Around the Edu-Horn, July 29, 2010

RT @edfunding Murkowski amendment- increase Denali commission by cutting IES programs by $63 million.

RT @EdEquality @TNTP: Transcript of Obama’s #edreform speech at the National Urban League today: #education

RT @cathgrimes Gov. McDonnell said schools are getting $18 million more, thanks to the state surplus

Turning around schools in the “least disruptive” ways — 

Around the Edu-Horn, July 28, 2010

RT @usedgov Duncan highlights ED’s civil rights agenda, promises to advance civil rights by addressing inequities .

FL adopts the common core —

RttT and the “quiet revolution” —

RT @Education_AIR AIR to merge with Learning Point Associates; Learning Point CEO Gina Burkhardt named AIR Executive VP

DC teachers union to sue over teacher performance firings —

Duncan and mayoral control of Detroit Public Schools —

Around the Edu-Horn, July 26, 2010

RT @usedgov Fifteen teachers from around the country selected as Teaching Ambassador Fellows for 2010-11.

RT @PoliticsK12 Blog: Race to Top Finalists Unveiled Tomorrow: Who Makes the Cut?

RT @Larryferlazzo Civil rights groups skewer Obama education policy” Wash Post

Renting college textbooks —

Test prep for kindergarten?

The Pollsters Respond: More on ESEA as a Voting Issue

Earlier this month, Eduflack opined on a survey released by the Alliance for Excellent Education about reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the need for focus on high schools, and the role both topics may play on this November’s upcoming congressional elections.  While I found the findings interesting, I worried that we were reading a little too much into the numbers, giving the average voter a little too much credit for what they think they know about ESEA and its future direction.

I offered up the counterpoint to the data originally compiled on the Alliance’s behalf by Lake Research Partners.  The good folks over at Lake Research Partners — namely Celinda Lake and Chris Matthews — wanted to set the record straight and ensure that we (and I mean that collectively, dear ol’ Eduflack included) don’t misconstrue the findings.  So I’m going to yield the rostrum to Lake and Matthews to offer that clarification.  So without further ado …

“Eduflack made some assertions and questions about the recent AEE poll that we would like to respond to:

1. The poll finds that 8 in 10 voters want to see NCLB changed in the reauthorization of ESEA, while 11 percent say NCLB should be left as it is. Eduflack questions this finding, asking: “Are we to believe that virtually all likely voters recognize that ESEA is up for reauthorization this year; and that 80% understand the components of the current NCLB bill well enough to know that the current law needs to be altered?”

The findings of the poll should not be construed in this way at all. The poll does not indicate that voters know that ESEA is up for reauthorization this year. As AEE and the pollsters asserted at the press conference introducing the poll, if we had to guess, we would agree with Eduflack and say that most voters don’t know this. However, we certainly can say from this survey that when ESEA is introduced to voters in the survey, with concise and accurate information, that ESEA reauthorization is seen as important to voters. And when it comes to NCLB, nearly 90 percent of voters in the survey have an opinion on the NCLB policy: 47% have a favorable opinion and 44% an unfavorable opinion. We agree with Eduflack, in that most voters do not fully understand all of the intricate components of the current NCLB bill, we see in this in the focus groups we conduct throughout the country. Yet, this research shows that they do have a base of knowledge about NCLB, which combined with their own experiences and views that public high schools are in urgent need of improvement, lead us to be confident that voters can weigh-in on whether NCLB should be changed or just reauthorized as it is.

So, to answer Eduflack’s question on whether the survey findings “assume an education policy knowledge among likely voters that is far out of whack with reality” — they do not. We can say with confidence that the survey met voters where they were in terms of knowledge, gave them a small, neutral, and unbiased amount of information about ESEA, and then asked voters to evaluate and make a choice based on that information as well as all the other knowledge and experiences they already have about public education and NCLB.

2.Eduflack also questioned whether “education could really takeover the economy as a key voting issue in November.” AEE and the research team of Lake and Bellwether have not made that assertion, and we would not make it as education does not rank before the economy right now in any polls we have seen. The new AEE poll does allow us to say, however, that education is an important issue and when voters do focus on the issue it is seen as important factor in how they will evaluate Congressional incumbents this fall. The AEE poll also shows that voters link the quality of public high schools and the state and progress of the national economy and our ability to compete in the global economy as well.”

