Standards, Testing, & Accountability

David Figlio, a researcher at Northwestern University, recently released his seventh-annual evaluation of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The study uses scholarship students’ results on national assessments, like the Stanford Achievement or Iowa Test of Basic Skills, to examine whether they are making year-to-year gains. (Elsewhere in this issue, I review the study in greater detail.) The Sunshine State’s program, which enrolls nearly 60,000 students, is akin to Ohio’s EdChoice and Cleveland scholarship (a.k.a., “voucher”) programs.

One of the study’s findings was particularly striking: Private schools in Florida, especially Catholic ones, appear to have a relatively larger impact on scholarship students’ reading scores than math. Across all schools, Figlio found that voucher students made a 0.1 percentile gain in reading but posted a loss of -0.7 percentiles in math. The overall math-reading difference may or may not be trivial—there is no test of statistical significance across the subject areas. But larger differences in reading-to-math gains appear when gains are disaggregated, for example, by religious affiliation:[1] Consider the large annual gain in reading for voucher students attending a Catholic school (1.98 percentiles) versus the slight loss in math (-0.25). True, the larger reading gains don’t hold across all school types—non-religious schools seem to make a fairly big difference in math—but it does seem like many of Florida’s private schools are having greater success boosting reading scores.[2]

Table 1: Average reading and math gains of Florida scholarship students by...

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Morgan Polikoff

Nearly all American K–12 students are exposed to it every day. It decides, in large part, what students will learn in school and how they will learn it.[1] It is never evaluated for quality in any serious way, but when it is rigorously evaluated, its impact on student achievement is significant.

No, this isn’t another blog about teachers. I’m talking textbooks. We need good textbooks in front of kids just as badly as we need good teachers. However, from a research and policy perspective, improving textbook quality is a lot easier.[2]

A little-noticed report last week in Education Week described a new initiative to be the Consumer Reports of textbooks. A new nonprofit called EdReports plans to post “free online reviews of major textbooks and curricula that purport to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards.” If they’re careful, credible, and diligent, this initiative could turn the lights up on a largely ignored factor in student outcomes that is ripe for analysis and improvement.[3] And it could even blunt some of the more heated criticisms of the Common Core. Here’s why I think EdReports, and textbooks in general, matter:

First, textbooks aren’t people. There is no union seeking to protect the interests of textbooks. They don’t need due process protections, and it’s unlikely that the choice to replace an old textbook with a new one will result in onerous court cases....

Categories: 
Neerav Kingsland

David Kirp had a piece in The New York Times on Sunday: Teaching is not a Business. You should check it out. 

My take on his piece:

  1. Language: Dan Willingham has written about how the education debates often use one of two types of rhetoric: either Romantic era words (nurture, relationships, whole child, etc.) or Enlightenment era words (rationality, logic, evidence, etc.). Kirp leans on Romantic era language in a manner that I find overly loaded, though perhaps he would make a similar critique of my writing.
  2. Straw men: As Ryan Hill noted on twitter, Kirp sets up many straw men (arguments he imputes to reformers that few reformers make), as well as just false assertions, such as: high stakes testing should be single metric of success; market or technology based reforms are “impersonal” and disregard educators; firing teachers and coaching teachers is mutually exclusive; challenging curriculum goes undiscussed (common core standards and associated curricula are many things, but undiscussed is not one of them). One could go on. I found this to be the weakest part of Kirp’s piece.
  3. Charter School Data: Kirp notes that charter schools perform at about the same level for traditional schools. What Kirp does not mention is that, in 2013, CREDO conducted the nation’s largest quasi-experimental charter school study. The study covered twenty-seven states and covered 95 percent of students that attend charters school in the entire nation. It found
  4. ...
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Can’t get enough Common Core? The Center on Education Policy’s got you covered with this hefty compendium of over sixty CCSS-focused studies, including several from Fordham. CEP summarizes each, providing brief overviews of the focus, the findings, and the methodology (only methodologically sound studies were chosen). It’s handy one-stop shopping, covering a wide range of Common Core–related topics. Want to know whether the standards are likely to be effective? William Schmidt and Richard Houang’s study concluded that states with math standards most similar to the Common Core made greater gains on NAEP, and the Brown Center for Education Policy’s follow-up, which saw “no clear trends” in student achievement with regard to the adoption of standards, still found that “states with the strongest implementation of the CCSS had the highest achievement gains on NAEP between 2009 and 2013.” Curious whether students were college-and-career-ready before the standards? Check out the 2010 ACT study, which found that a measly one-third of students were ready for life after high school. Other topics addressed by the studies include Core-related teacher training, state and district implementation, and assessment adoption. The biggest take-way is that, so far, the Common Core holds up remarkably well to rigorous academic research.

SOURCE: A Compendium of Research on the Common Core State Standards (Washington, D.C.: Center for Education Policy, August 2014)....

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After more than two years  of community-wide and bipartisan struggles to raise the bar for everyone in Cleveland schools, a sudden and incongruous shift has dropped expectations to a new low, at least for some of its freshman, just in time for the start of a new school year today.

The Freshman Fresh Start was recently approved by the school board of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). The resolution allows incoming freshmen to participate in extracurricular activities (sports and clubs) despite low grades that, under the current regulations for all other grades, would make them ineligible. Instead, incoming freshmen are now only required to pass (receive a “D” or higher) a minimum of five subjects in the preceding grading period. (For the first quarter of the year, eligibility would be based on the last quarter of the preceding year.) Formerly, the policy required that students a) not receive a failing grade in the previous grading period, b) maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher in the previous grading period, and c) maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 throughout the year.

