Education Week - June 12, 2013 - (Page 35)

EDUCATION WEEK n JUNE 12, 2013 n ‘Adequate’ Time Requested on Accountability CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 ability issues in Texas for decades, pointed out that most states have reworked their standards and tests in recent years and have figured out how to hold the line on accountability. But they’ve done so after years of planning for those transitions, he said. “The questions are, what would a transitional accountability system look like? Are there pathways that could allow us to compare apples to apples in the old and new tests? Can we get the test-makers of the old tests and new tests to sit down and talk about that?” Mr. Kress said. “If people aren’t beginning to talk about these issues aggressively,” he said, “it could very well be too late.” Through the Council of Chief State School Officers, state schools superintendents are calling on the U.S. Department of Education to grant states the flexibility they need to manage accountability, testing, and teacher evaluations in the next two years. That is on top of the flexibility 37 states and the District of Columbia have already garnered from the Education Department in the form of waivers from key tenets of the No Child Left Behind law. The chiefs issued a May 28 statement asking for permission to hold school designations steady in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years. They also want federal officials to consider states’ requests to delay using test scores in teacher evaluations, something that could pose a problem since those linkages are embedded in many states’ NCLB waivers or in the winning plans of the 12 Race to the Top states. The chiefs also want the department to allow them more discretion in deciding which tests to use for federal accountability. The Education Department hasn’t yet decided how to approach the thorny accountability issues. Three high-level department officials met with CCSSO leaders and top-level representatives of 35 states in Chicago last month to discuss the matter, but no clear guidance had been issued as of late last week. Daren Briscoe, an Education Department spokesman, had no comment about those issues. Taking Positions Just days after the state chiefs staked out their position, a coalition of national groups representing principals, school board members, and local superintendents weighed in with its own statement. The coalition asked for “adequate” time to facilitate a “thoughtful conversation” about how tests could be used to provide information that’s instructionally valuable to schools. Those groups cautioned against relying too heavily on tests for federal accountability until the Common Core State Standards, and tests that reflect them, are fully implemented. The week before, a small group of state schools superintendents called Chiefs for Change issued a statement urging states to go full steam ahead with accountability tied to tests for the common standards, which cover English/ language arts and math and have been adopted by most of the states. Known for their conservative approach to accountability, those chiefs contended that any easing of the rules would water down pressure for school improvement. The statements by those groups of education leaders came after the announcement of a push by the American Federation of Teachers to temporarily suspend any highstakes consequences stemming from tests on the common core. In a speech April 30, AFT President Randi Weingarten argued that teachers have not had enough time or resources to adjust to the standards, so it’s unfair to expect them to bring students to mastery PAGE 36 > aren’t beginning to talk about these issues aggressively, it could very well be too late.” “ SANDY KRESS Former Education Aide To President George W. Bush 35 If people Peer Review Quietly Put on Hold for State Assessment Systems In addition, the letter made By Michele McNeil Amid calls for postponing highstakes decisions as the commoncore standards and tests are implemented, the U.S. Department of Education has put on hold an important part of federal accountability: peer review of state assessment systems. In December, the department quietly halted the technical expert-panel reviews of state tests that have been a part of federal oversight for nearly two decades under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose most recent version is the No Child Left Behind Act. That leaves 15 states without federally approved state tests, until at least the spring of 2015, when the new common tests are expected to debut. That list includes California, Indiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, according to the Education Department. In a Dec. 21 letter to chief state school officers, federal officials explained that their decision was based on two considerations: States need to focus their time on preparing for the new tests—and not on their old systems—and the federal department wants to figure out how to review the new tests to make sure they appropriately measure college and career readiness. “The suspension of peer review will permit states to focus their resources on the hard work necessary to prepare for, design, and implement assessments that will provide a better measure of critical-thinking skills and complex student learning to support good teaching and improved student outcomes,” according to the letter, which was never published on the Education Department’s website. it clear that the federal department would review and have the final say on all tests, including those from the multiple-state common-testing consortia that grew out of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and from any states that go their own way on assessments. In general, the department said in the letter it would review tests with the following questions in mind: • Do they measure student knowledge and skill against college- and career-ready standards? • Do they provide an accurate measure of student growth? • Do they produce data that can help inform teacher and principal evaluations? • Do they appropriately measure English-language learners and students with disabilities? Questions Remain Education Department officials may also consider reviewing testsecurity policies, according to the letter. Prominent recent cheating scandals, including one that led to criminal indictments of educators in Atlanta, have put pressure on states and the federal government to improve security. For its part, the Education Department was not able to answer basic questions about what the suspension of peer review means for states without approved testing systems, how long those states have been awaiting approval, how the department is reviewing the process internally, and the time frame for restarting peer review. Federal law requires states to get their testing systems approved by federal officials, but there’s no timeline; typically, the review process can take months or even years. Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which helped lead the push for the common standards, said his organization did not seek the peer-review pause. “States have to be account- able,” he said. “We should be writing better assessments, and we hope the peer-review process will reflect that. We hope [federal officials] use their authority in a smart way.” Regardless, the federal department’s letter also signals that peer review will be an important power federal officials will use to keep tabs on states’ new testing and accountability systems. “This is significant,” said Andy Smarick, a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit consulting firm in Washington, who is monitoring implementation of the common standards and tests. “This is perhaps the last significant lever they have on making sure the tests, and even the standards, address college and career readiness.” Federal Lever In 2006, under then-Secretary Margaret Spellings, the Education Department used its peerreview power and threatened to withhold Title I administrative funds from 10 states that failed to comply with the testing parts of the NCLB law. At that time, states were having trouble proving that their tests were aligned with their own standards, or that a state provided appropriate testing accommodations for students learning English. The federal department has used the peer-review process TAKING A PAUSE most aggressively to ensure tests are appropriate for students with disabilities and for Englishlearners. In 2007, for example, the department cracked down on 18 states that, in the judgment of peer reviewers, were giving English-learners tests that were not comparable to what their peers were taking. The department’s most recent decision to suspend peer review came at the same time federal officials urged states to prepare more aggressively for the transition to the new, and likely harder, tests. The December letter en- couraged states, for example, to raise cutoff scores on their current tests in anticipation of the higher standards that will guide the new tests, which will cover English/language arts and math. As another example, it advised states to revise their tests to eliminate questions that don’t measure college and career readiness. an elegant balance of insight, provocation, vision, and practicality… a must read.” “ Nicholas C. Donohue, Nellie Mae Education Foundation ORDER TODAY! Because of many states’ transition to common standards and common tests, the U.S. Department of Education in December suspended federal peer review of state-assessment systems. At that time, 15 states did not have approved testing systems: California District of Columbia Hawaii Indiana Maine Mississippi Nebraska Nevada New Jersey North Dakota Oklahoma Pennsylvania Utah Vermont Wyoming SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 12, 2013

