Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Urban districts that deliver (from Broad)

Of 100 large urban districts, which ones deliver achievement above state average for historically disadvantaged students ?

The Broad Foundation did the math and shared its findings. Here's who delivered a higher percent of students meeting state standards than their own state's average for other schools and districts:

African-American, Hispanic, and Low Income Students Above State Average
Elk Grove, CA
Gwinnett County, GA (Winner of the 2010 Broad Prize)
Long Beach, CA

African-American and Low-Income Students Above State Average
Cobb County, GA
Fairfax County, VA
Garland, TX
Mobile, AL
Montgomery County, MD
San Diego, CA

African-American and Hispanic Students above State Average
Broward County, FL
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC
Killeen, TX
Riverside, CA

Hispanic and Low-Income Students Above State Average
Garden Grove, CA
Mesquite, TX
Socorro, TX
Ysleta, TX

African-American Above State Average
Corpus Christi, TX
El Paso, TX
Guilford County, NC
Wake County, NC

Low-Income Above State Average
Alief, TX
Mesa, AZ
San Francisco, CA

Hispanic Above State Average
District of Columbia (compared to "any other schools," including charters)
Miami-Dade County, FL
Saint Paul, MN
Seattle, WA

New York City, Brownsville TX, and Aldine TX were excluded from the analysis because they were the three most recent winners of the Broad Prize and ineligible for the 2010 award.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It happens in teams (Weingarten on football)

In Newsweek's new joint interview of Bill Gates and the AFT's Randi Weingarten, I love this paragraph:
Football teams do this all the time. They look at the tape after every game. Sometimes they do it during the game. They’re constantly deconstructing what is working and what isn’t working. And they’re jettisoning what isn’t working and building up on what is working, and doing it in a teamlike approach. We never do that investment in public schooling. What’s happening in Finland is they do that investment in the graduate schools of education before people become teachers. They recruit a very select group of people who become teachers. Now it is also true that Finland has a 5 percent poverty rate and the United States has a 20 percent poverty rate. But there’s this notion of really figuring out what the best teachers do and trying to scale that up.
That's from Ms. Weingarten, not Mr. Gates.  It's a great interview, with both voices focused on stronger education for America's students.

He's got a sound point about making annual formal evaluations more substantive, reflecting the Gates Foundation's deep investment in measuring effective teaching--an investment that even includes new video tools that produce something very like the game tapes used in football.

She's got a sound point, too.  Her focus is on year-round cycles of continuous improvement organized primarily by professional colleagues. At the school level, teams that work together to build skills and raise results are often called professional learning communities, and attempts to measure that sort of environment are made through surveys on working conditions.  She's also arguing for similar loops on a larger scale, both for preparing teachers and for defining standards, curriculum, and testing methods.

While both takes are important and the two strategies certainly should be deployed, Ms. Weingarten's emphasis on the continuous, team-based feedback process looks to me like the more important part of the total change we need to create.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Slow blogging ahead

As the year ends, I'm watching the schools starting their breaks, the news slowing down, and my own house filling up with family, friends, and Christmas lights.  PrichBlog will be back with full strength on January 2, but until then posting may be pretty light.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kentucky Surges in National Board Certification

