Standards, Testing & Accountability

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,...

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...

This week, Student Achievement Partners—the group co-founded by Common Core architects David Coleman and Jason Zimba—announced a partnership with the NEA and AFT to develop and disseminate Core-aligned curriculum at no cost to teachers, thanks to a three-year, $11-million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. As Kathleen Porter-Magee noted in yesterday’s Common Core Watch, “Given the dearth of quality, CCSS-aligned materials available to teachers who are already working to align their practice to the new standards, this additional investment is welcome.” We eagerly await the materials.

A task force convened to determine whether D.C. charter schools ought to give admissions preference to nearby students came up with a verdict on Friday: While the District should allow charters that move into closed public school buildings to give neighborhood preference, other charter schools should not be compelled (or even allowed) to do so. This is a sensible compromise that will ease the burden on students transitioning from schools that are closing while maintaining a central tenet of the charter school idea: to be open to all students, regardless of home address.

As part of its “30 under 30” series,...

Hard on the heels of the AFT’s proposed “bar exam” for teachers, the Council of Chief State School Officers brings forth this sober, comprehensive, and exceptionally well-thought-out set of recommendations for fundamentally revamping the preparation and licensure of both teachers and principals. It’s a thirty-eight-page blueprint containing ten big recommendations that, if put into practice by states, would indeed be transformative.

Written in straightforward, non-inflammatory prose, the report, in some respects, doesn’t go as far as it could. It does not, for example, do away with state-level certification of educators—which it could justify on grounds that research has found no link between such credentials and actual effectiveness. But it does seek to make certification meaningful by building exacting standards into the framework, standards that rely on evidence of knowledge and performance rather than a checklist of courses taken. Also tucked into the recommendations are such worthy ideas as serious acceptance of alternative pathways and “residency”-style preparation; insistence on real standards for entering prep programs and getting certified; the demand that prep programs respond to K–12 education’s actual supply-demand numbers rather than enrolling as many people as possible (thus probably killing the proverbial ed-school “cash cow” within universities); and tracking the performance of those emerging from various prep programs and...

Fordham's annual analysis of school academic performance relies on the Ohio Department of Education's 2011-12 preliminary Report Card data as well as other ODE data sources. Our analysis of Ohio's public schools (district and charter) answers the following questions (among others):

  • How many students attend a charter school in Ohio's urban areas?
  • How do charter schools, as a group, perform compared to traditional public schools?
  • Has the performance of charter and district schools improved over time?
  • How many students attend high-performing schools versus failing schools?
  • How far will the pass rate on standardized tests fall when Ohio moves to the Common Core?


This year's analysis also examines how Ohio's move to the Common Core and the PARCC exams in English language arts and math will impact the pass rates on standardized tests. The fall in pass rates is likely to be dramatic in 2014-15, and could stall the implementation of the Common Core. Despite this initial fall in test scores--and the shock that may ensue--Ohio must remain faithful to implementing these higher academic standards and more challenging exams, in order to ready all of its students for success in career and college. ...

The 129th General Assembly wrapped up its business last week. Included in the flurry of lame-duck legislation sent to the governor’s desk was House Bill 555. Its major provisions include:

  • Moving Ohio from our current school-rating system (and its nebulous terms like Continuous Improvement) to an A-to-F rating system based on broader performance measures that more accurately gauge how schools and districts are actually performing;
  • Establishing closure criteria for drop-out recovery schools;
  • Establishing a new charter-sponsor evaluation process; and
  • Adding a second application period for the Educational Choice Scholarship Program.

Unlike previous non-budget years, 2012 was a busy one for education policymaking. Two other major education bills were signed into law: Senate Bill 316 – the governor’s mid-biennium budget for education – and House Bill 525 – legislation formalizing the Cleveland Mayor Jackson’s Education Reform Plan.

 SB 316 included many small tweaks to state education law; but it also included three big policy changes. Specifically, it:

  • Established a third-grade “reading guarantee” and accompanying diagnostic and intervention requirements;
  • Increased accountability for charter-school sponsors, drop-out recovery schools, and teacher-preparation programs; and
  • Made explicit that “blended-learning” school models are permitted in Ohio.

HB 525, which applies only to the Cleveland...

Our annual analysis of Ohio’s public school performance data has been released, in full (parts and parcel were released in October). Using publically available data from the Ohio Department of Education’s preliminary 2011-12 Report Card data set, released in October, along with several other sets of data, we examine how schools—traditional public school districts and charter schools—do across the Buckeye State. The report especially focuses on public school performance in four of Ohio’s major cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton.

The report includes ten-year trend data on student enrollment and proficiency rates, academic performance results for 2011-12, and a projection of proficiency rates when the Common Core arrives in 2014-15. In short, this report compiles fresh information for policy makers, educators, and parents about how well schools are serving youngsters across Ohio.

To access the report, click on the image below.

Rick Scott
Rick Scott is right about Common Core standards.
Photo from Education News.

Just as Tony Bennett was talking to reporters last week about his new job as Florida education commissioner, Governor Rick Scott was getting some attention of his own for suggesting that all schools receiving public funding—including private schools accepting voucher-bearing students—should be held to the same standard.

Or, more specifically, the Common Core State Standards. And on this, reporters pounced, noting (with some jest) that Scott was parting ways with fellow Republicans who want to leave private schools alone and stirring backlash among private school leaders who feared they soon would have to “teach to the test.”

This kind of anxiety calls for a voice of reason, and Bennett is just the guy to provide it. After all, he’s leaving Indiana, where he pushed a voucher program that required students to take the same standardized test as do public schools (and where they also will be taking the Common Core assessments when those...

In December 2010, the latest results from PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) revealed that—compared to our OECD peers—American fifteen-year olds are (at best) in the middle of the pack. Among the thirty-four participating nations, we ranked fourteenth in reading, seventeenth in science, and twenty-fifth in math. This news, coupled with Shanghai’s epic success on the exam (the first time any part of mainland China had taken it), rocked the education-policy community. For those still smarting, the latest results from two other international assessments offer some liniment. TIMSS and PIRLS  (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) are given in more countries—including many that are poorer and less developed than those in the OECD—and are actual appraisals of student learning at two grade levels. (PISA purports to assess skills in a country’s overall fifteen-year-old population and does not claim to be curriculum-based or school-aligned.)

U.S. fourth graders are definitely looking better. From 2006 to 2011, their math performance on TIMSS bumped up twelve points and now trails that of their counterparts in just seven other lands (in East Asia and Northern Ireland). Even more remarkable results come from PIRLS: Of the fifty-three systems participating,...

This wonky but important (and exceptionally timely) book by Michigan State’s Bill Schmidt and Curtis McKnight, an emeritus math professor at the University of Oklahoma, is a distinctive, deeply researched, and amply documented plea for full-scale implementation of the Common Core math standards.

The authors examine the extent to which young Americans in various states, districts, schools, and classrooms have equal opportunities to learn the same high-quality math content in grades K–8—and they find grievous gaps and injustices.

One might suppose that this most hierarchical and standardized of core subjects would yield the greatest uniformity from place to place within the United States. Critics of national curricula (and Common Core) periodically declare that NAEP, the textbook oligopoly, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and nationwide college-entrance exams have caused math curricula to be very similar across the land.

Schmidt and McKnight, however, show conclusively that this presumption is far from true. And they link that variation in content coverage and delivery to the country’s vexing achievement gaps, its deteriorating social mobility, and its generally weak educational performance. Here are a few excerpts from the book’s genuinely alarming—and stirring—final chapter:...