State Grapples With Timeline for Implementation of New Science Standards

As reported by Ed Source:

Two years after it adopted a new set of science standards, the California State Board of Education is trying to allow enough time to best phase them in so it avoids some of the pitfalls it faced in implementing the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts.

The Next Generation Science Standards have in many ways been overshadowed by the Common Core, which the state adopted in 2010 and is now being implemented in school districts across California. By contrast, the science standards, adopted in 2013, are being introduced more slowly across the state.

At its November meeting in Sacramento, the State Board of Education voted to extend the timeline for finalizing a new science curriculum “framework” from its original projected date of January 2016 to September or November 2016.

A framework is essentially a blueprint for creating a curriculum based on the new standards that can be implemented in the classroom. The board is now inviting public comment on the draft science framework through Jan. 19. …

Click here to read the full article

Students Struggle on Test of New Common Core Standards

California gave its first statewide tests aligned with the Common Core standards last spring. The scores have just come out, with 40 percent of fourth-graders scoring proficient or better on the English Language Arts (ELA) test and 35 percent doing so in math. Scores for 8th and 11th grade are somewhat higher in ELA and lower in math. This new test is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

The share scoring proficient or higher on the new test is lower than on the old test, the California Standards Test (CST). In the final year that students were tested using CST—and on the old state standards—67 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient or higher. Most public school parents (71 percent) expected students to score at least as well on the new tests as on the old ones, according to a recent PPIC Statewide Survey. But most educators did not. Here’s why: the Common Core standards are more demanding than California’s old ones, students and teachers are in the early years of transitioning to these standards, and what it means to be proficient on the new test is different than on the old one. California is not the only state finding that the first year of Common Core testing reset perceptions of student performance.

hillugoTo the right we present results for the CST and the Smarter Balanced tests, alongside California students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national ongoing assessment of what children know in a variety of subject areas. While these three test results are not directly comparable because each measures competence relative to different standards and each has its own definition of what it takes for a student to score “proficient,” it is important to have a clear sense of how our students are faring on each. The Smarter Balanced test results for each student group are higher than the NAEP, but low relative to the most recent CST.

We find gaps in proficiency for economically disadvantaged students and English Learners (ELs). Each group is specifically targeted for higher funding levels by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The CST gaps between EL and white students (61%) and between economically disadvantaged and white students (31 percent) are both smaller than those for the Smarter Balanced test (79 percent and 54 percent, respectively). Gaps for the NAEP are somewhat larger than in the Smarter Balanced tests. Educators will not be surprised by these findings.

hillugo2California’s public school system has seen dramatic changes in recent years, and the 2014–15 Smarter Balanced test results are an important baseline to measure how these changes are affecting students. In the past, California students’ test results improved almost every year that the CST was administered. Today, both the Common Core State Standards and the LCFF aim to improve outcomes for all students and close achievement gaps. Multiple years of Smarter Balanced test results will be needed to monitor progress. These new higher standards are meant to improve outcomes well beyond secondary schooling, and the least advantaged students have the farthest to go. The new curriculum and new funding should help get them there.

Note (TOP CHART): NAEP is given to a representative sample of California students. FRPL refers to students who qualify for free or reduced price meals. Source: 2012-2013 California Standards Test, 2012-13 National Assessment of Educational Progress, and 2014-15 Smarter Balanced Assessments.
  
Note (BOTTOM CHART): We calculate the percentage gap by subtracting EL and economically disadvantaged students scores from white student scores and dividing by white students’ scores. Source: Authors’ calculations from the SBAC, NAEP, and CST.

Laura Hill is a Senior Fellow at PPIC. Iwunze Ugo is a Research Associate at PPIC.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Beware of Union-Led Anti-Republican Politicking in Your Kids’ Classrooms

I watched the GOP presidential debate because my students are counting on me” is the title of a piece posted on the National Education Association website by “guest writer” Tom McLaughlin, a high school drama teacher from Council Bluffs, IA. He claims that “… in addition to this debate, I had an obligation to watch future debates, take notes, and share the truth. I have a responsibility to do that for my students.” (Hmm – just why is a drama teacher delving into politics with his students? Brought back memories of a Che Guevara poster prominently displayed in the music teacher’s class at my former middle school.)

