Common Education Standards: Tackling the Long-Term Questions

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The "common core" state standards for grades K-12 have been released. Some states have already adopted them. Others are considering this step. Much will need to happen if these standards and related assessments are to get traction in American education over the next few years. But we at the Fordham Institute are looking even further ahead: we’re considering the issues that will determine the long-term viability of this endeavor. Simply stated: in 2020, who will be in charge of the common standards-and-testing effort? How will this work? Who will pay for it?

To spur discussion and smart thinking about these crucial issues, we commissioned a set of background papers from authoritative observers and analysts. Read on to find out what they have to say.

The Oversight of State Standards and Assessment Programs: Perspectives from a Former State Assessment Director
Pasquale J. DeVito, Ph.D.
Director, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAS)
Measured Progress

Networked Governance in Three Policy Areas with Implications for the Common Core State Standards Initiative
Paul Manna
Associate Professor, Department of Government
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy
College of William and Mary

E Pluribus Unum in Education? Governance Models for National Standards and Assessments: Looking Beyond the World of K-12 Schooling
Patrick McGuinn
Associate Professor, Departments of Political Science and Education
Drew University

What Can the Common Core State Standards Initiative Learn from the National Assessment Governing Board?
Mark Musick
James H. Quillen Chair of Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Clemmer College of Education, East Tennessee State University
Former President, Southern Regional Education Board
Former Chairman, National Assessment Governing Board

How will the Common Core Initiative Impact the Testing Industry?
Thomas Toch
Executive Director, Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington; and
Founder, Education Sector
Peg Tyre
Spencer Fellow at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; and
Author, The Trouble with Boys

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Needles in a Haystack

Lessons from Ohio's high-performing, high-need urban schools

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The schools that serve Ohio’s poor, urban and minority youngsters overwhelmingly fall short when it comes to academic performance. But there are a small handful of schools that buck these bleak trends and show serious achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.

This study profiles eight of these high-performing outlier schools and distills their successes, in hopes that state policymakers and educators can learn from them and create the conditions necessary for more schools like them.

To study the schools, Fordham commissioned two reseachers, Theodore J. Wallace and Quentin Suffren, who spent 16 days and hundreds of hours in eight schools in five cities to observe what makes them successful.

See the news release here. View the PowerPoint, an overview of findings and policy recommendations that we shared with state lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference on May 25, here.

Profiles of the eight Needles schools

Citizens' Academy (video)

College Hill Fundamental Academy (video)

Duxberry Park Arts IMPACT Alternative Elementary School

Horizon Science Academy - Cleveland Middle School (video)

King Elementary School (video)

Louisa May Alcott Elementary School (video)

McGregor Elementary School (video)

Valleyview Elementary School (video)

In the Media

June 23, 2010
The Canton Repository
June 24, 2010
Cincinnati Public Schools

Review of the Draft K-12 Common Core Standards

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The Fordham Institute's expert reviewers have analyzed the draft Common Core K-12 education standards (made public on March 10) according to rigorous criteria. Their analyses lead to a grade of A- for the draft mathematics standards and B for those in English language arts.

Our reviewers:

Sheila Byrd Carmichael served as reviewer for English language arts. Ms. Carmichael is an education consultant based in Washington, D.C., who has taught English in the District of Columbia Public Schools and in Italy and Japan. She was the founding director of the American Diploma Project and is the former deputy executive director of the California Academic Standards Commission. She is the co-author of Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2009), of Why We're Behind: What Top Nations Teach Their Students But We Don't (Common Core, 2008) and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status? (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2007). In addition, Sheila has also served as an external reviewer of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards for the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers.

W. Stephen Wilson served as co-reviewer for mathematics. Dr. Wilson is Professor of Mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University where he has chaired the Department of Mathematics. In 2006, he was the Advisor for Mathematics in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Wilson also helped revise Washington State’s K-12 mathematics standards and evaluated textbooks for the state. He has participated in numerous projects on standards, curricula, and textbooks and co-authored Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2009) and The State of State Math Standards (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2005). More recently, he reviewed drafts of the Common Core Mathematics Standards for the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Dr. Wilson received his Ph.D. in mathematics from M.I.T. in 1972 and has published over sixty mathematics research papers in the field of algebraic topology.

