Articles in the Assessment category

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

School leaders lack understanding of minority male students’ home lives, CUBE speaker says

How is it that an African-American student attending his high school graduation ceremony can feel depressed—overwhelmed by what the future holds and wondering why other students appear to be looking forward to college and the years ahead?

Why could this youth see no advantage in his success—and the opportunity to go to college—compared to students who enlisted in the military or entered the workforce?

There is a crippling power in the disconnect that exists between many African-American and Latino male students and their educational opportunities, David Heifer, executive director of Concentric Educational Solutions, told urban school leaders during a workshop Friday at the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) conference in Atlanta.

In an hour-and-a-half discussion of strategies that schools can use to help young men of color, Heifer noted that these students often face challenges that undermine their confidence, discourage their hopes, and leave them frustrated and defensive.

Many of these challenges have their roots in the poverty, broken homes, drug abuse, and other social ills that exist in urban communities. But another part of the problem rests in the failure of urban educators to understand what these students are going through—and the failure of schools to provide the social and emotional support these young men need.

That’s the result of another disconnect—between students and the adults in their schools, he said. Teachers and principals don’t live in the same neighborhoods as their students, and they cannot really understand what’s happening in the lives of these students.

Instead, school leaders turn to data to try to make sense of what’s happening.

“We get caught up in numbers—the dropout rate, the truancy rate,” he said. “We skip right to solutions … then come back next year and try to come up with policies to figure out” how to do better.

It’s a dynamic that Heifer indicated he understood all too well. During his high school years, his father died of a heart attack, and as a grief-stricken youth, he began to act out—a troublemaker transferred to five different schools over the course of his senior year. He eventually was arrested 28 times and sent to prison.

With a little luck and the support of others, however, Heifer says he managed to turn his life around, earn his GED, attend college, and become a school principal. But he still recalls that, after his father’s death, not a single teacher or school counselor offered any condolences.

None of the adults in his school understood his pain—or recognized that there was an underlying reason for his dramatic change in behavior.

The story underscored Heiber’s argument that, if educators truly want to help their minority male students, they need to do a better job of understanding what’s going on in these students’ lives. There are a variety of ways to do that, but Heiber focused most of his comments one strategy—encouraging teachers to make home visits.

It’s a strategy that his nonprofit school-support organization encourages in the schools that it works with. In fact, he boasted, teachers at these schools have made more than 5,000 home visits in recent years.

Schools also can do more to strengthen “wrap-around services” for students, he suggested. “Students need their social-emotional support.”

What they don’t need, however, is “discipline policy that mimics the criminal justice system.”

Many school boards already have recognized the need to provide these supports. If a school board isn’t seeing results, however, the reason may lie with another common “disconnect”—between what the school board wants to happen and the actual practices taking place in schools.

“We come up with policies at the school board level, then we go to the schools … quite frankly, they don’t want to hear what you have to say.”

So school board members need to get out more—into their schools and, yes, even into their students’ homes—so they can better understand the dynamics at work in young men’s lives.

“You have to uncover it, and the only way to uncover it is to ask the hard questions,” Heifer said. “You’ve got to get dirty. You’ve got to get in there.”

 

Del Stover|October 8th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Board governance, CUBE, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, School Boards, School Reform, School Security|Tags: , , |

CPE names “10 Good Things About Public Education”

Can you name 10 good things about public education?

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, recently wrote about the many successes in public education for American School Board Journal, and she also gave her suggestions for ways schools can improve.

For instance, she notes, fourth-graders have improved their reading skills by six points on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past decade.

“If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that 10 points on the NAEP scale is approximately one year’s worth of learning,” Barth writes. “More significantly, the gains have largely been from the bottom up, and the achievement gap is narrowing between children of color and their white classmates.”

In high school, more students are taking higher-level courses, and schools are becoming better at addressing the needs of students at risk of dropping out, thus increasing their graduation rates. But there are still some 3,000 high schools that lack the capacity to offer Algebra II, and policymakers and the public must ensure that all students have access to higher-level courses and the supports they need to be prepared for college or the workforce, Barth says.