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Around the Edu-Horn, July 23, 2010

RT @Larryferlazzo Check-Out Who Applied To Be A “Promise Neighborhood”

National registry would consolidate digital education materials (from ASCD)

Edujobs are out of the spending bill —

RT @gtoppo LAUSD superintendent Cortines to retire in spring 2011.

U.S.: From leaders to laggards in college grad —

Around the Edu-Horn, July 21, 2010

RT @cpylevdoe Virginia response to Fordham review of Standards of Learning:

RT @D_Aarons new @wallacefdn study: Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning

Competitive admissions for comm college nursing programs — 

The cost of buying school textbooks in AL —

Measuring Up to Common Core

In recent months, we have been hearing a great deal about how individual states’ academic standards measure up to the Common Core.  Both Texas and Virginia have proudly proclaimed that their state standards are far superior to the proposed shared standards, and as a result they have refused to pursue Race to the Top and to sign onto Common Core Standards.  When California agreed to Common Core in principle last year, it did so only after proclaiming that the Golden State had the best standards in the union, and Common Core could cut out the middle man and just adopt California standards.  And this week in Massachusetts, many are trying to delay the adoption of Common Core, believing that the Bay State’s standards are better than where NGA and CCSSO landed earlier this year.

Well now the Fordham Institute has weighed in, offering up a state-by-state analysis of how current state standards measure up to the Common Core.  And what do they say?

* Overall, the math Common Core is stronger than the ELA Common Core.  With math, 39 states’ standards are inferior.  With reading, 37 states’ standards are inferior (but three are superior).
* Texas scores an A- compared to the reading Common Core, but only a C on math.
* Virginia scores a B+ on math and a C on ELA
* Massachusetts posts an A- on math and a B+ on ELA

Some of the more “interesting” findings:
* Washington, DC scores an A for both its current ELA and math standards.  Who knew that Michelle Rhee and company could claim they have the best standards in the nation, better than Massachusetts  or the rest?
* Indiana and California also scored As in both categories.  So according to Fordham, Cali, DC, and Indiana are the tops.  How many would get that right on Jeopardy?
* And some of the laggards?  Montana earned dual Fs.  Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin earned and F and a D each.  Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Rhode Island come in with Ds.  See any surprises in those lists?

How about our two Race to the Top Phase I winners?  Tennessee picked up an A- on ELA and a C on math.  Delaware an F on ELA and an B on math.

What does all of this tell us?  We still have a lot of work to do.  I don’t think that anyone truly believes that the strongest academic standards in the nation belong to Washington, DC.  Nor do we see the worst standards coming from states in New England or the Northeast.  

Fordham is offering up a great deal of food for thought here.  If anything, it shows why we need that common yardstick by which to measure student performance for all.  But I suspect this is just the first in a long list of analyses, points, crosspoints, and other discussions of standards, common standards, and what is to come.

Data in Education Storytelling

How do we use data to better tell the local story?  That was the big question Eduflack was asked over the weekend speaking at the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media’s Harold W. McGraw Hr. Seminar for Reporters New to the Education Beat.

For those who don’t know (and you really should), the Hechinger Institute is a terrific outfit being run out of Teachers College, Columbia University.  Back in May, Eduflack wrote about Hechinger’s new efforts in education reporting.  But at its core, Hechinger is about supporting members of the education media, providing the technical assistance and support necessary to support a strong and effective cadre of education reporters across the nation.
In talking with a terrific group of new education reporters (though not necessarily new to reporting) about how they can use education to localize stories, it begs an important question — what can those of us who engage with the education media to do the same.  And for this question, Eduflack has a top five list to guide the discussion:
1) Personalize the story — The most effective stories we can tell are those that are personal.  The individual who is affected by a new policy.  The student who has succeeded under a new curriculum.  The teacher who is raising student achievement scores.  We all like to hear a story.  Facts and figures and data can then be used to help fortify the story.  Trying to pitch a story on teacher incentives?  Paint a picture of that real, individual teacher who can be a case study.  Depict the teacher and her classroom.  Then strengthen the piece with the data, the state test scores and related data points that demonstrate teacher achievement, both for the individual and for the school/district in particular.
2) Know your data sources — There is more to the tale of the tape than simply student test scores on the state assessment.  In offering up a policy story, know which data sources to direct to.  What can we find at the national level?  What can we find at the state level?  What can we find at the local level? 
3) Capture the continuum — Once you identify the data sources, know how they connect and support each other.  If you’re pitching a state or local education story, be able to show the data that substantiates the pitch from the local level all the way up to the national level.  The data shows it works, and the continuum shows it works on a large or a small scale.
4) Acknowledge not all data is created equal — For the last decade, reporters have been hounded with “data.”  Since NCLB, everyone has “research” proving their point.  Unfortunately, much of the third-party “research” circulated out there is little more than marketing collateral for those promoting the policy.  There is good research, and there is bad research.  Reporters ultimately have to distinguish between the two.  But if you are selling bad or squishy data to a reporter, you lose credibility very quickly.  Want to tell an effective story, do so with the strongest data possible.
5) Think beyond the data — Data helps sell the story, but most of the time, it isn’t the story itself.  Long gone is the era when education media would write full stories on the latest research study to cross their desks.  Too much research on too many topics just makes such an approach untenable.  Instead, more and more reporters are looking for good data to enhance stories on the key themes they are covering.  So be prepared to position specific studies on how it can impact the discussion of teacher quality or turnaround schools or a host of other issues that reporters are being asked to cover.  While the data may not be the headline, it can definitely serve as a foundation for a good education news article.

