Standards-Based Reforms

Nationally and in Ohio, we press for the full suite of standards-based reforms across the academic curriculum and throughout the K–12 system, including (but not limited to) careful implementation of the Common Core standards (CCSS) for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics as well as rigorous, aligned state assessments and forceful accountability mechanisms at every level.

Holding schools accountable for student growth in a rigorous manner that doesn’t systemically favor one school over another is a vital policy objective. To this end, the Buckeye State has implemented a sophisticated (though not easily understood) value-added model to rate schools by their impact on student growth over time, while ostensibly holding constant other factors that could impact growth.

In previous blog posts, I looked at the correlation between school-level “overall” value-added index scores and (1) the school’s proportion of economically disadvantaged students and (2) African American students. The correlations are low. Evidently, Ohio’s value-added model does not systemically favor high-wealth, largely white schools over poor, largely minority schools. High-poverty schools, for example, can earn high marks on value-added just the same as high-wealth schools. The school-level value-added results stand in contrast to the state’s raw student achievement component, which disadvantages schools with mostly needy students. 

In this post, I look at the changes that Ohio has made in its value-added system, and what the distribution of the state’s value-added output looks like across schools under these revisions.

RECENT CHANGES

This year Ohio made several changes to the state’s value-added system. Previously, Ohio reported a 1-year value-added index score for schools and districts. This lead to some head-scratching results (see our 2010 analysis of the year-to-year “yo-yo” effect). Evidently, to mitigate this problem, the state reported a 3-year composite average—2010-11 to 2012-13—for schools’ overall value-added scores. In addition, the state reported for the first time...

Categories: 

For some time now, I’ve been impressed by Tennessee’s Common Core implementation efforts. I even interviewed Emily Barton from the state’s department of education for By the Company It Keeps for this very reason (well, and because she’s generally exceptional).

Two recent documents along these lines are worth noting. The SEA released a short piece called “20 Things Every Tennessee Teacher Should Know about the PARCC Assessments.” It’s far more than your typical glossy communications piece. It actually has some serious content that should both inform educators and give confidence to leaders in the state that the SEA is on its game.

But even more importantly, it’ll probably help the state’s efforts to cool whatever anti–Common Core or anti-common-assessments sentiment that’s simmering. The document shows that PARCC is a serious effort to gauge kids’ progress toward college and career readiness.

I was happy they sent this along because part of my handwringing about PARCC’s troubles has been that it has felt like there’s been next to no active advocacy for common testing. To the extent the reform community’s talked about the consortia, it’s usually been reactive—pushing back against opposition. Documents like this (and I’m hoping other PARCC states have similar ones or produce them) can help the cause.

The other document is a pretty thorough—though user-friendly—analysis of TN’s 2013 writing test results. This might seem like a marginal contribution, but give it a look. It discusses major findings and their implications, provides recommendations for...

Categories: 

The introduction of the Common Core standards is shaking up the $7 billion textbook industry, according to this great piece by Sarah Garland. Traditionally monopolized by a few very large publishing Goliaths, such as Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the standards shift now favors small start-ups, which are nimbler and more eager to embrace change. Gadfly cheers the possibility that the Common Core could break up the behemoths’ oligopoly and pave the way for the little-but-fierce Davids, like Core Knowledge.

For the last few months, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has steadfastly refused to release $45 million of federal funds earmarked for the Philly schools until the teacher union agreed to major concessions, including a pay cut. But on Wednesday afternoon—with the union unwavering and civil-rights groups beginning to circle (and after the tragic death of young girl from asthma at a school that, due to budget cuts, did not have a nurse)—Corbett relented, arguing that he was satisfied with the other reforms made by the district. Which was probably the right call.

We know this much: Moody’s investment analysts don’t much care for parental choice, but they are concerned about the credit-worthiness of school districts. The latest Moody’s report shows that as charter schools gain public school market share in cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., they’re putting financial stress on their local school systems, which have ended up with...

Categories: 
The following post was adapted from a talk delivered by Kathleen Porter-Magee at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Thank you, Dr. Reyes and also, thanks to Reverend Rodriguez for the invitation to speak. I’m honored to be with you here today.

