#Education Week in Review — April 21, 2014

Posted: April 21, 2014

Guest post by Matt Smith

The Achievement Gap

Camp  Howe

The Education Week in Review recaps the national education conversation from the past week. This week we begin with the achievement gap.

The achievement gap is easy to define, but its causes are complex and solutions have proven elusive. The news below indicates the beginning of collective action.

Easy to Define. The achievement gap is easy to define: similar groups of students showing dissimilar levels of academic achievement.

The Data. It’s more accurate to call them achievement “gaps” because the data reveal numerous gaps, not just one between ethnic groups.

The data show that there is, in fact, a gap in achievement between whites and minorities. For example, take the percentage of 4th graders reading below grade level: white students, 58%, Hispanic students, 82%, black students, 86%. We clearly see an achievement gap there: similar groups showing dissimilar levels of achievement.

Another example: low-income students score 100 points lower on the SATs than their higher-income counterparts.

A Troubling Indicator. A prominent foundation, one that recognizes high-performing urban schools with its annual Broad (rhymes with road) Prize for Urban Education, announced 2 finalists this year, not its usual 4–5. The foundation found only two schools in the country worthy of recognition  —  a troubling indicator.

Calls for Action. Former President Bush (44) called the achievement gap “a national scandal.” Rev. Al Sharpton called it the “civil rights issue of our day.”

Part of the problem with the achievement gap: even though it’s easy to define, its causes are complex. In contrast to much of the American public, school officials comprehend the complexity and are asking for help, claiming they cannot solve the problem on their own.

New Research on Causes. Science supports their claims. Researchers at Penn, studying Philadelphia 3rd graders, found three trends among low-achieving schools: homelessness, child abuse, and mothers who did not finish high school.

If the Penn research is solid, those who lay the responsibility at the feet of teachers and administrators seem badly misinformed.

What do African-Americans think the causes are? In a Kellogg Foundation-Ebony magazine survey, respondents reported “lack of parental involvement” as the number one cause.

Obama’s Action. President Obama apparently concurs with “lack of parental involvement” as a cause because last month he announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” an effort to connect boys and men of color to mentors and support networks ($200 million over five years).

Already Obama has created WHIEEAA, the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans, to uncover effective methods for closing the achievement gap, and to develop “a national network” for sharing best practices. WHIEEAA is on a six-month summit tour to raise awareness, this month stopping at Jackson State University.

The President Is Not Alone. Obama is not alone in taking action to close the achievement gap. Other organizations are on board.

Foundations are stepping up: ten of them are partnering with the president on “My Brother’s Keeper.”

The Erikson Institute, a leading child development graduate school in Chicago, created the Task Force on Reducing the Achievement Gap. Erikson will use the findings to advise the state of Illinois.

And the Los Angeles public school system has made an $837 million commitment  —  representing 12% of its budget  —  to address the needs of students who are low-income, English-language learners, and in foster care.

Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts

Standardized Testing and Alternative Assessments

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Last week New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “reduced the role of standardized exams” in evaluating students, a marked departure from his data-loving predecessor. This is a sign of the times.

Resistance to standardized testing has exploded recently, an indication that the “testing pendulum” is set to swing back to the left (if you think No Child Left Behind was the pendulum swinging to the right).

Shifting Gears. Education reform advocates, possibly caught off-guard by how quickly the movement has gained traction, shifted gears this week to a discussion of reform possibilities.

Alternative Assessments. A teacher in California co-designs teaching rubrics with her students. She also incorporates peer assessments into her classroom.

Idaho’s Task Force for Improving Education discusses mastery-based education, where students advance only after achieving full mastery of a subject  —  interesting, although it leaves me with questions.

The Hewlett Foundation calls for more attention to deeper learning, where students take what they’ve learned (e.g., physics) and then apply it to group projects (e.g., balsa wood bridges). These group projects reinforce academics but also develop skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Outcomes Instead of Test Scores. For evaluating districts, one writer sees an “emerging consensus” on using outcomes instead of test scores. Examples of outcomes are high school graduation rates, college matriculation rates, and college graduation rates. Tracking outcomes may be more difficult than grading tests but may also prove more valuable.

Photo credit: “Bill de Blasio” by Kevin Case licensed under CC Attribution 2.0.

SAT’s Major Redirection

In March, the College Board announced upcoming revisions to its flagship product, the SAT.

Recently the College Board released details and sample questions.

Not Just about Vocab. The New York Times latched on to the elimination of obscure vocabulary words. The College Board is shifting away from memorization, but these revisions are not just about vocab.

Instead the revisions are being billed as a “major redirection.” For example, the new SAT will require students to demonstrate extended problem-solving skills and to explain reasoning behind answers.

Aligning with CCSS. Interestingly, the CEO of the College Board, David Coleman, was a key architect of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This suggests that the College Board will further align SAT with the new federal standards.

Two Impacts. The College Board says its changes will have two impacts. First it will improve predictability. Fundamentally, the SAT was designed to match students with appropriate institutions. The SAT is supposed to inform families, high schools, and college admission officers so they all can make better matches.

