Archive for the 'Grades and Standards' Category

January
8th 2016
The 2016 Legislative Session Cometh

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Governor & Grades and Standards & Legislation & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

The 2015 legislative session seems like it just ended, but it’s almost time for Little Eddie to once again stalk the shiny hallways of the mythical place known as the Colorado Capitol. Next week marks the beginning of the 120-day sausage-making process that we call the Colorado legislative session. And let me tell you, it’s going to be a fun one. Or maybe that’s the wrong adjective.

The 2016 session kicks off on January 13, which is next Wednesday. If this session is anything like last session, which saw an incredible number of education bills introduced (and an equally incredible number killed), we’re in for a heck of a ride. And this year, that ride may even take us through areas that have little to do with education directly. So, what’s coming down the pike? Here are my best guesses on this year’s legislative edu-themes: Continue Reading »

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January
4th 2016
Tackling the GED

Posted under Adult Education & Edublogging & Grades and Standards & High School Equivalency & State Board of Education & Testing

I hope you’ve all had a little time to decompress after the holiday. We’re officially back in business now, though, so strap on your edu-gear and prepare yourselves for a beefy post. Today, my friends, we talk GED.

A couple of weeks ago, the Colorado State Board of Education voted to approve three separate high school equivalency exams: GED, HiSET, and the TASC. Holy acronyms, Batman!

Assuming the state can successfully negotiate contracts with the relevant vendors—GED Testing Service (now a joint venture of the American Council on Education and testing giant Pearson Education) for GED, Education Testing Services for HiSET, and McGraw-Hill/CTB for TASC—those looking for a high school equivalency diploma will be able to choose which of the three tests they’d like to take. Since the vote, I’ve had a number of people approach me about my thoughts on the idea of a “menu of tests” in the world of high school equivalency.

It has taken me a little time to fully collect my thoughts on the shift, but I think I’m there now. Continue Reading »

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December
24th 2015
Colorado Gets an Awkward Christmas Present: The SAT

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & High School & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Testing

It’s almost Christmas, friends! We will all sit down tomorrow morning and unwrap a bunch of gifts while stuffing our faces with various tasty treats. Some of those gifts will be awesome. Action figures, video games, and bikes spring immediately to mind. Other gifts—socks, weird-flavored chocolates, and gift certificates to restaurants you hate—will be less exciting. When you open those awkward gifts, you’ll have that uncomfortable moment where you’re stuck between needing to be polite and wanting to ask loudly what in the world the person who gave you the gift was thinking.

I’m having one of those moments right now.

You see, Colorado education is getting its own awkward Christmas present this year: A shift away from the venerable, well-respected ACT. Instead, high school juniors will now take the SAT, a creation of the College Board (of APUSH fame). I’ll try to be as polite as possible in the face of this weird gift, but I am unable to refrain from asking an important question: Huh?

Continue Reading »

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December
10th 2015
It Actually Happened… ESSA Becomes a Reality

Posted under Accountability & Congress & Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Legislation & School Accountability & Teachers & Testing

It’s been a long time since we first started eyeballing the then-distant possibility of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which most of us have grown to know in its current form as No Child Left Behind. We’ve looked at the weird alliances the effort spawned, done a little detective work, and tracked the progress of the reauthorization as it slowly developed into its near-final form.

After the bill sailed through the House and later the Senate, it became clear that this thing was actually going to happen despite years of waiting (the law was due to be reauthorized in 2007). And by golly, it really did. Continue Reading »

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December
3rd 2015
NCLB Rewrite Now Looking Like a Distinct Possibility

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

Earlier this week, I gave you an overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the compromise No Child Left Behind rewrite that recently emerged from conference committee in D.C. At the end of that post, I mentioned how quickly the bill is moving. Well, as it turns out, it’s moving even more quickly than I had anticipated.

The U.S. House passed the bill with a 359-64 vote yesterday. And according to a New York Times article about the effort, it may soon clear the U.S. Senate and, most notably, the President’s desk:

After months of compromise and negotiation, the bill earned nearly unanimous approval from a conference committee of House and Senate members two weeks ago, and is expected to be passed by the Senate next week. A White House official said Wednesday that President Obama plans to sign it when it reaches his desk.

I’m not surprised to hear that the Senate will be taking up the bill quickly, but this is the first time I’ve seen official(ish) word that the White House intends to sign the compromise. All things considered, I think that’s great news. Continue Reading »

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December
1st 2015
ESEA Compromise Emerges in Washington

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & School Choice & Testing

As most of you know, and as I will proudly proclaim once again, your pal Little Eddie has officially turned six. I’m practically a grown-up. That means I have more liberty to stay up later, make choices regarding vegetable consumption at dinner, and riddle my blog posts with six-year-old snark.

To ring in my newfound maturity, I need a big, important post. And what could be bigger or more important than the fact that we now stand on the cusp of ESEA reauthorization?

We’ve talked a fair amount about the somewhat tortured ESEA reauthorization process since last January.  After some rough waters earlier this year, grinding work during the summer led to what I thought was a fairly promising reauthorization bill passing in the U.S. House of Representatives. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Senate followed suit by passing its own bipartisan bill. Conflicts between the more conservative House bill and the more moderate Senate bill (and the White House, which has been a little weird about the whole thing) necessitated a conference committee between the chambers to work out differences.

