Articles in the Assessment category

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: , |

Common Core ‘flying under the radar’

Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, has had a long career in public education, and she knows many key players at the state and federal levels. So when she says something is “flying under the radar” — as she did Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference when referring to the Common Core State Standards Initiative – she knows what she’s talking about.

In case the signal you’ve been receiving is a little faint, here are some basics, which Stanley provided at her National Issues session: the Common Core State Standards were released in the summer of 2010 and are, at current count, being adopted by 47 states and the District of Columbia. Internationally benchmarked and designed to be clearer and more rigorous than the patchwork of state standards, the standards are scheduled to be implemented, complete with new computerized assessment systems, by the 2014-15.

While Stanley thinks that date might be overly ambitious, she said the important point is that a big change is coming to K-12 standards and assessments. For the most part, these are good changes, designed by some of the nation’s best experts in the field, she added. It’s just that not a lot of people know about them.

But school board members should. In fact, as Stanley put it, now is no time to “wait for the state” to come up with policies and curricula that align with the Common Core. Among the steps districts should be taking now:

# Partner with local colleges and universities for professional development, curriculum alignment. Information sharing, and the sharing of placement tests.

# Survey local businesses on what they think about the Common Core and what they feel high school and colleges graduates need to know,

# Reach out the members of the community for their ideas

#Check national updates, such as those from NSBA’s Center for Education Policy.

The standards released in 2010 included math and language arts. In addition, 26 lead states are working with Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Research Council, and other groups on common science standards.

Lawrence Hardy|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, FRN Conference 2012, Governance, Key Work of School Boards|Tags: |

The week in blogs: A gentleman’s C?

Education Week’s Quality Counts 2012 came out this week and with it the annual State of the States report card.  So how did the nation do?

“Overall, the nation received a grade of C across all policy and performance areas, which remained the same as a year ago,” writes Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

 That’s the average. But if you want to know whether that’s a half-full C or half-empty one, you’ll need to read the details, which Hull summarizes in his EDifier blog. The good news: states have been taking steps to improve their standards. The not-so-good news: states haven’t been especially innovative in terms of teacher policies.

One big teacher policy issue, value-added teacher evaluations, received a boost this week from a Harvard/Columbia study of teacher effectiveness, writes Hull in his second blog this week. For another look at the study, read Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. And for background, see the Center’s report “Building a Better Evaluation System.”

One critic of value-added is education historian and former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, who says in a recent blog that they “never” should be used.

Also read Ravitch’s post “NCLB Death Star,” which you have to admit — however you feel about the federal law that turned 10 this month — has a great title.

The Big Questions kept coming this week with a rather brave post by Jay Mathews, of the Washington Post’s Class Struggle blog, who revisits the issue of Intelligent Design and says (for a second time) that he thinks it should be taught alongside evolution.

After his first blog on the subject, Mathews received 400 not-so-nice e-mails. “Seventy percent of them said I was an idiot,” Mathews quipped. “Many added that I was a dangerous idiot.”

However, Mathews has an interesting reason for wanting Intelligent Design included. And — as you might expect — his post sparks a lively discussion.



Lawrence Hardy|January 13th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , |

Ten years into NCLB’s backlash

It has been ten years since President George W. Bush was signed into law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an opinion piece in The Washington Post where he noted:

Unfortunately, the law is unintentionally creating barriers for these reforms. States that have chosen to raise standards will soon need to explain why student scores are dropping. Instead, they should be able to highlight students’ academic growth. School districts are stuck using NCLB’s definition of a highly qualified teacher based solely on paper credentials, without taking into account the teacher’s ability to improve student learning. And the law continues to encourage schools to narrow curriculum at the expense of important subjects such as history, civics, science, the arts and physical education. After 10 years of these flawed policies, our nation’s teachers and students deserve better.

NCLB has created a measurement framework that bases its assessment of school quality on a student’s performance on a single assessment and mandates a series of overbroad sanctions not always targeted to the students needing services, and, to date, has not yet proven to have a significant impact on improving student performance and school performance.

After ten years of enactment of the federal law, local school districts continue to struggle to comply with the language of the law at a time when the unintended consequences of this complex law are imposing far more dysfunctional and illogical implementation problems than had been anticipated by the sponsors of the legislation. Additionally, federal and state lawmakers have become increasingly aware that successful attainment of the desired national goals is very much dependent upon the capacity of the state departments of education and the capacity of local school districts.

In September 2011, the National School Boards Association was encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of NCLB but cautioning that the waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

Let us know what you think about NCLB. Speak out by submitting a comment.

Alexis Rice|January 10th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, High Schools, Legislative advocacy, Middle Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , |
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