Education Week - March 30, 2016 - (Page 6)

Common Core: Is Its Achievement Impact Starting to Dissipate? NONFICTION ON THE RISE A growing number of 4th grade teachers say they're emphasizing nonfiction reading "to a great extent." Percent" responding" "to a great extent" The common core's impact on student achievement may have peaked early and already tapered off, according to a new analysis of national test scores by the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy. "Most people when they think about common core, they think we won't see an impact for 10 years," said Tom Loveless, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the report. "This is telling me the opposite." Most states adopted the common standards in 2010, although they may not have fully implemented them in classrooms for some time after. According to this year's Brown Center Report on American Education, 4th and 8th grade students in states that adopted the Common Core State Standards outperformed their peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2009 and 2013. But between 2013 and 2015, students in nonadoption states made larger gains than those in common-core states. This means that "common core may have already had its biggest impact," said Loveless. However, other experts say it's still much too early to be drawing conclusions about how the common core is affecting student assessment data. States are in all different stages of implementation, said Michael W. Kirst, the president of the California state board of education. "At least speaking only for California, in the early part, we were doing very little," he said. "There isn't enough treatment to do the measurement." The report, the 15th in the Brown Center series, also looks at whether the common-core standards really are altering classroom instruction- and finds evidence that they are. The common core aims to get students reading more nonfiction than they have previously. In 4th grade, about half the texts students read should be fiction and half should be nonfiction, the standards say. By 8th grade, the balance should tip toward nonfiction. Looking at NAEP survey data, Loveless found that many teachers appear to be making this change. In 8th grade, just 25 percent of teachers said they put a heavy emphasis on nonfiction reading in 2009. Six years later, that share was up to 36 percent. "The dominance of fiction is waning," writes Loveless. Math and Coursetaking The study also shows that 4th grade teachers are not teaching as much data and geometry as they did previously-a shift that also aligns with the common core. And the common core may be changing 8th graders' coursetaking habits, the study finds. For decades, there have been concerted efforts in many places to get more 8th graders taking Algebra 1, traditionally a high school course. But Loveless writes that, "from 2011 to 2013, the relative growth of advanced courses stopped dead in its tracks." Then between 2013 and 2015, 8th graders' enrollment in Algebra 1 declined from 48 percent to 43 percent, according to NAEP data, while enrollment in general math increased. That's likely because the common core delineates a single 8th grade math course for all students, Loveless explains. 60 50 59% 63% 59% 53% 23% 15% 25% 40 A NAEP-score analysis raises the question By Liana Heitin 70 30 8% 45% 44% 36% 38% 20 SOURCE: The Brown Center Report on American Education, Brookings Institution 10 Fiction  Nonfiction 0 2009 Common-core experts have noted that the 8th grade math course is a much tougher course than what was traditionally taught at that level- it now includes many concepts that students used to learn in Algebra 1. So getting to advanced math early is now a tougher climb. Overall, Loveless said, these findings in 4th and 8th grades indicate that "curriculum and instruction are changing at the ground level of schooling." That's not a hugely surprising finding, many say. But the Brown Center analysis likely doesn't tell the whole story. The NAEP teachersurvey data on implementation are all self-reported, and the study only looks at small slices of the common core at two grade levels. "It's interesting to see [common core] is grabbing hold," said Kirst. "However, what he has is pretty superficial. Common core features analysis, synthesis, interpretation, modeling, communication, extrapolation. ... [For a full picture of implementation] you'd have to measure really deeply how things are being taught and changed and what's going on in classrooms in terms of instruction at a deeper level than this report has." Categorizing States In analyzing how NAEP scores and common-core implementation are linked, Loveless divided states 2011 2013 into three categories: strong implementers, medium implementers, and nonadopters of the common core. States that planned to have fully implemented the English/language arts common-core standards by the end of the 2012-13 school year were considered strong implementers. Those with slower adoption timelines were in the medium category. However, some experts have questioned those labels. "Frankly, the timeline states set up may or may not have a relationship to when the standards were implemented in classrooms," said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, which led the development of the common-core standards. The nonadopters category includes seven states, three of which initially adopted but then reversed that decision. Indiana and South Carolina both reversed adoption, but then ended up approving new standards that look very similar to the common core. "If you count Indiana as a nonadopter but don't look at the standards, you're not characterizing it the right way," said Cohen. Loveless said it's a "legitimate concern" that the nonadopters ended up with common-core-like standards. "But what went on in Indiana was a political controversy, which even if they winded up adopting the same standards and giving them a different name, that controversy may have had an 2015 impact on classrooms and curriculum," he said. Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which facilitated the development of the common core, pointed out that all states have raised the expectations for students in recent years-even those that never adopted the common core. Other critics of the Brown Center's report noted that NAEP may not be the best means for measuring the common core's effect. A recent report by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel, an independent panel run by the American Institutes for Research, in Washington, found that NAEP is reasonably, though not entirely, aligned with the common core. For 4th grade math, for example, the researchers found that 79 percent of NAEP's test items matched material from the common-core standards at or below that grade level. "There's real dispute as to whether NAEP is an appropriate and complete assessment to measure common core," said Kirst. "If we're teaching stuff in 5th grade that they're testing in 4th grade, that's a problem." Loveless agreed NAEP may not be a perfect measure. "There's some truth to that," he said, "but we don't have any other national assessment to judge what's going on." Visit the CURRICULUM MATTERS blog, which tracks news and trends on this issue. ACT's New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT By Catherine Gewertz ACT Inc. has added a new test to its lineup: the PreACT, a multiple-choice test designed to prepare 10th grade students for the company's college-entrance exam. The PreACT, which will be available next fall, is a paper-based test in the same four subjects as the ACT: English/language arts, math, reading, and science. It will not include a writing section. That section is optional on the ACT. The PreACT uses the same format and 1-36 score scale as the ACT. At one hour and 55 minutes or less, the PreACT is an hour shorter than the ACT without the writing portion. The Iowa-based testing company is aiming the new product at schools, districts, and states. It's not linked to scholarship opportunities, as is the College Board's PSAT. Announcing the new test last week, ACT officials said its core purpose is to give students a preview of the experience of taking the ACT, and a sense of how they'll do on the collegeentrance exam. In fact, they'll be answering real ACT questions. Paul J. Weeks, ACT's senior vice president for client relations, said that all the questions on the PreACT will be repurposed items from earlier ACT exams. The PreACT aims at the same age group that takes the rival College Board's PSAT, and the two companies have been battling for market share for their respective product lines. Asked whether the PreACT, at $12 per student, is a competitor for the PSAT, which costs $15, Weeks said, "I think it will be." But he added that that wasn't the original idea behind it. Vehicle for Practice The PreACT was developed because school and district staff members said they wanted a test that would let students practice for the 6 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 30, 2016 | ACT, produce early scores that would signal areas of weakness, and yield results quickly, Weeks said. ACT puts free, full-length practice versions of the college-entrance exam online, but Weeks said the PreACT program would make a practice experience available to all students in a school or district, rather than leaving it to individual students to seek out online. Because the questions are nonsecure-they won't appear again on the ACT, so they're no longer secret-schools and districts can give the test whenever they wish, and students can see the questions, and their answers, within two weeks of taking the test, Weeks said. The PreACT could fill a hole left in the market by the demise of two tests which were run-ups to the ACT: Explore, for grade 8 or 9, and Plan, for 10th grade. Those tests accounted for 1.8 million administrations in 17 states in 2014. But that same year, ACT announced that it was sunsetting them, as it unveiled a new line of summa- tive tests for grades 3-10 called ACT Aspire. ACT Aspire was intended to capture a chunk of the common-core testing market just as the federally funded PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests were set to make their debut. Four states-Alabama, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming-bought the Aspire system to use statewide this school year, and it's also used in more than 900 individual schools or districts. Ellen Forte, whose consulting company, edCount, works with states on assessment, said she sees the launch of the PreACT as a strategic bid for district-level business. "Having an entire suite of products that is designed to consider progress toward college- and career-readiness as indicated by the ACT could be very enticing [to districts]. And profitable," she said in an email. Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog, which tracks news and trends on this issue.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 30, 2016

Education Week - March 30, 2016
State Boards Feel New Need To Flex Muscles
Distress Call Issued On K-12 Facilities
Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?
Sanders Gets Educators’ Attention Despite Limited Specifics on K-12
Table of Contents
DAVID GAMBERG: What Makes a School?
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Common Core: Is Its Achievement Impact Starting To Dissipate?
ACT’s New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT
N.C. Law Restricts Transgender Student Restroom Access
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Group Probes Ed-Tech Pricing, Buying
Home Schooling Gains Popularity With Military Families
Blogs of the Week
‘Teach to Lead’ Projects Face Uphill Climb at State Level
Hearing Weighs Student-Data Privacy Concerns
High Court Weighing Birth-Control Mandate
ESSA Rule Negotiators Grapple With Issues of Flexibility, Equity
ROBERT EVANS: Principals, Get Your Irish On
PATRICK O’CONNOR: Why Good Teachers Don’t Have to ‘Like’ Teaching
JONATHAN ECKERT: Finding Joy in Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - March 30, 2016