Standards, Testing & Accountability

?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

Eric Ulas

The 2009 NAEP reading scores were released this morning with little fanfare for Ohio. There has been virtually no growth in the Buckeyes State's NAEP reading results, with only 36 percent offourth graders and 37 percent of eighth graders in Ohio proficient or above in reading.

These scores come as no surprise as they've remained virtually unchanged over the last ten years, as illustrated in the graphic below.

As we've noted before a troubling gap continues to exist between Ohio's own measure of student proficiency (the Ohio Achievement Test, or OAT) and the NAEP. According to 2009 OAT results, 72 percent of eighth graders and 82 percent of fourth graders were considered proficient in reading. The graph below highlights this disparity.

Both the stalled achievement in reading according to NAEP scores, and the discrepancy between OAT and NAEP results highlight the need for strong common standards nationally correlated with a system of comprehensive assessments.

One thing is for sure ??? too few Ohio fourth and eighth graders have been scoring below proficient in reading for too long. Ohio is on the right path by choosing to adopt the Common Core State Standards, but it needs to ensure that it commits to establishing a properly aligned and comprehensive system of assessment, one strategy among several necessary to boost student achievement in the Buckeye State.

(A...

There's a debate brewing about how much???if at all???great standards contribute to education reform. This week, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial saying that they are not as important to student achievement as universal choice. And recently, Cato's Neal McCluskey published a report (and yesterday a blog post) arguing, essentially, that standards don't really drive achievement and thus that the move to draft rigorous common standards is distracting us from pushing reforms that might actually drive student achievement. Namely, universal choice.

At face value, this argument just doesn't sit well with me. To be clear, I'm a huge proponent of school choice. In fact, in the nine years I've spent working directly in and with schools, I've only worked in schools of choice???both public charter and private schools that were part of the DC opportunity scholarship program.

But, to say that advocating for more rigorous standards is a distraction from reforms that will drive student achievement seems so far removed from everything I've ever experienced in education.

First, the DC Catholic Schools Consortium (now the Center City Consortium), which has served hundreds of at-risk students thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship Program, was able to realize the dramatic student achievement gains they've achieved in part because they made the bold choice to adopt Indiana's standards, which were far superior to their hometown DC and Maryland standards. And they very intentionally used these standards to drive curriculum, assessment, professional development, and consequently, student achievement across...

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