Education Week - February 10, 2016 - (Page 7)
Advocates' Report Hits States for Overtesting, Other Policies
Low marks awarded
on group's priorities
By Daarel Burnette II
Many states rely too heavily on
standardized testing, open their
doors too easily to charters and
other school choice options, and
fall short in adequately paying
and supporting their professional
teaching force, according to a stinging new report from the Network
for Public Education, a group led
by the education historian and
policy activist Diane Ravitch.
The report, titled "Valuing Public Education: A 50-State Report
Card," rates the states and the nation on an A-to-F scale in a halfdozen categories and overall, based
on the group's policy positions in
areas such as teacher evaluation
and compensation, testing, and
the financial support of traditional
"The current policy framework
that pushes for more testing and
privatization has failed," Ravitch,
the co-founder and president of the
group, said at a press conference at
the National Press Club last week.
"It's insanity. Let's try some common sense for a change."
In its report card, the organization gave the nation as a whole a
grade of D in every category except for the one on resistance to
high-stakes testing, where it was
awarded a C. Thirty-seven states,
in addition to the District of Co-
equity in school funding, as well as
household income and employment,
and school integration;
* A wide range of teacher-related
factors, including salary measures, a
commitment to teacher experience,
and rejection of merit pay; and
terms the privatization of public
education, for-profit management
of schools, and policies that it sees
as contributing to a lack of support
and respect for teachers.
Instead, the group advocates
for racially integrated schools,
The current policy framework that pushes for more testing and
privatization has failed. It's insanity. Let's try some common sense. ..."
President and Co-Founder, Network for Public Education
lumbia, scored an overall grade
of a D or F, and 13 received a C,
the highest overall grade awarded.
(Some states received higher
grades-including some A's-in
Among the specific factors that
figured into those scores:
* A rejection of high-stakes testing for student graduation, promotion, and teacher evaluations;
* The degree of "resistance to
privatization," including tighter
restrictions on charter schools and
rejection of parent-trigger laws and
* Measures aimed at gauging
* How well taxpayer money is
used, as measured by markers such
as lower class sizes, pre-K and fullday kindergarten, and rejection of
Serving as a Counterweight
The Network for Public Education
was launched in 2013 as a counterweight to what its members saw as
a barrage of attacks on teachers and
regular public schools after the release of the documentary "Waiting
for 'Superman' " in 2010.
Among other things, the NPE opposes high-stakes testing, what it
funding of social services, and replacing annual bell-curve tests
with periodic sample tests such as
the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Accountability systems should target those
at the top, such as administrators,
rather than those at the bottom,
such as teachers, Ravitch said at
the report's rollout event.
The organization concedes in its
report that it set a high bar in rating the states on its policy priorities. It gives an overall failing grade
to eight states: Arizona, Florida,
Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas.
50 Years of Research Shows
Good Teaching Matters Plenty
affirming the importance of teachers, there is not a lot of
consensus about what policies will help to improve the
average teacher's overall ability.
TEACHER BEAT | The famous 1966 "Coleman Report" set
up a long-standing (and still unsettled) debate about how
much schools can do in the face of poverty and socioeconomic
stratification. But one of its findings still resonates, a
well-known scholar argues in an article released last week:
Buried within the venerable, 700-page report is the
finding that teacher quality seems to bear more of a
relationship to student progress than school facilities or
curriculum-especially for underserved children, notes
the University of Washington's Daniel Goldhaber, in an
upcoming edition of the journal Education Next.
Sound familiar? It should. The last decade or so has seen
dozens of studies, mostly based on sophisticated statistical
analyses of growth in student scores, that have reached
the same basic conclusion: Of the in-school factors affecting
achievement, differences in teacher quality explain a lot of
why some students do better than others.
A list of studies outlined in Goldhaber's article, for
example, show that as teachers' effectiveness improved, so
did student learning.
There are some differences between then and now, of
course. James S. Coleman found teachers' verbal ability
to be the most predictive factor, followed by educational
background. Today, we know that teacher experience and
some measures of academic aptitude seem to matter,
while things like master's degrees have a less consistent
relationship to good teaching.
Goldhaber also takes time exploring the research on
teacher quality post-Coleman. He notes that we now know
that much of the variation in teacher quality is actually
within schools, rather than between them.
There are also some things we still don't fully know, such
as how teachers affect other student variables of interest,
including self esteem, resilience, and attendance. But all in
all, there's research going back to the Lyndon B. Johnson era
showing that teacher quality is really important.
Waiting for the inevitable caveat to this walk down
memory lane? Here it is: 50 years later, despite the research
Virtual Reality: Poised to Bring
Big Changes to Education?