The Education Professional Standards Board shares the good news by press release:
Kentucky Ranks 6th Nationally in NBPTS Certification Results
Frankfort, KY.(December 15, 2010)- Teacher quality reaches a new milestone in Kentucky with today’s announcement by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) that 316 Kentucky teachers were awarded the prestigious National Board Certification® in the class of 2010. This achievement recognizes these educators as among the top in the nation and promises to improve student learning in classrooms statewide. Kentucky now totals 2,156 NBCTs who have ever attained National Board Certification and is ranked 12th nationally for the total numbers of NBCTs.
Kentucky consistently ranks among the top in the number of new NBCTs. “Kentucky’s National Board Program is considered a model by many other states,” said Dr. Phillip Rogers, Executive Director of the Education Professional Standards Board. “I commend these teachers for their extraordinary commitment to teaching and for achieving the highest credential in the teaching profession.” Upon successful completion of the National Board process, Kentucky teachers currently holding a Rank II certificate are eligible to apply for Rank I and may serve as mentors for new Kentucky NBPTS candidates.
The number of National Board Certified Teachers nationally has increased more than 90 percent over the past five years. Nationwide, 8,600 teachers achieved National Board Certification this year, bringing the total certified up to 91,000. The top ten states with the highest number of teachers achieving National Board Certification this year are North Carolina (2,227), Washington (1,272), Illinois (771), South Carolina (498), California (342), Kentucky (316), Maryland (302), Arkansas (290), Florida (273) and Oklahoma (225).
National Board Certified Teachers are changing the culture of learning in the classrooms, schools and districts. National Board Certification is voluntary and open to all educators who have a baccalaureate degree and three years of classroom experience in either a public or private school. National Board Certification, for veteran teachers, is a rigorous 10-part performance assessment that includes video portfolios, analysis of classroom practice and evaluation of content knowledge. Take One!, for educators at all levels, is professional development organized around the National Board’s professional teaching standards and core propositions. Teachers who have participated in National Board Certification have overwhelmingly stated it is the most powerful professional development experience of their careers.

Funding, curriculum, teaching: Darling-Hammond on high-achieving nations

In the search to understand countries with stronger education results than our own, Linda Darling-Hammond argues that “high flyers all have equitable funding, shared curriculum, and quality teaching.”

In the new issue of American Educator, Dr. Darling-Hammond writes:
These more equitable investments made by high-achieving nations are also steadier and more focused on key elements of the system: the quality of teachers and teaching, the development of curriculum and assessments that encourage ambitious learning by both students and teachers, and the design of schools as learning organizations that support continuous reflection and improvement. With the exception of a few states with enlightened long-term leadership, the United States, by contrast, has failed to maintain focused investments in any of these essential elements.
The result is that the United States is standing still while more focused and steadfast nations move rapidly ahead.
With ample footnotes, she goes on to argue that Finland, Singapore, and South Korea all:

  • “Fund schools adequately and equitably, and add incentives for teaching in high-needs schools.”
  • “Organize teaching around national standards and a core curriculum that focus on higher-order thinking, inquiry, and problem solving through rigorous academic content.”
  • “Eliminated examination systems that had once tracked students into different middle schools and restricted access to high school.”
  • “Use assessments that require in-depth knowledge or content and higher-order skills.”
  • “Invest in strong teacher education programs that recruit top students, completely subsidize their extensive training programs, and pay them a stipend while they learn to teach.”
  • “Pay salaries that are equitable across schools and competitive with other careers, generally comparable to those of engineers.”
  • “Support ongoing teacher learning by ensuring mentoring for beginning teachers and providing 15 to 25 hours a week for all teacher to plan collaboratively and engage n analyses of student learning, lesson study, action research, and observations of one another’s classrooms, which help them continually improve their practice.”

Her article provides rich details for each strategy and important options for future state and national education strategies.  I recommend the full document highly as a starting point for thinking about 2011 and beyond.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Measuring effective teachers: the student component

Student perceptions are a serious part of the the giant Measuring Effective Teachers project, already discussed in recent posts here, here, and here.  For that part of the analysis, the study used the Tripod survey, an instrument developed by researcher Ron Ferguson to look at "the extent to which students experience the classroom environment as engaging, demanding, and supportive of their intellectual growth."  The initial MET report confirms the predictive value of that student data:
When a teacher teaches multiple classes, student perceptions of his or her practice are remarkably consistent across different groups of students. Moreover, student perceptions in one class or one academic year predict large differences in student achievement gains in other classes taught by the same teacher, especially in math. In other words, when students report positive classroom experiences, those classrooms tend to achieve greater learning gains, and other classrooms taught by the same teacher appear to do so as well.
Student feedback need not be a popularity contest. We asked detailed questions about various aspects of students’ experience in a given teacher’s classroom. Some questions had a stronger relationship to a teacher’s value-added than others. The most predictive aspects of student perceptions are related to a teacher’s ability to control a classroom and to challenge students with rigorous work.
Students’ perceptions have two other welcome characteristics: They provide a potentially important measure that can be used in nontested grades and subjects. In addition, the information received by the teacher is more specific and actionable than value-added scores or test results alone.
Those results also illustrate two other important aspects of the MET work in progress.  First, the study is looking at how well various indicators predict teachers' ability to raise student results, aiming to find combinations of multiple elements that do even better than the strongest individual components.  Second, the study is looking for useful feedback that gives a teacher concrete ideas of how to change strategies to get higher future results, going beyond simply reporting on whether past results were high enough or added the desired level of value to students past achievements.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Measuring effective teachers: more on who's doing the work

