Education Week - February 17, 2016 - (Page 16)
Five-State Study Examines
Teaching Shifts Under Core
Ties to student test-score gains elusive
By Ross Brenneman
A new study of educators in five states finds
that the Common Core State Standards have
fostered significant instructional changes in
U.S. classrooms. But the research offers less
clarity on specific strategies that boost student
achievement under the standards.
The study, conducted by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University,
used a random-sampling survey to capture
the experiences of 1,500 English and mathematics teachers in grades 4 through 8, as well
as 142 principals. The researchers then linked
those surveys with student test results.
The respondents were based in Delaware,
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and
Nevada, each of which used one of the two
major consortia-designed common-core tests
(The center is funded by several organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a leading supporter of the common core,
and the Joyce Foundation. Both foundations
also support coverage in Education Week.)
The study starts by addressing a common
query: Are teachers embracing the common
core? And in all five states, three-quarters of
teachers said that they are.
Respondents also indicated that their embrace of the new standards has corresponded
with key instructional shifts. Three-quarters of
English teachers and 82 percent of math teachers said they have altered their instructional
materials because of the common core.
Math teachers have also been placing greater
emphasis on conceptual understanding and
real-world application of math, in balance with
In English/language arts classrooms, the sur-
vey confirms a rise in nonfiction reading that
other studies have highlighted. The teachers
said they were also putting a greater emphasis on writing, with 86 percent of English
teachers indicating they've increased attention in that area.
While teachers are changing their instruction, the CEPR's research is less conclusive in
tying specific strategies to student-learning
gains, as measured by students' performance
on the consortia exams in comparison with
weighted results from past standardized tests.
For math teachers, the study identifies just
three school instructional-improvement strategies-and no specific teaching changes-that
correlated with achievement gains:
* More observations with explicit feedback;
* Including standards-aligned student outcomes in teacher evaluations; and
* More days of professional development.
For English teachers, meanwhile, the study
found no correlation between any specific instructional strategy or change and improved
student performance-although the researchers note that the new exams appear to be
"more sensitive" to teaching differences, particularly with respect to writing instruction.
In a conference call with reporters last
week, Harvard economics and education professor Thomas Kane, who led the study, clarified that even for math teachers, observations
conducted by principals and most teachers
showed negligible effects; only observations
with feedback by department chairs were
linked with significant gains. Half of all
teachers surveyed reported that no one ever
gave them feedback on their observations.
COMMON-CORE INSTRUCTIONAL CHANGES
Many teachers say they have increased their emphasis on particular
instructional areas in response to the common standards.
Emphasis on conceptual understanding 3
Emphasis on application of skills/knowledge 4
Emphasis on procedural skills 26
Assigned writing with use of evidence 2 12
Use of nonfiction in reading assignments 2 13
Assigned writing on real/
imaginary experiences 29
Use of literature in reading 28
Did not change
SOURCE: Center for Education Policy Research, Harvard University
As for tying teacher evaluations to standardsaligned student outcomes, the "outcomes" didn't
have to be from state tests; they could also have
come from interim or district assessments, or
student-learning objectives. New Mexico is the
only state of the five that ties teacher evaluation statewide to student performance on the
The report doesn't offer an explanation as to
why this strategy proved successful for math
teachers and not for English teachers.
(From 2009 to 2012, Kane was the director of
the Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective
Teaching project, which highlighted the role
of observations, student surveys, and studentgrowth data in improving teacher performance.)
The study also throws some cold water on
the recent enthusiasm around teacher collaboration. The authors write that they found
no "significant relationships between the frequency of teacher collaboration and student
achievement for either mathematics or ELA."
That may partly be the result of a lack of
constructive collaboration opportunities, however. For example, the study finds that less
than 7 percent of the teachers had opportunities to observe other teachers. Other recent
research has found that observations of other
teachers can be an especially effective method
of professional learning.
"Are there different types of collaboration we haven't asked about yet that distinguishes valuable collaboration from not-valuable collaboration?" Kane said.
"It's simply not true that more collaboration [in general] is what makes the difference. We need to zone in on what kind of collaboration is going to be helpful."
La.'s Governor, Attorney General
Clash Over Common-Core Suit
| STATE EDWATCH | Louisiana's attorney general says
that the lawsuit against President Barack Obama over
the common core that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards
dropped earlier this month is not his to drop.
