Articles in the 21st Century Skills category

Common Core poses opportunities, challenges for English Language Learners

Imagine you’re a student being asked to demonstrate a level of knowledge and critical thinking never before demanded of the vast majority of students in the United States. That is what assessments for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative are asking — or will soon ask — students to do in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Now imagine you’re being asked to demonstrate this high level of learning and cognitive ability in a language different from the one you grew up with at home.  If you were, say, a native English speaker and were asked to do this in Europe or Latin America, would your high school French or Spanish suffice?

That’s a little what the growing population English language learners in this country is being ask to do.  And whether these students succeed or not is critical to our nation’s future.

“English language learners represent the future majority of our student population,” said Rose Aronson, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.  (TESOL).  “So whether you come from a district where English language learners are already in large numbers, or from a district where their numbers are growing rapidly, you are directly affected.”

Aronson and Patte Barth, director of NBA’s Center for Public Education, spoke last week at a webinar, now archived, called The Common Core State Standards and English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for Academic Success, which was sponsored by NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members.

On the “opportunities” side, the CCSS sets the expectation that all students — including English Language Learners — will meet rigorous performance standards. And, because of this, Aronson said, “it has the potential to raise academic achievement of ELLs and close the achievement gap.”

In addition, “CCSS and NGSS [the Next Generation Science Standards] give us an opportunity to reassess our assumptions, instructional approaches, and polices related to the education of ELLs” and to strengthen the role of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Among the biggest challenges is ensuring that ELLs “acquire and use the academic language necessary to access the rigorous content demanded by the CCSS,” Aronson said. And there is the challenge of ensuring that all teachers are prepared to teach in the academic language that CCSS requires.

School boards have a big role to play regarding CCSS, Barth said. They can help all students succeed in this initiative by setting clear and high expectations, creating the conditions for success, holding the system accountable, creating the public will to success, and learning as a board team about CCSS and what it requires.

Lawrence Hardy|January 14th, 2014|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Curriculum, Diversity, Immigrants, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

U.S. students doing quite well compared to international peers, CPE director writes

Even though the United States does not rank number one—or even close—in subjects on international tests, that doesn’t mean that our schools are failing, Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, writes in an online column for the Huffington Post.

In “The Kids are All Right-er,” Barth analyzes recent international test results to show that U.S. students, particularly in the early years, are doing quite well. It’s adults, actually, who really could use some improvement.

“In many ways, the popular storyline that U.S. students get crushed in international comparisons is a distortion of the actual record,” she writes. “Truth is, our fourth- and eighth-graders consistently score above average, and do especially well in reading and science. Even our high school students are slightly above average in those subjects, falling below in math only.”

She notes that the recent NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study also found that if Massachusetts and Vermont were their own countries, they would stand with the highest-achieving nations.

Read more of her analysis in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Diversity, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

NCES report shows most states compare favorably to other countries in math and science

Results from a new study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education has found the vast majority of states score above the international average in 8th grade math and science. Although U.S. eighth-graders compared relatively well to their peers in other countries in math, the comparison was even more favorable in science, where just three states scored below the international average. However, the average 8th-grader in most states has obtained a basic knowledge and understanding of both math and science and can demonstrate it in a variety of practical situations.

But the study also highlights the fact that there is a huge variation in student performance across states. While there are a number of states that compare more favorably to the highest performing countries in the world, there are other states whose performance matches the performance of developing countries. For students in all states to have a chance to compete in the ever growing global labor market they, at the very least, must possess basic math and science skills.