Education Week - June 12, 2013
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Obama Plan Champions E-Rate Fixes
States Seek Flexibility on Testing
FOCUS ON: SCHOOL LEADERS: Chicago Initiative Aims to Upgrade Principal Pipeline
Questions Arise About Algebra 2 For All Students
Year-End Exams Add Urgency to Teaching
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Race on to Ready N.Y.C. Teacher Reviews
Districts Turning Summer School Into Learning Labs
Preschools Aim to Better Equip Low-Income Parents
After Early Progress, SIG School Struggles To Improve
Progress, Persistence Seen in Latest Data on Bullying
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: ‘MOOC’ Plan Could Spawn Dual-Enrollment Courses
Virginia Joins Ranks of States Creating State-Run Districts
Blogs of the Week
NCLB Bills Split Over Federal Role in K-12
Policy Brief
States Fold Teaching Into Preschool Rating Factors
Peer Review Quietly Put On Hold For State Assessment Systems
State Opposition Jeopardizes Common-Core Future
OP EDUCATION: Are New Teachers Ready to Teach?
EDWARD CROWE, MICHAEL ALLEN, & CHARLES COBLE: A Good Time for Progress in Teacher Prep
JULIE GORLEWSKI: Teaching Toward Utopia
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
OTIS KRIEGEL: ‘You’ll Get the Hang of It’

Education Week - June 12, 2013