The Measuring Effective Teachers Project involves teachers from Charlotte-Mecklenberg, Dallas, Denver, Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa), Memphis, and New York City, and the work is directed by Thomas Kane and Steven Cantrell of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The MET report issued last Friday identifies a wide array of other experts contributing to the effort.  I'm not familiar with every name, but I do see very nearly all the organizations and individuals I've heard Kentucky educators mention as insightful scholars and effective organizations working in this field.

As "lead research partners," the report lists:
  • Mark Atkinson, Teachscape
  • Nancy Caldwell, Westat
  • Ron Ferguson, Harvard University
  • Drew Gitomer, Educational Testing Service
  • Eric Hirsch, New Teacher Center
  • Dan McCaffrey, RAND
  • Roy Pea, Stanford University
  • Geoffrey Phelps, Educational Testing Service
  • Rob Ramsdell, Cambridge Education
  • Doug Staiger, Dartmouth College
 As "key contributors," the report identifies:
  • Joan Auchter, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
  • Charlotte Danielson, The Danielson Group
  • Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington
  • Pam Grossman, Stanford University
  • Bridget Hamre, University of Virginia
  • Heather Hill, Harvard University
  • Sabrina Laine, American Institutes for Research
  • Catherine McClellan, Educational Testing Service
  • Denis Newman, Empirical Education
  • Raymond Pecheone, Stanford University
  • Robert Pianta, University of Virginia
  • Morgan Polikoff, University of Southern California
  • Steve Raudenbush, University of Chicago
  • John Winn, National Math and Science Initiative

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Averaging 2006, 2007, and 2008 results, Towson University in Maryland graduated:
  • 67 percent of its white students
  • 67 percent of its African-American students
  • 70 percent of its Hispanic students
That's gold-standard work, well above the national average 55 percent and with no gap between white and black results.  Today's Washington Post explores how Towson makes it happen:
In 10 years, according to school data, Towson has raised black graduation rates by 30 points and closed a 14-point gap between blacks and whites. University leaders credit a few simple strategies: admitting students with good grades from strong public high schools, then tracking each student's progress with a network of mentors, counselors and welcome-to-college classes.
"Regardless of your background, there's people here for you who understand what you're going through," said Kenan Herbert, 23, an African American Towson senior from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Towson's president sounds like my favorite Kentucky superintendents when he takes institutional responsibility for institutional outcomes:
"The goal has been, if you take them in, you should graduate them," said Robert Caret, Towson president since 2003.

Measuring effective teachers: first findings

The Measuring Effective Teachers Project published some initial results Friday.  This giant project involves almost 3,000 teachers in seven urban school districts who volunteered to test themselves, test their students, survey their students, and be observed by video and scored against an array of different evaluation rubrics.  From the first year of work, the project reports four major findings:
First, in every grade and subject we studied, a teacher’s past success in raising student achievement on state tests (that is, his or her value-added) is one of the strongest predictors of his or her ability to do so again.
*     *     *
Second, the teachers with the highest value-added scores on state tests also tend to help students understand math concepts or demonstrate reading comprehension through writing.
*     *     *
Third, the average student knows effective teaching when he or she experiences it.
*     *     *
Fourth, valid feedback need not be limited to test scores alone. By combining different sources of data, it is possible to provide diagnostic, targeted feedback to teachers who are eager to improve.
It's a little disappointing that the first report shares nothing from the video observation part of the project, especially after the method (as opposed to its results) so recently drew national coverage.  Instead, we'll need to wait until:

  • Late spring 2011 for findings from the classroom observations.
  • Late summer 2011 for a proposal on how to weight the various factors in stronger overall evaluations
  • Early 2012 for reports on how participating teachers changed student achievement when working with students assigned to them by random sample. (This first report used data from students assigned to each teacher by their own school’s regular approaches, both during the study and—where possible—during the previous school year.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kentucky's higher education puzzle?

How can our spending per student be in the top quarter of states, and our graduation rate in the bottom quarter?  That's what I see in the maps below, created by www.higheredinfo.org with data and details here and here.  There may be good reasons for these results –and there's certainly good reason to encourage public discussion of how both families and taxpayers can get a better return on their higher education investments.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The beginning of stable standards?

Today's Messenger-Inquirer editorial expresses concern about Kentucky's repeated decisions to replace standards and assessment:
For years, educators repeated that 2014 date over and over again as the time when Kentucky would really be able to see the rewards of its education reform efforts. Only something happened along the way.
Whether it was political maneuvering, the fact it became clear too many schools would not reach that goal, or more likely a little of both, Kentucky decided to scrap the CATS test -- and essentially say the 2014 "finish line" was merely an oasis, and the state needed a fresh start on holding schools accountable.
The legislature voted to devise a new test and a new accountability system, and it's this system that Holliday now wants to use as a replacement for federal adequate yearly progress requirements.
But how long until these "new" standards are thrown out as well? What happens when the political winds shift again, or if the results don't paint the type of picture education officials are expecting?
Parents, educators, business leaders and anyone else who cares about the quality of education needs to have an accountability system that they can trust to actually have some meaning. That doesn't mean that tests and standards can't be tweaked to reflect changes in core content or student demographics.
But it's time to determine what the standards will be, set goals with firm deadlines, and then continue on that path long enough to determine which schools are succeeding, which are broken, and what needs to be done to fix them. Otherwise, we're just left with a bunch of test scores, but no real accountability.
The concern about moving the goal posts is well taken--and a key reason why the Prichard Committee, the Council for Better Education, and the Kentucky Association of School Councils continue to offer Transition Index data that comes as close as possible to sustaining our old accountability system until the new one kicks in.

Still, the future may be better than the past on this issue, because our next system will have two new built-in reasons to stay focused and avoid frequent changes in direction.  First, there is lots of public support for the fact that our new literacy and mathematics standards will be consistent with those used  more than forty other states, making it hard to explain going back to a one-state approach.  Second, by 2015, we expect to share a testing system with many of those other jurisdictions, giving us results we can compare nationwide and lots of cost-savings into the bargain, and that too will be hard to give up.

Both factors will promote a stable system of goals and consequences, allowing the main debate to be about the best ways to ensure that all schools move steadily toward delivering for all students.

An end to AYP?

Once Kentucky adopts a new state accountability system, Commissioner Holliday plans to ask federal permission to use that system in place of the No Child Left Behind rules requiring Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP  for each student demographic groups served in each school.  Brad Hughes of the Kentucky School Boards Association reported earlier this week on how Dr. Hollidays shared the idea with the KSBA Board:
“We want a better measure than AYP,” the commissioner said. “We’re pushing hard to get a comprehensive accountability model that measures not only the proficiency rates, but also closing achievement gaps, tracking every student’s growth, recognizing teachers whose students grow one or two grade levels when they were three grade levels behind to start with. We’ve been calling those folks failures. We need to praise them and tell them what a great job they’re doing in helping grow the children.”
In an interview following his remarks to the KSBA board, Holliday said he’s very optimistic that the AYP waiver can be obtained.
“We think (the Obama administration) is very open to replacing AYP,” he said. “We think Kentucky will be the first state to take that waiver request forward, but we think there will quite a few others. It’s all based on the new common core standards and growth models that could replace AYP.”
Notice how this idea relates to our new, more demanding content standards.   Higher standards almost certainly means that fewer students and fewer schools will measure up in the first few years of our new system.  In seeking the waiver, Kentucky can argue that our new goals will be tougher than the NCLB expectations as well as fairer.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ACT hints at scale of Common Core challenge