It sounds innocent enough, but upon closer inspection, the implications are far-reaching and appalling. Incoming freshmen are now eligible for extracurriculars even if they fail one of their classes—never mind if that class is English language arts or math—in the preceding quarter. Thus, incoming freshmen qualify for extracurriculars even if their fourth quarter report card has all D’s and one F, thereby finishing with a.83...

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Wonky but good

Mike and Kathleen Porter-Magee discuss New York State’s half-release of its half-good Common Core test, commend TFA’s diversity surge, and debate the debate about the AP U.S. History Framework. Amber shares a wonky study about teachers’ work hours.

Amber's Research Minute

"New Measures of Teachers' Work Hours and Implications for Wage Comparisons," by Kristine L. West, Education Finance and Policy, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer 2014).

Transcript

Mike Petrilli:             Hello. This is your host, Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,here at The Education Gadlfy Show and on line at atexcellence.net and now please join me in welcoming my co-host, the Hillary Clinton of education policy, Kathleen Porter MaGee. 

Kathleen PM:            The Hillary Clinton.

Mike Petrilli:             Well I was looking for somebody who's on the rise and has been changing jobs and playing a lot of different roles.

Kathleen PM:            I see.  I don't think at Fordham I'm taking the Hillary Clinton of education policy as a compliment. 

Mike Petrilli:             Well look,  gee, I think among conservatives she's kind of having a moment right now.  

Kathleen PM:            All right.

Mike Petrilli:             She's distancing herself from President Obama.  Look, I think there are several conservatives out there who like her on some issues so I wasn't going for that.  I was going as a way of saying, Kathleen's here, she is on her way to her new job being superintendent and chief active officer of the partnership for ...

Kathleen PM:            ... inner city education.

Mike Petrilli:             ... inner city education.  Yeah. Can we talk about that name for a second? Didn't Paul Ryan get in trouble for using that term? Are we allowed to still say inner city?

Kathleen PM:            I didn't realize it was illegal.  No, so the partnership's been around for like 2 decades so I don't think they were about to change their name thanks to any political whims but I don't know if ...

Mike Petrilli:             Yes, I think a little asterisk in there ...

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             ... that could say, just for clarification, we came up with this name back in the 90s when it was okay to still say inner city.  I'm confused, are we allowed ...

Kathleen PM:            Why is that not okay?

Mike Petrilli:             Do you remember this? 

Kathleen PM:            No.

Mike Petrilli:             Paul Ryan said that men in the inner city, their work ethic is not what it used to be or that their work participation is not what it used to be.  Anyways he got all this flak for people saying, "Oh that was race baiting," and ...

Kathleen PM:            Are we sure that the problem was that he used inner city or was that he said something offensive?

Mike Petrilli:             Yes. 

Kathleen PM:            Maybe.

Mike Petrilli:             People talked a lot about inner city, that was code word for ...

Kathleen PM:            I see.

Mike Petrilli:             Anyway, okay.  Here we are.  Many of us are feeling pretty sad this week of course about Robin Williams' memorable roles in many ... and many education related roles.  Of course Dead Poet's Society.

Kathleen PM:            Dead Poet's Society.

Mike Petrilli:             Right.  But he was also in Good Will Hunting and that had some education angles and other things but we will miss him dearly, but we must go on. The show will go on and we will talk education reform.  So Pamela in her last appearance on the Education Gadfly Show before moving to California ... Pamela, let's play Pardon the Gadfly.

Pamela Tatz:             New York State just released half of the test questions from the most recent round of the state's common core ELA and math tests.  What do you think?  Can the state do better? 

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, so I mean, let's just say first and foremost that New York State has become everybody's favorite whipping post when it comes to common core implementation, and ...

Mike Petrilli:             Its' my favorite one.

Kathleen PM:            Right, so there you go, exactly.  I think New York State deserves credit for working really hard to get things out there early and first, to get the curriculum resources out there, the teachers and to moving to a common core aligned assessment.  I think many states are going to have a real rude awakening next year when Park and Smarter Balanced come on line. I think they deserve credit for that for sure. 

Mike Petrilli:             Um hmm.

Kathleen PM:            Yes, but, there is certainly room for improvement.  I took a look at especially the ELA tests and it looks like some of the passages are pretty darn good actually.  The passage selection is getting better and better.  We're using authentic text which I think is great.  But some of the questions ...

Mike Petrilli:             And by authentic text, you mean actually things from literature.

Kathleen PM:            Things you would find in literature, exactly.

Mike Petrilli:             Right, not something some grad student wrote ...

Kathleen PM:            In order to confirm to ...

Mike Petrilli:             ... to meet a certain form.

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, the commissioned texts, which were the norm in most reading tests in the past.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Kathleen PM:            I think they've shown that they're going to use real literary and informational text ...

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Kathleen PM:            ... not self-created text.  As I read some of the questions, I just found myself feeling really disappointed.  It just seems like while we're trying to nudge in the right direction, too many of them seem like more of the same.  I agree that some of them were confusing.  I really didn't think they were pushing for the kind of evidence based literary analysis that we want our kids to be doing.  So, from a signaling perspective, I just don't think these questions are quite getting us where we want to be.

Mike Petrilli:             So I have been skeptical.  I mean you are hearing a lot of these horror stories from teachers and others about the test and my own view is I have yet to understand why New York decided to rush ahead with its own test right?  Here is Park and Smarter Balanced spending 3 or 4 years, hundreds of millions of dollars developing these tests.  We hope that's going to result in these great tests. We will be finding out soon.  It just seemed like, wow, New York, on an incredibly tight time line, incredibly tight budget, was going to do it by themselves.  It sounds like they've done, as you say, better.  They deserve credit for that, but I don't understand why they just didn't have the patience to say, let's just wait for Park. 

