Teacher Evaluations in an Era of Rapid Change

Bellwether(1)Chad Aldeman and a Bellwether Education team have collected and synthesized data from 17 states and the District of Columbia that tracked and reported information on their teacher evaluation efforts as of July 2014.  Data analysis revealed five major conclusions:

  1. Districts are starting to differentiate between poor, fair, and great educator performance, rather than treating all teachers as interchangeable widgets;
  2. Schools are using higher-quality classroom observation rubrics to provide teachers with better, timelier feedback;
  3. Despite state policy changes, many districts still do not factor student growth into teacher evaluation ratings;
  4. Districts have wide discretion even under “statewide” evaluation systems;
  5. Districts continue to ignore performance when making decisions about teacher hiring, compensation, tenure, and dismissal.

They cite evidence from Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Denver to suggest that evaluation reform is an effort worth making. Comprehensive evaluation systems can help teachers improve their practice, lead to improved recruitment and retention of high-quality educators, and, ultimately, boost student achievement.

The full report is available at this link: http://bellwethereducation.org/publication/teacher-evaluations-era-rapid-change

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U.S. Department of Education: Commit to Lead

US Dept_of_Education_LogoThe Education Department announced a new opportunity to advance teacher leadership. But, for it to succeed, The Department needs your voice to be a part of it.

Commit to Lead is a public, online community that directly engages teachers and other educators in defining what teacher leadership can and should be in their communities. The intention is that teacher leadership will become part of  the fabric and culture of every school. This initiative builds on the great work that already exists in the field, and invites the creation of new ideas.

Since day one on the job, many teachers have shared with Education Secretary Arne Duncan an overwhelming desire to excel in the profession, lead others, and to have a stronger voice. Too often, great teachers leave the classroom because they lack avenues to exercise their leadership – and that’s a loss for our students, our schools, and the profession. As the Education Department heard this common refrain from teachers, Secretary Duncan thought it was critical to respond. In the midst of dramatic change in education, education leaders need to give teachers genuine opportunities to be leaders without leaving their classrooms.

To promote and accelerate opportunities for teachers to lead without leaving the classroom, the Education Department announced Teach to Lead. This initiative builds on years of work to elevate the teaching profession, particularly through the RESPECT effort, and on the leadership of the Teacher and Principal Ambassador Fellows, who advise the Department on key decisions and represent the Department externally. Together with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the Education Department launched Teach to Lead to advance student outcomes through expanding opportunities for teacher leadership. And, to achieve this vision, the Education Department and its partners committed to identify, spotlight, and support promising models for teacher leadership across the country.

The shape of teacher leadership should not be  dictated from outside the profession, it should be decided and shaped by teachers themselves, in partnership with principals and other educators. So, join in the conversation and let the Education Department know your ideas for advancing the teaching profession.

For more information, please visit: http://teachtolead.org/

 

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Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts

5-to-watch-evaluation-reform-July29Many states are proactively engaging educators in shaping key reforms, including evaluation, feedback, and support systems. The Reform Support Network has released a study titled Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts that takes a close look at five states/districts to watch. These include Denver Public Schools; Hillsborough County, Florida; Illinois; New Haven, Connecticut; and Tennessee.

For more details, follow this link for the full pdf: Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts.

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50-States of the Common Core

commoncore1Credit to the Associated Press, who recently put out a state-by-state look at the Common Core standards. This update, by various reporters, is an excellent way to keep tabs with the current policy issues concerning the rapidly changing Common Core State Standards in each state. This is especially relevant with the 2014 elections coming up this fall.

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ALABAMA

The state school board folded Common Core into the state’s College and Career Ready Standards for public schools and has been defending the decision ever since.

Legislators introduced bills in 2013 and 2014 to repeal the standards. The repeal movement drew support from tea party groups, but Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican, blocked the bills with the support of one of the state’s most powerful business groups, the Business Council of Alabama.

By Phillip Rawls.

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ALASKA

The state did not adopt Common Core, although several Alaska school districts did. Deputy Education Commissioner Les Morse said those districts will be held accountable for ensuring that student learning is in line with the state standards in English, language arts and reading that were adopted in 2012. The state standards have some similarities with Common Core.

By Becky Bohrer.

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ARIZONA

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has tried to defuse criticism about the Common Core standards by issuing an executive order renaming them as “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” and reaffirming that Arizona is acting independently from the federal government.

A legislative effort to kill the standards failed this spring.

By Bob Christie.

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ARKANSAS

The Arkansas Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, with an effective date of this fall. The Legislature endorsed the board’s decision during its 2011 regular session.

