Posts Tagged ‘
student achievement ’
Nearly 60 years ago, the court ruling Brown v. Board of Education recognized that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.” The ruling also made the claim that desegregation would benefit all students and that providing students with inclusive educational opportunities from an early age is crucial to achieving the nation’s educational and civic goals. Years later, however, we continue to struggle with this issue. Some people still ask the question: what kinds of benefits stem from a diverse classroom?
As a product of a racially diverse public school system outside of Chicago, I believe that my classroom experience provided me with incalculable educational and civic benefits. However, I find measuring and identifying those benefits extremely difficult. While growing up, it never occurred to me that I was actively breaking down racial stereotypes or becoming a more culturally sensitive person. Instead, I found that being around students and teachers who were different than me was just the norm. In a way, I believe that that is the overall intended outcome: being comfortable and motivated to participate in a heterogeneous and multifaceted society. Right?
“The essential question is not, ‘How busy are you?’ but ‘What are you busy at?’”
It’s probably safe to say that public education professionals in Oregon have never been so busy. They have larger class sizes, fewer staff to do more work due to budget cuts, a need to invest time in professional development to keep pace with changing technology in the field, and strong pressure to adopt fundamental changes to boost student achievement.
In a word, they are being expected to continuously improve at a time of historic cutbacks in education funding.
Needless to say, these are challenging times. But with the third year of Sisters School District’s CLASS grant under way, a significant culture change is evident. Teachers are operating less in silos, and collaborating across grades and school levels to close gaps in student knowledge. They are more open to being mentored and evaluated by peers, and see these evaluations as valuable tools for improving their instructional practices. Student achievement data is posted prominently in the District office and in all teacher lounges, and helps shape what goes on in classrooms.
The following was emailed to Oregon’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Castillo, on 11/07/2011:
Hi Susan – I know you’ve reviewed the most recent NAEP results as have I. The distribution of reading achievement scores for grades four and eight remained essentially unchanged as they have for roughly the last two decades. How can this be? For the last decade, in particular, on a nationwide basis we have spent billions of dollars trying to improve reading achievement. We have spent lavishly on special education, the latest curriculum programs, response to intervention strategies, early childhood literacy programs, staff development programs, technology-based remedial programs – and yet achievement has not improved. Again, how can this be?
The answer is surprisingly straightforward.
In the NEAP results we are seeing the intersection of two controlling variables, differences in cognitive ability among students and the standardization of access to learning.
If you administered a high quality cognitive ability assessment to the same students who took the NAEP reading exam, you would see that the results map to each other to a very high degree. Lower ability students present lower reading achievement and higher ability students present just the opposite.
But if you also overlaid the time provided for learning to these same students you would find it almost identical for all levels of ability – about 6 hours per day for about 180 days per year.
Ability varies (as it always has), yet instruction time is about the same (as it has been for decades). More than three quarters of the variance in test scores can be explained by these factors alone. (more…)
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…)
In my last blog, I explained why international comparisons of student achievement like the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) provide an inadequate basis for justifying education reform. At the end of that blog, I suggested that there are other data sources that challenge us to think about a range of changes to public education. I now offer three data-driven rationales for reform.
The three data sets justifying serious consideration of education reform are these: (1) cohort dropout rates, (2) changes in workforce requirements, and (3) dramatic recent changes in the scope and content of the human knowledge base. Let’s consider each of these in order.
The cohort dropout rate describes the percent of students of each high school class who graduate on schedule at the end of the senior year, regardless of when a student leaves school. This statistic has drawn recent interest, as a result of the current ESEA regulations that require states to report cohort dropout rates at the state and school district levels.
The results are of concern, though they have been long recognized by educators. In Oregon, the state cohort dropout rate is about 34 percent, with a range of district rates from 14 percent to 66 percent (for districts with a least 100 students in the cohort). On a national level, the rate is estimated at around 30 percent, though we should be cautious in believing that this statistic is accurate. The national data set is compiled from state data and it is unlikely that reporting standards are identical in every state (though federal regulations should theoretically ensure consistency).
Considered independently, the cohort dropout rate is distressingly high. (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!
New school year, new ChalkBloggers poll. In the righthand sidebar, we’d now love to hear from you about what concerns you most about education in Oregon (and if there’s an option we haven’t included, let us know in the comments and we’ll add it).
But in the meantime, as teachers and students head back to the classroom, it also seems an appropriate time to check out the results of our last poll: Which element of classroom instruction do you think is most important? 70 readers responded and told us:
- Positive, open learning environment (13 votes, 19%)
- Creative ideas and inspired techniques (11 votes, 13%)
- Rapport and relationship-building (10 votes, 14%)
- Individualized attention (8 votes, 11%)
- Classroom management and structure (8 votes, 11%)
- Utilizing new technologies (0 votes, 0%)
As I mentioned in last week’s post about the role of technology in education, not one person selected the use of new technologies as the most important factor in classroom learning. Instead, the interaction between students and teachers is at the top along with simply good ideas and teaching strategies. Of course, none of these elements of instruction exists in a vacuum, and they really all work their best when they are in concert with each other.
What do you think about these results? Is there another important factor that you think we missed? How can teachers use all of these qualities and skills to lead a dynamic classroom this year?
Here it comes…the first day of school! Walking through the doors, you can feel the exhilarating mixture of excitement and nervousness in the air. Kids will be meeting new teachers, seeing old friends, and showing off their stylin’ new clothes. It’s fantastic fun for some, but for students with high geographic mobility, the prospect of yet another new school, filled with unfamiliar faces isn’t exciting—it’s scary. How can teachers help these kids feel welcome, and make their transition into another new environment a little easier?
Students with high geographic mobility are those who have attended many schools during their K-12 years due to frequent moves. For some families, moving more than once in the course of a single school year is common. Usually these moves are associated with employment, housing, or relationship problems, and can be a contributing factor in low academic achievement (http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/student-mobility/).
Every child is different, and deals with change in his or her own way. I spoke with several friends who moved around a lot, attending as many as 11 schools during their K-12 years. They were all affected differently.
I may be revealing how much television I watch, but those K12.com Oregon Virtual Academy commercials are everywhere these days. Issues of school choice aside, their refrain of praises for online learning has me thinking more and more lately about the role of technology in education. How will new technologies help students’ learning? How will digital tools change the classroom? Will all these developments help create critical thinkers and global entrepreneurs (with “21st century skills”), or will they disconnect people from each other and create a generation of frenzied consumers of the overwhelming digital stream of information?
In our current ChalkBloggers poll, not one person has selected “Utilizing new technologies” as the most important element of classroom instruction. That’s a relief to me. I would never want a teacher to sacrifice real interactions (like providing constructive feedback and creating a positive and open learning environment, the two top answers) to let a computer do it for them. No one wants robotic teaching.
But certainly, lessons can be enhanced with new digital resources—and more and more, this and future generations of technology-steeped children will need to be reached with constructive interactive tools in the classroom. No one can completely shut off to new technologies and risk being left behind. The trick is finding a balance and carefully choosing the most effective tools that will enrich, not distract from, student learning.
But how to sort through the myriad options that seem to be growing and changing even faster everyday? It seems like a full-time job just to keep up. But I’ve found a few new online resources (of course) that look to do the work for you.
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.