So in any event, I’m thinking this will be a commentary about Common Core, since it garnered the only discussion of education at the first Republican debate in Cleveland last Thursday. In reality, that issue provoked a brief back-and-forth between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio which really didn’t shed much light on the subject. But the words “Common Core” never appear in the piece by McLaughlin. Instead, the drama teacher’s “truth sharing” includes comments like:

Many of the candidates on last night’s stage have clear records of draining critical funding away from public schools to give to private schools, supporting charter schools that are unaccountable to students, parents and taxpayers, and slashing education funding and those programs that serve students and help them in the classroom.

As educators and trusted messengers in our communities, we must make sure the public is informed and not fooled by presidential candidates who say they believe in a world-class education system but have a history of starving our public schools of critical funding and supporting flawed so-called reforms that don’t work.

Obviously McLaughlin never intended to report on the debate, but rather to deliver a diatribe infused with standard teacher union talking points against any and all who favor reform and dare have an “R” after their names. (Curiously, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush all took shots at the teachers unions during the debate and there was no mention of them in McLaughlin’s critique.)

Over at the “NEA Votes” Facebook page, the union faithful were having a field day with McLaughlin’s post and the debate. With one or two exceptions, the comments were posted by pro-union mouthpieces using the same tired talking points that the union elite use. Perhaps the loopiest of all was a post that equated conservatism with Fascism:

The scary part of all this is that these teachers, who don’t seem to have an objective bone in their collective bodies – and are proud of it – have a captive audience of children, many of whom will be the recipients of their teachers’ anti-reform, anti-school choice and anti-Republican rhetoric leading up to the presidential election in 2016.

If you are a Republican parent (or just a fair-minded one of any political persuasion), please be ready for the political onslaught supporting the Big Government-Big Union complex (aka the Blob) your kids may be in for. When the indoctrination starts, don’t be shy about speaking up. Please mention to anyone who is spouting the union party line (and your kids) that in Jeb Bush’s Florida, there are more than 40,000 teachers who do not work for school districts and 14,000 of them have chosen to work in charter schools. They’ve made these choices for the same reason parents do – because charters offer a better fit for their individual needs.

Tell them that despite McLaughlin’s absurd comment, charter and private schools are indeed accountable … to parents. If parents aren’t happy with those schools, they close, unlike traditional public schools which are accountable to no one and typically get more money thrown their way if they are failing.

Tell them that we have tripled our public education funding nationally – in constant dollars – over the last 40 years and have nothing to show for it.

Tell them that Wisconsin’s test scores have risen since the teachers unions’ favorite Republican punching bag Scott Walker has been governor.

Tell them that homeschooling is advancing across the country – especially in big cities – because parents of all political stripes are tired of a one-size-fits-all Blob education.

Tell them that in California, the Blob is under attack and that the effort is bipartisan. The StullReed and Vergara lawsuits, all of which have successfully challenged Blob work rules like tenure and seniority and fought to get a realistic teacher evaluation system in place, have seen Republicans and Democrats working together to undo the mess that McLaughlin and his ilk have helped to create.

Perhaps most importantly explain that when it comes to education policy reform, the battle is not typically between Democrats and Republicans or liberals and conservatives, but rather between those who defend the status quo and those who are demanding reasonable reforms to an outsized, outdated, outmoded and out-of-touch educational system.

When I was growing up, I never had a clue what my teachers’ politics were. They understood they were not there to indoctrinate me. Accordingly, I followed suit when I taught public school for 28 years. But there are many now who have decided not to check their politics at the classroom door, instead bringing it to their students with a religious zeal that makes Elmer Gantry look like a wallflower. Many teachers now take their cue from the likes of National Education Association Executive Director John Stocks who, at the recent NEA convention, told his flock that teachers need to become “social justice warriors.”

Silly me, all along I thought teachers were there to teach.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Will Jeb Bush’s Education Record Win Him The Nomination, Or Destroy Him?

502px-Jeb_Bush_by_Gage_SkidmoreFormer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement Monday that he is running for president instantly makes him both a man to beat and a top target in a crowded GOP field. Bush’s big donor base, establishment backing, and more moderate reputation will almost certainly make him the top target of other GOP candidates. Whether he can survive their onslaught and emerge as the nominee will depend in large part on how well he can harness his record on a single, signature issue: Education.