A few teachers, parents and national groups asked legislators last year to repeal the standards, and a state lawmaker this year attempted to bring up a bill to delay their imposition for three years. Neither effort gained traction.

By Kelly P. Kissel.

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CALIFORNIA

Most California schools are expected to begin basing instruction on the Common Core standards during the coming school year. Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have allocated more than $1.2 billion, about $200 per student, for school districts to spend on teacher training, materials and technology over two years.

California is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that is developing online tests in math and language based on the Common Core. The state has resisted the department’s call for teacher evaluations to be based in part on standardized test results.

By Lisa Leff.

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COLORADO

As in many states, the Common Core standards have prompted opposition in Colorado from some conservatives.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected a proposal that would have ordered a yearlong delay for new statewide tests while the standards were reviewed. Colorado is part of a multistate testing consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and students are set to take the PARCC test this school year.

By Kristen Wyatt.

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CONNECTICUT

In June, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy committed spending an additional $15 million to continue launching Common Core in the state’s public schools. That includes $10 million in borrowing for new school technology, one of the recommendations of a task force created by Malloy in March after teachers and education professionals raised concerns about whether schools were prepared for incorporating the new standards.

While some of Connecticut’s public school districts have begun using the new Common Core standards, others have lagged behind. The issue has become a political one for Malloy, who faces re-election. Both his Republican challenger and a potential petitioning candidate have criticized the rollout of Common Core.

By Susan Haigh.

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DELAWARE

The state is moving forward as Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, a former co-chairman of the Common Core standards initiative, works to dispel notions that they are a federal initiative aimed at the states.

In the spring, students in grades three to eight, and 11th grade will take the new Smarter Balanced assessments in English and mathematics that are tied to Common Core. State education officials have agreed to a one-year delay, subject to federal approval, in using the test results in teacher evaluations. The delay takes into account concerns of the Delaware State Education Association, the teachers’ union.

By Randall Chase.

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

District of Columbia public schools began implementing the standards voluntarily in 2010. School leaders are making one major concession: Teachers won’t be evaluated based on their students’ performance on new, Common Core-aligned standardized tests this school year.

That decision made news because the district has moved aggressively to align teacher evaluations with student test scores. The Education Department was initially critical of the policy change, saying it represented a slowdown of the District’s school-reform efforts. Hundreds of District teachers have been fired after receiving poor evaluations, while the top performers have received bonuses.

By Ben Nuckols.

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FLORIDA

Florida officials tweaked the standards among a growing backlash. Beginning the fall, the “Florida standards” will be used in state classrooms.

While some have asked GOP Gov. Rick Scott and legislators to jettison the standards, high-ranking Republicans have tried to tamp down the controversy in other ways.

For example, legislators passed a measure that repealed more than 30 mentions of Common Core that were placed into state law just a year ago. Scott initially backed Common Core standards. But after complaints from grassroots conservative groups and activists, he called for public hearings and set the groundwork for the state to pull out of a consortium developing a national test to see if school children are meeting the new standards.

By Gary Fineout

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GEORGIA

Some Republican lawmakers have pushed bills for two years opting out of Common Core, which are supported by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, backed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and former Gov. Sonny Perdue who co-chaired the governors group that created the standards.

Republicans who control the Legislature compromised by forming a study committee to review the standards’ origins. Georgia dropped out of a national consortium developing tests in line with Common Core in July 2013, saying it was too expensive. The state signed a contract this summer with CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop its own exam that students are scheduled to take during the coming school year.

 

By Kathleen Foody.

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HAWAII

Hawaii’s Department of Education is asking the public to review test questions aligned to Hawaii Common Core standards and help recommend achievement levels for grade-level proficiency.

Beginning next spring, students will take new Common Core-aligned assessments that will replace the Hawaii State Assessment.

By Jennifer Kelleher.

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IDAHO

There’s been growing opposition to Common Core in Idaho, with calls for reconsideration, even repeal, in the three years since the standards were adopted. But schools are slowly moving forward to put them in place, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams.

So far, efforts to repeal the standards have failed. As the November election approaches, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for state superintendent have said they will work to improve implementing the standards but have not said they must be repealed.

By Kimberlee Kruesi.

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ILLINOIS

Illinois started to adopt the Common Core standards in 2010, and fully implemented them last school year. Next spring, the PARCC tests linked to Common Core standards will be used in school districts across the state.

The tests will be given to students in grades three to eight, but only partially rolled out in high school because the state board of education had its budget request for assessments cut by $10 million. The ACT exam has been a state mandated assessment for high school juniors in recent years and doubles as a college entrance exam.

