Standards, Testing & Accountability

A shoddily constructed stool, no matter the quality of wood used or the care given to whittling its parts, will not stand. And so it is with Common Core implementation: No matter the strength of the standards (and their linked assessments and accountability systems), they will collapse if not implemented with fidelity at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. Unfortunately, these two survey reports from EPE’s research shop (one done in collaboration with Education First) elicit little confidence that this is happening. The first, a survey of 600 teachers, found that while most are aware of the content within the CCSS ELA standards (92 percent) and math standards (78 percent), only 33 percent believe their schools are primed to implement them in both subjects—and an even smaller percentage believe that their districts and states are prepared. The second survey asked state departments of education how far they’ve come in creating plans for CCSS implementation in the following three categories: teacher professional development, assessment alignment, and curricular-materials alignment. And on these fronts, we learn that only twenty-one states have, as of yet, constructed fully developed plans for all three (note that the report evaluates neither the strength of these plans...

Yesterday was the first day of public testimony on Governor Kasich’s budget proposal before the Ohio House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Committee. Terry submitted testimony on behalf of the Fordham Institute, as did Students First and others.  Following is a good recap from Gongwer News Service:

Terry Ryan, vice-president for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, offered support for the budget, saying the funding offered through the formula would outpace that of almost every other comparable state in FY 14. He also offered suggestions for use in the budget or as the subjects of future legislation.

Firstly, he said all dollars should follow students to the schools they actually attend, but funding is still stuck in categorical programs and flows to the district but not necessarily the building attended.

Mr. Ryan also called for annual academic return on investment reporting for all public schools, both districts and charters. "Just as some districts are more productive than others so are some schools and these should be acknowledged and better understood," he said.

More mandates related to regulations, laws and contract should be eliminated if they force funds to be spent in...

GadflyWith just a few hours left before automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts take effect, the odds seem slim that Congress will pull a rabbit out of this hat. But despite the Obama administration’s doomsday rhetoric (40,000 teacher layoffs, a huge blow to Head Start, and seven of the ten plagues), the reality seems—if not optimal—manageable. School nutrition programs, Pell Grants, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families won’t be cut, and most school districts won’t feel the pinch until the beginning of the 2013–14 school year. And when they do, it will be minor (perhaps 2 percent of their budgets in most cases). In other words, it’s a great opportunity to stretch the school dollar.

On Monday, President Enrique Peña-Nieto signed Mexico’s most sweeping ed-reform bill in seven decades into law. Mexico will now use uniform standards for hiring teachers, require merit-based promotions, and enjoy the ability to draw the first census of Mexico’s education system (because the 1.5 million-member-strong teacher union controlled the system, no one knew exactly how many schools, teachers, or students existed). One day later, police arrested...

Mega States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the NationCalifornia, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas: Together, these five states educate nearly 40 percent of public school students and more than half of all English language learners in the land. But how well do they do this? This latest report from the National Center for Education Statistics explains. And the results are a mixed bag (nothing new to wonks who have read previous NAEP reports). California’s students gained, on average, twenty-six points in fourth-grade math since 1992, though their average scores in 2011 still lagged behind the national average. And Illinois’s eighth graders’ scores declined in reading and science—the only state where that happened. On the upside, though, Florida’s students made important reading gains: Its fourth graders improved by sixteen points, beating the national average gain (five points), while its eighth graders jumped eight points. While NAEP data are far from causal, Florida’s surge in reading may be due in...

When then-Governor Ted Strickland issued his Evidence-Based Model (EBM) of school funding reform in 2009 we engaged Professor Paul Hill to provide an analysis of the proposals. We couldn’t think of anyone better to do the work than Professor Hill. His credentials are impeccable. He is founder and recently retired director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a former Senior Fellow at Brookings and RAND. Further, Professor Hill has roots in Ohio as a graduate of Ohio State University. He also has family in Dayton.
 