Education is Bush’s biggest policy passion and gave him his biggest successes as a governor. It’s not a stretch to say that Bush has been the single biggest driver of conservative education reform in the past 20 years. Bush simply can’t afford to stay away from the issue. But all of his accomplishments are counter-balanced by the burden of Common Core, which has the potential to undo his candidacy if handled poorly.

Common Core complicates what is otherwise an extremely strong education record for Bush– one that should have ample appeal to conservatives. Back in the late 1990s, Florida’s schools were among the country’s worst. Bush made education a centerpiece of his 1998 gubernatorial bid, and fully delivered on that promise in 1999 with his A-Plus Plan.

A-plus made a series of sweeping changes to Florida schools, based on three core principles: higher standards, accountability for schools, and increased school choice. The plan was innovative at the time, but today its components have been copied by Republicans across the country.

Under A-plus, every single public school was given a letter grade reflecting its performance. It sought to limit social promotion (passing students on to the next grade regardless of academic performance) by requiring students to pass a reading test to graduate from the third to the fourth grade. Most notably, it created one of the country’s first private school voucher programs, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Under the program, students attending schools with failing letter grades could receive a voucher to attend a school of their choice, including a fully private one. Bush’s initial voucher program was struck down by a state court in 2006, but has since been revived in a new form and continues to be one of the country’s largest.

Bush’s education efforts weren’t limited to A-plus. Before becoming governor, he helped open Florida’s first charter school in 1996, and after being elected he worked to expand the number of charters.

When A-plus was passed in 1999, Bush predicted that Florida’s schools would experience a “renaissance”– and he was right. In the past 17 years, Florida scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federal standardized test administered to select student populations in each state, have been among the fastest-rising in the country, and the situation for low-income students is particularly improved. On the 2013 NAEP, Florida’s low-income fourth graders finished first in the nation in reading, compared to 35th place (out of just 40 states) in 1999.

Charter schools have been a big hit as well, with over 220,000 Florida students enrolled at over 600 schools– more than 10 percent of the state’s entire K-12 student body.

Ironically, had Bush stopped caring about education once he left the governor’s mansion in 2007, the issue would probably be a much bigger asset for him today. Instead, Bush dedicated his post-gubernatorial days to making the A-plus Plan a national model. In 2007, he established the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), a think-tank dedicated to pushing his idea of school reform. ExcelinEd has drawn big donations from organizations like the Gates Foundation, and has played a significant role promoting school choice and accountability measures in more than 20 other states.

While ExcelinEd has helped keep Bush in the public eye as a policy activist, it’s also helped create his great weakness: Common Core. At the helm of ExcelinEd, Bush was an early and strong proponent of Common Core when it was still being created by state governors in 2010. To Bush, Common Core was simply a means to take his vision of higher school standards nationwide in an effort to replicate Florida’s improvement.

Many Republicans, however, have become convinced that Common Core’s national reach represents a federal takeover of education, and most GOP contenders (many of whom once happily backed the Core) have been happy to join the opposition. Bush, though, has continued to fight hard for the new standards. In 2014, for instance, he visited Tennessee to urge lawmakers there to hold the line against an “avalanche” of criticism. Last November, he spoke at a D.C. education conference where he called the backlash against the Core “troubling” and argued that it should be seen as the “new minimum” for states in education.

In 2015, perhaps belatedly seeing just how toxic Common Core is to some Republicans, Bush started to avoid talking about it. Last February, Bush spoke for 35 minutes at a Florida education conference without mentioning Common Core once, instead making a vague statement about his support for “higher standards.” When he can’t avoid Common Core, Bush is careful to emphasize that he is opposed to any federal control of education standards.

“Every school should have high standards,” Bush said during his Monday announcement, “and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them.”

Still, his actions have tied him so irrevocably to Common Core that he simply can’t disown the standards at this point without making a blatant flip-flop.

Now that Bush is a candidate, that could be a problem. He can expect months of fierce criticism from his Republican opponents, all of whom oppose Common Core. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has pledged to “repeal every word” of it. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has argued the issue is so toxic that no Republican can win while supporting it. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to announce a run next week, has defined himself in the past year by his fierce opposition to Common Core and can be expected to tear into Bush for it repeatedly.

