Embracing the Common Core - Stan Heffner Presentation
February 16, 2012
Among the speakers at Embracing the Common Core on February 15, 2012, was State Superintendent Stan Heffner who stressed that the system Ohio currently has is letting kids down and not preparing them for the future. He went on to emphasize that the Common Core gives us the opportunity and chance to do better for our kids and we must capitalize on that.
Mike sat down with Fordham’s new school choice czar, Adam Emerson, to question just how flexible ESEA flexibility turned out to be and to ponder Obama’s abandonment of the D.C. voucher program. Amber looks at a new study on how much value principals add while Chris learns that they sometimes need to bob and weave when handing out teacher evaluations.
As usual, the College Board’s latest annual report on enrollment and achievement in the prestigious Advanced Placement program paints an overall rosy picture. (The College Board, remember, has a major vested interest in both the reputation and expansion of the AP program and is famously resistant to external analyses of its data.) Since 2001, the national passing rate (a score of three or higher) has bumped almost 8 percentage points—and twenty-two states boast even larger gains. In fact, more graduates are passing AP tests today than took them a decade ago. (Note that this report doesn’t hit on whether the quality of the exams has remained steadfast.) Yet some problems persist—especially surrounding access to the AP for those in rural and urban areas, as well as for minorities writ large. Four out of five African American students who had at least a 70 percent chance of passing an AP exam (based on PSAT scores, according to a College Board algorithm, aptly dubbed “AP Potential”) either didn’t enroll in the relevant AP course or attended a school where the course was not offered. To counter...
I’ve posted before about the unusual interpretations and suggestions for implementing the Common Core standards that are popping up across the country. Earlier this week, more evidence emerged that when it comes to organizations peddling Common Core implementation resources and strategies, the buyer should beware.
When it comes to organizations peddling Common Core implementation resources and strategies, the buyer should beware.
Eye on Education, a publishing company that provides “busy educators with practical information” on a host of topics (professional development, school improvement, student assessment, data analysis, and on), released a report this week authored by Lauren Davis that highlights “5 Things Every Teacher Should be Doing to Meet the Common Core State Standards”:
Lead High-Level, Text-Based Discussions
Focus on Process, Not Just Content
Create Assignments for Real Audiences and with Real Purpose
Teach Argument, Not Persuasion
Increase Text Complexity
At first glance, this appears to be pointed in the right direction. After all, nearly every point includes quotes from the standards themselves or from the publisher’s criteria released by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel.
I came to the world of public education late in my career, but through a golden portal, E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, a book of such broad intellectual depth and revolutionary import that it was a national bestseller in 1987. Amazingly, more than twenty years later, very few educators have read it (see here). That’s too bad. If they had, they would not make statements like the one Josh Thomases, deputy chief academic officer for New York City’s Education Department, gave to the New York Times just the other day:
The core problem of literacy in middle school is you’re transitioning from learning to read, to reading to learn.
Wrong. The problem of literacy is that the transition from decoding skills to comprehension should happen long before middle school.
The problem of literacy is that the transition from decoding skills to comprehension should happen long before middle school.
Thomases means well. And he’s trying to clean up the anti-academic middle school mess that has persisted for far too long (see my Ed Next story). But...
The Northwest Evaluation Association recently surveyed parents and teachers to gauge their support for various types of assessment. The results indicated that just a quarter of teachers find summative assessments “‘extremely’ or ‘very’ valuable for determining whether students have a deep understanding of content.” By contrast, 67 percent of teachers (and 85 percent of parents) found formative and interim assessments extremely or very valuable.
I can understand why teachers would find formative and interim assessments appealing. After all, teachers generally either create those assessments themselves, or are at least intimately involved with their creation. And they are, therefore, more flexible tools that can be tweaked depending on, for instance, the pace of classroom instruction.
But, while formative and interim assessments are critically important and should be used to guide instruction and planning, they cannot and should not be used to replace summative assessments, which play an equally critical role in a standards-driven system.
Formative and interim assessments cannot and should not be used to replace summative assessments.
Summative assessments are designed to evaluate whether students have mastered knowledge and skills at a particular point...
The bold move by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in unveiling his “Plan for Transforming Schools” is a significant step forward for Cleveland, its schools, and, most importantly, its children. The Jackson Plan has the potential to make Cleveland one of the nation’s school reform leaders.
In time, it would help all of Cleveland’s schools to better provide the high quality education that every child in the city deserves. By focusing laser-like on school performance, regardless of school type (district and charter alike), it would reward and encourage the expansion and replication of great schools while putting much needed pressure on those schools that don’t (district and charter alike) to improve or get lost.
Two weeks ago, Obama made waves in his State of the Union address when he called for raising the dropout age and requiring all students across the country to stay in school until they’re 18. One big solution to our educational crisis, he explained, is to simply not let kids drop out. (Or at least to make it more difficult for them to do so.)
If only it were that easy.
Obama may end up ratcheting up the pressure to water down the standards to which all students are held.
The truth of the matter is, we have yet to develop an education system that keeps students in schools, that holds them accountable to rigorous standards, and that helps them meet those ambitious goals. Therefore, by putting the focus on staying in school longer, without dealing with the very real challenge of how you ensure that the time spent in school is meaningful, Obama may end up ratcheting up the pressure to water down the standards to which all students are held.
This is a truth that Al Shanker recognized two decades ago. In...
What's holding back America's science performance?
February 07, 2012
While business leaders rue the lack of American workers skilled enough in math and science to meet the needs of an increasingly high-tech economy, the situation may be growing even grimmer. The latest installment of TIMSS showed stagnation in U.S. science achievement, and the 2009 NAEP science assessment found that only 21 percent of American twelfth-graders met the proficiency bar. Yet while the gravity of the problem is clear, the root cause is not. Is our science curriculum lacking? Is it being squeezed out by an emphasis on math and reading? Is there a problem with our pedagogy? Are our teachers ill-prepared? Or are we simply expecting too little of teachers and students alike?
Coinciding with its new review of state science standards, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute will bring together experts with very different perspectives to engage this crucial question: "What's holding back America's science performance?"
Watch the discussion with UVA psychologist Dan Willingham, NCTQ President Kate Walsh, Fordham's Kathleen Porter-Magee, Project Lead the Way's Anne Jones, and Achieve, Inc.'s Stephen Pruitt and join the conversation on Fordham LIVE!
The entire school reform movement is predicated on a hypothesis: Boosting student achievement, as measured by standardized tests, will enable greater prosperity, both for individuals and for the country as a whole. More specifically, improving students’ skills and knowledge in reading, math, and science will help poor children climb out of poverty, and will assist all children to prepare for the rigors of college and the workplace. By building the “human capital” of the American workforce, rising achievement will also spur economic growth, which will lift all boats.
Call this the Test Score Hypothesis.
Is stronger academic performance related to better life outcomes for kids and better economic outcomes for nations?
It explains reformers’ enthusiasm for test-based accountability; for “college- and career-ready standards”; for teacher evaluations based, in significant part, on student outcomes; for “data-based instruction”; and for much of the rest of the modern-day reform agenda. After all, if reading, math, and science knowledge and skills are so directly linked to the life chances of individual kids, and of the livelihood of the country as a whole, why not get the...