Kathleen PM:            You know, there's two sides to that though.  Waiting for Park, then you're asking your teachers to shift and teach to new standards but you're assessing old standards.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, I know.

Kathleen PM:            I mean, honestly there's no really good answer in this sort of middle ground implementation before the assessments come on line.

Mike Petrilli:             It is an awkward phase.  It's like there's no good answer to being a teenager.  I mean you just have to get through it.  

Kathleen PM:            Yes.

Mike Petrilli:             I will say in the states that have waited, if you look at California, look at Maryland, these other blue states that are similar politically to New York, they don't have a backlash to the common core.

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             They're not on fire.  Look, I think you're right, we'll find out a year from now and we’ll talk about how it's going in those other states and whether ...

Kathleen PM:            Did they just delay the pain or did they avoid it?

Mike Petrilli:             Exactly.

Kathleen PM:            That remains to be seen.

Mike Petrilli:             Well said.  Okay, topic number 2 Pamela.

Pamela Tatz:             TFA is more diverse than ever.  Half of the 5,300 new recruits identify as people of color marrying the demographics of our school age population as opposed to a mere 17% of the nation's teaching force as a whole.  This is great for TFA, but how can we increase the diversity of US teachers in general?

Mike Petrilli:             Right, or put this a different way Kathleen.  Why can't Ed schools do this too?

Kathleen PM:            I don't know how much of an effort they're put ... TFA has made this a real central part of their mission and I think you have to be that deliberate about it.  There's no way diversity is going to magically increase.  It has to be a goal and it has to be one of your top priorities, otherwise I don't think it's going to happen; and I just don't know, have Ed schools made it as much of a priority as TFA? [crosstalk 06:32]

Mike Petrilli:             Other people say, look, bottom line is Ed schools don't recruit right?

Kathleen PM:            Right.

Mike Petrilli:             I mean they are just very passive, as ... look, as are most programs in colleges.  They get who they get and so they continue to get mostly white women from the suburbs and small towns, that's what they're getting except for a handful of programs in big cities.  What's your take on this though Kathleen, some people would argue why are we even focusing on race, why does it matter, why not just focus on teacher effectiveness?  What's your take on this?  Is it important to have a diverse teaching staff?

Kathleen PM:            I think so.  Yeah, definitely.  I think that especially because some of our neediest students are students of color and they're students from disadvantaged neighborhoods and I think if you only have white middle class women does a disservice to those communities.  People really do respond to role models and also it's hard for us to know our own blind spots.  It's important to have, not just diversity of color, but diversity of thought.  I think one way to get to that diversity of thought and idea is to have other kinds of diversity as well.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, there's been some interesting studies.  Education Next has published a few that show that look, all else being equal, kids do better, African American kids do better, with African American teachers. 

Kathleen PM:            You can understand, I mean it makes sense.  We even say that in white middle class communities, we want to see more male kindergarten teachers because we think boys respond to male role models.  Why would it be any different for students of color.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, yeah. I will say, my 4-year-old Leandro passed his first belt test in karate this last weekend ...

Kathleen PM:            Nice.

Mike Petrilli:             ... which involved breaking a board.  I'm pretty sure that this was some kind of trick board that had some kind of seam in it ...

Kathleen PM:            That's pretty bad.

Mike Petrilli:             ... because they just stomped on it and it broke and believe me, something was going on there with those boards because this was not a very strong stomp.  Anyway, the teacher is this man and I just see the way that he responds to that guy versus how he's responded to some of his female teachers.  It is different. 

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             It’s ... all right so.

Kathleen PM:            Well even for actually girls.  When I see my oldest daughter, I would love for her to have role models, particularly in the early elementary age who are men as well, to see that ... to give a different impression of what sort of male gender roles are. 

Mike Petrilli:             Yes.

Kathleen PM:            I think it's important for everybody.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, okay.  Topic number three Pamela.

Pamela Tatz:             The RNC just piled on to the growing push back against the college boards AP US history framework and the college board has now promised to clarify the framework.  Will this response work?

Mike Petrilli:             So Kathleen, finishing up your tour of duty at the collage board.  I know you're ... I'm not asking you to speak on behalf of the college board, but wow, this quickly became a big controversy, got somewhat linked to the common core controversy, a lot of the same groups pushed back against this.  On this one though, we've looked at the AP history framework that came out in 2012, and I thought there were some legitimate concerns about it.  What's your take on all this?

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, so it's really interesting.  I was able to dive deep into the weeds and to work our head of AP and to work with David and to really understand because when this controversy started brewing, I hadn't been as involved in the development of this stuff so I didn't know as much about it, which was nice, I got to look at it with fresh eyes.  It's interesting, a couple things.  First of all the framework does not exist in a vacuum. 

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Kathleen PM:            The framework is one piece of many that AP history teachers use and it's actually far more comprehensive than what they had in the past.  In the past there was I think a 4-page document that was literally a bullet list of a couple of things that included very few people.  This new document is trying to give a much more holistic picture of US history.  In addition, it's not the only thing.  It is paired with the US history assessment which AP US history teachers have always had access to. They use it to drive their instruction, they use it to drive their assessment.  I'm glad that the college board made the decision to release the assessment.

Mike Petrilli:             Um hmm.

Kathleen PM:            I think it is ... for me, when I read the framework, I thought, okay this is solid but what else, and when I read the assessment, I said this is exactly the kind of thing that I would want to use to drive teaching and learning in a US history classroom.

Mike Petrilli:             What were the complaints, that it was what ... that there wasn't enough focus on the founders, that there wasn't focus on heroes in American education, in US history?

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, I think that many of the critics felt that it was portraying a negative image of the United States and of American history and it didn't put enough focus on great leaders, again the founders and great leaders in American history.

