Articles in the Reports category

NSBA develops guide for school boards on boosting student success through community partnerships

Cover of "Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success"

Cover of “Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success”

A new guide released today details how school board members can build partnerships to secure a high-quality education, from early learning to graduation, for students in their districts. “Partnerships, Not Pushouts: A Guide for School Board Members on Community Partnerships for Student Success,” demonstrates how school boards can work with other community partners to provide seamless services and engage community members to improve their schools.

Every student who leaves high school without a diploma costs the U.S. hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income over the student’s lifetime. Despite the recent gains in U.S. graduation rates, far too many young people, mainly students of color from educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, are leaving school without a high school diploma or are severely underprepared for college-level work.

“As advocates for equity and excellence in public education, school boards play a key role to build a student-centered environment that addresses the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students in their school district,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“School board members are local leaders who understand the needs of their students, teachers, and school staff, and this guide shows how to tap into community resources to further enhance and strengthen their community’s schools.”

NSBA led the effort to develop this guide with a group of school board members from NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members, National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members, National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members, and the Council of Urban Boards of Education.

The guide serves as a blueprint for school board members to build a better-coordinated system of supports for children and their families. By partnering with key stakeholders and local service providers, school boards can ensure that all children benefit from a “Personal Opportunity Plan” that guarantees access to out-of-school resources each child needs to succeed in school and in life.

One such example is the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Initiative in Oregon, as featured in the guide. This school community partnership helps create a seamless learning environment. A cohesive collaboration between the school districts, the city, and county, it includes more than 70 schools within the Portland-Multnomah County Area. SUN partnered with various partners such as libraries, parks, local health clinics, churches, and businesses to provide in-school and wraparound support to students and their families. The collaboration is guided by an inter-governmental among between all three entities that outlines that processes in which they will work together in creating a shared vision and common goals to support the schools within the initiative.

NSBA partnered with the Alliance for Excellent Education; American Federation of Teachers; Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning; Coalition for Community Schools; National Education Association; Opportunity Action; National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; and Rural School and Community Trust to release the guide.

Alexis Rice|April 22nd, 2014|Categories: Dropout Prevention, Reports, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

New report finds teachers need more effective professional development to meet higher standards

Despite decades of research, teacher professional development is not adequately helping teachers to develop their students’ critical thinking skills and subject matter knowledge so that they can be ready for college and the workplace, a new report by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” reports that ongoing, dedicated time for collaboration and coaching is the most effective way to help teachers develop needed classroom skills, but most professional development exercises are one-time workshops that research shows have no lasting effect. An estimated 90 percent of teachers participate in some form of professional development each year, but the vast majority receive it in workshops.

“Effective professional development is a key factor in improving student achievement and better preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century economy,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We already see that public schools are facing greater accountability for their students’ learning, and now teachers in the states that implement the Common Core State Standards will be under intense pressure to teach their students critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

The report notes that professional development that is ongoing, collaborative and connected to the teacher’s subject area produces the largest student gains. The biggest challenge for teachers, research shows, is implementing the skills they have learned in their classrooms.

The report also looked at effective practices and found that:
• Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area;
• Working with a coach or mentor is shown to be highly effective;
• Although research on effective critical thinking strategies is lacking, teachers in some areas have established professional learning communities to create best practices and coach each other;
• Case studies show that some school districts may be able to reallocate spending to provide better professional development opportunities without spending significantly more.

Teachers’ time is the most significant cost consideration for effective professional development. Further, professional development is often one of the first areas cut in tight budget times.

“Teachers need embedded time for collaboration and support while they attempt to change their practices,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But time is money. When budgets are pinched, districts may be tempted to go with one-time workshops which cost fewer dollars. But a low price is still too high if there is no impact on student learning.”

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” was written by Allison Gulamhussein, a doctoral student at George Washington University and a former high school English teacher, who was a policy intern for the Center for Public Education.  View Gulamhussein’s analysis of this report in American School Board Journal.

Alexis Rice|September 10th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Reports, School Boards|Tags: , , |

NAEP results show minority students making strong gains, but gaps remain

This was republished from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE), The EDifier and written by Jim Hull, CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst.

Minority students have made significant gains over the past four decades in both math and reading, according to the 2012 long-term NAEP results. While most white students made significant gains as well, achievement gaps narrowed considerably since minority students made much larger gains than their white peers. However, large achievement gaps still remain.

