Tag Archives: national standards

August Survey Halfway Report

Halfway through our August survey on the Obama administration’s education leadership, we bring you a report of the results so far. If you haven’t yet participated in our August survey, you can vote here.

The survey question this month is:

Do you think the Obama administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are doing a good job of leading the country in the right direction with education?

The answer choices are:

• Yes: they really “get it.”

• Yes, national standards and the reform funded by Race to the Top are really needed, but we still need an overhaul of No Child Left Behind.

• Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with.

• No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way.

• No, some things are okay, but Race to the Top and the national standards are a major step in the wrong direction in terms of educational quality and giving up local control.

• No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more.

Other (please specify)

So far, 81 votes have been cast, with 19 people (23.4%) voting for one of the three answers beginning ‘Yes,’ 55 (67.9%) voting for one of the three answers beginning ‘No,’ and 7 (8.6%) choosing ‘Other’ and leaving a comment.

The leading answer is: “No, the federal government should be moving towards less involvement in education, rather than more,” which has 33.3% of the vote.

Second place goes to: “No, they’re off-track in just about every possible way,” with 24.7% of the vote.

The least chosen answer is: “Yes, the oversight of the for-profit schools is critical, and the other things I can live with,” with 2.5% of the vote.

The responses to ‘Other’ include the following (lightly edited for typos, etc.):

• “After 10 years in education I have left the classroom and taken my 3 children with me, we will be homeshooling from now on. Until NCLB is recognized as the “Every Child Held Back” program that it is and we stop punishing teachers for going into the most illiterate schools in the country by touting Pay for Performance as a means of rewarding teachers that take the easy way out, it really isn’t that hard to teach children who can read and write BEFORE coming to school and who have parental support; well until that time my children and I will not set foot in a public school again.”

• “not so rigid on certification for international teachers who are already certified and brilliant on their country. And no discrimination on application. They are employing a lot of international teachers not knowing they are victimized by private agencies hiring them back home, charging them their whole salary upon employed and leaving them destitute and not to be renewed for the next school year because of the probationary certificate for the expensive visa they have paid from hard work. May the government have pity on the poor but bright international teachers that they are hiring for lack of teachers in science, math and special ed in the USA.”

• “Education is one of the small things in these bad economic times. Obama needs to get the economy better before he tries anything big like education.”

• “NCLB needs a major over-haul, less emphasis on AYP [Annual Yearly Progress] and less testing requirements. Students should not be tested every year, every other is plenty. National standards are already in place and working well. Merit pay could work if done right: it should be based on teacher performance and training, not student performance. Race to the Top as it stands will harm students. The biggest change that needs to happen is FUNDING REFORM. School funding should not be linked to property tax. At least half of school funding should come from the federal government. Our schools are not equitable and no amount of reform will help our students until school funding is equitable.”

• “I’M HOMESCHOOLING AND NOT LEAVING IT UP TO ANYBODY BUT ME AND GOD.”

• “Get rid of the Unions and schools might have a chance!”

• “more vouchers and school choice—they are good on charter schools

If you haven’t yet voted, we’d like to include your opinion for our final report, so please take the survey here.

Education Standards/Special Needs Survey Results

Our July survey posed the question:

How do you think the idea of education standards applies to students with special needs?

Three response choices were offered:
• The fact of having special needs—whether disabilities or special gifts or talents—should not affect expectations for meeting the standards.

• It should be expected that some students with special needs will exceed the standards and some will fail to meet them.

Other (please specify) Either a lot of people were on vacation this month, or not as interested in the topic as in May and June, because there were far fewer replies.

Of the 83 responses we received:
• 18.1% voted for the first response—that all students should be held to the standards.

• 74.7% voted for the second response—that some gifted and special needs students would be expected to exceed or not meet the standards.

• 7.2% voted for Other


The reasons given for choosing “Other” were as follows:

1. Instruction should be tailored to fit the specific needs of individual students. Standards should be specific to individual needs.

2. It truly depends on what is defined as ‘special needs’. Students should be expected to meet the standards set out, however, this does not mean that accommodations should not be made.

3. First, understanding that in order to qualify for special education, a student must fall a minimum of 2 years behind their classroom peers, requiring them to be tested using the same test as the classroom peers that they are already behind is simply a means of ostracizing and humiliating them even more – meaning the probability is higher that they will drop out of school.

4. The standards must be tailored to measure strengths that might be missed by the regular standards.

5. The answer is probably the second option. The reality is that our education system generally does a lousy job of meeting the needs of children with special needs and, from the view of a parent of child with special needs, the current education standards are pretty useless when it comes to helping these children learn. My child is almost 14 and reads at about a 3rd grade level. Her elementary school used 9 different reading curriculums in 4 years – all in the interest of meeting “standards”. She has her challenges but chasing standards have hindered her education and development at a huge personal cost to her and an enormous financial cost to me.

