Standards, Testing & Accountability

Embracing the Common Core

Embracing the Common Core - Stan Heffner Presentation

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.

Weighing the waivers

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.

Amber's Research Minute

Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity: The Case of School Principals

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

Springfield, MA teacher punches vice principal during evaluation

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
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.

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
  • Focus on Process, Not Just
  • 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.

Unfortunately, dressing

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
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.

Sal Khan at Web 2.0 Summit
 Mayor Jackson's plan offers Cleveland a chance to put children's interests first.
Photo by Joshua Rothhaas.

The Jackson Plan’s sense of urgency is well warranted. Despite laudable
school reform efforts in Cleveland
over the years...

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?

What's holding back America's science performance?

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...