January 8, 2007, was the fifth birthday of the No Child Left Behind Act. This isn't just another milestone to be celebrated (or mourned). The law is now due for an update from Congress. But will NCLB be reauthorized on schedule? What changes are likely? No one knows for sure, but the ubiquitous 'Washington insiders' might be in a better position than others to cast prognostications. While not a 'representative sample' of thousands, their inside knowledge adds valuable insight.
The Fordham Report 2006: How Well Are States Educating Our Neediest Children? appraises each state according to thirty indicators across three major categories: student achievement for low-income, African-American, and Hispanic students; achievement trends for these same groups over the last 10-15 years; and the state's track record in implementing bold education reforms. It finds that just eight states can claim even moderate success over the past 15 years at boosting the percentage of their poor or minority students who are at or above proficient in reading, math or science.
Two-thirds of schoolchildren in America attend class in states with mediocre (or worse) expectations for what their students should learn. That's just one of the findings of Fordham's The State of State Standards 2006, which evaluates state academic standards. The average state grade is a 'C-minus'--the same as six years earlier, even though most states revised their standards since 2000.
Is America's K-12 education system preparing students for life in a global village? Unfortunately, it is not. Renowned historian Walter Russell Mead, author of this report, found that thirty-three states deserved D or F grades for their world history standards.
Science education in America is under attack, with "discovery learning" on one flank and the Discovery Institute on the other. That's the core finding of this comprehensive review of state science standards, the first since 2000. Written by pre-eminent biologist Paul R. Gross, The State of State Science Standards 2006 finds that even though the majority of states have reworked, or completely re-written, their science standards over the past five years, we're no better off now than before. The good news is that many of the standards are easily fixed. The public's anxiety about the future of our nation's scientific prowess is palpable,and reasonable. How serious are we in addressing their concerns?
Almost every week a new report or commission decries the decline of America's preeminence in science, and calls for the nation's education system to raise standards in order for our economy to remain competitive with the rest of the world. Within this context, the National Assessment Governing Board is preparing to launch a new science assessment for 2009. Curriculum developers and textbook writers are likely to follow its lead. Fordham couldn't help but wonder: is the draft science Framework up to the challenge? Using much the same criteria applied in the Foundation's state science standards reviews (due out this December), our reviewers answered: no. As author (and esteemed biologist) Paul R. Gross wrote, The Framework is an interesting start, but there is much work to be done if it is to achieve its potential usefulness.
In 2002, when its voters approved a ballot measure calling for universal pre-Kindergarten by 2005-06, Florida joined a handful of states in which all children are eligible for free, publicly funded education in the year prior to Kindergarten. The passage of the referendum was cause for great optimism among those aware of the power of high-quality pre-K programs to prepare children, particularly low-income children, to meet the challenges of K-12 education. But as with any public policy initiative, the devil is in the details. In designing the half-day Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program (VPK), the Florida legislature faced competing demands. How did they balance the trade-offs? Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust lays it out in Fordham's latest Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education.
States still have far to go in setting rigorous, high quality expectations for K-12 math instruction. Although a majority have replaced or revised their math standards since 2000, many have failed to make substantial improvements. The review was led by David Klein, Professor of Mathematics at California State University-Northridge, and evaluates the content, writing quality, and clarity of K-12 math standards in each state. Klein and his team attribute many of the shortcomings to overuse and wrong applications of manipulatives and calculators; wrong-headed guidance from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and lack of true mathematics competence among those writing the standards.
Do states' current English/language arts and reading standards expect what they should? Are they demanding enough? Clear enough? Are states using them to guide not only the curriculum and assessment system for students but also their teacher-training programs? Sandra Stotsky, research scholar at Northeastern University and former senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education, finds that most states have revised or replaced their standards since 2000 and made some improvements, especially to K-8 standards. However, major shortcomings remain in other areas including high school literature requirements.