deeply engaged in developing assessments related to the standards. During the past legislative session, no state backed out. In other words, proponents of the Common Core have won a great victory. The only possible outcome of Secretary Duncan putting more federal pressure on the states to adopt the Common Core is stoke the fires of conservative backlash--and to lose many of the states that have already signed on.

    Walk away from this one, Mr. Secretary. Please, those of us who support the Common Core are begging you.

    -Mike Petrilli...

    Every so often educators and reformers think, if we're educating kids for the future, we need to do a better job of adapting our education system to meet the needs of tomorrow. That our education systems needs to, in some sense, ?get with the times? so that we can better serve our students today.

    The latest argument to that effect comes from a book (Now You See It) written by Cathy N. Davidson and related blog post from Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times. In her piece, Heffernan argues:

    ??fully 65 percent of today's grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn't been invented yet?For those two-thirds of grade-school kids, if for no one else, it's high time we redesigned American education.?

    And so, because today's students will be doing things that we can't imagine, we need to rethink the kinds of work we're assigning today. Including research papers, which Heffernan argues have outlived their usefulness:

    Teachers and professors regularly ask students to write papers. Semester after semester, year after year, ?papers? are styled as the highest form of writing. And semester after semester, teachers and professors are freshly appalled when they turn up terrible.

    Ms. Davidson herself was appalled not long ago when her students at Duke, who produced witty and incisive blogs for their peers, turned in disgraceful, unpublishable term papers. But instead of simply carping about students with colleagues in the great faculty-lounge tradition, Ms. Davidson questioned the whole form

    ...

    If there is a silver lining to the cheating scandals, it is the increased scrutiny being paid to the testing industry, including the education systems that administer the tests.

    In New York, for instance, as Philissa Cramer of Gotham Schools reports, ?mounting anxiety? over recent events has prompted new State Education Commissioner John King to convene a task force to review the state's testing procedures.? (See also Sharon Otterman in the Times.)

    Cramer describes it as ?a fast-moving process to tighten test security before it risks following Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey into cheating scandals.?? It better be fast. The Empire State has been just a hare's breath in front a testing scandal for years, up to now, able to bury the problem in the weeds of bureaucratic inefficiencies.? (See my post of yesterday.)

    In 2007 the New York Post reported that,

    In 2000, for example, numerous teachers told The Post that educators had dumbed down that year's Regents history and geography exams to a laughable extent. Other reports have exposed grading scams - dubious practices, like "scrubbing," in which teachers find ways to get extra points to kids just below a pass/fail threshold. Other times, so many kids failed that results were simply scrapped, as with the math Regents a few years ago.

    In January of this year, a Post headline put it bluntly:? ?Teachers Cheat: Inflating Regents Scores to Pass Kids.?

    The Wall Street Journal did its...

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