Articles in the Student Achievement category

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

Watch NSBA’s President on Education Nation today

Update: The video for “Going Local: What A City Can Do For Its Schools,” is now archived at educationnation.com.

This week, NBC News is hosting its second annual Education Nation Week and Summit. NBC News is promoting the 2011 Education Nation as a way to, “address the developments, challenges, and progress of the past year, as well as identify and explore new, exciting opportunities to reinvent America as an Education Nation.”

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) President Mary Broderick and Executive Director Anne L. Bryant are representing NSBA at the Education Nation Summit. Broderick will be on the Education Nation panel, “Going Local: What A City Can Do For Its Schools,” scheduled for today, September 27 from 1 – 2 pm EDT. Broderick will be joined by mayors and community leaders to discuss how they’re addressing education.

NBC News’ Lester Holt will moderate this session. The Twitter hashtag for this session is #LocalEdNat.

Mary will be a panelist in the second part of the session with:

  • Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque
  • Mayor Cory Booker of Newark
  • Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence

The first part of the session will feature:

  • Michael Brown, CEO & Co-Founder of City Year, Inc
  • Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance
  • Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia
  • Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore

 

The session is scheduled to be live web streamed on the South Stage feed.
View it here:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Additionally, during Education Nation, Bryant will serve an education expert on EducationNation.com.  Bryant will be answering users’ questions. To ask her a question or to view questions Bryant has already answered, go to the Ask an Expert page .

Alexis Rice|September 27th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Announcements, Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, School Board News, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|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: , , , , |

The week in blogs

The College Board didn’t make a big deal about falling SAT scores when it released the annual results this week: It chose, instead, to emphasize that nearly 1.65 million students had taken the nationwide test, the largest and most diverse group in history.

“The good news is we have more students thinking about college than ever before,” James Montoya, a College Board vice president, told the Washington Post. “Anytime you expand the number of students taking the SAT and expand it the way that we have — into communities that have not necessarily been part of the college-going culture — it’s not surprising to see a decline of a few points.”

Still, the headline on the Post’s story – SAT Reading Scores Drop to Lowest Point in Decades – was pretty stark. Was this mainly the result of the expanding pool of test-takers or evidence of a more general decline? Bloggers were all over the map on that.

Still blaming poor SAT scores on test-takers?” wrote Robert Pondiscio on the Core Knowledge Blog. He said that argument “was effectively dismissed by E. D. Hirsch [Core Knowledge’s founder] when scores were announced last year.”

“What changed,” Hirsch wrote back then, “has less to do with demographic data than with “the anti-intellectual ideas that fully took over first teacher-training schools and then the teachers and administrators they trained.”

Bill Tucker, of the Quick and the Ed, had a different take on the data –and the response. He called the latter “SAT score hysteria” and pointed out that the College Board itself said, in a news release, that “a decline in mean scores does not necessarily mean a decline in performance.”

Perhaps the most measured approach to the data was from Jim Hull, a policy analyst with NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

“No matter the reason, the drop in SAT scores over the past several years is a cause for concern,” Hull wrote. “Yes, more students are taking the SAT than ever before — which is a good thing — but that can cause scores to drop. Yet, more students are also taking the ACT and those scores have increased. With no clear national explanation, it is important for districts and individual schools to examine their own ACT and SAT results to gain a better understanding of how prepared their students actually are for college.”

Other important postings this week included the Post’s Valerie Strauss on new national statistics showing that 22 percent of American children are living in poverty, and a telling graphic of what it really costs a poor family to eat in This Week in Education. (In short: Just because you have a refrigerator, doesn’t mean you’re not poor, as some commentators have claimed.)

Also on Strauss’ site, read a guest post by Dana Smith, a member of the board of directors of the New York State School Boards Association, on what it was like to be bullied in school.

Lawrence Hardy|September 16th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, School Boards, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , |

Finalists announced in NSBA annual urban ed award

NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) is pleased to announce that Boston Public Schools, Washoe County Public Schools and the Mesquite Independent School District have been selected as finalists for the 2011 CUBE Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

Identified by an independent panel based on data provided by the school district and their state school boards association, the finalists were chosen based on the following four criteria: excellence in school board governance, ability to build civic capacity, commitment to equity in education, and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

“All three of the finalists have made extraordinary efforts to reach students and increase student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “The CUBE Award finalists are proof that diverse urban school districts can succeed, even during difficult economic times.”
(more…)

Naomi Dillon|September 8th, 2011|Categories: CUBE Annual Conference 2010, Diversity, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|

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: , , |

The week in blogs

In school board circles — you might say, “school board lore” — it’s known simply as “The Blueberry Story.” But for our purposes, we’ll call it “The Blueberry Question” and add that any audience query that backs a public speaker into a corner (a rightfully deserved corner, some might say) “A Blueberry Question.” This week, in a Washington Post blog, Mary Fertakis, a board member for the Tukwila (Wash.) School District, describes a classic “Blueberry Question” she asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan last winter during NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference.

More on that later. But first, the original. In case you haven’t heard it, here it is, very briefly: Many years ago, Jamie Vollmer, an ice cream entrepreneur and public school critic who wanted schools run more like businesses, was questioned by a polite veteran English teacher after one of his lectures. She asked if he makes great ice cream, and, as he would later describe, he fell into “the trap.” After he raved about the quality of his ice cream and all its premium ingredients, she asked what he did if he got an inferior shipment of blueberries.

“I send them back,” he said, already sensing that he was a goner.

Then the teacher gave an eloquent speech about schools not being able to send back their blueberries – the blueberries, of course, being children, who arrive at school rich or poor, speaking English or not, well-adjusted or troubled. Vollmer thought about that, and soon thereafter his attitude shifted ’s 180 degrees and he became a champion for the public schools.