Gabrielle Martino served as co-reviewer for mathematics. Dr. Martino has worked as an adjunct instructor in mathematics and as a writer and consultant. Her projects have included developing elementary hands-on science curricula, developing science content for a radio show airing on National Public Radio, and reviewing the mathematics content delivery system for Shepherdstown University. In 2009 she coauthored a report for the Abell Foundation entitled “Doing the Math” about the relationship between high school mathematics curricula and college expectations in Maryland. Dr. Martino is also the author of a forthcoming paper, “Notes on Providing a Formal Definition of Equivalence,” which will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Anthropological Theory. She received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University.

In the Media

March 24, 2010
Linking and thinking on education
April 02, 2010
Jay P. Greene's Blog

Tracking and Detracking: High Achievers in Massachusetts Middle Schools

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What are the implications of "tracking," or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement? Many schools have moved away from this practice and reduced the number of subject-area courses offered in a given grade. In this new Thomas B. Fordham Institute report, Brookings scholar Tom Loveless examines tracking and detracking in Massachusetts middle schools, with particular focus on changes that have occurred over time and their implications for high-achieving students. Among the report's key findings detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. The report also finds that detracking is more popular in schools serving disadvantaged populations. Read the full report to find out more.

Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity: 2008-09 Fordham Sponsorship Accountability Report

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As a charter school sponsor (authorizer), Fordham submits an accountability report to the Ohio Department of Education at the end of November each year. The report includes profiles of each Fordham-sponsored school, as well as graphics comparing the achievement data of our schools, their home districts, and statewide averages. You’ll also find pertinent information on Ohio charter school spending over the last decade, and in the introduction, a timely analysis of the political and legislative environment impacting Ohio charters in 2008-09 that explains why the title, “Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity,” is befitting.

Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009

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In the Fordham Institute's latest report--Stars By Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009--expert reviewers appraised the Common Core drafts, which outline college and career readiness standards in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and in math. These draft standards were made public on September 21 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This report goes further however--Fordham's reviewers also evaluate the reading/writing and math frameworks that undergird the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA). How strong are these well-known models? This report presents their findings.

From Schoolhouse to Courthouse

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Brookings Institution Press are pleased to announce the publication of From Schoolhouse to Courthouse: The Judiciary's Role in American Education (Paperback, $28.95, publication date: September 8, 2009). This important new book provides a wealth of critical information and insight for scholars, students, attorneys, and school officials alike, examining the effects that the courts have had on American classrooms over the last sixty years and are having today.

Edited by Joshua M. Dunn, associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Martin R. West, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, From Schoolhouse to Courthouse brings together experts in political science, education policy, and law to paint a comprehensive portrait of the role of the courts in modern American K-12 education.

Contributors to the book: Richard Arum (New York University), Samuel R. Bagenstos (University of Michigan Law School), Martha Derthick (University of Virginia), John Dinan (Wake Forest University), Lance D. Fusarelli (North Carolina State University), Michael Heise (Cornell Law School), Frederick M. Hess (American Enterprise Institute), R. Shep Melnick (Boston College), Doreet Preiss (New York University), and James E. Ryan (University of Virginia School of Law).

Buy the book from Brookings

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International Lessons about National Standards

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Whether the United States should embrace national standards and tests for its schools is perhaps today's hottest education issue. For guidance in addressing it, the newest Fordham report looks beyond our borders. How have other countries navigated these turbid waters? What do their systems look like? How did they get there? What can we learn from them? Expert analysts examined national standards and testing in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore and South Korea. This report presents their key takeaways.

2008-09 Ohio Report Card Analysis

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Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio.  We found that in 2008-09, 54 percent of charter students in Ohio Big 8 cities were in a school rated D or F, while 50 percent of traditional district students attended such a school. In Cleveland and Dayton, however, charter students outperformed their district peers in both reading and math proficiency.

In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2008-09 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities.

City Profiles


The Great Graduation-Rate Debate

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This paper aims to promote a clearer understanding of the graduation-rate debate by distilling the policy developments and controversy surrounding the measurement of these rate. Why are there so many different ways to calculate graduation rates? How do these different rates account for the multiple pathways to graduation? What are the data sources used in the various dropout-rate calculations, and what are their pros and cons?