By Kerry Lester

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INDIANA

Indiana formally ended its participation in Common Core this past spring, when Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a measure pushed by conservative Republicans. But a key change in the legislation, mandating that any Indiana standards qualify for federal funding, spurred the bill’s original author, state Sen. Scott Schneider, a Republican, to withdraw his support.

The state Board of Education approved new education standards in April, a rare moment of agreement between Pence and Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz. But the new standards drew criticism from conservatives and tea partyers who said they were too similar to the Common Core requirements.

By Tom Lobianco.

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IOWA

Many of the Common Core components have been blended into Iowa’s statewide standards, known as the Iowa Core.

Conservatives in Iowa have attacked the Common Core, but efforts to change the state program have not been successful. But GOP Gov. Terry Branstad last year signed an executive order clarifying that the state would continue to maintain control over education standards and testing, not the federal government.

By Catherine Lucey.

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KANSAS

The state Board of Education adopted the Common Core reading and math standards in 2010, but in recent years they have been attacked by conservative Republicans, who say they’re too expensive. Earlier this year, the state Senate attached a provision to an education funding bill that would have blocked their implementation, but it was dropped in the final version of the bill.

The board is moving ahead with developing student tests tied to the standards.

By John Hanna.

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KENTUCKY

In Kentucky, state lawmakers passed a bill in 2009 that set more rigorous academic standards, new assessments and a new accountability system. Kentucky followed up a year later by adopting Common Core and then in 2013 next-generation science standards. The new standards are known as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

Teachers first taught the new English/language arts and math standards in the 2011-12 school year. Students began testing on those new standards that same year.

By Bruce Shreiner.

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LOUISIANA

GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has sued the Obama administration, accusing Washington of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards.

Lawmakers this year rejected several attempts to strip Common Core from classrooms and a majority of the education board voted to continue using the standards.

Jindal suspended contracts that the state Department of Education planned to use to buy testing material aligned with the standards. The education superintendent, John White, and education board leaders say the governor overstepped his legal authority, and they sued.

A state district judge has since said the governor’s actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students and he lifted Jindal’s suspension of the contracts. The decision allows White to move ahead with Common Core-tied testing plans until a full trial is held later over the legality of Jindal’s executive orders against the standards.

At the same time, 17 state lawmakers who oppose the standards have lodged their own legal challenge, but lost their first round in court.

By Melinda Deslatte.

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MAINE

Two groups opposed to the reading, writing and math benchmarks are trying to collect enough signatures to trigger a statewide vote in 2015 to repeal them.

Maine Education Commissioner James Rier says he spends much of his time fielding calls from people with a misunderstanding of the standards, adopted in 2011 in Maine. The state is now assembling a team of educators and businesspeople to look at updating the standards for math and English language arts, he said. Any changes would have to be approved by the Legislature.

By David Sharp.

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MARYLAND

Maryland schools began implementing the standards in reading and math two school years ago, and will begin using the PARCC test during the upcoming school year.

In this year’s legislative session, Maryland lawmakers voted by large margins to address some issues that have arisen with Common Core in the state. For example, test scores won’t be used in teacher and principal evaluations for at least the next two years. In addition, a workgroup including teachers and parents will be formed to improve implementation.

By Brian Witte.

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MASSACHUSETTS

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in July 2010, and they became part of the state curriculum the following year. The state is also in the middle of a two-year trial of the PARCC.

The new standards are being challenged by a grassroots group, known as the Common Core Forum, which argues the state’s standards should not be dropped and replaced. The group of parents, teachers and local elected officials has called for repeal of the new standards and more transparency from the state.

By Michael Melia.

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MICHIGAN

In Michigan, the 2014-15 school year was supposed to be the first in which students would take exams developed by the Smarter Balanced consortium. But lawmakers balked, despite last year ultimately letting the state continue spending dollars implementing the standards after vigorous debate.

Legislators later directed the state not to administer the Smarter Balanced test this coming academic year. Instead, it must develop Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests that align with Common Core. The new assessment is to be given starting in the spring of 2016.

By David Eggert.

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MINNESOTA

Minnesota has adopted only the English and language arts standards portions of Common Core but augmented them with more rigorous content developed close to home. The state had already redrawn its math standards.

Rather than joining the national testing groups related to Common Core, Minnesota went with its own assessments.

By Brian Bakst.

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MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi schools are supposed to be fully teaching based on the standards this year, and Mississippi plans to use the PARCC tests for most of its state standardized testing beginning this spring.