But the report also notes what it
called some "bright spots." It specifically cited Alabama, Montana, and
Nebraska for rejecting high-stakes
testing and what it calls privatization. And Alabama, Kentucky,
Montana, Nebraska, North and
South Dakota, and West Virginia
all received A's in the "resistance to
"There are no silver bullets in
education," Carol Burris, the executive director of the organization, said at the news conference.
"Turning schools around takes
hard work, and it happens incrementally over time."
The NPE report card was modeled after national report cards
issued by groups such as StudentsFirst and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which
advocate for more charter schools
and student choice, among other
Inez Feltscher, the director of the
ALEC task force on education and
workforce development, said charters and other school choice programs have proved to be effective.
"Giving parents the flexibility to
place their children in the learning
environment that works best without undue regulatory interference
from state bureaucrats is a win
for students, not a reason to give a
state a lower grade," she said.
| MARKETPLACE K-12 | Virtual reality has been hyped as the
"next big thing" for more than two decades, but is 2016 the
year that it finally makes a break into schools in a big way?
Some might argue it already has. The increasingly
popular Google Expeditions-virtual field trips that
students can "take" via smartphones tucked into Google
Cardboard viewers-are a simple form of VR. Students hold
the viewers-which are designed so that their field of vision
is completely focused-up to their eyes, use an app that
displays the video to produce an immersive experience that
takes students to any of up to 150 destinations, and get the
feeling of being inside, or at, the location that is unfolding
before their eyes.
Still in "closed beta," Google Expeditions are being tested
in schools that preregister with the company. Schools must
apply and be accepted to officially participate in the project.
"More than half a million students have experienced it,"
Jonathan Rochelle, the director of product management
at Google for Education, told an audience at the British
Educational Training and Technology show in London, as he
unveiled "expeditions" to Buckingham Palace and the Great
At a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month,
meanwhile, "education" was identified in a survey as the
industry most likely to benefit from the widespread adoption
of virtual or augmented reality-the latter a technology that
overlays information and images as one goes about day-today life, without using a headset.
"Mostly early adopters attend CES," said Todd Richmond,
the director of advanced prototype development at the
Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of
Southern California, in a phone interview.
This select audience's view that education is the most
likely realm to benefit from the technology isn't far from
coming to fruition, he said.
His institute, for instance, has a patent-pending design
for a viewer that clips onto a tablet and creates the same
effect as a Google Cardboard, he said. "The top part is
an immersive 3D (experience), and the bottom half of
the display can show text, videos, or be a virtual joystick
controller so you can control what you're viewing."
But are VR and AR likely to be adopted only in schools
that can afford it? Richmond said that in 15 or 20 years,
they will be "like tables and chairs"-infrastructure that
is part of the classroom. "Look at computers," he said.
"They had a small place in the classroom. Now they're in
N.Y.C. Moves to Departmentalize
5th Grade Math Instruction
| CURRICULUM MATTERS | Across the country, most 5th
grade students, along with the rest of their elementary
peers, sit in a single classroom with a single teacher for
reading, math, science, and social studies instruction. It's
not until middle school that they tend to start switching
teachers for academic subjects.
That may be changing for some of New York City's 5th
graders, Chalkbeat New York reports. The district is looking
to departmentalize math instruction at that grade level,
meaning there would be a designated teacher only for math.
The move to departmentalize 5th grade in New York is part
of a larger Algebra for All initiative in the city, according to a
memo sent to principals last month. The district is hoping to
increase students' readiness for algebra by improving math
instruction in the early grades. The initiative also seeks to
"minimize any math anxiety [5th grade through Algebra 1
math teachers] may have and strengthen their capacity to
serve as content experts in their schools," the memo says.
New York City teachers who wish to take on designated
5th grade math classes will receive three days of
professional development this winter, three weeks
this summer, and five days next school year, when the
departmentalizing begins. "We know this initiative is
a big step forward and are working to develop both the
operational and instructional supports schools will need to
be successful," the memo says.
EDUCATION WEEK | February 10, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 10, 2016
Education Week - February 10, 2016
Federal Trade Regulators Target Brain-Training Product Claims
In States Hungry for Teachers, Policy Menu Expands
PARCC Scores Lower On Computer Exams
Equipping Parents on Spec. Ed.
News in Brief
In Chicago, Schools’ Financial Crisis Deepens Divisions
Advocates’ Report Hits States For Overtesting, Other Policies
Blogs of the Week
Digital Directions: Partnership Boosts Data Privacy
Kindergarten: Less Play, More Academics (infographic
‘Proficiency’ Bars on State Tests Are Seen Heading Upward
Views Clash On K-12 Law Rulemaking
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. CIO Grilled By Oversight Panel
State of the States
I’m Tired of ‘Grit’
Why Small Steps Are Better for Small Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
In Low-Income Schools, Teachers Need Guidance
Education Week - February 10, 2016