#Education Week in Review | May 5, 2014

Posted: May 05, 2014

Guest post by Matt Smith

The House considers a charter school funding bill, and the U.S. graduation rate reaches a milestone. Plus, opposition to Common Core intensifies, and should student test scores be included in the evaluation of teachers?

The Education Week in Review is a weekly recap of the national debate. This week, four 100-word summaries on charter schools, common core, the graduation rate, and teacher evaluation.

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Charter Schools









U.S. House of Representatives.

In 5 Words: House considers school funding bill.

In 100 Words: The U.S. House considers a school funding bill that would make it easier to open charter schools. Supporters on both sides of the aisle are fed up with public school reform. Detractors, mostly on the left, say public schools will lose high-functioning students to charters, leaving the system in worse shape. And they hurl two charges at supporters’ true motivations: to privatize education for profit and to weaken teachers unions. The New York Times hints at these charges in an inflammatory article about the Walton Family Foundation. Defenders attack the author for her insinuations and left-leaning bias. The links:

  • Our favorite → NYT — A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools
  • WSJ — Congress Is Going Back to School
  • NYMag — What’s Behind That Insanely Hostile New York Times Story on Charter Schools?
  • EduShyster — The Great Big Lovin’ Walheart
  • The New York Sun — Waltons Derided by N.Y. Times As Its Own School Charity Fails
  • Washington Examiner — Demonizing Walmart’s founding family over their support for educating the poor

Photo credit: “House of Representatives Building and the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol — Washington (DC) January 2013” by Ron Cogswell licensed under CC Attribution 2.0.

Common Core














President Obama.

In 5 Words: Obama may have a problem.

In 100 Words: The contentiousness around Common Core continues to increase. We count five groups railing against it: libertarians opposed to centralized control; teachers angry at not being included in development and implementation; anti-Obama Republicans; activists against testing; and activists against corporate influence. Supporters of Common Core are probably larger in number — the accountability hawks, the charter advocates, the learning companies, forty-four states, and a majority of teachers (NYT) — but opponents are louder. Watch out for a second state, like Oklahoma, to step back from CCSS in response to public pressure. The links:

  • Our favorite → Taking Note — The Common Core Brouhaha
  • NYT — When the Circus Descends
  • CNN — Common Core Promotes StudentS
  • TPM — The Vast Network of Common Core Conspiracy Theories
  • Salon — “The Common Core May Actually Fail”: Union Chief Sounds Off on Christie, Rhee, and For-Profit Testing “Gag Order”
  • WaPo — The Scary Way Common Core Test “Cut Scores” Are Selected
  • Chalkbeat Indiana — Indiana Has New Academic Standards
  • Thomas B. Fordham Institute — Common Core: The Day After

Photo credit: “Obama” by Anna licensed under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

High School Graduation










High school graduation.

In 5 Words: U.S. graduation rate reaches milestone.

In 100 Words: The graduation rate for U.S. high schools has reached 80 percent, an all-time high. Many efforts contributed to the achievement: increased awareness of the dropout problem; the closing of schools dubbed “dropout factories”; the inclusion of dropout rates in assessing schools; and stronger adult relationships for at-risk students. The data do highlight some ugly achievement gaps across racial groups, socioeconomic groups, and states. However, by closing these gaps, authors of the report claim the U.S. can attain a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Its recommendations? Focus on California, special needs, racial gaps, income gaps, and big cities. The links:

  • Our favorite → Vox — The High School Graduation Rate Is at an All-Time High — But There Are Still Big Gaps
  • Politico — High School Graduation Rate Could Hit 90 Percent
  • GradNation — Building A GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic (2014)
  • Houston Chronicle — Report: 4 in 5 U.S. High School Students Graduate

Photo credit: “window pics 1” by U.S. Department of Education licensed under CC Attribution 2.0.

Teacher Evaluation













Classroom teacher.

In 5 Words: Should student testing be included?

In 100 Words: Education reform advocates call for more stringent evaluation of teachers. The rationale makes sense: Great schools need great teachers. So Common Core increases the weight of student test scores in teacher evaluation. Detractors find the heavy weight problematic. They say, test scores do not accurately reflect teacher performance. Plus, high-stakes testing creates perverse incentives, and perverse incentives erode two elements of high-functioning schools: strong supports and internal accountability (Hechinger Report). Regardless, Obama is standing pat: Last week, Washington state voted down the inclusion of test scores in teacher evaluation and the president pulled $40 million in federal funding. The links:

  • Our favorite → Hechinger Report — Why Getting Teacher Accountability Right Is Essential to Common Core’s Success
  • NPR — Wash. Loses “No Child Left Behind” Waiver over Teacher Evaluations
  • EdWeek — Do Standardized Tests Measure What We Value?
  • ABC News — Washington Loses Waiver on No Child Left Behind
  • Jay P. Greene’s Blog — Teacher Evaluation: Lake Woebegon Hasn’t Been Fixed By Central Planners
  • This Week in Education — Bruno: What If Teacher Evaluation Isn’t Actually Broken After All?

Photo credit: “Olympic Week-Teacher for a Day” by Chicago 2016 licensed under CC Attribution 2.0.

There you have it, this week’s recap of the national debate. Got feedback? We want it.

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.