And polls show that local communities continue to support their local schools even as the public opinion of public education has declined.

The list includes:

1. Community support

2. Mathematics

3. High school graduation rates

4. High-quality prekindergarten

5. High-level high school courses

6. ESEA and IDEA: Monumental laws

7. English language learners

8. Civics

9. Beginning reading

10. A tradition of universal education

Barth’s column also was recently featured in Education Week’sK-12 Parents and the Public” blog.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, American School Board Journal, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, High Schools, Mathematics Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Thirty years after Plyler, immigrant students still face obstacles

If you want to see how the nation’s views on undocumented immigrants have hardened in recent years, you don’t have to read the majority opinion in Plyler vs. Doe, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that said public schools must educate all children regardless of their immigration status.

 Just read the dissent.

 “Were it our business to set the Nation’s social policy,” dissenting Chief Justice Warren Burger began, “I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children — including illegal aliens — of an elementary education.” 

Burger goes on to say, however, that whatever “folly” may have existed by the State of Texas’ decision to refuse to educate undocumented children, that decision was not unconstitutional. Such sentiments are a far cry from the prevailing view in the 2011 Alabama House Bill 56, part of which requires school districts to report the number of undocumented children in their schools, said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Saenz was one of six speakers at a Washington forum Monday titled Plyler v. Doe at 30 years: Keeping Public Schools Open to All of America’s Children. He said he wants people to read both Plyler’s majority opinion and the dissent to get a sense of the values expressed at the time. Also speaking at the event, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, was Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcement officer, who was a keynote speaker the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Seminar in Boston.

Before Plyler could take effect, the justice department, joined by civil rights and religious groups, succeeded in securing a temporary court injunction on the part of the law that concerns school reports on students’ immigration status. But by then, Perez said, the damage had been done. Hispanic students were missing school and dropping out.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that this is about real people with real dreams,” Perez said.

That fact was underscored by William Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Ala. Soon after word of the new law reached Hispanic families, there was tremendous fear in the community that they would be targeted.

“The scene at the school was chaos,” Lawrence said. “There was crying and wailing” both from the Latino students and their non-Latino friends. Within weeks, 64 students would be withdrawn.

Ironically, 96 percent of the Hispanic students at Foley Elementary were born in the United States, Lawrence said. 

“It became clear to me that these children — American-born, U.S. citizens — were facing the brunt of the law,” said Lawrence, “a lifelong conservative Republican” who was nonetheless distraught over the measure that Alabama’s Republican majority pushed through the state legislature. 

If Lawrence’s political affiliation was ironic, there was irony in the actions of the Obama administration as well. Laura W. Murphy, the event’s moderator and director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, praised Perez and Russlynn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights, for their work on behalf of immigrants’ rights. But she said that if an official from the Department of Homeland Security had addressed the group, the reception would have been much different.

Last October, the Obama administration reported nearly 397,000 people were deported over the past 12 months, the third straight year of record deportations. Although the administration has initiated reviews of more than 410,000 deportation cases over the past seven months, fewer than 2 percent have been closed, leaving immigrant rights groups frustrated, according to the New York Times.

Perez’s office and the Department of Education have taken a much different course, investigating cases in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Alabama, where immigrant students have encountered roadblocks to school registration. In most instances, Perez said, school districts have been helpful.

“When we work with school districts, we explain the dos and don’ts,” Perez said. “They’ve been very receptive, because teachers want to work with kids.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 12th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, Immigrants, School Board News, School Law|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Who’s got the most determined students?

Here’s a little quiz about cultural norms, brought to you with the help of education blogger Joanne Jacobs. Match the three hypothetical comments – which have to do with how young people view luck, talent, opportunity, destiny, etc. – with students in North America, Europe, or China:

  1. 1.     “My father was a plumber, so I’m going to be a plumber.”
  2. 2.     “I’m [either] born talented in mathematics or I’m born less talented, so I’ll study something else.”
  3. 3.     “[My progress] depends on the effort I invest, and I can succeed if I study hard.”

