Standards-Based Reforms

Nationally and in Ohio, we press for the full suite of standards-based reforms across the academic curriculum and throughout the K–12 system, including (but not limited to) careful implementation of the Common Core standards (CCSS) for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics as well as rigorous, aligned state assessments and forceful accountability mechanisms at every level.

Resources:

Our many standards-based blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s experts on standards-based reforms:


Marc Tucker

In last week’s blog, I pointed out that, when the first PISA results were released in 2001, students in Germany and the United States both performed at about the average for all countries in the survey, but Germany reacted with what came to be known as “PISA Shock” and the U.S. shrugged. In the years that have gone by since then, Germany has risen sharply in the rankings, while the U.S. remains in the middle, having improved not at all. The Germans, I said, leaped into action while we continued to sleepwalk through history.

That blog elicited two very interesting responses, one from Checker Finn and the other from Mike Petrilli, that I want to discuss in this blog.

This from Checker: “Our ‘PISA shock’ was A Nation at Risk, and the U.S. has been struggling/stumbling/fumbling/striving to fix its schools ever since. PISA may be…one form of education shock…but it’s not the only kind there is.”

And this from Mike: “…I don't think it's fair to argue that we’ve been sleepwalking since 2000. No Child Left Behind, circa 2002, was a very big deal. Perhaps it was wrong-headed, but it was a major shift in national policy. And it...

Patricia Levesque

Personalized learning presents a vital opportunity to provide rigorous, high-quality instruction while addressing students’ diverse educational experiences and pursuing their unique strengths, interests, and needs. Coupled with flexibility in pace and delivery, personalized learning is grounded in the idea of students progressing when they demonstrate mastery of skills and knowledge, regardless of the time, place, or pace at which such mastery occurs. For some students, it means removing artificial barriers to their engagement with more advanced work. For many others, it means providing tailored support as well as the time and opportunity to close learning gaps rather than leaving them behind year after year.

As interest in personalized learning has grown, so have efforts to take this new educational model to scale. Consider the recent spate of personalized learning initiatives launched in states like Florida, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, and Illinois (to name just a few). ExcelinEd has been excited and proud to be a partner with and supporter of many of these efforts. We see many examples around the country of schools implementing personalized learning—illustrations of the promise that this model holds to improve students’ lives and put each of them on a pathway...

We’ve always known about the giant schism on the Left when it comes to school choice, but we are now seeing a divide emerge on the Right around the same issue. And while most of the conversation and debate has been around accountability measures like test scores and graduation rates, there is another potential red flag that no one seems to be talking about.

For some, mostly of the more libertarian ilk, a parent’s satisfaction is all the accountability we need, and any kind of regulation or forced accountability measures are nothing more than unnecessary government intrusion. For others, there has to be a minimum standard that every school must meet before any parent should be able to choose it.

It’s not only a philosophical conundrum but also a moral one, and it has taken on even greater urgency in our current climate of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” We know certain things to be true and certain things to be false and wrong, and we need to teach these to children. So while we can and should debate ideology and policy, we can’t abdicate our responsibility of having an educated citizenry. Zero...

You have no doubt seen numerous media stories regarding the recent release of school report card data in Ohio. As supporters of a robust accountability system, we urge you to pay attention to the stories and the ongoing discussion. The success of our public schools (charter and district) in doing the vital work with which they are entrusted must be assessed, reported, and analyzed. Schools which evidence success should be lauded, emulated, and expanded to reach as many students as possible. Schools which struggle in any area should be highlighted and helped to improve if possible.

None of these things can happen without robust data and clear-eyed analysis.

Fordham has worked for many years to be a source of unbiased analysis, research, and commentary on the state’s annual report card data. With Ohio’s most recent data release having occurred in mid-September, we have published the following:

The Ohio Department of Education is expected to release report cards for the 2016-17 school year by the end of this week. Like an annual checkup with a physician, these report cards offer valuable information on the academic health of Buckeye schools and students.

As many Ohioans know, state leaders have overhauled the assessment and report card system in recent years. To their credit, they’ve implemented more demanding state exams that now offer a clearer picture of student proficiency than under former assessments. The report cards themselves are much different from those in years past; they now include various A-F components that consider not only traditional measures like proficiency and graduation rates, but also pupils’ growth over time and their readiness for college or career. While Ohio legislators still need to do considerable work to help report cards function properly—we’ll be releasing several recommendations for tweaking them next month—the stability in state assessment policies and on key pieces of the school grading system is praiseworthy.

What are we keeping an eye out for when report cards drop? Here are three things:

Will the use of multi-year averages help to stabilize value-added ratings?