Reading Results

9 Year Olds

  • U.S. 9 year old have made significant gains.
    • Since the first year of NAEP in 1971, student achievement in reading has increased significantly from 208 to 221 (13 points, or just over a year’s worth of learning). There was also significant growth from 2004 to 2012 (5 points), but it remained relatively flat from 2008 until the present.
    • Gains were made by students at all performance levels.
      • Students scoring in the 10th and 25th percentiles each saw gains of 19 points, thus strengthening the lower percentile performance overall.
      • Students performing at the 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles each saw gains from 1971 to 2012 by 15, 9, and 6 points, respectively.
      • These increases indicate an overall trend of improvement across all performance subgroups.
  • Racial achievement gaps have narrowed significantly over the past four decades.
    • The Black-White achievement gap narrowed from 44 points in 1971 to 23 points in 2012.
      • Black students increased there scores 36 points over this time period, while White students improved their scores 15 points.
    • The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed from 34 points in 1975 (the first year for which data was available for Hispanic students) to 21 points in 2012.
      • Hispanic students increased their scores 25 points from 1975 to 2012, while White students nudged up 12 points in the same time period.
  • Nine year-olds were the only age group to see a significant decrease in the gender gap from 1971 to 2012.
    • In 1971, boys earned an average score of 201, while girls scored 214. By 2012, this 13-point gap shrunk to a 5-point deficit with boys scoring 218 and girls scoring 223.

13 Year Olds

  • U.S. 13 year olds have made significant long- and short-term gains.
    • Since 1971, student scores in reading has increased significantly from 255 to 263 (8 points, or nearly a year’s worth of learning). Scores also improved from 2008, the last time NAEP was administered.
    • Students made improvements in reading scores across the spectrum of performance levels, with significant gains from 1971 as well as short-term gains since 2008.
      • Lower-achieving students made the most modest gains (up 6 points from 1971), while each of the other higher-performing quintiles gained 8 or 9 points on average since 1971.
  • Racial achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between initial testing and 2012.
    • The Black-White achievement gap diminished from 39 points (1971) to 23 points (2012).
      • Black students increased their scores by 25 points (roughly 2.5 years of learning), while White students achieved a 9-point gain over this time.
    • The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed from 30 points in 1975 to 21 points in 2012.
      • Hispanic students increased their scores by 17 points from 1975 to 2012, while White students achieved an 8-point gain over this time.
  • The percentage of 13- and 17-year-olds who read for fun has diminished over time
    • The percentage of 13-year-olds reported they read for fun dropped from 35 (1984) to 27 (2012) percent, while 17-year-olds saw their percentages drop off from 31 (1984) to 19 (2012).

17 Year Olds

  • On average U.S. 17 year olds have made little progress since 1971.
    • Overall scores were not significantly different between the first NAEP reading testing in 1971 (score of 285) and 2012 (score of 287).
    • Lower performing students have made modest gains
      • Scores at the 10th percentile were 7 points higher in 2012 than in 1971.
      • Scores that 25th percentile increased by 4 points between 1971 and 2012, while scores at the 50th percentile increased by 1 point.
      • Students at the highest percentiles (75th and 90th) saw modest decreases in both long-term (since 1971) and short-term (since 2008) average scores.
  • Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between 1971 and 2012.
    • The Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 27 points (from a 53 to a 26 point gap) between 1971 and 2012.
      • Black students increased their scores by 30 points (roughly 3 years of growth) since 1971, while White students saw a 4-point improvement.
      • Black students also showed short-term growth (from 2008) with a 3-point increase, while White students’ average reading scores remained constant.
    • The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed by 20 points (41 to 21 point gap) from 1975 to 2012, while Hispanic enrollment was rapidly expanding.
      • Hispanic students increased their scores by 22 points from 1975 to 2012, while White students saw only a 2-point gain in the same time period.

 

Math Results

9 Year Olds

  • U.S. 9 year olds made significant gains.
    • Since the first year of NAEP in 1973, student achievement in math has increased by two and half years’ worth of learning (25 points). However, there as been no significant improvement since 2004.
    • Similar gains were made by students at all performance levels.
      • In fact, students currently scoring at the 10th percentile score about the same as students at the 25th percentile did in 1973.
      • Furthermore, students currently scoring at the 75th percentile score about the same as students at the 90th percentile did in 1973.
  • Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly over the past four decades.
    • The Black-White achievement gap narrowed from 35 points in 1973 to 25 points in 2012.
      • Black students increased there scores by 36 points while at the same time White students improved their scores by 27 points.
      • Today’s Black students score as well as White students did in 1986.
    • The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed from 23 points in 1973 to 17 points in 2012 while the Hispanic enrollment increased from 5 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2012.
      • Hispanic students increased there scores by 32 points from 1973 to 2012.
      • Hispanic students score similarly as White students did in 1992.

