#Education Week in Review | May 19, 2014

Posted: May 19, 2014

Guest post by Matt Smith

Less than 40% of 12th graders are prepared for college-level math and reading. Plus: Evaluating the charter school movement 20 years in, a debate over how to evaluate public school teachers, coding is headed for the K-12 mainstream, and the commencement speaker protests raise some interesting questions.

The Education Week in Review is a weekly recap of the national debate for busy parents and professionals. This week, five summaries of 100 words. Got feedback? We want it.

Featured photo credit: “Barack Obama” by Joe Crimmings licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

National Assessment of Educational Progress

10 Words: Stagnant scores for 12th graders fuel concerns over American competitiveness.

100 Words: Every four years the U.S. Department of Education administers standardized tests to three grades: 4th, 8th, and 12th. These are the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP has released its results from 2013, the most recent year of tests. Despite modest gains in the lower grades, the 12th grade results have remained stagnant for decades. Less than 40% of 12th graders are prepared for college-level math and reading. There are massive achievement gaps between whites and minorities (up to 30 points and growing). Even high-achieving students made no progress, fueling concern about the future of American competitiveness. The links:

Our favorite → Thomas B. Fordham Institute — The mystery that is twelfth-grade NAEP
MSNBC — Education racial gap wide as ever according to NAEP
EdWeek — Fewer Than 40 Percent of Seniors Are Prepared for College, NAEP Analysis Finds
Education Next — U.S. Students from Educated Families Lag in International Tests
Education by the Numbers — High school wasteland: Demographic changes do not explain test-score stagnation among U.S. high school seniors

Charter Schools

10 Words: Charter school movement not living up to its billing.

100 Words: The charter school movement began 20 years ago. Today two million students attend charters, representing 5-6% of U.S. school children. A new report summarizes the state of affairs with refreshing clearheadedness, given how heated this argument can be. (Remember, charters were designed to stimulate education innovation for the benefit of all school children.) The report has three major takeaways: 1) although some charters enjoy outstanding success, 2) public schools are not benefiting from their success, and 3) the crime perpetrated by some charter administrators is completely out of control. The report puts forth a series of insightful reforms. The links:

Our favorite → Salon — Charter schools are cheating your kids: New report reveals massive fraud, mismanagement, abuse
NYT — Charters, Public Schools and a Chasm Between
Education Next — Despite Success in New York City, It’s Time for Charters to Guard Their Flanks
Integrity in Education — Report: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud & Abuse

Photo credit: “03312014 – Concept Charter Schools Student Art Exhibit opening” by US Department of Education licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Teacher Evaluation

10 words: More ammunition for those opposed to factoring in test scores.

100 words: The Obama administration pressured states to develop systems for evaluating their public school teachers. In response, most states factored in student test score gains (year-over-year improvements). However, opposition to the formula is growing and this week the opposition gained some ammunition. A new report (Brookings) and a new study (AERA) were released. Both criticize the use of including test scores. The Obama administration showed some give, an acknowledgment that these formulas are hard to get right. Interesting to note, the Brookings report was funded by the Gates Foundation, an influential proponent of including test score gains. The links:

Our favorite →  Education by the Numbers — Researchers give failing marks to national effort to measure good teaching
WaPo — Good teaching, poor test scores: Doubt cast on grading teachers by student performance
WaPo — The irony in new study that bashes popular teacher evaluation method
EdWeek — Ed. Dept. to Extend NCLB Waivers Without Considering Teacher Evaluation
EdWeek — Research Detects Bias in Classroom Observations
Brookings — Evaluating Teachers with Classroom Observations: Lessons Learned in Four Districts
Education Dive — Report: Bias found in teacher evals
American Educational Research Association (AERA) — Study: State Value-Added Performance Measures Do Not Reflect the Content or Quality of Teachers’ Instruction

Photo credit: “Teacher In Classroom” by www.audio-luci-store.it licensed under CC BY 2.0.


10 Words: Coding may be headed for the K-12 mainstream.

100 Words: Coding is the process of writing a computer program. Over the past 20 years, the tech industry has grown, but schools have not adapted, meaning we don’t have enough coders in the workforce. Now an effort is under way to interest school children in coding. One strategy is to lobby schools to add computer science classes. Another strategy is to develop apps for families to buy, like video games. This week, in a possible harbinger, a startup company with an app for the iPad that teaches kids to code raised $1.2 million in seed funding. The links:

Our favorite →  Code.org — California CEOs, educators and community leaders call on Governor Jerry Brown to expand computer science
NYT — Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding
TechCrunch — Hopscotch, An iPad App That Helps Kids Learn To Code, Raises $1.2M

Photo credit: “Code” by Michael Himbeault licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Commencement Speaker Protests

10 Words: The commencement speaker protests raise some interesting questions.

100 Words: A small number of college commencement speakers have withdrawn, most notably Condoleezza Rice and Christine Lagarde, after student protests. These protests raise some interesting questions. One, is protesting a commencement speaker “healthy debate or an intolerance of it?” (NPR) Two, how angry do students have to be to sign an online petition? Three, will these students continue their armchair or hashtag activism after they graduate? The links:

Our favorite →  Slate — Elite College Students Protest Their Elite Commencement Speakers
NPR — What Drives Protests On Campus?
Time — The Problem With Graduation Speaker Purity Tests
WaPo — One of the most powerful women in the world won’t speak at Smith College after protests

Photo credit: “Secretary Condoleezza Rice India visit, December 3, 2008” by U.S. Embassy New Delhi licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Matthew Smith is a director at Longacre, a summer camp. Longacre uses the summer to prepare ambitious teenagers for long term success. Follow Matt on Twitter.