Articles in the Center for Public Education category

Center for Public Education report finds no gains in mayoral control

Collaboration between mayors and school boards, not mayoral takeovers, can lead to better school governance and student achievement, according to a new report by the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

Toward Collaboration, Not A Coup: What the research says about mayoral involvement in urban schools,” explores the intersects between effective school boards and involved mayors. In its review of existing research on mayoral control, the report categorizes the various existing forms of mayoral involvement, examines benefits and challenges for school districts, then argues for effective relationships between school boards and mayors.

Through secondary analysis, CPE found that mayoral takeovers are “a rare, and largely urban phenomenon,” and out of more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., only about 20 have come under formal mayoral control in the last 20 years. Researchers have been unable to determine conclusively whether the mayoral governance model actually improves academics and student achievement.

The report also found that mayors can provide great benefits to public schools in other ways, especially by enabling better integration and coordination of services for children and families.

“What this research suggests is that while the interest of mayors in public schools can bring benefits to public education, a mayoral takeover risks disengaging community interests and disregards the governance responsibility of elected school board leaders,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director.

The report recommends several steps for mayors and school boards to work collaboratively to improve student achievement, including:

• Formal and informal processes for coordination between the mayor’s office, school boards and superinten¬dent.

• Clearly defined areas of responsibility for the school board, mayor’s office, and other agencies that are involved;

• Media coverage and community outreach to increase voter participation in school board elections; and

• Professional development for school boards and other leadership teams.

“Nothing indicates that students would necessarily benefit if public schools were run by mayors,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But takeovers come with a high risk of disenfranchising parents and other community members. A better approach for districts would be the collaborative involvement of mayors, school leaders and the communities they serve.”

Alexis Rice|June 11th, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

NSBA President Anne Byrne: “High standards are a must”

Bryne-3-13-2014

Anne M. Byrne

National School Boards Association (NSBA) President Anne M. Byrne recently discussed the challenges and potential for the Common Core State Standards during a meeting of the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a coalition of national education groups. LFA followed up with specific questions for Byrne, including queries about her firsthand experience as a school board member from the Nanuet Union Free School District in New York. Byrne noted that in New York, “In spite of all the bumps in the road, teachers are seeing their students learning the subject matter more deeply and more clearly. This is a very good result.”

Read the interview, below:

First, we would love to get your thoughts on the actual standards. As a school board member, and as a state and national leader, when you assess the standards, what are your first impressions, both in terms of opportunity and potential challenges? Are there particular elements you are excited about, or nervous about? What are the implications for student achievement and equity?

This movement to higher standards is a very good thing. High standards are a must whether you call them career- and college-ready standards or the Common Core. Let me tell you about two experts at conferences I recently attended. At one, I heard from Bill Daggett, the founder and president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, who spoke to the data around present standards and clearly made the point of the absolute necessity to raise our standards in order to be career and college ready–and Common Core does exactly that. At another, Kevin Baird of the Common Core Institute talked about where we need to go so that all of our children can be successful. He, too, made the case using data how raising standards is a must. Both were powerful presentations about what the standards are and why we must raise them.

That said, there is a gap between where we are and where we need to be. Some states have greater gaps than others. Each state has their own standards. Massachusetts, for example, has the highest standards in the nation. All of the rest of the states go from high standards to not so high standards. The key to moving forward is for states to embrace higher standards and build a solid implementation plan. One state that’s implementing the standards well is Kentucky.

My first impressions are that it is going to be hard work for boards, administrators, teachers, parents and students. Higher standards allow opportunities that are directly related to brighter futures for each of our children. The potential challenges include making sure the resources are available to school districts; providing cutting edge professional development for our teachers; ensuring curricular materials are aligned to the new standards, and assessments aligned to the new curricular materials; making sure our children with special needs and English language learners are part of the conversation on how to help them reach the standards; and helping parents and communities to understand what the standards are and why they are so important. I am excited about the opportunities for children. I am nervous that because the standards are higher than what all of us have now, there might be a tendency to withdraw from them.

