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What We’re Watching: Debate Over Changes to Democratic Platform on Education – by Education Next

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The AFT has released excerpts from a revamped version of the Democratic Party platform. Many of the changes amount to a rejection of the Obama administration’s K-12 agenda, Alyson Klein of Politics K-12 notes.

Klein writes

The AFT is really happy with the amended platform. Randi Weingarten, the union’s president, said it represents a “refreshing sea change” from past policies.

You can watch the debate over the changes to the platform, which took place last weekend, in this video.

Democrats for Education Reform, a group that was unhappy with the changes, has posted a transcript of the debate here.

– Education Next

h/t: This Week in Education

Source: EducationNext

The post What We’re Watching: Debate Over Changes to Democratic Platform on Education – by Education Next appeared first on GMM Kindergarten | Learn. Grow. Become.

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15/12/2018 |

Is Charter School Growth Flat-Lining? – by Robin J. Lake

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A recently released annual update from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools included a surprising fact: a mere 329 charter schools opened across the country in the 2016-2017 school year. In no year since the Alliance began tracking new charter openings has the total number of new schools been so low. Looking back at CRPE’s Hopes, Fears, and Reality series, it appears that it was the early 2000s when we last saw fewer than 350 new charter schools open. When you take closures into consideration, the total additional growth of charter schools last year was just over 100 schools, or nearly 2 percent.

Student enrollment numbers tell a different story. Total charter student enrollment surpassed 3 million this year, a 7 percent increase over last year. This likely reflects existing schools’ addition of grade levels and approach to full capacity.

So what’s behind this year’s meager school growth? Should charter advocates be worried? Of course, one year doesn’t prove a trend, but my colleague Mike DeArmond and I looked back five years and see that, in general, the rate of charter growth has pretty consistently held at 6 to 8 percent until the 2014-2015 school year, when the rate slowed to around 4 percent. In 2015-2016, it slowed further to just barely over 2 percent, and then down to the current 1.8 percent. This year is not an anomaly. So what is going on?

More aggressive closures don’t explain the slow down. The number of charter school closures over the last five years has held pretty steady. Last spring’s number of closures (202) is actually lower than the previous year’s high-water mark of 257. And if you look at the rates of closures and openings over the last 10 years, it’s clear that openings have slowed faster than closures have increased.

Political backlash? The most obvious explanation is politics. In states like Massachusetts, charters are coming up against caps and growing political opposition. Massachusetts only added one new charter this school year. Opposition has also dramatically increased as charters move from a sideshow to a more mainstream reform strategy in many cities. In cities with significant charter growth, local board, union, and community opposition can increase exponentially as districts deal with the financial reality of enrollment loss.

It’s very interesting to look at the Big Four states that have historically driven most charter growth: Texas, Colorado, Ohio, and Florida. All, with the exception of Texas, have been producing fewer new charter schools for the past few years, while closure rates have held reasonably steady. Arizona and Michigan, two other significant charter growth states with pro-choice, no-cap state policies, added just a handful of new schools between them this year. All of this says to me that there is something going on besides just “big P” politics.

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Ossification? I have a strong suspicion that the slowdown has a lot to do with the maturation of the movement: great teachers and school leaders are probably getting …read more    

08/12/2018 |

The Accountability Legacy of a Hundred-Year-Old Decision – by Andy Smarick

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Over the last few months, my work on ESSA implementation and my thinking about new systems of urban schools have come together. I have a new hypothesis. And I think it has some interesting implications.

I now believe that our current understanding of “state accountability systems” is a reflection of a decision made one hundred years ago. When America started systematizing public education at the turn of the twentieth century, we made a very different choice from other Western nations. Instead of embracing a wide variety of nonprofit and government school providers from which families could choose, we determined that each geographic area would have a single government-run operator that would assign kids to schools based on home address.

This post isn’t meant to re-litigate that decision but instead to emphasize its deep influence on how we now think about accountability systems. When these systems were first considered and developed (in the 1990s and early 2000s), the single-provider district-based model was still synonymous in most places with public education. My point is this: Our understanding of an “accountability system” is actually better thought of as an “accountability system for the single-government-provider approach to school delivery.”

I think this is important for two reasons. First, an accountability system must have certain characteristics if there’s just one government provider assigning kids to schools. Second, thanks to chartering, many districts are now part of an environment marked by a diversity of educational providers and ordered through parental choice. In other words, ESSA’s invitation to create new accountability systems comes at a time when conditions allow us to see accountability in an entirely new light.

So what are the implications for accountability in a single-government-provider environment? Here are five in brief:

• First, school assignments are based on home address and all schools are run by one entity, so schools must be similar (if not identical) to one another to ensure that all kids are served equally. That means an accountability system must have a single set of performance measures that can be similarly applied to all schools. That set has to be very limited so the central authority can collect and make sense of the data.