13 Year Olds

  • U.S. 13 year olds have made significant long- and short-term gains.
    • Since 1973, student scores have increased by 19 points which is nearly two years’ worth of learning. Scores also improved from 2008 the last time NAEP was administered.
    • While students at all levels made improvements, lower-achieving students made greater improvements.
      • Scores at the 10th percentile were 27 points higher in 2012 than in 1978.
      • While scores at the 90thpercentile increased 16 points between 1978 and 2012.
  • Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between 1973 and 2012.
    • The Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 18 points (46 to 28 point gap).
      • Black students increased there scores 36 points while at the same time White students improved their scores 19 points.
      • Black students acquired about three and half more years of learning than they did in 1973.
    • The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed by 14 points (35 to 21 point gap), while the Hispanic enrollment increased from 6 percent in 1978 to 21 percent in 2012.
      • Hispanic students increased their scores by 32 points from 1973 to 2012.
      • Hispanic students acquired about three more years of learning than they did in 1973.
  • More 13 year olds are taking Algebra than ever before.
    • In 2012 34 percent of 13 year olds took Algebra compared to just 16 percent in 1986.
    • Nearly three-quarters of 13 year olds had taken at least Pre-Algebra in 2012, up from just 39 percent in 1986.

17 Year Olds

  • On average U.S. 17 year olds have made little progress since 1973.
    • Overall scores were not significantly different between 1973 and 2012.
    • However, lower performing students have made modest gains.
      • Scores at the 10th percentile were 12 points higher in 2012 than in 1978.
      • Scores at the 25th percentile increased 11 points between 1978 and 2012 while scores at the 50th percentile increased by 6 points.
  • Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between 1973 and 2012.
    • The Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 14 points (40 to 26 point gap) between 1973 and 2012.
      • Black students increased their scores 18 points while at the same time White students improved their scores 4 points.
      • Black students acquired about two more years of learning than they did in 1973.
    • The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed 14 points (33 to 19 point gap) while the Hispanic enrollment increased from 4 percent in 1978 to 22 percent in 2012.
      • Hispanic students increased their scores by 17 points from 1973 to 2012.
      • Hispanic students acquired nearly three more years of learning than they did in 1973.
  • Nearly four times as many students took Calculus or Pre-Calculus in 2012 than in 1978.
    • In 2012 23 percent of students took Calculus or Pre-Calculus compare to 6 percent in 1978. Just two decades ago just 10 percent did so.
    • In 2012 just 22 percent of students’ highest math course was geometry compared to 53 percent in 1978. In 1992 44 percent of students did so.

For more information on NAEP, check out the CPE’s report The Proficiency Debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Alexis Rice|June 28th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Reports, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBAC analyzes presidential candidate’s education platforms

In anticipation of the upcoming presidential candidates’ debates this evening, the National School Boards Action Center (NSBAC), a new 501(c)(4) organization founded by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), has released “An Election Year Message to President Obama and Governor Romney.” The letter highlights the expectations and priorities needed for presidential leadership on education and specific action steps to prepare our students for success in college and careers.

Also, a new NSBAC report compares the presidential candidates’ positions on K-12 education policies. The in-depth analysis finds that President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney agree on holding public schools to high standards, supporting innovation, and expanding charter schools. But the candidates differ in some areas that are critically important to school boards, most notably on the federal role in education, school choice and funding.

“School board members want a president who will make a world-class public education system a top priority,” said Michael A. Resnick, Director of NSBAC. “Over the next four years, we must ensure our communities’ public schools are able to provide a high-quality education that will prepare students to succeed in life and boost our nation’s economy.”

The new publications will help school board members and the public understand the issues and advocate for strategies to boost student achievement in public schools. The reports are available at NSBAC’s website, www.nsbac.org.

The message to Obama and Romney advocates, “Having a world-class education that is second to none requires that all our people and all sectors of government, business, and civic life place a high priority on K-12 education. To provide the leadership that’s necessary, no person in America commands the attention of the nation more than the President of the United States. That’s why school board members believe that over the next four years, our President must make strengthening our nation’s schools a foremost priority and compellingly convey to the American people the urgency of the mission and their part to achieve it.”

