Standards, Testing & Accountability

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Mike and Janie make the case for keeping the Education Gadfly Show going with witty analysis of Common Core critics, student discipline follies, and the GOP’s education conundrum. Amber delves into teacher dissatisfaction and Chris asks “What’s up with that?” one last time.

Amber's Research Minute

 The MetLife survey of The American Teacher - Download the PDF

What's Up With That?

Teacher's health insurance policy includes free plastic surgery.

Writing last
about the “war against the Common Core,” I suggested that those English language arts and math
standards arrived with four main assets. (In case you’re disinclined to look, they boil down to rigor,
voluntariness, portability, and comparability.)

Let me
now revisit a fifth potential asset, which is also the main reason that
small-government conservatives should favor the Common Core or other
high-quality “national standards": This is the best path toward getting Uncle Sam and
heavy-handed state governments to back off from micro-managing how schools are
run and to return that authority to communities, individual schools, teachers,
and parents.

Uncle Sam I Want You - Poster Illustration
Common Core or other high-quality “national standards” are the best path toward getting Uncle Sam to back off from micro-managing how schools are run.
 Photo by DonkeyHotey.

It’s the path to getting “tight-loose” right in American K-12 education, unlike NCLB, which has
it backward. (I refer to the well-known management doctrine...

Several weeks ago,
Education First—a national education policy and strategic consulting
firm—released the
first in what will be a series of three reports
aimed at providing guidance to states as
they work to develop Common Core implementation plans. Yesterday, Education
First and Achieve together released the second report, a “Common
Core State Standards Implementation Rubric and Self-Assessment Tool.
” While
imperfect, this rubric is a useful tool that can help push states thinking
about standards implementation.

State policy leaders should commit these differences to memory.

Among the most useful
elements of the report is Table 1, which outlines the “key instructional
shifts” that ELA and math teachers will face as they begin to shift instruction
to the Common Core. Drawn from advice produced by Student Achievement
, the guidance is simple, but more clearly outlines the essential
differences between the Common Core and most existing state standards than most
of the “crosswalk” comparisons
that state Departments of Education have
undertaken to date. On the ELA side, for instance, the authors explain that the
CCSS will focus on:

  • Building knowledge
  • ...

only issue more worrisome than the agonizingly slow improvement in the math
achievement of American students is what to do about it. Abandoned solutions to
this decades-old challenge litter the educational roadmap like so many wrecks. Remember
“New Math” in the 1960s?

experts aren’t necessarily running short of ideas, but, like many experiments
for improving education, new schemes often work best in small, intensive
classroom situations then fall apart when they leave the hothouse for
larger-scale application.

latest idea gaining traction is using computer video games to teach
mathematics. Educational technology companies are pushing specially developed
games. But popular and big-name gaming staples like “World of Warcraft” may be effective research
templates for teaching math concepts to elementary and secondary students. For
the ignorant, like me, this hugely popular computer video game is played online
and involves many players at once, with each player controlling a character
that explores the landscape, fights monsters, completes quests, and interacts with other players. Some
teachers have been experimenting with the game in math classes for the last
four or five years and there...

Sounding off on "snobs" and Santorum

Mike and Rick break down the week’s news, from the prospects of John Kline’s ESEA reauthorization proposals to the college-for-all controversy. Amber analyzes the latest report on Milwaukee’s voucher program Chris wonders whether robbing a bank is enough to get a school bus driver fired.

Amber's Research Minute

The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

School bus dispatcher was bank robbery getaway driver -

The Common Core State Standards Initiative landed in our
midst with four great assets:

  • Its content-and-skill expectations for grades
    K-12 in English and math are, by almost
    everyone’s reckoning, about as rigorous as the best state-specific academic
    standards and superior to most.
  • It was developed outside the federal government,
    voluntarily by states, using private dollars. (The related assessments are
    another matter.) And both standards and assessments remain voluntary for
  • It opens the way, for the first time, to comparing
    student, school and district performance across the land on a credible, common
    metric—and gauging their achievement against that of youngsters in other
    countries on our shrinking and ever-more-competitive planet.
  • Besides comparability, it brings the possibility
    that families moving around our highly mobile society will be able to enroll
    their kids seamlessly in schools that are teaching the same things at the same
    grade levels.
Ever since it landed, the Common Core has been the
object of ceaseless attacks from multiple directions.

Ever since it landed, however, the Common Core has been the
object of ceaseless attacks from multiple directions. The number...

The Pioneer Institute is no friend of the
Common Core—which needs to be remembered when reading its latest missive.
Released last week, this report claims that it will cost the nation $15.8
billion to implement the new standards over a seven-year period, with the lion’s
share of those costs incurred during the first year. (Worse, the authors further
remind readers that this is, at best, a “midrange” estimate.) The Institute projects
a $10 million-plus invoice per school
for professional development, technology, and textbooks and instructional
materials in the first year alone—a number that strikes us as radically
inflated, to put it kindly. To be sure, implementing the Common Core well will bring
costs: Aligning materials, instruction, and assessments with new standards
cannot be done on the cheap if it’s going to be done well. But Pioneer’s
estimates are misleading. Not every dollar spent on CCSS will be “new money.” (It’s
not as if we’re spending zip on professional development, textbooks, and the
rest currently.) Nor do states need to follow the tired blueprint we’ve...

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.

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...

month, Fordham released the State of State Science Standards
. The first
State of State Science Standards report was released in 1998; it was revisited
in 2005 (and again this year). While the national average remained the same in
2012 as it did in 2005 (a dismal C), some states changed grades drastically. Kansas
moved from an F to a B, and Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and
West Virginia dropped from Bs to Ds.

study’s methodology worked like this: experts in different scientific fields
evaluated all 50 states’ and the District of Columbia’s science standards. The
grading falls into two parts. The first score is on a scale from 0-7 that
analyzes the “content and rigor” of each state’s science standards; the second
score is on a scale from 0-3 that analyzes the “clarity and specificity” of
each state’s standards. These two grades are combined to give the state an
overall number grade (up to 10) and then converted into a letter grade (A
through F). California and D.C. tied for first place, both with 10 out of 10

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
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.