Attempts were made earlier this year by some lawmakers to roll back the state’s implementation of Common Core, but those proposals failed by wide margins.

But Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has called Common Core a “failed program” and said he expected lawmakers to address the standards in the 2015 legislative session. State Superintendent Carey Wright has pushed back against Bryant, saying his description of Common Core is a “gross mischaracterization” and saying students “deserve the opportunity to perform to higher expectations.”

By Jeff Amy.

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MISSOURI

Public schools in Missouri have transitioned to the standards, but a new state law backed by opponents could get rid of them.

In July, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed a measure passed by the Republican-led Legislature that creates task forces of parents and educators to develop new state standards for English, math, science and history to be implemented during the 2016-2017 school year.

By David Lieb.

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MONTANA

Montana students for the first time will take a test linked to the standards. There was a trial of the test last spring.

Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Denise Juneau said some schools are behind in curriculum development, teacher training and acquiring textbooks or other equipment to teach to the new standards. The 2013 Legislature rejected proposals to allocate money for training and equipment, and state Sen. Roger Webb has submitted a bill request for the 2015 session to bar any funding for the standards.

By Matt Volz.

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NEBRASKA

Nebraska has not adopted the standards, and uses state standards developed by teachers, said Betty VanDeventer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. By law, they’re reviewed once every five years.

A study commissioned by the department last year found that Nebraska’s language arts standards are as tough as those of Common Core and more demanding in some areas. The study said Nebraska’s math standards cover most of the national Common Core content. Some material is introduced in later grades, but the study said it’s often presented in greater depth.

By Grant Schulte.

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NEVADA

Opponents have spoken out against the standards at state school board and interim legislative meetings, and coalesced into a group called Stop Common Core Nevada. Some are working with lawmakers in hopes of introducing a bill next year to repeal the measures.

Meanwhile the Nevada Board of Education now refers to the Common Core name as the Nevada Academic Content Standards, and the state superintendent has launched a communications initiative called Nevada Ready to inform parents and the public about the new standards. The Wynn Family Foundation, funded by casino mogul and state school board president Elaine Wynn, has provided $200,000 to the public relations campaign.

By Michelle Rindels.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Local school boards are not required to adopt the Common Core standards, even though they have been endorsed by the state Board of Education. But state assessment tests, which students will begin taking next spring, must be aligned to the standards.

The Legislature defeated several bills this spring aimed at ending or scaling back the state’s involvement in the standards.

By Holly Ramer.

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NEW JERSEY

New Jersey is moving ahead. Beginning with the coming school year, schools will be required to use PARCC tests to measure how well students are learning the curriculum.

The Democrat-dominated Legislature wanted to delay consequences of those tests for at least two years until a review of the standards could be completed. That would have meant that the tests could not have been used as part of teacher evaluations.

In a compromise, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, took executive action that said the exams will count for teachers’ grades, but they’ll be given lower weight over the first two years. He also established a commission to review the effectiveness of student testing.

By Geoff Mulvihill

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NEW MEXICO

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has been a strong advocate of the Common Core standards, and students in grade three to 11 will take online tests aligned to the standards for the first time this spring.

The standards have been phased in, and teachers in all grades during the last school year, 2013-2014, were to have integrated Common Core into their classroom curriculum. There has been no push in the Democratic-controlled Legislature to back away from the standards.

By Barry Massey.

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NEW YORK

Dissatisfaction with Common Core and the tests based on them led thousands of New York parents to “opt out” of the 2014 exams, and state lawmakers approved a measure last month that delays the use of the test results in some teacher evaluations.

The Common Core has become an issue in the New York governor’s race. Rob Astorino, the Republican who aims to unseat incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, is seeking to capitalize on opposition to the standards by putting a “Stop Common Core” party on the November ballot. If enough people sign petitions for the party, Democrats and independents who oppose the Common Core could use the ballot line to vote for Astorino without voting Republican.

By Karen Matthews.

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NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation in July to rewrite Common Core, creating a commission to come up with new reading and math standards.

Common Core will be in place in the state until the new standards are created and implemented. The commission can choose to integrate parts of the current Common Core into the new standards.

By Katelyn Ferral.

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NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota adopted Common Core standards in 2011, and began to fully implement them during the 2013-14 school year. Assessments based on the new standards will start for all students next spring.

North Dakota lawmakers have remained mostly silent on the new standards.

By James MacPherson

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OHIO

Republican lawmakers in the Ohio House are beginning a push to repeal Common Core learning standards by year’s end, citing widespread discontent they say they’re hearing from parents, teachers and communities.

