Monday, April 21, 2014

Big Ed News Roundup

Stories that have come across my computer over the last few weeks on a variety of issues.

Arne Duncan - the things that Arne says.
So first it was those "white suburban moms" thinking their children and their schools were really something.  He said opposition to Common Core came from "fringe" groups.  The Daily News says those against CC are "drunk with right-wing hysteria."  So moms are being hysterical and dramatic?  Almost sounds like a little sexism thrown in there to marginalize any female voice.

Common Core
 Pearson and Common Core
The huge ed gorilla publisher in the room, Pearson, has a nonprofit wing, Pearson Charitable Foundation, which just agreed to pay over $7M to New York state after NY's attorney general determined they had created CC materials to generate money for the Pearson company.  And who figured into that determination?  The Gates Foundation.  (Pearson says it did nothing wrong but admits it could have been clearer and more transparent in its relationship with its foundation.)

According to the settlement, Pearson used its nonprofit foundation to develop Common Core products in order to win an endorsement from a “prominent foundation.” 

The latter entity is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the creation of the Common Core standards and announced in 2011 that it would work with the Pearson Foundation to create reading and math courses aligned with the new standards. Four of those courses would be offered to the public free of charge, it said. 

According to Schneiderman, Pearson executives believed the Common Core work performed by their nonprofit arm could later be sold by the for-profit organization and generate “tens of millions of dollars” for the company.  
A good overview of states that are pulling back on Common Core from Education Next.

Implementation or are the standards themselves not up to par?  

This article by Curmedgucation (one of my favorite ed bloggers) points out something that we should all keep in mind as the NCLB waiver issue comes into sharp focus.

But we need to remember the ticking time bomb that was No Child Left Behind. From the moment that it became clear that Congress was incapable of successfully reauthorizing NCLB, all fifty states knew they were just counting down to the day when every single one of them was going to be in violation of federal law.

Good point. Will Arne Duncan use a hammer?  It could be quite dangerous as it would expose NCLB as just silliness if you can say 95% of Seattle public schools are "failing" (as could happen).  What if that happens in multiple states?  Duncan has to carefully weigh his options because it could backfire on him.  (Speaking of waivers, Illinois was granted one today.)

Curmedgucation's view:
  • Common Core was rolled out too fast.
  • We should have waited for the tests and materials to be ready.  
  • More teacher involvement - how can teachers take ownership of Common Core?
  • Just tweaking CC won't solve the problems. 
Logistics around Common Core.  This article, published by the American Enterprise Institute (yes, conservatives), makes some good points.
  •  How will we compare the results of students who take the assessment using a variety of different devices? There will be variability in screen sizes, keyboards, and potentially in the visual display. Some students will be using certain kinds of devices for the first time.
  • How will PARCC and SBAC account for vastly different testing conditions? Depending on testing infrastructure, some schools will be able to assess students in their regular classroom while other schools will have to shuffle students around the building, to schools across town, or to independent testing centers. How much does this matter?  
  • How will we account for the fact that we’re apparently looking at testing windows that will stretch to four or even 12 weeks? This means that some schools will give the test many weeks after other schools. Students in schools which administer the test towards the end of the testing window will have had a lot more instructional time than students in schools which test at the beginning.
Teacher Evaluation
From Diane Ravitch's blog, a story about the American Statistical Association's reaction to the use of VAM (value added measurement) in evaluating teachers.

The ASA issued a short but stinging statement that strongly warned against the misuse of VAM. The organization neither condemns nor promotes the use of VAM, but its warnings about the limitations of this methodology clearly demonstrate that the Obama administration has committed the nation’s public schools to a policy fraught with error. ASA warns that VAMs are “complex statistical models” that require “high-level statistical expertise” and awareness of their “assumptions and possible limitations,” especially when they are used for high-stakes purposes as is now common.

Money in Ed Tech
From Politico's Morning Education page
The ed tech market has been on a sustained boom the past several years, with no signs of a slowdown: Capital flows into companies serving the K-12 and higher education markets jumped to $650 million last year — nearly double the $331 million invested in those spheres in 2009.

An editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times tells her own daughter that she can opt out of state testing.   

From The Answer Sheet, where did Florida field test its own "Florida Standards" test?  In Utah. Because Utah and Florida have such similar demographics, I guess.

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