Archive for the ‘Council of Chief State School Officers’ Category

Happy 2012

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Who would guess that the first New Year education article “New Questions about Trips Sponsored by a Scholastic Publisher” by Michael Winerip in the New York Times, Monday, January 2, 2012, shoots down the foundation sustained by one of the big education corporations?

Let’s see of what Pearson-Always Learning consists. Associated in the United States with Scott Foresman for the grade school crowd and Prentice Hall for the secondary and higher education folks, it is a big publisher. Along with Macmillan-Harcourt, McGraw Hill, Addison-Wesley, Longman, and Allyn and Bacon, it has stakes in every field of education it can tackle. The latest: it is geared up for digital education and testing services. In addition, Pearson-Always Learning owns Penguin Group, with its trade book imprints, and the newspaper the Financial Times.

Let’s hear about its pal, the Pearson Foundation. The website looks great and under About Us suggests all the right educational words and tools. It is a 501c3 non-profit organization that promotes literacy, learning, and great teaching. Why does the New York Times have questions?

It turns out from the article that the foundation offers trips around the world (London, China, Finland, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro) to see education programs that work, paying for the air fare and accommodations for members of the Council of Chief State School Officers. As one might realize, the Foundation is choosing Chief State School Officers where Pearson-Always Learning is selling.

Other posts have commended the Council of Chief State School Officers for support of Common Core Standards. Education blogs all over the United States have commented about good schools and how they find success. But, remember that a teacher is being criticized every day by the same education experts that are selling the state testing services or digital analysis materials.

Be knowledgeable what your district chooses.

Open School Doors for Little Ones

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

In thirty-four months since January 21, 2009, thought in the education world has changed dramatically.

For instance, San Francisco Unified has become a field test district with a 3-year grant from S.D. Bechtel Foundation to try out Common Core Math Standards agreed to by 45 states in the U.S. (See “New take on math-will it add up?” by Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2011). The common core standards were developed from the haphazard standards of 50 individual states, revised and aligned with the guidance of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the oversight of the National Governors’ Association. To be sure, the standards can’t be mistaken for a takeover by the federal government.

Data driven analysis of student and school improvement has been adopted by many states. The talk is about how to evaluate teacher and school progress-not whether to evaluate. To the consternation of many, Oakland Public Schools in California, troubled for years, is planning to shut five schools in its effort to improve finances and the achievement of its students. On the other hand, legislation set in California to allow parent choice to get rid of staff, move to another school, or set up a charter school is coming about in low-income Compton USD.

And not least, the offer by the U.S. Department of Education to look at state plans to improve schools is an effort to provide a realistic chance to see student achievement mandated by No Child Left Behind. The adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmarks, long seen as unlikely for every child to reach, can now be modified-not to fall back into the easy rut, but to set flexible and achievable goals.

Two news stories about four and five year olds beginning school should make anyone with interest in the world of education sit up and pay attention. We are seeing movement for policies endorsed by the federal government to expand Early Childhood Education.

This school year in California, the date by which a child may enter kindergarten has changed. September 1 is the cut-off date. It reduces the number of very young boys and girls who are asked to settle into the social and academic activities of the ten month kindergarten year. The expectation is that a child’s chronological age will more closely match his/her readiness to learn. In addition, the number of children held out of kindergarten by parents will be reduced, a controversial choice outlined in “Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril” by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt In The New York Times, September 25, 2011..

Still, it will be to no child’s advantage if funding for Head Start is pulled out from under a wonderful program that most middle-class children have available to them from private sources. In the desire to cut the federal debt, conservative Congress members have proposed such short-sighted ideas. Especially in the current economy, poor children are the most vulnerable group in America. In 2010, 30+% of children 0-5 years old lived in families with income below the poverty line.

Now why would anyone think it was a bargain to cut funding that would leave those children behind in readiness skills to which other kindergarten children have access? And which leads to less likelihood of proficiency in the reading, language, math, science and history common core standards expected of every child in the United States by the time they graduate high school?