Mike Petrilli:             Now there were a couple criticisms that I thought were totally unfair.  For one, they wanted to tie this to David Coleman ...

Kathleen PM:            Right.

Mike Petrilli:             ... who of course was one of the architects of the common core, but this was done before he got to the college board, so okay, that one doesn't work so well.  The second one was, I remember the American Principles Project saying something about how it wasn't appropriate for this ... who does the college board think they are to select which topics in history kids should learn?  Okay, they've been doing this for 50 years.  There's a test, you've got to figure out what's going to be on the test.  Unless you want to get rid of the AP program, you're going to have to do that. 

Kathleen PM:            Right, I mean you have to get specific if you're going to have a core set of tests aligned to it.  What I'll say, so the AP US history has been in development long before David took over, but what David has brought to the college board is a promise of transparency and I think that's what you're seeing now with the release of the AP US history test which has never ... I mean that's more transparency that we've seen from the college board in the past; and the promise of real clarification in the future.  I think he's making good on the promise of transparency and I think critics will be happy with what they see.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, that's good.  I think it's fair and people raise fair points and there was plenty.  I will say this, I would bet a lot of money that you will get a much more traditional view of American history from your US AP history course than if you took US History 101 on any college campus in America.

Kathleen PM:            Absolutely, yeah.  There's actually a lot of ... so AP US history teachers, they actually create their own curriculum that is aligned to the framework and there are some samples up on the college board website and there are more that teachers are developing all the time.  This is real opportunity here for AP US history teachers on the right to develop a framework that they think really embodies the principles of American history and to put that out there as exemplars.

Mike Petrilli:             All right, that is all the time we've got for Pardon the Gadfly.  Now it's time for everyone's favorite, Amber's research myth.  Amber, welcome back to the show.  Amber is sad, sad days here with the Robin Williams news. Was there a performance of his that you particularly liked.

Amber Northern:      Thank you Mike.

Mike Petrilli:             Amber is sad, sad days here with the Robin Williams news. Was there a performance of his that you particularly liked.

Amber Northern:      It had to be Mrs. Doubtfire.  [crosstalk 13:02]

Mike Petrilli:             Oh, I didn't see you go for that.

Amber Northern:      Come on, really.  He was just magnificent in that, and the outfit.  It still makes you smile when you see him in that getup.   Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             It was a great movie. 

Amber Northern:      Oh, fantastic. 

Mike Petrilli:             All right.  Well Amber, what do you have for us this week?

Amber Northern:      We got a new paper out by Christine West.  She seeks to settle the question of exactly how many hours teachers work which seems like a simple question, but it's a little more complicated.  We often hear that teachers work late into the night grading papers, they stay late after school to help kids, they work weekends.  We recognize this as former teachers.  Then other people say, well yet, they have the summers off, so it all kind of balances out.  Anyway, the data hadn't been great to answer this question so far.  So, she uses a new data source, well new to answer this question.  It's called the American Time Use Survey, it collects data on how Americans spend their time via a time diary.  Individuals are periodically asked about all their activities over a 24-hour period beginning at 4 a.m. on the day prior to the survey, so the data don't rely on recall so they're more reliable.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Amber Northern:      All right, she goes and uses the diary data for full time teachers and non teachers from 2003 to 2010.  Bottom line, teachers work an average of 34.5 hours per week annually, translates to 38 hours a week during the school year ...

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Amber Northern:      ... 21 hours during the summer.

Mike Petrilli:             Hmm.

Amber Northern:      Non teachers work 40 hours most of the year and 38 in the summer.  The summer by the way, that average includes teachers who may be working in year round districts, districts in which the school year stretches into June and starts in August and includes teachers taking PD in the summer or teaching summer school.  Okay?

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Amber Northern:      Second, West finds that when hours are properly accounted for, high school teachers earn 7-14% less than their demographically similar workers at other occupations.  That's in part because high school teachers are more likely to work in the summer, since more secondary kids attend summer school.  Yet, elementary, middle and special education teachers earn slightly higher wages than their demographically similar workers. Finally the report finds that teachers are more likely than most any other occupation; nurses, computer scientists, financial analysts, doctors, sales reps, like a ton of them; to over report work hours when diary data are compared to other report sources.

                                    Anyway, bottom line is she ends up talking ... a quite nice discussion at the that says, you know, this is yet another reason why we don't need the single salary schedule ...

Mike Petrilli:             Um hmm.

Amber Northern:      ... especially when secondary teachers have different work schedules, different responsibilities. 

Mike Petrilli:             Well, that's fascinating because isn't the history of why we have these master's degree pay bumps was because that was a way to get more money, more higher salaries to secondary school teachers.

Amber Northern:      Um hmm.

Mike Petrilli:             It was mostly high school teachers who were getting master's degrees.  Now, those were also mostly men so it was also a gender thing where we're going to pay the male teachers more than those female elementary school teachers, but it does sound like ... so you could say, well there is a differential, then. There is some evidence that those high school teachers should be getting paid more.

Amber Northern:      Now, you've got these 5-year master's programs where a lot of those elementary teachers go straight through and get their master's so we're not seeing a big difference between the master's degree holders. 

Mike Petrilli:             Interesting.  Is this ... do these numbers seem about right to you guys?  I mean those really sound low.

Amber Northern:      Yeah, the summers yeah.  [crosstalk 16:27].

Mike Petrilli:             [crosstalk 16:27] take this image of teacher's working 50-60 hours a week.

Amber Northern:      I guess the summer is quite of interesting because that's what they were saying.  Teachers, it's impossible to report ... consider your yearly work average when you've got to figure out the summer, so that's why I thought the report was fascinating.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Amber Northern:      It tries to actually put a number on it.  If you really do work in the summer, it's just hard to figure out how much of that time is spent.

