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 schools. 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 now desegregated. "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 Guardsman prevents Elizabeth Eckford, right, from entering Little Rock Central High in 1957. Efforts to prevent integration in Little Rock made the city a national symbol of school segregation. 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 1989 agreement. 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 appeals court. 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 assessments. 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 some combination. 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 information. Philanthropy Lessons 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 approved. "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 we're done." 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." Costs Vary 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 core. 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." MIKE JOHNSON CTB/McGraw-Hill centers open. State officials said last year there were 70 centers, but others will be converted soon and those open have extended hours, providing adequate coverage. Massachusetts did not decide on the new HiSET until early January, delaying the rollout of the new test into February. 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 testing program. "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 specialist 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. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage. EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | | 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
Report Roundup
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