The attacks will be fierce, but not necessarily lethal for Bush. Polls of the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina show that while Republican voters there don’t love Common Core, they’re also willing to vote for a candidate who supports it. If Bush can get primary voters to focus on his manifold other achievements in education, which are far more popular and appealing to red-meat conservatives, he may yet be the party’s nominee in 2016.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Revised Estimate for K-12 Spending: $6 Billion More Next Year

Vidak_Andy_School_8x12_0164Spending for K-12 schools in the coming year will be $6 billion more than Gov. Jerry Brown proposed just five months ago, raising per-student spending $3,000 – 45 percent – from what it was four years ago, according to the revised state budget that the governor released on Thursday.

State revenues have surged this year, and K-12 schools and community colleges will haul in nearly every penny because of Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment that puts schools first in line for restoring funding when the economy rebounds after a recession.

The new level of Prop. 98 spending for K-12 schools and community colleges will be $68.4 billion in 2015-16. That is $7.5 billion more than the Legislature appropriated last June for the current year. Surging revenues, which are projected to continue into next year, will bring the total increase for schools next year to nearly $14 billion in Prop. 98 spending (see pages 13-22 of state budget summary).

But warning that “the reality is another recession is coming,” Brown is splitting the increase between ongoing spending, one-time expenditures and paying off debts.

Local Control Funding: The Local Control Funding Formula, which provides general spending to schools, will remain his top priority. It will get $6.1 billion more next year, or about $1,000 more per student on average, with districts with higher proportions of English language learners and low-income children receiving more.

Paying off mandates: About $3.5 billion ($2.4 billion more than in the January budget) will pay for unreimbursed mandated expenses. Districts and county offices of education can use this money however they want, although the governor is encouraging them to spend it on implementing the new Common Core and science standards.

“I think there’s an expectation and hope that it will be put into Common Core implementation,” said David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, a research center based at Stanford University, “Common Core is hard work and the money, I think, will be greatly received and put to good use.”

But Education Trust-West, an advocacy group for low-income and minority students, criticized Brown for not requiring districts to use the money for Common Core. “Districts will be pressured to use these funds for many other competing priorities,” it said in a statement. “We missed an opportunity to ensure our state standards will truly make a difference for all of our students.”

Special education: The Statewide Special Education Task Force, a group convened in 2013 to propose improvements to special education in California, received recognition in the revised budget – and $60 million for some of the actions it recommended. This includes  $50 million in ongoing funding and $10 million in one-time funding to expand interventions for special-needs children under two years old, add 2,500 additional preschool slots prioritized for special-needs children and expand data-driven schoolwide behavioral supports.

End of deferrals: About $1 billion will pay off the final late payments to districts, known as deferrals, which forced districts to borrow money, sometimes at high interest rates, while waiting for state funding.

Advocates for young children and the Legislative Women’s Caucus had called on Brown to provide $600 million more for child care for low-income families by shifting that expense into Prop. 98. The Legislative Analyst’s Office had suggested freeing up money for non-Prop. 98 spending by adjusting property taxes that go toward education funding.

But Michael Cohen, director of the Department of Finance, said he was “not interested in manipulating the Prop. 98 guarantee” and “plopping things into 98” to spend additional money. The department, he said, distinguished programs that qualify for education funding.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee’s education subcommittee, said that she shares the “strong sentiment” to include more money for child care in Prop. 98, where that funding was included until it was shifted in 2010-11. The issue will be negotiated with the administration, she said.

PRAISE FROM EDUCATION GROUPS

Education groups generally had high praise for the revised budget. Plank called it a “spectacularly good budget for K-12.” Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors, a lobbying firm representing school districts and county offices of education, said it was “one of the best budgets for K-12 I have ever seen. It has fully discretionary money with no strings attached. That normally doesn’t happen.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that extra revenue in the May budget revision will raise K-12 Proposition 98 funding to $9,978 per student –$656 per student higher than the inflation-adjusted, pre-recession spending level  in 2007-08. The LAO’s  estimate for 2014-15 includes one-time spending of $700 per student more than districts anticipated when they built their 2014-15 budgets; that money, totaling $4.3 billion, will be spent in 2015-16 and subsequent years. (click to enlarge.)