Kathleen PM:            I think it's a challenge to average any of this right?  You've got how many, 3 something million teachers and this is the average, so that means you have some teachers who really are slamming it the way people say, that teachers can; and you have others who probably are working, well obviously, are working less than the average. 

Mike Petrilli:             Also, this note that teachers have the summers off. I would suspect that those teachers who are parents would disagree with you that the summers aren't "off". 

Amber Northern:      Right.

Mike Petrilli:             They are home with their own kids all summer long.

Amber Northern:      Right. 

Mike Petrilli:             They may end up wanting to go back to school in the fall just like everybody else.

Amber Northern:      Yeah.  Another thing that's sort of hard about this is a lot of teachers get paid over the full year ...

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Amber Northern:      ... so they may be reporting weeks that I'm paid, not weeks that I work.  I don't know.  [inaudible 17:32] all these reasons why this is really hard to figure out.  I don't know, it's kind of a wonky little study but it's a neat measure and I think it was kind of cool.

Kathleen PM:            And it provides new information.  It's interesting.

Amber Northern:      Yes, yes.

Mike Petrilli:             Lovely.  All right Amber, thank you for bringing wonky but cool.  That is all the time we've got for today.  Until next week.

Kathleen PM:            I'm Kathleen Porter Magee.

Mike Petrilli: And I'm Mike Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, signing off.  

With the release last week of half of the test questions from the most recent round of New York State Common Core ELA/Literacy and math tests, we can now begin to see if the tests are, as one New York principal insisted last spring, “confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards.”

Do the charges stick? After a quick analysis of the released items, on the charge of “confusing,” I find the tests (at least somewhat) guilty. Not well aligned with the Common Core standards? Not guilty. Developmentally inappropriate? That charge should never have been brought in the first place.

Calling Common Core “developmentally inappropriate” has become something of a blanket criticism, but it’s largely irrelevant. University of Virginia cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has repeatedly cautioned against invoking the idea of developmental stages to draw strong conclusions about what children are ready for. “Hard” and “developmentally inappropriate” are not synonyms.

Critics are on firmer footing describing some test items as confusing. The first passage on the fifth-grade reading test was “My Grandma Talley,” a short story by Nadine Oduor that makes frequent use of vernacular language. Unfamiliar words like “frettin’,” “lotta” (a lot of), and “doodlebug” and idiomatic language like “wet behind the ears” could easily trip up young readers. Dialect is not the same as the archaic language typically found in historical documents, which have been heavily signaled as important under Common Core.

Following the passage, one question asks...

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Representative Andy Thompson and Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman have introduced new legislation to repeal the Common Core, and hearings start today (Monday, August 18). But they’re not telling you the whole story. Read on to find out what they don’t want you to know and why their reasoning doesn’t make sense. 

[All opponent statements are direct quotes from this press conference]

1. Ohio was ahead of the game in wanting change: It began reviewing its academic standards back in 2007—long before governors and state superintendents started to talk about creating Common Core.

What opponents said:

[We] want to make sure Ohio is in the driver’s seat in this process.

The truth: By the time the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) started work on replacing state standards that were sorely lacking, the Buckeye state had already begun to respond to educator concerns about Ohio’s standards. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education conducted an international benchmarking study in 2008 (published in 2009) that laid out some guiding principles for revised Ohio standards—principles that Ohio stuck to when they started considering the Common Core.

2. Ohio played a significant role in crafting and revising the Common Core.

What opponents said:

Ohio’s kind of been […] tied to the railroad tracks here on this mission.

...
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The lawyering-up edition

Mike talks with Andy Smarick about Governor Jindal’s legal war on PARCC, Wisconsin’s high-court take on union bargaining, and D.C. charter funding’s time in federal court. Amber doubles down on double dosing.

Amber's Research Minute

Spending More of the School Day in Math Class: Evidence From a Regression Discontinuity in Middle School by Eric Taylor, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University, June 2014).

Transcript

Mike Petrilli:             Hello. This is your host Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Here at the Education Gadfly Show and online at edexcellence.net. And now please join me in welcoming my cohost, the Russian hacker of education policy, Andy Smarick.

Andy Smarick:           1.2 million emails, passwords and going strong. How are you?

Mike Petrilli:             Wow! And this is a Russian crime ring that has stolen all these emails and passwords. 1.2 billion. Of course my response is, “Surely, it wasn’t mine. Surely mine … What are the odds that mine was one of those?”

Andy Smarick:           My wife and I have been the victim of two different mass hackings; one where we went to school and one where I used to have my payroll. Now when it happens to me, I’m like stand in line. I’ve been hacked so many times.

Mike Petrilli:             I did get hacked once with the one where they guy sends the email to all of your friends that I am on a trip in Croatia …

Andy Smarick:           You fell for that?

Mike Petrilli:             No, no. My email got hacked.

Andy Smarick:           Oh, wow.

Mike Petrilli:             What was interesting was to see which of my friends and family fell for it. To some degree it was like, well, they’re looking out for me. I know who’s interested in my safety, my wellbeing. On the other hand, I also know who needs to get a little bit hip to the internet.

Andy Smarick:           That’s right. But you also know who deserves to be in your will. They care about you.

Mike Petrilli:             Nice. Okay, Andy. Lots to talk about today. This is kind of a big deal, my first …

Andy Smarick:           I was about to say congratulations.

Mike Petrilli:             Thank you.

Andy Smarick:           Just as I was walking into the building, I saw poor Checker Finn, out on the curb with all of his stuff out there. Mike ascends and then boots him out.