So, what was Fertakis’ “Blueberry Question? As she describes it in the Post’s Answer Sheet blog, her question to Duncan was this: “Should children have to compete for their education?” and of course, his answer, indeed anyone’s answer, had to be “no.” But then he was left to explain why Race to the Top, which Fertakis says pits small, rural, and disadvantaged school districts against larger, wealthier ones, is good policy.

Duncan’s no Vollmer (I’m talking pre-Blueberry-Question Vollmer) and he’s doing all he can to help close the achievement gap. But Fertakis column is an eloquent account of what it’s like to lead what the New York Times once called the “most diverse school district in the United States.”

There was a lot more in the national press this week, including a National Journal experts’ blog on bullying. The forum takes, as its starting point, NSBA’s recently launched Students on Board initiative, which encourages board members to get a better understanding of their schools through talking directly to students.

Also, see the sobering report Kids Count, from the Anne E. Casey Foundation, which found that child poverty increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. And nearly 8 million children in 2009 were living with at least one parent who was unemployed but looking for a job.

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|August 19th, 2011|Categories: Diversity, School Boards, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school climate and bullying on Comcast Newsmakers

BoardBuzz recommends you check out Mary Broderick, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers.

Broderick discusses school climate, bullying, and cyberbullying, and promotes NSBA’s Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Studentsproject to get school board members across the country to start talking with students about school climate.

Alexis Rice|August 18th, 2011|Categories: Bullying, Center for Public Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Climate, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Making progress preparing more students for college

A similar review with a summary of additional findings can be found on NSBA’s Center for Public Education’s blog The Edifier.

There was a slight increase in the percent of 2011 high school graduates ready for college English, math, social science, and science courses, according to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011 report released today. 

It is good news that the percent of students considered “college ready” increased, especially since it has been increasing for several years. This shows our high schools are graduating more students ready to succeed in college. This is likely because more students are taking more rigorous courses. As the Center’s Chasing the College Acceptance Letter found, those students who take more rigorous courses increase their chances of getting into a good college at a greater rate than students who simply improve their grades.

However, the results also show that progress has been slow and gaps between groups of students persist. The progress needs to accelerate exponentially to close the gap between the percent of students who want to go onto earn a 4-year degree (83 percent) and those who are “college ready” (25 percent) so they are adequately prepared for such college level work when they enter college. Yes, high schools are on the right track, but there is much more work to be done to truly meet the needs of their students.

For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Date First website.

Jim Hull|August 17th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, High Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Reports, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Does ‘proficient’ equate to college or career ready in your state?

This was also published in The EDifier.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education released a new report, Mapping State Proficiency Standards onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2009. The report enables states to compare the rigor of their standards for proficiency in fourth and eighth grades in both math and reading to that of other states. To do so, it places each state’s assessment cut-score for proficiency — the score which students much reach to be considered proficient — onto NAEP’s scoring scale using statistical mapping techniques. This means it shows where on NAEP’s scoring scale a student would fall if that student scored right at the state’s cut-score for proficiency on the state assessment.

Example: If a fourth grader in Vermont scored at the proficient cut-score on the Vermont state assessment, that score would correspond to a score of 214 on NAEP, which falls within NAEP’s Basic Achievement Level.

What did the report find?

  • The differences where states set their proficiency standards vary greatly.
    • The difference in scores between the states with the five highest and lowest standards is comparable to the difference in scores between NAEP’s Basic and Proficient levels.
    • The range of state standards is between 60 and 71 NAEP points, which equates to about six or seven years of learning. It is also more than twice the size of the Black/White achievement gap in 4th grade reading, which is 25 NAEP points.
  • Most state’s proficiency standards are at or below NAEP’s definition of Basic performance.
    • In grade 4 reading, 35 of 50 states set their standard for proficiency lower than NAEP’s cut-score for its Basic level. For grade 8 reading, 16 out of the 50 states did so.
    • In grade 4 math, seven of 50 states set their score for proficiency below the cut score for NAEP’s Basic level, with 42 states setting their proficiency score within NAEP’s Basic level. One state—Massachusetts—set its proficiency score within NAEP’s Proficiency level. Similar results were found in at the 8th grade level.
  • The rigor of state standards increased in states that substantively changed their assessments between 2007 and 2009.
    • Across the 34 math and reading assessments that substantively changed between 2007 and 2009, in 21 cases the rigor of the standards increased.
    • In just 5 cases did the rigor of the state standards decrease.
  • Most state results show more positive changes in the proportion of students reaching proficiency than NAEP results.
    • The change in the percent of students reaching proficiency between 2007 and 2009 was more positive in 17 of 22 state assessments than on NAEP.

Keep in mind when reading the report that NAEP does not necessarily define proficiency the same way states do. NAEP defines Proficiency as competency over challenging subject matter, not grade-level performance as states attempt to do. It is also worth mentioning that no country, not even the highest performing countries, would have 100 percent of their students reach NAEP’s Proficiency level. and that some leading assessment experts have stated that proficiency for accountability purposes probably lies somewhere between NAEP’s Basic and Proficient levels.

Even with that in mind, the results should be a warning flag to many states, especially those who set their proficiency standard below NAEP’s Basic level. But this could be a moot point in the coming years, as most states have signed on to the Common Core of Standards, where the goal is college and career readiness, not proficiency as both state assessements and NAEP are currently setup to measure. In the meantime, states should still ensure they set their proficiency standards at a level where students demostrate they have the skills necessary to get into college or get a good job after high school.

For more information on how NAEP’s proficiency levels compare to states’, check out the Center for Public Education’s The proficiency debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Jim Hull|August 12th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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