Now, after months of waiting, what looks like a viable compromise bill has emerged. It’s getting a fair amount of praise from a number of corners—some of which I find a little concerning—but many folks are still trying to parse through the massive document. If you’d care to read the entire 1,061 page bill, you can find it here.

For those who value their eyesight and are not paid to undertake masochistic feats of pure wonkery, Education Week has put together a helpful rundown of the provisions in the bill.  Here are a few of what I think are the most important bits: Continue Reading »

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October
30th 2015
Don’t Fall Victim to MisNAEPery

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Research & Testing

It’s NAEP season, my friends. The 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress results were released this week to a barrage of spin, rhetoric, and general “misNAEPery.” I’ve mostly seen this misNAEPery pop up in the form of certain folks using the data to show that education reform efforts aren’t working. (For now, we’ll ignore the crushing irony of using test scores to prove that testing isn’t valuable.) That’s a bummer, so let’s spend a few minutes today talking about what this year’s results do and do not mean.

First, let’s talk briefly about the results themselves. Chalkbeat ran a pretty good piece on Colorado’s 2015 NAEP scores that included some nifty graphs. Nifty or not, however, I take some issue with the graphs’ reliance on percentages of kids scoring proficient or better rather than scale scores. Not that I blame Chalkbeat for going this way; graphs showing what appears to be actual change are a lot more exciting than what you get when you look just at scale scores over the past ten years. Those graphs look like this:

Continue Reading »

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September
24th 2015
Colorado’s ACT Flatline Has Me Worried

Posted under Accountability & Grades and Standards & Research & Testing

I feel like I’ve been alienating my fellow edu-nerds in recent weeks by spending so much time talking about the antics of the courts. Most recently, we examined a Colorado Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the “Negative Factor” under Amendment 23. One could be forgiven for believing that I had suddenly changed careers and become the world’s youngest edu-lawyer extraordinaire. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Today, we celebrate my triumphant return to the world of education policy data by taking a belated look at Colorado’s 2015 ACT scores. As most of you know, the ACT is taken by every high school junior in the state under state law. This year, that amounted to 57,328 kids. The ACT is an important test, as it provides the best picture of the “end product” our education system has produced after more than a decade of school for most students.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s ACT numbers this year are flat again. In fact, they’re a little worse than flat, with our overall composite score having fallen from 20.3 in 2014 to 20.1 this year (on a 36-point scale). Other than a very slight increase in science composite scores, scores across all subjects were down.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. The typical achievement gaps we’ve come to expect are still present, with Hispanic students coming in at a composite of 17.3, black students at 17.1, and English language learners (ELLs) coming in at just 13.7. White students, by contrast, achieved a composite of 21.7.

Low-income students also continue to fall behind their higher-income peers. Students eligible for free lunch achieved a composite score of 16.9, and those eligible for reduced lunch prices managed an 18.5. Kids qualifying for neither free nor reduced lunches came in at a composite of 21.6. Continue Reading »

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July
31st 2015
A(New)PUSH for Truth in American History

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & School Board

Yesterday, I highlighted a brave Jeffco mom who was willing to go on camera and thank the Jefferson County Board of Education majority for standing up for reform. I also ran through a distressingly lengthy list of inaccurate claims—maybe “fabrications” would be more appropriate—and downright disturbing revelations about the recall. Included on the list was a mention of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum framework, which I’d like to spend some more time on today.

Many of you remember the teacher sickouts and student walkouts last fall. Initially, we were told—amid many “ums” and “uhs”—that the protests were about the board’s move to a performance-based raise model. You already know how much (and why) I support pay-for-performance systems, but this one was exceptionally innocuous, providing raises to 99 percent of Jeffco teachers. Yes, 99 percent.

When that argument fell apart under the weight of pesky reality, the protests morphed into misleading statements about the board’s attempt to “censor” or “whitewash” American history by proposing the creation of a curriculum review committee to potentially examine, among many other things, the controversial Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum framework. You likely recall (heh) that the original, somewhat inflammatory proposal was never even truly introduced at the board table, that there were never any concrete plans to review or modify APUSH, and that no review of the framework was ever undertaken. The only outcome of the controversy was the creation of two new curriculum review committees that better represent a cross section of interested parties and community members.

I am personally of the opinion that no justification was ever required of the board’s desire to review district curricula of any kind given that such power is granted clearly and explicitly by Article IX, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution. I would certainly have felt differently had they actually made any true effort to “censor” history, but they didn’t. All that aside, though, it now appears that many concerns about APUSH have been vindicated. Continue Reading »

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June
18th 2015
Performance-Based Learning, Strategic Compensation Keep My Eyes on Mesa 51

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Testing & Union

When it comes to K-12 education, I tell you a lot about what’s going on in the Denver area and along the Front Range. That’s where most people in our state live. But Colorado is a big place, and it’s good for me to keep expanding my horizons.

One of those places is called the Western Slope. The largest school district out there is Mesa Valley 51. A lot of times it’s just hard for little me to get a good look at what’s taking place on the other side of the mountains.

I appreciate the big step ladder provided by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which includes an Emily Shockley article yesterday that points to big things happening in Mesa 51, namely a forward-thinking system of competency-based (or “performance-based”) learning. It will launch in seven schools this fall: Continue Reading »

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