A new NSBAC guide, “Ask Your Local School Board: Legislative Priorities for the 113th Congress,” is designed for local school board members to share with their candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ensure that the candidates are aware of the challenges facing our local public schools and to encourage them to respond in a supportive manner.

For more information, visit NSBAC’s website at www.nsbac.org.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 3rd, 2012|Categories: 2012 Presidential race, Announcements, Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, National School Boards Action Center, Reports, School Board News, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

New voucher study doesn’t live up to hype, NSBA says

A new study released today by the Brookings Institute and Harvard University researcher Paul E. Peterson shows that low-income students who participated in a three-year voucher program in New York City in the late 1990s overall fared no better in college enrollments than their peers in public schools. However, the study found that African-American students did attend college at higher rates than those who did not receive vouchers.

Although the study was relatively small and narrowly focused, the authors and voucher proponents are using it to lobby for expanding voucher programs across the country. Peterson and researcher Matthew M. Chingos published an editorial in The Wall Street Journal calling on the Obama administration to support the voucher program for students in Washington D.C. Their claims have been challenged by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“The grandiose statements made in the executive summary are not substantiated by the data,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. One undetermined factor, she added, is the level of parental involvement with a child’s education, which research shows makes a significant difference in the child’s academic achievement.

“Clearly the parents who chose this program were dedicated, and parent involvement is key,” Bryant said.

The study examined longitudinal data from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, which offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 each year to as many as 1,000 low-income families. Those vouchers were primarily used at Catholic schools, and in most cases parents also paid a portion of the tuition. However, 22 percent of the students who were offered a voucher never used it, and most of the students returned to public schools for reasons unknown, some after the first or second year, noted Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

Several of the report’s methodologies are particularly troublesome, he noted:

  • The study neither isolates the impact of private schools nor school choice on students going to college;
  • The study never took into account what happened to those students who left the voucher program to return to the public school;
  • Results do not show that expanding vouchers programs will necessarily result in higher college going rates for low-income students in urban schools, even black students;
  • While the findings about African-American students appear impressive, the actual impact may in fact be minimal due to a large margin of error. An offer of a voucher may only increase a black student’s chances of going to college by as little as .4 percentage points but could be as large as increasing their chances by 13.8 percentage points. A more robust study is needed to more precisely determine the true impact that a voucher offer has on the enrollment of black students in college;
  • The more years a student uses a voucher does not necessarily mean a student is more likely to go on to college.

NSBA opposes publicly-funded vouchers for private schools because such programs abandon public schools, which are required to serve all students regardless of abilities, and eliminate public accountability for those tax dollars. Read more in NSBA’s issue brief.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 23rd, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Reports, School Board News, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA’s General Counsel shows strategies to address school bullying

“The one common thread from the many perspectives on school bullying is that advocates on all sides care deeply about kids,” National School Boards Association (NSBA) General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. writes in a blog for “Transforming Learning.”

Negrón discusses a recent guide that shows ways to host and facilitate respectful discussions and recognize other individuals’ and groups’ differences without engaging in bullying. The guide, “Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools,” is a project of the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Education Project/First Amendment Center, which collaborated with NSBA and other education, civil rights, and legal advocacy groups.

The issue of school bullying is fraught with emotion and also can lead to lawsuits and legal action against school officials. It’s important that teachers and school recognize forms of bullying, but also know how to use those instances as teachable moments for all students, Negrón notes.

Transforming Learning is a project of the Learning First Alliance and is hosted by Education Week, the nation’s leading education news source.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 2nd, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Reports, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , , |

Is cheating prevalent in our public schools?

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

Articles this past weekend by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) and the Associated Press  strongly suggest the answer is yes.  AJC attempted to answer this question by analyzing state standardized test scores from all 50 states to identify districts and schools that had statistically unusual fluctuations in their year to year test scores which is an indicator that cheating may be taking place. Although the unusual fluctuations do not prove there was cheating it does point to the strong possibility that cheating is in fact taking place. As a matter of fact, the newspaper used a similar methodology in 2009 which helped uncovered extensive cheating in Atlanta public schools.   

But is cheating as prevalent across our public schools as the articles strong imply? The answer is quite simply no. When you actually look at the data from AJC you see that about 200 out of the nearly 15,000 school districts (which includes charter school districts and other special districts) analyzed by AJC had suspicious test scores like those found in Atlanta. This represents just 1.3 percent of all school districts nationwide. Keep in mind, even within these districts most schools showed no signs of cheating.

In fact, when AJC calculated how many individual students were likely to be directly impacted by cheating, just a tiny fraction (less than 1 percent) of the 13 million students examined were enrolled in the grade level within the schools where cheating likely took place.