Professor Hill’s analysis of Strickland’s plan was largely informed by the research project he led, Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. That six-year effort, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. It concluded that America’s public-school finance systems are burdened by rules and narrow policies that hold local officials accountable for compliance but not for results. Facing the Future was the work of more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It included more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
 
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Dayton panelists from left: Bob Taft, Rusty Clifford and Lori Ward

The word churn is used within a variety of industries.  Just as customers leave businesses and migrate to competitors for other products or pricing options, students transfer between school districts and buildings. Churn is a reality within Ohio schools.  But what are the reasons for this cycle? School leaders, parents, community members and others gathered yesterday in Dayton and Cincinnati to discuss student churn, what it means for their schools and what might be done about it. A crowd of about 100 gathered for each event.

In November, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Columbus-based Community Research Partners (CRP), and nine other funders released a statewide study of student mobility in Ohio. This substantial report was the basis of the conversations hosted by Learn to Earn in Dayton and The Strive Partnership in Cincinnati. 

“Today’s event in Dayton was very eye opening,” said Chatoya Hayes, an audience member who joined the discussion from the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area.  “I think the issue of student mobility is directly altering student success...

Donald Campbell was an American social psychologist and noted experimental social science researcher who did pioneering work on methodology and program evaluation. He has also become—posthumously—an unlikely hero of the anti-testing and accountability movement in the United States. In the hands of accountability critics, his 50 years of research on methodology and program evaluation have been boiled down to a simple retort against testing: Campbell’s Law. But a deeper reading of his work reveals a more complicated and constructive message: Measuring progress (using both quantitative and qualitative indicators) is essential; when using quantitative data for evaluation, the indicators can become distorted or manipulated; and there are concrete steps we can—and must—take to minimize data manipulation and distortion.

Campbell’s December 1976 article, “Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change,” has become a flashpoint in the educational accountability debate. There, he argued,

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."

Foes of testing and accountability frequently evoke this “Law” to argue against the use of standardized tests and test-based accountability. In a...

In a Senate hearing on February 20, the Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers presented progress the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has made in the past six months on various initiatives. In what he deemed a “crash course,” Sawyers shared the changes being made to the state and district report cards distributed to schools, assessments required for students, and evaluations given to teachers. The superintendent seemed optimistic about the changes related to the Common Core. Sawyers, moreover, paid special attention to the introduction of new Common Core learning standards which he believes will “put the art back into teaching.”

In response to No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, ODE was required to write academic standards that required teachers to follow specific guidelines. Sawyers then compared the 2001 standards against the new Common Core standards.  

SOURCE: Michael Sawyers, “Education Reform Update: Presented to the Senate Education Committee,” PowerPoint presentation, February 20, 2013.

Sawyers explained that changing the language allows the Common Core standards to be “fewer, deeper, and clearer.” By wrapping these standards into clusters, teachers are able to creatively unpack what lessons...

Milwaukee: Saved by Act 10 For Now

Michael Gove, the British Secretary of State for Education, is a man who reads serious books on education and follows their arguments. In a remarkable recent speech, he mentioned some of the intellectual influences that have caused him to shake up the British education world by insisting that students begin learning facts again. One of those influences was my UVa colleague Daniel Willingham, and he even quoted from my 1996 book. But he said that the greatest intellectual influences on his educational thought were the writings of Antonio Gramsci. So here we have a Tory cabinet minister singing the praises of one of the most revered Communist thinkers of the twentieth century. What gives?

I don’t doubt that Michael Gove might have an impish sense of humor and take pleasure in suggesting to his shadow opponents in the Labour party and in the anti-fact party of educators: “Look, I’m just supporting what the most profound leftist thinker of the twentieth century had to say about education.”...

Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate AccountabilityThis new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education offers a troubling diagnosis: The thirty-five “NCLB flexibility” waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) may have had the unfortunate side effect of allowing states to skirt 2008 regulations that standardized the graduation-rate measurements and held schools accountable for raising those rates. Trivial this is not: Prior to these changes, reported graduation rates were often inflated and always difficult to compare (just like proficiency rates). The 2008 regulations set parameters for consistent, common graduation-rate calculations across schools, districts, and states. Through their ESEA waivers, however, eleven states have re-incorporated “alternative” measures of high school completion (e.g., the GED) in their graduation-rate tracking and reporting, possibly incentivizing schools to “push students towards a GED rather than a standard diploma.” The 2008 policy exposed the low graduation rates of pupil subgroups (minorities, English language learners, low-income students, and students with disabilities) that had previously been masked by averaging the student population; but eleven state waivers contain weak or...

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