It’s unclear whether the bill could pass. Districts already are well on their way to implementing the standards, which have the backing of a diverse coalition of Ohio groups including teachers’ unions, superintendents, the Urban League and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

By Julie Carr Smyth.

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OKLAHOMA

Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who strongly supported Common Core as head of the National Governors Association, reversed course this year and signed into law a repeal of the standards.

In response, the federal government on Thursday did not renew the state’s waiver involving stringent requirements in the No Child Left Behind law. The move stripped Oklahoma’s power to decide how to spend $29 million in education dollars. The Obama administration said the state no longer could demonstrate that its school standards were preparing students for college and careers.

Education officials estimate that about 70 percent of Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts already had integrated the Common Core standards into their textbooks, teaching methods or curriculum. Now, districts are being directed to return to the Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS standards, that were in place in 2010, until the state develops its own new standards. That process is expected to take up to two years.

By Sean Murphy.

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OREGON

Eighty percent of Oregon teachers who responded to a statewide survey this spring said what’s being taught in their school aligns with the skilled required by Common Core.

But there has been grumbling.

Dennis Richardson, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he opposes Common Core. Meanwhile, Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, asked the state to delay using Common Core-aligned testing to evaluate teachers, students, school districts and individual schools. State education officials have asked the Education Department to grant a one-year delay in using results from the new, Common Core-aligned assessments as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

By Steven DuBois.

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PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania’s version, known as Pennsylvania Core Standards, took effect in March.

Continue reading the main story

They were developed in part by examining the national Common Core but are not identical. At least one state lawmaker is attempting to get them repealed, and others have spoken out against them.

By Mark Scolforo.

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RHODE ISLAND

The Common Core standards have been in place since the start of the 2013-2014 school year, and students will take the first assessments aligned with them next spring. The state is using the PARCC.

The state’s largest teachers union, National Education Association Rhode Island, has criticized the Common Core standards — including the pace of implementation — and what it considers an overemphasis on standardized tests. During debate over use of another test as a high school graduation requirement, state lawmakers generally expressed support for the standards and the alignment of the curriculum with the PARCC test.

By Erika Niedowski.

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SOUTH CAROLINA

A South Carolina law signed May 30 requires new standards to replace Common Core by the time students walk into classrooms in August 2015. Meanwhile, full implementation of Common Core, to include aligned testing, continues as planned this school year.

Many legislators saw the new law as a way to satisfy the opposition by essentially stepping up a review that would have occurred anyway, expecting little to change. Leaders of the state Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee — the two groups that must approve any changes — said there’s no time to start from scratch.

But Superintendent Mick Zais, a Republican who didn’t seek a second term, insists there is and that there will be no simple editing of Common Core. An agreed-to timeline calls for the new standards to receive final approval in March.

By Seanna Adcox.

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SOUTH DAKOTA

South Dakota began to fully implement the standards during the 2013-2014 school year.

A number of bills seeking to scrap the Common Core standards failed during the 2014 Legislature. Lawmakers, however, approved a bill that would delay the adoption of multistate standards in any other subjects until after July 2016. GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the bill in March.

By Regina Garcia Cano.

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TENNESSEE

During the last Tennessee General Assembly, lawmakers proposed several measures to do away with the state’s Common Core standards. All of them failed.

But lawmakers voted to delay the testing associated with Common Core for one year. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam reluctantly signed the measure. He said the standards are needed to better prepare students for college and the workforce and play a role in attempt to raise the state’s high school graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025.

By Lucas L. Johnson II.

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TEXAS

Texas refused to adopt Common Core, instead mandating curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, though as much as two-thirds of the state’s math standards are thought to overlap with Common Core requirements.

Conservatives continue to worry about Common Core seeping into Texas classrooms, so much so that the Legislature in 2013 passed a law expressly forbidding school districts from using it as part of lesson plans. Then, in June, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner in November’s governor’s race, issued an opinion reiterating that schools using Common Core standards “in any way” would violate that law.

By Will Weissert.

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UTAH

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, has defended the state’s Common Core standards, which are generally referred to as Utah Core or Utah Core Standards.

But after protests and swelling complaints from conservative activists, Herbert has asked the state attorney general’s office to review the adoption of the standards and to report the level of control Utah and local districts and schools have over curriculum. He also asked education experts to review how well the standards will prepare students for success and established a website where parents and others can leave comments about the standards.

Utah passed a law two years ago that requires the state to abandon any agreements or contracts if Utah’s control of standards or curriculum is ceded to the federal government. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Herbert signed a measure creating a standards review committee.

