Standards, Testing & Accountability

Liam Julian

Doug Lasken, writing on FlashReport, says it will cost California $1.6 billion to replace its current educational standards with the newly developed Common Core standards being pushed by President Obama. Lasken writes:

As a consultant for several education research institutes, including Fordham and Pioneer, I was involved in studying the wisdom of replacing individual state standards with one set of national standards . . . I, and virtually everyone involved in this work, considered California's standards to be in the ?no need to replace? category, first because they are among the best in the nation, and second because replacing them would be very expensive.

California's budget deficit is $25 billion. It makes no sense, Lasken argues, to spend another $1.6 billion to supplant its set of perfectly good standards: ?The Governor should ask his new appointees on the state board to keep our world-class standards and save $1.6 billion.?

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

In?their continuing drive to ratchet up learning standards, New York State's education leaders?are now sounding the alarm?about high school diplomas. According to a new study, done for NY's State Ed department, fewer than half the kids in the state holding a diploma are ready for college. ?In New York City, 23 percent of graduates (remember 40 percent don't even get that far) are college ready; in Rochester, it's just 5 percent.? Startling numbers.

?Some ethnic and racial groups fared worse than others,? says Barbara Martinez in the Wall Street Journal, ??While statewide the published graduation rate among black students is 62%, only 15% are considered college- and career-ready. In Syracuse, only 1% of Hispanic students graduated from high school at college- and career-ready level.?

This is what we get nearly three decades after being told our nation was ?at risk? because of its mediocre public education system??

Reports?Sharon Otterman* ?in the New York Times,

State and city education officials have known for years that graduating from a public high school does not indicate that a student is ready for college, and have been slowly moving to raise standards. But the political will to acknowledge openly the chasm between graduation requirements and college or job needs is new?.

?Sound familiar?

Last October, Otterman, writing about the state's new efforts to toughen up its grade 3?8 tests, reported?that

[E]vidence had been mounting for some time that the state's tests, which have formed the basis

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?I'm not sure if Atlanta school board members were included in Rick Hess's latest survey of school boards, but if they were, let's hope they aren't representative.??

Atlanta has been embroiled in a school cheating scandal that has brought down its superintendent and caused the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to put the district on probation. (See my report from January 23 here).? A parent group formed (great name) -- Step up or Step Down ? with 740 members and 62,500 hits on its Facebook page in its first week of existence.? It told the board to get its act together:

Engage the public?. Close the loopholes in Board policy?. Seek expert executive guidance.

Whether the board sought it or not, Arne Duncan, in town for a speaking engagement at Morehouse College, weighed in anyway:

What you have now, frankly, is you have adults who I think have lost sight of why they're doing this work? It is what I call adult dysfunction.?

Adults?? School boards?? This could be a new concept.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

We've got a fantastic coffee mug at the Fordham office, gifted to us by the kind folks over at the Schwab Foundation. On it is printed a single cartoon image, two boys standing outside a classroom holding white pieces of paper. The caption on the bottom of the picture says: ?Big deal, an A in math. That would be a D in any other country.?

The recent PISA results shocked America into a heightened sense of global educational awareness. For the first time in a long time?since Sputnik some have argued?policymakers and pundits are now, en masse, peering into the bowels of education systems abroad. They're dissecting the teaching profession in Finland (it's true that the Finns only accept the top 10 percent of college graduates into teacher preparation programs) and ogling over the curriculum in Singapore.

But they're all missing key exemplars?and the point of the whole exercise to begin with. If America is to regain its prominence in the international arena, it must look to all nations for best practice notions. Focusing solely on those who fit into the top 5 percent of PISA scorers will ensure that we draw policies from the best, from those nations that have found their ideal education cocktail. But ignoring those below us will also ignore some key ingredients in our own magical education elixir.

The digital-learning sphere is a prime example of this close-mindedness. Nations across the developing world have been experimenting with online learning,...

Amy Fagan

In case you missed it, Mike?Petrilli?was a guest yesterday on the Pat Morrison (radio) show on Southern California Public Radio (the NPR affiliate for LA). The topic? No Child Left Behind and possible reforms to it. Kim Anderson of the National Education Association also was a guest on the show. Check out the discussion.

?Amy Fagan

Fordham gives its advice to Governor-elect Kasich and the incoming leaders of the Ohio House and Senate as it relates to the future of K-12 education policy in the Buckeye State. To move Ohio forward in education, while spending less, we outline seven policy recommendations. 1) Strengthen results-based accountability for schools and those who work in them. 2) Replace the so-called “Evidence-Based Model” of school funding with a rational allocation of available resources in ways that empower families, schools, and districts to get the most bang for these bucks. 3) Invest in high-yield programs and activities while pursuing smart savings. 4) Improve teacher quality, reform teacher compensation, and reduce barriers to entering the profession. 5) Expand access to quality schools of choice of every kind. 6) Turn around or close persistently low-performing schools. 7) Develop modern, versatile instructional-delivery systems that both improve and go beyond traditional schools.

Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio. We found that in 2009-10, 26 percent of public school students (district and charter) in Ohio's Big 8 urban communities attended a school rated A or B by the state, 28 percent attend a C-rated school, and 47 percent attended a school rated D or F.

In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2009-10 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities:

Ohio Urban School Performance Report, 2009-10

Ohio Education Gadfly: Special Edition (our coverage of 2009-10 data)

We also conducted city-specific analyses:

Note: The pdf for Dayton's performance has been updated as of September 1, 2010. The old version had an error in Table 1 - the list of charter and district schools in the city, and has since been corrected....

Amy Fagan

Checker shared his thoughts in this recent interview, posted on the Economist's blog, Democracy in America. The discussion touched on some key education topics including the education establishment, testing and accountability and charters.

On the DIA blog you'll find similar interviews with Teach For America's Wendy Kopp and other education leaders.

--Amy Fagan

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

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