Education Week - March 16, 2016 - (Page 20)

South Korea's 'Top Performance' Numbers Should Not Be Applauded LETTERS to the EDITOR Access 4 Learning Executive Defends Company's 'Successful' History To the Editor: I write in response to Education Week's article "New Tech Standard Aims to Ease Sharing of Digital Roster Data" (Jan. 27, 2016). The article inappropriately-and with no opportunity for response-quoted Rob Abel, the chief executive officer of IMS Global Learning Consortium, on his inaccurate depiction of Access 4 Learning (A4L) as an organization and its work in roster functionality, which is critical for software applications to be populated with learner information. Since A4L was not allowed an opportunity to respond within the article, the quote by Abel appeared to be an attempt to discredit the 19 successful years of work accomplished by A4L-member schools, districts, states, and vendors. To the Editor: As a student from South Korea who is now studying in the United States, I find it surprising that many people here applaud the South Korean education system. The Center on International Education Benchmarking lists South Korea as a "top performer," and even Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education, has asked why the United States can't be more like South Korea. As a recent Commentary argued, the United States should not blindly applaud and emulate countries that perform well on international assessments ("America's 'Edu-Masochism,' " Feb. 10, 2016). I want to share what South Korea's high performance on these assessments is not telling you. First, beyond South Korea's impressive scores on international exams, there are unhappy, sleep-deprived, and suicidal South Korean students. South Korean students report levels of happiness that are among the lowest for youths in developed nations. High school students report sleeping an average of 5.5 hours per day in order to study. Alarmingly, slightly more than half of South Korean teenagers reported having suicidal thoughts in response to a 2014 poll conducted Larry L. Fruth II Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Access 4 Learning Community Washington, D.C. Middle-grades students face many challenges that can severely impact academic performance. According to United Way, one out of three 7th graders in Los Angeles County shows signs of depression, and one out of two 8th graders does not take algebra, a gateway to higher-level thinking. If we want to strengthen our economy, we can no longer remain silent in the face of deleterious learning conditions and opportunities. The middle grades are a time when adolescents experience immense social, emotional, and physical changes. We can help students in these grades become who they want to be by providing innovative and meaningful learning opportunities. For example, the middle grades are a good opportunity to introduce a new language, whether it be a student's second or third. And let's encourage our teachers to "loop" with their students to the next grade, a practice that gives students a sense of continuity that's otherwise absent in the classshuffling middle grades. Because I believe that the best ideas come from the grassroots, I authored a school board resolution for the Los Angeles Unified School District: "Creating a Collaborative to Focus on the Middle Grades." This was designed to bring together a team of students, parents, educators, school leaders, researchers, and district staff to create a framework to reimagine our middle grades. It passed unanimously. I hope that districts across the state and nation will also make a similar commitment, so that we can turn the middle grades into a steppingstone to high school graduation and a pathway to college and life success. Ref Rodriguez Editor's Note: The article has been updated to include a response from Access 4 Learning. Board of Education Member Los Angeles Unified School District Los Angeles, Calif. Using Traditional School Methods to Assess Online Charters Is 'Apples to Oranges' Exercise Mary Gifford Senior Vice President of Education Policy and External Affairs K12 Inc. Herndon, Va. Jeff Kwitowski Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Communications K12 Inc. Herndon, Va. iStockphoto To the Editor: Over the last six months, Education Week news and Commentary have cited a national study of online charter schools conducted by CREDO, Mathematica, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education, raising questions about online charter schools. (See, for example, "Walton Family Foundation: Rethink Virtual Charters," Commentary, Jan. 27, 2016; and "Cyber Charters Have 'Overwhelming Negative Impact,' CREDO Study Finds," Digital Education blog, www., Oct. 27, 2015.) Though we have made public our concerns about the reliability of the study's "virtual twin" methodology used to measure student performance, we believe the study itself is important and provides a starting point for future research. It also confirms much of what leaders of online schools have known for years: Students who transfer to these schools are more likely to be low-income, have lower test scores prior to enrolling, and struggle with engagement. Certainly, online schools and digital-learning providers must take the lead to improve outcomes. That work is being done every day by the dedicated teachers and educators providing instruction and support to students in these schools. Online schools are an essential option for many families. They are often the only school choice available. A single study should not be used to draw sweeping conclusions or justify misguided public