Standards & Testing

Overview

Standards & Testing

There are few questions more crucial to the field of education than what students should learn and how that learning should be measured. This Topics section examines several currently hot topics – including common standards, international comparisons, and cheating – in the often-contentious realm of standards and testing.

There are few questions more crucial to the field of education than what students should learn and how that learning should be measured. This Topics section examines several currently hot topics – including common standards, international comparisons, and cheating – in the often-contentious realm of standards and testing.

While standards and tests have been part of American public education since before the 20th century, the modern push for standards-based reform is often traced to the 1983 publication of “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” Warning of a “rising tide of mediocrity,” the report prompted a surge of political interest in school reform that resulted in several unsuccessful attempts to develop national standards and tests. But while those efforts fell short, states took the initiative to develop standards on their own; between 1990 and 2002, most states developed specific standards for their core academic subjects, as well as tests that purported to measure how well students were learning them.

Yet many experts say the marriage of standards and assessments was not complete until after the federal No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2002. NCLB tied federal funding to a requirement that states administer standards-based tests to students in grades 3-8 and once in high school – far more testing than most states had previously conducted. The federal law also imposed an array of new consequences for schools that failed to show “adequate yearly progress” on state exams. But the law also left it up the states to determine where to set the bar on standards and tests. The result, many analysts argue, has been enormous disparities across states in what students are expected to achieve.

Despite those disparities, the nation has long had a common yardstick for measuring student achievement: the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card.” NAEP exams are taken periodically by representative samples of students in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades in various subjects. Though prominent and influential within the education policymaking world, NAEP exams do not provide student-level achievement scores, are not tied to accountability requirements, and are not linked to a specific set of standards being implemented in the schools.

Read the results from the most recent NAEP results in fourth and eighth math and reading, which were released in November of 2013. Something to note: The results can be interpreted in many ways. For some, nearly 40 percent of the tested population scoring at the level of proficient in math is a positive sign, given that in 1990 that was true for less than a fifth of students. To others, it means less than half of fourth graders are proficient in math, 

Push for Common Standards

With the Common Core State Standards, a new attempt is underway to wed standards and assessments. As of June 2012, 46 states plus the District of Columbia had agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which aim to spell out what students should know and be able to do throughout their K-12 education careers. Not all the participating states adopted both the Mathematics and English Language Arts portions of the Common Core; Minnesota elected to use their own Mathematics standards. 

Development of the Common Core State Standards was spearheaded by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the nonprofit group Achieve, using private grant funding. Under the initiative, groups have organized to develop standards in mathematics and English Language Arts, as well as standards for literacy in the sciences and social studies. Meanwhile, two interstate consortia are creating related assessments, which are slated to be fully implemented in 2014-15 with mathematics and English Language Arts components for grades three through high school. Those consortia are the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), managed by Achieve, and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), managed by WestEd. The process of building the assessments was funded through $360 million from the U.S. Department of Education with funds from the federal economic-stimulus act of 2009.

Among the factors seen as lending momentum to the common standards movement is the lackluster performance by U.S. students on international assessments, rising concerns about preparing students to compete in a global workforce, and the wide variations in expectations and performance among states. The Common Core initiative aims to erect instructional signposts that guide students toward an end goal of graduating from high school ready for college and careers. Among the concerns some critics of the standards have raised is the question of whether the standards-writers have strayed from content into pedagogy. Some critics have taken aim at the “publisher’s criteria,” which guide the development of curricular and instructional materials based on the standards, saying that the criteria include specific instructions on how teachers should lead lessons.

And in contrast to NCLB testing, Common Core involves states’ agreeing to set a single minimum “cut score” that students must attain on the tests to be designated proficient. The idea is to enable participating states to measure their student achievement against a shared yardstick. While each consortium will have its own cut score, supporters of the new assessments say that two cut scores among the participating states and the District of Columbia represent an improvement over the status quo of separate cut scores in each state.

The common assessments also are being designed to be administered electronically, a feature that advocates say will speed delivery of results. The two consortia also plan to offer several “formative assessments” over the course of a school year before the more high-stakes “summative” tests. Assessment planners maintain the additional periodic testing will allow teachers to better target student weaknesses ahead of end-of-year exams.

Education experts already have started to debate whether the Common Core Standards are more rigorous than standards currently in place. A 2011 survey of more than 300 school districts in the participating states by the Center on Education Policy found that roughly 60 percent of respondents believed the Common Core Standards are more rigorous than the ones they have been using. Yet some experts have questioned that conclusion. Likewise, some scholars have raised questions about whether the standards are likely to have much impact on raising student achievement. Even strong supporters of the initiative acknowledge that how states and districts implement the common standards and assessments will make all the difference in how they affect students and schools.

International tests

Part of the impetus for designing the Common Core State Standards was to catch up with other countries that place highly on international exams, including the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2009, students from dozens of countries, including 34 from the OECD, were tested in math, reading, and science. The U.S. ranked 25th, 12th, and 17th in those subjects respectively, among participating nations. The results, published in December 2010, were greeted with renewed calls for education reform and closing the international achievement gap. The 2012 results, which came out in December 2013, showed little change among U.S. students while a bevy of poorer countries saw considerable gains, and some like Poland and Vietnam surpassed the U.S. Fifteen-year olds in the U.S. were below average in mathematics, while in English and Science their scores were on par with the OECD average. More than a quarter of U.S. students finished in the lowest tier of math, while less than a tenth demonstrated skills that placed them in the top tier of the subject. Leading PISA countries had far more of their students place in the top tier than in the bottom rung. 

Some analysts have noted differences in how U.S. students from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds perform on international comparisons. For example, on the 2009 PISA tests, the gap in performance between rich and poor students in the United States was among the highest of all participating nations, while the countries with the top scores overall had smaller performance gaps between their students of different income levels. On average, various U.S. racial and ethnic subgroups perform differently on the exams, as well. For instance, according to the Education Trust, U.S. students classified as white or Asian-American scored similarly to students from such high-scoring countries as Japan and Finland. However, students from historically underserved African-American and Latino subgroups performed at levels comparable to students in lower-scoring nations, such as Turkey and Bulgaria. Despite the gap, the OECD notes that for the 2012 results, the U.S.’s share of poor students approaches the OECD average. OECD also writes America’s large percentage of immigrant students can explain only 4 percent of the country’s scores. Canada, a similarly high-immigrant country, performs better than the U.S. across all subjects. 

The OECD chalks up some of America’s middling performance to the low share of poor students who can be characterized as ‘resilient’ — meaning their scores are comparable to wealthier students despite their modest socio-economic backgrounds. In leading PISA countries, far more low-income students display such resilience. 

Another international exam worth looking at is Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), in which roughly 60 countries participate. Fourth and eighth graders are evaluated according to a rubric developed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), of which the U.S. Department of Education is a member. The tests have been administered every four years since 1995. Results for 2011 were released in December of 2012. Here’s EWA’s summary of the findings. Previous results were posted in 2008 from the 2007 tests. In the most recent scores, U.S. fourth graders were bested by five other countries or sub–country groups like Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Russia, but scored higher than 40 other education systems (a term used by the group behind the tests to account for participants that technically are not countries). In general, U.S. fourth graders’ scores were more competitive relative to their peers when compared to how well U.S. eighth graders placed against their peers. The test publishers also tally results for select U.S. states, showing that Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and Indiana fourth and eighth graders scored nearly as high as international leaders in math. 

