Archive for the ‘National Governor’s Association’ Category

Controversy Clouds Common Core Compact

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were initially an answer to controversy over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It required students to be proficient in state standards by this year 2014. Most states and teachers in the country knew years ago that the provisions of NCLB (the revision of the Elementary and Secondary School Act in 2001) would never succeed.

Why? States realized that when comparing proficiency, each state had different standards for grade level proficiency and different benchmarks to label students proficient or not. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam confirmed that diagnosis. High-flying student scores dived on the NAEP.

In the uproar that followed, the National Governor’s Association asked the Chief State School Officers Association to gather a team willing to set up standards for all 50 states, Washington D.C. and other territories like Guam. Although agreement to use the standards was voluntary, 45 of the 50 states did agree. And, in spite of criticism that always appears when a new idea is suggested, the standards were well-liked at first. Students were asked to think critically (the new “thing”) and to use their knowledge to solve problems, not merely spit out a fact. Could it be that reams of opinion about vouchers, teacher evaluation, and “school choice” would be sidelined as teacher preparation and strengthened curriculum became the headline?

As for criticism, the most worrisome is to blame current poor rates of reading and math proficiency, poor high school graduation, and poor teacher practice on public school education. Above all, the 22% impoverished children in the U.S. continue to trouble urban and rural sections of the country. Will CCSS change that? Only with relentless determination over time.

What has happened? Suddenly, the talk has become political. States have dropped out of the two consortia that formed to design an exam that would assess student learning. Did anyone think that an “assessment” would NOT be designed? However, a major concern is the use of “problem solving” queries rather than old-time multiple choice questions. Ah! Should students be taught to think?

Controversy explodes over security and privacy of test data. (See other posts.) Although participation is voluntary and the standards were developed by state educators, not the federal government, very conservative citizens insist the CCSS is an element of “federal takeover” of their lives. The most conservative state legislatures use such worries as the excuse to drop out of their consortia. Indiana has dropped away. Missouri’s and Kansas’ legislatures are debating the issue.

Will we ever get past the politics? You may have strong ideas about assessment, teacher preparation, or “choice.” Who would think that providing Common Core State Standards to every citizen’s son and daughter should be the controversy?

Mind Your Common Core Standards

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Defenders say Common Core Standards answer the common problem of differing education standards among states. How many students have matriculated to your California school from another state and have no idea about fractions, let’s say, when your class is in the middle of the unit? It doesn’t have to be another state, it could be another California county!

To overcome that reality, for a while California students had to be enrolled in a school district for a specified number of days or their yearly state test was not counted in the final record for the school and district. That happened when Adequate Yearly Progress federal scores were the important measure. After a while, teachers, schools, and districts, in California anyway, stopped fretting about the federal scores and concentrated on curriculum that would improve student success measured by the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) system. You know California’s ambition to take the lead in accountability even when it had no money.

Now that money is available to school budgets, the California Department of Education and the California Teachers Association have begun professional development for the implementation of California’s version of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2014-2015.

When collaboration occurs, many teachers look forward to professional development before the transition to CCSS use. Those who promote the transition focus on the goals of fewer topics and greater depth. The CCSS website stresses that teaching methods are not dictated. Who wouldn’t be attracted to teaching more about one topic, and not worry about all those pages not covered in the textbook? What teacher does not welcome with a good heart the “cycle of inquiry,” leading to strategies that are best practices?

Faultfinderss are now coming forward to name the flaws for the 45 states who agreed to upgrade the curriculum and standards that allow a huge country of more than 50 million children have a chance at better college and career, whether vocational or professional. Critics claim parents have not had the opportunity to understand the education changes. There has not been enough public discussion country-wide. New demanding tests by some states before adequate implementation means student success doesn’t pan out. The House of Representatives bill to finally revise the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act” (ESEA) leaves standards to the states, thereby wiping out the work of the National Governors Association attempt to improve learning.

Change takes time and perseverance. Teachers have long been criticized as unwilling to try change and rely on their unions to back them up. However, both national teachers’ unions are strong supporters of Common Core State Standards.

So mind your p’s and q’s. Keep a stiff upper lip! Watch the world through rose-colored glasses.

For more detail, see “Who’s Minding the Schools?” by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreyfus, New York Times, June 9, 2013. See articles on CCSS in California Educator, March 2013 and June/July 2013.

Binder of Support

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Remember, teachers, the November general elections are coming. Time for each of you to seriously think about which candidate’s ideas are likely to carry on improvement for education in the United States.

Think back to 2001. The one benefit of the legislation called No Child Left Behind was to cause schools to think about access to good education for all students. Most teachers, however, could see the loophole right away.

States received the mandate to make sure every student achieved 100% proficiency in English and Math by 2014. States were left to decide how that difficult goal would be achieved. No government funding, other than Title I, was attached to the legislation. Each state had to find the money to satisfy the requirements.

Think about 2009. A new president and new Superintendent of the United States Department of Education took on the legislation. A jolt provided a chance for student achievement in an economy that needs well-trained, skilled workers; a call was made to turn around low-performing schools; and money, notably Race to the Top funds, was offered to help states achieve the goals.

Quickly, school change has resonated across country. In any education journal, one reads how school districts produced a model for growth from low- to high-performing. States have redesigned evaluation for students, teachers, and administrators without denigrating or chasing away unions. The national Governors Association agreed to the establishment of Common Core Standards for the country’s curriculum. It’s amazing to hear about the variety of school plans that take into account the student demographics, from the poorest neighborhood to the wealthiest.

True, using one standardized or criterion-referenced test a year is still a controversy, and not the best or only way to assess students. The “how to” for teacher evaluation has not been acclaimed by all.

Compared to the mishmash of educational ideas that would take place with another change in presidency, it is difficult to imagine any teacher, even one who doesn’t like the testing situation or the school district’s evaluation scheme in use at the moment, would want to go back to the old ways.

Paying attention to statements put forward during the GOP campaign should raise alarm. Would you want education funding to be slashed further? Do you want to solve the issues for public education with an opt-out program such as vouchers? Or the candidate who would only preserve the U.S. Department of Education in order to go after unions?

In addition, the GOP candidate suddenly pledges lower taxes to middle-income voters although his tax plan is an unfair mathematic muddle. The candidate insists on reducing the deficit by cutting all services that benefit families and thus your students. Not to forget, the Affordable Care Act that helps families and students will be decimated.

Teachers, vote early or by mail or at the polling place on November 6, but you must choose. Who will support your profession or the students for whom you have dedicated your time and effort?

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….