policies-most notably, proposals to screen away students. This stifles parent choice and restricts equal access to these public schools. Measuring online schools through accountability systems designed for traditional schools creates an apples-to-oranges exercise. These systems are often misaligned and do not effectively measure mastery or individual student progress over multiple points in time. States should move to competencybased assessments and student-centered accountability frameworks, which should emphasize academic gains over static proficiency; hold schools more accountable for students who are enrolled longer; and eliminate the perverse incentives that unfairly punish schools of choice for serving transfer students who enter below proficiency or behind in credits. Yes, student results in online schools must improve, but so, too, should the metrics and accountability systems. State Reading Bill Invests in Students by the country's Korea Health Promotion Foundation; over 40 percent of the respondents listed academic pressure and uncertainty over their futures as their greatest concern. Second, South Korea's high scores are a reflection of private tutoring rather than the public education system itself. About 77 percent of South Korean students participate in an average of 10 hours of private tutoring a week. This percentage is more than double the average rate of private tutoring in countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2013, South Korean parents paid the equivalent of $18 billion for private tutoring in order to give their children a competitive advantage. Moreover, in the education system where high performance is all that matters, struggling students as well as students with disabilities are often neglected and left behind. Thus, no matter how high the country ranks on international tests, our seemingly impressive test scores come at too high a price. As a South Korean, I call on the world to see what is beyond my country's high scores on international assessments. Until South Korea addresses its pressing educational issues, such as student well-being, reliance on private tutoring, and support for students with disabilities, the country should not be considered a model system for the United States. To the Editor: With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, key policy decisions about how federal education grant money will be used and what constitutes accountability in performance will soon happen at the state level. It's essential to define what smart state-level legislation looks like and how to maximize ESSA's impact. In California, the Golden State Reading Guarantee, SB 1145, could serve as a model for other states to consider. This is an urgent issue for California, where last year's new Smarter Balanced test showed 60 percent of all 4th graders were not meeting state reading standards. Unfortunately, as the Center for American Progress reported earlier this year, this issue is truly national in scope. We risk creating a generation that will be unable to advance through school and go on to get good jobs. That's terrible for students, worrisome for parents, and a recipe for economic disaster for our states and our nation. Legislation like the Golden State Reading Guarantee proposes to close the reading gap by making strategic investments in students from kindergarten to 4th grade, starting with the premise that reading is the skill most fundamental to learning. There are six critical components to the legislation. * Individualized reading plans; * Evidence-based after-school literacy support; * Parental engagement; * Resources for students with disabilities and Englishlanguage learners; * Additional funding to increase the K-3 base rate for localcontrol funding; and * STEM-literacy integration with reading as a foundation. As state policymakers move forward in the ESSA era, strategic investments in reading during the K-4 years will pay big dividends for generations to come. April B. Choi Michael Lombardo Cambridge, Mass. Chief Execuive Officer Reading Partners Oakland, Calif. Reimagining Middle School Years to Help Students Overcome Challenges To the Editor: Close to 200,000 students in Los Angeles public schools are middle-grades students-5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th graders-who are either launched onto the path to graduation or knocked off track during these years. Although research has definitively shown that experiences in the middle grades have substantial impacts on high school graduation and success in college, not enough attention has been paid to these formative years. That must change. 20 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 16, 2016 | COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 16, 2016

Education Week - March 16, 2016
States Hit Accelerator On Accountability
Immigrant Influxes Test U.S. Schools
Researchers Flag Downside Of Moving to Better Schools
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Potential Use of ‘Blockchain’ Tech for K-12 Debated by Experts
Blogs of the Week
Early-Education Measures Percolating at State, Local Levels
Acting Ed. Secretary Urges Congress to Renew Career-Tech Law
ESSA Rulemaking: A Guide to Negotiations
Blogs of the Week
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN: Keeping Schoolhouse Doors Open for Immigrant Children
GARRETT NEIMAN: For Disadvantaged Students, New SAT Is First Step
Q&A With Author David Denby: A Quest for ‘Serious’ Reading In the Digital Age
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
ARNOLD PACKER: Should Citizenship Be a Goal of Education?

Education Week - March 16, 2016