A cross-country study released in late 2013 shows American eighth graders in most states test above average in math and science when compared to students abroad. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont lead all U.S. states in science performance, besting 42 of the 47 countries that were evaluated in the study. Students in 36 states were above average in math, while those in 47 states reached that threshold in science. The report compared NAEP results to international TIMSS scores. 

Cheating

PISA and TIMSS, like NAEP, are not high-stakes exams, and teachers and schools are not held directly accountable for students’ results on those tests. But when test scores carry immediate consequences – such as whether schools meet targets for “adequate yearly progress” under NCLB, or whether students earn admission to selective universities – cheating has emerged as a serious issue.

One prominent NCLB-era cheating scandal was the revelation in 2011 that 44 schools and 178 principals and teachers in Atlanta routinely erased incorrect student answers on standardized test sheets and replaced them with the correct ones. A state report on the scandal described efforts to exert pressure on those educators to improve scores.

One technique for uncovering suspicious test-score patterns is “erasure analysis,” which considers how many test answers are changed from wrong to right and how many students make the same corrections. The method involves calculating the likelihood of those wrong-to-right changes happening by chance, with very small probabilities signaling possible cheating. In 2011, USA Today used erasure analysis for a national series that raised questions about apparent test-score anomalies in six states and the District of Columbia.  

Among college-bound students, cheating of a different kind has been chronicled –students taking the SATs or ACTs for peers who pay for the service. In 2011, The New York Times revealed one such cheating operation on Long Island. Those reports led the College Board to alter its SAT registration process, adding the requirement that students upload a photograph of themselves so that proctors can ensure that the student sitting for the test is the one who registered.

Even though more universities are telling students that SAT and ACT scores are not mandatory, many postsecondary institutions rely on those standardized tests as a hedge against high school transcripts with inflated grades. For example, one 2009 study found that high school grade point averages rose among Virginia applicants without any corresponding uptick in SAT scores. — Mikhail Zinshteyn, December 2013

Member Stories

October 5 – October 12
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Lauren McGaughy of The Dallas Morning News follows the controversy of a cancelled conservative speaker at a Houston HBCU that led to a war of words and accusations of infringement on free speech.

 
 

Jason Gonzales examines the results of The Tennessean’s two-year investigation of the challenges for teaching literacy in Nashville schools, which reveal stark differences in reading levels fueled by poverty and environmental factors. 

Member Stories

September 28 – October 5
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Natalie Pate of the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, reports on how Congress’ failure to reauthorize two federal programs – the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – will potentially affect millions of children and vulnerable families nationwide.

 
 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Student ‘Expeditions’ Help Drive, Inspire Learning at D.C. Charter School

The second-graders at a charter school in the nation’s capital recently discovered a problem: a lack of “green spaces” in certain parts of the city.

The students at Two Rivers Public Charter School conducted research. But they didn’t stop there. They also wrote letters to the city council to share their concerns about inequitable access to green spaces across Washington, D.C.

The letters described the situation, explained why having such spaces in urban environments is important, and offered solutions, including the idea of helping to plant gardens near campus.

Member Stories

September 21 – 28
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Jennifer Chambers of the Detroit News reports on Ivanka Trump’s visit to Detroit to help advance a $500 public-private partnership to promote STEM and computer science in the nation’s schools.

 
 

Education Week’s Evie Blad examines the First Amendment rights of students in light of recent protests at national sporting events, and gives advice to educators on how to turn such events into a teachable moment. 


 

Latest News

Iowa ESSA Survey Asks Students to Gauge Teachers, Schools

Students’ opinions about their teachers, classmates and schools may be included in measures that hold Iowa schools accountable.

The effort to include student voices comes as teachers and parents clamor for ways to measure schools beyond math and reading tests.

The state recently submitted its Every Student Succeeds Act plan for federal approval. It replaces the state’s plan under the No Child Left Behind law.

Key Coverage

Inside ESSA Plans: How Are States Looking Beyond Test Scores?

School officials: Get ready to figure out whether your students have a problem with chronic absenteeism. And while you’re at it, see if you’re getting them ready for college and the workplace. 

Attendance—particularly chronic absenteeism—and college-and-career readiness are by far the most popular new areas of focus for accountability among the 40-plus states that have filed their plans to implement the Every Student Success Act, an Education Week review shows.

Key Coverage

Your One-Stop Shop for ESSA Info on Teachers, Testing, Money, and More

For teachers, parents, principals, and others, the Every Student Succeeds Act is no longer on the horizon. Now it’s in their schools.

Yes, ESSA has officially taken effect this school year. All but four states have turned in their plans for the education law’s implementation to the federal government—and some states’ plans have already gotten approved by the U.S. Department of Education. But there’s a decent chance you’re still gathering information and learning about ESSA.

Latest News

Florida Submits Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

After months of planning and feedback, the Florida Department of Education submitted its federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan on Wednesday.

Originally, the department had intended to request waivers relating to percentages of students tested, assessment exemptions for English learners and the use of demographic subgroups to differentiate accountability.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Slight Gains for Hispanics on ACT, but Achievement Gap Persists

More Hispanic students are taking the ACT college-entrance exam, and in some states their scores inched up, new data show. But the achievement gap persists for the class of 2017, with many Hispanic students failing to meet benchmarks for university-level work.

Key Coverage

Rivalries, Political Infighting Marked States’ ESSA Planning

The grinding, two-year process of drafting accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act has upended states’ K-12 political landscape and laid bare long-simmering factions among power brokers charged with putting the new federal education law into effect this school year.

Latest News

Gov. Hogan Refuses to Sign Off on Maryland Education Plan

Gov. Larry Hogan is refusing to endorse the Maryland school board’s plan for helping low-performing schools, saying state board members were hamstrung by a new law limiting what the plan can include.

The General Assembly passed legislation this year that limits ways the state can try to reform its lowest-performing schools — those in the bottom 5 percent. The Republican governor vetoed that bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode him.

Latest News

Nebraska Sends Betsy DeVos Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

With the dust settled on Betsy DeVos’ visit, Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt wants something from the U.S. education secretary: her autograph.

DeVos must sign off on Nebraska’s newly minted plan for implementing the new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Key Coverage

On State Accountability Plans, Another Test for Betsy DeVos

Monday marks the final deadline by which nearly all states must have submitted a K-12 accountability plan to the U.S. Department of Education, marking a pivotal – if not yet final – step in how schools will operate under the new federal education law.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, gives states new flexibility to create accountability systems that suit their unique needs. Those plans must be vetted and cleared by the Department of Education before states begin implementing them in the near future.

Latest News

State Superintendent Says Plan Aims at Reaching All Students in Need

State officials in Washington are proposing a plan they say will help every child succeed.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal visited Marie Curie STEM Elementary School in Pasco to announce the submission of the state’s plan to meet the requirements set out in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The law, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, requires each state to develop a plan showing how they will spend federal dollars. The Department of Education has 120 days to comment on the plan before making a decision about it.

Latest News

Iowa Sends Every Student Succeeds Act Plan to U.S. Department of Education

Iowa officials submitted their plan to meet new education standards under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind policy and was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. In Iowa, it is intended to be fully implemented by Fall 2018.

The legislation maintains some of No Child Left Behind’s focus on school accountability, though not its sanctions against underperforming schools, and gives states more control over how schools are assessed and monitored.

Key Coverage

Testing Remains Key Part of Georgia’s Education Plan

Georgia hopes to embark on a new education plan that shifts away from the tough test-and-punish regime of the past that some say was unrealistic and unfair but others say held schools accountable for all students, including their worst performers.

