Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test, which released scores today.
Indiana fourth graders made big gains on a national test of reading and math known as the "nation's report card," according to data released today.
Indiana's 2013 gains were top five among the 50 states on both fourth grade reading and math. Eighth graders posted smaller gains in both reading and math. Hoosier test takers scored above the national average on all four exams administered.
"“I am encouraged by the gains that Hoosier students showed on these tests, particularly their gains in the fourth grade," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a statement. "This is yet another sign of the hard work and dedication exhibited by our educators, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students every day in our schools.”
The state's success instantly renewed debate about reforms pushed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and ex-state Superintendent Tony Bennett over four years beginning in 2008.
Bennett was defeated in the 2012 election in a stunning upset by current state Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said Bennett's fight for reform may have cost him his job but it appears to have yielded improvements.
"I think we're starting to see results," said Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. "These battles are hard-fought, and if we didn't see any results, then we might wonder if it's worth it."
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, attributed the gains to standards reform in the early 2000s, specifically rejecting Bennett and Daniels' policies as a reason for the improvement.
Tennessee students made some of the largest gains in the country in this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the so-called "nation's report card."
Tennessee is "one of the few bright spots" in the NAEP data this year, said Erik Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Most states' scores increased by just one point in 4th and 8th grade math and 4th grade reading and by three points on 8th grade reading between 2011 and 2013. But scores for both 4th and 8th grade students in Tennessee jumped between 4 and 7 points in each of the tested subjects.
“It's hard to move the needle on all four grades and subjects unless you're really doing something,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP.
In Tennessee, as elected officials planned press conferences today celebrating the increased scores that were released this morning, educators debated what, exactly, may have caused the growth.
Both the District of Columbia and Tennessee schools have been home to dramatic reforms in teacher compensation and evaluation in recent years, and were among the early adopters of policies that tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores. But similar policies are in place around the country now.
A national representative sample of 342,000 8th graders and 377,000 4th graders took the reading and math tests early this year. More data from the 2013 tests, including national scores for 12th graders in reading and math, will be released in the coming months.
Individual schools' and students' scores on NAEP are not publicized.
While each state has its own standardized test, each of which has changed over time, the NAEP remains relatively constant and is designed to allow for comparisons to be made between states and over time. State and education leaders use the data to compare where states fall academically and how different groups of students fare within their states. The data are also frequently used to make claims about national education progress compared to other countries, with some experts saying, for instance, that low NAEP scores are a threat to national security.
On the 2013 test, Tennessee students made the largest gains in the country in 4th and 8th grade reading. Tennessee 4th and 8th graders' math test score gains outpaced every state except for the District of Columbia. Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools were the only jurisdictions that saw increases in both tested subjects in both tested grades. (See chart below for more detail.)
Tennessee leads the nation in growth, but big disparities remain
Referendum on Reforms?
Credit: Michael Haberman on Twitter
New York City high schools continue to be a favorite launching pad for the Obama Administration to tout its ideas about education policy.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan paid another visit to New York City today, this time at Aviation High School in Queens, a school where students earn a diploma and certified training to become an airplane mechanic in five years.
On this visit, Duncan also announced a $300 million competitive grant proposal to replicate Aviation's model to better prepare students for college and career paths across the country. The grants, which Duncan is calling the High School Redesign Competition, would fund districts to create schools with college and corporate partners that integrated their programs into a student's education.
One of the partners at Aviation is JetBlue, which has become a career pipeline for hundreds of graduates, said Michael Haberman, president of PENCIL, which brought the two institutions together as part of its work in forging relationships between schools and private organizations. This spring, the company flew a small group of Aviation students to Florida for an aviation expo.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew (left) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured a storm-swept area of Staten Island between school visits today.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island, New Dorp High School sprang into action.
Under the leadership of Principal Deidre DeAngelis, the school turned into a command center for the area, hosting a school displaced by the storm, drumming up donations from alumni, and distributing food, clothing, and blankets to students and staff members who needed them.
On Thanksgiving, New Dorp hosted a dinner for 650 families. "Matt cooked until he couldn't cook anymore," DeAngelis said about the school's culinary arts teacher, Matthew Hays.
