Flypaper

Frustration and misinformation on the Common Core State Standards abound. But two cheers for Fox News for featuring Fordham trustee Mike Kelly to set the record straight.

Kelly not only quizzes Fox commentators on their math skills, but also makes it clear: The standards are not the problem; it’s implementation that’s messy. Some districts are choosing bad textbooks; some teachers aren’t communicating the changes as effectively as they could be. Of course, that’s all been true since the beginning of time. (Stay tuned for a report coming Wednesday that looks at these sorts of district-level Common Core challenges.)

And yes, Kelly stuck around to chat on Facebook.

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A first look at today's most important education news.
  • In a letter issued to members of the House Budget Committee, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon claimed the education budget for the current fiscal year overestimates the revenue actually available. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, critics claim the $2.15 Billion education budget will not be enough. (Missouri Net and Mississippi Public Broadcasting)
  • Obama’s forthcoming budget will include funding for early childhood education programs (The New York Times)
  • Although Support for Common Core is at a‘critical juncture’, the Georgia Senate committee unanimously voted for legislation that will force the state to retreat from the Common Core. (Politico Proand Online Athens)
  • There is no easy fix for the California's teacher pension fund which faces a $71-billion shortfall. (The Los Angeles Times)
  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to veto a school prayer billwhich codifies students’ right to pray in school; wear religious clothing or accessories; and express religious viewpoints at school forums. (Politico Pro)
  • Major companies contribute $750 million worth of products and free high-speed Internet services to schools as part of Obamasschool Internet initiative. (Politico Pro)
  • There are fears that schools are promoting vocational education in lieu of more academic subjects.  (Politico Pro)
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Morgan Polikoff

Of all the current political threats to the Common Core, the most dangerous is the brewing backlash from the teachers' unions. To be sure, the GOP-Tea Party rebellion against federal intrusion is also threatening and holds the possibility of leading to repeal in several states. However, I don't view that threat as particularly solvable—there's no policy tweak or line of argument that would convince those folks to change their minds in any major way. In contrast, the threat from teachers and the unions is relatively easily solved.

Both major unions have been vocal advocates of the Common Core so far, including conducting polls showing most teachers support the standards and building partnerships with tech companies to spur implementation. However, there are signs that support is wavering. In particular, Randi Weingarten (head of AFT) has been treading an increasingly fine line on Common Core—supportive of the standards, but also saying their implementation is 'far worse' than the Obamacare rollout and bashing teacher-evaluation policies in the same breath as she critiques Common Core. (Just yesterday, the NEA’s Dennis Van Roekel piled on with harsh words of his own.)

Let's be clear—the growing union pushback is to some extent about teacher evaluation. (How much one thinks it's really about evaluation probably depends on where one stands on the unions more generally.) But there is no inherent reason why Common Core and new teacher-evaluation policies have to be linked with one another. One need not have common standards to redesign teacher evaluation, and vice versa. The major unforced...

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The tough letter that senior House Republicans sent last week to Arne Duncan and Eric Holder should have been even tougher. For the “guidance” that their agencies issued to U.S. schools in the guise of improving school discipline can only make it harder for educators to create safe, serious, and effective learning environments.

Education Committee chairman John Kline and several colleagues politely wrote that this guidance could “have a chilling effect on teachers and school leaders working to address discipline issues with students; potentially leading to unruly and unsafe classrooms that could adversely affect student learning.”

That’s putting it mildly. University of Colorado political scientist Josh Dunn was blunter “The consequences for schools and particularly for minority students,” he wrote, “will be nothing short of disastrous if actually implemented.”

In the increasingly Orwellian language of our federal government, the “supportive school discipline initiative,” a joint undertaking of the Education and Justice Departments, began in mid-2011. Its declared purpose was “to support the use of school discipline practices that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments while keeping students in school.”

Sounds great, yes? And there’s no denying that some of the advice the feds proffered for “improving school climate” and establishing effective discipline codes is worth following. The “Guiding Principles” document that emerged from the Education Department alone contains some useful if often self-evident suggestions, such as “train all school staff to apply school discipline policies and practices in a fair and equitable manner.”

And if...

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A first look at today's most important education news:

  • In South Carolina an Anti-Common Core bill was put on hold and members were given a week to consider a "compromise”. Meanwhile Wisconsin state Superintendent Tony Evers wrote a letter to state residents asking with them to put an end to a vote on bills slated for today that could undo the state’s adoption of the Common Core.(The Post and Courier and Journal Sentinel) 
  • Gov. Cuomo’s Common Core panel recognized that success for the standards relies heavily on support from the general public. However The National Education Association has pulled back their support for the Common Core, stating that the standards will not succeed without major ‘course correction’. (Politico Pro)
  • The Education Achievement Authority has lost the exclusive right to work on improving and overseeing Michigan’s lowest-performing school districts. The State Superintendent, Mike Flanagan, wrote a letter ending the exclusive clause of the contract. (The Detroit News)
  •    New Legislation in California would prohibit education-related websites and online services for kindergartners through 12th graders from using the students’ personal information for “any reason other than what the school intended or for product maintenance”. (The New York Times)
  •  Washington rejected a change in teacher evaluations, potentially putting its NCLB waiver at risk and marking the first time a Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has lost a bill. (The Seattle Times)
  • Seven former employees of a for-profit trade school filed a lawsuit against school officials, claiming they falsified records to enroll students and mislead them about their career
  • ...
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A first look at today's most important education news:

Pearson's new iPad app may help students prepare for rigorous Common Core assessments. 
 