“The time has come…

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

To talk of many things”-Lewis Carroll. But talk about the lack of revision to ESEA (NCLB in its last iteration) is dominating the education world in September 2011.

rural school and district on Lopez Island, Washington

rural school and district on Lopez Island, Washington

The No Child Left Behind Act- President George W. Bush’s title for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)– was first authorized in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson and revised every 5 years until the last alteration in 2001. Since then, all calls for adjustments have hit the high Congressional wall of inaction.

Who’s talking? National teachers’ unions NEA and AFT advocate change. The Council of Chief State School Officers exhorts Congress. Members of the National Governor’s Association have been in the forefront.

All across the country non-union teacher’s groups are the biggest voices: Educators4Excellence in New York; Teacher Plus in Boston, Indianapolis, and Chicago; Center for Teaching Quality in North Carolina, Denver, and Seattle to name a few.

What did the 2001 act provide? The legislation is lengthy and detailed. The sections on which most talk centers are “Improve the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged” and “Improving Basic Programs…” which delineate the main provisions of the act. Next, qualifications for teachers and paraprofessionals led to time-consuming paperwork to assure each teacher was “highly qualified.” Also, Innovative Programs morphed into advocacy for charter schools. The section “Improving Basic Programs” outlined the actions to show “adequate yearly progress” in reading and mathematics: in brief, each state must teach to its curriculum standards and provide outcomes on benchmark exams which would lead to 100% school proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

Why is NCLB so despised? All of these mandated programs are underfunded. As has been declared in this blog many times, it was clear to most teachers and administrators from the beginning that to have every student in a state reach grade level proficiency in two subjects by 2014 was a preposterous goal. The cost of upgrading curriculum standards and providing tests that give a single score by which to judge students is a contentious argument.

The ESEA legislation should have been revised by Congress in 2005-2006. It wasn’t. President Obama laid out revisions for Congress to take up in 2009 and March 2011. No go. In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Education used a provision in the legislation to offer waivers to the 2014 proficiency benchmark. States that could show consistent improvement in the four big administration priorities for ESEA revision would be authorized to alter their programs. The administration’s priorities are 1) working state data systems; 2) turn-around plans for low-performing schools; 3) improve experienced vs. new teacher distribution in low-performing schools; 4) boost curriculum standards in the state.

To create jobs in a stricken economy and to provide a further push to Congress, President Obama in his speech on September 8, 2011, recommended $60 billion to be divided among states to save teachers’ jobs and fix the infrastructure of school property. The inference was also to finish ESEA revisions.

Representative John Kline, Education Committee, commented on the high cost and more regulation, calling the program a teacher’s union bailout. Representative George Miller and Senator Tom Harkin of their respective Education Committees were more enthusiastic. So far Congressional revisions have been offered to bolster charter schools, eliminate forty programs under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Education (like the Star Schools Distance Learning Program), and flexible shift of federal funds (like Title 1) from poverty budget lines to special education.

What to our surprise! John Kline’s House Education committee has passed a vote on the charter schools revisions yesterday, September 13, 2011. On to a full house vote.

On the other hand, teacher’s organizations look for revision in school and teacher accountability rules and evaluation; stability in curriculum standards; and testing that leads to better learning rather than a score by which to berate teachers and students when the hurdle is not vaulted even though students may have leaped higher.

The time has come….

Common Core Standards create a Medusa controversy for public education

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Who’s the head of public school education: local school districts, the state, or the federal government?  Colorado’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) has become a Medusa-like controversy.

Colorado elementary school

Colorado elementary school

The State Board of Education voted August 2 to accept Common Core Standards on a contentious 4-3 vote.  The vote broke along party lines, with the exception of Vice Chair Randy DeHoff (R-South Denver metro), who supported adoption.

Arguments against standards did not address the benchmarks themselves.  Opponent Peggy Littleton (R-Colorado Springs) argued that CCSSI is a “takeover” of education by the federal government.  DeHoff and other board supporters said the standards address the challenge of educating Colorado students to compete for jobs across the nation and the world.

Standards created independently of the federal government

The standards were not developed by the federal government.  They were written under the auspices of The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Other education groups, including the National Association of State Boards of Education, joined in.  Teachers added input and direction.  (Myths and Facts about CCSSI)

DeHoff said that standards opponents in Colorado have not directly attacked the benchmarks themselves because they are closely aligned to current state guidelines.  The CCSSI project allows states to adjust up to 15 percent of the standards to accommodate local needs.  (See standards k-12 by subject)

Local school districts will implement the standards based on the State Board of Education’s vote.  But according to the Colorado constitution, education is the responsibility of local school boards, not the state or the federal government.