On Monday, the state will submit its plan for compliance with the latest updates to the federal education law, known as the No Child Left Behind Act under President Georgia Bush and now as the Every Student Succeeds Act, after it was amended with bipartisan support under President Barack Obama more than a year ago.

Latest News

Vermont Test Scores Slide

When Michael Hock learned how Vermont students scored on the statewide standardized test this year, even he was surprised — and he’s the director of assessment at the Vermont Agency of Education.

The results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, taken by all Vermont public school students in grades three through eight and grade 11 in English language arts and math, show a decline in student performance from the 2015-2016 school year. 

Key Coverage

Wisconsin’s ESSA Plan Puts Power at Local Level

The task of turning around failing public schools would fall to local school boards and communities, rather than outside operators or state-mandated recovery districts, under Wisconsin’s plan to comply with the new federal education law, which was made public Monday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers filed the plan with the U.S. Department of Education on Monday, just days after Gov. Scott Walker announced he would not sign it because it did not include some of the more aggressive reforms proposed by other states.

Latest News

Iowa’s ESSA Plan to Replace No Child Left Behind

Iowa leaders are seeking federal approval for a new school accountability plan that will replace No Child Left Behind’s approach to holding schools accountable for student performance. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015. It gives state leaders broader authority to use their own measures of success when evaluating schools.

Key Coverage

Is Iowa’s ESSA Plan Doing Enough for Low-Income and Minority Students?

Iowa’s minority and low-income students will have different — sometimes lower — goals than their white, affluent peers under a new school accountability plan developed by the Iowa Department of Education.

That is drawing attention to the sticky crossroads of educational aspirations and the reality of helping students who are sometimes three to four grade levels below their peers.

Latest News

Virginia Submits New Education Plan for Federal Review

Students’ academic growth will carry greater weight in evaluating Virginia schools under a new plan the state has submitted for federal approval.

The plan lays out how Virginia will comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. It revamps the widely criticized George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, allowing states to design their own standards of achievement and progress, and decide how to help struggling schools.

Latest News

S.D. Department of Education Changes Criteria for Evaluating Public Schools

South Dakota officially has new criteria for what makes a successful public school. 

The state Board of Education Standards on Monday approved rules for public school accountability in accordance with the new federal K-12 education law.

More changes are likely as the state looks for other ways to assess school quality, but Monday’s vote officially pushed South Dakota schools into the era of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Latest News

Minnesota Set to Revamp How Public Schools Are Graded

After years of intense pressure on school test scores, the state’s education department on Monday submitted a final plan to the federal government that broadens its previous reach — promising to evaluate more schools than before, and in a well-rounded fashion.

With the federal No Child Left Behind education law being replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) nationwide, Minnesota will focus on the lowest-performing schools that get federal money for low-income students.

Latest News

Pennsylvania Submits Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Gov. Tom Wolf signed off on Pennsylvania’s roadmap for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act on Monday and submitted it to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her approval.

The plan, which was made public Monday, establishes what the department describes as “ambitious yet attainable” goals of raising student performance, increasing graduation rates and having English learners move toward achieving English language proficiency.

Latest News

Public Needs More Data in Annual Snapshot of Public School Districts, Officials Say

How public schools are rated annually needs to be expanded to shed light on gaps in access to the best teachers, race and income, state officials said.

Under current rules, districts are given letter grades yearly based largely on how students fare on key tests.That would not change.But doing so ignores the wide range of school performance in a district, including access to certified teachers, officials said.

Latest News

What Happens to 5,000 CMS Kids Who Failed Grade 3 Reading?

In 2012 North Carolina lawmakers decided they could improve education by requiring third-graders to show they could read at grade level before advancing to fourth grade. The idea was that educators, students and families would be more motivated to develop reading skills early.

But five years later, the law that was billed as ending “social promotion” hasn’t created a more literate student population. In North Carolina and CMS, third-grade reading proficiency has actually dropped slightly in the ensuing years, according to 2017 data released last week.

Latest News

‘We Didn’t Know It Was This Bad’: New Act Scores Show Huge Achievement Gaps

New results from the nation’s most widely used college admission test highlight in detailed fashion the persistent achievement gaps between students who face disadvantages and those who don’t.

Scores from the ACT show that just 9 percent of students in the class of 2017 who came from low-income families, whose parents did not go to college, and who identify as black, Hispanic, American Indian or Pacific Islander are strongly ready for college.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Poll: Public Values Career Classes, Support Services at Schools

When it comes to judging a school’s quality, what matters most? A new poll suggests the American public puts a premium on offerings outside of traditional academics, including career-focused education, developing students’ interpersonal skills, and providing after-school programs and mental health care.

At the same time, even as local schools were generally viewed favorably in the national survey, parents said they would consider taking advantage of vouchers for private or religious schools if the price was right.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Do’s and Don’ts of Covering Education Research

When it comes to education research, the biggest mistake journalists make is avoiding it.

In her talk at EWA’s recent annual conference in Washington, D.C., Holly Yettick admitted that’s what she did when she was a reporter: Dismiss research as too difficult to cover or something for national publications.

Today, as the director of the Education Week Research Center, Yettick doesn’t want reporters to make the same error, and miss out on studies that can help them break news, add context to their stories, and hold public officials accountable.

Latest News

Despite Test Gains, Only A Third Of D.C. Students Rated “College And Career Ready”

About a third of public school students in the District are considered “college and career ready” in math and English, according to test scores released Thursday that showed slight gains in both subjects, particularly in the traditional public schools.

D.C. Public Schools, which educates a little more than half of the District’s 90,000 public schoolchildren, surpassed the performance of charter schools in English language arts and math by small margins. The charter schools also made gains, now boasting 10 straight years of rising scores.

Latest News

How New York Stopped Being the Nation’s Education Reform Capital

Charters were just one piece of a broader dream for advocates, who sought to make New York City — the nation’s largest school district — into the central urban laboratory for education reform. They hoped to overhaul how schools evaluate teachers, and to weaken the grip of the powerful teachers’ union by loosening tenure laws. If they could accomplish those foundational reforms — in a deep blue state, no less — then perhaps New York could serve as a beacon for similar efforts across the country.

But the revolution in New York City was never realized.

Latest News

ESSA’s New High School Testing Flexibility: What’s The Catch?

When the Every Student Succeeds Act passed, one of the things that educators were most excited about was the chance to cut down on the number of tests kids have to take, Specifically, the law allows some districts to offer a nationally recognized college-entrance exam instead of the state test for accountability.

But that flexibility could be more complicated than it appears on paper.

Latest News

90% Of Parents Think Their Kids Are On Track In Math & Reading. The Real Number? Just 1 In 3, Survey Shows

One parent thought teachers with emergency certificates had CPR training. Another heard the phrase “school climate” and thought her child’s school had a broken air-conditioning system.

These are just a few of the misconceptions the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Learning Heroes has heard while trying to help parents understand the jargon-heavy education landscape at their children’s schools. And though they may be amusing examples, they reveal a concerning communication gap between schools and parents.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Parent Activists Flex Their Muscles in Education Policy Debates

From room mom to PTA president, parents have long played an important and active part in their children’s schools. But increasingly, parents are taking on a new, potentially powerful, role — activist.

In many states, parent groups have become a political force to be reckoned with — swarming  city halls and state capitols and flooding the phone lines of elected officials to voice their opinions on issues such as the Common Core State Standards, standardized testing, and school choice.

