Posts Tagged ‘
achievement gap ’
As a first generation Cambodian American student, I had a difficult time believing that I was capable of handling advanced placement (AP) courses in high school. I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear and self-doubt: “Should I sign up for an AP class? Do I belong there? Will I be able to handle the work? What happens to me if I fail?”
During my junior year, my guidance counselor noticed that I was getting good grades in my other classes and wondered why I wasn’t challenging myself with more rigorous coursework. She encouraged me to put aside my fear of failure and enroll in my first advanced placement course, AP Government. This course not only inspired my later work in policy, it also served as a gateway to other AP courses that boosted my confidence, pushed my critical thinking, and prepared me for college-level work.
Education research affirms my experience. Two landmark studies conducted by researchers at the University of Texas found that “students who took one or more AP tests and courses had higher college GPAs, earned more credit hours, and were more likely to graduate in four years or fewer.”[i]
In Federal Way Public Schools (Washington’s eighth largest school district), Superintendent Rob Neu and Assistant Superintendent Josh Garcia took this research to the next level by implementing Academic Acceleration in 2010, an advanced placement policy that works by automatically enrolling students in grades 6-12 into advanced classes when they score proficient or better on the state exams. For example, if students meet the standard for math, they are automatically enrolled in an advanced math course that their high school offers. (more…)
We asked readers which Distinguished Educators Council recommendation they thought would have the biggest impact on making Oregon a great place to teach.
42 readers answered:
- Provide meaningful, ongoing evaluations of teachers that contribute to improved teaching practices and increased student achievement. (24%, 10 votes)
- Ensure that Oregon’s teachers can address the needs of diverse students. (24%, 10 votes)
- Ensure personalized professional learning opportunities tailored to teachers’ needs and the students they teach. (21%, 9 votes)
- Emphasize classroom experience and effective mentors in teacher preparation. (17%, 7 votes)
- Establish new leadership opportunities and career pathways for the most effective teachers. (14%, 6 votes)
As you can see, the results were pretty close. Providing meaningful and ongoing evaluations and ensuring that Oregon’s teachers can address the needs of diverse students were tied for the most votes. Below you can read a little about what the DEC is doing to move forward their recommendations: (more…)
Adam Davis is a Founder and Principal of DHM Research, an independent, non-partisan public opinion research and consultation firm in Portland, Oregon. With over 30 years of experience in all phases of public opinion research, Adam’s expertise ranges from survey research design to focus group moderating.
As parents and students settle into the new school year, K-12 public education advocates prepare for the new legislative session scheduled to begin only four months from now. A quick overview of Oregonians’ attitudes about K-12 public education may be valuable to these warriors as they gird for battle in Salem. Some of these considerations may not be news, but as I watch those advocating for a better K-12 public education system, I am often left wondering if it wouldn’t help to remind ourselves of some past lessons. Following are a few findings from our focus groups and surveys that may be valuable in developing effective communications with voters and state legislators.
It is not all about money. Remember, a significant number of Oregonians believe the system has enough money. They see the problem as not using the money wisely. Education advocates should talk about how public education is being more efficient at the state and local levels and how educators are using new ideas and methods to increase student achievement (e.g., Chalkboard). If you want to connect with more voters and legislators, this has to be as much a part of your advocacy language as pleas for more money.
K-3 is the sweet spot. In a time of limited resources, more Oregonians every day have to make tough decisions and set priorities. They expect the same from their elected representatives, who need to focus on getting the best return on taxpayer money. For many people, that means investing in the early grades. As one focus group participant put it, “You’ve lost them by the time they get to the middle grades and high school. You need to be sure they’re given a good foundation to succeed in life.” If any aspect of your advocacy represents an opportunity to improve K-3 education, then talk about it. You’ll be connecting with more voters and legislators. (more…)
For the past few months, in the right hand sidebar we have asked our readers to answer a very important, but challenging, question: If you had to focus Oregon’s investment in public education on one effort, what would it be?