By Michelle Price.

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VERMONT

Common Core was introduced to Vermont educators in 2010 and this year schools are expected to have their curriculum fully aligned with the standards.

The agency has heard about pockets of parents who are upset. But Pat Fitzsimmons, the Common Core implementation coordinator for the state’s Agency of Education, says there’s been misinformation. She said some opponents are upset about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, to be given in 2015, and have concerns about technology involved and protecting student data.

By Lisa Rathke.

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VIRGINIA

Virginia refused to participate in the national Common Core system, instead deciding in 2010 to strengthen its own Standards of Learning.

The state introduced new standardized math tests in 2012 and more rigorous reading, writing and science assessments in 2013. The state is reducing the number of standardized exams that middle and elementary school students have to take from 22 to 17.

In addition, state Secretary of Education Anne Holton has appointed a 20-member committee to study the Standards of Learning and make recommendations to the Virginia Board of Education and the General Assembly on ways to improve SOL tests and student growth measures, and encourage innovative teaching.

By John Raby.

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WASHINGTON

Washington state adopted the new Common Core standards for math and English in 2011 and began using them in its public schools the following school year. During the coming school year, tests aligned to the standards will be used instead of the previous state-developed system.

Washington teachers and their union have expressed concern about both the new education standards and the new tests, saying they need more time to get used to the new program before they are judged on how well their students are doing. The Legislature decided not to require test scores to be part of the teachers’ evaluations, resulting in the state’s loss of its waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

By Donna Blankinship

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WEST VIRGINIA

In 2010, the West Virginia Board of Education approved Common Core state standards for math and English, customizing the content specifically for the state’s students. More than 100 teachers developed the content standards aimed at giving teachers more focus and flexibility while preparing students to be college and career ready.

 

The transition must be complete in all grades by this fall, but the state is allowing counties to determine how to adopt the changes.

By John Raby.

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WISCONSIN

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate facing re-election this year, has called for repeal of the standards, a move opposed by his Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Mary Burke.

Repeal also is opposed by the nonpartisan state superintendent of schools, who argues changing course now after spending millions of dollars to implement the Common Core the past four years would send Wisconsin schools into chaos. Testing tied to the standards will begin this spring.

By Scott Bauer.

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WYOMING

Some Wyoming school districts have implemented the standards, which were adopted in 2012, but critics have been persistent in speaking out against them.

A bill to repeal the standards in Wyoming failed to get enough votes for consideration in last winter’s legislative session. Under state law, the standards will be up for review again in 2017.

By Bob Moen.

For more information please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/02/50-states-common-core_n_5751864.html

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Educator Accountability for Education Professionals – A New Idea

SchoolAccountabilityOn his Education Week blog, Marc Tucker discusses the National Center for Education and the Economy’s latest report, which calls for replacing the current system of test-based accountability with a system much more likely to result in improvements in student performance.

Following is an excerpt  describing the plan outlined in the new report:

Fixing Our National Accountability System says the alternative to the kind of punitive accountability measures now dominating American policy is not just a different accountability system but a different kind of education system.  The report’s proposal does not focus on getting rid of our worst teachers, but on producing a surplus of very good teachers and making sure those teachers are equitably distributed among our students, so that students who are harder to educate get more of them than those who are easier to educate.  The countries that outperform the United States in comparative studies of student performance are recruiting their teachers from the upper ranges of their high school graduates, greatly raising the standards for getting into schools of education, making sure that prospective teachers have a very strong education in the subjects they will teach and making sure they learn their craft with early and comprehensive experiences in real school settings overseen by experienced mentor teachers.  They are attracting first class candidates into the teaching profession by offering them starting salaries comparable to those of high status professionals, using career ladders to create real careers in teaching, and recruiting and training school leaders who are very good at making schools the kind of places that true professionals want to work in.

This blog also covered Tucker’s recent series on school accountability. Please follow this link for more details: http://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/marc-tucker-designing-a-better-accountability-system/

Read the full blog here: http://bit.ly/1kXVgbV

Access Fixing our National Accountability System here: http://www.ncee.org/accountability/

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To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap

TALIS_OECD_140387580914038758098057Linda Darling-Hammond sees the recent PISA and TALIS results as a strong indictment of the direction of American education over the last two decades. Her answer, as she explains in an article for the Huffington Post Education, is to focus on teachers. Below is an excerpt from the article:

For years now, educators have looked to international tests as a yardstick to measure how well U.S. students are learning 21st-century skills compared to their peers. The answer has been: not so well. The U.S. has been falling further behind other nations and has struggled with a large achievement gap.