Member Stories

July 28 – August 3
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

The Florida Times-Union’s Denise Smith Amos reports on a local district’s disproportionate rates of suspension and discipline amongst black students.

 
 

Writing for EducationDive, Linda Jacobson speaks with educators still working out how to get the right balance of testing without sacrificing valuable instructional time.


 

Latest News

Teachers Gear Up For A New Kind Of Ninth Grade

Furr High School is gearing up to launch a new kind of ninth grade. It’s part of how Furr, which used to have a reputation for drop-outs and gang violence, is trying to transform high school, with the help of a $10 million grant. At one recent workshop, half a dozen ninth grade instructors brainstormed for the new ninth grade, thinking about how to give students more ownership in the curriculum and testing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Keeps Public School Parents Awake at Night?

When it comes to their children’s education, what are parents’ biggest concerns? Paying for college is No. 1. After that, they worry about their children’s happiness and safety at school.

But academics? Not so much. Parents do care, but as long as their children are perceived to be happy and succeeding — especially if that’s what teachers are telling them – they figure everything is fine in that area.

Member Stories

July 7 – 13
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Kevin Richert reports for Idaho Ed News that barely 12 percent of Idaho’s class of 2016 graduated high school with AP college credits in hand — lagging well below the national average.

 
 

Jennifer Palmer writes for Oklahoma Watch about how some districts are now raising a long-held cap on the number of students in pre-K classrooms, a move that could dilute the state’s most admired and arguably successful educational initiative.

Member Stories

June 30 – July 6
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Adam Harris of The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an update on the month of stagnation since Betsy DeVos has taken reporters’ questions, or made other senior officials available to explain policy shifts.

 
 

Member Stories

June 23 – 29
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

The Rivard Report’s Bekah McNeel explains that while changes to the funding formula are the ultimate goal for most public school advocates in Texas, some districts are not waiting around for legislative relief.

 
 

Valarie Honeycutt Spears writes for the Lexington Herald Leader about the Kentucky middle school chorus teacher whose recent coming-out as bisexual lent comfort to some of his LGBT students, but also cost him his job.


 

Member Stories

June 16 – 22
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Eva-Marie Ayala of The Dallas Morning News digs into a clash between charter schools pushing for state funds to pay for their buildings, while others want the money to go toward vouchers for private schools. Gov. Greg Abbott has made school choice a focus of the special legislative session that starts July 18.

 
 

Member Stories

June 9 – 15
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Liz Bell of Education NC found that some North Carolina teachers had to mark students’ final grades as “incomplete” because they received final exam scores before their grading deadlines, and in some cases, teachers were asked to come back to school—after their contracts are over—to amend students’ final grades.

 
 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Advocates Fear Impact of Trump Budget on Arts Education

President Donald Trump’s plans to eliminate some big-tickets items in the federal education budget — such as aid for after-school and teacher quality programs – have sparked sharp criticism. At the same time, supporters of the arts are rallying against the president’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts — which provides some grants for arts education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Does Charter School Innovation Look Like?

At Summit Public Schools campuses, you won’t see PowerPoint lectures on “Antigone” in English class or witness lofty explanations of the Pythagorean theorem in geometry. Instead, you’ll hear a discussion about the morals and ethics in the ancient Greek tragedy tied to students’ own teenage identity formation and observe discussions on how real-life problem-solving skills can be applied to math.

EWA Radio

“The View From Room 205”: Can Schools Conquer Poverty?
EWA Radio: Episode 109

Peabody Award-winning radio journalist Linda Lutton of WBEZ in Chicago discusses her new documentary following a class of fourth graders in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Is a “no excuses” school model a realistic approach for kids whose families are struggling to provide basics like shelter and food? How does Chicago Public Schools’ emphasis on high-stakes testing play out at William Penn Elementary? How can education reporters make the most of their access to classrooms, teachers, students, and families? And what lessons from “Room 205” could apply to the ongoing debate over how to best lift students out of poverty?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Education Secretaries Betsy DeVos Would Follow

A Senate committee is slated to vote tomorrow on President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education — philanthropist and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos. The Education Department is one of the newer federal departments, created during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and beginning its work in May of 1980.

Report

Examining the Utility of Achievement Levels for the ‘Nation’s Report Card’
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that while the NAEP achievement levels for reading and math can be a useful reporting tool, they are susceptible to misinterpretation and misuse.  The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report said that users of NAEP data need more guidance on the interpretations and use of achievement levels.

Report

Examining the Utility of Achievement Levels for the ‘Nation’s Report Card’
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds that while the NAEP achievement levels for reading and math can be a useful reporting tool, they are susceptible to misinterpretation and misuse.  The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report said that users of NAEP data need more guidance on the interpretations and use of achievement levels.

EWA Radio

‘Quality Counts’ – Rating the Nation’s Public Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 105

Education Week’s Mark Bomster (assistant managing editor) and Sterling Lloyd (senior research associate) discuss the 2017 “Quality Counts” report, which examines and rates state-level efforts to improve public education. This year’s edition features a special focus on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the backbone of the nation’s federal K-12 policy. How ready are states, districts, and schools for the policy shifts — and new flexibility — on school accountability, testing, and teacher evaluations under ESSA, among other issues? What are some story ideas for local reporters covering the implementation? Also, which states scored the highest on Education Week’s ratings when it comes to student achievement, equitable education spending, and the “Chance for Success” index? How can education writers use this data to inform their own reporting?

EWA Radio

2017: Big Education Stories to Watch
EWA Radio: Episode 104

Kate Zernike, The New York Times’ national education reporter, discusses what’s ahead on the beat in 2017. How will President-elect Donald Trump translate his slim set of campaign promises on education into a larger and more detailed agenda? What do we know about the direction Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will seek to take federal policy if she’s confirmed? Zernike also offers story ideas and suggestions for local and regional education reporters to consider in the new year. 

EWA Radio

Students Can’t Recognize Fake News. That’s a Problem.
EWA Radio: Episode 103

Benjamin Herold of Education Week discusses why media literacy is in the spotlight in the wake of the presidential election, and the troubling findings of a new Stanford University study that showed the vast majority of students from middle school through college can’t identify “fake news.” Why are so many digital natives flunking when it comes to evaluating the reliability of material they encounter online? How are policymakers, researchers, and educators proposing that schools address this deficit in critical-thinking skills?

EWA Radio

‘Unprepared’ in Memphis: The Realities of College Readiness
EWA Radio: Episode 99

In a new series, Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jennifer Pignolet tells the story of Shelby County students working hard to make it to college — and to succeed once they arrive. And their challenges aren’t just financial: for some, like Darrius Isom of South Memphis, having reliable transportation to get to class on time is a game changer. And what are some of the in-school and extracurricular programs that students say are making a difference? Pignolet also looks at the the Tennessee Promise program, which provides free community college classes to qualified students, and assigns a mentor to help guide them. 

THANKSGIVING BONUS: EWA journalist members share some of the things they’re grateful for this year. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Students Are Graduating, But That’s Not the Whole Story

As federal education officials tout a fourth consecutive year of improvement in the nation’s high school graduation rate, the reactions that follow are likely to fall into one of three categories: policymakers claiming credit for the gains; critics arguing that achievement gaps are still far too wide to merit celebrating; and policy wonks warning against misuses of the data.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education at Forefront in Statewide Elections

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock talks with students at the Billings Career Center in August 2016. The state's gubernatorial race is being closely watched by education advocates. (Casey Page/The Billings Gazette)

With so much attention focused on the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voters could be forgiven for forgetting they’ll be asked to decide plenty more in November. And the stakes are high for K-12 education in state-level elections, including races for governor, state education chief, and legislative seats, plus ballot measures on education funding and charter schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latinos, Standardized Tests and the Opt-Out Movement

Karen Falla of Univisión Dallas, left, moderated a discussion on standardized testing and the opt-out movement with panelists Peggy McLeod of National Council of La Raza, José Palma of the University of Minnesota, and Ruth Rodriguez of United Opt Out National (not pictured). Source: Leticia Espinosa/ Hoy

While the number of parents who opt out of having their kids take their states’ standardized tests has grown nationally, much of this movement appears to be made up of white, wealthier families. Latinos and other minorities seem to be less inclined to avoid standardized testing.

