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 last year. (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 procedural skills. In English/language arts classrooms, the sur- BLOGS 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. Strategic Differences 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. MATH Emphasis on conceptual understanding 3 16 Emphasis on application of skills/knowledge 4 17 Emphasis on procedural skills 26 34 81 78 39 E/LA Assigned writing with use of evidence 2 12 86 Use of nonfiction in reading assignments 2 13 85 Assigned writing on real/ imaginary experiences 29 30 Use of literature in reading 28 80 Increased 34 60 40 20 0 20 Teachers (%) Did not change 42 38 40 60 80 100 Decreased 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 state test. 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 Standards. 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 governor. 16 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 17, 2016 | 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 succeed academically. 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
Report Roundup
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