Money has strings

With funding resources so low at the local and state level, however, local school boards are relying on federal dollars to backfill missing state dollars (Colorado budget cuts to education). The recent federal allocation of $10 billion to help local schools stay staffed up is critical to Colorado school district budgets.  Without that money, additional cuts over $200 million across all Colorado school districts would occur this year.

Once an entity above the local puts money into the education pot, that entity wants some say over the use of the money.  Colorado helps local school districts at about a 60/40 ratio.  Since the state started massive contributions to local schools in the 90’s, it’s demanded more and more authority over school districts.

The federal government at this point is much less invested in individual school districts.  But the federal government has given dollars now to help schools through the recession.

The bottom line is that money talks.  School districts in Colorado lost absolute control of local education when the state moved in with funding and added many requirements for that funding.  The federal government added more requirements when it contributed its funding.

These issues obscure whether the standards are any good.  Funding public education has taken on the quality of putting together a billion piece puzzle without a picture as a guide.  The puzzle box is titled “Who heads public education?”  As it turns out, the picture is of Medusa with all those snakes.

Standards We Can Believe In

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The entire education world stands behind consistent core content standards to use as benchmarks for student evaluation.  But, what about teacher evaluation?

another California elementary school

another California elementary school

At this moment most school districts in the country are frozen by the disarray in state budgets and taxpayer angst, preferring to blame teachers when students aren’t doing well just as the oil execs pointed fingers at everyone but themselves for the latest catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

So with the uncontained controversy over funds for schools-think about it, we’re talking about money to make sure students are educated.  What would it be like to live in the countries where children don’t go to school at all, aren’t educated, struggle through life with little to sustain them much less lift themselves out of their hard scrabble existence?

Here in the U.S. the latest way we value our students is to not approve school district budgets, vote not to pass parcel taxes, exact wage freezes and higher insurance premium concessions from teachers, and require furlough days–to name a few of the cutback options pervading not only urban districts but upscale suburban districts also.

On top of such turmoil, state legislatures are passing new education bills that feel to teachers like another slap.  Why?  Before common core standards for students are put in place, and no matter what the states say, teachers are being evaluated by one tool–analyzing the improvement in test scores for the teacher’s students.  For many states improvement in this area would mean SPENDING funds and time to make those test scores valid and available.

Here it is: the cart before the horse.

This is how academic standards for student achievement should affect the teacher evaluation goal.  Follow this path: consistent standards and benchmarks, preferably throughout regions of the country if not nationwide; then tests that actually assess those standards and for which proficiency is equivalent region-wide; after test analysis, provisions made for each school to support those students who need intervention; next yearly evaluation, non-threatening, designed collaboratively with teachers in a school, test scores being one aspect; yearly evaluation of the school as a whole and of the district as a whole, including the superintendent and school board; money set aside to provide professional development for aspects of academic achievement not met by teacher, principal, school, and district.  REPEAT EACH YEAR.

This process is not on the agenda.  Instead, teacher tenure, anathema for most lay people, drives the process, especially for those fixated on turning schools into businesses, which they aren’t and won’t be even if run for profit.  Why would anyone wish to make a profit on the backs of little kids just doing what their parents want and the state requires?

The tenure aspect of teacher evaluation ought to be seen as an outcome of consistent, agreed upon standards and benchmarks for student achievement.  The teacher’s standards must be clear, unequivocal, based on objective statements of good teaching.

In addition, an agreed upon framework is needed for how the school community works together to meet student achievement goals.  If one teacher can’t or won’t support that goal, then steps to lay off the teacher make sense.

If you are interested in details of national student core standards, part of the federal Common Core State Standards Initiative to make assessment and proficiency consistent and achievable across the country, you can go to the National Governor’s Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Both groups have overseen the development of and recently set out a draft of national core standards K-12 from which the process outlined above would lead to results that teachers may feel adequate for successful evaluation.  Don’t forget the principal and school district administrators must be evaluated also.

You can go directly to look at the core standards and take a survey.  Do so.