That should not be the case, said Ruth Rodriguez, an administrator with United Opt Out National.

Report

The Learning Landscape
Bellwether Education Partners

This report examines the status of education in the United States by aggregating high quality research and data from numerous credible sources. Each chapter describes the context and the current state of play in each focus area — including student achievement, standards and testing; school finance, and charter schools, among others. It highlights key policy issues and trends affecting public education now and in the future. 

Seminar

The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1
Washington, D.C. • August 30, 2016

Now that the White House race has narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, how is education playing out as an issue in the campaign? Will it prove an important fault line between the Democratic and Republican candidates? Will Trump offer any details to contrast with Clinton’s extensive set of proposals from early childhood to higher education? What are the potential implications for schools and colleges depending on who wins the White House? Also, what other races this fall should be on the radar of journalists, whether elections for Congress, state legislatures, or governor?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teachers’ Union Applauds Clinton Address, Except on Charters

Hillary Clinton shares her views and agenda for education in a July 5 speech to delegates for the National Education Association.Photo credit: @KristenRec

Hillary Clinton vowed to be a partner with educators if she wins the White House, during a speech today to the nation’s largest teachers’ union. Clinton drew enthusiastic applause from National Education Association members for most of the address, including her calls to make preschool universally available, boost teacher pay, and ease the burden of paying for higher education.

But the presumptive Democratic nominee got a far more muted response, and even some jeers, when she made a positive plug — albeit very briefly — for charter schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Building Better Student Assessments

(Flickr/Federico Feroldi)

Some student assessments don’t look much like standardized tests at all, even when they’re being used for school accountability.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is the AP Program Helping Disadvantaged Students?

Woodstock High School psychology teacher John Headley leads an Advanced Placement class discussion on classical and operant conditions. Woodstock District 200 in Crystal Lake, Illinois has been working with the nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools to be proactive about allowing more students to access AP courses. (H. Rick Bamman / Shaw Media)

Participation in the Advanced Placement program has more than doubled over the past decade, with nearly 2.5 million students taking one or more AP exams in 2015. But with that growth has come questions about the push to ramp up the AP presence, especially initiatives that target low-income and minority students.

How well do AP courses prepare students for the rigors of college? And are students who may lack adequate preparation benefiting from the coursework?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Testing and Test Prep: How Much Is Too Much?

Flickr/Jirka Matousek

It’s not hard to find a teacher willing to bend your ear about the volume of standardized testing in schools today, and the pressure for “test prep.” But how widespread are such concerns among educators? And what’s the on-the-ground reality they experience?

New survey data suggest these impressions about over-testing and test prep are more than just anecdotal: They are the norm for the majority of public school teachers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Why Do Massachusetts Public Schools Lead the Nation?

Massachusetts, a strong performer on both national and international educational rankings, is home to Boston Latin, the nation's oldest public school. (Wikimedia Commons/Daderot)

When it comes to the story of Massachusetts’ public schools, the takeaway, according to the state’s former education secretary, Paul Reville, is that “doing well isn’t good enough.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Trouble With ‘Girls Outscore Boys’ Headlines

A student works in a computer lab at a school in Portland, Oregon. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Education)

In an effort to measure students’ understanding of basic engineering and technology principles, a new national assessment aims to move beyond multiple-choice questions and instead focus on troubleshooting in real-world scenarios. For example, students are tasked with designing a healthier habitat for a pet iguana, or building safer bike lanes in a city.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Taking Stock of Student Testing

Panelists at EWA's National Seminar in Boston on May 2. From left: Michael Casserly, Linda Hanson, Mitchell Chester, and Andrew Ho. (Shirley Goh for EWA)

As states and districts debate which standardized tests are best for students, they are evaluating many factors, including curriculum alignment, the amount of time the assessments take, and how soon the results come in.

During an Education Writers Association conference in Boston this month, analysts and education leaders explored how students, teachers, and school systems are adjusting to changes in testing, and probed the challenges in making sense of this complex topic.

Report

Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices

In the winter of 2015, the Center on Education Policy surveyed a nationally representative sample of public school teachers to learn their views on the teaching profession, state standards and assessments, testing, and teacher evaluations. 

The report, Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices, summarizes these survey findings, including responses indicating that public school teachers are concerned and frustrated with shifting policies, over emphasis on student testing, and their lack of voice in decision-making. 

Multimedia

Testing Pushback: Where Does It Stand? Where Is It Headed?
Teaching and Testing in the Common Core Era

Statewide standardized testing is facing strong criticism and public backlash; witness the opt-out movement that led many families in New York and elsewhere to skip Common Core exams last year. Will the opt-out campaign gain more adherents this spring? How are states responding to concerns about tests and their use? Will newfound federal flexibility spark further change?

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

SAT Makes Bid to Better Serve Poor Kids

David Coleman speaks to reporters at an Education Writers Seminar in Los Angeles, February 27, 2016. (Credit: EWA)

The SAT has been called out of touch, instructionally irrelevant, and a contributor to the diversity gaps on college campuses because the test arguably benefits wealthier students who can afford heaps of test preparation.

But now the SAT is fighting back. The College Board, the test’s owner, is hoping that a major makeover of the assessment that’s set to debut this weekend will persuade critics that students, teachers and colleges still need an exam that has been a centerpiece of the admissions landscape for 90 years.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Global Lens on Teacher Quality

A classroom at the Turku University Teacher Training School in Littoinen, Finland. The country sets a high bar for entrance into the teaching profession. (Jari Sjölund/Flickr via Creative Commons)

High-achieving countries share some common practices when it comes to the recruitment, training and development of public-school teachers, according to experts at a recent Education Writers Association event.

A few years ago in Singapore, teachers in a high school English department posed a question: Would having students conduct live debates on an issue before they wrote persuasive essays about it result in more highly developed final papers?

Report

National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards
American Institutes for Research

State achievement standards represent how much the state expects their students to learn in order to reach various levels of academic proficiency. In the past, these achievement standards were used by each state to report adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and are now being used for federal reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

Report

National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards
American Institutes for Research

State achievement standards represent how much the state expects their students to learn in order to reach various levels of academic proficiency. In the past, these achievement standards were used by each state to report adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and are now being used for federal reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Putting Global Student Tests, U.S. Rankings in Context

(Flickr/Global Panorama via Creative Commons)

Near the end of 2016, results will come out for two major international assessments — kicking off a new round of analysis and debate over the standing of U.S. students on the global stage.

“We are really covering the whole range when it comes to these international studies,” said Dana Kelly, an official with the National Center for Education Statistics, which oversees the administration of both exams to U.S. students.

