Standards, Testing & Accountability

Cage-Busting LeadershipFor over a decade, and almost entirely under the leadership of the prolific Paul Hill, the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has promoted the “portfolio-district strategy,” in which districts manage a “portfolio” of diverse schools (charters, magnets, traditionals), each with a high degree of school-level autonomy and accountability. Since beginning this work, CRPE has written myriad reports on the PMM (portfolio-management model) and partnered with an ever-larger number of districts to help them roll out this strategy. Strife and Progress—a new book by Paul Hill and two current CRPE firecrackers, Christine Campbell and Betheny Gross—compiles their immense amount of knowledge and experience. First, the authors outline and explain the seven components that any successful portfolio-district strategy must embrace: school choice, school autonomy, equitable school funding, talent-seeking and retention, support from independent groups, performance-based accountability, and public engagement. Drawing on case studies of several portfolio districts (mainly New York City, New Orleans, D.C., Chicago, and Denver), it then probes both the strategy’s promise and challenges. Clearly, for example, it cannot succeed without political support: The book is admirable in its acknowledgement of past public-relations failures...

Successful Common Core implementation will hinge on a number of factors. Among the largest of these will be getting the assessments right—in terms of both design and cost. Central to these issues are the controversial multiple-choice “bubble” tests, which are welcomed by some as fast and efficient means of gauging student knowledge and skills and derided by others as the cause for “teaching to the test” and superficial knowledge. This recent report found within the Journal of Psychological Science finds merit in the bubble test—if designed well. It explains findings from two small-sample studies (one had thirty-two participants, conducted out of UCLA, the other ninety-six, conducted out of Washington U.). The upshot: Both found that properly structured multiple-choice tests (those which offer plausible wrong answers alongside the correct response) “trigger the retrieval processes that foster test-induced learning and deter test-induced forgetting.” In other words, bubble tests with competitive responses trigger actual knowledge-retrieval processes rather than simple recognition processes—and do so better than cued-recall (fill-in-the-blank) tests. The bottom line is both cautiously encouraging. Multiple-choice tests—done correctly—can be a useful tool in an assessor’s kit (a point that we have previously argued). The CCSS assessment consortia would be wise to keep...

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...

State of Education, State Policy Report Card 2013

State of Education, State Policy Report Card 2013

StudentsFirst's much-awaited (and plenty contentious) 2013 State Policy Report Card awarded its highest rankings (B-minuses) to Louisiana and Florida; a dozen states earned an F. After California was flunked, chief deputy superintendent Richard Zeiger took his ire to the New York Times: “‘This group has focused on an extremely narrow, unproven method that they think will improve teaching—and we just flat-out disagree with them.’”

This video's panel discussion digs into the new report card, the future of education reform, and how to bridge the divide between policy and practice.

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...

After three years, $45 million, and a staggering amount of video content, the Gates Foundation has released the third and final set of reports on its ambitious Measurements in Effective Teaching (MET) project (the first two iterations are reviewed here and here). The project attempted to ascertain whether it’s possible to measure educator effectiveness reliably—and, if so, how to do it. According to the project’s top-notch army of researchers (led by Tom Kane), it ain’t easy but it can be done and done well.

First, the research team used predictive data from the 2009–10 school year to randomly assign about 800 teachers in grades four through eight to classrooms (within their original schools) for 2010–11. The data showed a strong correlation between the predicted achievement of teachers’ students and their actual scores, as well as the magnitude of success. That the study randomly assigned teachers offers credence to the researchers’ contention that teachers’ success can be determined (and isn’t merely a byproduct of the quality of students who enter their classrooms in September). Second, they conducted a series of weightings to determine the ideal mix of past student-achievement data (value-added metrics, or VAM), classroom observations, and...

Ohio remains an education reform leader, comparatively, yet still has a ways to go to be top in the country in school reform efforts. That’s the conclusion from this week’s StudentsFirst’s inaugural State Policy Report Card.

StudentsFirst, a national organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, rates how closely each states’ education policies align with broader education reform goals. This ambitious research project examines whether states’ policies embolden and encourage reform along three dimensions: Quality teaching, parental choice, and school finance. StudentsFirst, for example, looks at whether states have established policies requiring teacher evaluations, teacher tenure based on effectiveness, and clear accountability for school performance—including charter schools.

Deservedly so, Ohio receives high marks in its education reform policies relative other states. In fact, Florida and Louisiana were the only two states that received markedly higher grades in “ed-reformedness.” With a C-minus letter grade, Ohio ranks tenth. Ohio scores especially high along the parental choice indicator—not surprising given the multitude of school choice options available to parents. These choices include the state’s 350-plus charters, and voucher programs for students in failing schools or students with special needs. StudentsFirst also righty recognizes improvements in Ohio’s accountability laws, most recently ...

Ohio remains an education reform leader, yet still has a ways to go to lead the country in school reform efforts. That’s the conclusion from today’s StudentsFirst’s inaugural State Policy Report Card.

StudentsFirst, a national organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, rates how closely each states’ education policies align with broader education reform goals. This ambitious research project examines whether states’ policies embolden and encourage reform along three dimensions: Quality teaching, parental choice, and school finance. StudentsFirst, for example, looks at whether states have established policies requiring teacher evaluations, teacher tenure based on effectiveness, and clear accountability for school performance—including charter schools.

Deservedly so, Ohio receives high marks in its education reform policies relative other states. In fact, Florida and Louisiana were the only two states that received markedly higher grades in “ed-reformedness.” With a C minus letter grade, Ohio ranks tenth out of the 51 examined jurisdictions. Ohio scores especially high along the parental choice indicator—not surprising given the multitude of school choice options available to parents. These choices include the state’s 350 plus charters, and voucher programs for students in failing schools or parents of students who want to access a special education voucher. StudentsFirst...

The NYT turns in a piece about TFA, recruiting, and today’s underwhelming job market. This quote from a recent recruit will certainly stir the passions: “It wasn’t until I was desperate that I said ‘I’ll check this out.’” My Bellwether colleague Andy Eduwonk weighs in thoughtfully here. The bigger question, I think, is this: Given the great need for drastic change in our urban school systems, are TFA and the other ed-reform human-capital providers sustaining or disrupting the establishment?

I argue in the Urban School System of the Future that we need to replace big-city districts because they will never produce the results we need. This tragic piece about the mess in Detroit gives another reason for replacement: Many of these districts (possibly including Philadelphia) are on the brink of dissolution due to financial and other pressures. We need to have a Plan B should these systems break down; better yet, we should carefully choreograph their exit so we get ahead of these impending crashes.

MOOCs are all the rage now in higher education (check out this WJS piece). They seem to have countless benefits. The problem is that the technology has gotten...

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,...

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