Education news. In context.
Are Children Learning
Future of Schools
Future of Teaching
Future of Work
In the Classroom
Movers and Shakers
Sorting the Students
The Other 60 Percent
Who Is in Charge
Find a Job
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our News Partners
Work with Us
Are Children Learning
Going beyond the acronyms to explain how state exams are changing.
November 11, 2013
In her own words: Glenda Ritz talks reading, testing and failing schools
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz at last month's A to F Accountability Panel meeting. Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz rejected the policy of her predecessor, Tony Bennett, when it comes to persistently low scoring schools. She doesn't want to close them or have the state take them over. Instead, her plan is to create a statewide system of coordinators aimed at providing supports and rallying local communities that she believes will be more effective than intervening to make dramatic change in the schools. Ritz, who is sometimes criticized by her political opponents for lacking vision for how to improve schools in Indiana, laid out her views in a 90-minute interview with Chalkbeat on Oct. 29 at the central library in a program sponsored by WFYI. The entire interview has now been posted online. On politics, Ritz said she won't back down in her fight against the Indiana State Board of Education and other foes. On policy, she explained how she sees education in Indiana. In the following excerpts, Ritz discusses her goals — emphasizing reading, changing state testing and redefining the Indiana Department of Education's role to build a statewide support system for troubled schools:
November 7, 2013
Indiana's big test score gains prompt debate over cause
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.
November 7, 2013
Colorado middle schoolers fall short on national report card
Colorado's middle school students fell short on the test known as "the nation's report card," according to data released today on the 2013 tests.
October 29, 2013
New York City looks for a way out of its "bubble tests" problem
UFT President Michael Mulgrew testifies at a state senate hearing in New York City. At right, Senator John Flanagan, chair of the education committee, listens. The city wants to get rid of unpopular "bubble sheet" tests that some of its youngest students are required to take this year, a top Department of Education official said on Tuesday. "There are better ways to do assessments of early childhood and I think that we can find a better way to do it," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told lawmakers in testimony at state Senate hearing. The hearing was planned by Senator John Flanagan in large part as an opportunity for people to air their frustration with the state's new standards and the tests associated with them. The math tests in question, called Discovery Education Assessment, are being given to small portion of students in kindergarten through second grades as part of their teachers' evaluations, a portion of which must measure student learning over the course of a school year. Discovery's tests include elements, like No. 2 pencils and standardized bubble answers, that teachers and experts have panned as developmentally inappropriate. Polakow-Suransky echoed that criticism on Tuesday and vowed to offer an alternative student learning measure soon to take effect for this school year. It represents a somewhat sudden reversal for the city, which bought the Discovery tests from a vendor in August for this school year after declining to use its own elementary math assessments, an option that Commissioner John King preferred when he crafted DOE's new teacher evaluation rules. Polakow-Suransky's comments come as push back against testing policies from parents and teachers have escalated statewide in recent weeks, prompting the State Education Department to make a series of its own changes to curtail the role of testing requirements.
October 16, 2013
Ready or not, new standards hit Colorado schools
This year, educators across Colorado are bracing themselves for a rocky road as districts introduce a host of school reforms, including new standards for 10 content areas, new tests, and new teacher evaluation systems.
October 16, 2013
As online tests approach, new state exams will provide trial run
When Colorado students take end-of-grade exams next spring, many will face arguably the hardest tests yet of their education careers.
August 20, 2013
Ready or not, online tests coming to Colorado
Colorado kids will get a chance to put their computer skills – and their academic knowledge - to high-stakes use later this year when the state’s first online tests roll out.
August 7, 2013
Weingarten warns other states about N.Y. test scores
Weingarten used New York State’s new test scores, the first to reflect student performance on exams tied to the Common Core learning standards, as a…
July 19, 2013
Video: One family’s place in the push against “high-stakes testing”
When state test scores come out in the next couple of weeks, one student who won’t count in the city’s averages is Matthew Sprowal. Encouraged by his mother Karen Sprowal, Matthew did not take the state tests, the first to be tied to new learning standards known as the Common Core, out of protest. Nathan Place, a student at CUNY’s journalism school, filed this video report about the family and the movement against “high-stakes testing.” Writes Place: Matthew, 10, was the one student at his school who “opted out” of the test. His mother, Karen Sprowal, told the school’s principal that he would be refusing the test as an act of protest, and while the rest of Matthew’s fourth-grade class took the tests, he sat in another classroom and read quietly.