6. The fact of having special needs should not affect expectations for meeting the standards IF accommodations have been made for the student to be able to physically and mentally complete the work. The standards don’t change, but the methods of delivery change.

Comments and suggestions for future survey topics welcome!

Common Core Standards: Round 2 Results and Critique

The finalists from round two of the Race to the Top Program, an initiative sponsored by the federal government to reward states for educational reform under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, were announced yesterday.

Of the 35 states and D.C. that applied for the second round, 18 and D.C. were chosen:

• Arizona
• California
• District of Columbia
• Florida
• Georgia
• Hawaii
• Illinois
• Kentucky
• Louisiana
• Maryland
• Massachusetts
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• Ohio
• Pennsylvania
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina

Finalists will present their plans to reviewers in Washington in early August, with winners announced in September. Not all finalists will receive grants.

Meanwhile the NYTimes in its Room for Debate feature, had panelists consider the question “Will National Standard Improve Education?” Here’s a summary of comments by invited contributors:

• Sandra Stotsky, professor at University of Arkansas in the field of education reform suggests that, contrary to the hopes of those who created them, the Common Core standards are likely to result in uniform mediocrity. Stotsky claims that the way the Common Core is structured may reverse the trend of increased numbers of students completing Algebra I by 8th grade, an accomplishment that enables greater achievement in both math and science in high school. She also critiques the Common Core “college readiness” standards as not being adequate for college-level work.

• Richard D. Kahlenberg, a Century Foundation senior fellow, points out that in the past, conservative desire for local control and liberal opposition to the testing programs linked with strong standards has prevented a move such as the current Common Core. He notes (without criticism), that it is the state’s impoverished budgets that has lead to the consensus.

Neal P. McCluskey, Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom associate director, remarks that having national standards does not change the underlying situation that public schooling is a monopoly and that those within the system have a strong motivation to have as little accountability as possible. He suggests that parents, rather than the government, should control educational spending and autonomous educational options, rather than the government, provide the choices, and states that research shows that free-market education performs better than monopolies, while there is no “meaningful” evidence that having national standards improves educational outcomes.

Michael Goldstein, MATCH Charter Public School’s founder, says that while he doesn’t think the curriculum will help his school in Boston, Massachusetts (Massachusetts has been touted for its high-quality standards), the Common Core standards are potentially beneficial for “millions of at-risk children” because it will allow successful schools and teachers to share seamlessly with other schools without different state curriculums getting in the way.

Alfie Kohn, an author in the field of education and human behavior claims that the most dedicated proponents of national education initiatives such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind “tend to be those who know the least about how kids learn.” He points out that uniform instruction offers only an illusion of fairness. What he seems to be arguing, although he does not say so explicitly, is that an excellent education for Child A, who may have the capacity to do college level calculus while still in high school may not be the same excellent education that would suit Child B, who has the capacity to become an internationally acclaimed oboist, or Child C, who has the capacity to repair the family car at age 14. What the Common Core standards say, according to Kohn, is that these children should be offered the same instructional demands. What Kohn seems to be advocating is an equally excellent education for each student.

Bruce Fuller, and University of California, Berkeley professor of education and public policy points out that when standards-based accountability was first introduced, gains were seen, especially in students who had weak literacy skills, but worries that the approach to education called “liberal” (not to be confused with the political persuasion)—which he characterizes as nurturing curiosity and the ability to question the status quo—will be lost in the attempt of the standards to make learning fit into uniform modules.

Sources

www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/07/27/race.to.top/

National Standards Acceptance Update

Let’s take Massachusetts as a for-instance…

Last Wednesday, the state of Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt federal Common Core State Standards in place of their own state standards. Note that the word state is in the standards and national is not. You can draw your own conclusions about why this might be…

According to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, the state plans to take advantage of a Common Core State Standards option that allows states to change up to 15 percent of the (let’s call them what they are) national standards to suit regional academic needs.

It seems important to add that Massachusetts standards have an excellent reputation and their implementation has resulted in very high student rankings, both nationally and internationally. But to qualify for Race to the Top funding from the Obama administration, compliance with the Common Core Standards was made a requirement, and Massachusetts is submitting an application in Round 2.

So, two questions arise:

• Is this coercion?

• Are these really national standards?

What seem to be genuinely “higher standards” in Massachusetts than a) in some other states and b) in the national standards, can remain higher—at least, up to the 15% point. So, Massachusetts is planning to invoke that option and make changes.

If Massachusetts changes 15% and California or Virginia, say—also known for their high academic standards—changes a different 15%, then extending from that model, any two states could be following 30% different standards.

Or, every state could change the same 15%, each in its own way, so that only 85% of the standards overall would be standard.