Here’s what the study found:

     Mathematics

  • Over two-thirds (36) of states’ average score were significantly above the international average of 500.
    •  Six states (West Virginia (492), Oklahoma (491), Tennessee (490), DC (481), Mississippi (476), and Alabama (466) scored significantly below the international average.  These scores are similar to those of New Zealand (488), Kazakhstan (487), Sweden (484) and Armenia (467) among others.
  • Massachusetts was the highest scoring U.S. state (561 points) and outperformed all but five of 47 countries as well.
    • Massachusetts was outperformed by Korea (613), Singapore (611), Hong Kong (586), and Japan (570).
  • Nearly a two-third of U.S. states performed as well as or better than the traditionally high performing country of Finland (514).
  • Alabama was the only state whose average score (466) fell within the TIMSS Low benchmark (400-474), an indicator of whether a student possesses knowledge of whole numbers and decimals, operations, and basic graphs.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, Massachusetts was the only state to score above the TIMSS High benchmark (550) which indicates that students can apply their understanding and knowledge in variety of relatively complex situations.
    • The remaining 50 states’ average score fell within the Intermediate benchmark (475-549) which indicates a student can apply basic mathematical knowledge in a variety of situations.

Science

  • Nearly every state (47) performed above the international average of 500 while two states (Arizona and California) did not perform significantly different than the international average.
    • Mississippi (486), Alabama (485) and DC (453) scored significantly below the international average. These scores are similar to those of Kazakhstan (490), Turkey (483) and Iran (474), among others.
  • Massachusetts (567) and Vermont (561) were the highest scoring U.S. states and performed as well or better than every country except Singapore (590).
    • Massachusetts and Vermont performed as well as Chinese Taipei (564), Korea (560), and Japan (558) and outperformed such countries as Finland (552), Hong Kong (535) and England (533).
  • The District of Columbia was the only place where students’ average scores did feell within the TIMSS Low benchmark (400-474) which indicates whether a student has a grasp of elementary knowledge of life, physical, and earth sciences.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, eight states (Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) scored above the TIMSS High benchmark (550), which indicates whether students can apply their knowledge and understanding of the sciences to explain phenomena in everyday and abstract context.
    • The remaining 43 states’ average score fell within in the Intermediate benchmark (475-549), indicating students have basic knowledge and understanding of practical situations in the sciences.
Jim Hull|October 24th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , |

Ravitch: We can learn a lot from Finland — and from our own public schools

Diane Ravitch praised the Finnish schools in a recent speech in Washington, D.C. But it was another nation’s public education system — and the remarkable progress it has made over the past 40 years — that most impressed the celebrated author and education historian.

What country is this? The United States, of course. During that time, student achievement has increased overall, even as today’s student population has become more racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Graduation rates also are rising. And “dropout rates,” said Ravitch, a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego, “are the lowest they’ve been in history.”

But if you read some of the anti-public school literature out there, or watched some purportedly “balanced” news reports, you could easily be fooled into thinking something much different, said Ravitch, who spoke at the Economic Policy Institute about her new book on public school reform, Reign of Error.

As an example, Ravitch cited a 2012 report called “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, now head of Rupert Murdoch’s strongly pro-voucher News Corp. The report claims, contrary to the evidence Ravitch cites in the Long-Term Trend report of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), that U.S. schools are so bad they have “become a grave security risk.”

Ravitch devotes much of her new book to the high performing public schools in Finland, a place where she says teaching is a highly respected — and highly selective — occupation, where teachers and principals belong to a common union, and where public education of the highest quality is seen as a national obligation.

“They don’t have charters,” Ravitch said. “They don’t have vouchers. …. There is no Teach for Finland.”

U. S. schools are doing a lot right, too, Ravitch said. In fact, some of the highest-scoring nations on international tests — Singapore among them – are looking at how U.S. schools embrace creativity and teach problem-solving skills. Ironically, with the recent emphasis on high-stakes testing, she added, “We’re moving in the opposite direction.”

“And now we have kindergarten children taking bubble-in tests,” Ravitch said. “This is insane.”

Ravitch criticized the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which she said “has put $5 billion into the pursuit of higher test scores.” She said the money could have been put to better use in efforts to address the growing segregation of many public schools by race and income, particularly in the South and West.

“We’re not trying to solve the real problem, which is child poverty,” Ravitch said. “Poverty is the elephant in the room.”

Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke at the event. Weingarten said budget cuts have harmed school systems across the country, opening them up to criticism and threats of privatization. However, studies consistently show that privatization does not lead to higher student performance while resulting, in many instances, in greater economic and racial segregation.