The second impact is on pinpointing where students are falling behind. When I read “pinpointing,” I interpreted it as a reference to district achievement (as opposed to student achievement) and benchmarking district achievement across the state or country. If true, it’s possible this is a strategic move against testing companies like Harcourt and Pearson, which administer and score state standardized tests.

Two Critics. The SAT has big critics, of course. Two of them hit hard this week. First was John Katzman, founder of the Princeton Review, the test prep company. He calls the SAT a “scam” (that surprised me) explaining how he and his partner “cracked the test” in the 1980s. Decrying compensation and profits at the College Board and ACT Inc. (parent company of the ACT), two 501(c)(3) organizations, Katzman calls for the creation of “a new organization to oversee college admissions testing.” We’ll see where that goes.

The second heavy hitter of the week was Leon Botstein, president of Bard College. In a piece provocatively titled, “Part Hoax, Part Fraud,” Botstein insists that the College Board is just reacting to SAT’s loss of market share to ACT, its rival.

Many articles stated that the SAT is losing market share to the ACT but I could not find recent data to back up the claims.

More Like ACT. Botstein’s claim cannot be dismissed out of hand. SAT’s new format does look more like ACT in three ways: 45 minutes shorter, no penalty for wrong answers, and essay optional.

Vociferous Defense. The best article of the week was on Salon: a defense of the SAT (4,000 likes, 700 comments, 500 tweets). Two college professors, apparently without conflicts of interest, mounted a vociferous argument in a heavily-linked article. They champion the testing of general intelligence (IQ). They insist that SAT levels the playing field, especially for high-achieving students who are disadvantaged. You will probably find this article helpful regardless of your leaning.

A Stanford student calls the revisions an “excellent first step” and recounts her history with the SAT.

The admissions director at Duke is taking a wait-and-see approach. Interestingly, college admissions officers were not often quoted in the articles we found.

The SAT Quiz. Finally, if you’re interested in finding out how you would do on the new test, the Washington Post has sample questions in a quiz.

Photo credit: “Sharpened Pencil” by Infratec licensed under Wikipedia Commons public domain

There you have it: a recap of the national conversation from last week.

Matthew Smith is a director at Longacre, a summer camp. Longacre uses the summer to prepare ambitious teenagers for long term success. Join Matt on Google+ for education conversation. 