• Second, since schools are designed to be similar and families don’t choose which schools their kids attend, the accountability system doesn’t need to provide parents with fulsome information of school performance. Families aren’t differentiating schools or choosing from among them, so the utility of parent-friendly information falls.

• Third, with just a single type of school replicated across the city, the monopoly operator must develop a single theory of action for how to produce school success. It then issues uniform mandates to deliver that model with fidelity. The accountability system is therefore not premised on first defining success and then encouraging sundry school models. Instead, it features interventions premised on inputs and faithful implementation of agreed-upon strategies.

• Fourth, schools simply cannot be given meaningful or lasting autonomy. Since the district is charged with the state’s delegated responsibility for educating that area’s students, it …read more    

01/12/2018 |

The Politics of the Common Core Assessments – by Ashley Jochim

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In 2009, 48 states and the District of Columbia joined together to launch the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Their mission: to develop common academic standards in English and mathematics that would help ensure that “all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life.”

It was a laudable goal, but one that 15 years of federal mandates had failed to accomplish. Tasked by the federal government with bringing all students to “proficiency,” most states set undemanding standards, and the quality of their assessments varied widely. The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association set out to raise and unify K–12 standards through the Common Core initiative.

Common standards call for common assessments. Late in 2009, the Obama administration, through its Race to the Top (RttT) program, announced a competition for $350 million in grant money to spur the development of “next-generation” tests aligned to the Common Core. Six consortia formed to submit applications for funding, but mergers left just two seeking to develop the new assessments. The government awarded four-year grants to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Earlier in 2009, also through Race to the Top, the administration had offered $4.35 billion in funding through a competitive grant program designed to encourage states to enact the feds’ preferred school-reform policies—including the adoption of better standards and assessments. Most states were willing to sign on to Common Core and the aligned tests to improve their chances of winning a grant. By 2011, one year after the standards had officially been released, 45 states plus the District of Columbia had signed on to the standards and joined one or both of the assessment consortia.

But as states moved to implement the new standards and assessments, controversy began to swirl around the reforms. Although the Common Core standards drew criticism from parents and pundits, from the right and the left, most states stood firm in embracing them. Yet loyalty to the consortia’s assessments has proved much weaker. The number of states planning to use the new tests dropped from 45 in 2011 to 20 in 2016.

This presents a puzzle: why have so many states abandoned the consortia, even as the standards on which they are based continue to live on in most places?

Consortia Beginnings

Proponents of the next-generation assessments argued that such tests would enable educators to track progress toward the higher-order thinking skills—such as critical thinking, communicating effectively, and problem solving—that the standards emphasized. By collaborating through a consortium, states would be able to produce a higher-quality assessment, at lower cost, than what they could achieve on their own. The Common Core–aligned tests would also allow policymakers to use the same measuring stick to evaluate student progress in different states.

In 2010, the PARCC and SBAC consortia reported having 26 and 32 member states, respectively, representing diverse political environments. Only Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia declined to join by the end of …read more    

29/11/2018 |

In the News: Colleges Remake Remedial Education by Going Back to High School – by Education Next

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Troubled by high percentages of students who are not ready for credit-bearing work when they enter community college–and low graduation rates for students who enter needing remediation–Tennessee is experimenting with a different approach.

As Joseph Williams explains

Tennessee may have found the solution, however, by overhauling remediation math programs and installing corequisite education—using self-paced learning programs and enhanced classroom support systems, sometimes augmented by technology, to help struggling students transition to college-level work.

He explains

In the program, students who fall below college-level standards on math assessment tests in 11th grade are guided to remedial courses during their senior year in high school, which allows them to start their higher ed career ready for credit bearing coursework. Combining online and face-to-face instruction, students learn advanced math at their own pace, a measure of control vital to students who aren’t traditional learners or who have jobs or families. Teachers and tutors also work one-on-one with students who are struggling, offering extra help when it’s needed.

Community colleges in New York City are experimenting with a different approach–allowing students to skip over remedial math altogether. A randomized controlled trial was conducted at three CUNY schools.

Some entering students who ordinarily would have been assigned to a remedial elementary-algebra class were placed instead in a college-level statistics course and provided with extra academic support. We find that the students placed directly in college-level statistics did far better than their counterparts in remedial classes, even when students in remedial classes were also given extra support. They were more likely to pass their initial math course and, three semesters after the experiment, had completed more college credits overall. In short, our study suggests that many students consigned to remediation can pass credit-bearing quantitative courses right away.

– Education Next

Source: EducationNext

The post In the News: Colleges Remake Remedial Education by Going Back to High School – by Education Next appeared first on GMM Kindergarten | Learn. Grow. Become.

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24/11/2018 |