Curriculum & Instruction

After the ouster of Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett (who, subsequently, was snapped up by Florida), Indiana’s Republicans have pushed a bill withdraw the state from the Common Core standards.

Today, Indiana’s Senate Education Committee heard arguments on whether to keep, eliminate, or change the state’s commitment to the Common Core. Michael J. Petrilli, Fordham’s executive vice president, testified at the hearing to urge Indiana’s lawmakers to “stay the course” with the common standards.

 

Testimony to the Education and Career Development Committee of the Indiana State Senate

Michael J. Petrilli

Chairman Kruse, Ranking Member Rogers, members of the committee: It’s an honor to be with you today. I mean that sincerely. No state in the country has accomplished more on the education reform front than Indiana has over the past two years. On issue after issue—from school vouchers, to teacher evaluations, to collective bargaining reform, to school finance reform—Indiana is leading the way. As you may know, in 2011 my think tank named Indiana the “Education Reform Idol” for its accomplishments. You won in a landslide. You should be very proud of what this legislative body has...

The last two days have been extremely educational.

On Wednesday, I was with a group of state leaders, convened by CCSSO, wrestling with Common Core implementation and all of the issues tied to it (assessments, accountability, human capital, etc.).

Today, I attended an excellent panel on Common Core and school districts at AEI. (I tweeted from the event; check out my play-by-play here.)

The combined effect of these events is my heightened concern about the chances for the kind of implementation that produces the ground-shaking results so many have forecast.

The good news is that lots of talented people are engaged in this work. That gives me hope.

The bad news is that the work is extremely complicated and this is getting obscured by lots of sycophantic cheerleading. (Two bright spots from today: Rick Hess’s general skepticism about CC implementation and USED’s Joanne Weiss’s encouragement of a “continuous improvement” mindset that will accept setbacks and lead to course corrections.)

I’m going to write more about these matters in the days to come. But for now, I’d like to call your attention to a recent report. Before I went to work for a state department of education, I...

Judgment time for ed reform

Mike and StudentsFirst's Eric Lerum chat about StudentsFirst’s new policy report card, the fight in NJ over blended learning, and charter school expulsions in D.C.

Amber's Research Minute

Thomas Kane, et al., Measurements in Effective Teaching: Final Reports (Seattle, WA: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, January 2013).

Achieve released the second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards this week. Project-leader Stephen told Education Week that the new draft is quite different from the old one. Here’s hoping that’s true. Stay tuned for a review from our own science experts.

In a study released at last weekend’s American Economics Association conference, researchers argue that mandatory vaccination programs—in addition to reducing morbidity rates from the relevant childhood diseases—effectively increase students’ likelihood of graduating from high school, possibly because of the weeks of school that ailing kids would miss. Interestingly, this effect was twice as strong among minority students.

The tiff over teacher evaluations in New York City turned into an all-out brawl after Mayor Bloomberg likened the United Federation of Teachers to the NRA in his weekly radio show last Friday. The timing of this particular analogy may have been unfortunate. Still and all, the overarching point he sought to make was valid: Teacher-union leaders, like those of some other interest groups, might be out of sync with their membership. Bloomberg seems to have fallen victim to an old political landmine: Telling...

“Nobody is satisfied with the educational performance of Ohio’s poor, urban, and minority youngsters—or the schools that serve them.” This was how we opened our 2010 report Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s High-Performing, High-Need Urban Schools, which examined high-flying elementary schools. That sentiment is just as true for the high schools in 2012 as it was two years ago for the grade schools we examined. Yet there are high schools in the Buckeye State that buck the bleak trends facing too many of our urban students. This report examines six of them -- urban high schools that are making good on promises of academic excellence; specifically, schools that work for low-income and minority students. These high schools make serious efforts not to leave anyone behind.

National Children's Museum
The boring National Children's Museum could be considered a by-product of our nation's poor social-studies standards.
Photo from In The Air.

The so-called “National Children's Museum” that recently opened in Washington has already been panned in the Washington Post as a feeble excuse for a national anything—and a bore for kids.