If you said No. 3 must be North America because of its work ethic, democratic institutions, or social mobility – well, you would be wrong, according to Andreas Schleicher, who runs the international test known as PISA. The correct answer is China. (For the record, Europe is 1, and North America is 2.)

At least, that’s Schleicher’s opinion, expressed in a BBC article, China: The World’s Cleverest County, by Sean Coughlan.

We’ve heard about — and perhaps over-generalized about — the Asian work ethic. But Jacobs is skeptical that simply working hard and believing you can succeed is enough to get you ahead in an authoritarian nation where students, like everyone else, are routinely sorted, and where the well-connected have a distinct advantage over the poor.

Speaking of China and its education system, read the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss on the latest efforts by ambitious Chinese students and teachers to raise standardized test scores: Hooking up students to IVs of amino acids, which they believe enhance memory.

Moving across the ocean: Was Mitt Romney a prep school bully some four decades ago? Does it matter? Read This Week in Education’s Alexander Russo about a provocative Washington Post article on the presidential candidate’s years at Michigan’s Cranbrook School.

On Tuesday, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will speak at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on school boards and the role of businesses with them, notes Eduwonk

Lawrence Hardy|May 11th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Bullying, Comparative Education, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Bryant: School districts need more freedom from federal policies

 When NSBA’s 2011-2012 President Mary Broderick wrote to President Barack Obama and called for a national dialogue on a new direction in federal policy, she “hit a home run,” writes NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant in a blog published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

In her remarks, Bryant commented on Broderick’s concerns over federal policy, including the belief that “though well-intentioned, the current federal direction is ignoring and working against much of what we know about student motivation and achievement.”

“That’s not to say we don’t want accountability—there is a need for testing and a need to hold teachers and schools accountable for student progress,” Bryant added. “But we’ve gone too far—we are currently too focused on testing and teaching rote memorization rather than inspiring creativity.”

The blog is part of a series on school governance issues.

Erin Walsh|May 11th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Board governance, Elementary and Secondary Education Act|Tags: , |

NSBA’s Center for Public Education reviews AJC’s investigation on school cheating

The following was also posted on the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education’s blog, The EDifier.

Last week I showed that the data from the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s (AJC) investigation on cheating, while certainly accurate, was not evidence of a widespread epidemic. Yes, there certainly was evidence that cheating was likely taking place in some districts. While this is inexcusable, it’s important to also remember that those instances of cheating involved few enough students that they wouldn’t have any impact on the overall state or in many cases even district results. In this case, one rotten apple wouldn’t spoil the whole barrel.

Despite the fact that AJC found that 24,000 out of 13 million students  from across the country( which is about two tenths of one percent) attended grades where cheating was likely taking place, AJC chose to declare that cheating is common practice in our nation’s schools by running an opinion piece by Robert Schaeffer of the anti-testing organization FairTest. The piece stated, “Experts may debate the methodology, but there is no question that cheating on standardized exams is widespread.”

Experts may debate the methodology, but Schaeffer is flat-out wrong to say there is no question that cheating is widespread. Whatever your personal measure of “widespread,” declaring that cheating is widespread when the data shows less than a percent of students may be involved is quite a stretch.

Schaeffer makes the same stretch when he says that his organization has confirmed cheating in 33 states and D.C. over the past three years. I don’t think a handful of unethical and misguided educators in a state means that the whole state should be labeled as cheaters.

Here’s another statistic to remember. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of schools in most states. If your child attended a school in one of those 33 states or D.C., the chances are slim their test scores were manipulated in any way. So the public should continue to have confidence in the results of the state assessments. While we must eliminate cheating, don’t let one rotten apple spoil the whole barrel of good information we can gather from state assessments.

Jim Hull|April 5th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

The week in blogs: When the numbers don’t add up

Sarah Wysocki, a fifth grade teacher at McFarland Middle School in Washington, D.C, was worried about how she’d fare under the district’s IMPACT teacher evaluation, writes Bill Turque in a disturbing article in The Washington Post.