In recent years, one of...

As part of the most recent state budget, Ohio lawmakers created alternative graduation pathways for the class of 2018 in response to widespread fears on the part of district administrators that too many students would fail to pass the seven End Of Course (EOC) tests that are administered during high school in the four core subjects.

We at Fordham strongly opposed this move because we believe it will hurt students in the long run. We weren’t the only ones who questioned it. Nevertheless, the alternative pathways became law. Recently, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria indicated that objections such as ours were not well founded.  Specifically, he told reporters:

The students who aren’t going to do well in college and in the workforce are those who don’t take their education seriously and a GPA increasingly both in research and in practice has been shown to be a far better indicator of a student’s readiness for college success and frankly for workforce success than any standardized test.

Whether, when, and how GPAs may be a better indicator of readiness than standardized tests is a subject for a different day. Let’s focus instead on the Superintendent’s assertion...

Confronted with the paradox of a simultaneous rise in high school graduation and college remediation rates, researchers from The Alliance for Excellent Education examined diploma pathways across the country for evidence as to how well they match college or career expectations. They found that far too many students leave high school with diplomas that do not signal preparedness for what comes next.

The Alliance’s new report looked at all fifty states and the District of Columbia and found that there were 98 different pathways to diplomas for the Class of 2014. Slightly less than half were deemed sufficient to prepare students for college or careers (CCR diploma pathways). While college and career ready can be defined in a number of ways, the Alliance’s criteria for a CCR diploma are: 1) Any pathway that requires students to complete four years of grade-level ELA, three years of math through Algebra II or Integrated Math III; and 2) Any pathways promulgated by state institutions of higher education that fully align with admissions requirements into those institutions. All of their analyses follow from these requisites.

The most frequent reason for a rating of “non-CCR” for a diploma pathway was a mismatch between...

Last month, several urban Ohio school districts began sounding alarms over Ohio’s third-grade reading guarantee—a policy put in place several years ago that requires students who don’t reach reading proficiency by the end of grade three to be held back—fearful that a much larger number of their third graders won’t meet the requirements for promotion. The policy was put in place for good reasons; research shows that students who can’t read by third grade often fall behind in other skills, like writing, and are at a high risk of failure for the rest of their schooling careers. In addition, another brand-new research study found that retaining students can boost their high school readiness years later.

Here’s what’s happening: Students who fall short on Ohio’s state reading test can take and pass “alternative” assessments from national test vendors (e.g., NWEA MAP and Terra Nova) that in the past have been arguably easier than state tests (judging by the large number of students being promoted based upon passage of alternative tests). However, those test vendors recently set higher targets—and now an increasing number of students are missing the alternate bar. Yet rather than taking responsibility for Ohio’s youngest students’ dismal...

At the end of June, Governor John Kasich vetoed a provision in the state budget bill that would have changed school grading calculations for purposes of evaluating the performance of Ohio’s charter school sponsors. Keep in mind that sponsors—as they should be—are evaluated in part on the basis of how well the charter schools in their portfolios are doing on state report card metrics. At issue here was the weight that the Ohio Department of Education places on student growth—or value added—relative to other measures. The General Assembly, seemingly unhappy with the current, bureaucratically derived framework for sponsor evaluations, had wanted to increase the weight on student growth from 20 to 60 percent. That change would have applied to the “summative” (or “overall”) A-F grades of charter schools when applied to the evaluation of their sponsors.[1]  

Transitioning sponsors towards a growth-centered system was a positive move by the legislature, and it’s disappointing that the governor vetoed the provision. Growth measures consider individual students’ academic performance over time and gauge a school’s impact on student achievement. They differ from status measures, such as proficiency rates, which are “snapshots” of student performance at a point...

When I was growing up, “fake news” was the black-and-white photograph of the infamous bat child. Staring back at me in the supermarket check-out line, it was easy to spot—the line demarcating fiction from reality was as recognizable as the red and yellow tabloid headlines. Nowadays, fake news, defined by Wikipedia as “written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention,” is rampant, flourishing in social media like algae in warm lake water. It’s also harder to pinpoint, having taken on so many esoteric forms beyond the blatantly untrue or “good-old fashioned viral emails” of years past. (You know it’s bad when the ignorance of yesteryear brings on nostalgia.)

Today’s fake news is insidious and creeping—like an invasive weed posing as a hearty, colorful garden plant before wilting and seeding itself in the wind to multiply its damage. The most dangerous form isn’t the outright lie. It’s the distortion of fact, the misrepresentation, the half-truth. News isn’t all that’s “fake” nowadays. Too many public policy proposals also...

Pages