Articles tagged with Patte Barth

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

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

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

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

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

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

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

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

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

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

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

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

see full data tables

 

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. students doing quite well compared to international peers, CPE director writes

Even though the United States does not rank number one—or even close—in subjects on international tests, that doesn’t mean that our schools are failing, Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, writes in an online column for the Huffington Post.

In “The Kids are All Right-er,” Barth analyzes recent international test results to show that U.S. students, particularly in the early years, are doing quite well. It’s adults, actually, who really could use some improvement.

“In many ways, the popular storyline that U.S. students get crushed in international comparisons is a distortion of the actual record,” she writes. “Truth is, our fourth- and eighth-graders consistently score above average, and do especially well in reading and science. Even our high school students are slightly above average in those subjects, falling below in math only.”

She notes that the recent NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study also found that if Massachusetts and Vermont were their own countries, they would stand with the highest-achieving nations.

Read more of her analysis in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Diversity, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

CPE discusses resurgence of “Ability Grouping” in video chat

The Center for Public Education’s (CPE) Director Patte Barth joined the Huffington Post today for a video chat on “’Ability Grouping’ in Schools.”

The segment discussed the classroom practice of “ability grouping,” often known as clustering, of students by their strengths and abilities. The practice declined in the 1980s and 1990s because of concerns over inequalities, according to a recent article in Salon magazine, “The Return of Ability Grouping,” that inspired the video chat. The online chat asked, “Why are we revisiting a teaching method that we abandoned back in the 1990′s?”

Barth noted that two decades ago, students usually stayed in the same “track” that they started from first grade through high school, and the track became “a self-fulfilling prophecy.” However, the standards-based reform movement and mindset that all children need to achieve at high levels changed the landscape, she said, adding that teachers now know that they cannot let struggling students falls behind.

“All of these children are able, but the grouping needs to be dynamic” so that the structure does not become too rigid, Barth said.

 

Watch the archived chat at HUFFPOST Live.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|June 12th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |

Not much data available on school turnaround models, new CPE report finds

Turnaround strategies for low-performing schools are getting a lot of attention from states and the federal government—which are spending billions of dollars on those efforts. But do these strategies work?

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE)  finds that while there have been some successes there’s not much evidence yet that many of these strategies will work on a larger scale.

The report, “Which Way Up?  What research says about school turnaround strategies,” reviews numerous methods of school improvement to determine which, if any, hold the most promise, but finds that in most cases it’s too early to tell.

“With the significant federal investment and mandated models to ‘turnaround’ low-performing schools, we have limited research to date on the effectiveness of these strategies and little guidance on what actually works,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “We know that school improvement funding is extremely important, but it should encourage innovation, instead of mandating unnecessary federal restrictions.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has placed a larger focus on turnaround strategies by identifying schools with low performance and sizable achievement gaps. The main federal turnaround program, the School Improvement Grant (SIG), targets schools in the bottom 5 percent nationwide with four models of reform ranging from replacing staff to shutting down a school. These strategies are echoed in the federal Race to the Top grants and so-called Parent Trigger laws being introduced in a handful of states.

One federal study showed that two-thirds of SIG grant recipients posted gains with the infusion of federal funds, but because the report was based on only one year’s data, it was too early to draw conclusions.

“The focus on the nation’s lowest performing schools is vitally important so we can make sure all students have the benefit of a solid public education,” said Patte Barth, CPE’s Director. “In these efforts, education policymakers need to balance the need for evidence-based strategies while tapping the potential for local innovation, especially in cases like turnaround strategies where the data is limited.”

In examining research on the impact of school closure, restart, transformation, and turnaround models, the report concludes:

  • Research is limited. There is some evidence of success, primarily for schools undertaking more dramatic turnaround reforms, but data collected over a longer period of time is needed.
  • The vast majority of SIG schools — about three-quarters are choosing the “transformation model” which provides the most flexibility for local planners.
  • Replacing a majority of teachers—required in the turnaround model—presents challenges for some schools. Rural schools are particularly challenged to find enough teachers to meet the replacement requirements.
  • Rural schools also face difficulties with the restart model since they have limited access to private management organizations. The closure model also may not be feasible if they have no other schools in which to send students. Even in urban areas, a closure model seems to be promising only when students can transfer to schools with higher achievement rates.
  • Replacing a principal may show promise, as some studies indicate principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student learning.  But the strategy is new and again, the data is limited.

