Tennessee lawmakers discuss Common Core compromise plan

Tennessee lawmakers discuss Common Core compromise plan

Associated Press
Posted April 13, 2014 at 8:07 p.m., updated April 14, 2014 at 12:28 a.m.

?I think we all agree that there should be more opportunity to consider alternatives to PARCC, or at least to put PARCC out for bid,? said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)


“I think we all agree that there should be more opportunity to consider alternatives to PARCC, or at least to put PARCC out for bid,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

NASHVILLE — State lawmakers are considering compromise legislation that would delay the testing component for Tennessee’s Common Core education standards for one year.

Last month, a broad coalition of Republican and Democratic House members passed a bill seeking to delay further implementation of the new standards for two years. It also seeks to delay the testing component for the standards for the same amount of time.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports legislative leaders are discussing a compromise that would delay testing for a year.

As things now stand, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests are scheduled to begin statewide in the school year that begins in August.

“I think we all agree that there should be more opportunity to consider alternatives to PARCC, or at least to put PARCC out for bid,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “There shouldn’t be a rush to implementation on that, and I think that’s what the consensus will be.”

Under the proposal, the state Department of Education would put out a “request for proposals” for alternative testing. The state’s current testing program, known as TCAP, would continue in the interim.

Tea party-aligned officials and candidates want to delay the standards or abandon them altogether in at least a dozen of the 45 states that adopted some part of the guidelines. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last month signed the first Common Core repeal to make it through a legislature.

In Tennessee, proposals to do away with the standards and their assessment component failed in a House subcommittee last month. Tennessee adopted the standards in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is among supporters who say the standards — developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — are needed to better prepare students for the future. They’re intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem-solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.


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Students are test-driving new Common Core exams. You can too

APRIL 10, 2014

Students are test-driving new Common Core exams. You can too

By Millions of American students this spring are piloting new online standardized tests linked to the Common Core State Standards, which will debut next year in states that have adopted the standards. The main reason for the trial run is to see if computer systems are ready to handle millions of students logging on to take the exams at the same time.

But it’s also a public relations test. Students are getting a first look at the exams in full, and educators will now have a better sense of whether they will live up to their promise.

A student at Townsend Elementary in the Appoquinimink school district in Delaware taking a computer-based test. (Photo by Sarah Garland)

A student at Townsend Elementary in the Appoquinimink school district in Delaware taking a computer-based test. (Photo by Sarah Garland)

That promise is to move beyond multiple-choice questions to better, more thoughtful exams that promote critical thinking and problem solving – also the mission of the Common Core standards.

“It’s about changing the way we do testing in this country,” a recent release from PARCC, one of the test designers, said. “PARCC states are creating tests worth taking, made up of texts worth reading and problems worth solving.”

(The two primary designers of the tests, known as PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are a pair of organizations made up of multiple states that adopted Common Core.)

The new tests are intended for computers, which has expanded the kinds of questions they can ask. Multiple-choice questions won’t completely disappear, but they’ll be accompanied by more complicated formats that allow for more challenging work. For instance, one sample Smarter Balanced question asks students to select three sentences from a passage that demonstrate the narrator is worried.

The field testing began March 24, and so far schools are encountering the expected technological glitches, and dealing with them.

As for the content, the verdict is still out on whether these new Common Core-aligned tests are significantly better than paper-and-pencil state ones they’re replacing. The first item on PARCC’s fourth grade math practice test, for instance, is a multiple-choice question. But the second one is a subtraction problem which asks students to solve 904 – 256, and doesn’t have options for students to choose from. They must fill in the blank.

Here’s a report from an NPR editor who took one of the eighth-grade exams and thought it lived up to the hype. And another from the CEO of PARCC, Laura Slover, who visited a sixth-grade classroom in Maryland, where students told her she had “done a ‘good job’ developing the test.”

You can try out sample tests that the test makers released to the public online and see for yourself if they boost your critical thinking skills. Here is a link to practice tests from PARCC, and from Smarter Balanced. Both groups also released individual sample problems previously.


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Commission: Early Childhood Investment Key to Healthier America

Commission: Early Childhood Investment Key to Healthier America

By Christina Samuels on January 13, 2014 8:00 AM

Investing in early childhood through high-quality preschool programs and community support programs is an essential element to creating a more healthy country, says a commission convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted solely to health issues.

