Standards, Testing & Accountability

Since
the birth of the No
Child Left Behind Act
more than a decade ago, state and
local education officials have not kept quiet their disdain for the federal
law. So when President Obama announced in September that his administration
would offer states freedom from components of the law it is no surprise that
states around the country jumped on the chance. Ten states (Colorado, Florida,
Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota,
and Oklahoma) have already been granted waivers from the Obama Administration
with the understanding that they must demonstrate how they will prepare
children for college and careers by setting new academic targets to improve
achievement among all students, reward high-performing schools, and help those
that are falling behind.

Ohio
is one of 26 states, along with the District of Columbia that applied for a
second-round waiver. If approved (and most observers believe it will be), what
will the waiver mean for the Buckeye State? What changes will it bring about in
the coming months and years? The chart below breaks down some of the biggest
changes and...

From where I sit, a member of the local school board and
head of our board’s curriculum committee, I appreciate what No Child Left
Behind and Race to the Top have meant for our district: forcing accountability
on a school district that pushes inexorably against it. And I see the Common
Core as promising us a curriculum where none has ever existed.

The Common
Core promises us a curriculum where none has ever existed.

Sure, we have plenty to worry about when it comes to the
role of the federal government in our lives. The current cover story in the Economist is about an “Over-regulated
America,” smothered by a wave of “red tape” that may crush the life out of
America’s economy. It sure seems to have already crushed much of the life out
of America’s public education system.

Coming at the question from a different direction, David
Brooks
recently suggested that the United States is just as freighted by central
government as the Europe is; we just do it differently—and not so well. Our
economic briar patch, says Brooks, is in the tax code.

There...

The
Pioneer Institute—no friends of the Common Core to begin with—released a report
this week claiming that it will cost the nation $16 billion to implement the
new standards. (If you read the full text, the authors frequently note that
this is, in their opinion, a wild underestimate.)

The
astronomical estimate is not entirely surprising. If you want to scare
cash-strapped states away from moving forward with their Common Core plans,
it’s not hard to attach a frighteningly large price tag to implementation.
After all, the purpose of standards is to create the foundation upon which the
entire education system is built. So, obviously, changing standards must mean
knocking down the house, re-pouring the foundation, and starting again.

Concrete Housing Construction in Chile
Implementing Common Core doesn't necessarily mean knocking down the house and starting from scratch.
Photo by Concrete Forms.

Right?

Well,
not quite.

Yes,
implementing the Common Core will...

Untouchable?

Untouchable?

Mike Petrilli and Ty Eberhardt discuss the soft spots in President Obama's education record.

For a more in depth view at the president's education record, please read the article on Education Next.

It’s Rick-sanity!

From Lin-sanity to charter school discipline, Mike and Rick take on political correctness in this week’s podcast. Amber breaks down the recent Brown Center report and Chris defends Michael Jackson’s dance moves.

Amber's Research Minute

The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education

Download the PDF

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

‘Billie Jean’ dance move a show stopper - 9 year-old boy suspended for performing Michael Jackson dance move.

  

Few education analysts are as
knowledgeable and provocative as the Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless, and
many denizens of the policy sphere look forward to his annual Brown Center Report on American Education.
This year’s edition is no disappointment. As in earlier years, it tackles three
big topics and manages to be provocative—and out of the mainstream—on all
three.

But it’s real easy to misinterpret
its message and misconstrue its policy implications.

Topic I has been read as saying
that “the
Common Core standards won’t raise student achievement
.” Of course they won’t,
not all by themselves. Standards merely describe the desired destination of the
education journey; they don’t get us there. As Kathleen Porter-Magee has
carefully pointed out
on Fordham’s Common Core Watch blog, to achieve their
potential, these standards must be well and fully implemented and joined to
quality assessments, accountability systems, and much more. It’s possible to
have good standards and low achievement (look at California and D.C.) and...

According to Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institute, “The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement.” 

Standards—no matter how clear or
how rigorous—are not a panacea.

To
prove this, he draws on research from 2009 conducted by his colleague,
Russ Whitehurst. Essentially, Whitehurst found that the quality of state
standards (as judged by our own Fordham analyses as well as analyses
conducted by the AFT) did not correlate with state NAEP scores. More
specifically, he found that “states with weak content standards score
about the same on NAEP as those with strong standards.”

Q.E.D.?

Hardly.
What Loveless conveniently ignores is the second—and arguably more
significant—element of Whitehurst’s research. In short, Whitehurst
“concluded that the effects of curriculum on student achievement
are larger, more certain, and less expensive than the effects of popular
reforms such as common standards…” (Emphasis added.)

His
point is that setting standards alone does very little, but that a
thoughtfully and faithfully implemented rigorous curricula can move the
achievement needle, sometimes dramatically.

While
one could chose to pit those two policy advancements against it each
other...

Fordham's Ohio team posted to two can't-miss items this morning. First, Terry Ryan penned a strong rebuke of Diane Ravitch's scathing take on Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's promising plan to reform the city's schools. As Terry writes,

    What Diane calls
    an attack on teachers is actually an honorable response to a brutally tough
    dilemma facing a city that has to shrink its overall number of schools and
    teachers. Mayor Jackson's plan is an honest effort to do this in a way that
    will result in fewer, but better, schools. It is in fact a brave effort to try
    and make the best of a truly difficult situation.

    The Buckeye State office followed that up by posting video from yesterday's fascinating discussion in Columbus on the challenges and opportunities of Common Core implementation. Below you can stream Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner and Achieve, Inc. President Michael Cohen on this crucial topic.

      ...

      Embracing the Common Core

      Embracing the Common Core - Michael Cohen Presentation

      Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, speaks at Embracing the Common Core: Helping Students Thrive to the specifics of PARCC (the assessment consortia Ohio joined last fall) and warned that the implementation of the new standards in ELA and math will not be easy and that districts should start the implementation process now.

      Download his presentation here.

      Embracing the Common Core

      Embracing the Common Core - Stan Heffner Presentation

      Among the speakers at Embracing the Common Core on February 15, 2012, was State Superintendent Stan Heffner who stressed that the system Ohio currently has is letting kids down and not preparing them for the future. He went on to emphasize that the Common Core gives us the opportunity and chance to do better for our kids and we must capitalize on that.

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