Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 7)
to improve its schools and facilities.
Under the agreement, the Little Rock-area
districts will also phase out majority-to-minority
transportation plans, and the magnet
schools will stop accepting new applicants
from Pulaski County and North Little Rock.
Little Rock leaders have said they will maintain
the magnet schools as special-program
Gary Orfield, the co-director of the Civil
Rights Project at the University of California,
Los Angeles, said the new agreement didn't
signal that the central Arkansas schools are
"They've stopped trying, that's what they've
done," he said.
Mr. Orfield said a changing tone in federal
courts has made it more difficult for districts
around the country to complete and maintain
desegregation efforts. He cited as a leading
example the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling
in Parents Involved in Community Schools v.
Seattle School District No. 1, which limited the
way districts that are not under active desegregation
orders can use race as a factor when
assigning students to schools.
Without the active 1989 agreement, Little
Rock will be less able to balance race in its
schools, just as it begins to lose state funding
for those efforts, Mr. Orfield said.
The district also agreed to abandon its
An Arkansas National
right, from entering
Little Rock Central
High in 1957. Efforts
to prevent integration
in Little Rock made
the city a national
symbol of school
court challenge to the state's unconditional
approval of independent, open-enrollment
charter schools in the area. Little Rock had
argued that the charters stripped affluent,
white students from its rolls and violated the
Political momentum to end the state desegregation
aid has snowballed since 2011, when
a judge abruptly ended most of the payments,
an order that was quickly reversed by a federal
The state was set to argue in court that it
should be released from the 1989 agreement.
Rather than gamble on the outcome, the parties
agreed to a new settlement.
"After all of the oversight that's been here, I
don't think the districts want to regress," said
Mr. Guess. "All of us in public education are
very aware of our responsibility to be fair and
equitable to students."
Revised GED Ushers in New Era
With More Testing Competition
By Caralee J. Adams
With each update of the GED since
1942, there has been some angst
among students and adult education
teachers. This time around, a newly
revised General Educational Development
test comes with some new
competition in the assessment market,
making for a bumpy transition
in some states as they coped with a
late 2013 surge in test-takers hoping
to pass the old GED while adjusting to
the altered testing landscape.
The American Council on Educa-
tion, the longtime, nonprofit provider
of the GED, partnered with education
giant Pearson to develop a more rigorous,
computer-based exam that
began rolling out this month. At the
same time, test-makers CTB/McGraw
Hill and the Educational Testing Service
have stepped into the market, offering
their own high school equivalency
While 40 states and the District of
Columbia are sticking with the GED
for now, 10 states, including New
York, New Hampshire, and Tennessee,
have gone with one of the new
options-CTB's Test Assessing Secondary
Completion (TASC) and ETS' High
School Equivalency Test (HiSET)-or
The transition has created gaps in
testing and confusion among some
people looking to finally earn a high
school equivalency diploma. The situation
is different in every state and
may not settle down for some time.
As states watch the rollout elsewhere,
some may switch providers or add
tests, making for a fluid marketplace.
Lack of Public Messaging
mation in teachers' reviews.
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the president
of the Pittsburgh Federation
of Teachers, could not be reached for
comment. In an interview last November,
she acknowledged the difficulties
the district and union have
faced in implementing the grant.
"We had the fun part of creating an
imaginative statement about teaching;
we inherited the tough part of
rolling it out," she said. "I think we've
done amazingly well, but not as well
as I would have liked, frankly, in implementing
this expansive project."
Even if the dispute results in
still more changes to the system,
the union will have to stomach the
inclusion of some measures of student
learning, since Pennsylvania
enacted a law in 2012 requiring annual
evaluations that factor in such
It's not unheard of for philanthropies
to withdraw their funding, and if
Gates chose that option, it would not
be the first time even for Pittsburgh.
In 2002, three local foundations suspended
funding for the district, citing
a dysfunctional relationship between
the school board and superintendent.
K-12 philanthropy has exploded
since then, and funders have become
far more deeply engaged in political
work, such as supporting advocacy
groups that can pave the way for
their favored reforms.
Nevertheless, "the funders themselves
are at least one step removed,
and so the threat to leave is sort of
the last straw that they have," said
Sarah Reckhow, an assistant professor
of political science at Michigan
State University, and the author of
a 2012 volume on education philanthropy.
"It does show how they're not
quite at the table themselves, so they
have to nudge in different ways."
For now, Superintendent Lane says
she will not back down from the evaluation
cutoff points that have been
"I'm still a firm believer that there
is a correlation between effective
teaching and student learning outcomes,"
she said, citing data showing
that students making significant
learning gains are twice as likely to
be taught by top-rated teachers. "Because
if we don't believe that, I think
The TEACHER BEAT blog tracks
news and trends on this issue.