SOURCE: LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S OFFICE

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that extra revenue in the May budget revision will raise K-12 Proposition 98 funding to $9,978 per student –$656 per student higher than the inflation-adjusted, pre-recession spending level in 2007-08. The LAO’s estimate for 2014-15 includes one-time spending of $700 per student more than districts anticipated when they built their 2014-15 budgets; that money, totaling $4.3 billion, will be spent in 2015-16 and subsequent years. (click to enlarge.)

Adonai Mack, legislative advocate for the Association of California School Administrators, said his organization agrees with Brown’s priorities and appreciates that the governor didn’t permit other programs to encroach on Prop. 98 spending. “It’s a very good budget for public education,” he said.

Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said the budget reflected the right priorities in funding education and creating a new tax credit for low-income workers. But he added, “we have a long way to go before we restore the programs in education and social services we lost to a decade of budget cuts,” and called for making temporary taxes under Proposition 30 permanent.

Double-digit spending increases for schools is not expected to continue past next year. State revenues are expected to flatten with the expiration of temporary increases in the state sales tax and the income tax on the wealthiest 1 percent. And the portion of the revenue going to K-12 schools and community colleges will decline after next year to about the standard 40 percent of the general budget after past obligations to Prop. 98 are fully paid off. Called the maintenance factor, it was as high as $11 billion as a result of cuts made during the recession, but will be under $800 million after next year.

The new Prop. 98 numbers will ease anxiety in Los Angeles Unified, whose board approved a 10 percent pay increase for teachers without knowing how the district would cover the expense. District officials said Thursday that the $300 million to $400 million in additional state money next year – half for ongoing costs and half in one-time funds – would cover the costs of teacher raises. But they said they were unsure if they can avoid teacher layoffs next school year or how they will pay for promised future raises.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that extra revenue in the May budget revision will raise K-12 Prop. 98 funding to $9,978 per student –$656 per student higher than the inflation-adjusted, pre-recession spending level in 2007-08. However, under the new funding formula, some districts with fewer English learners and low-income students are still well below that figure. And all districts will face substantial increases in pension costs for teachers, which will rise an additional $3.7 billion collectively over the next four years.

Reporters Jane Meredith Adams, Susan Frey, Michelle Maitre and Sarah Tully contributed to the coverage of the state budget.

Half of Juniors Opt Out of Common Core Tests in Affluent High School

More than half of the 11th graders at an affluent high school in Los Angeles County are opting out of new tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards – an ever-growing issue nationwide, but rare so far in California.

Parents in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District are citing concerns about privacy over children’s data and the relevance of the Smarter Balanced Assessments that millions of California students are taking this spring as reasons for opting out.

At Palos Verdes High School, 260 of the school’s roughly 460 juniors are skipping the tests that began last week and are continuing this week, Superintendent Don Austin said. Elsewhere in the 11,600-student district, an additional 222 students are sitting out of the tests in a different high school, as well as intermediate and elementary schools.

“We think it’s fantastic,” said parent Barry Yudess, who leads RestorePVEducation, a parent watchdog group that opposes the Common Core tests.

The state has yet to track this year’s numbers of students who are opting out of the exams, which is allowed under California law. School districts will submit the opt-out reports after testing is completed by June and statewide numbers likely will be available in the fall.

But this is the highest number of opt-outs that California Department of Education officials had heard of so far, said Pam Slater, a department spokeswoman. Smarter Balanced testing began in March, with roughly half of the state’s 3.2 million students taking it so far.

Compared to several other states, California has not been a breeding ground for opposition to the  Common Core standards, the new academic standards adopted by California and 42 other states.

For example, in six large school districts where EdSource is tracking implementation of the Common Core, school superintendents indicated that there has been relatively little opposition and no greater number of parent requests to opt out of standardized testing than in previous years.

In several states, students have opted out in far larger numbers or even walked out of Common Core-aligned tests. In New York, some schools have reported between 60 and 70 percent of students skipping the tests.

On the Palos Verdes peninsula, the district sits along the ocean, with average home prices of $1.5 million, and enrolls just 3 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch.