Louisiana follows in the footsteps of the many states that have re-branded the Common Core. 
 
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. plans to release a dramatic turnaround plan for the School District of Philadelphia. 
 
This week, Missouri Superintendent William Green spared the unaccredited Kansas City Public Schools from dissolution. Instead, the state and district will work together to bring to restore the district's accreditation. 
 
Kansas passes a Bill that allows corporeal punishment to be used in schools. 
 
Oakland, CA schools adding more fresh produce to school lunch menus.
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A first look at today's most important education news:

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Oops, he did it again. Eric Owens, the infamous Daily Caller “reporter” who has never seen a silly math problem he wasn’t willing to ascribe to the Common Core (the truth be damned!), has published yet another howler deploring a math problem purportedly of Common Core lineage. But this time he trades his trademark dishonesty for mathematical ignorance.

This flawed “front-end estimation” method wasn’t invented by the people behind Common Core. The concept—which refers to the correct answer to an addition problem as merely “reasonable” and allows students to be off by over 22 percent in their estimation—has been around for decades.

At the same time, the methodology is aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which attempts to standardize various K–12 curricula around the country.

This math lesson is just one more in the constantly burgeoning inventory of hideous Common Core math problems.

Being mathematically ignorant myself, I asked Jason Zimba, a lead author of the Common Core standards, if the standards do in fact promote this approach. Here’s what he had to say:

State standards have always set expectations for estimating the results of computations. Here for example was one of the previous California standards from grade 3:

“Use estimation to verify the reasonableness of calculated results.”

And here was one of the previous Indiana standards from grade 2:

“Use estimation to decide whether answers are reasonable in addition problems.”

And here was one of the previous Massachusetts standards from grade

...
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Yesterday, I jokingly tweeted that since today would be a snowy Friday before a holiday weekend, the U.S. Department of Education would probably release SIG data. (They’ve executed numerous SIG-related “Friday afternoon trash dumps” in an attempt to minimize the field’s attention to this failed—and massively expensive—program.)

Turns out my joke wasn’t funny at all. 

They’ve done it again.

As you might remember, several months ago, the Department released second-year results, meaning two years of data from cohort-one SIG schools and one year of data from cohort-two schools. But they had to retract the data because of mistakes made by a contractor.

So today, they’ve released the corrected information.

On a Friday afternoon.

Before a holiday weekend.

I’ve belabored the fiasco that is SIG, so I won’t pile on today. I just hope someone, someone, in the Department is saying, “If we find ourselves continually dumping bad SIG news, shouldn’t we just admit we messed up and ask Congress to end this program?”

Here’s what you need to know.

  • When the program launched, we were told that this now-$6 billion program would produce “dramatic” improvements in our most troubled schools. The Secretary talked of “transformation not tinkering.”
  • The most persistently low-performing schools in American got several million dollars, on average, and yet a third of them got worse.
  • On average, schools with two years of funding and interventions under their belts saw a three percentage point gain in reading proficiency—just about the same gain as all
  • ...
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Nothing helps pass the time better when you’re snowed in than some high-quality edu-reading. Here’s some of the best stuff I’ve come across recently.

Public Impact has produced a very good and very important report on “extraordinary authority districts,” entities like Louisiana’s Recovery School District. It’s exactly the kind of nuts-and-bolts document that’s needed right now. Many states are considering such bodies, and this is a thoughtful guide—informed by our experience to date—for how to do it right.

A group of University of Missouri researchers compared three different types of growth measures: “student-growth percentiles,” a.k.a. SGP (my preferred method), and two “value-added models,” a.k.a. VAM. They found that a VAM approach that incorporates a comparison of demographically similar schools produces the best results (for a number of reasons). The full working paper is a bit dense, but the shorter Education Next article is accessible and very informative. Growth measures are important and here to stay; this piece will help you bone up.

NACSA and Charter School Growth Fund have put together a good, short report on how to ensure that the charter sector’s future growth leads to more and more high-quality seats and fewer low-quality ones. It has valuable policy recommendations and even better suggestions for improving authorizer practice. I particularly liked the report’s view that authorizers aren’t just disinterested umpires—they also have a role to play in identifying and replicating great schools.

I really enjoyed Fordham’s recent...

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