States were so busy last year accommodating
students who wanted
to take the old GED before it retired
that there hasn't been much messaging
about the new tests yet, said
Lennox L. McLendon, the executive
director of the Washington-based
National Council of State Directors
of Adult Education.
Nationally, the GED Testing Service
estimates there was a 20 to 25 percent
increase in test-takers in 2013,
up from 674,000 the year before, according
to spokesman C.T. Turner. In
Kentucky, test-taking volume was up
80 percent and New York had an increase
of 43 percent.
A state official in New York acknowledges
it will take work to inform
the public about the new TASC
test. For instance, the state is asking
employers and colleges to change the
GED box on applications to say "high
school equivalency credential" to be
more generic, said Kevin G. Smith,
the deputy commissioner for adult
career and continuing services at the
New York education department.
"It's challenging because there is
a 70-year brand name they are used
to," said Mike Johnson, the national
adult education sales manager for
CTB/McGraw Hill, whose tests have
been adopted in New York, Indiana,
West Virginia, and New Jersey.
The GED Testing Service expects a
drop of about 10 percent from the average
test-taking volume in the year
following a redesign, said Mr. Turner.
Many testing centers are located
on campuses that are just getting up
and running after the winter break.
While New York had hoped to have
the new TASC test available for testtakers
by Jan. 2, the 269 approved
testing centers received the new
tests in mid-January and will begin
to offer the test in the next few weeks.
"We know the first quarter will be
slow and we are comfortable with
that," said Mr. Smith. "Test centers
are burnt out and tired."
In December, the New York Board
of Regents grandfathered in students
who passed a portion of the old GED
so they could count their test scores
toward the new credential.
Kentucky decided to stick with
the GED and on Jan. 2 had 22 testing
mostly multiple choice now, but each
year more questions in different formats
will be added to test students'
depth of knowledge, its designers say.
Preparing for the New Exams
The new GED will be more challenging
than its predecessor, say the makers
of that exam, as it was designed
to reflect new expectations in high
school and to align with the common
The GED Testing Service is offering
an online portal to prepare student
for its exam and Mr. Turner said
about 50,000 individuals have signed
up for a free account.
Meanwhile, last spring, the National
Council of State Directors of
Adult Education offered training on
how to prepare students for the more
rigorous tests. Mr. McLendon, the
group's executive director, said that
because adult education is taught in
many different settings, and often
It's challenging because there is a 70-year
brand name [people] are used to."
centers open. State officials said last
year there were 70 centers, but others
will be converted soon and those
open have extended hours, providing
Massachusetts did not decide on
the new HiSET until early January,
delaying the rollout of the new test
ETS is expecting several more
states to issue requests for proposals,
as changes are made to remove references
to the brand-name GED in state
laws, expanding opportunities for
other testing companies, according to
Amy L. Riker, the director of the ETS
"Competition is good for the mar-
ket," said Mr. Johnson of CTB/McGraw
Hill. It allows states some flexibility
and options to use more affordable
tests, he said.
Costs to students vary depending
on how much a state subsidizes the
exam. The new GED is generally $120,
but $40 is returned to testing centers.
The HiSET is $50 and TASC is $54, but
the fees do not cover administrative
costs. The two new vendors give student
the option of taking the tests online
or with paper and pencil.
All three exams cover English/
language arts, science, social studies,
and mathematics. The designers of
all three exams say they are carefully
aligned with the Common Core State
Standards, which have been adopted
by most states. Unlike the new GED,
however, the other two exams will become
progressively more difficult over
time, the test-makers say. The rigor
of the HiSET will continually increase
over the next two years. The TASC is
with part-time teachers, it's difficult
to figure out the best methods of instruction.
"The common core tells you what to
teach, not how to teach," he said.
Another issue is simply getting the
word out about the new assessment
landscape. Wyoming is offering students
all three assessment options
for equivalency credential testing in
2014. To inform the public, adult education
officials have sent out press
releases to the media, notified other
state agencies with memos, and distributed
student flyers explaining the
prices for the different tests and the
computer or paper-based options.
In Nevada, where all three exams
will be offered, Ken Zutter, an adulteducation-accountability
for the Nevada Department of Education,
said the state is encouraging
vendors to advertise to help inform
the public about the options, but
students may be guided by what's
available at their local testing center.
Not all centers have made the switch
to the new exams, but the goal is to
have all up and running within the
next four to six weeks, he said.
"We are just beginning to focus
on the transition," Mr. Zutter said.
"There will be a lot of opportunity for
our students, but change management
always has its challenges."
Special coverage on the alignment
between K-12 schools and postsecondary
education is supported in part by a grant
from the Lumina Foundation, at www.
luminafoundation.org. Education Week
retains sole editorial control over the
content of this coverage.
EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | www.edweek.org | 7
Will Counts/Arkansas Democrat/AP-File
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014
Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform
Education Week - January 22, 2014