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Articles: Standards

In the 2008-2009 school year, Adams County (Colo.) School District 50, just north of Denver, did something only previously attempted by the small rural Chugach school system in Alaska. The struggling district with roughly 10,000 students abandoned the conventional concept of grade levels and implemented a standards-based system, which only advances students to the next level when they have mastered certain skills. Three years later, student achievement is lower than ever before, and the superintendent that guided the district through this reform is stepping down.

El Paso Independent School District (EPISD ) is the tenth-largest district in Texas and one of two in the city of El Paso, along with Ysleta ISD . At the start of the 21st century, the urban district was struggling. Scores on the 2003-2004 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) were disappointing, with 72 percent of students meeting the state standards for reading, 56 percent for math, and 53 percent for science, while just 50 percent of students passed all TAKS tests, some of the lowest scores of any urban district in the state.

"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."

If you think your district needs further preparation to implement the common core state standards (CCSS), you're not alone. According to a poll conducted by the Leadership and Learning center, an organization providing solutions to districts and school leaders, 96 percent of respondents reported they were unprepared to implement the standards in their district. The poll consisted of 115 thorough responses from district leaders and, while far from scientific, sheds light on some specific concerns facing administrators.

 

What is Disney's Planet Challenge?

Disney's Planet Challenge is a free, project-based environmental and science competition for grades 3-8 that encourages students to make a difference in their schools, their communities and at home.

Following the publication of a 2004 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004), the topic of adolescent literacy emerged as an issue of concern. It recently has received increased attention thanks to the latest round of studies and calls for additional federal funding (Cassidy, Valadez, Garrett, & Barrera, 2010).

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.

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.

 

Learning Cafe

Phoenix (Ariz.) Elementary School District #1

 

Cookie Academy Project

Antwerp (Ohio) Local School District

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:

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