Mike Petrilli:             His weird false idols, Divishnu, and other things that are in his office. We did move Checker out of his office to a smaller office. It looks like an antiquities museum. The stuff kind of freaks us all out a little bit.

Andy Smarick:           Checker has amassed a lot of interesting things over 50 years in the business.

Mike Petrilli:             He has. No, no, no. He did step down as President. He is still on staff, will still be going strong. Probably cause more trouble than ever, because he doesn’t have to deal with the day-to-day stuff of raising money.

Andy Smarick:           Less staff meetings, that right.

Mike Petrilli:             But it is an honor to become President …

Andy Smarick:           Congratulations.

Mike Petrilli:             … of the Fordham Institute. Thank you. Of course, I have been the president of this podcast for eight or nine years.

Andy Smarick:           Has it been that long that it’s been going on?

Mike Petrilli:             Yes.

Andy Smarick:           Wow.

Mike Petrilli:             And you’ve been listening all that time.

Andy Smarick:           Well, I’ve been on for quite some time. I didn’t realize it was that long.

Mike Petrilli:             Absolutely. Okay, guys. Let’s get going.

Andy Smarick:           Let’s roll.

Mike Petrilli:             Let’s play, Pamela. It’s a special, everyone’s lawyering up edition, of the Education Gadfly. Let’s play Pardon the Gadfly.

Pamela Tatz:             Last week, the Louisiana Board of Education voted to join a lawsuit against Governor Jindal challenging his executive order last month that barred the state from administering the Common Core-aligned PARCC test. Who has the authority to decide whether the state will ditch PARCC and the Common Core?

Mike Petrilli:             Andy, what the bleep is going on down there in Louisiana?

Andy Smarick:           It is a cluster. I have never seen anything like this before. It’s one thing to file lawsuits, but there are these ethics charges against people, there are audits going on, people worried about their reputations. It’s gone from bad to ugly to gory.

Mike Petrilli:             I understand Bobby Jindal wants to President or Vice-President at least, and he’s decided he’s going to be the Tea Party candidate because his policy wong shtick wasn’t working, okay. I think that’s horrible and bad for the kids of Louisiana. Of course I’m a supporter of Common Core. I sort of get all of that. He can stand up. He can oppose the Common Core. What he may not have expected was that his own Board of Education pushed back, and his own Board of Regents pushed back, the Republicans in the legislature pushed back.

Andy Smarick:           His hand-chosen State Chief, John White.

Mike Petrilli:             Yes, pushed back. David Vitter, running to replace him, has pushed back. I would think that, hey, Bobby, you’ve done enough. You have shown the Tea Party you’re with them, so say, hey, I gave it my all. But instead, he’s going to go after poor John White with ethics charges. He’s going to file lawsuits. This is madness. Stop the madness.

Andy Smarick:           I agree. I consider myself a friend of John White, so I’m biased in this too. There’s this wonderful Jonathan Swift line. It’s something along the lines of you know true genius enters the world when the dunces are in the confederacy against him. I think that Jindal was betting on the idea that he can say, when he’s running for office, that all these other people who are aligned against me, this is just proof that they all have it wrong, that I’m willing to be on and on with it.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, except that he appointed many of them, and he helped elect many of them …

Andy Smarick:           Well, there’s that small …

Mike Petrilli:             … and he’s worked with many of them on other parts of his agenda. I don’t know. It’s hard to watch. Look, long-time listeners of the show, you should know that one key figure in all of this is Stafford Palmieri, who was on the show, …

Andy Smarick:           Former Fordham.

Mike Petrilli:             … former Fordham, and is now Jindal’s Policy Director. I have not had a chance to talk to her recently. I would love to find out what the heck is going on. I would just say, look, you’ve made your point. Enough is enough. We’re now, what, nine months away from when they’re supposed to give the PARCC test?

Andy Smarick:           That’s right.

Mike Petrilli:             I don’t know what they’re going to do if they don’t give that PARCC test instead. Give the test! Give it up!

Andy Smarick:           I don’t know. I think this issue is a poker sweepstake. He’s pot committed. He’s put all of his chips in on this hand, and I don’t think that you can retreat with dignity here. This may go on.

Mike Petrilli:             Maybe he can lose in court with some dignity. Okay, topic number two in our special edition on everyone’s lawyering up.

Andy Smarick:           Sponsored by the American Trial Lawyers Association.

Mike Petrilli:             Yes, thank you.

Pamela Tatz:             Wisconsin’s high court just affirmed the constitutionality of Act 10, the controversial law passed back in 2011 that, among other things, restricted collective bargaining rights of states’ teachers unions. Will it spread to other states? Is this good for ed reform?

Andy Smarick:           Had you asked me three months ago or six months ago, I would have said, “No, this is an outlier. It will stay in Wisconsin. It will go no farther.” But what is happening currently with the teachers union and Vergara and how they are digging their heals in and becoming more and more stubborn on these issues, I’m wondering if there’s going to be an increasing backlash to unions and they are unwittingly actually giving the fuel to the fire of these kinds of pieces of legislation and then lawsuits.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah. It’s a really good point. Look, it’s already spread. Michigan passed a law that was somewhat similar. Indiana did it, I think mostly through executive order, at least diminishing the authority of unions, teacher unions, to bargain. All these issues, there’s a whole bundle of them. It’s what can you collectively bargain over? There’s the tenure issue. There’s the LIFO issue. Those are different issues, but they’re kind of this bundle, as you say, Andy. Look, if this turns out to be a wave election for Republicans, like many people think it will be, you could see even more Republican supermajorities in state legislatures, and a lot of those states would be more than happy to take it to the teachers unions.

