Standards, Testing & Accountability

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has long advocated for high quality academic content standards nationally – and in our home state of Ohio. In fact, the first report ever issued by Fordham, in 1997, was State English Standards and rated English language arts standards across 28 states, including Ohio. Just as we’ve long called for high quality academic standards, the Buckeye State was an early leader in embracing standards-based education.

So it is not surprising that Ohio committed itself in 2010 to adopting more rigorous academic content standards: Ohio is one of 45 states and the District of Columbia that has committed to implementing the Common Core standards in math and English language arts by the start of the 2014-15 school year. In 2011, Ohio joined 23 other states in adopting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment consortium. These are significant decisions for the Buckeye State, its schools, and its children because it has committed to elevating big time the expectations and performance of its children in coming years.

Ohio has made an audacious commitment to delivering significantly higher levels of academic performance for all its children. This is...

It is the aim of the Common Core (see above) that all students will be college- or career-ready by the time they graduate from high school. One organization working to make this goal a reality in Fordham’s hometown of Dayton is Learn to Earn Dayton. Last week the Fordham Institute teamed up with Learn to Earn Dayton to host a community conversation, “What does the Common Core Mean for Dayton and its Human Capital Development Strategies?”

The event brought together leaders from the business and education community to discuss the future of Dayton and the potential impact the Common Core can have on the city. The event featured Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction; Mike Cohen, president of Achieve; Ellen Belcher, author of our recent report on Common Core implementation; and David Ponitz, president emeritus of Sinclair Community College and chairman of the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

   

Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction and Mike Cohen, president of Achieve

Superintendent Heffner explained that the Common Core standards will help Ohio move from the minimum toward a path that allows kids...

Good news and bad news for the Buckeye State. The bad news first: in the recently-released “The Nation’s Report Card” for eighth grade science scores, Ohio fell eight spots in the state rankings. The good news: despite the drop, Ohio continued to outperform the national average in science scores.

Issued by the U.S. Department of Education, the Report Card publishes National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results and provides inter-state and year-to-year comparisons of student performance. Nationally, the results were encouraging as scores trended upwards and achievement gaps narrowed. (My colleague Daniela Fairchild reviews the national data here.)

Ohio’s 2011 average science test score remained flat compared to 2009, causing the Buckeye State to fall behind states whose test scores improved. However, Ohio still bests the national test average by seven points, and its average test scores also remain near the top among the states—fifteenth out of fifty. Additionally, Ohio continues to outperform the national percentage of students scoring “above proficient” and “above basic.”

These science scores are critical, for they predict our nation’s ability to meet the demands of the future marketplace. Ohio’s future, therefore, rests on how well it equips today’s kids with...

As Kathleen noted in a blog post on Saturday:

Louisiana State Capitol
Download "Future shock: Early Common Core implementation lessons from Ohio."
There isn’t a Common Core supporter in the nation who hasn’t qualified her enthusiasm for what the standards can do with “if they are implemented properly.” On the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a Common Core opponent who isn’t standing in the wings, waiting for implementation to fail.

She went on to explain why Common Core implementers must be willing to take risks, fail, and, most importantly, learn from their mistakes if the project is to succeed. Now, Fordham’s Ohio team has released a useful tool for Common Core advocates looking to avoid miscues by learning from the challenges others have already faced in the implementation process. In a new report, “Future shock: Early Common Core implementation lessons from Ohio,” veteran journalist Ellen Belcher provides the perspectives of educators working at schools around the Buckeye State that are leading the way at putting the rigorous new standards...

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

—Colin Powell

There isn’t a Common Core supporter in the nation who hasn’t qualified her enthusiasm for what the standards can do with “if they are implemented properly.” On the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a Common Core opponent who isn’t standing in the wings, waiting for implementation to fail.

It’s only by allowing the chance for failure that standards can have any real meaning.