"We were so appreciative that we got help when no one else was helping us," said Amanda Delapena, the student body vice president whose home was heavily damaged.
"I thought the story of what this school has done needs to be told," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said during a visit to the school this morning. At his invitation, U.S. Secretary of Education also visited the school, along with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Ernest Logan, president of the principals union.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (middle) visited P.S. 111 in Hell's Kitchen to discuss PENCIL partnerships with Principal Irma Medina (right).
As the neighborhood around her school transformed into a cultural melting pot, Principal Irma Medina sensed that the city education department's translation services wouldn't be adequate to break through language barriers for new parents.
By 2010, over 40 languages were represented at P.S. 111 in Hell's Kitchen, Medina said. So to improve communication with parents at the school, Medina turned to an increasingly popular option: donated services.
Through the help of PENCIL, a nonprofit that forges school-business leader partnerships, Medina's translation needs were matched to VOCES, the Latino Heritage Network of The New York Times Company, headquartered about a half mile down the road near Times Square.
The public-private partnership is now one of 395 that PENCIL manages in 377 schools in New York City. With the support from cash-strapped city education officials, PENCIL hopes to nearly double that number in coming years.
As part of the P.S. 111 partnership, VOCES has donated resources as well as its professional expertise in translation services to support Medina's growing need for translations, which include information for parent association meetings and weekly school-issued material.
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (left) joined State Education Commissioner John King (center) and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a Philanthropy New York panel.
Speaking to philanthropists and foundation leaders on Monday, the city, state, and national schools chiefs presented a united front — except when it came to the sticky issue of whether to release teachers' ratings to the public.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, State Education Commissioner John King, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered up tips on financing school reform at Philanthropy New York's 33rd annual meeting.
The meeting drew representatives from major education organizations used to making and receiving philanthropic gifts, including the Harlem Children's Zone and The After-School Corporation. It also attracted education policy neophytes from large private foundations: Many in the audience didn't know how many of New York State's 250,000 ninth graders typically make it to 12th grade without dropping out (Duncan furnished the answer: 188,000).
The trio of education policy heavyweights together urged attendees to think about how their contributions could support their priorities, such as implementing new learning standards, known as the Common Core, and overhauling the country's lowest-performing schools. Walcott told the audience that private donations have fueled some of the city's most innovative reform efforts, including the Common Core Library and the technology-infused iZone.
“I’m actually not coming here to ask you to give a lot more, although that would be great too, but to be really smarter in what you’re giving,” Duncan said.
But they were divided when moderator Beth Fertig, WNYC's education report, asked whether they thought districts and states should make teacher evaluations available to the public, as New York City did in February in response to requests from several news organizations. It's a question that state lawmakers could tackle this month.
In the beginning, there were charter schools, data systems, and teacher evaluations. Then, there was early childhood education. And now, the Obama administration wants to reward individual school districts for tailoring their offerings to individual students.
"Personalized education" is the emphasis for the U.S. Department of Education's third iteration of Race to the Top, a competitive grants program that launched in 2009. New York State won $700 million in the first year after legislators approved new teacher evaluation requirements and allowed more charter schools to open.
It's an approach the city has embraced for years, providing data tools for schools to zoom in on each student's weaknesses and creating an "Innovation Zone" that allows schools to restructure their space and time in a bid for stronger scores. The principal of Olympus Academy, an Innovation Zone school that allows students to progress at their own pace, appeared in Washington, D.C., today as part of the competition announcement.
But some of the federal government's proposed eligibility criteria — including a requirement that school board members undergo formal evaluations — could make it tough for the city to qualify for the grants. Large cities could receive up to $25 million, or about .1 percent of the city Department of Education's annual operating budget.
Perhaps most crucially, the city and its teachers union have spectacularly failed to adopt new teacher evaluations, despite commitments set out in the state's first Race to the Top bid and in an application for a different federal program, School Improvement Grants. The latest competition requires that districts commit to having new evaluations in place by the 2014-2015 school year.