When we start assessing students against the Common Core Standards, what kind of results will we see?   ACT, Inc., has just offered a set of blunt estimates.  Using results from the states where all students participate in the ACT (including Kentucky), the report projects that in first literacy testing of 11th graders:

  • 38 percent will meet the new standards in reading.
  • 51 percent will meet the new standards in writing.
  • 53 percent will meet the new standards for language.
Since the Common Core calls for added focus on informational text and on literacy skills that work for specific fields of study, the report also offered estimated results for 11th grade results in those subjects, estimating that:
  • 24 percent will meet the standards for literacy in science
  • 41 percent will meet the standards for literacy in social studies.
  • 38 percent will meet the standards for informational text.
  • 37 percent will meet the standards for literature.
Mathematics is exactly as grim, with 11th grade projections that:
  • 34 percent will meet the mathematics standards for number and quantity.*
  • 42 percent will meet the mathematics standards for functions.
  • 37 percent will meet the mathematics standards for statistics and probability.

The rationale for the Common Core has always been that American schools need to aim higher and American students need to achieve at higher levels.  This preliminary study provides a first glimpse of how much work we have ahead.

* The ACT mathematics categories come with short explanations of what's in each subdomain.  Number and quantity includes the real number system, quantities, the complex number system, and vector and matrix quantities.  Functions includes interpreting functions; linear, quadratic, and exponential models; and trigonometric functions.  Statistics and Probability includes interpreting categorical and quantitative data; making inferences and justifying conclusions; conditional probability and the rules of probability; and using probability to make decisions.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

NYTimes spots Gates video effort, omits research purpose

Friday's New York Times describes the video technology being used for the Measuring Effective Teachers initiative funded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  It's an interesting piece about the efficient use of 360-degree cameras to get a panoramic idea of how everyone in the room is affected by a given day's lesson, and the reporting shared several expert opinions on how the technology might move into direct use of teacher evaluations.

That said, I see the article as focusing on the video than on the bigger project the video will support.  Months back, I blogged about the Foundation's own description of the project, which describes the video cameras as a way to allow multiple observers apply several different respected rubrics for classroom observation.  Live observations on the needed scale would be unduly disruptive of ordinary classroom work, which is why the camera strategy was created.

Along with the varied ratings of the videos, the study is gathering data from student surveys about classroom processes, teacher surveys about working conditions, and teacher tests of content knowledge and content teaching methods.

Next year,  each of those indicators will be correlated with several kinds of data on student growth compared to their achievement this year.

With that huge collection of data, the project will be able to offer answers on a really big question:  How well does  each of the gathered indicators (teacher knowledge, surveys, and the different observation protocols) relate to actually delivering student growth?

The NYT coverage could leave the impression that the main point is finding a way to videotape teachers.  Far from it. The video is mainly a tool for developing richer and more important insight into which measurement tools best identify teaching that changes student performance.

Note: The Prichard Committee and I personally have not been involved in the implementation of this Effective Teachers part of the Gates Foundation's education investments.  However, we are working on several of the Gates Foundation's College-Ready Work initiatives (see information here, here, and here), and I have been included in several briefings on the progress of this measurement effort.

Has the C-J spoken incorrectly on a second factual issue (JCPS novice results)?

In an earlier post today, I explained why I believe the Courier-Journal's editorial this morning incorrectly described Jefferson County's proficiency trends. In this post, I turn to another claim in the same editorial, this time the one that says "students rated novice have dropped sharply."

For that statement as well, I respectfully submit that the editorial has not accurately described the facts.

