Education Week - March 16, 2016 - (Page 20)
South Korea's 'Top Performance' Numbers
Should Not Be Applauded
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
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.
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
Senior Vice President of Education Policy and External Affairs
Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Communications
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.
edweek.org, 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
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
Chief Execuive Officer
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 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
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 www.edweek.org/go/guidelines.
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
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