Another point:

Concerns have been raised that this is a step from which there is no going back. Once a state has opted in—even one like Massachusetts, whose state content experts had a great deal of input into the initial Common Core documents—it appears that they’re in for the long-haul, even if their experts are not among those consulted, or heeded, in the next revision.

Sources

www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/07/education_commi_2.html

www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/21/massachusetts-swaps-state-curriculum-national-standards/?test=latestnews

Standards/Special Needs Interim Survey Report

With 11 days left in July for our survey only 32 people have responded to our July survey which asks:

How do you think the idea of education standards applies to students with special needs?

and refers to both students with disabilities and gifted students. For our May and June surveys, we had nearly 300 responses, so there are still a lot of folks who have voted before who haven’t yet voted this month.

As of this morning, this is how the voting stands:

• 78.1% (25 people) voted for: “It should be expected that some students with special needs will exceed the standards and some will fail to meet them.”

• 18.8% (6 people) voted for: “The fact of having special needs—whether disabilities or special gifts or talents—should not affect expectations for meeting the standards.”

So, overall, the voting is more or less 3 to 1 in favor of considering the standards as not actually being a universal standard. Interestingly, I checked on the day after
the survey was posted and with only 4 votes, the ratio was the same: 3 to 1.

• 3.1% (1 person) commented and said: “The fact of having special needs should not affect expectations for meeting the standards IF accommodations have been made for the student to be able to physically and mentally complete the work. The standards don’t change, but the methods of delivery change.” (typo correction)

So this is a contingent vote for the position of standards being universal.

The question raised by this comment of how accommodations are applied to testing whether the standards have been met is an important one. Because the national standards assessment situation is different from the classroom instructional situation and (likely) the classroom assessment situation, educators have remarked over the years that the accommodations that are allowed to be used during national standards assessments (those that are characteristically used with the student) may not apply or be sufficient.

We welcome other thoughts on this issue.

And if you haven’t yet voted, please do so here.

National Standards

Did you know that there are already some national education standards in the United States? They are those proposed, for the most part, by the subject area teachers’ organizations. As we consider the concept of national standards in the light of students with special needs, they are worth considering. We have referred to them extensively in our articles on Homeschool Subjects, but here is a linked list of the major players. Some standards are available for free viewing and/or download, while others are available for purchase (indicated by $)

Social Studies (summary free; $ for whole)

History

English/Language Arts (includes Reading)

Mathematics

Science

Physical Education

Health and Nutrition (summary free; $ for whole)

The Arts—Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Arts

• Foreign Language (exec. summary free; $ for whole)

Other Subjects

National Standards Survey Final Results

Do you think the United States should have national standards for K–12 education?

• Yes, we need consistency.
• Yes, it would improve the standards in my state.
• No, setting the standards should be done at the state level.
• No, it would lessen the standards in my state.
• Other (please specify).

This month, along with some blog posts on standards, we asked you to consider your stance on the subject and vote in our survey. In conjunction with this, we switched to a one-question survey that provided four set answers as well as the choice to fill in an answer of your own.

By this morning, 186 people had answered the survey, so the number has more than doubled since the interim report on June 18, when there were 92 respondents. Today, I’m providing final results, but keep in mind that this is not a scientific survey.

Comparisons with Interim Report

On June 18, I reported that more than half of respondents favor national standards, either for consistency or because they feel it would be an improvement over their state standards. On June 30, the number who favor national standards approaches three-quarters.

On June 18, I reported that more people who do not want national standards chose that option because they thought that it is a task that belongs to the local level rather than because it would lower their own state’s standards. On June 30, the preference is even more pronounced, at a little less than 6 to 1.

On June 18, there were 12 responses that were ‘Other.’ On June 30, with more than twice as many respondents, the number has only increased to 16.

Final Stats

• The overall vote was 129 for ‘Yes’ and 41 for ‘No,’ with 16 entering an answer in ‘Other.’ In percentages, that’s 69.3% for ‘Yes,’ 22.1% for ‘No,’ and 8.6% for ‘Other.’

• The response with the absolute greatest number of responses was ‘Yes, we need consistency,’ which garnered 59.1% of all responses.

• The second-place response was ‘No, setting the standards should be done at the state level, with 18.3%.

• While 10.2% of respondents thought that national standards would improve the standards in their state, 3.8% felt that national standards would lessen standards in their state.

• 77.4% of respondents based their answer on the principle of where the standards should be set, while 14% based their answer on the practical results.

Some of the comments in ‘Other’ are difficult to add in. My best assessment is that there are 7 Yes’s—most of them conditional—and 4 No’s. If this is correct, it brings the overall tally to 136 ‘Yes’ and 45 ‘No.’

• The ‘Other’ responses specified some ways in which respondents think the national standards and local standards should interact, but there is not agreement on what that relationship will be (some responses have been lightly edited for spelling and grammar so as not to detract from content):

—”[W]e need national standards that … each state may choose to build up from but not down.

