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Articles: Assessment

As the nation prepares for common core standards in math and English language arts, a framework to guide new science standards in elementary and secondary education—where students are showing only mediocre achievement compared to other nations—is getting closer.

PROBLEM

Don Tylinski inherited a challenge when he became superintendent of the Seneca Valley (Pa.) School District in 2004. The 7,363-student K12 district located 30 miles north of Pittsburgh was under strain because of the arrival of large new industries in the area, including a new facility of global nuclear power plant builder Westinghouse. "The growth in student population had everyone in the district scrambling. We lost consistency in the curriculum," says Tylinski.

Our country's Advanced placement programs are booming and have been for some time. In May 2000, approximately 769,000 students took 1.3 million AP exams in this country. By May 2009, approximately 1.7 million students took nearly 3 million exams—a growth rate of 130 percent in nine years. The 1990s saw an even greater rate: 145 percent. What's behind this impressive growth?

With each year comes a fresh crop of college-bound students pressured by the headlines to overcome the increasingly competitive nature of college admissions. However, a new study from the Center for Public Education (CPE) illustrates that the perception that an average applicant faces more challenges each year may be nothing more than mere myth.

Like other districts with schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals for five consecutive years, Hawaii is restructuring its low performing schools as required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Unlike most other districts, however, Hawaii, a single statewide district, has been doing it for five years with the support of three independent education consulting firms working directly with administrators and teachers in the failing schools.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has released the Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE ) Guide, a new tool for K12 leaders to assess where their district falls in providing their students with critical 21st century skills.

The MILE Guide is the most recent release from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization that promotes the integration of these critical skills into core academic subjects.

Seventy-seven percent of high school students nationwide are missing the core benchmarks necessary to prepare them for their first year in college, according to a new study conducted by the research and policy arm of ACT, which conducts curriculum based college entrance exams similar to the SAT.

Mayoral control of public schools is nothing new. Boston pioneered the practice in 1992, replacing elected school committee members with mayoral appointees. Since then, a dozen urban districts—including Cleveland, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.—have undergone a similar change in school governance that has shifted some or most of the power to mayors, with some cities having mayors make appointments to the school board and others having mayors outright manage the district budget and spearhead large-scale initiatives.

What constitutes a 21st-century education? The answers vary (Walser, 2008), but 10 states have already adopted the framework used by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (www.21stcenturyskills.org), and more states are preparing to do so. The Partnership’s Framework for 21st Century Learning specifies student outcomes in four areas:

 

Cookie Academy Project

Antwerp (Ohio) Local School District

 

Learning Cafe

Phoenix (Ariz.) Elementary School District #1

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