NSBA has repeatedly voiced concerns about the U.S. Department of Education’s mandates and overreach, which hinder school officials’ abilities to address their unique local needs. In response to NSBA concerns, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386) has been introduced and now has 15 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ensure that the agency engages local school boards much more to preclude federal requirements that are ineffective and beyond local school district capacity.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Mayoral Control, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

CPE Director sorts out facts and myths of the Common Core

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has already started in 46 states and the District of Columbia—bringing major changes to public schools in those states. But such a large undertaking also brings many myths and misconceptions about the curricular changes.

Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association, writes about what some of the changes will mean for public education in a column for the Huffington Post, “The Common Core Standards: Truths, Untruths and Ambiguities.”

“Despite their high-profile supporters, not everyone is feeling the common core love and a handful of early adopting states are experiencing second thoughts,” she writes. “These are legitimate debates for us to have. Indeed, something this central to public education demands it.”

Read more at the Huffington Post.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 29th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Finance, Educational Research, National Standards, Policy Formation, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Longer school days do not always boost student learning

Are more school hours worth the cost?

It depends, but so far research hasn’t always justified the expense, says Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE), in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Adding hours to a school day seems logical, and often is popular with parents and policymakers. But it’s costly and research on the practice has been mixed, she writes. Studies so far indicate that the success of extended time depends on how the time is used—whether it is for academics or extracurricular activities—and the quality of curriculum and teaching.

“The gains aren’t always spectacular especially in relation to the expense,” Barth writes for the blog.

She points to a recent CPE report, “Time in School: How Does the U.S. Compare?” that did not find a strong correlation between time and student outcomes in other countries—Finland, which boasts top rankings, requires the least hours compared to low-scoring Italy which requires the most, Barth says.

“Other research shows that more school time can relate to more learning, as long as the time is focused on academic learning,” she writes. “Year-round schooling can also be helpful by preventing summer learning loss and the need to spend the first weeks of school reviewing material that’s already been taught, which is arguably a waste of the time schools already have.”

Barth gives tips to schools that are looking to add more time or maximize students’ time already spent at school. Read the Huffington Post  for more advice.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 6th, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, School Reform|Tags: , , , |

Kentucky leads on Common Core

When its state legislature passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act more than two decades ago, the Bluegrass State was lauded as a leader in K-12 education reform.

“In 1990, we were the darling,” said David Baird, associate executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “Everyone was looking to Kentucky and saying, ‘What a wonderful reform you have done.’”

Kentucky basked in that praise for many years – maybe too many years, Baird said Monday. Like just about every other state, even with education reform, too many of its high school graduates were needing remediation when they got to college.

But Kentucky snapped out of its complacency in 2009 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 1, a new education reform initiative that just happened to dovetail nicely with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Once again, Kentucky was the first state to raise the bar.

Baird and Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, talked Monday morning at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., about what school districts should expect from the Common Core – and what the Common Core expects of them. Described as “fewer, clearer, higher,” the new standards aim to help all students be prepared for college or the 21st century workforce.

A state-led program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, the Common Core standards in math and language arts have so far been embraced by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It is built upon the strengths of current state standards.

“[NSBA] supports these because they are state-led,” Barth said, but added that the organization expects more financial support for the program.

“We support more funding to go to research and support of assessments,” Barth said.

Two consortia are developing assessments to align with the common core. The assessments are scheduled to be released during the 2014-15 school year; it’s a scenario that doesn’t give school districts a lot of time.

Among the biggest changes in language arts standards will be a new emphasis on exploring and analyzing nonfiction texts, Barth said. She said U. S. students score highly on international comparisons on their ability to analyze fiction, but do less well on expository texts.

Some English teachers have been critical of the standards, believing it would force them to limit the teaching of literature, but Barth said the aim is to spread the requirements for nonfiction reading across the curriculum and to all teachers.

 

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National Standards, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , , , |

School choice doesn’t lead to equal choices, CPE director writes for Huffington Post

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, writes about the perils of the school choice movement in a new blog for the Huffington Post. Barth, a leading researcher, takes on claims that more choices lead to a better education for children.

She writes: “Unfortunately, the opportunities choice advocates propose do not bring a guarantee that the choice will be a good one for kids, and it can even be worse. School districts have been experimenting with choices for over 20 years, first in the form of charter schools and vouchers that individuals can take to private schools, and more recently, virtual schools. Clearly, some myth-busting schools of choice have demonstrated that low-income children can absolutely achieve to the highest levels — just as some noteworthy traditional public schools have. But research to date has not produced any evidence that ‘choice and competition’ in itself produces consistently better results.”

With the exception of schools such as KIPP Academies and the Harlem Children’s Zone, many alternative schools have not produced better academic results than the students’ previous schools, Barth notes.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |
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