Education Week - May 7, 2014 - (Page 1)
VOL. 33, NO. 30 * MAY 7, 2014
AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2014 Editorial Projects in Education * $4
edweek.org: BREAKING NEWS DAILY
Early Reports Suggest Few Field-Testing Snags
By Catherine Gewertz
core are seen
Field-testing of two multistate online
assessments is going more smoothly
than many educators had expected, despite
technological glitches in the coastto-coast
experiment. And even though
the exams, aligned with the Common
Core State Standards, are still in the tryout
phase, they are proving tougher than
the ones students are used to taking.
Those are the two major themes that
emerged from an Education Week reporting
project that examined the experiences
so far of a collection of school districts
across nearly half the states with the trial
run of tests designed by the Smarter Balanced
Assessment Consortium and the
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness
for College and Careers, or parcc.
The field-testing, designed to find problems
with the assessments before their
designs become final, began in late March
and runs through early June. Participation
varies widely; a few states are giving
the exams to nearly all students, while in
most places, students in only some classrooms,
at some grade levels, are involved.
Although potential technological problems
with the move to large-scale online
testing have topped educators' list of concerns,
district and school leaders reached
for this article, with only one exception,
reported relatively minor problems.
"We had our reservations going in, but
it's not the nightmare that some people
predicted it would be. So far, there have
been no big problems," said Paul Richter,
the director of assessment in Nevada's
Washoe County district, which is fieldtesting
the Smarter Balanced exams.
The reporting conducted in late April
by Education Week is not based on a
nationally representative sample, but
rather reflects a snapshot of experiences
drawn from teachers, principals, and
district assessment and curriculum officials
in 29 school districts in 24 of the 36
states participating in the field-testing.
It shows key themes that are likely to
shape the tests' final designs and inform
education leaders as they make decisions
about which tests they'll use to gauge
learning under the common core. The
new standards, in English/language arts
and mathematics, were unveiled in 2010
and are being put into practice in all but
Not surprisingly, familiarity with online
testing tended to make the fieldPAGE
POLITICAL RIFTS: Feuding over the common core
saps state-level testing support. PAGE 27
Spotty Data Push
From Stimulus Aid
By Michele McNeil
In the midst of the Great Recession, the U.S. Department
of Education handed out more than $50 billion in
economic-stimulus aid to prop up K-12 budgets, with
the condition that states must publicly report data
on dozens of key education indicators-from the performance
of charter schools to the percentage of high
school graduates who complete college courses.
Five years later, you'd be hard pressed to find all of
that information in one place.
State implementation of those indicators, required
by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,
has varied widely. Federal officials ended up waiving
some of the requirements, delaying others, and ultimately
looking the other way as states struggled to
comply with the strings attached to billions of dollars
Students walk across a soaked playground during recess at the North Idaho STEM Charter Academy in Rathdrum, Idaho.
Like many rural charters, the school has found it difficult to acquire adequate space for its growing enrollment.
Charter Schools Grab Rural Toehold
But Their Challenges Differ From Those of Counterparts in Urban Centers
By Katie Ash
The North Idaho stEm Charter Academy
operates here out of seven portable
buildings that house the school's
offices, classroom space for 317 K-8 students,
and a "cafegymatorium."
Although the school may not boast
state-of-the-art facilities, it took three
years of searching and negotiations to
acquire the four-acre campus on which
the school sits, said Scott Thomson, onehalf
of the husband-and-wife duo who
opened the school in fall 2012.
"Facilities is a huge issue, especially
for a rural school," he said.
In fact, rural charters face a host of
challenges that set them apart from
their urban counterparts, charter experts
say. Besides a lack of suitable
facilities, they have smaller budgets
and fewer support services than urban
charters; a smaller pool of students,
teachers, and administrators to draw
from; and, often, particularly tense
relationships with their local school
districts as they compete for limited
resources and relatively few students.
Such difficulties may help explain why
the proportion of charters serving rural
communities, though growing, is still
small: Rural charters make up about
16 percent-785 schools-of the total
number of charter schools across the
United States. And only 111 of those
schools operate in remote rural areas.
But proponents of charters say those
independent public schools can breathe
new economic life into rural communities
with dwindling populations by
adding jobs and attracting families to
a town, even as they provide an alternative
to local schools that, like big-city
schools, may be struggling.
In some cases, rural charters have
been founded to stave off consolidaPAGE
Screen Reading Poses
By Benjamin Herold
Comprehension may suffer when students read on the
digital devices now flooding into classrooms, an emerging
body of research suggests.
In response, some academics, educators, and technology
vendors are pushing to minimize the distracting bells and
whistles that abound in high-tech instructional materials.
They're also trying to figure out how best to help students
transfer tried-and-true print reading strategies into new
digital learning environments.
"We have to move into the 21st century, but we should
do so with great care to build a 'bi-literate' brain that has
the circuitry for 'deep reading' skills, and at the same time
is adept with technology," said Maryanne Wolf, the director
of the Center for Reading and Language Research at
Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Schools have experienced a huge influx of digital learning
tools in recent years, with nearly 1 in 3 public and
private school students in the United States now using a
school-issued mobile computing device, such as a laptop
Jerome A. Pollos for Education Week
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