The implications for student achievement are not only great for our students, but also our country.
Equity is always a concern, because right now there are schools that do not receive adequate or equitable funding, both of which are needed to implement higher standards. Schools that are low performing need extra help and resources so that each child has the opportunity to succeed.

When it comes to district level alignment, what steps should local school boards take to prepare for Common Core implementation?

First, we must understand what the Common Core Standards are. We must ensure that our public and staff understand why we need high expectations for our students, why we need our students to be globally competitive, why we need to train staff in good professional development, and why we must raise our current standards.

This takes resources, so the school board must use the resources necessary to be successful. We need good curricula aligned to the Common Core, good learning materials for our staff and students, staff development to help staff teach and to keep parents and community informed.

We also must have patience. It will not happen overnight. It will take hard work to accomplish, but it must happen. We also have to find ways to decrease the test-taking anxiety of our students and their parents.

One of the big CCSS infrastructure questions concerns technology capacity and online assessments. Would you provide us with some information about your district and your preparations for testing? What are districts doing across New York; how big is the variance in preparedness by district?

According to an April, 2013 article by the New York State School Boards Association, in 2010, the Federal Communications Commission surveyed all schools that participate in the federal E-Rate program on their preparedness for online testing. It found that 80% of participating schools believe their broadband connections don’t meet their demands, and 55% of respondents cited “slow connection speed” as the main reason.

Most New York schools get their broadband connections through a RIC (regional information center) via a shared wide area network (WAN) service that is constantly being upgraded. This service is done in conjunction with BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). I don’t know if all New York schools have enough bandwidth or capacity with hardware to allow all their students to take the assessments on line, but they are certainly working toward that goal. My own local school board, Nanuet Union Free School District in Rockland County, has the capacity to allow our students to take their assessments on line.

New York State has encountered some bumps with implementation. Many individuals ascribe to the belief that there is just as much, if not more, to be learned from failure as there is from success. Would you mind identifying a few lessons that can be taken from New York’s recent challenges?

Communication is paramount to implementing the new standards. The implementation plan broke down in New York because communications broke down. Tests were given last year without curriculum modules, teacher preparation, student preparation, or parental involvement. The curricular guides are still being rolled out for English Language Arts and mathematics, and they have not been available for other subjects. The guides are highly prescriptive– you would need much longer than a year to complete a year’s worth of work. Staff is working very hard to modify and adopt the guides for their students. Parents are having a hard time helping their children with their homework, especially in math.

InBloom, the outside data collection group that was going to be collecting our children’s data, came under fire from parents because of data privacy concerns; now inBloom is no longer going to be collecting data, and the state education department has scaled back the timeline for implementation.

We see from this experience that we must have a curriculum that aligns with the standards and teachers who are adequately prepared to teach that curriculum. And we must ensure that we are working with a realistic timeframe to make changes and educate our parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about how and why we are doing this.
In spite of all the bumps in the road, teachers in the classroom are seeing their students learning the subject matter more deeply and more clearly. This is a very good result. This is why we need patience. This is hard work and it takes time.

More specific to the question of state level implementation, would you be able to discuss the particulars around the role of teacher evaluations during the transition to the standards?

One of the hottest conversations surrounding Common Core is the connection between teacher and principal evaluations and the Common Core. Some have called for a pause because teachers do not have the needed tools and as a result will be judged unfairly. Interestingly enough, in the initial round of evaluations, only one percent of teachers were found to be ineffective and less than 5% classified as “developing.” The data suggests that 94% of all teachers are succeeding in showing growth in their classrooms. Of course statewide exams in New York count for 20% of evaluation, and local exams another 20%, with 60% having to do with classroom evaluations. The school district, using considerable resources, and the local union negotiated the language used to develop each school district’s evaluation process and implementation plan.

