Moving Beyond a Single Measure of a School


Reposted from EdSource:

The California State Board of Education is seizing the chance to redefine student achievement and reframe how schools are held accountable for performance. It is in the throes of replacing the Academic Performance Index (API), the three-digit number that has been California’s narrow gauge of school progress for a decade and a half. The question is, what will take its place? Fully rolling out a new accountability system is projected to take three years – there is no legislated deadline. But state board members and others who have shared their thoughts have expressed similar concepts of what it might – and should not – be. There is near-universal agreement among educators and policy makers that a new system should be distinctly different from the API, which is calculated by weighting school and district scores on various subject assessments. Instead of a single number with consequences tied to end-of-year standardized tests, there should be multidimensional measures reflecting the complexities of school life and performance, including potentially hard-to-quantify indicators of school climate, as well as test scores and indicators of success in preparing students for college and career options. State board President Michael Kirst uses the analogy of gauges on a car dashboard that display oil pressure, temperature, battery capacity and mileage, each measuring different components of a car’s performance.

Although there are shades of difference, state board members and educators generally agree that school improvement should be the overriding goal of a new accountability system and that schools and districts should be given time and flexibility to achieve specific and clear goals. This approach would contrast with a decade of top-down sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law, said Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and education adviser to a half-dozen Assembly speakers. “As a state, we kind of reached the consensus that the mechanisms of intervention and punishment were not effective tools for changing behavior,” he said.

A new accountability system would culminate a series of historic changes that are already reshaping K-12 education in California. These started with the shift of authority and responsibility over budgets and policy from the state to local school districts under a new funding system that directed more money to low-income children and students learning English. The funding law established Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs, that require districts to set goals and steer money to meet broader indicators of school performance than test scores alone can provide. New academic standards – the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards – have raised expectations and shifted attention to the complex challenges of preparing students to succeed beyond high school. “A new accountability system must tie these big educational shifts together,” says Jannelle Kubinec, who directs the Comprehensive School Assistance Program for the San Francisco-based research agency WestEd and also is leading outreach efforts for the state board. “We are at a rare moment of change,” she said at a recent conference in Sacramento on the future of school accountability. “If we blow it now, we are not going to have this opportunity again, at least with regard to aligning policy.”

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What If We Pursued a Culture of Learning Instead of a Culture of Achievement?


Reposted from Perkins Educational Consulting:

A culture of achievement places it’s focus on the most easily quantifiable and measurable results, test scores. As superintendents and building administrators work to keep their jobs and show they are successful it’s somewhat understandable (if not short-sighted) that this would be a focus. The unfortunate truth is that these tests are not measuring things important to creating the type of graduates society needs and is longing for. Most standardized tests attempt to measure content knowledge and understanding and not skills or thinking you would find on the upper parts of Bloom’s taxonomy. What this often creates then is an approach by administrators that demands a focus on identifying exactly what parts of the test students are not performing well (disaggregating the data) and pulling those students for intentional work on shoring up those specific shortcomings.

What if we pursued a Culture of Teaching and Learning? One that placed an emphasis on things like deep, rich inquiry and craftsmanship? What if the learning had no ceiling and students were authentically assessed and did real-world work where they uncovered and discovered content? What if instead of disaggregating data our teachers engaged in quality professional discourse about their work in ways that excited them and their students? A Culture of Teaching and Learning often produces great (test scores) achievement but a Culture of Achievement rarely results in great teaching and learning. A Culture of Teaching and Learning rewards and professionalizes teaching and helps create students who are empowered by their possibilities and less than concerned with test performance.

If your school is looking to create great thinkers and learners and not just students stuffed full of content take a look at your culture. If your school is wishing your students were excited to be there instead of feeling the tension of just trying to attend and endure take a look at your culture. Is your focus on test scores and “achievement” or do your teachers and students engage in ways that allow them to grow and make meaning out of their learning in ways that tests don’t measure and quantify? Is the purpose of your school to produce great test scores or students capable of thinking creatively and critically about things that matter?

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10% of Academic Achievement Correlates to Quality of Home Life at Age 3


Reposted from MindShift:

The first study, published Thursday in Child Development, found that the type of emotional support that a child receives during their her first three and a half years has an effect on education, social life and romantic relationships even 20 or 30 years later. Lee Raby, a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware collected from 243 people who participated in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk. All the participants were followed from birth until they turned 32. “Researchers went into these kids’ home at times. Other times they brought the children and their parents to the university and observed how they interacted with each other,” Raby said.

Of course, parental behavior in the early years is just one of many influences, and it’s not necessarily causing the benefits seen in the study. While tallying up the results, the researchers accounted for the participants’ socioeconomic status and the environment in which they grew up. Ultimately, they found that about 10 percent of someone’s academic achievement was correlated with the quality of their home life at age three. Later experiences, genetic factors and even chance explain their other 90 percent, Raby says.

