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Parents want high standards, so let’s highlight classrooms that make it work

A report by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) provides examples of how the new college- and career-ready standards are being implemented across the country. It is a resource for chiefs and deputies who want to know how their peers at the state and local levels have implemented college- and career-ready standards. This report shines a light on strategies states have utilized when implementing standards and shares with others strategies to adapt or borrow to meet the needs in their own states. The strategies were collected from interviews with educators from over 29 states. The study offers resources highlighting the importance of early engagement with stakeholders, continuous professional development, and high-quality resources.

“The intent is to foster dialogue and spur collaboration. This report is also an opportunity to showcase the outstanding work that goes on in our nation’s classrooms.”

It also provides a glimpse into how state policy impacts educators and students in the classroom, and how district leaders are working to prepare students to succeed after they graduate from high school. Polling shows parents and educators strongly support college- and career-ready education standards, but many educators lack professional support to effectively teach to Common Core State Standards.

Pure Math vs Applied Math? Int’l study finds significant rich-poor divide on math instruction

The organization that often delivers the dispiriting news about our nation’s lagging performance on international exams now reveals another concern: Rich kids and poor kids are taught math in different ways—and that difference is driving down proficiency among low-income students. A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that applied-math instruction, or the way it is actually taught… Read more →

Study outlines four ways to improve online credit recovery in rural schools

Education Week, 6-22-2016

Rural schools are increasingly relying on online courses to expand education opportunity for students, especially in the midst of budget cuts and teacher shortages. For many of these schools, online credit recovery can free up staff members, expand course offerings, and provide more opportunities for students to earn credits needed to graduate.

A new report published by the Institute of Education Sciences and written by the Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest examined successful credit recovery strategies in Montanato determine how schools, especially rural ones, can administer successful online credit-recovery programs. The report found that among schools in Montana that offer credit recovery through a statewide online system, those that had the highest passing rates had several strategies in common.

South Dakota wins its fight to keep Common Core and exam

South Dakota’s adoption of Common Core standards was not illegal, a Hughes County judge ruled last week.

Two South Dakota parents filed a suit against Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state in November arguing that South Dakota’s involvement in an multi-state assessment group aligned with Common Core standards was illegal.

Last week, Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett ruled that the state had not violated any federal or state laws.

Massachusetts once had the best state test in the country. Will it again?

The Hechinger Report, news story, 6-7-2016

The MCAS has long been considered one of the nation’s best tests at assessing student performance. But the shift to the Common Core State Standards meant it would have to go. The PAARC tests, used in states such as Illinois and New Jersey since 2015, were supposed to be even better. Not the joy-killing machines ruining childhood, as so many critics have portrayed standardized tests, but true measures of whether children were learning the key skills they would need as grown-ups: how to think critically, solve problems, make a convincing argument, and write a coherent paragraph.

Instead, the uproar over testing has only gotten louder. The increased difficulty of PARCC and other Common Core-aligned exams sent pass rates plummeting, while teacher evaluations linked to scores have fueled union-led fights, including those now unfolding in Massachusetts. And the continued use of multiple-choice questions has parents, teachers, and kids questioning whether the new tests could be much better than what they were replacing.

Amid the controversy, the Massachusetts Board of Education decided last fall to create an MCAS/PARCC hybrid unique to this state. Officials and educators are optimistic that by retaining control over the test, they will help preserve Massachusetts’s spot at the top of the US educational pack.

The Pension Pac-Man: Still Eating Away at Teacher Salaries

Teacherpensions.org, commentary, 6-14-2016

Last month “The Pension Pac-Man: How Pension Debt Eats Away at Teacher Salaries” was released, which used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to show that, like the proverbial Pac-Man, the rapidly rising costs of teacher retirement and insurance benefits are gobbling up funds that could be spent on salaries. The BLS released new data for 2016 last week, and the trends are all in the wrong direction:

  • Since 1994, teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation, but total teacher compensation has. That’s because benefit costs are rising much faster than inflation and eating up larger and larger shares of teacher compensation. As a share of total compensation, teacher salaries have never been lower. For the average teacher, their salary is only 68.8 percent of their total compensation; benefits consume the remainder.
  • Retirement costs tend to be higher in the public sector, but retirement costs for teachers remain much higher than for any other profession, including other public-sector workers. As a percentage of their total compensation package, teacher retirement benefits eat up more than twice as much as other workers (10.9 versus 5.1 percent).

Debunking the Myths Behind ‘The Math Myth’

The Atlantic, commentary, 6-13-2016

A political scientist recently argued that teaching people anything beyond arithmetic is useless, and that requiring algebra in high school drives the country’s dropout rates. Here’s why he’s wrong.

When the political scientist Andrew Hacker published The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions earlier this year, he didn’t break the internet. But he certainly stirred up the math establishment in arguing that anything more complicated than arithmetic is useless to most people, that requiring algebra in high school is an obstacle that drives the country’s dropout rates, and that the Common Core’s approach to math, which calls for more complex math like trigonometry, is a mistake.

As a journalist who has made math education her beat for a while now, I have been fascinated by the whole debacle, in part because many of Hacker’s arguments are more than a century old.

While I agreed with him that for many, failing a math course can derail them from college, never mind graduation, he lost me when he insisted struggling students shouldn’t have to bother with more abstract math. The teenaged me would have rejoiced outwardly at no longer being forced to deal with functions—but inwardly, it would have been the confirmation of my groundless fears: Sorry, you’re too stupid to even try this.

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