—”National Standards [should be treated as] a core so as not to negatively affect the standards in some states with more rigorous standards but … these core standards [should be] incorporated in every state’s curriculum.”

—”Yes, and [the national standards] should be higher than that of the state with the highest standards. America needs to catch up with the rest of the world.”

• ‘Other’ respondents also had some comments on testing. For example, one respondent said that if national standards would necessitate more testing, s/he would vote ‘No.’

• One ‘Other’ comment suggests that the business of education is better left to free enterprise than to the government at any level.

• One ‘Other’ response suggests that education decisions be made by educators, and specifically suggests that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is not qualified [n.b., Duncan worked in a tutoring program for inner city children (run by his mother) in Chicago and has administered education programs, helped start a school, and been CEO of the Chicago Public Schools; his college major was sociology, and he does not seem to have an education degree, or to have spent time as a classroom teacher, but his career has been focused on education.]

• One ‘Other’ response says that if there are going to be federal standards, there should be federal funding to go with.

• One ‘Other’ respondent points out—correctly, I might add—that constitutionally, the power to make decisions about education belongs to the states. From Cornell University Law School “Education Law: An Overview“:

“Each state is required by its state constitution to provide a school system whereby children may receive an education. State legislatures exercise power over schools in any manner consistent with the state’s constitution.” One special exception is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law covering special education.

These points raise some interesting questions . . . What do you think, now that the survey results are all in? Please comment!

Sources

ed.gov/news/staff/bios/duncan.html

National Standards Survey Final Two Days

There are still 2 days left to respond to our survey on national K–12 education standards, and I’ll be providing a final report on Wednesday. Then we’ll go on to the July survey.

As of 9 am Eastern time today, 163 people have responded, 71 more than June 18, when I gave the mid-survey roundup. Since we have 168 likes, that’s still not everyone, so for those of you who haven’t yet voted, I want to mention that we’ve moved to a one-question survey, so it won’t take much of your time to answer.

If you haven’t done so yet, please cast your vote here.

As of now, the clear leader in the answers to the question, “Do you think the United States should have national standards for K–12 education?” is “Yes, we need consistency.”

More analysis to come on Wednesday!

Survey Interim Report: National Standards

There are still 13 days left to respond to our survey on national K–12 education standards, but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how the preliminary results are looking and to encourage you to respond if you have not yet done so.

As of 10 am Eastern time today, 92 people have responded, and this is a little less than half of those who have liked the page, so I know that some of you haven’t yet voiced your opinion. For those who haven’t, I’d like to point out that we’ve moved to a one-question survey, so it won’t take much of your time to answer.

Cast your vote here.

Because the survey is not over, I’m going to give general results: I’ll provide a more detailed level of analysis at the end of the month. What the results show so far:

• More than half of respondents favor national standards, either for consistency or because they feel it would be an improvement over their state standards.

• More people who do not want national standards chose that option because they thought that it is a task that belongs to the local level rather than because it would lower their own state’s standards.

• Respondents have used the “Other” category to raise issues concerning—

• the qualifications of the current Secretary of Education
• the Federal government’s goals for education
• the funding of programs to support education standards
• the role of testing in education
• whether the education system should be under government control or
be carried out as free enterprise

More to come at the end of the month: in the meantime, please vote if you have not done so.

National Common Core Standards: Necessary or Not?

Released by the state school chiefs and governors yesterday, a set of English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that the Obama administration hopes states will adopt is now available on the Common Core State Standards Initiative website. Alaska and Texas opted not to participate in the development.

The goal of the new standards is to unify and make coherent the vision of what K–12 students should know and be able to do, which currently is ruled by each state’s own benchmarks. How the standards will be taught is up to states and teachers.

The current benchmarks vary widely, making school adjustment difficult for students who change schools and comparison of schools in different states in order to judge how schools are performing in their task of educating young people. They also mean that there is duplicate effort 50 times over, as each state addresses the same questions with its own set of personnel and resources.

There are several objections to this plan. One is the loss of local control in states and communities. Another is the need for different approaches to teacher education and massive professional development outlays for current teachers. The cost of textbooks and materials and the need to change standardized tests also loom.

Another type of objection is to the standards themselves. While states in which the standards are seen as a step up seem more likely to sign on—especially as accepting the standards is a criterion for a chance to share in the Race to the Top money—states that already have rigorous standards are not eager to join in. California, Virginia, and Indiana have been named as states that are hesitant to adopt the new standards.

We encourage you to take a look at the standards using the link above, and to take our survey to make your views on the national standards known.

Sources

www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/education/03standards.html?src=mv

online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704515704575282920918415774.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0602/New-public-school-core-standards-Which-states-might-not-sign-on