The report, Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities, is a followup from the Commission to Build a Healthier America, which first released 10 sweeping recommendations in 2009. One of its recommendations then was “ensure that all children have high-quality early developmental support (child care, education, and other services).”

The commission was called together again to expand on some of its recommendations from four years ago. In the newest report, the commision says that the country should:

• Create stronger quality standards for early childhood development programs, link funding to program quality, and guarantee access by funding enrollment for all low-income children under age 5 in programs meeting these standards by 2025.

• Help parents who struggle to provide healthy, nurturing experiences for their children.

• Invest in research and innovation. Evaluation research will ensure that all early childhood programs are based on the best available evidence. Innovation will catalyze the design and testing of new intervention strategies to achieve substantially greater impacts than current best practices.

The report also says that spending on high-quality early childhood programs must take priority in an era of fiscal constraints. The U.S. now ranks 25th out of 29 industrialized countries in the amount spent on early childhood education as a percentage of gross domestic product, said the report, citing data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. “It is imperative that the country, for both fiscal and moral reasons, put our youngest children first and invest in initiatives that we know will lead to a healthier, stronger America tomorrow,” the report said.


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New school year brings heightened focus on reading

New school year brings heightened focus on reading

Kindergarten teacher Cassie Kerber (left) works with Eriel Evans, 5, (center) and Kaniya Batton, 6, in a literacy unit in their class at the Next Door Foundation in Milwaukee. Early-childhood literacy has taken on greater emphasis in Wisconsin schools this year as new, higher standards come into play.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Kindergarten teacher Cassie Kerber (left) works with Eriel Evans, 5, (center) and Kaniya Batton, 6, in a literacy unit in their class at the Next Door Foundation in Milwaukee. Early-childhood literacy has taken on greater emphasis in Wisconsin schools this year as new, higher standards come into play.

Push is on to improve achievement levels

By Erin Richards and Akbar Ahmed of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 3, 2013

With the new school year underway this week, the countdown is on for kindergarten teacher Cassie Kerber — she has nine months to help more than 20 children be ready to read for first grade.

One tool she and other early education teachers in Wisconsin will use this year to help meet that goal is a new statewide assessment aimed at determining the pre-literacy skills of young children, and getting those who are struggling more help, and quicker than before.

Wisconsin’s budget set aside $2.5 million this year to fund a universal literacy screener for kindergartners and first-graders, as part of a number of initiatives aimed at ramping up reading achievement in the state after years of stagnant test scores.

task force on reading spearheaded two years ago by Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers set much of the activity in motion, as have new nationwide academic standards adopted by Wisconsin that are raising the bar for what students should know and be able to do in math, English and language arts.

The spotlight also is on teacher training programs. Graduates from traditional education schools or alternative certification programs will soon have to take an exam that tests their ability to teach reading before they can get their licenses.

“Wisconsin needs to be a leader on this nationwide, to close achievement gaps around reading,” said John Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction.

Unlike math achievement, which has seen some upward movement in the state and in Milwaukee Public Schools in the past decade, reading scores have been mostly flat and even fallen for some subgroups — such as for black students in MPS.

Statewide, reading scores have shown little to no improvement since the 1990s, while scores have risen in other states.

In 1994, Wisconsin’s fourth-graders ranked second nationwide in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a respected national exam taken by a sampling of students.

By 2011, Wisconsin students had lower reading scores than their peers in 15 other states.

New screening tool

The new universal literacy screener, called Phonological Awareness Literacy Screener, or PALS, was implemented last year for some kindergartners in Wisconsin and will be expanded this year to include 4- and 5-year-old kindergartners and first-graders.


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Most Students Aren’t Ready for College, ACT Data Show

Published Online: August 21, 2013

Most Students Aren’t Ready for College, ACT Data Show


By Caralee J. Adams

Premium article access courtesy of Edweek.org.

Most students are not adequately prepared to face the rigor of college, according to the latest ACT scores, which also show that the average composite score on the college-entrance exam fell from last year. That composite score dropped to 20.9 among high school students in 2013, the lowest in eight years. Since 2006, scores had been relatively flat at about 21.1, on a scale where 36 is perfect.

