Education Week - May 21, 2014 - (Page 1)

Education WEEk VOL. 33, NO. 32 * MAY 21, 2014 AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2014 Editorial Projects in Education * $4 BREAKING NEWS DAILY State Plans For Testing Fragmented 'Common' Exams Lose Sway By Catherine Gewertz & Andrew Ujifusa Only a few years ago, the ambitious initiative to use shared assessments to gauge learning based on the new common-core standards had enlisted 45 states and the District of Columbia. Today, the testing landscape looks much more fragmented, with only 27 of them still planning to use those tests in 201415, and the rest opting for other assessments or undecided, an Education Week analysis shows. For a variety of reasons, including the Special education teacher Elizabeth Rosenberry, right, uses singing in a lesson to encourage Jesus Torres-Tiamani, left, to make eye contact as classmate Ian Tokay looks on. The strategy comes from a federally backed arts initiative for students with severe cognitive and behavioral needs. Arts Program Shows Promise in Special Ed. Classes Liana Heitin New York Each of the visual arts, music, and dance activities Elizabeth Rosenberry engages in daily with her 2nd graders has a critical underlying goal: eye contact. The veteran teacher opens class by crouching in front of a student and gently clutching his arms. "Zachary, look at me," she sings, matching his wide-open eyes with her own. The two paraprofessionals assisting in the classroom at the public school, P4Q @ Skillman, encourage the EVALUATING THE EVALUATIONS Bias Detected in Classroom Observations By Stephen Sawchuk As the rubber hits the road in the implementation of states' revamped teacher-evaluation systems, new research illuminates a troubling source of bias. School principals-when conducting classroom observations-appear to give some teachers an unfair boost based on the students they're assigned to teach, rather than judging them solely on their instructional savvy. Observers tended to give the best marks to teachers whose students already were highperforming, while those teachers working with academically struggling students were penalized, according to an analysis of thousands of observation scores. The report, released last week by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Inother five students, also seated in the semicircle, to watch the interaction and sing along. Ms. Rosenberry is one of 240 teachers in New York City's District 75-a geographically dispersed collection of schools and programs serving students with the most severe cognitive and behavioral needs-to have received training in an initiative called Everyday Arts for Special Education, or ease. In 2010, the district received a $4.6 million federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant- an impressive amount by arts education standards-to offer professional development in ease at 10 schools and to study the program's effects along the way. The project was ranked fourth-highest among the 49 winners of i3 grants, and was chosen from 1,700 applicants. With just a year left of that five-year funding from the U.S. Department of Education, a researcher who has been following the program says there's convincing evidence ease has succeeded in improving elementary students' academic, socialization, and communication skills. Even pending the final research results, the program is spreading: Teachers, psychologists, PAGE 12> length and cost of the tests and political heat over the federal money supplied for their development, many states changed their minds about using the end-of-year accountability tests in English/language arts and math from the two state consortia that are leading the drive. As of mid-May, 17 states planned to use the tests produced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium; just nine states plus the District of Columbia planned to use tests made by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or parcc. Adding a level of complexity, six states decided to split their assessment PAGE 16> 'Parent Trigger' Hits Slow Lane In Legislatures Principal Evaluation Presents Difficulties stitution, a Washington think tank, raises a host of new concerns about the nation's evolving systems for grading teachers. And it suggests that, in trying to manage the technical and political challenges posed by test-score-based approaches to evaluation, such as "value added" methods, policymakers may be missing problems in other features of the systems. "It's very worrisome. It's a huge bias," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, the director of the Brown Center. "The criticism about value-added is certainly something we need to attend to, but a lot of work has helped reduce or eliminate that bias. None of that's being done for observation scores." The report recommends that districts try to level the playing field by adjusting teachers' PAGE 10> 'VALUE ADDED' SCRUTINY: New studies raise questions on value-added models in teacher evaluation. PAGE 10 By Denisa R. Superville The number of states that mandate principal evaluations has jumped in recent years, driven by rules tying federal education aid to such policies. But many are still grappling with the best ways to measure principal effectiveness and the extent to which student performance should be included in evaluating principals. Since 2010, at least 36 states have adopted laws requiring principals to undergo regular assessments and increasing the rigor of those reviews, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The changes reflect a shift from largely pro forma evaluations to complicated maPAGE 20> By Andrew Ujifusa Interest in the controversial school choice option known as the parent trigger has declined sharply among state lawmakers this year, even as legislators in a number of states forge ahead on tax-credit scholarships and other school choice alternatives. In 2010, California became the first state to pass a law allowing parents to spark a transformation of a low-performing school. In addition, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas have passed some version of that option, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But no state has enacted a new parent-trigger law since 2012, the same year that a Hollywood film based on the policy, "Won't Back Down," was released. Although 20 states considered trigger bills in 2013, according to the ncsl, the number dropped to 13 this year; seven of those proposals were holdovers that PAGE 20> Emile Wamsteker for Education Week

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Education Week - May 21, 2014