Are states backtracking or pushing ahead with the implementation of the Common Core? Education First and Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) collaborated to develop Moving Forward which provides clues to states’ progress. Following-up on their summer 2011 survey of state education agency officials, Education First and the EPE Research Center conducted their second survey in summer 2012. The survey’s goal was to evaluate the progress in implementation within three key areas: teacher professional development, curriculum guides and instructional materials, and teacher-evaluation systems. The researchers found that (1) most states are making progress in implementation, (2) states are furthest along in teacher professional development to prepare teachers for these new academic standards, and (3) six states reported setbacks in implementation.

Per finding one, the study reports that twenty-one states (including Ohio) have fully-developed plans in all three areas of implementation. This is a three-fold increase compared to 2011, when only seven states reported fully-developed plans in all three areas. Per finding two, the researchers found that thirty-seven states had fully-developed plans for teacher professional development while only thirty states had fully-developed plans for curriculum guides and teacher-evaluation systems. Per finding three, the study found that six states—Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin—backtracked in at least one of the three key implementation areas. Of these six states, Colorado, Connecticut, and Indiana reported setbacks in two of the three areas- all backtracking in teacher professional development and curriculum guides.

Whether the Common Core is faithfully implemented and whether it will take permanent hold in America’s math and English language arts classrooms remains an open question. The changes will produce pain, and as such, will surely tempt policymakers and local school leaders to backtrack from a faithful implementation of the Common Core, as is happening in states like Indiana and Alabama. However, the findings from this report are mostly encouraging as they document the speedy progress that states have made to support the implementation of the Common Core in local districts.

Susanna Loeb and Matthew Kasman, “Principals’ Perceptions of Competition for Students in Milwaukee School(Association of Education Finance and Policy Journal, vol. 8, no. 1 2013)

Education reformers often tout that school choice will create more competition, leading to better performance in both traditional and non-traditional schools. In spite of this, researchers have been unable to consistently show a correlation between competition and school performance, creating ammunition for those who oppose school choice. A part of the problem is how the topic is researched. In their report, Susanna Loeb and Matthew Kasman explain that researchers focus on specific aspects of competition (i.e. school density in an area, the transfer rates of students) without factoring the perceptions of the school leaders who are responsible for changing curriculum and instruction. Loeb and Kasman analyzed data and surveys from Milwaukee Public Schools to determine what affect a principal’s perception of competition and how those school leaders respond. 

The results are surprising- the researchers reported that the number of schools in an area had little correlation with the perception of competition.  Conversely, the principals did report a greater sense of competition when their student transfer rates were higher and when they taught low and high achieving students. One potential reason for this is that schools specifically designed to serve these students such as charters succeeded in drawing students from other schools. Unfortunately, the researchers also found that principals were more likely to respond to competition by adjusting their outreach policies rather than making adjustments to their curriculum and instruction.

In order to develop curriculum and instruction changes on the school level, school choice advocates must shift some of their attention to improving already established schools so they attract more of their targeted students. Advocates must also create more avenues to help parents use clear and accessible data to determine what school is right for their child instead of allowing them to be convinced by advertisement efforts.

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