Lawrence Hardy|October 22nd, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Charter Schools, Comparative Education, Conferences and Events, Curriculum, Diversity, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Board News, School Vouchers, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|

NSBA expert discusses educational technology on South Korea radio show

President Barack Obama recently lauded South Korea as a model for educational technology and internet accessibility on a recent visit to a U.S. school. But South Koreans aren’t convinced their schools are worthy of the praise.

A broadcast on TBS eFM’s “This Morning” in Seoul queried Lucy Gettman, the National School Boards Association’s Director of Federal Programs, on the federal e-Rate program and the need for more technology in U.S. schools.

Gettman discussed the challenges that U.S. schools face in fully utilizing the internet and educational technology, including getting high-speed internet connections to all U.S. schools, ensuring instructional content is high quality, and ensuring teachers are supported with proper training and tools.

Outside the classroom, most students are already well-versed in using technology, so for U.S. schools, “our opportunity is to engage students in a more meaningful way,” Gettman said.

Listen to the Aug. 19 interview on “This Morning,” a Korean radio show that discusses news and current affairs.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Student Engagement, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and CTEq host Common Core graduation requirements Twitter chat at #CCSSGradReq

The new report released last week from Change the Equation (CTEq) and the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) examines the connection between state graduation requirements and Common Core State Standards in math. The report, “Out of Sync: Many Common Core states have yet to define a Common Core-worthy diploma,” found that of the 45 states that have voluntarily adopted Common Core, only 11 have aligned their graduation requirements in mathematics with those standards.

Join the conversation about graduation requirements and the Common Core, as CPE and CTEq will be hosting a Twitter chat on Tuesday, June 18 at 1 pm EDT. Use hashtag #CCSSGradReq to follow along.

Alexis Rice|June 17th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Common Core State Standards, Educational Research, High Schools|Tags: , , |

School boards pleased with Obama’s plan to improve schools’ Internet access

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) praised President Barack Obama’s new initiative, ConnectED, to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years.

“Broadband has an important role to play in education, from digital learning resources to professional development for teachers, remote instruction, and data-driven decision-making,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Increasing high speed Internet connectivity is vital to provide 21st century skills and prepare students and communities to be competitive in a global economy.”

Obama’s plan calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal and to get Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages.

“To assure that ConnectED is successful, it is important to provide adequate resources to schools,” added Gentzel. “Requests for assistance by high need schools and libraries are more than double the current resources in the E-rate program.”

Gentzel concluded, “High speed Internet connectivity is vital for bringing new learning opportunities in rural areas. We must increase the quality and speed of connectivity in all our nation’s schools and address the technology gaps that remain.”

Alexis Rice|June 6th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

CPE Director sorts out facts and myths of the Common Core

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has already started in 46 states and the District of Columbia—bringing major changes to public schools in those states. But such a large undertaking also brings many myths and misconceptions about the curricular changes.

Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association, writes about what some of the changes will mean for public education in a column for the Huffington Post, “The Common Core Standards: Truths, Untruths and Ambiguities.”

“Despite their high-profile supporters, not everyone is feeling the common core love and a handful of early adopting states are experiencing second thoughts,” she writes. “These are legitimate debates for us to have. Indeed, something this central to public education demands it.”

Read more at the Huffington Post.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 29th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Finance, Educational Research, National Standards, Policy Formation, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

deGrasse Tyson: STEM illiteracy will affect economy

Neil deGrasse Tyson did not want to talk about Pluto with the audience of NSBA’s Second General Session Sunday. Yes, the New York astrophysicist, author, television commentator, and conference key speaker did have a hand in demoting Pluto from its planetary status (Tyson says he was an “accessory” in the demotion). And yes, he has a cabinet full of hate mail, mostly from third-graders who were irate about the Pluto situation.

However, what Tyson really wanted to talk about was American’s apparent fear of numbers. He pointed out that many New York City high rises skip the number 13 on their floors. “People are afraid of the number 13, and we want to lead the world in what?” he asked. And when we get to the ground floor, we are reduced to using letters, not numbers.

“Why? We have a good system for representing numbers below ground,” he said. “Negative numbers. But I think we fear them for some reason.”

