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Data Driven Instruction

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By Jack Dale, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Since the year 2000, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has made the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) available to countries around the world. In 2012, 65 countries participated in the once every three year cycle of PISA.  Each three year cycle emphasizes one of three content areas – Math, Science and Reading. In 2012 the emphasis was on Math. In 2015 the emphasis will be on Science.

Beginning this school year, individual schools across America are able to participate in the school-based version called OECD Test for Schools. Participating schools will have a random sample of 15-year olds selected to take part in a matrix sampling of test prompts covering all three content areas.

Questions now before schools and districts are: What kind of results would we get? What are implications for school/district policies and practices? Can this assessment better help us prepare students for needed 21st Century ...

Each month during the 2014 calendar year, the Learning First Alliance will be highlighting our members’ expertise and resources around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This month, we spoke to a team of individuals at Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council) to showcase professional learning and its critical role in helping teachers across the country transition to teaching in new and different ways to meet the new standards.

Professional learning has always been an integral component of strong learning systems, allowing teachers to grow and evolve their methods of instruction in response to student learning. It also allows teachers to use student data to guide their practice. Strong professional learning practices guide the implementation of any standards and changes in classrooms, and in light of the rapid rollout of Common Core, they will, once again, be essential. Learn more about professional learning and how it supports teachers and students alike by reading our conversation with Learning Forward Senior Consultant Joellen Killion. Special thanks to Dale Hair, Victoria Duff and Deborah Childs-Bowen from Learning Forward for their expertise in developing the interview content and structure.

Public Schools Insights (PSI): What does the general public need to know about professional learning and its role in implementing the Common Core State Standards or other learning initiatives?

Joellen Killion: Professional learning is the means for developing and expanding educators’ knowledge, skills, and practices. Because the new content standards increase expectations for students both in terms of depth of content and application of content, educators need to refine their instructional practices to ensure that all students achieve the standards and leave school college and career ready. Any new initiative, such as Common Core, a new evaluation system, or any other reform, depends on the capacity of educators to implement it. Professional learning is the primary strategy available to every school to support continuous educator development. Yet not all ...

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

The National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker is an invaluable service that can help districts better prepare their students for college success.

The National Student Clearinghouse is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 by the higher-education community to track students who received loans to help pay for college tuition. Graduate schools provide enrollment information, while the NSC verifies to lenders that students are taking the necessary course work.

Since expanding its services, the NSC currently holds records for more than 137 million students and 3,500 institutions of higher education, covering 98 percent of the current enrollment in both public and private colleges and universities. Today, the NSC continues to provide enrollment, diploma verification, and ...

Advocates hope that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative will lead to deeper learning by students – that the standards will result in students learning not only academic content, but how to think critically, work collaboratively, communicate effectively and more. And they recognize that for this to happen, classroom instruction has to change.

Many assume that new assessments aligned to the Common Core will serve as a key lever in its implementation, driving changes in instructional practice. But is that a reasonable assumption? Do large-scale assessment systems influence instruction?

While common sense and popular opinion hold that yes, they do, the research base on the issue is surprisingly thin. But in summarizing the little there is, New Assessments, Better Instruction?, a RAND literature review commissioned by the Hewlett Foundation, confirms what we already knew – testing does indeed influence instructional practice, particularly when high-stakes are attached to it.

The review (which included available research on high-stakes testing and performance assessment in U.S. public education, assessment in international settings, formative assessment, military and ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

Recently a reporter asked me how teachers are supposed to be able to distinguish among all the professional development opportunities that claim to be aligned with the Common Core standards. While I could refer the reporter to many resources on what constitutes effective professional learning as well as how to evaluate opportunities, this isn't what she was asking. Here's how I responded and what I would tell the many educators who are trying to answer this for themselves. 

While I hope that very few teachers are trying to make these decisions in isolation from supervisors and colleagues, I also understand not everyone works in ideal circumstances. Therefore, I offer the guiding questions below to assist teachers in making the best decisions possible. First, here are three prerequisites to consider before you go ...

Technology is an integral part of life in Washington’s Vancouver Public Schools (VPS), located just north of Portland, Oregon – and it has been for quite some time. They are the only district to host three NSBA Technology Leadership Network (TLN) site visits, the first in 1993, the second in 1999 and now 2013, which I was able to attend.

VPS serves 22,744 students in K-12 and it has 21 elementary schools, six middle schools and five high schools, as well as a school of the arts and Vancouver ITech Preparatory. The district is committed to providing an innovative learning environment for all students and helping them develop knowledge and essential skills so that they will be competent, responsible and compassionate citizens. During our visit to VPS, it was immediately apparent that the teachers, administrators and leaders are determined to serve each child. And while the commitment to the effective use of technology in classrooms is priority, the district also provides extensive supports for students and families. ...

Part of my job as executive director of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) is to attend meetings here in Washington, DC, where new K-12 education reports or projects are released or introduced to policymakers, educators, parents, and interested stakeholders.  Over the past week I attended two such meetings, which provided a stark contrast to approaches used by education leaders and researchers in addressing changes that could benefit both the US public education system and the students it serves.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report authored by Allan Odden titled Getting the Best People into the Toughest Jobs: Changes in Talent Management in Education.  The underlying assumption on which this report’s recommendations are based is that the current workforce in public education is not very talented, should be held accountable for their poor performance, and removed from classrooms and schools.  Indeed, Odden points out what we know is true:  the effectiveness of the teacher and ...

Ask practitioners and administrations on the ground in the education system about state education agencies (SEAs), and you may encounter skepticism. SEAs need not be considered antiquated bodies, as they are the heart of leadership in a state’s education system. SEAs monitor compliance and accountability, but they also provide support for policy design and implementation. These entities are well positioned to use high quality research in policy and practice, but there is variation in efficacy and capacity for doing so among states; an understanding of how SEAs use research provides useful insights when it comes to best practices. ...

We have access to a lot of good sound research and information in today’s information age. Education practitioners, those working in schools and districts, are ultimately responsible for overseeing system-wide changes, but they rarely have time to sift through data and evidence to identify sound research that might offer guidance for their respective district or school. Therefore, those higher up in district administration are more likely to be the ones assessing available research and working to support struggling schools. Taking action on sound research requires strong networks and strong communication among system professionals to move the evidence and information down to the school level. Ultimately, even if the research is good, it does not guarantee change. The system must be prepared to implement the necessary steps to produce changes in student performance. In fact, research suggests that an emphasis on the technical aspects of improvements leads us to overlook the relational component to system-wide change. ...

The power of collaboration seems, at times, to be the best kept secret in education reform. Despite district variance, efforts to increase student achievement levels often see higher levels of success when all stakeholders work together. Studyville School District (the name has been changed to preserve anonymity) is just one such example. It is a story of collaboration and compromise in which stakeholders came together to design and implement a more effective teacher evaluation system. We live in an era where evaluation and accountability dominate the national education conversation and where student outcomes are being tied to merit pay and teacher performance. It is imperative, given the high-stakes nature of evaluation, that such systems are put in place with fidelity and the buy-in of all actors. ...

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