Report

Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Evaluating the Content and Quality of Next Generation Assessments examines previously unreleased items from three multi-state tests (ACT Aspire, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced) and one best-in-class state assessment, Massachusetts’ state exam (MCAS), to answer policymakers’ most pressing questions: Do these tests reflect strong content? Are they rigorous? What are their strengths and areas for improvement? No one has ever gotten under the hood of these tests and published an objective third-party review of their content, quality, and rigor. Until now.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making Sense of Global Comparisons in Education

Chinese girls in their classroom. Shanghai drew widespread attention for its high test scores on PISA in 2012. Later this year, new results will be released for PISA and another international exam, putting a spotlight once again on how the achievement of dozens of countries and education systems compare. (Flickr/Brian Yap)

Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. first got a snapshot of how its students compare with their peers in other countries based on a standardized test. The news was sobering.

“Look towards the bottom of this list, and see the U.S. coming in 11th out of 12 [industrialized] countries” in math, said Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, pointing to a chart he presented last month at an Education Writers Association seminar in Washington, D.C. “Only Sweden scored below the U.S.”

Multimedia

Standardized Testing

The Council of the Great City Schools hosted a forum on the results of a new report on the effectiveness of standardized testing. Michael Casserly made opening remarks on the report, and then panelists that included Education Secretary Arne Duncan analyzed the data in the report.

  • This panel was moderated by Caroline Hendrie, EWA’s executive director.
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Exam Gives Glimpse of How Schools Stack Up Globally

Students work on a robotics project at the School of Science/ Engineering Magnet in Dallas, Texas, one of about 450 U.S. campuses using the OECD Test for Schools. The optional exam allows schools worldwide to compare student proficiency in reading, mathematics, and science. (Photo courtesy of Science/Engineering Magnet)

The many complaints about the large quantity of standardized assessments American students take may make giving another test a hard sell. But some U.S. high schools have recently added a voluntary exam that puts their student achievement in reading, math and science into an international context.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As ESSA Era Begins, Assessing NCLB’s Legacy

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King visits a classroom in Tampa, Fla. The federal Education Department's reach has been scaled back by the new Every Student Succeeds Act, as Congress sought to transfer more authority over local schools back to the states. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Education)

America brought home a middling report card with 74.4 out of 100 points – a “C” grade — in Education Week’s 20th annual “Quality Counts” report this week, which ranks the nation and individual states on a variety of student factors, from test scores to graduation rates to “chance of success” later in life. (That’s about the same grade earned last year, as well.)

Report

Quality Counts 2016: Report and Rankings
Education Week

The 2016 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report—Called to Account: New Directions in School Accountability—examines how new state and federal strategies are transforming the assessment of school performance and reshaping the consequences for poor results. The new Every Student Succeeds Act is widely believed to herald a shift in authority away from the federal government and back to the states and school districts. Pressure is also mounting for accountability systems to go beyond test scores and incorporate other academic and non-academic factors in meaningful ways.

Webinar

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

EWA journalist members received an early opportunity to review Education Week’s newest Quality Counts report, which includes a special focus on school accountability.

As part of its annual Quality Counts report, Education Week grades states on a wide range of indicators, including the Chance-for-Success Index, K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A View From Abroad: Exchange Students Highlight Differences in Schooling

A panel of exchange students spoke at EWA's recent conference on U.S. education in a global context. From left to right, they are Valentina Tobon of Virginia, Lili Hofmann of Germany, Chun-Te Wang of Taiwan, and Kamila Mundzik of Poland. Photo by Emily Richmond, EWA

Chung-Te Wang had never seen a calculator in school before traveling to the U.S. this year as an exchange student.

“We always calculate with our brain. No offense,” said the 16-year-old from Taiwan, spurring laughter in a room full of reporters at the Education Writers Association’s recent seminar on covering U.S. education in a global context.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Deeper Learning, Smarter Testing

Linda Darling-Hammond speaks to reporters at a seminar on motivation at Stanford in November. (Photo credit: EWA/Michael Marriott)

Since 2003, more information is produced every two days than the total sum of information produced between that year and the dawn of time, the CEO of Google said in 2010.  Easily web-accessible facts, names and articles have grown exponentially, so much so that some say students can’t be taught like they were in the past, when rote memorization was the gold standard for learning and information wasn’t at almost everyone’s fingertips.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Brazil Explores U.S.-Style Education Policies

A school serving one of the poorer neighborhoods in  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Flickr/Charlie Phillips)

Tying teacher pay to student test scores. Creating public schools of choice with private operators. Setting common standards for all students. Those issues probably are familiar to any American reporter who covers education. They are also becoming more and more common in Brazil, where many policymakers are deeply inspired by the American experience.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Growing Minds, Changing Math Classes

Jo Boaler speakers to reporters during EWA's seminar on motivation held at Stanford University in November (Credit: Stanford University/Marc Franklin)

As the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” plays out over the music video, the lyrics are a bit different:

“We will make mistakes…our method’s gonna break…not a piece of cake…we’re gonna shake it off, shake it off…”

It was in this video Stanford University Professor and author Jo Boaler says she was compelled to do something she didn’t want to do. “They made me rap,” she said. When her undergraduate students challenged whether she had a growth mindset about her rhyme skills, Boaler said to herself, “Oh my gosh. I’m gonna have to rap.”

Seminar

Teaching & Testing in the Common Core Era

(Bigstock)

Despite persistent political debates, the Common Core State Standards are now a classroom reality in public schools across the country. Yet much is in flux as educators wrestle with how best to teach the Common Core — or their own state’s version of it — and some states rethink the tests tied to the new K-12 standards.   

Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel
711 S Hope St, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ranking High Schools — in Finland?

A waterway in Helsinki, Finland, a country frequently held up as an international standout for its public education system. (Creative Commons/Dennis Jarvis)

In Finland you’re not supposed to wonder — let alone ask out loud — if one school is better than another. That’s because all Finnish schools are designed to be equal.

We Finns are very proud of our equal education system. In fact, education is the one positive thing Finland is known for all around the world. Our results in global assessments of 15-year-olds have won us international attention a small nation rarely receives.

Report

Knowing the Score: The Who, What, and Why of Testing
Center on Education Policy

Recently, the amount and variety of testing occurring in public schools has received considerable national attention. To help parents, educators, policymakers, and others sort out all the differing information and opinions on testing, the Center on Education Policy at the George Washington University has developed Knowing the Score: The Who, What, and Why of Testing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What New NAEP Scores Can – And Can’t – Tell Us

(Flickr/Ray)

For the first time since 1990, math scores dropped for fourth and eighth graders in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the country’s most respected tool for measuring how well students understand key academic concepts. Reading scores also inched downward at the eighth-grade level, staying flat for the fourth grade compared with 2013.

Report

Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools
Council of Great City Schools

Testing in the nation’s schools is among the most debated issues in public education today. Much of this discussion has centered on how much we are testing students and how we use test results to evaluate teachers, inform instructional practice, and hold schools and educators accountable. A recent national poll by Phi Delta Kappa underscores the fact that the public at large is concerned about the extent of testing in schools, and these concerns are influencing how people think about the nationwide move to adopt and implement the new Common Core State Standards.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Post Poll: Parents Want Testing to Help Students

Public school parents generally support standardized testing but think there’s too much of it, according to a new from Education Post, a nonprofit communications firm led by former Obama administration education official Peter Cunningham. 

