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Articles: Standards

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

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.

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Every state in the country now has a longitudinal data system extending beyond test scores, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s seventh annual Data for Action analysis. Thirty-six states—a giant leap from zero in 2005—have implemented the organization’s 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems. While the results are promising, Aimee Guidera, executive director of DQC, warns that building the data system isn’t enough.

Technology may have, at last, caught up with the intentions of balanced assessments—or at least it has in the Douglas County (Colo.) School District, according to Syna Morgan, the district’s executive director of performance and accountability. Already a high-performing district with 62,000 students across 86 schools, Douglas County wanted to take its assessment data to the next level by making students not only college-bound, but global leaders.

Even before the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ended its 19-month compliance review of potential civil rights violations in the Los Angeles Unified School District, district leaders knew they had to change their program for ELLs and other students.

With Over 60 percent of school districts considering staff reductions to balance budgets (Kober & Renter, 2011), class size is likely on many educators' minds. With money tight, schools are seeking to focus available funds on those policies and programs most likely to have a positive impact on student learning. Although the effects of class size have been debated for decades, Tennessee's STAR project in the late 1980s seemed to settle the argument.


The Rio Grande City Consolidated (Texas) Independent School District is located in Starr County, a poverty-stricken area that has a history of high death rates from diabetes. Located on the Mexican border, RGCCISD serves a 99 percent Hispanic population on 14 campuses. Of the nearly 10,800 students, 88 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. On top of that, Texas is ranked worst in the nation for health care coverage, with 26 percent of residents lacking insurance.

Enrolling in college was not part of the path for graduates of the San Antonio (Texas) Independent School District, where 93 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Shortly after Superintendent Robert Duron, known for raising achievement in the Socorro ISD in El Paso, arrived in 2006, he began to raise the bar in this 55,000-student, predominantly Hispanic, urban district.

As states now begin their transition to the Common Core State Standards, seven organizations have united to provide advice on issues related to the implementations of the mathematics curriculum and assessments.