Last month, the Center for American Progress released America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way. This report identifies school districts with “greater-than-average student needs and less-than-average state and local revenue” by examining data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau Fiscal Survey. Data analysis reveals that poorly funded local public school districts exist even in states with “progressive” school finance systems. The report seeks to explain why this happens and offers policy recommendations for taking corrective action.
The New York State Council of School Superintendents recently published Public Education Matters: Leadership, Leverage and Learning. Developed by a committee of superintendents from across the state, this report presents a vision for reclaiming the promise of New York public schools and seeks to remind all New Yorkers of the core beliefs underlying public education during a time of significant strife.
NWEA has published Make Assessment Matter, a new report that describes what teachers, students and district administrators believe about assessment. Based on public opinion research conducted by Grunwald & Associates, this report is intended to help inform the dialogue on assessment and keep the focus on student learning.
- Students want a voice on assessments and on their education
- There are notable differences in student perceptions of assessments and school based on demographic factors
- Students & educators value assessments when they support learning
- Collaboration empowers educators to interpret and use assessment results
- Major gaps persist in assessment literacy
- Ready or not, students and educators see silver linings in technology-based testing
Last fall, the 25 superintendents of COSA’s Vision and Policy Coalition partnered with the Superintendents’ National Dialogue to invite 50 state leaders from the business, government, education and non-profit sectors to attend the Oregon Summit on the Future of Learning. Participants engaged in a daylong review and discussion of KnowledgeWorks’ forecast Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem, which predicts disruptions that will shape learning over the next decade. The Summit provided an invigorating launch for what we are calling our “Vision 2.0.”
By the end of the Summit, we had identified four areas of emphasis for Vision 2.0, and a number of partners had signed on to participate in one of the resulting work groups. Since then, we have made significant progress in developing our vision, as well as policy recommendations, in each area of emphasis:
- Re-imagining Grades 9-14. A 30-member work group, led by superintendents Shelley Berman of Eugene and Candy Armstrong of North Wasco, has developed a policy paper and presented preliminary findings and recommendations to an OEIB subcommittee and the legislatively-established Accelerated Learning Committee. We are calling for a system that supports not only a seamless, but a blurred, transition from high school to college; full schedules for students in grades 11-12; fully-developed CTE pathways; and more. All of our recommendations support Oregon’s “40-40-20” goal, which states that by 2025, all adult Oregonians will hold at least a high school diploma or equivalent, with 40 percent holding an associate’s degree or meaningful postsecondary certificate/credential, and 40 percent holding a bachelor’s or advanced degree.
- Full-day Kindergarten and Early Learning. A 25-member work group, led by superintendents Maryalice Russell of McMinnville and Jon Peterson of Pendleton, has developed a policy paper and presented preliminary findings and recommendations to an OEIB subcommittee, and is scheduled to present to the Oregon Early Learning Council later this spring. We are recommending that all school districts offer full-day kindergarten beginning in 2015-16, which is the first year the legislature has agreed to provide more than half-day funding for kindergarten. We are also calling on the legislature to allocate sufficient funding to support implementation of statewide full-day kindergarten, so that educating 5-year-olds for a full day doesn’t take resources away from students in the other 12 grades. Further, we are working with early learning system leaders to develop a more coordinated and aligned age-3-through-grade-3 system, and looking ahead to partnerships on future programs for 4-year-olds.
- E-Learning and Technology. A 30-member work group, led by superintendents Rob Hess of Lebanon and Boyd Keyser of North Marion and John Steach of Canby, is developing a strategic plan, “Powering Up: Transforming Learning in Oregon Schools.” The plan includes recommendations for achieving universal access, developing and sharing digital content, improving educator preparation and training, and growing partnerships with business, parents and others. This work group, which includes partners from Intel and Apple, is scheduled to present its plan to an OEIB subcommittee later this spring.
- Equity. At our meeting last fall, we were disappointed at our lack of success in attracting participants from organizations representing Oregon’s communities of color. So, in partnership with OEIB and the Northwest Health Foundation, last month we held the first in a series of summit meetings, “Writing a New Narrative for Oregon’s 3rd Graders.” This summit attracted a diverse and powerful group of more than 50 leaders representing statewide and local culturally-specific communities, school districts and state agencies. Our goal is to develop stronger relationships, with a shared commitment to taking action that leads to successful outcomes for all students, and with a specific focus on students of color and English language learners. We are scheduled to convene again in June.
The Summit was essential to the creation of our “Vision 2.0” and our work groups. Thanks to Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) for hosting the event and to Katherine Prince, Senior Director of Strategic Foresight at KnowledgeWorks for facilitating. We also appreciate the support provided by NWEA President and CEO Matt Chapman, SND Executive Director Joe Scherer, and KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler.
Over the next several months, our work groups will continue to move forward, and we will continue to work with partners – community colleges and universities, early learning agencies and providers, businesses, non-profits, state agencies, organizations representing our communities of color, and more – to improve our vision and recommendations. Throughout that time, we will be looking for avenues to advance our recommendations, with an eye toward Oregon’s 2015 legislative session.
The Civil Rights Project recently published New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future. This report synthesizes more than 60 years of research on school desegregation. The authors argue that “real integration” is a vital goal to pursue in a growing multiracial society. Even if equality can be reached between racially isolated schools, students may never achieve the skills and abilities required to navigate an increasingly diverse nation.
Civil Rights Project Co-director Gary Orfield and Senior Researcher John Kucsera present the findings of their report in this video:
The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality recently issued its first annual Report Card on Poverty and Inequality. This report includes expert analysis on seven domains: labor markets, poverty, the safety net, income inequality, wealth inequality, health inequality and education. It provides key data at both the state and national levels on efforts to reduce inequality and equalize opportunity, providing valuable insights for leaders in public education.
This report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools evaluates each state’s charter school law against 20 essential components, drawn from National Alliance’s A New Model Law For Supporting The Growth Of High-Quality Public Charter Schools.
Over the past few years, there has been significant activity in state capitals to improve public charter school laws, and 2013 was no exception. Governors and legislators from coast to coast worked to lift caps that are constraining growth, enhance quality controls to better encourage the opening of great schools, and provide additional funding to decrease the equity gap between public charter school students and their counterparts in traditional public schools. All of this work was done with one simple goal in mind: create more high-quality public charter schools to meet the surging parental demand.
Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement
Lack of time, resources, and tools to address opportunity gaps puts lofty state goals out of reach
The typical array of statistics on student achievement can be discouraging – low graduation rates, significant numbers of kids growing up in generational poverty, and double digit percentages of students failing to achieve critical benchmarks in reading and math, the gateway subjects that unlock upper level learning. There is another, more nuanced narrative to be told, however. When student growth is measured with an accurate and precise assessment, encouraging evidence of real progress can be seen.
To explore this issue, NWEA recently published The Case for Growth. In this new e-book, researchers, professional development experts and policy advisors articulate why we need to measure growth, how to do it fairly and well – and how to approach using the data to improve student achievement.
Leaders avoid these behaviors because each by itself can trigger a cascade of negative piling on responses.