Learning First Alliance

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Learning First Alliance Executive Director Richard M. Long chatted today with Education Talk Radio about the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act and its impact on college- and career-ready standards.

Dr. Long and host Larry Jacobs discussed DC’s move to give states more say in accountability for student achievement as well as the political environment behind Common Core and similar standards.

Dr. Long emphasized that the ability to use higher-level skills, including in literacy and math, is now part of the agenda, and this demand came from the business community, not the federal government. There are many new jobs for well-educated workers, he noted, but students must have the skills that employers need to attain these jobs.

The broadcast, "The New ESSA Law, Politics and Education,"  is archived on Education Talk Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edutalk/2016/04/06/the-new-essa-law-politics-and-education ...

Sandy Boyd, chief operating officer at Achieve, discusses the organization's research around the "honesty gap" – comparing state test results to NAEP scores. Achieve's analysis has revealed gaps in student proficiency levels. This is important, she says, because many parents feel their children are subjected to too many tests but yet they do not have accurate information about student performance from those tests.

"We think it's really important that states be as honest as possible about how students are actually performing," she said. "Our hope, too, is that states will get better about improving how they communicate this information to parents and to schools and to teachers so that test results can be meaningful and that people understand what those test results actually mean." ...

By all insider accounts, the Student Success and Academic Enrichment Grants program (SSAEG) – Title IV, Part A of the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – is House Education & The Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline’s baby. SSAEG is a large flexible block grant that emerged in the House version of what ultimately became ESSA’s final bill. Under ESSA, SSAEG funds travel from the U.S. Department of Education to states, and then from states to school districts, via Title I formula. SSAEG allows districts to spend their allocations on everything from computers to school counselors to foreign language programs. The program’s only requirements are that districts receiving more than $30,000 in funding conduct needs assessments and spend 20 percent of their dollars on health and safety programs, 20 percent on well-rounded education programs, and at least some of the remaining 60 percent of funding on technology. The only caveat for districts receiving any SSAEG dollars is that they cannot spend more than 15 percent of their funds on technology devices, equipment and software. ...

Did a relationship ever sour so quickly as the Common Core and public opinion? Back in 2010 when the college- and career-ready standards were shiny and new, leaders from business and higher education as well as a certain U.S. Secretary of Education praised their rigor, coherence and attention to critical thinking. Within a year, 45 governors and D.C. had rushed to adopt them as their own – a move a majority of teachers and parents viewed favorably.

Then, implementation happened. Many teachers felt rushed to produce results. Parents couldn’t understand their child’s homework. Their anxiety fed chatter on talk radio and social media that did the incredible. It united anti-corporate progressives and anti-government tea partiers in opposition to the new standards and the assessments that go with them. States once on board with the program began to bail in face of angry constituents. ...

With the arrival of spring comes assessment season for students, families and educators across the country. When my girls were in grade school, I remember dedicating time to helping them be confident and ready to take state tests. I also remember some feelings of anxiety before the tests, but at the same time, the importance of the assessments in helping my children’s teachers and school better support their success through data-driven planning and decision-making.

During testing season last year, reports emerged that a large number of students were opted out of state assessments. While polls have indicated a majority of parents do not support the concept of opt-out, the movement has vocal supporters and it is expected that even more attention will be paid to student participation in assessments. ...

Last month, after overwhelmingly bipartisan approval in Congress, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest iteration of the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The 15 member organizations of the Learning First Alliance believe that this law is overall a good departure from the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, and each organization has analyzed the law to determine what it will mean for their constituents. In December we published members' statements on passage of the law, we've now compiled some of the new resources and commentaries. ...

When it comes to the recent passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (or ESSA), we can cheer for this big score leading to a victory over some of the lasting remnants of No Child Left Behind legislation. But like the athlete who dances in the end zone too early in the game, we really have a great deal of ground to gain before this game is over.

First, congratulations to many from “both sides of the aisle” who finally made this happen. The new law does rid education leaders of a number of the persistent roadblocks that most of us have been harping about for so many years. And most important, the Act adds more flexibility as well as state and local control to hammer out the details of what it can do for or do to your system.

And Therein Lies the Rub

I have worked in the Washington, D.C., environment for 3 decades. Even though NSPRA primarily works with local school districts and agencies, we know the reaction and the “look” you may have when federal officials greet you saying, “We’re from Washington and we are here to help you.” ...

President Obama today signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), bringing in a new era of state and local responsibility and bringing significant changes to the federal role in K-12 education. This legislation is the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the main federal K-12 education law, which has been due for reauthorization for nearly a decade as public schools endured punitive and untenable federal accountability measures.

The 15 organizations that make up the Learning First Alliance (LFA), which collectively represent more than 10 million educators and parents at the ground level, are largely pleased with the new law, which gives states responsibility for annual student testing and much more say in accountability. Representatives from several LFA member organizations attended the law’s signing at the White House.

Below are statements, articles and editorials that articulate the nuanced positions of some of the LFA member organizations: ...

Joshua Starr, who took the helm of Phi Delta Kappa International this summer, left a high-profile job as Superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., schools, where he had focused on accountability and high standards for the fast-growing and increasingly diverse 154,000-student district. While some were surprised that Dr. Starr did not seek another job as superintendent, he is now focusing his work on improving teaching and learning through systemic change at PDK International.

Dr. Starr also has worked as director of accountability for the New York City public schools and as superintendent of the Stamford, Conn., school district. Dr. Starr has a doctorate in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree in special education from Brooklyn College, and a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Wisconsin. His three children attend public schools in Montgomery County, and he began his career as a teacher working with adolescents with several emotional disabilities.

Dr. Starr recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about his experience as a superintendent, the recent PDK/Gallup Annual poll, and his plans for the organization. ...

The Learning First Alliance brought together educators and representatives from national associations for the #CCSSData Twitter Town Hall on September 24, 2015. The chat followed a webinar, “Let’s Talk Data: What Common Core Test Results Tell Us About Teaching and Learning” held two days earlier.

Key themes that emerged from those conversations included:

  • Context is critical in communicating Common Core-aligned assessment data to teachers, parents and students. Assessment reports must be more than just a score. 

  • There are a host of great resources for teachers, parents and students around Common Core assessment data. Unfortunately these resources don’t always make it into the hands of those who need them most.

  • A host of organizations are creating resources and tools to help teachers, parents, and students interpret and use Common-Core data. The National PTA, Be a Learning Hero, the Data Quality Campaign, and the Teaching Channel all provide free resources. 

    ...
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