Of course any cheating at the school or district level is not acceptable but the data does show that the AJC’s assertion that the results “…suggest a broad betrayal of schoolchildren across the nation” is not only overblown but outright wrong.  In fact their data shows that cheating is limited to a small proportion of districts and even smaller proportion of students nationwide. So parents and the general public should be confident that teachers and administrators in close to 99 percent of districts act in an ethical and professional manner.

Does this mean cheating shouldn’t be a concern? Of course not.  More work needs to be done by state and district leaders to ensure that the integrity of the test results are not compromised and that struggling students are appropriately identified so they receive the support and resources they need to actually improve their performance.  In the case of the districts identified in the article they need to look further into the data to determine if in fact cheating is going on in their schools. Or whether the fluctuations are due to highly effective instruction in high scoring grades and ineffective instruction in following low scoring grades. Either way, districts need to know why there are such fluctuations so they can either eliminate any cheating or focus on improving instruction in grades where test scores drop.

While statistically large fluctuations in scores indicates a strong possibility of cheating, as anyone who has seen the movie Stand and Deliver, great teaching can lead to unpredictable increases in student achievement. And those teachers should not be considered guilty until proven innocent. But it also doesn’t mean that such indicators of cheating should be ignored either.  Either way, the actual data shows that cheating is limited to a small number of schools nationwide contrary to what the AJC and Associated Press articles imply.

Jim Hull|March 29th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports|Tags: , , , |

Pre-K Coalition calls for more federal support, greater integration, for early education

C. Ed Massey Photo

C. Ed Massey, president-elect of NSBA, addresses the Capitol Hill Pre-K Coalition Briefing

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  and six other leading national education organizations are urging the federal government to take a more active leadership role in assuring that all children have access to quality preschool education.

At a briefing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the group — known as the Pre-K Coalition — released a report titled Ensuring America’s Future: Policy Statements and Recommendations from National Education Organizations. It calls on local, state, and federal policymakers to “come together to design an early childhood financing system that ensures equity, supports quality and effectiveness, fosters collaboration, and does not take funding away from any other existing education programs.”

A major step in that direction is for Congress to expand the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to include early education practices and interventions, the report said. “The reauthorization of the ESEA offers a unique opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to take full advantage of high quality pre-K,” the coalition said.

At Tuesday’s briefing, several speakers said preschool is an integral part of the education process, providing young children with critical social and academic skills that will influence their success in elementary school and beyond.

“We believe if we have them ready to learn in those important years, it will have a huge effect on the years they’re in the [K-12] system,” said C. Ed Massey, president-elect NSBA and a member of the Boone County (Ken.) Board of Education.

“Pre-K is not separate, apart from K-12,” Massey said. “It is a part of that process.”

The days when researchers and advocates had to explain why preschool is important are, for the most part, over. But despite groundbreaking programs in many states, several speakers said policymakers have a long way to go to create a nationwide system that truly integrates preschool into the broader education process. And that means creating an environment in which preschool teachers are looked upon as true peers of their counterparts in the K-12 system.

“We need to stop drawing this firewall between teachers who teacher preschool education and those who are in the K-12 arena,” said Brenda Lilienthal Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. (NASBE), one of the coalition members.

And this will require concerted leadership from the top – at all levels of government: federal, state and local, several speakers said.

“We often talk about distributing best practices,” Welburn said. “We don’t talk enough about distributing model policies.”

In the past 10 years, preschool enrollment has grown by more than 70 percent and public schools are involved as never before. But even in model programs, such as the one at Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, Minn., Principal Jon H. Millerhagen said it takes considerable effort to get all groups with a stake in early education to come to the table.  For example, curriculum directors need to collaborate with preschool teachers to ensure the most effective alignment of the preschool curriculum with the rest of the elementary school program, Millerhagen said at the news conference.

Another issue is the stability of funding. Washburn’s preschool program has been widely praised, and it is supported by grants from several foundations. But in order for all public preschool programs to be sustainable in the long run, they must have a reliable source of funding, Millerhagen said.

In addition to NSBA and NASBE, the coalition includes the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Education Association.

Lawrence Hardy|October 4th, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Preschool Education, Reports, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Is NCLB hurting top students?

The following post was originally posted on the Center for Publc Education’s blog The Edifier.

