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Articles: Assessment

Offering incentives to high school students to complete their courses early is an idea popping up around the country. The Early High School Graduation Scholarship Program bill in the Missouri state legislature, for example, promises scholarships to students completing high school in less than four years. The bill, proposed by state Sen. Scott Rupp in January, was created in hopes of increasing student achievement, encouraging students to pursue college as an affordable option, and perhaps save the state’s school districts some revenue.

The Arizona Department of Education gave the Tucson Unified School District an ultimatum: Eliminate all ethnic studies courses or face massive financial sanctions.

A substantial number of the 45 states plus the District of Columbia that had adopted the Common Core State Standards in math and English Language Arts as of January anticipate major challenges in implementing the online assessments now being developed, according to a report released in January by the Center on Education Policy, an independent public education advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

With new Common Core State Standards assessments in K12 mathematics due to be in use by the start of the 2014-2015 school year, many district administrators and teachers do not know what they should know about them now and are not taking steps they should be taking to prepare for them. While they are aware that the assessments are being developed, educators generally do not understand what that means to them, according to Doug Sovde, senior advisor to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC).

While administrators and teachers wait for more information about the Common Core assessments, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) are developing them, including seeking vendors to write test questions.

Michelle Rhee is back. Rhee’s grassroots organization, StudentsFirst, metaphorically descended on the state capitol in Alabama last month, ready to persuade state legislators to reform K12 education. With more than one million members, including parents, grandparents, teachers, principals and policy makers, StudentsFirst advocates for education reforms, via state or federal legislation and policies, that will improve student achievement.

In November 2011, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) polled its 600,000 members and found that 82 percent had faced skepticism around climate change education from their students, and 54 percent faced skepticism from parents. Most notably, NSTA reported that several of their respondents noted the political polarization of climate change education and the effect it has on their teaching. Climate change has been a divisive issue, particularly regarding its role in the classroom, for a number of years. In 2007, President Barack Obama—then Sen.

Shelly Landry, Minneapolis Public Schools’ lead counselor and former president of the Minnesota Counselors Association, swears that Naviance has transformed the district’s guidance department, which manages nearly 34,570 K12 students. Landry says that the program, an online tool for tracking students’ progress in preparing for college, has improved the rate of graduates headed to college.

Getting a National Nod

Deborah Delisle, a former state superintendent from Ohio, has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary of education. Delisle left her position last year when Republican Gov. John Kasich was elected.

 

Tourette’s Investigation

Environmentalist Erin Brockovich and a team investigating soil samples were ordered off the grounds of LeRoy (N.Y.) Junior-Senior High School in January. Since last summer, 15 students at the school have presented Tourette’s symptoms.

 

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For the last decade, in districts big and small, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has emerged as the largest private funder of educational efforts. This began with an initiative around small schools in the early to mid-2000s, mostly abandoned now, and has gained traction in the past few years in areas such as teacher evaluation, the Common Core State Standards and district-charter collaboration.

Calvert County

While much of the predictive analysis in K12 districts today determines student achievement, some districts are taking it a step further to determine teacher effectiveness. After all, Race to the Top funds require districts to base teacher evaluation in part on student achievement.

Predicting the future is now in the hands of K12 administrators. While for years districts have collected thousands of pieces of student data, educators have been using them only for data-driven decision-making or formative assessments, which give a “rear-view” perspective only.

An elementary school teacher at Dublin City (Ohio) Schools guides students through a group reading in class.

Principal observes teacher for 50 minutes. Principal completes checklist. Principal tells teacher what she needs to work on. Dublin City (Ohio) Schools did away with this archaic method of teacher evaluation in the 2009-2010 school year and put the emphasis on teacher self-assessment, professional learning and student-growth data after developing a tailor-made teacher evaluation tool with the help of a committee of teachers, administrators and the teachers union.

We at DA keep our ears to the ground and our noses to the grindstone always looking for new stuff to keep you, our readers, well informed. Much of what we’re hearing these days points toward the growing use of predictive analysis—looking at student data and seeing where kids are going, rather than looking at where they’ve been, as is used with data-driven decision making. Sophisticated modeling software is beginning to move from the corporate world and higher education admissions to K12, and the potential is huge.

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