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By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

The conflict of man against machine has been a common theme in literature almost as long as there have been machines. This concept seems more popular than ever, especially in this summer’s blockbuster movies such as the “Terminator” series, the “Mad Max” series, “Ex Machina,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and last year’s “Transcendence” and the “Transformer” series.

This idea has also existed as an organizational theory for decades. In their 1961 book, “The Management of Organization,” British theorists Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker developed the concept of mechanistic and organic organizations.

Mechanistic organizations have a highly complex and formal structure governed by a system of rules and procedures tightly controlled by a centralized hierarchy of authority. This sounds like the typical school district. Unfortunately, Burns and Stalker suggested this structure works best in stable and predictable environments. That doesn’t describe the typical school district at all ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

It is not going to happen. ESEA will not be reauthorized any time soon. I have been a skeptic throughout the entire process. ESEA could have been easily reauthorized during the first two years of the Obama administration when the Democrats held a majority in both houses of Congress but that clearly was not a priority. After the 2011 midterm election, the Democrats lost the House and chances for reauthorization diminished. After the 2015 midterm elections, when the Republicans gained control of both legislative chambers, the possibility emerged that the Republicans had the votes to pass bills in both Houses but the threat of a Presidential veto loomed large.

Truth be told, there really are no significant policy issues between the two parties when it comes to education. The reality is that the House and Senate, whether Democrat or Republican, agree on far more than not, and that the grid lock is more aligned with adults and politics than with students and schools. At one time there was a clear delineation between Democrats and Republicans on issues like school choice, vouchers, teacher tenure, and seniority and education reform. Today those lines are blurred, and the differences have become political rather than pedagogical ...

By Mel Riddile, Ed.D, Associate Director of High School Services, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

Author’s note: This is the second of a two-part post on the challenges faced by principals implementing online testing tied to the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards. So much has happened in recent weeks that I divided the entry into two parts because one post would not do justice to the topic.

In part 1, I described that with the spring testing season now winding down, principals in a number of states feel as though they are under siege. For some schools, whatever could go wrong has gone wrong.

From my contact with principals in a number of states and my ongoing work with principals in schools in five states, I have learned that online assessments present principals with a number of new and old challenges.

I divided this post into two parts. Part 1 addressed non-technical challenges principals face in implementing the new assessments. This entry will address the technical issues.

Following are eight technical challenges school leaders face in implementing online testing related to the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards:

The transition from paper-and-pencil to online assessments takes several years before it becomes normal.

We learned from previous experiences with online instruction that it usually took time to work out the technical problems. So, when we began high-stakes, online testing, we expected problems. We prepared for problems, and we learned from the problems ...

By Mel Riddile, Ed.D, Associate Director of High School Services, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

Author’s note: I initially intended that this blog entry would focus only on the technical side of online testing, but so much has happened in recent weeks that I would not do justice to the topic if I ignored the context in which the new, online testing occurs.

With the spring testing season now winding down, principals in a number of states feel as though they are under siege. For some schools, whatever could go wrong has gone wrong.

From my contact with principals in a number of states and my ongoing work with principals in schools in five states, I have learned that online assessments present principals with a number of new and old challenges.

I have divided this post into two parts. Part 1 will address non-technical challenges principals face in implementing the new assessments. Part 2 will address the technical issues.

Following are six non-technical challenges school leaders face in implementing online testing related to the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards:

The new standards are a decade-long implementation initiative.

Whereas some reformers mistakenly believe that the Common Core and new college- and career-ready standards have already been implemented, I know differently ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Last week, Achieve, a national education advocacy nonprofit, released an analysis comparing proficiency rates in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math as reported by states to the same data measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Discrepancies were found between the percentage of students reported as proficient by states and the number of students who met national proficiency benchmarks.

NAEP defines proficiency as “solid academic performance” for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills approximate to the subject matter. Frequently, states’ testing and reporting processes yield different results than the data collected and reported by the NAEP, which is administered uniformly across the nation and assess what students know and can do in various subject areas. And NAEP results are generally not known by students and their families. ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

As a University of Florida graduate, I was happy to see Tim Tebow get another chance to play in the National Football League, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t understand why the football world is so disparaging of him. At UF, Tebow led the school to two national championships and won a Heisman trophy as the best player in college football. Since he entered the NFL, the main criticism is that he has a low percentage of completed passes.

In 2011, Tebow was named the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback when the team had won only one game and lost four. He turned the abysmal season around, leading the team to its first division championship, and first appearance in the playoffs, in six years. But he only completed 46.5 percent his passes, so the Broncos brought in superstar Peyton Manning, and after standing on the sidelines with two other teams, Tebow has been out of the NFL for two years. He completed less than half of his passes when elite quarterbacks complete of about two-thirds of their passes. Seriously, what difference should that make? When Tebow’s given a chance to play, his team wins. Isn’t that what’s really important? ...

New research on student achievement under the Common Core State Standards shows that students exposed to the standards made faster progress than those who had not been exposed to CCSS—a promising sign that the standards will improve student learning.

The study was conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers analyzed three cohorts of students in Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt the standards in 2010 and began implementation the next year. Kentucky requires its 11th graders to take the ACT test, which provided data for three cohorts of students in both high-poverty and low-poverty schools. ...

This month, the first year of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced assessment began. Both are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and designed to measure student academic progress. This month, the media has also been full of stories of parents who are “opting out” of their child’s participation in the assessments. While none of us who have worked in the public education sphere for years believe that testing should be the focus of our work with students (and certainly it makes perfect sense to re-evaluate on a regular basis the time and energy expended on assessment) the hysteria around this assessment season seems overblown and misplaced.

This parental concern does give us a chance to stop and consider what’s most important in our developing children’s lives. As the adults in the room, we need to remember that a test, any test, has major limitations and serves as a snapshot in time of what the test taker knows and is able to communicate ...

By Dr. Joseph Bishop, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

What does equity have to do with accountability?

Many teachers and principals are likely feeling stressed as they think about how to make up for lost instructional time in the wake of an uptick of winter storms like Juno. This isn't the case for students in Hamilton, Michigan. In fact, a little more cold and a little more ice might be a good thing for their math and science projects. As part of the STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) program at Hamilton Middle School just outside of Grand Rapids, students are developing the fastest sleds they can make, using cardboard and duct tape. Students are doing more than playing in the snow, seeing how learning can be fun in the right conditions. One student said it best, "It's cool because no one else in school has ever gotten to learn like we are."

But under the current accountability system, often lurking behind the classroom choices are inevitable questions about the ‘what if.’ Like, will an innovative project-based lesson similar to testing sled designs have consequences for student preparation for tests or test responses? Instead, educators should be thinking about more important things, like finding the best creative way to make sure a lesson sticks like fresh snow. And far too often, No Child Left Behind and many state accountability plans have looked too quickly at test results, and not addressed the unequal conditions that are making it hard for communities to deliver enriching public school experiences. ...

I’ve been reminded over the past weeks of the importance of language in arriving at agreement on what needs to happen for the public education experience to be successful for all our students, regardless of their background and socioeconomic condition. The use of language and its different translations/meaning for different citizen groups was brought home during recent debate over proposed changes in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education bill that is now before Congress. A few examples:

  • Accountability – From my standpoint, accountability just means assessing the progress of those who have some skin in the game and can influence the outcome of any endeavor. I actually prefer the word responsibility ...
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