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to express our sincere gratitude to Reverend Rodriguez for standing up in support of the Common Core, particularly at a time when it is politically more expedient to do the opposite. His support for these new standards and the promise they hold for the Latino and faith communities shows real courage and leadership, and your willingness as a group to start what we hope will be a long conversation is much appreciated.

As Dr. Reyes mentioned, I recently joined the College Board as the senior advisor for policy and instruction. But I’ve spent the past 17 years working both on the ground level, in schools as a teacher and network administrator in both Catholic and urban charter schools, and at the 30,000-foot level working to translate lessons from great classrooms and great schools to policy.

But before I dive in, I’d like to tell you a little about who I am and why I’m here.

I come from a traditional Irish Catholic family, where faith and religion were a big part of our family. Today is actually my grandmother’s 96th birthday. She was born in Hell’s Kitchen in New York before women won the right to vote and...

Categories: 

As waves of reforms and would-be reforms have washed over American public education these past three decades, high schools have mostly stayed dry. Although test scores have risen slightly in the early grades, especially in math, National Assessment results for twelfth-graders have been flat or down a bit. SAT scores are also flat, and ACT averages much the same.

ACT, the organization that administers the college-entrance test of the same name, judges only one-quarter of its test-takers to be fully ready for college-level academics, and the College Board is not much cheerier. In releasing SAT results for the 1.6 million members of the high school class of 2013 who took the test, the board estimated that just 43 percent met its benchmark for college and career readiness—a score of 1550 or better (out of 2400), which translates to a 65 percent chance of having a B-minus (or better) GPA during the freshman year in college.

And that’s among those who stick it out and graduate from high school. Millions of young people drop out. School discipline remains appalling, with gangs, metal detectors, and violence the norm in many places.

The basic institutional structures for high school that former Harvard president James B. Conant described and recommended in an influential 1959 book remain pretty much unchanged a half-century later. The rest of the world has not been idle, however....

Categories: 

Last Wednesday, the House Education Committee heard sponsor testimony on House Bill 237, legislation that would repeal the Common Core State Standards in Ohio. For those unaware, the Common Core is a set of academic standards that the State Board of Education voluntarily adopted for English and math in June 2010. The standards replace Ohio’s old, outgoing, and clearly inferior academic standards.

In front of a packed house, the 18-member committee heard testimony from the bill sponsor, Rep. Andy Thompson. Among the reasons cited for halting the new standards included concerns about the loss of local control of schools, doubts about the rigor of the standards, and worries about the process by which the standards were adopted.

Representative Andy Thompson (far right) testifies at the House Education Committee (October 9, 2013). Photo by Jeff Murray.

But the House Education Committee chair, Rep. Gerald Stebelton, put to rest these fears. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Stebelton referred to the positive feedback he’s hearing from many educators, remarking, “all of the educators and superintendents I’ve talked to think this is the best thing to happen to education in Ohio in years, because it gets rid of some of the fluff, focuses on real solid basics and has a structure that builds on itself each year.” In addition, he supplied the education committee with a myth-busting document that should ease the mind of the most hardened skeptic.

With this hearing, the anti-Common Core movement in...

The latest in a series of anti–Common Core scare tactics came from Michelle Malkin yesterday, when she implored,

It is not easy to stand up and challenge sovereignty-undermining, curriculum-usurping, privacy-sabotaging education orthodoxy, especially when it is plied by a toxic alliance of both Big Government and Big Business interests. But if we don’t do it, who will?

The post goes on to share stories from parents who complain that local principals have refused to listen to their anti-CCSS complaints and that they’ve had “gag orders” put on them when they’ve tried to question “what the Common Core is doing to our children.”

The specific criticisms mostly point to assignments that children are bringing home from school. Earlier this year, for instance, two Indianapolis moms launched a campaign against the standards in their home state of Indiana. According to an NRO article written in May, “Heather [Crossin] suddenly noticed a sharp decline in the math homework her eight-year-old daughter was bringing home from Catholic school.”

