Back in March, I took to the blog to ask three questions about concerns I had regarding Common Core testing to PARCC and SBAC, the two consortia that are building and field testing the assessments. Last week, Wayne Camara, senior vice president of ACT, emailed and offered responses from ACT.


Earlier this month, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) announced a $25 million donation from businessmen and philanthropists Charles and David Koch. I thought it'd be interesting to discuss all this with Dr. Michael Lomax, the president and CEO of UNCF. Here's what he had to say.


Continuing an admirable and heartening trend in the charter space, Houston-based YES Prep charter schools yesterday released a probing analysis of its graduates' postsecondary performance and the strategies it's using to improve the same. The report documented some terrific results, while reflecting an equally impressive humility and commitment to getting better.


There's lots and lots to be said on Vergara. I don't feel inclined to join the pile, so I'll make three points and then call it. The bottom line: I agree with the verdict but am worried about where this leads.


It's been a tough stretch for the Common Core. South Carolina and Oklahoma have followed Indiana in abandoning the enterprise. North Carolina may be about to join them. Education Week's Catherine Gewertz reports that, as things stand, just 42% of K-12 students will be assessed using PARCC or Smarter Balanced next year. On Sunday, the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton penned the kind of measured but skeptical big media dive into the hows and whys of the Common Core that Mike McShane and I have urged but which has been hard to find. Now, if you're a regular RHSU reader, you ...


I was struck by some of the feedback to last Thursday's post on the whole "why can't pols get out of schooling?" question. Meanwhile, reform skeptic John Thompson continued our occasional, engaging, correspondence, penning a thoughtful missive that took the blog to heart while arguing that reformers ought be equally willing to make their peace with the ways of liberal democracy. His take is constructive and applies the insights usefully (though you'll note parts that I obviously don't buy), and I agreed to run it as a follow-up.


Well, I'm starting to enter the back stretch on my next book, The Cage-Busting Teacher. It's due off to Harvard Ed Press in September, and should be out in early March. I thought I'd start sharing some of the themes, mostly because I'd love to hear your reactions, criticisms, questions, and suggestions. Today's is a topic that I'm often struck by, particularly when smart and engaged educators bemoan the fact that lawmakers won't let them be.


I've been struck of late by how would-be reformers have been reacting when things go awry. After all, even some of those bullish on Race to the Top have privately conceded that maybe it didn't turn out quite like they'd hoped. Champions of teacher evaluation are busy explaining, "Well, that's not what we meant!" when hit with complaints, lawsuits, and concerns about the reliability and validity of some ill-conceived systems. Common Core advocates are busy explaining that the goofy homework questions and worksheets don't accurately reflect their handiwork.


The summer research also tells us something that, much to my surprise, has been largely ignored in policy and research. If we know that achievement gaps widen over the summer, that students are not randomly assigned to schools, and that we only measure students' achievement each spring, then the school performance measures we use in accountability policies are likely biased--especially against schools serving larger shares of traditionally under-served students. In fact this is true.


I break today's discussion into two areas: the measurement of teacher and school quality and the process by which teachers and schools are held accountable.


The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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