Andy Smarick:           We’re seeing a perfect storm, potentially, here for the history buffs out there. Midterm elections for the President’s party are always bad. The second midterm election of a sitting President’s party are particularly bad, going all the way back to the …

Mike Petrilli:             Well, though ’98 was an exception, perhaps because of impeachment.

Andy Smarick:           That’s right, because of impeachment. But in every other one, it usually is a bloodbath. When you combine that with the fact that the teachers unions, by digging in, are giving a lot of the base a reason to lash out at organized labor. Unless the unions have decided to do a course correction, they may be on the wrong side of this.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay. Topic number three in our special lawyering up edition.

Pamela Tatz:             The D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools has filed a Federal lawsuit against the District of Columbia, alleging that the government has underfunded the Charters to the tune of almost a billion dollars, in violation of D.C. law. Do these Charters deserve equal funding? Does it matter that the DCPS spends an exorbitant amount of money?

Andy Smarick:           I love that question. Are you going to argue against fair funding?

Mike Petrilli:             I really struggle with this, Andy. I’ll be honest. If you had to pick, of all of the places in the country where we should have a fight over Charter funding, I’m not sure I’d start with D.C.

Andy Smarick:           Right, I hear you.

Mike Petrilli:             Look, it is true, that compared to DCPS they get shafted. There is a local ordinance that says they’re supposed to get share funding. Looking at it, they’ve got a case. But they get so much more money than Charter schools anywhere else.

Andy Smarick:           Probably three times as much maybe in some places in California.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, yeah. They get preschool funding. They get facilities funding, which I’m in favor of, but it gets you back to this old question again about equity versus adequacy.

Andy Smarick:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Petrilli:             Right? You can make the same … Look, we know, we have a system that has these vast inequities in education funding across districts, between districts and Charters, and frankly, Andy, it’s not fixable. Right? There will always be inequities, I believe, because of our system of taxation, because of local control, for all these reasons. Then you start to say, well, if rich people are always going to be able to spend a bazillion dollars on their own schools, and there’s really no way to stop that, then you get to this point where you say, what we really got to focus on is making sure that there’s no school that is funded at such a low level they can’t provide good services to their kids.

Andy Smarick:           I think the politics of this may turn out to be the most interesting thing. It is one thing for a court to hear a case when the Charter sector is, say, 2%, 5% of a market share. Then the court can kind of say, well, yeah, you’re getting underfunded, but it’s really not that many kids. We really need to protect the district and make sure that all the equities there are taken care of.

Now that the Charter sector in D.C. is serving almost a majority of students, it’s not like the court is … We cannot assume that they are going to defer and always do what the district wants anymore. The Charter sector can come in and say increasingly we are serving a higher number of kids. We are growing, the district is getting smaller. We need to get ahead of this thing, make sure we have the resources we need.

Mike Petrilli:             Although I don’t even know, Andy, that that stuff would come up in a lawsuit, per se. The court’s going to look at the law. I guess there are some constitutional issues that the plaintiffs have raised, but mostly it just says, look, there’s this law that D.C., I think the D.C. Council, I assume, has passed that says that Charter schools are supposed to get equal funding. Are they living up to that law or not? You don’t even have to address the constitutional questions. It’s not really up to the court to figure out all the other ramifications, or the politics or anything like that. You just say, look, are you living up to that law or not?

Hey, by the way, let’s get those laws passed in other states, too. That’d be awesome if we had a law in Ohio that said, hey, Charter schools have to get equal funding compared to district schools and you guys figure out how to make it happen. That would be very interesting.

Andy Smarick:           It would be. This gets complicated because the formula is one thing, but then part of the argument is that DCPS is getting in-kind services from other agencies in the city, so you could make the argument that the funding formula is being fairly administered. It’s all these extra add-ons that turn out to be inequitable.

Mike Petrilli:             I see, I see, I see. All right.

Andy Smarick:           We shall se.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay, that’s all the time we’ve got for Pardon the Gadfly. Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite Amber’s Research Minute. Amber, welcome back to the show.

Amber Northern:      Thank you, Mike.

Mike Petrilli:             Back from a week off at the beach.

Amber Northern:      Man! It rained three solid days, though. Three solid days. I’m not very tanned.

Andy Smarick:           You look relaxed, though.

Amber Northern:      I’m relaxed. I mean, how many movies, how many shops can you go to when it rains?

Mike Petrilli:             Well, okay. Look, I know it’s tough, but imagine if you had two small children along with you and it rained.

Amber Northern:      Yes, that’s right.

Mike Petrilli:             Then you’d be pulling your hair out.

Amber Northern:      Quick plug for a movie. We saw Get On Up. You heard about this movie?

Mike Petrilli:             Get On Up.

Amber Northern:      Get On Up.

Andy Smarick:           Never heard of it.

Amber Northern:      You got to go see it.

Mike Petrilli:             James Brown?

Amber Northern:      James Brown life story.

Andy Smarick:           Get On Up.

Mike Petrilli:             Who plays in it?

Amber Northern:      It was awesome.

Andy Smarick:           I do.

Amber Northern:      Some guy you’ve never heard of, but who was phenomenal.

Mike Petrilli:             Really?

Amber Northern:      Yeah. Got to see it.

Andy Smarick:           But I could play him.

Mike Petrilli:             Your dance moves.

Andy Smarick:           He was an inspiration.

Amber Northern:      You know, there’s like two lines in that. Get on up. I’m a sex machine. That’s it.

Mike Petrilli:             That’s right.

Andy Smarick:           That’s the whole song.

Amber Northern:      He just repeats it over and over. The whole movie theater’s like doing the little jive.

Andy Smarick:           That’s awesome.

Amber Northern:      We’re digging it. It was a great song.

Mike Petrilli:             See? See, and if it had not rained, you would have missed that.

Amber Northern:      I know. There were some highlights.

