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Are Children Learning
Going beyond the acronyms to explain how state exams are changing.
December 16, 2013
Regents balance praise and criticism in debrief on Common Core forums
Six weeks into Commissioner John King's high-profile and often contentious meetings across the state focusing on the rollout of Common Core learning standards, state education officials praised—and raised new concerns about—those forums this morning.
December 16, 2013
$1.3 billion budget request targets teacher training and pre-K
Nearly a quarter of a $1.3 billion request for extra funds by the Board of Regents is targeted toward training teachers, communicating with parents and adding more preschool seats. The targeted funds, which total $300 million, are four times more than what the Regents asked for last year and represent a significantly larger share of the budget request. Officials said the proposal, which includes $125 million for professional development for teachers, was in part an acknowledgement of new challenges faced due to Common Core standards and teacher evaluations. Regent James Tallon, chair of the state aid committee, called the funding "a discrete commitment to professional development" to address concerns that teachers and schools weren't being supported enough to effectively implement statewide policies.
November 27, 2013
The basics of Common Core standards in Indiana: A reconsideration
An early adopter of Common Core, the state has since changed course.
November 19, 2013
Amid angst over standardized tests, some parents say “no thanks”
The feeling that education is being overtaken by a slew of mandated tests is fueling a grass-roots movement to opt out of TCAPs and criticism about excessive testing from some district leaders.
November 18, 2013
Small rally against the Common Core airs big issues in Albany
ALBANY — In New York, supporters of the Common Core are quick to point out that criticism of the new learning standards has focused on implementation. But the people who showed up at the State Education Department's steps in Albany this afternoon made it clear their opposition is to the standards themselves. They echoed critiques that have been leveled across the country, that the standards are a federal overreach and developmentally inappropriate for children. Hoisting signs that likened the Common Core to "child abuse" and Communism and chanting "No more Common Core," about 40 parents and students from around the state attended the rally. The rally took place on a day that critics of the Common Core, led by an upstate mother and Tea Party activist, had designated on Facebook as "National Don't Send Your Child To School Day."
November 14, 2013
On early ed tests issue, agreement on everything but a solution
First grade teacher John O'Hickey, of Brooklyn School of Inquiry. Part of O'Hickey's evaluation will be based on state test scores from students in higher grades in the school. When it comes to getting rid of standardized testing in early grades, the city and the teachers union are on the same page — both want them eliminated from their teacher evaluation plans. But the two sides, whose toxic relationship seems to have reached new highs in Mayor Bloomberg's final year in office, are taking different approaches toward achieving the same end goal. The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up its latest critique of teacher evaluations today by joining a statewide coalition that wants to ban standardized tests in any class below third grade. UFT President Michael Mulgrew first raised the issue two weeks ago, arguing that they are developmentally inappropriate because some students can barely hold a pencil, let alone fill in bubble sheets. "To be using it at these young ages is just ridiculous," Mulgrew said today on a conference call with reporters. In New York City, a small fraction of the city's roughly 800 elementary schools is supposed to administer the bubble tests this year because of how the city's evaluation plan was written, though parents at some schools are rebelling against the mandate. Officials at the Department of Education agree with Mulgrew, but they are hoping a quieter discussion with state education Commissioner John King will lead to a solution. There is optimism that the strategy is working. "The commissioner has indicated a willingness to look at this issue and consider some flexibility for the current school year," Polakow-Suransky said.
November 11, 2013
In northeast Colorado, a collaborative response to new standards
Teachers from ten rural districts in northeastern Colorado gathered in Haxtun, just 30 miles from the Nebraska border, to figure out how to translate the mandates of the Common Core to their classrooms.
November 11, 2013
In Shelby County Schools, pride about NAEP results, concerns about gaps
Students at Ford Road Elementary School, in Shelby County Schools' Innovation Zone, walk down the hallway on Thursday. The school's test scores have gone up dramatically since it entered the I-Zone. Last Thursday, as state politicians and educators celebrated the state's performance on the NAEP, or National Assessment of Educational Progress, 6th graders at Colonial Middle School, an arts-focused school, were discussing data day, a regular part of the school's cycle during which students in the middle school graph and track their performance in all of their classes. "We can keep up with our grades," said Ariel Amos, one of the students. "The graphs help." Each student has a folder with a chart for each course; high scores were colored in with green colored pencil, while lower scores were colored in with yellow or red. That focus on data and accountability was one of the policy emphases state officials cited to explain Tennessee students' growth on on the 4th and 8th grade math and reading tests: Scores went up more than in any other state in the country this year. While NAEP scores aren't broken down by school or by district, educators in Shelby County schools said they'd seen improvements in many local schools that lined up with the increase in NAEP results. "NAEP is a good measuring stick to compare Tennessee to other states," said Antonio Burt, the principal at Ford Road Elementary School. "Tennessee has put emphasis on Common Core and teacher work. By Tennessee starting early and being proactive, now you're seeing dividends."
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.
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