One country, known for its engineering prowess, uses negative numbers for its below ground floors: Germany. Tyson sees a connection between the common use of this mathematical term in Germany and the country’s production of superior engineers.

And the U.S. is not just afflicted with fear of numbers; it also has seen a rise in math and science illiteracy. Tyson used a recent newspaper headline as an example: “Half of the schools in the district are below average.” He said: “That’s kind of what average means.” Another example: A congressman who said he had changed his position 360 degrees.

Tyson, who is a proponent of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in schools, told the audience that this illiteracy was going to start affecting our economy.

He acknowledged that some school boards are struggling with the conflicting religious beliefs in their communities. However, he said, “The real issue is not religion in schools. There is a science classroom and there’s a religion class. There’s no history of scientists and atheists telling preacher what to teach. It’s odd that religious people are trying to tell the science teacher what to teach. It’s an odd thing. “

Tyson pointed to a six-year-old New Jersey case that turned into a church and state dispute. A teacher told her students that evolution and the Big Bang was not scientific. Some people said it violated the teacher’s First Amendment rights to make her stop making these statements in her classroom. “If we have a teacher who says this, it’s not about the need to separate church and state. It’s about separating ignorant and scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers, he said. “If you are scientifically illiterate, someone needs to call that out.”

There are some promising signs, however, including the plethora of popular television shows based on science: “NCIS,” “CSI,” “Breaking Bad,” and Fringe.” And of the most popular sitcom right now, “The Big Bang Theory,” is about a group of scientists (and featured Tyson in a cameo in one episode, where he talks about Pluto). “More people than geeks have to be watching it,” he said.

He ended his talk about urging his audience to keep STEM in the classrooms, but also make sure the arts are emphasized as well.

“Our country is shrinking in relevance,” he said. “Make sure we keep STEM subjects there because it’s the future of our economy.”

Kathleen Vail|April 14th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, STEM Education|

NSBA board members find lessons in Finland’s schools

Three members of the National School Boards Association’s board of directors saw the well-regarded education system in Finland on a recent academic trip. And while the two countries have major differences, there are some important lessons school boards can take away from the Scandanavian schools, said NSBA President C. Ed Massey.

Massey joined a group of researchers and educators from Northern Kentucky University for a guided tour of Finnish schools, where they saw classrooms from early education to postsecondary and career training. He invited fellow NSBA board members David A. Pickler, NSBA’s President-Elect and a school board member from the Shelby County School Board in Memphis, and Kevin E. Ciak, a school board member from the Saylorsville School District in New Jersey, to join the tour.

Massey noted that the country emphasizes the importance of education by giving all children access to high-quality schools from age one through college—and the government pays for it all.

“The biggest thing that struck me was that they only hire the best teachers,” said Massey, a member of the Boone County, Ky., school district’s board of education. “A teacher cannot be hired unless they have a master’s degree, and then they are treated as consummate professionals, on the same rank as a doctor or lawyer.”

Members of NSBA's Board of Directors pose with Bruce J. Oreck, U.S. Ambassador to Finland, on their recent trip. From left, NSBA President-Elect David A. Pickler, Oreck, NBSA President C. Ed Massey, and Kevin E. Ciak.

Students in Finland also learn three languages through immersion by the time they leave elementary school. One thing that schools do not have is sports teams—popular pastimes such as hockey take place in clubs after school. And the schools provide a free lunch for all students, regardless of their families’ income level.

Each school is run by a “counsel” made up of administrators, teachers, and parents, Massey said. A school district is governed by a municipal education board, where members are appointed by the country’s Ministry of Education.

There are some important differences between Finland and the United States that make any comparisons unfair, Massey noted. For one, the country only has about 5.5 million people and 540,000 students—much smaller than even Kentucky, which has more than 670,000 students. The population is largely homogeneous with very little immigration, Massey said, noting that there are 59 different languages spoken within Boone County’s student population.

And—perhaps the most significant difference–Finland pays for all its educational services by taxing its residents at much higher rates than U.S. governments, he added.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 4th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Educational Research, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education, School District Reorganization, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |
Page 1 of 912345...Last »