The RestorePVEducation group got the word out by sponsoring forums with Common Core opponents, putting up a YouTube channel, setting up a Facebook page and sending out emails. But the most effective method likely was handing out fliers and opt-out forms outside of schools, Yudess said.

Yudess and Joan Davidson, a grandmother and another group leader, said they have concerns about the privacy of the data being collected electronically through the tests.

“There really is no good reason to take the test,” said Kimberly Ramsay, the parent of a 7th grader and a senior.

The school district’s website boasts that 98 percent of its graduates enroll in college, so that some parents and students are questioning the relevance of taking a test they don’t see as related to achieving that goal.

“It’s ridiculous,” Yudess said. “They don’t want their time wasted. They are looking at going to top colleges. They are thinking, ‘Why waste my time, taking this meaningless test?’”

School superintendent Austin said he believes most parents decided to opt out their 11th graders after Common Core opponents put fliers on cars, stating that the students could spend more time studying for Advanced Placement tests that students can take for college credit.

During testing weeks, teachers are dividing students by those taking the test and those who are not, and supervising the students who opted out, Austin said.

Austin said he has tried to get answers from the state about the consequences of failing to have enough students take the tests in certain schools. Under the federal No Child Law Behind law, 95 percent of students in certain grades are expected to take annual standardized tests. If they don’t, they are labeled as failing to make “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP. Austin said he was unsure how many of his campuses would end up falling below the 95 percent mark until the Smarter Balanced testing is complete.

But there would be no financial consequences. Only schools that receive money for low-income students, called Title 1 funds, might be affected. Palos Verdes is not one of those schools.

Also, high school students might be unable to use their Smarter Balanced scores when applying to California State University campuses and other colleges to prove that they don’t need remedial courses. But there are other ways for students to demonstrate that that they do not need to take remedial classes.

Last week at the Education Writers Association meetings in Chicago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was asked what would happen to states if  large numbers of students did not take the tests. He said that he expected that states would make sure that they did. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in,” he said, without detailing any specific actions.

Austin said he has been unable to get good answers about what the consequences will be for his district as a result of  children opting out of the standardized tests. “This is a very, very sophisticated community. They are asking the right questions. Our inability to answer those questions is only adding fuel to the fire,” Austin said. “I do think without some accurate information quickly, it’s only going to get worse and we’re going to end up being a model for the state.”

Originally published by EdSource. 

Louis Freedberg contributed to this story.

Common Core tests well under way

Common Core student testWith less than two months of instruction time left before summer vacation for most California schools, roughly half of the 3.2 million students expected to take the first online tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards have begun to do so, the California Department of Education reported Monday.

“From what we understand, things are going well,” said department spokeswoman Pam Slater. “We haven’t had a lot of reports of computer malfunctions and we’re happy with results so far.”

The computer-based tests, known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, are replacing the multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper California Standards Tests that students had been taking since 1998.

School districts began administering the tests on March 10, with testing windows varying widely among different districts, depending on their instructional calendars. Most districts will complete testing by mid-June, although a small number of California schools that offer year-long instruction will be giving the tests up until Aug. 31.

The assessments, in math and English Language Arts, are being given to students in grades 3 through 8 and 11. The test developer, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, has estimated the tests will take students between seven and eight-and-a-half hours to complete, but it is up to the schools to decide precisely how to schedule the assessments. Slater has said that in most cases students are taking the tests over several days, in blocks of time as short as 30 minutes to an hour.

Of the more than 1.6 million students who have embarked on the tests to date, 573,299 have so far completed the tests in English language arts and literacy, and 366,794 have finished the tests in math.

“We think this is a really big week for the testing, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the system,” said Cindy Kazanis, the state’s director for educational data management.

At the peak so far, 287,778 students were online at the same time, with no interruption in the state system monitoring results, Kazanis said. She expected that number to increase this week, but said she was confident that districts will avoid major problems.

“We’re not getting any panicked calls that this isn’t working,” she said.

Originally published by EdSource.

Report: New Teachers Aren’t Ready For Common Core

Even though nearly half a decade has passed since a large majority of U.S. states began converting to Common Core, most states are failing to prepare new teachers for the shift in standards, says a critical new report released today by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

NCTQ’s annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook investigates and rates states based on what policies they have in place to ensure high quality for new teachers.