The report released today by the Iowa City, Iowa-based organization found just 39 percent of test-takers in the class of 2013 met three or more of the ACT college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading, science, and math. Nearly one-third did not meet any.

The benchmarks were adjusted this year, making direct comparisons to last year’s numbers difficult. They are intended to give students an idea of how prepared they are to succeed in a college-level course in a particular subject. In the past five years, there has been a 22 percent increase in the number of students taking the exam, which ACT officials attribute to some of the overall drop in performance.A record 1.8 million students took the test, representing 54 percent of the class of 2013, an increase from 52 percent last year.

College Readiness: Below the Bar A majority of students in the class of 2013—regardless of race or ethnicity—are not ready for college, based on benchmarks set by ACT Inc. SOURCE: Act Inc. “We are excited about the largest and most diverse group of students ever. It says really good things about the aspiration of students and participation,” said Jon Erickson, ACT’s president of education. “But I temper that by saying there are significant performance gaps among students groups and in subject areas that continue to be an alarming bell for all of us as educators and parents that will require additional attention.” A broader pool of students in the class of 2013 took the test. Now, 12 states are testing more than 90 percent of their graduating class. That includes students without college-going plans and may contribute to the lower scores, Mr. Erickson said.

Also, for the first time in 2013, students with disabilities (70,000 total) who have testing accommodations, such as extended time, were included in the overall reporting numbers, representing about half the growth in test participation. Their inclusion may also have contributed to the lower scores, he said. College-readiness benchmarks were developed by ACT to predict whether a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical first-year college course. Students this year did best in English, with 64 percent achieving the standard. Forty-four percent met it in both reading and math, and 36 percent hit the benchmark in science. Just 26 percent hit the benchmark in all four subjects in 2013. (The English test measures punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, organization, and rhetorical skills.The reading test measures reading comprehension.)

For the latest report, ACT modified the reading benchmark up 1 point to 22 and science down 1 point to 23 to match expectations for performance at a national sample of colleges, Mr. Erickson said. Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, a Washington-based nonprofit that was instrumental in the Common Core State Standards, says the country continues to graduate large numbers of students who lack the academic skills to succeed in postsecondary education and training programs. “It’s been the same news for a long time. We aren’t moving the needle,” he said. Not as much is being done on a large scale as is needed to improve teaching and learning in high schools, which tend to be more resistant to change in the curriculum than elementary and middle schools, he added. “We need both patience and urgency.”


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A Look at ELL Performance So Far on Common-Core-Aligned Tests

By Lesli A. Maxwell on August 9, 2013 5:12 PM

Student performance on New York’s new common-core-aligned tests was weak across the board, as results released earlier this week confirmed the low expectations that education officials in that state had been steeling the public for over the last several months.

Statewide, the proficiency rates in English/language arts sank from 55.1 percent on the non-common-core-aligned exams from the 2011-12 school year, to 31.1 percent on the common-core-aligned tests given this past spring. In math, the proficiency rates fell from 64.8 percent to 31 percent.

For New York’s English-language learners, only 3.2 percent were proficient in ELA, while 9.8 percent were so in math. Last year, when the state tests were different, and supposedly easier, 11.7 percent of ELLs in grades 3-8 reached proficiency or higher in ELA, while 34.4 percent were proficient in math. New York has more than 315,000 ELLs in its public schools.

Because of their lack of fluency, of course, English-learners’ proficiency rates are always considerably lower than their peers who are native speakers of the language. But do the very low ELL scores on the new common-core-aligned tests provide any early-stage insight into how well teachers, who must change their practice considerably to teach the common standards, are being additionally prepared to support their non-English-proficient students?

We know that the language demands in the Common Core State Standards are far more sophisticated than what has been called for by most states’ content standards. English-learners, regardless of their proficiency levels, are expected, for example, to be able to engage with grade-level, complex texts and draw on evidence to make an argument. But to be able to do those things, ELLs are going to need an array of robust supports from their content teachers, as well as their ESL teachers, and most schools and teachers are probably only at the beginning stages of figuring out what they need to do to help ELLs meet the much-higher demands.

In contrast to New York, where scores plummeted for everyone, results on common-core-aligned tests in the District of Columbia schools rose in 2013 and were a major cause for celebration. But English-learners were the one group of students to lose some ground.