Full Common Core implementation is a complex task, and general public awareness is fairly low. What is the biggest misconception you’ve personally heard about the standards? What role do school boards play in providing information and transparency for parents and local community members? What resources should they utilize, and what aspects of the standards should they emphasize?
There are many misconceptions about the Common Core Learning Standards. First, the standards are NOT the assessments, NOT the curriculum and NOT a national agenda to take over schools. Common Core standards are not a dumbing down of the curriculum; in fact, Common Core is more rigorous than most state standards and expects every student to learn Algebra 2, which is also higher than most states now. It is also not true that the new standards will crowd out classical literature, since reading and writing will be done across the subject areas. It is true that the new standards do not require cursive writing, but schools can still teach it.

It is crucial for school boards to make sure the district provides professional development for staff, aligned instructional material and supports for students and parents. There is lots of research on line to look at the standards; NSBA’s Center for Public Education is a good source. Each state education department also has many resources. In New York you can look at engageny.org, the New York State Education Department’s website on the Common Core.

Collaboration is a critical part of school climate and is often an essential component for success. With the new standards posed to have a significant impact on all levels of a school building, from teaching and learning, to testing administration and evaluation, collaboration and trust among building staff will help ensure a smoother transition. What steps and actions can local school boards take to facilitate greater district level collaboration at this particularly stressful and anxious juncture in time?

The Iowa Lighthouse Inquiry was a 10-year study by the Iowa School Boards Foundation that examined whether school boards made a difference in student achievement, and the answer was, yes they did. Starting with that premise, effective boards must set clear and high expectations for student learning, create the conditions for success, be accountable for results, create the public will to succeed, and learn as a team. Since boards are the policy makers in a district, they should have written policies on student achievement and maintain a collaborative relationship with staff and the community. Communications, both internal and external, are key to helping staff and the public understand what is happening and relieving some of the stress associated with the new standards. I think it helps if everyone is on the same page and staff and community feel they are listened to and kept apprised of any new developments.

Generally speaking, it seems that the school districts that are having a smoother transition to the Common Core Learning Standards tend to be those districts that valued and practiced collaboration prior to adoption and implementation of the Standards. It is part of their everyday work and mission. According to the Center for Public Education’s report, “Eight Characteristics of Effective Boards,” effective school boards tend to have a cohesive and reciprocal relationship with school personnel and the community. They value collaboration and effective communication, and it is embedded in their school district’s strategic vision and policy development.

As President of NSBA, would you mind taking a moment to discuss the national landscape with regards to implementation? Do you see particular districts that are doing an outstanding job in this work? What types of support from different entities or levels of government would be particularly useful over the next year or two?

Local school boards are responsible for the implementation of any new academic standards such as Common Core standards, which include locally approved instruction and materials in a manner that reflects community needs. Therefore, NSBA urges states to provide financial and technical support to enable school districts to implement, in an effective and timely manner, voluntarily adopted rigorous standards, including the Common Core standards.

NSBA supports high academic standards, including Common Core, that are voluntarily adopted by states with local school board input and free from federal direction, federal mandates, funding conditions or coercion.

It is apparent that every state is in a different place with implementation. Kentucky was the first state to start the implementation process, and they have done a good job, taking the time to communicate with all their stakeholders and making sure staff has good professional development opportunities. Massachusetts is also going about implementation at a thoughtful and steady pace, examining the gaps with their current standards, piloting in some districts and implementing the changes needed. I am sure there are other states that are far along in the process and others who need more time and help.

As far as help from any level of government, it would be refreshing if our elected state and federal representatives were more visionary. It takes looking down the road 10 years and saying, “Where do I want public education to be, and what do I need to do to make that happen?”

Of course more resources are vitally important, since public education is a labor intensive enterprise. But just as important is relief from onerous regulations and rules. Think about all the resources needed now to run a state or federal government. If we educated every child well, most of the money we spend now would be decreased. We would need fewer jails and less social service benefits, and we would be more productive as an economy.

Are there any additional thoughts you’d like to share with us that haven’t been covered above?

The bottom line is that raising our standards is absolutely necessary so each child can succeed.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Michelangelo, who said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we will miss it, but it is too low and we will make it.”

Until every child is given the chance to be successful, we cannot rest. America is a great country, and public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. It is crucial for the future of our democracy and the future of public schools that all children have the opportunity to be successful.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 5th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Educational Research, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , |

Common Core implementation concerns raised

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has newly released a survey of superintendents on the adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The survey, “Common Core and Other State Standards: Superintendents Feel Optimism, Concern and Lack of Support,” found that although superintendents were overwhelming optimistic about the new standards, a majority also expressed concern about a lack of implementation support at the local level.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted CCSS, which establish grade-level expectations in math and English language arts for K-12 students. The standards go into effect next school year, with the first state-wide student assessments expected in the spring of 2015.

Of note in the AASA survey is that many superintendents expressed concern that their districts will not be prepared for implementation of the standards, especially the year-end assessments.

Other key findings in the AASA Common Core survey of superintendents include:

• Superintendents overwhelmingly (92.5 percent) see the new standards as more rigorous than previous standards.

• More than three quarters (78.3 percent) agree that the education community supports the standards, but that support drops to 51.4 percent among the general public.

• More than half (60.3 percent) of the respondents who had begun testing say they are facing problems with the tests.

• Just under half (41.9 percent) say schools in their states are not ready to implement the online assessment, while 35.9 percent say they lack the infrastructure to support online assessments.

Part of the problem has been finding and approving new curriculum and teaching materials aligned with CCSS. NPR recently reported on the “void” between the new rigorous standards and the curriculum materials available to help educators develop enriched lesson plans. Fears that teachers may “hit a wall” when asked to teach tougher standards without changes to materials have contributed to concerns about next year’s assessments.

The National School Board Association (NSBA) supports high academic standards, including CCSS when they are voluntarily adopted by states with school board input and when the standards are free from federal directions, mandates, funding conditions or coercion. NSBA has previously raised concerns about CCSS implementation.

“High academic standards are important for improving student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “For Common Core State Standards and other state standards to succeed, states and school districts must have the financial resources, infrastructure, and the necessary professional development for school personnel before implementation.”

For more information about CCSS, read NSBA’s Center for Public Education’sUnderstanding the Common Core.”

Alexis Rice|June 4th, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

NSBA comments on Fordham Institute’s new school leadership report

A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes that school districts whose school board members are focused on student achievement are more likely than others to “beat the odds” academically — that is, to perform better than the demographics and financial conditions of their students would suggest.

The report, Does School Board Leadership Matter? is a follow-up to the 2010 report School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era, a joint project of Fordham Institute, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and the Iowa School Boards Association. As with the earlier report, NSBA says that — while the new study makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research —  some of its findings are based on questionable assumptions.

NSBA issued the following statement regarding the report:

The report, “Does School Board Leadership Matter?” released March 26 by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, affirms the fact that local school boards matter and that their actions can positively impact student achievement.  The study sheds additional light on what makes a quality school board, and adds further support to a Jan. 2011 research review issued by NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) on the “Eight Characteristics of Effective Boards.”

As such, the new Fordham Institute report makes a valuable contribution to the field of school board research, especially when viewed alongside other research, such as the CPE report, that also shows a relationship between school board behaviors and higher student achievement.  We appreciate the transparency with which Fordham Institute indicates the limitations of its findings, which were based in part on a prior Fordham Institute-NSBA-Iowa School Boards Foundation national survey of school boards, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era.  As with all correlational studies, reviewers of the Fordham Institute report should use caution when interpreting findings, some of which are based on questionable assumptions. For example, in determining the accuracy of school board members’ knowledge of district funding, the authors conflate relative per pupil dollars with school board members’ perceptions about how sufficient those dollars are — two entirely different things.

Nonetheless, NSBA appreciates the Fordham Institute focus on providing greater insight around effective local school board governance, recognizing that school boards need the support of key influencers such as parents, teachers, principals and others who help to create positive teaching and learning environments.  We look forward to continuing our collaboration on this important issue.

Lawrence Hardy|March 26th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Governance, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

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: , , , , |

Urban districts making gains on test scores

NSBA’s Center for Public Education’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull wrote this analysis on the National Center for Education Statistics’ Trial Urban District Assessment results released this week:

On Wednesday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the sixth installment of the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which reports on the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders on NAEP reading and mathematics in 21 participating urban districts. Results show that our nation’s urban districts have made gains that have outpaced the average public school— yet students in large urban districts still perform significantly below the average student nationwide.

It is important to point out that the gains being made are not shared by all urban districts. Some urban districts have made more dramatic gains than others. For example, Washington, DC made impressive gains both recently and in the long term. In three of the four grades and subjects that NEAP assessed, DC students acquired nearly an additional two years worth of learning than a decade ago. Large gains were also made in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego since 2003. However, out of these large gaining districts, only San Diego performed as well as the national average in at least one grade and subject area. Charlotte, on the other hand, has made moderate gains but still outperformed the national average on all assessments except for 8th grade reading. Austin outperformed the national average as well in 4th grade math and Hillsborough (FL) outperformed the national average in 4th grade reading.

Despite significant gains made by some districts, the report also indicates the gains made by urban districts may be subsiding. Fewer participating districts made significant gains between 2011 and 2013 than between 2009 and 2011. Taken together, schools in large cities continued to improve between 2011 and 2013, just not as strongly as in previous years. In order to meet or even beat the national average, students attending schools in large urban districts had to literally outdo themselves.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet on how to accelerate such gains. Some of the highest gaining districts were governed by elected school boards while others were under mayoral control. Some have charter schools while others do not. Some instituted high-stakes teacher evaluation systems while others have not. Some are in states that have implemented the Common Core State Standards while others are not. From this report alone it is not possible to determine what attributed to dramatic gains. What school boards need to do is examine what changes high gaining districts may have made and determine if such changes would be beneficial to their districts

The Findings

4th Grade Reading

  • Washington (5 points) and Los Angeles (4 points) were the only surveyed districts to make significant gains on their reading scores between 2011 and 2013. During this same time period there was no significant increase in scores nationally.
    • Houston was the only district to see a significant decrease in scores (-5 points) between 2011 and 2013.
  • Atlanta (18 points) and Washington (17 points) made the greatest gains from 2003 to 2013. Such increases are roughly equivalent to about a year and half worth of learning.
    • Cleveland was the only district to post a significant decline (-6 points) between 2003 and 2013.
  • Austin, Charlotte, Florida’s Hillsborough County, and San Diego scored higher than the average for large cities* (cities of populations of 250,000 or more).
  • The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of students scoring at or above proficient varied dramatically among urban districts from 40 percent in Hillsborough County and Charlotte to just 7 percent in Detroit.

8th Grade Reading

  • Five districts significantly increased their scores from 2011 to 2013, with Washington, DC posting the greatest gains with an 8 point improvement. During this same time period, students nationally increased their scores by just 2 points.
    • From 2003 to 2013, only Atlanta (15 points), Los Angeles (15 points) and San Diego (10 points) made significant gains in their performance.
    • Cleveland was the only district to post a significant decline in their scores (-2 points) between 2003 and 2013.
  • Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Hillsborough County, and Houston scored higher than the average for large cities. No district had a significant decrease in scores between 2011 and 2013.
  • Just as in the fourth grade, the percent of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2013.
  • The range of students scoring at or above proficient was nearly as wide as it was at the fourth-grade level. Charlotte had the highest percentage at 36 percent while Detroit once again had the lowest at just 9 percent.

4th Grade Math

  • Washington, DC (7 points), Chicago (7 points), Los Angeles (5 points), and Atlanta (5 points) were the only districts to significantly increase their scores from 2011 to 2013. During this same time period, the national average rose by 1 point.
  • Washington, D.C. made the greatest gains from 2003 to 2013 by increasing their score 24 points which equates to nearly two and half years of learning. Boston and Atlanta had the next highest gains with 17 points. Such increases are roughly equivalent to about a year and half worth of learning.
    • Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, and New York City made no significant improvements during this time period.
  • Six urban districts scored higher than the 2013 average for students attending schools in large cities. In 2011, eight districts outperformed the national average.
  • The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 33 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of students scoring at or above Proficient varied dramatically among urban districts, from 50 percent in Charlotte to just 4 percent in Detroit.

8th Grade Math

  • Three districts (Washington, Fresno, and Charlotte significantly increased their scores from 2011 to 2013. On the other hand, Cleveland was the only district to see a significant decline in their scores (-6 points) during this time period.
  • From 2003 to 2013, 7 out of 10 districts made significant gains in their performance, with Atlanta (23 points) and Boston (22 points) all making gains roughly equivalent to two years’ worth of additional learning.
    • Charlotte, Cleveland, and New York City were the only districts that didn’t make significant progress during this time period.
  • Four urban districts (Austin, Charlotte, Hillsborough County, and Kentucky’s Jefferson County scored higher than the 2013 average for students attending schools in large cities.
  • The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the proficient achievement level increased from 16 percent in 2003 to 27 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of students scoring at or above proficient varied just as it did at the fourth grade level. Charlotte had the highest percentage at 40 percent, while Detroit once again had the lowest percentage at just 3 percent.

*All cities in the nation with populations of 250,000 or more.

2013TUDATable1

TUDA Table 2

For more information on NAEP check out: The Proficiency Debate: How NAEP Achievement Levels are Defined

Alexis Rice|December 20th, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|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: , |

Teacher evaluation is broader than test scores, NSBA’s Center for Public Education finds

K-12 teacher evaluation systems today are more refined and useful for improving teachers’ skills and connecting teachers to student achievement than past models, a new national report that examines states’ teacher evaluation policies by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance,” offers an overview of changes in teacher evaluation systems by state. The report also describes states’ use of evaluation data for personnel decisions and continuous improvement.

Though more states are using student test scores to evaluate teachers, state standardized test scores make up only a small part of a teacher’s evaluation, the report finds.

Similarly, while many lawmakers and educators still question the use of student performance as a measure of instructional effectiveness, misconceptions abound that student performance receives more weight than report findings show—currently, no state uses individual student achievement data as more than 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Nearly all states that do rely on scores from state standardized tests do so as just one of multiple measures of student achievement.

“In the past five years, 38 states have altered their teacher evaluation systems to include some measure of student performance,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “With variations across teaching and learning models, school boards and district officials need state support and the ability to adapt teacher evaluation models to meet the needs of local schools.”

Highlights of newer systems in place across states include: the use of multiple stakeholders to design and implement evaluation tools; multiple measures to show teacher effectiveness; and data that link teacher and student achievement.

“New models of teacher evaluation can help improve instructional quality and provide teachers with added support and additional resources,” said CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull, author of the report. “Most states have done a good job of vastly improving teacher evaluation systems by listening to the experts and relying on a wider range of criteria, such as classroom observation and student performance data. Interestingly, these evaluations are often used to help all teachers improve their skills, not just as a tool to identify and replace ineffective teachers.”

The report follows CPE’s 2011 report, “Building A Better Evaluation System,” that examines best practices in teacher evaluations. Federal programs, including the No Child Left Behind law and Race to the Top grants, have recently provided incentives to states to revamp their evaluation systems. Historically, teacher evaluations have simply labeled teachers as satisfactory or not, giving no feedback on how to improve their skills.

Alexis Rice|October 9th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |
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