When asked how the test results should  be used, 65 percent of the responding parents said helping students should be the top priority. Only 21 percent wanted test results to be a tool for identifying ineffective teachers. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

PARCC Test Results Coming Soon, But State Comparisons Limited

(Flickr/USAG- Humphreys)

New details on Common Core-aligned assessments came to light yesterday, as officials with one of the state testing consortia shared information on cut scores for the roughly five million students who took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests this spring. In addition, the officials revealed the timeline for when those results will be made public.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Skipping School Hurting Younger Learners

(Flickr/April)

While too many students at all grade levels are regularly skipping school, many preschoolers and kindergarteners are missing nearly as much seat time as teenagers, according to a new report.

The lost learning time, particularly in the younger grades, translates into weaker math and reading skills that become long-term deficits for students even years down the road, according to the new report from Attendance Works, a national advocacy organization, and the nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: Story Ideas That Shine

Flickr/OddHarmonic

While it may seem that every back-to-school story has been written, the well is far from dry. Are you following the blogs teachers in your district write? Have you amassed the data sets you’ll need to write that deep dive explaining why so many local high school graduates land in remedial classes when they first enter college?

No? It’s OK. You’re not alone.

Webinar

Is It Bon Voyage For No Child Left Behind?
Webinar on Federal Policy

(Flickr/Patrick)

Education Week reporter Lauren Camera, David DeSchryver, senior vice president of Whiteboard Advisors, and Bethany Little, principal at Education Counsel, break down the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for journalists.

Now that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed bills renewing the act, journalists can examine the potential impact of the new provisions. Learn how you can cover these in your state and district and find out questions you should be asking.

Speakers

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ohio Drops PARCC Tests – Now What?

Graders from Pearson testing company review students' answer sheets for Ohio's PARCC assessment. (Patrick O'Donnell/The Plain Dealer)

Ohio is the latest state to back away from common assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards. In the face of strong political opposition to the tests (and apparently a lot of criticism from educators and parents), Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a budget bill last week that effectively prevents Ohio from using the PARCC exams in the future.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Testing, Up Close and Personal

(Flickr/Todd Ludwig)

Usually, the best way to learn about a test is to just take it yourself.

Or at least that was the thinking at the recent Education Writers Association National Seminar session, “Testing, Testing: Trying Out New Assessments.” Journalists were greeted by a thick packet of test questions created for the two national assessment consortia that put together exams aligned to the Common Core State Standards — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Report

Who Opts Out of State Tests?
Matt Chingos
Brookings Institution

The 648 districts with complete data available had an average opt-out rate of 28 percent (the rates are averaged across the math and ELA tests). But weighting each district by its enrollment shows that an estimated 21 percent of all students at these districts opted out. The difference between these numbers implies that larger districts tend to have lower opt-out rates.

[...]

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Too Many Tests?

(Flickr/Cybrarian77)

An opt-out movement gained momentum this spring, with tens of thousands of students sitting out of new standardized tests in states including New York, Maine and New Mexico.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a panel of testing experts gathered at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago to discuss the very predicament.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Testing in Action: How Did It Go?

Flickr/Judy Baxter

This academic year marks a critical juncture for the Common Core, as most states started testing students on the standards for the first time. The beginning has had some rough moments, with thousands of students opting out of the tests, especially in New York and New Jersey, and technology glitches in some states disrupting the assessments.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Wednesday Webinar: A Reporters’ Guide to Common Core Testing

Flickr/Michael

Almost from the outset, we’ve been warned that the implementation of new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards would be a bumpy road. But now that the first major wave of the testing is wrapping up, it’s a good time to take a step back and assess the situation.

Did districts conquer the expected challenges of the necessary technology upgrades? How many parents really did pull their kids out of testing? Where did things go better than anyone had predicted? And what’s up next on the testing beat? (Test scores, of course.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Tests: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The phrase “Common Core test” turns out to encompass far more than most people realize.

At the Education Writers Association’s spring seminar in Denver on covering assessments in the era of the new standards, it became clear to reporters that there is no such thing as “The Test.” Rather, there are many tests, developed by different organizations all purporting to be aligned with the new Common Core State Standards.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Don’t Study The Way Science Says They Should

Henry Roediger listens as Bror Saxberg answers a reporter's question at EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Most students don’t study using methods backed by scientific research, panelists at the Education Writers Association’s deep dive on the science of learning told reporters in Chicago at the association’s 68th National Seminar.

“Why do people find learning so hard?” asked Henry Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who participated in the April event.

Report

NAEP 2014 U.S. History, Geography, and Civics Assessments

Nationally, eighth graders’ average scores on the NAEP U.S. history, geography, and civics assessments showed no significant change in 2014, compared to 2010—the last assessment year. However, several student groups have made gains. In 2014, eighteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, 27 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in geography, and 23 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in civics.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Educators: Common Core Standards ‘Are the Floor’

From left: Educators Luann Tallman, Mark Sass, Merlinda Moldanado and Kristy Straley talk with moderator Liana Heiten of Education Week at the University of Colorado Boulder on February 26, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

For teacher Merlinda Maldonado’s sixth graders at Hill Middle School in Denver, it’s not necessarily about getting the answer right. It’s not about memorizing procedures, either. If Maldonado’s classroom is clicking, frustration can be a good thing.

Multimedia

Too Many Tests?
2015 EWA National Seminar

Too Many Tests?

An ongoing “opt-out” campaign has stirred debate over whether students are over-tested., and what kind of tests are to blame. How much time – and money – do schools spend  on testing? A panel of experts explored the issue during “Too Many Tests?”

Here are the highlights of the discussion moderated by Emily Hanford of American RadioWorks. The panel included Matt Chingos of the Brookings Institution, Scott Marion of the National Center on Assessment, and Bob Schaeffer of FairTest.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Webinar for Reporters: PISA Gender Disparities

Flickr/COD Newsroom/Creative Commons

If you’re writing about gender equity issues related to student opportunity and achievement, you won’t want to miss Wednesday’s journalists-only webinar. Attendees will receive exclusive embargoed access to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based on the most recent PISA assessment. 

Multimedia

Making Sense of the Evolving Assessment Landscape
Covering Standards and Testing (Denver Seminar)

Making Sense of the Evolving Assessment Landscape

This school year marks the first time that most states will test students on the Common Core. At the same time, many states have backed away from their plans to use shared assessments and are choosing their own tests. Where do the states stand? How different will their new exams be from prior tests? And what are key questions reporters should keep in mind as they cover the first round of test results?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top Tweets: EWA Seminar Tackles Testing & Common Core

EWA members brainstorm story ideas at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Journalism on Jan. 12, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

EWA was in Chapel Hill, N.C. earlier this week for our seminar on covering assessments in the era of the Common Core State Standards. We heard from policymakers, elected officials, and educators about how new expectations are reshaping the business of schooling, particularly in southern states. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Mexican-American Studies Breed Better Academic Performance

Studies show offering a culturally relevant education -- including courses in Mexican American studies and a mariachi band -- can improve academic performance among Mexican American students. Source: Flickr/ Justin Wagner (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Student participation in Mexican-American studies can be linked to better outcomes on state standardized tests and increased chances of earning a high school diploma, according to a recent report by the University of Arizona. 

The university researchers’ findings, published in the December 2014 edition of the American Educational Research Journal, reveal students’ chances of completing high school increased nearly 10 percent.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

From the Beat: Memorable Education Stories of 2014

Cadets celebrate graduation at West Point. A USA Today investigation of  congressional influence over the nomination process at elite military academies was one of the year's most memorable education stories. Flickr/U.S. Army (Creative Commons)

When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Than Fun: Games That Gauge Student Learning

Flickr/Michael Surran

Games might provide a better way for teachers to figure out what students know.