Their reading scores slipped slightly between 2012 and 2013 from 37.9 percent proficient to 36.9 percent. In math, they gained a bit from 47.4 percent to 48.3 percent. That slippage in reading, said Kaya Henderson, District of Columbia schools chancellor, will be cause for some intense focus and investment in professional development around how to help ELLs regain their ground in ELA. English-learners make up 10 percent of the district’s enrollment.


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State Education Department Releases Grades 3-8 Assessment Results


For More Information Contact:
Tom Dunn, Jonathan Burman, or Antonia Valentine
(518) 474-1201

State Education Department Releases Grades 3-8 Assessment Results

State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today released the results of the April 2013 grades 3-8 math and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments. This year’s state assessments are the first for New York students to measure the Common Core Learning Standards that were adopted by the State Board of Regents in 2010. King said that, as expected, the percentage of students deemed proficient is significantly lower than in 2011-12. This change in scores – which will effectively create a new baseline of student learning – is largely the result of the shift in the assessments to measure the Common Core Standards, which more accurately reflect students’ progress toward college and career readiness.

King emphasized that the results do not reflect a decrease in performance for schools or students. The new assessments are a better, more accurate tool for educators, students, and parents as they work together to address the rigorous demands of the Common Core and college and career readiness in the 21st century.

“The world has changed, the economy has changed, and what our students need to know has changed,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “These scores reflect a new baseline and a new beginning. We have just finished the first year of a dramatic shift in teaching and learning. Teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards have worked extraordinarily hard to implement the Common Core. With the right tools, the right training, and continuous feedback and support, our teachers –the best teaching force in the country — will make sure all our students are prepared for college and career success in the 21st century.

“Our students face very real challenges. But it’s better to have our students challenged now – when teachers and parents are there to help – than frustrated later when they start college or try to find a job and discover they are unprepared.”

“These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century,” King said. “I understand these scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals. It’s frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity. The results we’ve announced today are not a critique of past efforts; they’re a new starting point on a roadmap to future success.

“We all share the same goal: to make sure all students in New York have the skills and knowledge to be successful in college and careers. With the Common Core, we’re building a ladder toward that goal; the assessment scores are a measure of where our students are on that ladder and give us a clearer, more accurate picture of the climb ahead.”

King said these new results are consistent with other indicators of the college and career readiness of New York State students including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), New York State student performance on the SAT and PSAT, and college and career ready scores on New York State’s high school Regents exams.

King noted that the scores will not negatively impact district, school, principal, or teacher accountability. No new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority schools based on 2012-13 assessment results. The student growth scores used in teacher and principal evaluation result in similar proportions of educators earning each rating category (Highly Effective, etc) for student growth in 2012-13 as 2011-12. The State provided growth scores to be used in teacher and principal evaluations are based on year-to-year comparisons for similar students.

Earlier this month, King sent a memo to school district superintendents, urging them to recognize that this is the first year of the new assessments and recommending judicious and thoughtful use of each measure of the State’s multiple measures evaluation system. In addition, the Department is providing guidance for districts to ensure that students are not negatively impacted by the new proficiency rates. The first cohort of students required to pass Common Core-aligned Regents exams for high school graduation will be the class of 2017. The Board of Regents has asked the Department to adjust its guidance on Academic Intervention Services (AIS) as well.

The “cut” scores used to rate students’ proficiency level on a scale of 1-4 were set by a panel of 95 teachers, principals and other educators from around the state at a five-day conference in June.

Tisch and King both expressed concern that the learning gap for low income students, African-American and Hispanic students, and English Language Learners remains unacceptable.

Summary of Statewide 3-8 Exam Results:

  • 31.1% of grade 3-8 students across the State met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 31% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
  • The ELA proficiency results for race/ethnicity groups across grades 3-8 reveal the persistence of the achievement gap: only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students met or exceeded the proficiency standard
  • 3.2% of English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades 3-8 met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 9.8% of ELLs met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
  • 5% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 7% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

Across the Big 5 city school districts, a smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the ELA and math proficiency standards than in the rest of the state:

  • In Buffalo, 11.5% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 9.6% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
  • In Yonkers, 16.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 14.5% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
  • In New York City, 26.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 29.6% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
  • In Rochester, 5.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 5% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
  • In Syracuse, 8.7% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 6.9% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

A summary of the test results, as well as individual school and district results, are available at:



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Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-PicayuneBy Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 
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on July 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM, updated July 30, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Louisiana high school students earned college credit on 5,144 Advanced Placement exams in 2013 — the largest number in the state’s history. The state also saw the biggest increase ever in the number of students taking the test: from 6,637 students last year to 10,529, the biggest gain in the nation.

O.Perry Walker Student Scientists Study Cellular Respiration

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday credited a state initiative to encourage schools to offer these courses. In 2012, the state had the fifth-lowest AP participation rate in the country, with 16.1 percent of high school graduates taking one of the tests.

“Today’s announcement that a growing number of our state’s high school students are already earning college credit before they even leave for school is more proof that our hard work is paying off,” Jindal said.

To earn college credit, test takers must score at least 3 on a 5-point scale. A passing grade often lets students place out of introductory college coursework.

The average high school student took two AP classes for a total of 23,435 courses.

That said, the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers. That was OK by state Education Superintendent John White, given the alternative.

“The state increased the number of tests by nearly 50 percent. That means schools are providing opportunity for kids, even when it’s challenging,” he said in a statement. “It’s better to err on that side and risk a lower pass rate than to do what has been happening and err on the side of easier course work. Kids who haven’t experienced rigor in high school struggle in college; better to struggle now.”

White also said that “Advanced Placement is the highest indicator of college success.” And indeed, a 2009 study from the College Board, the AP’s parent company, found that students who take AP exams outperform their peers in college freshman grade-point average and success in moving on to the second year of college — no matter what score they receive.

As an incentive to offer AP coursework, high schools now receive points for every student who takes an AP exam, with the most points for students who score 3, 4 or 5. The results are counted inSchool Performance Scores, which determines whether charters stay open and whether conventional schools are eligible for a state takeover.

To motivate teens, a new law passed this spring gives more weight to AP courses when calculating eligibility for Louisiana’s TOPS scholarships. The state also covers test fees for low-income students.

Whatever the impetus, efforts clearly paid off at several New Orleans-area high schools that were among the state’s top performers. Benjamin Franklin High in Orleans had the second-highest percentage of test-takers earning college credit: 84 percent, second only to West Monroe High School. Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies in Metairie followed at third with an 82 percent pass rate.

Also in the top 10 were Mandeville High, 79 percent pass rate; Fontainebleau High in Mandeville, 73 percent; and Lusher in New Orleans, 65 percent.

At a district level, five of the New Orleans area’s eight districts beat the state average for percentage of students earning credit: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Charles and St. Tammany — though the Jefferson pass rate was nine percentage points lower than the previous school year’s results.

Rates were significantly lower in St. John the Baptist Parish, where 12 percent of student test-takers scored 3 or above, and in the Recovery School District, where the rate was only 6 percent.

Table: Change in AP Participation and Pass Rates in Greater New Orleans and Louisiana, 2011-2013

2011-2012 2012-2013
District Number of students taking AP exams Percent of students scoring 3+ Number of students taking AP exams Percent of students scoring 3+ Percent change in students scoring 3+
Jefferson 496 45.2% 713 36.0% -9.1%
Orleans 932 54.7% 1,106 49.5% -5.3%
Plaquemines 31 41.9% 74 40.5% -1.4%
Recovery 174 <5% 405 5.9% NA
St. Bernard 34 47.1% 86 26.7% -20.3%
St. Charles 288 44.4% 310 42.6% -1.9%
St. John the Baptist NA NA ≥40 12.2% NA
St. Tammany 423 70.4% 487 65.3% -5.2%
Louisiana total 6,637 41.4% 10,529 33.3% -8.1%

Data source: Louisiana Department of Education. NA = No data.



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Charter schools multiplying

July 26, 2013 at 10:13 am

Charter schools multiplying in Mich.

Oakside in Waterford is part of the new wave of state charter schools. It opens next month. (Max Ortiz/The Detroit News)

Sara McClendon wasn’t satisfied with her daughter’s public school, and she never expected to enroll her at a charter school.

But when Kylie McClendon enters third grade in September, she’ll be starting classes at Success Mile Charter Academy, a new school that’s opening at a former Target store in Warren.

“It was just a fluke because somebody handed a flyer for a new charter school to another parent I was talking to outside our school,” said McClendon, 46. “So I went to three informational meetings, emailed a board member, did a lot of research, and I was sold.”

Kylie will join hundreds of other students flocking to 37 new charter schools opening in the fall across the state.

While enrollment in traditional public schools has fallen in Michigan over the past two decades, charter school enrollment has increased more than 500 percent since the first school in the state opened in the mid-1990s. The state had less than 4,500 students in 41 charter schools in 1995; more than 130,000 children attended 277 charter schools this past year.

Despite their growing popularity, charter schools continue to spark debate among educators, advocacy groups and lawmakers who oversee funding for the state’s public schools.

A recent study by The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University has given charter school backers in Michigan a boost.

The center cited Michigan as one of 11 states where charter school performance growth in reading and math outpaced traditional public schools. Its study found the stronger gains in both subjects were equivalent to 43 days of learning per year.

The gains are significant, said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

“This was the most comprehensive look at charters by a university like Stanford, and the findings were very clear,” Pavlov said. “That there was more growth in math and reading is undeniable. There were 12,000 students on the waiting list when we lifted the cap for charter schools in 2011, so the demand was there. Parents knew there was great value there for their children.”

Success rate matters

But a Royal Oak-based think tank cautions gains by Michigan’s current charter schools don’t mean the new schools will be equally effective.

“Choice is great when it’s a high-performing choice,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, an educational advocacy group. “Choice in and of itself is not the solution for educational problems.”

She said Education Trust-Midwest encourages and supports opening high-performing charter schools.

“But we’re doing a disservice to kids when (school authorizers, or sponsors) continue to open low-performing schools.”

Arellano said Florida-based Charter Schools USA fits in that category. The operator will run Success Mile, where Kylie McClendon will attend, with Grand Valley State University as authorizer.

“They’re brand new to Michigan,” said Arellano, whose group maintains a database on charter operators. “So how would parents know who they are? There’s a huge public need” for information about charter operators.

The Stanford study, which included 27 states, shows that in learning growth for math, Charter Schools USA, which has 58 schools in seven states, rated slightly below traditional public schools.

“Michigan should be focused on attracting and supporting the country’s strongest operators,” Arellano said. “Our students here deserve the same quality assurances that leading states provide their students.”

Rich Page, executive vice president of development for Charter Schools USA, said the Stanford study’s findings on student growth don’t mean the company’s schools are subpar.

For example, he said, if Charter Schools USA schools start with ratings showing the number of students proficient in a subject is about 80 percent and they increase the number to 85 percent, “that’s not going to show much growth, compared to a school with a lower growth percentage in the 50s for example, that may increase to 60 percent.”

Sara Lenhoff, director of policy and research at Education Trust-Midwest, described this as “poor justification.”

“The CREDO study compared student growth in charter networks to that of similar students in traditional public schools,” she said. “So if it’s true that Charter Schools USA starts out with higher performing students, then their growth was compared to the growth of higher performing students in traditional public schools.”

Tim Wood, the Grand Valley State University special assistant to the president for charter schools, said the university is pleased with the company’s performance in other states.

“Charter Schools USA is one of the better operators,” he said. “There are at least 40 other cities recruiting them to come to their cities. We’re very fortunate to begin making inroads with them.”

Wood said GVSU requires the charter schools it authorizes to meet specific standards for student achievement, including national test benchmarks, or be shut down.

New schools opening

Grace Adams of Pontiac is sending her fifth-grade son to Oakside Scholars Charter Academy, a new charter opening in Waterford, also in an abandoned Target store. The school is being opened by Grand Rapids-based National Heritage Academies and has been authorized by Bay Mills Community College.

“Apollo was a straight-A student in his first school, so I put him in Notre Dame Catholic School, but he wasn’t doing his homework,” said Adams, 67, who adopted Apollo, her deceased daughter’s child. “He’s very excited about going to the new school, and I expect him to do well.”

National Heritage Academies was founded in 1995 and has 74 schools nationwide, with 46 in Michigan. NHA’s growth in reading and math in the CREDO study exceeded that in public schools.

“Our goal is pretty straightforward,” said Nick Paradiso, vice president of government relations and partner services for NHA. “We want to better educate more students and provide new public school choices for them. We don’t believe parents always have all the choices they need, and we will be another choice.”