It’s déjà vu all over again. Back in 2008 the Fordham Institute claimed in this report that our nation’s best students were being hurt by current education reform efforts, particularly No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Fast forward to earlier this week where Fordham released another report to once again try to show that our education reforms are being targeted at our low performing students at the expense of our top students. The similarities don’t end with both studies examining the performance of high achieving students, in both reports Fordham’s conclusions don’t fit what their own data says.

In the 2008 study Fordham argued our top students were being left behind because their gains were not as large as the gains low performing students made post-NCLB. I argued then that their own data didn’t fit their claim. Once again, Fordham claims that our top students are being left behind don’t fit their own data. As a matter of fact, according to Fordham’s report the gap in math scores between low- (those scoring below 10th percentile) and high-performing (those score above the 90th percentile) did not significantly change as students moved from 3rd to 8th grade or from 6th to 10th grade. The good news is that all students made consistent gains, unfortunately for low-performing students their performance still lagged way behind. The story is a bit different in reading where gaps did close between the lowest and highest performing students. However, Fordham sees this gap closing as a negative even though high performing students continued to make significant gains between the 3rd and 8th grades. It was just that low-performing students made even greater gains during that period.

Just as I argued in 2008, this is how gaps should be narrowed, where everyone improves but the lowest performers improve at a faster rate. However, Fordham didn’t agree with me then and I’ll safely assume they won’t agree with me now. We will just have to agree to disagree because I don’t believe the data shows our best students are being short changed simply because our lowest performers are making more progress than our highest performing students. Now that doesn’t mean our schools or our education policies should focus solely on our lowest performing students. Educators and policymakers need to ensure that ALL students have an opportunity to reach their highest academic potential before they go onto college or the workplace. Yet, neither Fordham study provides compelling data that our schools are short changing our highest performing students.

Yes, educators and policymakers need to focus on our highest achieving students as international test scores show we have a much smaller proportion advanced students than the leading countries such as South Korea and Finland but the same international tests show we also have a much larger proportion of very low-performers than most other industrialized nations. And students with such low achievement have little chance to go onto any sort of postsecondary education or find a good job that pays a living wage and offers benefits. So we need to at least sustain the gains our highest achievers are making since many will be our country’s future innovators, policymakers and business leaders. At the same time we need to accelerate the gains our lowest achieving students are making so they at least have the minimal skills necessary to either go onto earn some sort of postsecondary degree/certificate or find a good job. Doing so is not a zero-sum game. If we provide our teachers with the training, resources, and support they need, they can improve the performance of all students.

Jim Hull|September 23rd, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

CPE study shows impact of parental involvement on achievement

Get parents involved in their children’s education, and good things are bound to happen. That’s a statement that most everyone invested in the public schools — including parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members – can support.

But “parent involvement,” though widely praised, is a rather nebulous term encompassing a broad range of activities, from volunteering in the classroom, to helping children with homework, to serving on the PTA. Are certain types volunteering more effective than others when it comes to supporting a school’s most basic mission: raising student achievement?

The Center for Public Education — a research arm of the National School Boards Association – looked at this question by examining dozens of studies on various types of parent involvement.  Its conclusion:  The best things school leaders can do to improve achievement is to involve parents in the academic life of their children — by asking parents to monitor homework assignments, for example, and by setting high goals and encouraging college preparation.

“Families working in close partnerships with teachers can have a measurable impact on their children’s academic achievement, particularly when they are focused on helping students do well in school,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “While parent involvement is no substitute for good classroom instruction, it can make the job much easier for everyone — teachers, parents, guardians, and students themselves.”

Parents want to be involved in their children’s education, something that holds true regardless of their race and ethnicity or income level. For example, the study found that 82 percent of white parents checked their children’s homework. And those numbers were even higher for African-American parents (94 percent) and Hispanics (91 percent.) According to the report’s Executive Summary, studies “have shown that lower-income and minority parents often have the same level of involvement in education as others – even though it may not necessarily be reflected at PTA meetings or school fundraisers.”

“The vast majority of parents are involved and want their children to succeed,” Barth said. “However, the school may not be seeing it.”

The report — “Back to School: How Parent Involvement Affects Student Achievement” – looked at literacy programs in Minnesota and initiatives in West Virginia in which parents received learning packages in reading and math and training on how to use them. Among of the most effective programs, the report said, is an initiative run by Johns Hopkins University called TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork).

A study of a TIPS writing program in Baltimore found that parent involvement at two middle schools increased the writing scores for 700 sixth- and eighth-grade students. And the more TIPS homework the students did, the better their language arts grades.

 

Lawrence Hardy|August 30th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Reports, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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