Attorney General Jeff Landry filed papers Feb. 8 with
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let him take over
as the plaintiff for former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican,
who filed the lawsuit in 2014, shortly before his failed bid
to become the GOP presidential nominee. In the lawsuit,
he alleged that the federal government manipulated
billions of dollars in grant money and policy waivers to
illegally pressure states to adopt the Common Core State
A federal judge said in September that the standards
don't represent an improper intrusion into education by
Washington. Jindal pledged to appeal the ruling. But
Edwards, elected in December, said Feb. 4 that he was
dropping the long-standing legal challenge.
He said the recent passage of the Every Student
Succeeds Act, which specifically bars the federal
government from mandating standards, coupled with
the state's own efforts to rewrite its standards, make
the lawsuit "educationally and financially unnecessary,"
according to the Associated Press. The state has paid close
to $450,000 to its lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to handle the
case, the AP reported.
The state's attorney general, however, says he's the
one empowered under the state constitution to decide
what lawsuits proceed or are dropped-not the
16 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 17, 2016 | www.edweek.org
The governor disagrees. "As in any case, the client-not
the attorney-should ultimately make the decisions on the
course of action, and I have decided that this case will not
proceed," Edwards wrote to Landry, according to a letter
made public to the AP.
-DAAREL BURNETTE II
States Without Waivers From NCLB
Off the Hook on Tutoring, Choice
| POLITICS K-12 | It's official: States without waivers from
the No Child Left Behind Act no longer have to set aside
a hefty portion of their federal Title I funds in order to
provide for tutoring and school choice. That list includes
California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota,
Vermont, Washington state, and Wyoming.
The U.S. Department of Education, which made that announcement Feb. 5, had already essentially said as much
in previous guidance for states wondering how the transition from the NCLB law to the Every Student Succeeds
Act, the new version of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, will work.
Some background: The NCLB law called for schools that
continually failed to meet achievement targets-which is
most schools in the states without waivers at this point-to
set aside 20 percent of their federal Title I funds for disadvantaged students for public school choice or tutoring. But
the ESSA gets rid of that requirement. Plus, it's already
moot for the 42 states with waivers from the NCLB law.
Still, since the ESSA doesn't fully kick in until the 201718 school year, states without waivers have been asking
where they stand when it comes to the set-aside.
Those states will have to come up with another plan to
support schools where students were previously missing
achievement targets, the department told Michael Kirst,
the president of the California school board, in a letter.
And the plan doesn't necessarily have to include every
school in the state that was eligible for choice and tutoring. Instead, states should put a premium on the schools
where a large percentage or number of students are falling
behind. The plan, which will apply to the 2016-17 school
year only, needs to be developed by March 1, with input
from parents, teachers, students, districts, and others. And
it must explain just how the state plans to help students
What's more, students who are already taking advantage of public school choice get to stay in their school until
they've completed the highest grade it offers. -ALYSON KLEIN
IES Launches Latest Competition
For Regional Network of Ed. Labs
ON SCHOOL RESEARCH | The Institute of Education
Sciences continues its push for more alliances between
researchers and school districts with the opening earlier
this month of its competition for the next iteration of the
regional educational laboratory network.
The 10 regional labs are now operating 79 alliances
among researchers, teachers, and education policymakers.
The next group of regional labs will be expected to continue
and expand the alliances, including with professional
organizations that support teachers, principals, and other
school officials. All the labs except REL Southwest will be
selected this fall, to begin next January; the Southwest lab
is 11 months behind the others because of a protest during
the last grant competition that delayed its start. Each
contract will run five years.
-SARAH D. SPARKS
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 17, 2016
Education Week - February 17, 2016
Preservice Programs Seek To Head Off Teacher Biases
Black Male Teachers a Rarity
Consolidation Fight Erupts In Vermont
In Cities With Choice, Single- Enrollment Systems Hit Hurdles
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Letting Students Work From Home Adds Policy Twist
News in Brief
Q&A: Principals Urged To ‘Shadow’ Students
Study: Showing Standout Work To Students Can Backfire
U.S. Manages to Reduce Share Of Low PISA Scores— in Science
Blogs of the Week
Lawmakers Pledging to Keep Close Eye on ESSA Implementation
Obama Budget Doubles As Policy Document
Blogs of the Week
Five-State Study Examines Teaching Shifts Under Core
Kansas High Court Strikes Down Stopgap Aid Formula
State of the States
Increased Accountability of Teacher Prep Gives Equity the Back Seat
Self-Care Is the Educator’s Core Standard
Beware the Racist Subtext Of Children’s Books
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Dispatch From Flint, Mich.: Our Water Crisis Is a Crisis of Trust
Education Week - February 17, 2016