Lenhoff concedes that overall, average scores among Michigan charter schools are gaining more than traditional public school counterparts in math and reading. But, she adds, “Averages can sometimes mask real and troubling disparities.”

“It is the low-achieving, low-growth charters that concern us most,” she said. “One of the CREDO reports revealed that many Michigan charter school management companies run schools that demonstrate less learning for their students than similar students in traditional public schools. These operators have been approved to open new schools in Michigan in 2012 and 2013.”

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From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130726/SCHOOLS/307260038#ixzz2aSFcjY6Z

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States Ponder Costs of Common Tests

Published Online: July 23, 2013

States Ponder Costs of Common Tests

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With yesterday’s news that PARCC tests will cost $29.50 per student, all states in the two federally funded common-assessment consortia now have estimates of what the new tests will cost. And they’re sorting out how—and in some cases, whether—to proceed with the massive test-design projects.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers released pricing yesterday that’s just under the $29.95 median spending for summative math and English/language arts tests in its 19 member states. That means that nearly half of PARCC states face paying more for the tests they use for federal accountability.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, the other state group using federal funds to design tests for the common standards, released its pricing in MarchRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader. At $22.50 for the “basic” system of summative math and literacy tests, or $27.30 for a “complete” system that includes formative and interim tests, that group’s prices are higher than what one-third of its 24 member states currently pay.

States at various points in the cost spectrum reflected this week on the role that the new tests’ cost would play in their decisions about how to move forward. Within 30 minutes of PARCC’s announcement, Georgia, one of the lowest-spending states in that consortium, withdrew from the group, citing cost, along with technological readiness and local control over test design, among its reasons.

The cost of the tests being built by PARCC and Smarter Balanced are a topic of intense interest as states shape their testing plans for 2014-15, when the consortium-made tests are scheduled to be administered. Building support for different tests can be difficult even without a price increase. But that job is even tougher when new tests cost more than those currently in use.

Common-Core Assessments: Comparing Per-Student Costs
SOURCES: PARCC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia

“I’m not going to suggest to you that it’s an easy sell to the legislature,” said Deborah Sigman, the deputy superintendent who oversees assessment in California, which belongs to the Smarter Balanced consortium. “But we think that assessment should model high-quality teaching and learning. To do that, you have to look at assessing in different ways.

“The irony is, people say they want a robust system that gets to those deep learnings, but [then they say], ‘Let’s make sure it doesn’t take as much time and that it doesn’t cost more money.’ Those things are incongruent. Those performance items require more resources and a greater investment.”

California is facing a steeper assessment bill if it uses Smarter Balanced tests, Ms. Sigman said. The state’s lower legislative chamber has passed a measure embracing those tests, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

Douglas J. McRae, a retired test-company executive who monitors California’s assessment movements closely, believes that the SBAC test will cost the state much more than current estimates suggest. Testifying before the legislature, he said that assumptions about cost savings from computer administration and scoring, and from teacher scoring, are inflated, and that the real cost of the test there could be closer to $39 per student.

Pricing Models

While PARCC’s pricing offers just one fee and set of services, Smarter Balanced offers two pricing levels. It will be responsible for providing some services, such as developing test items and producing standardized reports of results, and states are responsible for others, including scoring the tests. Smarter Balanced states could opt to score their tests in various ways, such as hiring a vendor or training and paying teachers as scorers, or combining those methods. Smarter Balanced will design scoring guidelines intended to make scoring consistent, said Tony Alpert, the consortium’s chief operating officer.

Smarter Balanced’s cost projections include what states pay the consortium for services, and what they should expect to spend for services they—or vendors—provide. For instance, the $22.50 cost of the “basic” system is made up of $6.20 for consortium services and $16.30 for state-managed services. The $27.30 cost of the “complete system,” which includes interim and formative tests, breaks down to $9.55 for consortium services and $17.75 for state-managed services.

In PARCC, the consortium, rather than individual states, will score the tests, according to spokesman Chad Colby. PARCC’s pricing includes only the two pieces of its summative tests: its performance-based assessment, which is given about three-quarters of the way through the school year, and its end-of-year test, given about 90 percent of the way through the school year.


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