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Articles: Assessment

Arriving at Rensselaer Central Schools Corporation in Indiana as assistant superintendent in July, 2012, after four years with the Indiana Department of Education, one of my first tasks was to develop a plan for our administrators to better comply with the state’s new teacher evaluation law.

I recently listened to a call-in show on a local National Public Radio station. The head of the state’s board of education was interviewed about the recent standardized test scores in her state. Two teachers called in. Here’s my takeaway from the conversation (somewhat out of context, but the words are accurate):

Amanda Ripley says schools overseas do a better job teaching students critical thinking skills.

When journalist Amanda Ripley was assigned to learn why the United States fared poorly on the global PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test, she was in for a surprise. PISA, administered every three years, evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in 70 countries. Ripley found that the highest ranked countries, not previously known for their “smart kids,” had made remarkable turnarounds in recent years.

More than half of the high school graduates who took the SAT were not prepared for college courses, the College Board says in a new report. Only 43 percent of test takers met the SAT’s college-readiness benchmark score of 1550, according to the report. 

The country’s obsession with high-stakes testing is an expensive, destructive failure. Students who can least afford it pay the biggest price.

David Kirp’s book new book is "Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools."

David Kirp’s book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools (Oxford University Press, 2013), is different from many education titles on the market. While other authors go to great lengths examining where our schools fail, Kirp, a former journalist who is a public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, shows what works.

The substantial number of high school graduates who land in higher education unprepared academically and have to take remedial courses to catch up are more likely than other students to quit before earning a two- or four-year diploma. Now, districts in several states are intervening more aggressively than in the past to better prepare struggling high school students for college-level classes.

Most students who took the ACT risk falling behind in college and lack the skills necessary to join the modern workforce, according to a report from the company that offers the test. Meanwhile, 31 percent of students tested did not meet any of the assessment’s college benchmarks, which the report says demonstrates the need for a more rigorous curriculum in U.S. schools.

Almost two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, and those who have understand little about them, a new poll finds.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre interacts with Knox County elementary school students.

Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.

Since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, trying to close the achievement gap has been on every educator’s mind.

Key to that law has been the requirement of measuring achievement through the administration of standardized tests to determine the extent to which schools are making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) toward that goal.

States and school districts could win some authority back from the federal government under a controversial update to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA) passed in July by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Student Success Act would eliminate the adequate yearly progress measures of No Child Left Behind and allow states to create their own benchmarks. And federal programs like President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative would end, leaving states and districts to develop their own plans for turning around underperforming schools.

Some of the school districts adopting online Common Core assessments to measure academic achievement in 2014-2015 plan to develop their own tests.

In a survey released by Enterasys, a company specializing in wireless systems, 42 percent of schools plan to develop their own tests, while 55 percent of schools are likely to work with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

Recognizing that American K12 students have fallen behind foreign students in their grasp of scientific principles, educators have devised a new set of teaching guidelines that will radically change the way science is taught in classrooms across the United States—including recommendations that climate change and evolution be taught as core elements of scientific knowledge.

In the aftermath of the nation’s largest standardized test cheating scandal, 35 Atlanta Public Schools educators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, were criminally indicted for changing student answers on high-stakes state tests.

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