American science performance is lagging as the economy becomes increasingly high tech, but our current science standards are doing little to solve the problem. Today Fordham is releasing “The State of State Science Standards 2012,” a new evaluation of science standards from every state and the District of Columbia, and our experts’ findings are deeply troubling: The majority of states earned Ds or Fs for their standards in this crucial subject, with only a handful of jurisdictions receiving As.
In particular, state standards struggled with vagueness and an overemphasis on “inquiry-based learning” instruction, while overwhelmingly failing to clearly convey the crucial connection between math and science. Although the treatment of evolution has improved since Fordham’s last assessment of state science standards in 2005, many states still miss the mark on teaching this vital topic.
As 26 states work with Achieve, Inc. to produce multi-state Next Generation Science Standards over the coming year, this report emphasizes both the urgency of their efforts and the stakes involved.
Explore all the state report cards to see how your state performed and register to attend or stream tomorrow’s panel...
American science performance is lagging as the economy becomes increasingly high tech, but our current science standards are doing little to solve the problem. Reviewers evaluated science standards for every state for this report and their findings were deeply troubling: The majority of states earned Ds or Fs for their standards in this crucial subject, with only six jurisdictions receiving As. Explore all the state report cards and see how your state performed.
When it comes to low-performing schools, we seem to be witnessing the same thing over and over—not unlike the classic movie, Groundhog Day.Ground Hog Day
A recent study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute tracked about 2,000 low-performing schools and found that the vast majority of them remained open and remained low-performing after five years. Very few were significantly improved. So, are failing schools fixable?
Join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a lively and provocative debate about that question. Fordham VP Mike Petrilli will moderate, and the discussion will be informed, in part, by Fordham's study, Are Bad Schools Immortal? The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors.
California Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State address last week got the anti-reform crowd all atwitter (and a-Twitter) when he called for scaling back testing and reducing the federal and state roles in California education. Diane Ravitch swooned, writing in a blog post that Brown and his Sunshine State compatriots “may provide the spark that ignites a national revolt against the current tide of bad ideas.” In one respect, both Brown and Ravitch have it right: Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top and conditional NCLB waivers mark a high-water mark for federal intrusion in K-12 education and it is understandable for governors to chafe at such strong-arming from Washington. But California is hardly the place to look for good ideas. Its student achievement results trail other states’ by a mile, and its poor and minority students are doing terribly compared to their peers in other, more reform-minded states. (Texas and Florida come to mind.) We have no qualms with mid-course adjustments to the reform agenda (getting test results back in an expedited manner, for example—something Brown championed). But let’s not just toss...
Last week, Education First and the EPE Research Center released a report entitled Preparing for Change. It’s the first of three that will look at whether states have developed Common Core implementation plans that address three key challenges:
Developing a plan for teacher professional development,
planning to align/revamp state-created curricular and instructional materials, and
making changes to teacher evaluation systems.
Many CCSS supporters cheered at the main finding, which indicated that all but one state—Wyoming—“reported having developed some type of formal implementation plan for transitioning to the new, common standards.” There is cause for excitement—this is a clear indication that states are taking CCSS implementation seriously and that they are working to reorient their education systems to the new standards.
That said, while developing implementation plans is an essential step, it’s far more critical to ensure that those plans are worth following—that they properly identify the gaps in teacher knowledge and skills so they can target state-led PD efforts, for example, and that they prioritize the essential components of the CCSS in state-created curricula and instructional materials. This report doesn’t get...
Into the contentious debate over teacher effectiveness and value-added metrics (VAM) comes this important, timely, and supersized analysis, conducted by a trio of respected economists with the NBER, showing that the impact of good teachers follows their students into adulthood. The analysts pull data from 18 million test scores from roughly 2.5 million children over two decades (1988 to 2009). They note changes in teaching staff and find that, when high-value-added teachers (top 5 percent) joined a school, end-of-year test scores rose immediately in the grade taught by those teachers. In addition, a one standard deviation (SD) increase in a teacher's value-added score raises student achievement by 0.1 SD on average across math and ELA (which equates to roughly one to two months of learning in a year).