June 18, 2013
State ed department highlights Common Core changes in new video
The State Education Department is hoping to end the year on a positive note with a new video that extols the Common Core standards. In…
April 24, 2013
First day of state Common Core math tests a relief, teachers say
All's quiet on the Common Core math test front, for now. After last week's state reading tests drew sharp criticism, anxiety ran high as students headed into the first of three days of math testing today. But educators are saying the first day was uneventful — and possibly even easier than they expected. "There was a little bit of a sigh of relief when they started going through the test," David Baiz, who teaches at Global Technology Preparatory Middle School, said of his eighth-grade students. "They felt like they were capable of doing it." Jose Vilson, who teaches at I.S. 52 in Washington Heights, tweeted just after the exam, "My kids found the test pretty easy, and this time, I trust it."
April 10, 2013
Our Common Core math discussion, as chronicled on Twitter
"Wish I'd had math teachers like this when I was in high school!" That's what New America NYC tweeted during "Adding It Up," the panel discussion about the Common Core standards in math that GothamSchools hosted Tuesday evening with New America NYC. About 80 people joined us to hear three city math teachers — Joe Negron from KIPP Infinity Middle School, Bushra Makiya from I.S. 303 in the Bronx, and Jose Vilson from I.S. 52 in Washington Heights — talk about the opportunities, challenges, and unanswered questions in their transition to the new Common Core standards. We'll have a complete video of the event and some additional highlights later in the week. For now, we've used Storify to collect the many tweets about the discussion posted before, during, and after the event.
November 27, 2012
Video: Teachers show off student work aligned to Common Core
Work of Art: NYC teachers show off student work aligned to new learning standards Instead of drawings, paintings or sculptures, GothamSchools' makeshift art gallery Monday night featured student essays about wolves, personal conflict, and classic fiction dotted the walls. Middle and high school teachers from across the city brought the work to the Upper East Side to put on display during "The Art of Teaching and Learning to the Common Core," an event we held with the support of Teaching Matters and Azure.
July 10, 2008
Do better readers do better on tests of reading?
Yesterday, I took an initial look at the Manhattan Institute's study, "Building on the Basics." Today, I want to look at Florida's state science exam, the focus of the study. A common criticism of standardized tests is that they all, to some degree, test reading ability. What does the Science FCAT look like? What skills would you need to perform well on it? I've only seen the NYS Science exams, so I decided to download a Florida sample test and take a look. The first thing that surprised me about this test was the reading level, which seemed high. Many of New York City's fifth graders would (for better or for worse) stumble over sentences like, "Florida has many limestone caves containing formations called stalactites." I tracked down a site of readability analyzers and entered text from test items. Question 1: Melissa’s school rings a bell to alert students that it is time to start class. When the bell rings, it vibrates. The use of vibrations to send messages is an example of which type of energy? This one ranged from 4.72 to 10.07 in estimated US grade level required to understand it, which certainly calls into question the reliability of the readability analyzers, but also the ability of average 5th graders to understand this question.
June 23, 2008
NYC students post double-digit test gains; statisticians are dubious
No one was surprised when Chancellor Klein announced today that the city's students posted dramatic gains on state test scores this year. Charting a clear trajectory of improvement has been fundamental to his reforms. This year, he announced, nearly 80 percent of 4th graders and 60 percent of 8th graders passed the state math test, and about 60 percent of 4th graders and 40 percent of 8th graders passed the state English test. Gains in the last six years, the DOE points out in its press release, range from about 15 points in 8th grade English to more than 30 points on math tests at all levels. Even before the mayor made his announcement this afternoon, discussion had begun over whether this year's test scores are a sign of victory, as the mayor believes, or of score inflation and manipulation. In today's Sun, Elizabeth Green speaks to statisticians who warn that, for many reasons, large-scale score increases are not always to be believed.
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line