This is often the point in a new initiative when supporters feel most vulnerable and start scrambling to figure out how to avoid high profile failures. But, if we’ve going to succeed in this venture, we shouldn’t be trying to avoid failure, we should be looking to shine a spotlight on it and embrace it as a key element of change. It’s only by allowing the chance for failure that standards can have any real meaning.

This is something that KIPP understands intimately. KIPP has become perhaps the most well-known charter model not just because it was the first CMO to achieve national scale, but also because it’s been consistently the most...

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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is indisputably the country’s most valuable tool for tracking student achievement over time, and it’s become ever more valuable as it has added subjects (nine of them now), boosted its frequency (at least in reading and math), reported results at the state level (and, for twenty pioneering cities, at the local level, too), and persevered with a trio of “achievement levels” (basic, proficient, advanced) that today are the closest thing we have to national academic standards.

Fever by Joe Seggiola, on Flickr
Should the NAEP be more than a thermometer for the nation's academic progress?
Photo by Joe Seggolia

But NAEP only reports how our kids (and subgroups of kids, political jurisdictions, etc.) are doing. It doesn’t explain why. And in an era when achievement is barely ticking upward, despite America’s forceful efforts to reform the system so that it will soar, it’s no surprise that NAEP’s governing board, vigorously chaired nowadays by former Massachusetts Education Commissioner (and Fordham trustee) David Driscoll, wants this...

Today, Achieve is releasing drafts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), an attempt to create “common,” multi-state standards for that critical subject. (It’s not part of the separate Common Core initiative for reading and math.) Using a framework developed by the National Research Council (and reviewed by Fordham last fall), experts from twenty-six Lead State Partners worked with Achieve to draft the new standards, supposedly “rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally-benchmarked science education.”

It remains to be seen whether these common standards willl avoid the pitfalls that plague too many state standards; their "commonness" alone certainly doesn't guarantee they will be better than existing standards. Still, this is a crucial step in a multi-year process, one that may significantly alter American science education—and it couldn’t come at a better time. Fordham will be publishing a formal review of the draft standards in coming weeks (and Achieve is soliciting feedback, so sharpen your pencils), but regardless of how the NGSS drafts stack up, something needs to change. Our recent study of state science standards in every state revealed a...

A clique of conservative groups is pushing the message that tomorrow’s ALEC vote is part of a “growing movement” against federal intrusion vis-à-vis the Common Core standards. There’s a problem with that line of reasoning: ALEC is already on record against federal intrusion into education vis-à-vis the Common Core standards.

In December, the organization of conservative state lawmakers adopted two Common Core resolutions in its education committee. One—the subject of the vote tomorrow at the board of directors level—calls on states to back out of the common standards initiative altogether. The second—which has already become ALEC policy—focuses instead on the federal role in the initiative, and tells Uncle Sam to back off.

Here’s the first resolution:

The State Board of Education may not adopt, and the State Department of Education may not implement, the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void ab initio. Neither this nor any other statewide education standards may be adopted or implemented without the approval of the Legislature.

And the second:

BE IT RESOLVED, that the {legislative...

A clique of conservative groups is pushing the message that tomorrow’s ALEC vote is part of a “growing movement” against federal intrusion vis-à-vis the Common Core standards. There’s a problem with that line of reasoning: ALEC is already on record against federal intrusion into education vis-à-vis the Common Core standards.

In December, the organization of conservative state lawmakers adopted two Common Core resolutions in its education committee. One—the subject of the vote tomorrow at the board of directors level—calls on states to back out of the common standards initiative altogether. The second—which has already become ALEC policy—focuses instead on the federal role in the initiative, and tells Uncle Sam to back off.

Here’s the first resolution:

The State Board of Education may not adopt, and the State Department of Education may not implement, the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void ab initio. Neither this nor any other statewide education standards may be adopted or implemented without the approval of the Legislature.

And the second:

BE IT RESOLVED, that the {legislative...

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