Far from dropping sharply, the percent of Jefferson students scoring at the novice level increased from 2007 to 2010 at every level in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies and at the elementary level in writing. The only novice results that have a net three-year decline are middle and high school writing, and while the 14.5 percent decline for high schools is a large one, the 0.24 percent shift for middle schools is not a drop to which the modifier "sharp" can reasonably be applied.

The table below shows the full results, highlighting individual years when the percent novice went up in each subject as well as the 2007 to 2010 net increase in novice performance in nearly all subjects:

As I wrote in the earlier post, I will, of course, gladly consider any data the Courier-Journal may have relied on and will update this report if I have overlooked a way to analyze the results which would justify the claim that novices "dropped sharply."  Unless and until I see such an analysis, I respectfully submit that Jefferson County has seen a net increase, not a sharp drop, in students scoring at the novice level in nearly every subject at nearly every level.

Source note: The data reported above came from the Kentucky Department of Education's 2009-10 Interim Performance Report: Jefferson County Public Schools, run date 11/2/2010, available here, with my arithmetic combining the proficient and distinguished percentages shown here

Has the Courier-Journal spoken incorrectly on a point of fact?

I believe the Courier-Journal included an untrue statement in this morning's "Stop and Think" editorial.  Addressing the Jefferson County School Board's decision not to renew Superintendent Berman's contract, the editorial asserts that "percentages of students testing proficient in basic academic skills have risen steadily."

I respectfully submit that since 2007, proficiency levels in Jefferson County Public Schools have risen steadily only in high school writing.  In every other tested subject at every level, proficiency declined in one or more of the last three years.  Looking at the three-year change, proficiency is flat for elementary reading, and down for mathematics in high school, writing in elementary and middle schools, and science and social studies at all three levels.  The district saw net three-year proficiency gains only in elementary and middle school mathematics and in high school writing. I see no reasonable way to characterize Jefferson County proficiency results as having "risen steadily" in recent years.

Here are the district's elementary level results for reading and mathematics for the last four years:
Reading results went down in 2008 and 2009, with a 2010 return to exactly the 2007 level.  Mathematics results went up in 2008 and down in 2009 and 2010, with a net increase of 1.34 percent compared to 2007. Neither trend could be called rising steadily.

Here are the middle school results, showing reading results going down, down, and up, with a net decline of 1.23 percent from 2007.  Mathematics results went up, up, and down, with a net gain of 1.41 percent compared to 2007. 
At the high school level, reading went up, down, and up, with a net result 0.53 percent lower than 2007.  Mathematics went down, up and down, with a net result 3.26 percent lower than 2010.

Overall results, combining all three levels, show reading results down, down, up, with 2010 results 0.54 percent lower than 2007.  In mathematics, the trend was up, up, and then down, with the 2010 results 0.92 percent higher than 2007.

For science and social studies, 2010 results were lower at every level than in 2007.  For writing, 2010 results were lower at the elementary and middle levels but higher for high school, as shown in the table below.

I will, of course, be delighted to consider any data the Courier-Journal may have relied on and to update this report if I have overlooked a way to analyze the results which would justify the editorial's factual assertion.  Pending seeing such an analysis, I respectfully submit that Jefferson County "percentages of students testing proficient in basic academic skills" have been mostly stagnant or in decline in recent years.

Source note: Nearly all of the data reported above came from the Kentucky Department of Education's 2009-10 Interim Performance Report: Jefferson County Public Schools, run date 11/2/2010, available here, with my arithmetic combining the proficient and distinguished percentages shown here.  The one exception is that the graph combining all three levels uses data from the Kentucky' Department of Education's No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress Reports for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, available here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Graduation progress (counted the federal way)

Using the federal government's Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (or AFGR) method, Kentucky moved much closer to national average between 2003 and 2008.  Over the same years, only nine states showed greater graduation improvement using that approach to measuring  graduations. The rates themselves look like this:

The AFGR method uses an estimate of the number of students who enter ninth grade in one year and then graduate four years later.  Because many state data systems have been unable to separate first-time ninth-graders from repeaters, the method estimates the first-time count by averaging a year's ninth grade with eight grade from the year before and tenth grade from the year after.   The AFGR reflects the number of graduates in a given year divided by that averaged figure from three years earlier. Thus, the newer rates shown in the graph above come from this set of numbers:

Having shared that data, I'll note that the whole discussion of graduation rates is a troubled and confusing one and will stay that way until our student data system can indeed track a cohort from start of grade 9 to graduation.  Using the Infinite Campus data system, we expect that to be possible for the class of 2013.  

Until then, the AFGR approximation shows  Kentucky much closer to national average two years ago than we were seven years back.

Source note: Data for this post comes from the "Building a Grad Nation" report issued recently by America's Promise, with backup details from National Center for Education Statistics reports on "The Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate for Public High Schools From the Common Core of Data: School Years 2002–03 and 2003-04" and "Public School Graduates and Dropouts From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2007–08 First Look."

Next Accountability?

I've tried at length to develop a summary of the Department of Education's new accountability proposal.  So far, I haven't met my own standards for being both brief and complete, because the model has a lot of moving parts to it.

With a Kentucky Board of Education discussion slated for Tuesday, December 7, I should alert readers that at this link, they can download and do their own analysis with:

  • A white paper offering "Goals and Guiding Principles"
  • A narrative summary of the model for accountability for student results, which includes achievement, gap reductions, growth, college and career readiness, and graduation data.
  • A draft regulation to enact that model.

Kentucky's Next Giant Steps (a fresh edition)

We've had several editions of the PrichBlog one-page summary of Kentucky's big push to raise student standards and results, and it's time for an update that leaves out the earlier discussion of Race to the Top and adds in basics of our learning and testing strategies.  Here's the new version (with an option to download for easy printing here):


Senate Bill 1, passed in 2009, requires Kentucky to upgrade its standards for what students will learn. Our new law says the standards must be shorter, clearer, and better focused on students being ready for college, work, and global competition. To match the new standards, Kentucky will use new tests starting in the spring of 2012. Current teachers will receive specialized training on how to teach the new standards well, and teacher preparation programs will equip future teachers with the same skills.

For language arts and mathematics, Kentucky has adopted the new Common Core State Standards. The Common Core offer a grade-by-grade statement of what students will need to be on track for college-and-career-readiness when they finish high school. Because more than forty other states have adopted the Common Core, our expectations will be consistent with goals being used across most of the country, and as strong as learning standards used by the most competitive countries elsewhere in the world. Kentucky is also working with other states on shared science standards that should be available in late 2011, and on social studies standards that may take longer to complete.

To meet those new college-and-career ready standards, teachers will need increasingly effective approaches to classroom work. One key strategy, called “assessment for learning,” uses classroom activities designed to identify next steps for each student to keep climbing toward the overall goal. When it is done well, assessment for learning makes classroom work more focused and effective, with students seeing each success as a reason to try even harder on the next set of work. Kentucky teachers from each school district are now studying those approaches in regional networks, and collaborating with local administrators to plan ways to share the methods with all their local schools. Teacher preparation programs are putting new emphasis on the same strategies. Research shows that the assessment for learning approach can have a big impact on overall achievement, with the most positive effect on the students who would otherwise be likely to fall behind.

Kentucky will also use statewide testing to confirm that students are indeed on track to reach the new standards. The states that are using the Common Core Standards are also developing new methods to test and report student progress to parents, teachers, officials, and the general public. Those shared tests are being developed with large new federal grants and will begin in 2014 or 2015. For 2012, 2013, and maybe 2014, Kentucky will use a temporary test that matches the new standards but will not have all the strengths of the longer-term, multi-state testing methods.

Our new standards, classroom strategies, and statewide testing are all part of our Senate Bill 1 effort to deliver stronger results for all Kentucky students and build a stronger future for our entire state.

Back to blogging

I've just finished an amazing week of learning and building, working about 12 hours a day on exciting education projects.  Only, I didn't realize how intense it was going to be in advance, so I apologize for PrichBlog's unannounced silence.  I'll spend today blogging on some important developments.