Archive for the 'Standards' Category

Who’s keeping the longitudinal data on schools’ outcomes?

I’m sorry to admit that a post on TE from just about 10 years ago has almost exclusively dead links. Now, link rot (as it’s called) is common on the Internet, but one still feels some responsibility for it.

Tonight I wanted to find data about how individual schools were doing historically and compare those data to how the schools are doing today. I remembered—good that I can still remember this—that I’d posted a note about sources for examining scores some time ago (actually 2005). So, I go and check it…all those organizations that were then so hot on the trail of tracking schools’ outcomes have fallen by the wayside. Bummer.

The good news is that Pal of TE Dave Malouf added a comment pointing us to the National Longitudinal School-Level State Assessment Score Database (NLSLSASD) and that source appears to be functional (at least for some years). Time to go mining!

Do you know of other sources? Please log them in the comments.

Free gift from Education Consumers Foundation!

partial image of cover of Clear Teaching

Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.

What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.

Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.

Schools scorecard

Thanks to GreatSchools and its partners, there is a way for parents to examine the relative outcomes of different schools. Although I’m not among them, this is likely to make advocates of charter schools crow. For me, though, it’s a good time to celebrate the nose of the camel getting into the tent.

To be sure, many of these data have been available on the Web previously, but this version is especially accessible and has a very high profile. Now that these data are aggregated here, I long even more for the day when schools will routinely publish the results of regular measurements of students’
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Rating LEAs’ teaching?

Today in Washington (DC, US) the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute launch a public service Web site that allows visitors to learn about the healthiness of localities on a county-by-county basis across the US. The news got me thinking—Danger!—about the possibility of creating a similar resource for consumers of education: Providing a scientifically credible metric for the quality of teaching in each local education agency around a country.
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New test results [from KTM]

Over on Kitchen Table Math the contributor who identifies himself as SteveH has a delightful post about some new test results. Here’s the lead:

Recent testing has shown improvement in shoe tying by fourth and eighth graders over the past two years, although the growth has been stagnant in some districts. Urban school activists, however, can be encouraged by the statistical improvement in areas with populations of 250,000 or more. This continues an upward trend that started 6 years ago when this testing began.

Jump over to Testing Shows Improvement in Shoe Tying.

Duncan: Effective teachers

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the National Education Association today, calling on its members to work with him toward the goal of ensuring that “every child in America is learning from an effective teacher—no matter what it takes.”

That’s a noble goal. In my view, it requires that educators shed their allegiance to theory and adopt effective teaching practices. That’s what it takes.

To be sure, there is a lot of emphasis on high-stakes testing. Mr. Duncan even discussed it as one of the four features of his plan for reforming education. The effective teacher idea is another of the four. High-stakes tests (which need reform of their own, in my view—that’s another post) are only part of the game. Another is using evidence to guide instruction.

But even in the absence of results on high-stakes tests and from pristine research projects, educators can ascertain whether they’re using effective methods. That is, we can devise our own means of ascertaining whether teaching practices are effective at a more micro level. In a lot of ways, the process is relatively simple:

  1. Identify goals and objectives in objectively measurable terms. How will we know if the students have learned X?
  2. Identify the skills and knowledge that students will need to demonstrate mastery of those goals and objectives. What is required to show that a student can competently and independently do X?
  3. Devise teaching algorithms for leading students to acquire the skills and knowledge identified in (ii).
    • Model: Demonstrate the skills for the students or tell them the knowledge;
    • Test: Have the students perform the skill or state the knowledge;
    • Coach: Reinforce and correct their performance;
    • Practice to mastery: Have them perform the skill or repeat the knowledge until they are facile with it and can do it under different, increasingly more challenging conditions.
  4. Assess students’ competence according to the goals and objectives specified in (i).

Sure, I’ve simplified it here. Sure, the goals and objectives would need to be integrated in a fashion consistent with an epistemology of various subject areas. And, you’ll have to cut me a little slack about my use of words such as “tell” and “correct”; telling would need to include providing materials to read, for example. But the idea is just about as simple as I’ve sketched it here.

The area of early reading has been mapped according to this perspective on teaching. We can say how we would recognize a competent reader (i), what the component skills are (ii), and how to teach those skills. But the to-be-learned material doesn’t have to be elementary level reading. If the area is chemistry and the objectives were conducting an experiment using electrophoresis, I think we could perform a similar analysis.

Of course, the real trick will be to get people on board with such thinking. Mr. Duncan seems to want to do something like that, but he’s talking about things at a much grander scale.

Remarks of Arne Duncan to the National Education Association—Partners in Reform

Just wondering–graduation ages

What if students could declare an intention to enroll in college and take an accelerated course of study during high school so that those who qualify could exit high school earlier than ~18 years of age? To be sure, the standards for qualifying would have to be rigorous (serious competency tests, perhaps created in collaboration with colleges and universities).

Would such a policy create strong incentive for intensive study as a way of escaping some of the drudgery of HS? Would it be counter-productive because students would miss too much growing-up time? Would it make HS less fun for other students, as there would be fewer peers? Would some HS teachers object to losing the students whom they find the most fun to have in their classes?

Progress on US standards

I took considerable pleasure today in reading an article by Maria Glod of the Washington Post in which she reported about plans to develop national standards in reading and mathematics for students in US schools. In her article, entitled “46 States, D.C. Plan to Draft Common Education Standards,” Ms. Glod described efforts by the governors of most US states to describe a framework of knowledge and skills that would characterize a high-school diplomate who is ready for the world of work or higher education or, ideally, both.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia today will announce an effort to craft a single vision for what children should learn each year from kindergarten through high school graduation, an unprecedented step toward a uniform definition of success in American schools.

The push for common reading and math standards marks a turning point in a movement to judge U.S. children using one yardstick that reflects expectations set for students in countries around the world at a time of global competition. Today, each state decides what to teach in third-grade reading, fifth-grade math and every other class. Critics think some set a bar so that students can pass tests but, ultimately, are ill-prepared.
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