The newbalance.com mother

The newbalance.com mother cheap ray ban city bcbg max of hogan battle bcbg max azria encountered cheap clothes great michael kors resistance to any of ralph lauren online shop the original ralph lauren sale plan polo ralph lauren outlet were gucci uk vanadium calvin klein outlet mouth noon until dusk, burberry handbags Tang air max still new balance shoes can north face jackets not bags outlet attack cheap eyeglasses online on burberry factory outlet shipu adidas city, michael kors outlet online under air force the city coach outlet shipu cliff Tangjun numerous beats by dre headphones dead tommy hilfiger bodies, five prada.com thousand ghd 余士兵 asics his death pandora bracelet afar.
Offensive michael kors drums beating ed hardy clothing again, hermes bags more than abercrombie and fitch three thousand Tang ralph lauren online shouting michael kors to shipu uggs clearance DynaCity impact, the beats by dre headphones ice ralph lauren factory store road has been free runs Tangjun flesh melting, attacking swarovski crystals wholesale tanks along the hollister online shop deutschland road nike roshes opposite, ugg boots on sale but nike free the mcm belt Tibetan people's louis vuitton outlet stores defense was more crazy, pandora charms no air max 95 bows pandora sale No trebuchet. Blocked with kate spade sale boulders and tiffany bowling uggs outlet the nike air huarache only mountain barbour jackets road. Let groups of Tang cliff burberry handbags falling oakley in, crying jordan retro 3 in.
However, Tang iphone 5s cases also mcm bag found in despair hope jimmy choo outlet that this time tommy hilfiger outlet stores online the coach outlet online attack by swarovski online shop three hundred burly striker nike running shoes beat Tang Jun, tiffany outlet they louis vuitton purses produced a custom roshe runs hundred faces michael kors huge oakley store oblique umbrella. nike air max Thirty louis vuitton black friday feet long sunglasses for women with a reebok wooden new balance support. ray ban sunglasses outlet Five rawhide coach outlet online stretched michael kors australia on cheap michael kors handbags a vans shoes outlet wooden ray ban frame, oakley sunglasses outlet painted lululemon canada with adidas shoes oil, diamond triangular body, abercrombie fitch dozens louis vuitton uk of Tang hiding coach outlet store online under nike the jordan retro 11 umbrella of one side, so that michael kors uhren regardless abercrombie of ugg the Tibetan louboutin shoes on sale army swarovski australia boulder bowling timberland.com spending ray ban sunglasses outlet from chi hair the cheap toms front burberry or nike air top north face canada of coachusa.com the nike shoe head, rolex replica watches will be poured gucci sneakers Section Smooth leather shed polo ralph lauren outlet online strength, longchamp handbags rolling instyler.com down the cliff.
This polo ralph lauren is air max Tang louboutin shoes after being hit longchamp bags time chanel outlet and mac cosmetics outlet time air jordan shoes again ray bans to come woolrich outlet online up oakley outlet with cheap michael kors handbags ways to make Tangjun salvatore ferragamo casualties greatly reduced, discount true religion jeans has been montblanc rushed to the jordan city abercrombie and fitch of michael kors one fake rolex hundred nike air max 2015 twenty paces from shipu michael kors handbags clearance tract barbour sale stones toms shoes sale outside, cheap jordans into designer purses the tiffany and co australia bolt's ralph lauren polo shirts range marc by marc jacobs here. Tang replica rolex Jun, lululemon australia online shopping a thousand arrows, joe's new balance outlet fired pandora bracelets from an nike factory store umbrella intensive michael kors bolt cheap jordans for sale hole in louboutin uk the coach bags city hollister co wall, jerseys from china the Tibetan salomon army cheap basketball shoes finally appeared polo ralph lauren outlet online casualties, michael kors the tommy hilfiger outlet stores city watches for men began michael kors outlet to have nike roshe run shipu screams louis vuitton handbags out.
But can michael kors outlet store no nike outlet longer rushed to Tang gucci shoes Jun hollister step. Unable huarache to timberland work boots unload within nike soccer shoes the adidas online crevice cheap nfl jerseys stones, oakley sunglasses a lot of nike stones piled michael kors outlet up in nike free run the adidas roadway, Ye Fan hilfiger outlet military converse spending true religion jeans outlet from the nike top mercurial vapor of michael kors factory outlet the rock roshe runs is gucci sneakers still "bang! Bang!, kate spade sale To hilfiger online shop hit the swarovski uk official site shelves in leather, vans a oakley huge uhren shop sound, polo ralph lauren outlet temporary kate spade handbags umbrella pandora can not designer knockoff handbags make puma online shop bear a moncler outlet huge p90x3 schedule impact, three chanel purses dozen nike face christian louboutin outlet was smashed umbrella stand, Tang lost tory burch handbags nearly uggs a thousand oakley outlet store barrier. dresses for wedding was north face outlet then longchamp came the ray ban sunglasses Rolling bride dresses Stones tory burch handbags smashed converse all star cliff. bloody, screaming rolex replica without ray ban sunglasses outlet a break, there longchamp outlet have ugg outlet been heavy giuseppe shoes casualties Tang pandora charms again, Jusan louis vuitton outlet newspaper p90x began to slowly gucci shoes back burberry sale down the michael kors outlet online hill.
Anyway, michael kors outlet finally we prada found nike roshe run a way christian louboutin shoes to deal rayban with Tang bottega veneta outlet Jun shipu lululemon.com city north face Tibetan army awkward. The only gucci shoes drawback nike roche run left the cheap michael kors handbags slow coach factory outlet store progress thomas sabo charms on beats by dre headphones the need to attack babyliss pro nano titanium again and easton bats again. Bolt louboutin outlet slowly nike air max consumed by hollister canada the Tibetan adidas army nike outlet effectives oakley sunglasses outlet shipu nike city.
At hermes handbags such times, supra footwear Lee and air jordan release he led thomas sabo the coach outlet online army uggs canada in chanel bag the mountains toms outlet to levis outlet store intercept reinforcements burberry factory outlet Tubo became swarovski jewelry the key celine handbags to the shoes outlet success hermes bags of the ugg boots on sale campaign.
Akamine louis vuitton canada mountain, ferragamo outlet the Tibetan army began north face the hollisterco third mizuno running shoes frenzied attack, burberry outlet store due michael kors to the juicycouture.com city prada purses for horloges help gucci sneakers shipu war raging ugg boots once mac makeup again youth baseball bats ignite, louis vuitton bags so Tubo Ralpacan realize north face outlet gravity louis vuitton outlet online of the situation, this time, he abercrombie and fitch put two coach outlet million heavy army, trying nike store Tang ralph lauren polo has captured a the north face outlet second line adidas.nl of tory burch handbags defense,
The first tommy hilfiger canada line of vans defense rayban has north face jackets clearance been gucci occupied burberry sale by juicycouture.com the ralphlauren.com Tibetan prada purses army, hollister co as tory burch sandals their base to attack insanity workout schedule the prada second line tommy hilfiger of oakley sunglasses outlet defense, bebe dresses the omega linear swarovski outlet distance moncler between louis vuitton the two louis vuitton australia lines polo ralph lauren of ray ban sunglasses outlet defense michael kors outlet online is seven hundred, true religion clearance but tom shoes only steep lululemon outlet cliff, ugg boots australia the michael kors outlet online sale majority air jordan shoes are tiffany's jewelry unable rolex watches for sale to ray ban climb tiffany canada the cliff, burberry only ugg australia three yoga pants each converse.com The trench chanel 3 nike outlet feet christian louboutin wide, distributed harrods london in up jerseys from china to three ugg australia in abercrombie and fitch the rock face, mountain ralph lauren outlet difficult michael kors outlet to oakley sunglasses outlet make nike air max 90 a second air max Tibetan the north face outlet army offensive has beats by dre headphones failed christian louboutin outlet miserably, and ferragamo outlet now is the third adidas offense, long champ they also put new balance up an offensive true religion jeans women force. oakley sunglasses