The researchers also meticulously track subsets of students into young adulthood (using income-tax records, W-2 forms, university-tuition payments, social-security forms, etc.) and find that the pupils assigned to teachers with higher value added across all grades are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods, and save more for retirement. Further,...
In the discussion about ESEA reauthorization, people on both sides of the aisle have recognized the importance of setting rigorous standards aligned to college- and career-readiness expectations. The Obama Administration has, for instance, required that states adopt college- and career-ready standards as part of its ESEA waiver process. Similarly, Republican-sponsored ESEA reauthorization proposals (which Mike wrote about in a post yesterday) also ask states to set college- and career-readiness standards for students.
While this focus on setting clear and sufficiently rigorous standards is important, it is also insufficient. After all, if we’ve learned anything from 10 years of NCLB implementation, it’s that the act of setting standards doesn’t translate to increased student achievement unless those standards are meaningfully implemented in the classroom. And, one of the most important things for states to do to ensure strong implementation is to hold students accountable for actually learning the content laid out in the standards.
While the focus on setting clear and sufficiently rigorous standards is important, it is also insufficient.
Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, too many states—even those with...
Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus Preparatory Academy, a K-8 Mosaica-run charter school on Columbus’s west side that is a poster child for the successful turnaround of a troubled school.
In 2008, the school was rated F by the state and student performance on state assessments was abysmal. Today the school is rated A+ (aka, Excellent with Distinction) and boasts achievement levels that best that of nearly all of the area’s top-performing schools (and are leaps and bounds above the state’s definition of “proficiency”). This transformation was achieved while the school continued serving a challenged student population – about 72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch – and retained nearly all of the same teachers and staff members who were working in the school when it was failing (in a school that now employs 30 teachers, the principal said just seven or eight teachers have left during his four-year tenure).
So what are the keys to CPA’s success? Two things immediately stand out:
Leadership. Principal Chad Carr (who has led the turnaround...
"Race to the Top states have made tremendous strides in this first year," raved Arne Duncan in a Tuesday press release, praising the “courage and commitment” that the twelve first-round grant recipients had shown in implementing their proposals. In a dozen state-by-state progress reports, the Department of Education described a year of great progress with only a few bad actors—Florida, New York, and Hawaii—who, rest assured, would be dealt with shortly. Kudos to Duncan for calling out three RttT winners guilty of minimal progress, but the rosy overall assessment is troubling. Every single state has reneged on at least one aspect of its proposal, and most are just beginning to spend the billions Uncle Sam doled out in a competition that looks increasingly more like a stroll than a sprint. While it’s probably unreasonable to expect much more in the way of critical self-reflection from the Obama Administration in an election year, stating the obvious isn’t the same as accountability. Here’s hoping that the folks at 400 Maryland Avenue are much more concerned than Tuesday’s reports suggest.
The first set of preliminary findings from the Gates-funded Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project generated much conversation—and some criticism. This latest report, also preliminary, is not much different. (Remember that this $45 million project seeks to ferret out, or design, an optimal teacher-evaluation system through the analysis of student test scores, surveys, and thousands of hours of classroom observations.) While the first iteration compared student scores with survey responses, this one analyzes the predictive strength of five frameworks for classroom observations (think D.C.’s IMPACT program for an idea of what they look like). The study finds that, while each method is positively correlated to pupil achievement (on both state tests and independent tests), the reliability of observations pales in comparison to value-added measures (VAM): The reliability of VAM is about double that of a single observation—from any of the tested measurement systems. Predictive abilities increase significantly when VAM and student-survey data are combined with classroom observations—leading the authors to recommend use of multiple measures when evaluating teachers. In response, Jay Greene has again sounded the battle cry. And...