This year’s report puts particular focus on the recent push by both the White House and most state governments to raise educational standards in an effort to ensure that high school graduates are “college and career-ready.”

Common Core, which is the current set of standards used in over 40 states, was designed to be “college and career-ready” and is the main set of standards referred to when policymakers talk about the topic.

College and career-ready standards are generally considered to be more demanding than those that came before, and they also involve new expectations about how educators will teach material. The most significant shifts are in reading, which is supposed to be taught with a higher number of informational texts and with a greater degree of incorporation into subjects other than English or language arts.

Despite these changes, however, the majority of states have taken half-hearted or no action whatsoever to make sure that incoming teachers grasp how reading is supposed to be taught going forward.

States fall short in a variety of ways when it comes to makes sure new teachers are prepared, NCTQ finds. For example, 14 states still do not require prospective elementary school teachers to demonstrate that they understand the science of teaching children to read, while another 19 require it but use inadequate tests. Only five states require high school teachers to pass content tests in each of the subjects they will be certified to teach.

The report does see areas of significant improvement, however. More and more states are toughening up the admissions requirements to teacher preparation programs by requiring them to have at least a 3.0 GPA or an above-average score on college admissions tests such as the SAT or ACT.

Ironically, of the five states NCTQ praises for making sufficient changes to adapt to higher standards, three of them — Texas, Indiana, and North Carolina — either do not use Common Core or are transitioning away from it.

“With such a profound change occurring in K-12 student standards across the country, it would stand to reason that parallel changes would occur on the teacher side,” said NCTQ vice president Sandi Jacobs. “States need to ensure that new teachers are adequately supported in the transition to higher standards and beyond. And there is no better place to start than where new teachers begin to learn their craft—in teacher preparation programs.”

Some of the funding for the report came from philanthropic organizations with ties to Common Core, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

Jeb Bush: Testing the Waters

Jeb Bush

 

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

Thousands Boycott Colorado Standardized Tests

A much-feared boycott of standardized tests has come to fruition in Colorado, with thousands of students in some of the state’s top-performing school districts opting out of new standardized tests in an act of collective protest.

The boycott was expected, but its scale was not. According to data collected by the Denver Post, about 1,900 students at nine different high schools in Douglas County have refused to take the tests, a number that represents over half the relevant student body at those schools. In Boulder County, another 1,200 are believed to have defied the tests. In some individual schools, the boycott is almost total with over 95 percent of students participating.

The tests in question are Colorado’s CMAS tests in social studies and science. In particular, ire is being directed at the administration of the tests to high school seniors, which is happening for the first time this year. While there has been a great deal of fuss nationwide over Common Core multistate standards and their intersection with standardized tests, the protests in Colorado are actually unrelated, as Common Core only covers English and math.

Provided the students had their abstentions justified, they are not in danger of being punished for their actions.
Still, many students held protests outside their schools to make the point that they were seeking change rather than simply playing hooky.

The changes sought by students are summarized in a YouTube video created by some student leaders.

The criticisms leveled against the new CMAS tests are diverse. One major complaint is the cost of the tests. Developing and administering the tests costs tens of millions of dollars that could be put towards other education priorities like better books or improved facilities.

Students also complain that testing highs school seniors is gratuitous, as the tests’ fall administration interferes with college applications and produces results that aren’t even released until after students graduate.

Even if testing were a good idea, students complaint that the test as currently written doesn’t closely align with what they are taught. For example, the social studies test includes an economics component, even though Colorado does not require high schoolers to take any economics.

Others have criticized the effect the tests have on other students’ learning. At several high schools classes for freshmen, sophomore, and juniors were canceled entirely for the two days it takes to administer.

Several educational officials, including the state’s education commissioner and local superintendents, have expressed a degree of sympathy for the demonstrating students, but the only body with the power to alter the state’s test regimen is the Colorado legislature. A task force commissioned by the legislature is currently evaluating the state’s tests and will make recommendations come January.

Some school officials had begged parents to not launch the boycott, since schools that fail to sustain at least 95 percent test participation and have their accreditation rating lowered by the state. Consistently poor accreditation can trigger a host of penalties that schools would rather avoid.

This article was originally published on the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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