Mike Petrilli:             Look on the bright side, Amber. Okay, what you got for us this week?

Amber Northern:      We got a new study out by Eric Taylor out of Stanford. It examines whether a double dose of math for low performers … meaning you take one remedial class, you take one grade level math class … improves math achievement. He looks at student data from ‘03-‘04 through 2013 in Miami Dade County Public Schools. He tracks the outcomes of middle school students who score just below and just above a predetermined cutoff score on the previous spring state assessment.

Mike Petrilli:             Does this mean a discontinuity analysis?                    

Amber Northern:      [inaudible 00:12:32] discontinuity, Michael Petrilli. Woohoo! He got it.

Andy Smarick:           Impressive, Mike Petrilli.

Amber Northern:      All right. So the kids just below are, obviously, taking the double dose; just above, you’re just taking the regular course. He found that students taking the double dose made significantly higher gains on math assessments compared to those students who were just above the cutoff score and didn’t double dose.    

Yet over time, the gains diminished. One year after returning to a single math schedule, just a third to a half of the gain remained. Two years later, the gain was about one-fifth to one-third of the original. Once students finished high school, there was little evidence of achievement differences between the groups. This was kind of an interesting little thing he looked into. Treated students were no more likely to have completed Algebra I by the end of ninth grade or to have completed Algebra II by the end of high school.

Then he starts talking about fadeout and it’s similar to other intervention. Fadeout’s like reducing class size. He’s got this nice discussion section about what other courses they weren’t exposed to like Art. I think some of the kids, he looked at it and there fewer kids taking foreign language, obviously, because there was this crowd out.

It was an interesting study. Then you’ve got another few studies that show the opposite, that actually show a double dose in Algebra and it did actually show kids enrolling in college enrollment at higher rates and completing. I just feel like this is not the last word on double dosing. But it showed a fadeout.

Mike Petrilli:             It showed a fadeout. Let me ask the obvious question. They said, okay, you get a big jump if you do double dosing, but then once you stop double dosing, you get a fadeout. Why not keep double dosing?

Amber Northern:      Yeah, that’s right. I do believe he looked at a double dose again, but because of the kids, and don’t quote me on this, but I think he lost some of the sample as he kept tracking and wasn’t able to say definitely …

Mike Petrilli:             Schools don’t tend to do that. They do this one year, and then that’s it? That’s the idea?

Amber Northern:      That’s right.

Mike Petrilli:             Interesting.

Andy Smarick:           Interesting. The opportunity cost question is an interesting one. What do they lose by getting this additional, secondary dose of math, whether it is foreign language stuff? What are the costs of that compared to the benefits?

Amber Northern:      That’s right.

Mike Petrilli:             We’ve published some work by Nate Levenson that says in the special education world, double dosing is something that looks highly effective. If you’ve got a student who basically has some kind of learning disability, that rather than do team teaching or have a lot of expensive aides, that they might just need more time with the reading or more time with math, and that can be quite effective.

Amber Northern:      The research on extended day is pretty compelling, right?

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah. And I’m sure, look, it matters what do you with that time? Are the classes good? Are the teachers good? What’s happening during that time?

Andy Smarick:           And this was only in math, right?

Amber Northern:      Only in math.

Andy Smarick:           The interesting question, because all the research I know of says that reading games are so much harder to get because it’s just cumulative knowledge, you have to get so many hours. I wonder if there’s less of a fadeout effect when you do double dosing of reading because it just builds up your hours, your words, and so forth.

Mike Petrilli:             That’s a good question. Of course, look, I bet everything fades out, right?

Amber Northern:      Yeah.

Andy Smarick:           Sure.

Mike Petrilli:             There’s probably not a single reform that doesn’t fade out to some degree. That’s something we have to accept.

Amber Northern:      It’s not harming the kids, right?

Mike Petrilli:             Unless, the tradeoff, unless they’re missing something. But you know, if they’re missing underwater basket weaving, it’s probably not a huge problem.

Amber Northern:      Right.

Mike Petrilli:             Which I, by the way, got an A-plus in.

Andy Smarick:           Impressive again.

Mike Petrilli:             Thank you. All right, thank you, Amber. That is all the time we’ve got for this week’s show. Until next week …

Andy Smarick:           I am Andy Smarick.

Mike Petrilli:             And I’m Mike Petrilli, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, signing off.

Male:                          The Education Gadfly Show is a production of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute located in Washington D.C. For more information, visit us online at edexcellence.net.

In Ohio, like many states across the nation, reading achievement has largely stalled. The state’s reading scores on the domestic NAEP assessments haven’t moved over the past decade: In fourth-grade reading, the state’s average score was 222 in 2003 and 224 in 2013. The story is the same for eighth grade. Meanwhile, on state assessments, reading proficiency rates have improved noticeably in fourth grade (from 77 percent in 2006 to 88 percent in 2013), but fifth- and sixth-grade reading proficiency rates haven’t budged. In fifth grade, for instance, statewide reading proficiency was 75 percent in 2006 and 74 percent in 2013.

Test data suggest that strong and concerted efforts must be made to stem the tide of mediocre reading achievement. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee is one policy initiative aimed at improving early literacy. And in 2010, the state board adopted new English language arts (ELA) standards—part of the Common Core—in order to increase the rigor of what students are expected to know and be able to do when it comes to reading, writing, and grammar.

State leaders have created a policy framework—Third Grade Reading for foundational early-literacy skills and long-term growth under the Common Core—to improve ELA across Ohio. And now, for many Ohio schools, it’s implementation time. This made me wonder: Which schools are already making the biggest impact on their students’ reading achievement? Have any schools consistently helped their students make large gains on state assessments? Of course, past success is no...

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