The results of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), released recently by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offer a stunning picture of the challenges experienced by American teachers, while providing provocative insights into what we might do to foster better teaching – and learning – in the United States.

In short, the survey shows that American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world. They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work. Not surprisingly, two-thirds feel their profession is not valued by society — an indicator that OECD finds is ultimately related to student achievement.

And here, in very brief form, are Darling-Hammond’s goals to change this situation:

  • Address inequities that undermine learning
  • Value teaching and teacher learning
  • Redesign schools to create time for collaboration
  • Create meaningful teacher evaluations that foster improvement

The last three on that list prioritize a clear vision of fostering teacher learning as key to improving student learning. This may mean that teachers have to hear some difficult critiques of their teaching, but Darling-Hammond advocates a collaborative model in which teachers would have more investment in their improvement.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-darlinghammond/to-close-the-achievement_b_5542614.html

To view the TALIS survey results, see:

http://nctaf.org/talis/talis-results/

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Education Next Poll Results

Education Next LogoA new poll by Education Next finds that the Common Core State Standards may have an image problem. The poll finds that the public likes the idea of shared standards – so long as the question doesn’t mention the phrase “Common Core.” Even Republicans, who express the most antipathy to the Common Core brand, overwhelmingly like the concept.

Pollsters discovered this by asking one randomly chosen half of the respondents the same question as was posed to the other half, except that they dropped any specific mention of the Common Core. The difference in the questions posed to the two groups is in brackets below:

As you may know, in the last few years states have been deciding whether or not to use [the Common Core, which are] standards for reading and math that are the same across the states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the use of these [the Common Core] standards in your state?

When the Common Core label is dropped from the question, support for the concept among the general public leaps from 53% to 68%. Significantly, the pronounced partisan polarization evoked by the phrase Common Core disappears when the question does not include those seemingly toxic words. The level of support among Republicans is 68%, virtually identical to the Democratic level of support. In other words, a consensus remains with respect to national standards, despite the fact that public debate over the Common Core has begun to polarize the public along partisan lines.

Education Next also found skepticism about teacher quality: While Americans think, on average, that about half of the teachers in their local schools deserve a grade of A or B, they think that more than one-fifth deserve a D or F; even teachers give these low marks to more than 1 in 10 of their peers, on average.

Some other interesting poll results include:

  • More than one-fourth of all families with school-age children have educated a child in a setting other than a traditional public school.
  • The public thinks less money should be spent on class-size reduction relative to the amount spent on teacher salaries or new books and technologies, if they are told the relative price of each intervention.
  • The poll also found that 41% of adults believe teacher unions have a negative effect on the local schools, while 34% say they have a positive effect. Those numbers have not changed from the last poll.

The full article has extensive poll results, analysis, as well as very helpful graphs to show the results.

For more information, please visit: http://educationnext.org/2014-ednext-poll-no-common-opinion-on-the-common-core/

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Do Students Learn More When Their Teachers Work Together?

shanker blogResearch suggests that teachers’ social capital – their relationships, networks and collaboration – may be just as important as their human capital, or individual ability.

Generally, education policy focuses either on in classroom factors or out of school factors. The thinking goes that in order for students to improve, they need better instruction and/or better support at home. And while no one is disputing those two lines of reasoning, Esther Quintero writing for the Shanker Blog makes a compelling case that a final point of the education reform triangle is mistakenly being left out: teachers’ social capital, namely, their ability to nurture relationships among colleagues.

The article helpfully distills the results of numerous studies that prove the efficacy of social capital:

I would argue … that this somewhat broad and diffuse notion that relationships matter is not some warm and fuzzy idea, but rather that it could hold an important key to educational improvement. Social capital is malleable; policies can and do shape teachers’ professional networks and how they function. For example, Gamoran, Gunter and Williams (2005) showed that sustained and coherent professional development can be used to create strong collegial ties (or social capital) among teachers. Similarly, Sun, Frank, Penuel & Kim (2013) showed that strategies that promote informal teacher leadership can be a mechanism to disseminate effective classroom practices through interactions — something that formal leadership networks are not well-equipped to accomplish…. [S]tudents learn more when their teachers are embedded in more supportive and collegial professional networks, and teacher collaboration may have as great an effect on student achievement as teacher human capital.

Quintero’s piece offers insight into teacher collaboration as a crucial element for student success and evidence of its efficacy. It underscores the need to pay careful attention to the collaborative structures, teacher leadership opportunities, and professional learning communities of schools.

