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student achievement

"Readiness" is in. But are educators prepared for the implications?

The push for common core standards—coupled with the distressing numbers of college students who need remedial courses and the dissatisfaction among business leaders with the preparation of high school graduates—has ignited the institutional and political movement to tackle the "readiness problem."

The Obama administration has grand hopes for turning around the nation's lowest-performing schools, in part by allocating $3.5 billion for School Improvement Grants. Unfortunately, there simply aren't enough qualified principals to replace those mandated to be fired under two of the four school improvement models that the federal government says districts must follow to tap into that funding.

Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

When Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the Race to the Top program in 2009, he added two success factors to the plate of school districts, which are traditionally measured by students’ high school success in math, reading and science: college enrollment rates and credit accumulation. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which launched Race to the Top, asks states to set up a longitudinal data system to report back on students’ progress after they receive their diplomas.

Administrators and teachers in several large districts nationwide have cheated on standardized tests to make achievement levels look better than they actually were. The offenses range from giving students advance answers to questions on standardized tests, to erasing and changing unsatisfactory answers.

Departments of education at the state level with high-quality longitudinal data systems in place have doubled within the last year, according to the sixth annual data for action report released by the Data Quality Campaign, an organization that encourages policymakers to use high-quality education data to improve student achievement. The report shows "unprecedented" progress, with 24 states having implemented the 10 state actions to ensure effective data use standards set by the data Quality campaign. The organization predicts all states will have complete systems by September 2011.

Per-pupil spending as nearly tripled over the last 40 years. While some states have shown improvements in student achievement, others have remained stagnant. These observations were noted in a new study, "Return on Educational Investment," released Jan. 19 by the Center for American Progress. The study, which examined over 9,000 major districts in the United States, attempted to measure district productivity in relation to spending on education, while controlling for outside factors such as percentage of students in poverty.

There is nothing new about the fact that school superintendents come and go. Some retire, and some are recruited into other school districts or opportunities. But let's face it, some are let go.

Kathleen Regan came to Glen Rock Public Schools four years ago thinking she would work only six months as the interim director of curriculum and instruction. Instead, she has stayed and succeeded—helping place the affluent, 2,500-student New Jersey district 20 miles northwest of Manhattan in the national spotlight for its science, technology, engineering and math program that extends from kindergarten to college-level work in high school.

School leaders should pay attention to changes in a student's friendships and encourage pro-social relationships during the impressionable middle schools years, concluded a study conducted by the University of Oregon. Published in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence, found that changes in friendships while students transition from elementary school into the middle school years may trigger a student's academic success or defeat.