33 readers gave us their answers:
- Closing the achievement gap (30%, 10 Votes)
- Broader school choices (charters, magnets, focus schools) (18%, 6 Votes)
- Professional development (15%, 5 Votes)
- Early childhood programs (15%, 5 Votes)
- Parental support programs in struggling communities (15%, 5 Votes)
- Mentoring new teachers (6%, 2 Votes)
- Higher education (1%, 0 Votes)
According to the poll, focusing on closing the achievement gap in Oregon is what many of you think is most important. The recent release of the data surrounding Oregon high school graduation rates showed only 67 percent of students graduate in 4 years. These results also showed that the achievement gap is narrowing. The 4-year graduation rates for Native American, African American and Hispanic students all increased this year. This is a step in the right direction. Read more.
The recent release of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides results that should give all Oregonians cause for great concern. Most NAEP measures for Oregon students are disheartening. Oregon is now one of five states where the overall achievement gap widened between 2003 and 2011. Additionally, low-income students in Oregon rank among the lowest performing in the nation and have lost ground since 2003. This information invites questions that should be in the forefront of Oregon’s attempt to restructure educational delivery. What will it take to declare a statewide breakdown? What is Oregon’s commitment to close the achievement gap?
NAEP Report Overview
Also known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the only tool we have to assess which states appear to be making progress in academic achievement. While we recognize the limits of NAEP, simultaneously the results should not be ignored. One advantage of this national assessment is the opportunity to assess progress over time. Another dimension of interest is the opportunity to disaggregate results and examine how different student subgroups fare compared to others across the country.
This week, the 2011 NAEP scores were released. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the only assessment of student learning that is given to students across the nation- making it a significant tool for comparisons across states. A representative sample of 4th and 8th graders take the exam in reading and math every two years.
On the whole compared to 2009, the new data showed small improvements in math and relatively flat scores in reading. In Oregon, scores held steady compared to 2009 with no significant improvements or declines.
State Superintendent Susan Castillo said of the results, “While we didn’t see drastic changes from the previous NAEP results, we are not seeing the improvements in student performance that we know Oregon needs in order to compete nationally and internationally.”
Indeed, looking further back to 2003 some states have made substantial progress, particularly for their low income students, while Oregon has not. (more…)
Last week, Dan Jamison and I were invited to help facilitate the Mid-Valley Boys and Girls Club staff retreat in Lincoln City. This Boys and Girls Club serves kids in the Mid-Willamette Valley area within the Albany, Sweet Home and Lebanon school districts and provides a fun, safe and supervised environment for recreational and educational activities. Dan and I were particularly excited about this retreat because Albany and Lebanon happen to be two of our 18 CLASS districts.
Chalkboard was invited to this retreat to provide the Boys and Girls Club with an introduction to the CLASS Project, share current state and federal education policy issues, and also provide a snapshot of some of Oregon’s student data. And we were happy to join, always wanting to build our outreach and share important education-related information with communities throughout the state. This was also a great opportunity for the Boys and Girls Club staff to gain a better understanding of what’s going on with the students and teachers within their school districts—particularly those involved in CLASS.
It also wasn’t hard to say yes to a day at the coast, in Lincoln City where the retreat was held. The day promised to be full of hard work, creative thinking, and a bit of an ocean breeze. And after teaching for 32 years in Albany and serving as a principal at all three levels in the Greater Albany School District, Dan was excited to engage with the club. He even ran into some of his former students!
Over the last several years, critics of public education in the United States have regularly turned to data provided by the Europe-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) through its student assessment initiative, the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA). (Two other international assessment programs similar to PISA have also been implemented. Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) is administered to a sample of 4th and 8th graders every 4 years, including 2011. Progress in International Reading (PIRLS) is administered to a sample of 4th graders every five years, including 2011. The methodologies employed in all three assessments are similar, so comments I make regarding PISA generally apply to the other assessment programs as well.)