For more information, please visit: http://shankerblog.org/?p=10162

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Teaching Teaching

How Teaching WorksOne of the classic questions about education is whether teaching can be taught. Is a teacher born or made? A recently released book, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone) by Elizabeth Green, answers with a definitive, “Yes, it can be taught!”

Green’s book is another one to add to a growing list of books that say that great teachers can be made. Others that would make the list would be Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, and Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World (which this blog covered here: http://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/the-smartest-kids-in-the-world/).

Here are some excerpts from Joe Nocera’s op-ed about Green’s new book:

Over the past few decades — with the rise of charter school movement and No Child Left Behind — reformers and teachers’ unions have been fighting over how to improve student performance in the classroom. The reformers’ solution, notes Green, is accountability. The unions’ solution is autonomy. “Where accountability proponents call for extensive student testing and frequent on-the-job evaluations, autonomy supporters say that teachers are professionals and should be treated accordingly,” Green writes. In both schemes, the teachers are basically left alone in the classroom to figure it out on their own.

In America, that’s how it’s always been done. An inexperienced teacher stands in front of a class on the first day on the job and stumbles his or her way to eventual success. Even in the best-case scenario, students are being shortchanged by rookie teachers who are learning on the job. In the worst-case scenario, a mediocre (or worse) teacher never figures out what’s required to bring learning alive.

Green’s book is about a more recent effort, spearheaded by a small handful of teaching revolutionaries, to improve the teaching of teaching. The common belief, held even by many people in the profession, that the best teachers are “natural-born” is wrong, she writes. The common characteristic of her main characters is that they have broken down teaching into certain key skills, which can be taught.

“You don’t need to be a genius,” Green told me recently. “You have to know how to manage a discussion. You have to know which problems are the ones most likely to get the lessons across. You have to understand how students make mistakes — how they think — so you can respond to that.” Are these skills easier for some people than others? Of course they are. But they can be taught, even to people who don’t instinctively know how to do these things.

The main question, then, that still remains is how to spread this idea about teaching effectively so that more and more teachers enter their first years of teaching equipped to succeed. It is one thing for a cohort from a certain college or program here or there to bring a change to the school that they wind up in and the students they teach, but it is another to scale this to whole districts and states.

For more information, please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/opinion/joe-nocera-teaching-teaching.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A13%22}

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ED: Excellent Educators for All

edAfter months of pressure from civil rights groups, the Education Department has taken another bold step to deal with the challenge of teacher inequity in the United States.

Following up on the 50 State Strategy for Equity that the Education Department rolled out back in the spring (http://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/50-state-strategy-for-equitable-distribution-of-teachers/), the Education Department last month rolled out another phase in its quest to live up to the demands of No Child Left Behind, particularly in terms of ensuring that lower income students have similarly excellent teachers as their higher income peers. The new initiative is called “Excellent Educators for All”.

“All children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, zip code or family income. It is critically important that we provide teachers and principals the support they need to help students reach their full potential,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation’s teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better. Local leaders and educators will develop their own innovative solutions, but we must work together to enhance and invigorate our focus on how to better recruit, support and retain effective teachers and principals for all students, especially the kids who need them most.”

The three-part Excellent Educators for All Initiative includes:

  • Comprehensive Educator Equity Plans
    • The Department is asking states to analyze their data and consult with teachers, principals, districts, parents and community organizations to create new, comprehensive educator equity plans that put in place locally-developed solutions to ensure every student has effective educators.
    • Chief State School Officers received a letter from Secretary Duncan asking them to submit their new plans by April 2015. These plans were first created in 2006 and are required by Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

 

  • Educator Equity Support Network
    • The Department is investing $4.2 million to launch a new technical assistance network to support states and districts in developing and implementing their plans to ensure all students have access to great educators.
    • The network will work to develop model plans, share promising practices, provide communities of practice for educators to discuss challenges and share lessons learned with each other, and create a network of support for educators working in high-need schools.

 

  • Educator Equity Profiles
    • To empower communities and help states enhance their equity plans, the Department will publish Educator Equity profiles this fall.  The profiles will help states identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students, as well as shine a spotlight on places where high-need schools are beating the odds and successfully recruiting and retaining effective educators.
    • In addition to the profiles, the states will receive their complete data file from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). States will be able to conduct detailed analyses of the data to inform their discussions about local inequities and design strategies for improving those inequities.

To learn more about the announcement, visit: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-initiative-provide-all-students-access-great-educators  and http://www.edcentral.org/will-new-teacher-equity-strategy-actually-spur-change/

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