No, I haven't been there myself—and based on that review will not hasten to take my granddaughters. But a friend recently took her young children, and this commentary makes a link that hadn't occurred to me but turns out to be painfully plausible:

“A couple weeks ago my family went to the new ‘National’ children's museum. The whole small place felt like the sad outworking of too many years of mushy social-studies standards.  No structured content, just a mish mash of world culture with clothing and food prep, etc., focusing on their place in the world, neighborhoods, even a bunk bed to understand...not sure what.”

Fordham has been reviewing state social-studies standards (well, history standards)...

Finland—the tiny land of reindeer, snow, and saunas—burst onto the American education scene in the past decade as the unlikely poster child for the anti-reform movement. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t implore reformers to learn from this nation with low poverty, high achievement, and virtually no standardized tests—and abandon our support for standards- and accountability-driven reform. After all, Finland’s education system today is characterized by few top-down regulations, broad teacher autonomy, and virtually no centralized accountability. Given its success on international assessments, it must follow that U.S. schools would do better if we copied the Finland model.

Finnish reindeer
 Finland: Land of reindeer, snow, and a world-famous education system.
Photo from RukaKuusamo.com

Right?

Not exactly.

First, there has been some recent evidence that Finland’s successes may not be as miraculous as once thought (it slipped on the recent TIMSS math test). But more than that, to understand what is going on in Finland, a good place to start is with a November 2010...

In the biggest non-surprise of 2012, the U.S. Department of Education rejected California’s request for an ESEA waiver after the Golden State refused to play by Arne Duncan’s rules (i.e., agreeing to the conditions he demanded) in return for greater flexibility. The next move is California’s—do we smell a lawsuit?

In Italy, where job prospects for the young are few and far between, the possibility of landing a rare teaching gig at a public school set off a frenzied rush of applicants. Their Education Ministry has not held certification exams since 1999 (citing budget concerns), opting instead to fill “vacancies with temporary hires, making aspiring teachers and unions furious.” This certainly puts our own problems in perspective.

Education leaders panicking over the Common Core’s shift to online assessments should print out, highlight, underline, and memorize this recent publication from Digital Learning Now!, the third in a series aimed at preparing schools for the Common Core and personalized digital learning. The paper provides two sets of recommendations: one for state and districts making the shift to Common Core and one for the state testing consortia building the assessments.

In a month characterized by tragedy and loss,...

Reindeer
Finland: Land of reindeer, snow, and a world-class education system.
Photo from RukaKuusamo.com via photopin cc.

Finland—the tiny land of reindeer, snow, and more snow—burst onto the scene in the past decade as the unlikely poster child for the anti-reform movement in the United States. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t implore reformers to learn from Finland—a nation with low poverty, high achievement, and virtually no standardized tests—and abandon our support for standards- and accountability-driven reform. After all, Finland’s education system today is characterized by loose central regulations, broad teacher curricular and instructional autonomy, and virtually no centralized accountability. Given Finland’s success on international assessments, it must follow that American schools would do better if we Xeroxed the Finland model.

Right?

Not exactly.

First, there has been at least some evidence of late suggesting that Finland’s successes may not be as miraculous as once thought. But more than that, to understand what is going on in Finland, its perhaps important to start...

Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg will give away $500 million to Newark schools.
Photo by deneyterrio via photopin cc.

After a massive donation to district schools of Newark, NJ, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is planning to give away $500 million to education and health, with details TBD. I’d love to see Mr. Zuckerberg invest in the urban school system of the future instead of jamming more money into broken urban districts. My intellectual doppelganger, Neerav Kingsland, feels the same way.

The ladies of Politics K-12 always know what to write about. This piece about RTTT-D scoring by Michele McNeil is a great example. It has all of the pertinent information that a casual RTTT-D follower could want and valuable insights for those closer to the competition. It’s a must-read for people interested in federal education policymaking and implementation—and for anyone trying to learn how to blog.

Add Indianapolis to the list of cities doing chartering right: Stanford’s CREDO found that not only are its...

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