Her main concern was this: Fourteen of Wysocki’s 25 students had attended Barnard Elementary, which had five times the number of advanced fourth-grade readers as the district average. Yet Wysocki said that some of those so-called “advanced readers” could barely read.

Were the scores –the scores from which Wysocki’s “value-added” evaluation would be derived — inflated? Despite the high number of erasures on Barnard’s test papers and a subsequent investigation, a district spokesman told Turque that “it’s just not possible to know for sure.” And so, despite glowing evaluations, and even suggestions that she share her teaching methods with colleagues, Wysocki got the low score she feared and was dismissed.

The Post story is one of several this week that call into question the kind of “value-added” teacher evaluation programs that are becoming increasingly common across the country. Of course, many of the previous evaluation systems weren’t so great, either. In a New Republic article titled The False Promise of the New York City Teacher Evaluations, author Simon van Zuylen-Wood notes that, under a previous evaluation system that relied solely on classroom observations, 97 percent of New York teachers were judged “satisfactory.” But the new system has apparently substituted new errors for old ones.

There’s more. Read the essay by William Johnson in the New York Times titled “Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher.” Then see how some liberal parents — many concernebout what they consider a misplaced emphasis on testing and evaluation– are joining their conservative counterparts in the home schooling ranks, thereby removing some of the most high-performing students from public school.

With all this — as well as massive budget cuts and staff reductions — is it any wonder that, according to the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher,  teacher job satisfaction has fallen by 15 percentage points since 2009, and nearly a third of teachers are considering leaving the profession?

I didn’t plan to make this column so negative, but I think these things are important to point out. Certainly, most school districts value their teachers and treat them like professionals. But even with the best of intentions, grand ideas concerning testing, evaluation, and accountably — when applied clumsily — can end up harming the very professionals we need to support.


Lawrence Hardy|March 11th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Data Driven Decision Making, School Reform, Teachers, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

Insights into transforming learning

Check out Mary Broderick’s, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the former Chair of Connecticut’s East Lyme Board of Education, insights on Education Week’s blog, Transforming Learning.

In the posting, Broderick discusses the opportunity for America’s public schools to excel and challenges our schools are facing.  Broderick notes:

As our teachers and school officials try to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top programs, our children are being denied the inquiry and problem solving they crave. Our challenge as we go through the process to rewrite NCLB is to move to a model where we unleash curiosity, drive for excellence, and creative potential and generate a love of learning in our students and staff members.

School board members share the urgent sense that each and every child, no matter their circumstances, must have the opportunity to excel. We know we must ensure high quality experiences so that each child evolves fully. Only then will America continue to lead the world in innovative and creative solutions to the world’s problems.

BoardBuzz agrees, it’s time to remove the barriers to ensure all American students receive a world class education.

Alexis Rice|February 16th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA advocates for ESEA revamp

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), along with four other state and local government organization, are urging Congress to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and enact legislation that would reframe the federal-state-local partnership before the next school year begins.

In a letter sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees responsible for K-12 education, the groups called for greater flexibility for local leaders, increased flexibility in the spending of federal funds, and recognition of the budget constraints facing states and localities.

“It is important to local school districts that Congress reauthorizes ESEA now and replaces the current accountability system that neither accurately nor fairly reflects the performance of students, schools or school districts,” said NSBA’s  Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “Local school districts must be free of federal mandates that unnecessarily or counterproductively hinder them from achieving their goals of increasing student achievement. It is essential that local school districts have greater authority and flexibility to develop, design and implement educational strategies to address the unique challenges facing our local communities.”

In a separate letter to John Kline, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, NSBA, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), and five other national education organizations expressed concern about portions of two draft bills before the House dealing with ESEA reauthorization. Among the groups’ concerns are: an expansion of federal voucher programs, a diminished focus on professional development for school staffs, and a cap on Title I increases.

 

Alexis Rice|February 9th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement|Tags: , |
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