Every three years, PISA administers a common assessment to a sample of 15-year-old students in participating countries. In the most recent 2009 cycle, PISA assessments were administered in 65 countries/economies. Each assessment surveys student achievement in three domains: (1) reading literacy, (2) mathematical literacy, and (3) science literacy, with one of these being the primary focus. For the 2009 cycle, the focus was reading literacy with questions in this domain comprising about 60 percent of the assessment.
From these assessment data, individual country profiles describing student achievement are prepared along with various reports seeking to compare achievement across participating countries/economies. The comparison reports have been popular within the United States as a basis for criticizing public education and justifying the call for education reform. Based on average test scores for 2009, the United States ranked 17th in reading literacy, 30th in mathematics literacy, and 23rd in science literacy. These “low” rankings must signal a problem, right? As we shall see, these ranking may or may not be correct, and even if they are, more analysis is needed to understand their significance. Simple rank order displays rarely reveal much about the complexities of student achievement.
Sadie Feibel Holmes is the Director of Education Programs at the Latino Network, a community-based organization that provides programs and services to support education equity, parent engagement, civic leadership and advocacy in Oregon’s Latino community. Through their Padres Promotores de Educacion (Education Promoters) program, she and a group of Latino parents joined CAUSA’s Advocacy Day in Salem last week (the day after the May Day rally) to share their hopes for education in Oregon with state legislators.
Relentless hope for our children’s future.
Anxiety about entering a government building in a foreign land.
Determination and commitment to stand up for the rights of our community.
Belief in the power of a quality education.
Such was the mix of emotion on the bus ride from Northest Portland to the Capitol Building last Monday, May 2. After two weeks of training, identifying critical issues, and preparing written testimony, a group of 36 Latino parents, children and their allies caravanned from Rigler and Scott Schools to Salem to speak face-to-face with legislators during CAUSA’s advocacy day.
This group of Latino parents is part of a Latino Network project called Padres Promotores de Educacion (Education Promoters), which strengthens the confidence and capacity of Latino parents to become agents of positive change and to promote their children’s academic success. The lobby day represented the first trip to Salem for all but one of the parents, and was the first time any of the participants had the opportunity to share their hopes and concerns directly with a state legislator.
Children vary in cognitive ability. This is readily apparent in schools. We have long spent time assessing cognitive ability and developing programs to improve learning outcomes for those in general ability ranges (special education and TAG programs being notable). Yet the impact of cognitive differences on learning outcomes is rarely, if ever, taken into account by education reformers. This is troubling because over half of the variance in achievement among students of the same age is attributable to differences in cognitive ability.
Cognitive ability differences translate directly to academic achievement through variation in the ability of students to benefit from instruction. Lower ability students are more prone to misconceptions and are more likely to need more stage setting, more structured (scaffolded) skill development, and more skill practice to achieve mastery. In addition, they may need more examples to consolidate concept learning, more periodic and structured review to strengthen long term memory, more problems of escalating difficulty to reach desired levels of application, and generally need more frequent and precise assessment feedback. Instruction, if it is to be effective, must attend to these issues. But the consequence of these various learning challenges is that the rate of mastery of core concepts and skills is slowed. And without quality instruction, progress can stall altogether.
Higher ability students, on the other hand, generally need less staging—they already have the pre-requisites in hand, master skills and concepts on the first try, commit things to memory readily, and can handle sophisticated application problems without the need for intermediate levels of difficulty. They reach mastery with greater ease, more quickly.
As a consequence of these different orientations to learning, students diverge from each other over time in terms of achievement, even when they are exposed to the best quality instruction. Differences in achievement are inevitable, particularly when the learning resources available to students are roughly the same. And resources available through public education—especially time—are roughly the same for all students.
I have recently completed a research report that discusses the relationship between cognitive ability and achievement from an empirical perspective. I also discuss some of the implications for standards-based school reforms. You can access the report here.