A second study, also published in Child Development, found that children’s early responses to experience help predict whether or not they end up developing social anxiety disorder as teenagers — but only for those who were especially sensitive and distrustful as babies. For this study, researchers from the University of Maryland observed how 165 babies interacted with their parents. When separated from their parents, some got upset but quickly recovered when they were reunited. Other babies had a harder time trusting their parents after a brief separation, and they weren’t able to calm down after being reunited. Those extra-sensitive babies were more likely to report feeling anxious socializing and attending parties as teenagers.

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An Examination of How Poverty Impacts Student Achievement

Reposted from Jersey Jazzman’s Blog:

poverty and proficiency“This is as quick and dirty as they come, but it makes the point. Every dot here is a school in Pennsylvania. The x-axis shows how many kids taking the state’s reading test are in economic disadvantage, as measured by qualifying for free/reduced price lunch. The y-axis shows how many test takers scored “below basic,” meaning, out of PA’s four test proficiency levels, these students scored at the bottom.

Once again, note how economic disadvantage correlates to test score outcomes. Were I to do a simple linear regression here, 60 percent of the variation in this test-based outcome could be explained by student economic disadvantage.

I did a quadratic trend line to get things a little tighter (no, it doesn’t matter, and you’re a geek…). Then I highlighted all the schools in York, charters and publics. Big surprise: everyone is pretty much where you’d expect them to be. The elementary schools do a little better than prediction; the secondaries do a little worse. And the charters are right where we’d expect.”

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Superintendents Not Relevant to Learning Outcomes, Study Finds

superintendentReposted from Brookings Now:

The authors of a new research report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings find that school superintendents “have very little influence on student achievement collectively compared to all other components of the traditional education system that we measure.”

“Superintendents may well have impacts on factors we have not addressed in our study, such as the financial health of the district, parent and student satisfaction, and how efficiently tax dollars are spent,” the authors conclude. “And to be certain, superintendents occupy one of the American school system’s most complex and demanding positions. But our results make clear that, in general, school district superintendents have very little influence on student achievement in the districts in which they serve. This is true in absolute terms, with only a fraction of one percent of the variance in student achievement accounted for by differences among superintendents. It is also true in relative terms, with teachers/classrooms, schools/ principals, and districts having an impact that is orders of magnitude greater than that associated with superintendents.”

Analyzing student-level data from the states of Florida and North Carolina for the school years 2000-01 to 2009-10, the authors find that:

  • School district superintendent is largely a short-term job. The typical superintendent has been in the job for three to four years.
  • Student achievement does not improve with longevity of superintendent service within their districts.
  • Hiring a new superintendent is not associated with higher student achievement.
  • Superintendents account for a very small fraction (0.3 percent) of student differences in achievement. This effect, while statistically significant, is orders of magnitude smaller than that associated with any other major component of the education system, including: measured and unmeasured student characteristics; teachers; schools; and districts.
  • Individual superintendents who have an exceptional impact on student achievement cannot be reliably identified.

Dig deeper here.

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Download the report here. (16 pages)

Student Engagement Drops from Preschool to High School


Reposted from the Gallup Blog:

“Gallup research strongly suggests that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become. The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012. We found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school. By middle school that falls to about six in 10 students. And by high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged. Our educational system sends students and our country’s future over the school cliff every year.

The drop in student engagement for each year students are in school is our monumental, collective national failure. There are several things that might help to explain why this is happening — ranging from our overzealous focus on standardized testing and curricula to our lack of experiential and project-based learning pathways for students — not to mention the lack of pathways for students who will not and do not want to go on to college.

Imagine what our economy would look like today if nearly eight in 10 of our high school graduates were engaged — just as they were in elementary school. Indeed, this is very possible; the best high schools in our dataset have as many as seven in 10 of their students engaged, akin to the engagement levels of our elementary schools. In fact, in qualitative interviews Gallup conducted with principals of these highly engaged high schools, we heard quotes such as, “Our high school feels like an elementary school,” when describing what they are doing differently.”

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Bang for Your Buck? Really? How About “Bottom Line, It’s Broke!”

Reposted from the Washington Post:

“In a report released Wednesday, the Center for American Progress published how much “bang for the buck” taxpayers are getting from public schools. The report, analyzed budgets of 7,000 school districts across about 40 states – which enroll about about 80 percent of U.S. public school students – and found some surprising results. Relatively affluent school districts in communities such as Montgomery County, Md., or Scarsdale , N.Y., spent a lot on each student ($15,421 in Montgomery and $24,607 in Scarsdale) and posted strong academic results, but other districts in their states got similar academic results with less money.

School districts often spend money on items that might do nothing to improve student achievement. For example, many school districts pay a premium to teachers with master’s degrees, even though there is no evidence that advanced degrees translate into better student test scores. According to one 2009 study, the country spends about $15 billion a year paying out “master’s bumps” to teachers.

The Return on Investment index was created by rating school districts on how much academic achievement they attained for every dollar spent, relative to other districts in their state. Academic achievement was measured using state reading and math tests in elementary, middle and high school. The data used were from 2010-2011 school year.”

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