Some say this playful format can provide teachers with serious information if the games are intentionally designed to assess learning. This can be used to develop a more nuanced portrait of a student’s skills. And sometimes students don’t know they are being tested.

Multimedia

Making Sense of the Evolving Assessment Landscape
Covering Standards and Testing (DC Seminar)

Making Sense of the Evolving Assessment Landscape

This school year marks the first time that most states will test students on the Common Core. At the same time, many states have backed away from their plans to use shared assessments and are choosing their own tests. Where do the states stand? How different will their new exams be from prior tests? And what are key questions reporters should keep in mind as they cover the first round of test results?

Multimedia

Surveys: What Educators and the Public Are Saying About Common Core
Covering Standards and Testing (DC Seminar)

Surveys: What Educators and the Public Are Saying About Common Core

Lots of recent surveys have sought to gauge support by educators and the public for the standards and testing. Learn what the sometimes conflicting results reveal. And find out where district-level implementation of the Common Core stands, based on extensive national polling of school district officials.

  • Maria Ferguson, Center on Education Policy
  • Diane Stark Rentner, Center on Education Policy
  • Erik Robelen, Education Writers Association (moderator)
Multimedia

Taking Political Stock of the Common Core
Covering Standards and Testing (DC Seminar)

Taking Political Stock of the Common Core

It’s no secret that the standards and forthcoming tests have drawn increasingly strong criticism over the past year. Why has the Common Core become so controversial? What will the midterm election results mean for implementation and state support? And what happens in states that call for a review or even rescind the standards? Will much really change?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Tests: Ready Or Not?

Students at Birch Elementary School in Reading, Mass. (Flickr/Heather Johnson, EOE)

From California to New York, educators have by and large maintained their support for the Common Core State Standards after putting the new grade-level expectations into action. But the new tests are another story, according to a panel of experts speaking at a recent EWA seminar at Stanford University.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Showing – Not Just Telling – Stories About Testing

An illustration accompanying a sample question from the new Smarter Balanced 11th-grade mathematics test. (Source: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium)

By now, many education reporters have written many times over about a new generation of standardized tests coming this spring. Most of the time, reporters have little space and use shorthand to explain that the exams are supposed to be more rigorous and measure critical thinking. Often, there is too much telling and not enough showing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Limits of Testing: Getting Beyond the Standard(ized) Story

Wealthy students have long outpaced their disadvantaged peers in American schools. That disparity bears more weight than ever as standardized tests become one of the main measures for holding schools and teachers accountable.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Impact Academy: Rethinking Student Assessment

Sophie Wellington at Impact Academy, Nov. 19, 2014. (EWA/Lori Crouch)

On a recent Wednesday morning, 11th-grader Sophia Wellington took to the undersized stage at the front of her high school gym and with seamless poise demonstrated what smarter student assessment could look like.

Seminar

Covering Standards and Testing in the Common Core Era
Seminar for Journalist Members Only

This academic year marks a critical juncture for the Common Core, as most states gear up to assess students on the shared standards for the first time. Are states, districts, and schools ready? What about states that are reviewing or have rescinded the standards? How can reporters make sense of it all? There’s no shortage of compelling angles to pursue in this complex and fast-evolving story—rendered  all the more so by the political tussles erupting over the new standards and tests. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Talking To Teachers: Story Ideas For Reporters

For education reporters looking for story ideas, talking to teachers is a smart place to start. That was the key takeaway from the “Performance and Perceptions: Taking the Pulse of the Profession” session at EWA’s recent seminar on the teaching profession, held last month in Detroit.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

To Fight Test Fatigue, Scholars Call for Fewer, Harder Exams

Source: Flickr/Wonderlane (CC BY 2.0)

Here’s a counter-intuitive argument: The United States should spend more money on standardized tests.

With opposition to the new Common Core State Standards and the assessments linked to them reaching a fever pitch, advocating for better tests seems like an unpopular proposition. But what if U.S. students took fewer tests that measured their ability to understand academic concepts far more deeply than current tests permit?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Stand and Deliver: A School Where Students Defend Their Work

On Day 2 of "Bursting the Bubbles: Reassessing Assessments," journalists took a field trip to Impact Academy. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

Education journalists took a field trip to Impact Academy of Arts and Technology this week to see project-based learning in action, including observing classrooms and watching a student defend her project on World War II and the Holocaust. Check out some Tweets from the visiting reporters, as well as more highlights from the first day at the EWA seminar at Stanford University. (Also, check out this earlier blog post about our testing seminar.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tweeting on Testing: EWA Seminar at Stanford

Reporters got a feel for standardized assessments at EWA's seminar on testing at Stanford Tuesday. (EWA/Mikhail Zinshteyn)

How can assessments get beyond rote memorization and capture the skills most valued to prepare young people for college and the workforce? Can tests effectively measure critical thinking and creativity? Will standardized tests tied to the Common Core provide a richer picture of student learning?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Is Common Core a Recipe for National Curriculum? Survey Says ‘No’

Every time a new Common Core poll is released, a lot of people rush to find out what’s the state of public opinion on the standards. Or maybe to find out if teachers like the standards more or less than last year.

One recent survey, however, didn’t even pose the “popularity” question. Instead, it focused on wonky-sounding topics: “Curriculum and professional development.” But stay with me for a moment. This stuff matters — a lot.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Seminar for Reporters: This Is Not a Test

Amid the recent pushback against perceived over-testing of students, questions are being asked about how many tests schools should require and whether new measures being implemented will live up to the promise of providing more sophisticated achievement data. At the same time, there are new demands for accountability at the local, state, and national level — all of which require some form of quantifiable achievement data

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Much Time Do Students Spend Taking Tests?

Amid the strong and growing drumbeat of complaints about overtesting at the K-12 level, many education reporters and others may be left wondering how much time students really spend taking standardized tests. And who is demanding most of this testing, anyway? The federal government? States? Local districts?

Report

Testing Overload in America’s Schools
Center for American Progress

Despite the perception that federally mandated state testing is the root of the issue, districts require more tests than states. Students across all grade spans take more district tests than state assessments. Students in K-2 are tested three times as much on district exams as state exams, and high school students are tested twice as much on district exams. Click here for study. 

Report

A New Era for Educational Assessment

Among education researchers, there is a growing consensus that college and career readiness depends on not just academic knowledge and skills but on a wide range of social and developmental competencies, as well—such as the ability to monitor one’s own learning, persist at challenging tasks, solve complex problems, set realistic goals, and communicate effectively in many kinds of settings. Yet, most U.S. schools continue to use standardized achievement tests, focusing exclusively on reading and math, as their primary means of gauging student progress.

Seminar

Bursting the Bubbles: Reassessing Assessments

Since the advent of No Child Left Behind 12 years ago, standardized, fill-in-the-bubble tests have become a major part of the school experience. Some say too much of a part. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions For… NCEE’s Marc Tucker
On School Accountability, Teachers, and the Common Core

Marc Tucker

Marc Tucker, president and chief executive of the National Center on Education and the Economy, recently unveiled a proposed accountability plan for public schools that includes significantly reducing the number of tests students take, and building extensive professional development time for teachers into every school day. He spoke with EWA.

Report

International Benchmarking: State and National Education Performance Standards
American Institutes for Research

American Institutes for Research

State performance standards represent how much the state expects the student to learn in order to be considered proficient in reading, mathematics, and science. This AIR report uses international benchmarking as a common metric to examine and compare what students are expected to learn in some states with what students are expected to learn in other states. The study finds that there is considerable variance in state performance standards, exposing a large gap in expectations between the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards.