Articles in the Common Core State Standards category

PDK chief shares insight on nation’s views of public education

Bill Bushaw, the Executive Director of Phi Delta Kappa International, discussed the top issues and key findings from the 2013 PDK/Gallup poll on public schools with the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Board of Directors this week.

The annual poll, one of the most comprehensive surveys of this country’s attitudes toward public education, consistently has shown strong support for local public schools. In particular it recently has found that parents of children in public schools are giving their schools increasingly high grades, with the majority giving their oldest child’s school a grade of “A” or “B.”

At his presentation to NSBA, Bushaw discussed key topics from the 2013 data that included Common Core State Standards, school safety, school choice, and vouchers, among others. For the 2014 report, which will be released later this summer, Bushaw noted that the analysis will include data on international comparisons.

He noted that PDK/Gallup’s data show confusion around the Common Core State Standards. More generally, the public also has expressed a lack of confidence in standardized testing.

Other discussion included:

  • Seven in 10 Americans favor charter schools. However, it is uncertain whether the public is aware of the national data that shows charter performance overall is murky. NSBA supports local school board authorization of charter schools to ensure accountability for student performance and fiscal stewardship.
  • Conversely, seven in 10 adults oppose vouchers that use public funds to pay private tuition.
  • The top skills parents desire include: critical thinking (80 percent), communication, and goal setting.
  • There is an interesting right-hand, left-hand disconnect between the public’s perception of a neighborhood school versus the public education system as a whole: Most surveyed give their own local schools an “A” or “B,” but give the nation’s public schools a “C” for quality.
  • The public expresses great trust and confidence in public school teachers and principals.

Bushaw noted that the poll is made up of a sampling of more than 1,000 adults.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 9th, 2014|Categories: Charter Schools, Common Core State Standards, Educational Research, School Boards|

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: , , , |

Delegate Assembly approves NSBA advocacy agenda

NSBA Delegate Assembly

NSBA’s Delegate Assembly approved the association’s hard-hitting advocacy agenda around public education at its business session Friday in New Orleans. The meeting was held right before the start of NSBA’s Annual Conference, which opens Saturday.

“This will now form the basis for NSBA’s advocacy efforts and become part of our enduring beliefs,” said David Pickler, the 2013-14 NSBA President. He referred to the three core policies voted on by the assembly as the three “legs” of the association’s aggressive and ambitious advocacy agenda.

The first “leg” is opposition to unlawful expansion of executive authority. According to the resolution, NSBA supports “an appropriate federal role in education.” However, it opposes the “federal intrusion and expansion of executive authority by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies” in the absence of authorizing legislation, viewing it as an “invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”

Such overstepping has had a detrimental effect on schools and districts, including imposing unnecessary financial and administrative requirements and preventing local school officials from making the best decisions for their students based on their close knowledge of community needs and priorities.

The second “leg” is opposition to privatization — vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter schools not authorized by local school boards. Privatization has resulted in a “second system of publicly funded education” that sends tax-payer money to private schools, fails to hold private schools accountable for evaluating and reporting student and financial performance and abiding by open meeting requirements, and often has the effect of resegregating schools.

High academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards, are the topic of the third “leg.” NSBA supports high academic standards, including Common Core, 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.

Local school boards are responsible for the implementation of any new academic standards. Instruction and materials should be locally approved, to reflect community needs. In the resolution is a “call to action” to states to provide the financial and technical support that school districts require to implement voluntarily adopted rigorous standards in an effective and timely manner.

Also at the meeting, the assembly elected NSBA’s new officers and regional directors. They will take office on Monday, April 7.

The 2014-15 NSBA President, Anne Byrne of New York, was formally sworn into office at Delegate Assembly. “I promise to work hard for you to advance the mission of NSBA,” she told the group. “Leading children to excellence is my theme. To me, it is a deep commitment to the children we all serve.”

The Delegate Assembly is the policy-making body of NSBA, and it consists of delegates chosen by state school board associations. This year, changes in the Delegate Assembly meeting included holding small-group briefing sessions so delegates and state association leaders had a chance to fully understand and debate the issues around the three core elements.

Also new was an online forum for the delegates to review and debate the issues before they arrived in New Orleans.

Kathleen Vail|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Common Core State Standards, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, State School Boards Associations|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: , , , , |

CPE helps get the facts on the Common Core State Standards

It’s not a curriculum.  It’s not a mandate. And it’s not a federal “takeover” of the public schools. But even people who know these things about the Common Core initiative may not have a firm grasp of what it’s supposed to accomplish. To help rectify this problem, The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE) has published a new set of FAQ called “Understanding the Common Core Standards: What they are — What they are not.”

“Whether or not states should share a common set of standards is a legitimate and important debate for states and communities,” the report says. “This brief is written to help ensure that the debate is based on good information” about the initiative.

To date, 46 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to implement the Common Core in their public schools. While the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have gotten a lot of attention, many inaccuracies and myths exist. The Common Core FAQs aim to set the record straight about the CCSS.

The Common Core standards establish grade-level expectations in math and English language arts (ELA) for K-12 students. The standards are aligned with college and work expectations, based on evidence and research, and internationally benchmarked so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society. As a set of standards, the Common Core describes the knowledge and skills students are expected to develop but does not prescribe how to teach them.

Learn more about the Common Core standards at www.centerforpubliceducation.org/commoncore.

Alexis Rice|October 30th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education Update, Common Core State Standards|Tags: , , , |

Haycock: Narrowing gap starts with data

Kati Haycock had some good news and some bad news for urban school board members. The good news: Reading and math scores for elementary school students are up for all students, and the racial achievement gaps are narrowing.

The bad news: High school achievement is flat, and American students still aren’t faring well in international comparisons.

Haycock, the president of The Education Trust, was a keynote speaker at NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday.

America tells two stories about itself. First, we are the land of opportunity: Work hard and you can be anything you want to be. Second, each generation can ensure that its children will have a better life. “These are powerful and pervasive stories,” Haycock said, “but they are fast slipping away. Inequality has been rising fast.”

Everyone acknowledges that gaps exist before children show up at school. But once they get there, she said, “we give the kids less of everything. When they don’t do well on tests, we blame the kids, the parents, the culture. We don’t talk about what we did.”

She pointed out that on a macro level, more and better education is not the only thing that needs to happen to reverse the achievement gap and our societal inequality. “But on an individual level, quality education is the only way up. What we do in education is important to our economy and democracy.”

She encouraged conference-goers to consider the choices that are made in schools that widen achievement gaps, including allowing minority and poor students to be taught by less experienced and ineffective teachers. Another problem is teachers who have low expectations for their students, and teachers who don’t know what and how to teach their students.

Haycock recommended school board members start with collecting data so they can correct the inequalities of teaching assignments. She advocated for the Common Core State Standards as a way to help teachers increase rigor and expectations. She also suggested learning from other schools and districts that have been successful in narrowing the achievement gap.

“It’s not a long list,” Haycock said of her suggested solutions, “but there are hard things on it.”

 

Kathleen Vail|October 5th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Common Core State Standards, CUBE Annual Conference2013, Governance, Urban Schools|Tags: |

The new college “caste system” — and how we might change it

Little Berea College in Central Kentucky doesn’t make a big splash in U.S. News & World Report’s wildly popular college rankings: It comes in at a respectable 75th among national liberal arts colleges.

But in the Washington Monthly’s new guide to the nation’s Top 30 Liberal Arts Colleges, Berea ranks third.

Different list; different priorities. U.S. News puts emphasis on things like incoming freshmen grade point averages and SAT scores, and a low acceptance rate. Washington Monthly is concerned with academic rigor as well. For example, it looks at the percentage of graduates that go on to earn PhDs. But it also considers an institution’s commitment to public service “both in the way they teach and in encouraging students to enter service-focused careers.”

And, perhaps most important, while U.S. News, in effect, rewards schools for keeping students out with tough admissions criteria that favor the affluent, Washington Monthly cites those that open their doors to low-income students and help them graduate. And Berea, founded by abolitionists in the mid-19th century, makes that goal paramount. Nearly 53 percent of new freshmen come from families where neither parent has a college degree. Ninety-nine percent are eligible for federal Pell Grants. No one pays tuition.

At a Washington, D.C., forum this week called “2013 College Rankings and Higher Education’s New Caste System,” a Texas college president, journalists from the Washington Monthly and elsewhere, and a key Obama administration aide, among others, talked about the need for more colleges like Berea.

Unfortunately, the trend is in the other direction, with colleges and universities becoming what Washington Monthly Editor-in-Chief Paul Glastris called “drivers of inequality.”

Hence the so-called “caste” system in higher education, where strong middle- and upper-class students go to top private colleges, and, increasingly, money-conscious state universities, and low-income students go to low-cost open access or community colleges — or to no college at all.

Last month, President Obama said the administration will create a “college scoreboard” to help students decide how best to spend their college money and to guide the government in directing student aid.

“Higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America,” Obama told about 7,000 students at the University of Buffalo. “If we don’t do something about keeping it within reach, it will create problems for economic mobility for generations to come.”

The issue is just as critical for K-12 school systems, which are trying with the Common Core State Standards and other reforms to give all high school graduates a shot at postsecondary education or specialized training for 21st century jobs. If college becomes even harder for many to afford, that goal cannot be realized.

The Obama administration’s plan is controversial, with critics arguing that the federal government should not be in the business of evaluating colleges.

“What confidence do you have that you can put out data that won’t be gamed by universities?” asked one participant at the forum, which was held at the New America Foundation.

James Kvaal, deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, said the purpose is not to punish universities — which will be rated in various categories, not ranked in specific order – but to drive down costs so that more people will be able to enter the middle class

“We want to reward institutions for enrolling students — especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds — and helping them succeed,” Kvaal said.

One institution that has been doing this for many years is the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). When Diana Natalicio became UTEP’s president in 1981, the university’s enrollment did not reflect the demographics of El Paso’s predominately Latino community. Local high school students were regarded as non-college material or even liabilities.

Natalicio changed that by reaching out to residents in the region (on both sides of the Mexican border) while seeking more grant funding to turn UTEP into a major research university.

She was not without her critics, including those who mocked her with bumper stickers calling UTEP “Harvard on the border.”

Since 1988, UTEP’s annual research expenditures have grown from $6 million to $80 million per year, and its annual budget from $65 million to $400 million. Enrollment has grown during her tenure from 14,971 to more than 22,700 students, 77 percent of whom are Mexican-American.

UTEP’s experience shows that access and excellence can — indeed must — go hand-in-hand.

“Without excellence,” Natalicio said, “access becomes a promise to be broken.”

Lawrence Hardy|September 6th, 2013|Categories: Common Core State Standards|Tags: , , |

Americans support for public schools, yet skepticism on testing, PDK/Gallup poll finds

The general public is quite skeptical about school vouchers, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations using student test scores, according to the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, released August 21. But those surveyed continued to give record-high grades to their local public schools and showed strong support for charter schools.

The general public also overwhelmingly feels that schools are safe, and supports more funding for mental-health services instead of hiring security guards.

This year, 53 percent of the public gave their local schools a grade of A or B, the highest percentage recorded in the poll’s 45-year history. Public education as a whole received an average of a C, consistent with recent polls.

Public school parents named “lack of financial support” and “overcrowding” as the biggest problems facing public schools. PDK/Gallup reported that three concerns have risen on the list of the biggest problems facing public schools: lack of parental support, difficulties in getting good teachers, and testing requirements and regulations.

The poll also showed that a majority of the public believes charters do a better job educating students than traditional public schools, and two of three respondents support opening more charters in their communities. Yet, support for private school vouchers was extremely low, with only 29 percent of the respondents said children should be allowed to attend private schools at public expense.

And in a question that was sharply divided on partisan lines, 55 percent of respondents oppose providing a free public education to children of illegal immigrants. A majority also support home-schooling and support allowing home-schooled students to attend public school part-time and participate in athletic programs.

The poll also showed a growing skepticism toward standardized testing in schools, where 36 percent of those questioned said increased testing was hurting the performance of their local schools, 41 percent said it had made no difference, and 22 percent said it helped. In 2007, 28 percent of respondents said testing had helped their schools.

William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll, said in written remarks, “Americans’ mistrust of standardized tests and their lack of confidence and understanding around new education standards is one the most surprising developments we’ve found in years. The 2013 poll shows deep confusion around the nation’s most significant education policies and poses serious communication challenges for education leaders.”

Further, the public knows very little about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—slated to go into effect in 2014—and those who do still don’t understand it, the poll found. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had never heard of CCSS, and of the remaining 38 percent, most believed that the federal government was forcing states to adapt the standards and that the standards covered more subjects than English/language arts and mathematics.

NSBA and the major administrators’ groups issued a statement in May that supported the principles behind Common Core but warned states and districts face “very real obstacles” to align their curricula with the new standards and administer the required tests.

In June, the Learning First Alliance, a coalition of 16 education groups including NSBA, called on lawmakers to give states and school districts more time to transition to the Common Core, noting that there needs to be more time to develop the proper resources for students and teachers, including curriculum, assessments, and professional development.

The 2013 PDK/Gallup poll results are available at www.pdkpoll.org.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Common Core State Standards, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, National Standards|Tags: , , , |

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

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

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

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