Crossin explained,

Instead of many arithmetic problems, the homework would contain only three or four questions, and two of those would be “explain your answer.” Like, “One bridge is 412 feet long and the other bridge is 206 feet long. Which bridge is longer? How do you know?”

Last month, an article on TownHall.com showed a truly confusing math question that was part of a supposedly Common Core–aligned math program. In short order, it spread like wildfire through social media. And parents...

Categories: 

The colossal urban district is now more legend than reality, at least for Ohio’s city schools. While some may lament the decline of Ohio’s big-city districts, might not the “downsizing” of the traditional district present a terrific opportunity to do education differently?

Consider the two charts below. The first chart shows the K-12 enrollment of these eight districts at four points in time: 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. The second chart displays the percentage of white students enrolled in these 8 districts for these same four years. For illustration the enrollment numbers for Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton (Fordham’s hometown) are displayed.

K-12 student enrollment, Ohio Big 8 Districts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

% White students, Ohio Big 8 Districts

Source: Ohio Department of Education, Enrollment Data. Note: Numbers and percentages displayed for Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton

These charts make two clear points.

  1. Ohio’s urban school districts have contracted significantly. In 1980 Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s enrollment topped 85,000 students; 30 years later, it enrolled just 43,000 students. Similarly, Dayton Public Schools has experienced a steep enrollment decline, from nearly 33,000 students in 1980 to just 14,000 students in 2010.
  2. Student enrollment has become less white. As of 2010, all 8 districts enrolled less than 50 percent white students (in 1980, four of them--Canton, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Columbus--were majority white). Cleveland Metropolitan School
  3. ...
Categories: 

We have continued to talk with educators about the implementation for the Common Core Curriculum and PARCC assessments. (Please click on the following links to read our interviews with Chad Webb, former principal of Village Prep Academy: Woodland Hills Campus, and Judy Hennessey of DECA.) We’ve been asking how they and their schools have prepared for the Common Core and what could potentially hinder a smooth transition.

Today’s interview is with Foresta Shope, the founding principal of Sciotoville Elementary Academy (SEA), a K-6 elementary school in rural southwestern Ohio. SEA was created in 2008 by community members and families standing together with a common goal and commitment to the children of the town of Sciotoville and its surrounding areas. Foresta is a believer in using data to improve instruction practices and education outcomes.

Below are the questions and excerpts from our conversation with Foresta.

Q: What's your biggest worry about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?  

As an instructional leader, my biggest worry is maintaining positive staff morale. There are so many changes occurring simultaneously in education. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that we are here for the kids and we need to seek alternatives to improve teaching and learning so that we may grow as educators. All key stakeholders must have a shared vision of the end result.

Q: What do you need to put in place before this all starts? 

We have successfully implemented the CCSS at the K-2 level this year. We had to...

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently issued a set of principles for the new Common Core–aligned tests. The document sent a pointed message to the Department of Education: “Dear Mr. Secretary: We got this.”

An initial read of the document reveals that the chiefs smartly emphasized the states’ role in Common Core and common assessments. This is important, given the prominent and growing narrative that both are creatures of a meddling Uncle Sam. But the principles and accompanying press release do something even more noteworthy: They cleverly offer the feds a way out of a serious, looming jam.

But first things first: CCSSO’s action is the kind of sharp, forward-looking, politically savvy tactic that has been sorely missing from the national implementation strategy of these new standards and assessments. To date, implementation has meant mostly in-the-weeds, behind-the-scenes transition work by SEAs and districts and advocates publicly condescending to anyone with the temerity to question Common Core or common assessments. That combination has led to soft political support for Common Core overall and a good bit of antagonism, especially on the right.

Put in this unfortunate context, CCSSO’s gambit comes across as highly sophisticated. As Common Core–aligned tests begin to roll out over the next year, the Department plans to use a peer-review process to ensure that the tests are high quality and aligned to tough standards. The Department has good intentions here. I’ve been hand wringing for months about the splintering of the testing consortia and...

Categories: 

Pages