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 Washington 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 public schools. "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." BLOGS 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. ..." DIANE RAVITCH 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 particular categories.) 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 vouchers; * 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 virtual schools. 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. -STEPHEN SAWCHUK 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: Teachers matter. 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 privatization" category. "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 priorities. 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 Barrier Reef. 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 every classroom." -MICHELE MOLNAR 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. -LIANA HEITIN EDUCATION WEEK | February 10, 2016 | | 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
Report Roundup
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
America’s ‘Edu-Masochism’
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