In 2005, Achieve and the National Governors Association hosted a National Education Summit on High Schools where forty-five governors came together with business leaders to address an ongoing challenge in American education: the gap between what students need to master to earn high school diplomas, and the knowledge and skills they need to be prepared for college and careers. Every year since, Achieve has released its annual “Closing the Expectations Gap” report, aimed at highlighting the progress states have made—and need to make—to better align K-12 and postsecondary education expectations.
The challenge is that tracking implementation is tricky.
The first report, released in 2006, focused primarily on whether high school academic standards and graduation requirements were aligned to “college and workplace expectations.” (In all but two states, they hadn’t been, though as many as thirty-five states were working towards it.) This year, the landscape has obviously shifted dramatically: Thanks in part to the Common Core, schools in every state and the District of Columbia are guided by standards that are aligned to College and Career Ready (CCR) expectations.
Of course, that means that the report must shift to match the changing landscape. To that end, this year’s report has, for the first time, begun to track state progress towards implementation of the standards. According to the authors, the report “provides an overview of the progress states are making” and it “draws attention to key issues states should consider as adoption and implementation
The Pioneer Institute released a report last week entitled How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness At Risk. As the title suggests, this is the latest in a series of Pioneer broadsides against the Common Core. Readers who find their way through the reflexive criticism and confusing presentation will be rewarded with some genuine insights into how to get implementation right. Unfortunately, because that guidance is buried deep amidst a sea of misrepresentations and sometimes inflammatory rhetoric, it is unlikely to further the discussion of how best to implement the CCSS.
The authors hammer home their message with all the subtlety of a wrecking crew.
The authors hammer home their message with all the subtlety of a wrecking crew: The Common Core English language arts expectations are poor—far lower in terms of content, clarity, and rigor than the Massachusetts English language arts standards, they clearly believe—and their adoption in states across the country “places college readiness at risk.”
The reality—as evidenced by the substance of the report, if not its title—is far more nuanced. And the authors of this report, Mark Bauerlein and Sandra Stotsky, have much to contribute to the discussion of how best to implement the CCSS.
For starters, and despite the promotional material Pioneer has issued surrounding this publication and its associated event, Huck Finn is not in at risk of disappearing from high school English class. At least not any more so today than it was the day
Robert Pondiscio, a vice president at the Core Knowledge Foundation and editor of its blog, posed an interesting question on Twitter this week:
I’ve seen bad schools with good test scores before. Any good schools with bad test scores?
It’s a timely and important question that gets to the heart of the emerging debate over whether standardized tests can fairly and accurately measure student learning, and whether accountability systems based on their results are too often mislabeling successful teachers and schools as “failures.”
Obviously, no accountability system is perfect, but we can all agree that one that gets it wrong as often as it gets it right is in need of serious reform. But is there any proof that is happening?
No accountability system is perfect, but we can all agree that one that gets it wrong as often as it gets it right is in need of serious reform.
Enter Kristina Rizga, a Berkeley-educated muckraking journalist who recently took the reins as the education reporter at Mother Jones after stints at Wiretap Magazine and AlterNet. In preparation for her new article, “Everything You’ve Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong,” Rizga spent a year “embedded” in Mission High School in San Francisco. Her goal was to seek a “grassroots view of America’s latest run at school reform,” with an eye towards how we know “when schools are failing,” and whether “the close to $4.4 billion spent on testing since 2002…[is] getting results.” The
Up until now, the Common Core (CCSS) English language arts (ELA) standards were considered path-breaking mostly because of their reach: This wasn’t the first time a group attempted to write “common” standards, but it is the first time they’ve gained such traction. But the Common Core ELA standards are revolutionary for another, less talked about, reason: They define rigor in reading and literature classrooms more clearly and explicitly than nearly any of the state ELA standards that they are replacing. Now, as the full impact of these expectations starts to take hold, the decision to define rigor—and the way it is defined—is fanning the flames of a debate that threatens to open up a whole new front in America’s long-running “Reading Wars.”
A new front opens on a war worth waging.
Photo by Ben Stephenson.
The first and most divisive front in that conflict was the debate over the importance of phonics in early-reading instruction. Thanks to the 2000 recommendations of the National Reading Panel and the 2001 “Reading First” portion of No Child Left Behind, the phonics camp has largely won this battle. Now, while there remain
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
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