Is ESEA a Voting Issue?

For years now, we have heard how “education” is a top-five political issue for most Americans, usually falling behind the economy, jobs, and healthcare in terms of importance.  Despite its standing, though, most election results have shown that K-12 education issues simply are not deciding factors when one steps into the voter booth, particularly when we are casting votes for offices like U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator (and, of course, President).

As much as we may want education to be a voting issue on the national level, it simply is not (and the good folks at Ed in ’08 can back us up here).  Education is perceived by many to be a local issue, a topic best controlled by local school boards, city councils, and mayors.  We may need some state legislatures and governors to weigh in, particularly with the checkbook, but education simply is not seen as a national issue.  Even during the height of No Child Left Behind, we simply didn’t see national elections decided, or even influenced, by education issues.

Will 2010 be any different?  Yesterday the Alliance for Excellent Education released data from a recent survey conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research insinuating that the upcoming congressional elections could be different.  In reporting on public sentiment on high schools and ESEA reauthorization, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake and her team found:
* Those surveyed believe “the nation’s public high school are in urgent need of improvement”
* The quality of high schools through ESEA reauthorization is a voting issue for more than 80 percent of voters, with half saying failure to act this year will impact their vote in the 2010 congressional elections
* One in four surveyed gave our high schools an excellent (A) or good (B ) grade, with 20 percent giving them a D or F
* We think our local high schools are doing better than the national average
* Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed say a high school diploma isn’t enough to get a good job
* Two-thirds say high school drop outs have a significant impact on the nation’s economy
* A majority say Congress isn’t paying enough attention to high schools

These are interesting findings, and virtually all speak to the need for ESEA reauthorization and ESEA reauthorization now.  And it helps justify the recent buzz that NCLB will be renamed the College and Career Readiness Act when ESEA finally does come up for a congressional vote.

But Eduflack has to take issue with one of the findings.  According the public summary released by the Alliance yesterday, Lake says:

Eight in ten voters want to see No Child Left Behind (NCLB ) altered in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), while just 11 percent say NCLB should be left as is.  Reauthorizing ESEA this year in a way that improves public high schools is personally important to three-quarters of voters.  Overall, voters give mixed reviews to NCLB.

I’ll completely give you the last point.  For those that know about NCLB, it will always get mixed, at best, reviews.  But the rest of the point has me scratching my head.  Lake and company surveyed 1,000 likely voters through a telephone survey last month.  The data was weighted to reflect actual population (age, education, race, political affiliation, and marital status).

Based on this finding, we are to believe that virtually all likely voters recognize that ESEA is up for reauthorization this year (or know that it was supposed to have been reauthorized years ago).  And we are to believe that 80 percent of likely voters understand the components of the current NCLB well enough to know that the current law needs to be altered to better emphasize the role of high schools in the education continuum.  

Do we honestly think that virtually every likely voter in the upcoming elections is aware of NCLB, ESEA reauthorization, and the priorities that are being debated?  Last year, Brookings released a study showing that only 1.4 percent of national news coverage in the first three quarters of 2009 focused on education issues.   And I’m willing to bet that NCLB/ESEA was but a fraction of that 1.4 percent.  So where are we getting our information?

I’m not saying that the findings are wrong.  I just worry that those surveyed are telling us what we want to hear.  We all want to say that education is an important issue.  We all want to say that we need to do a better job with our schools, particularly our high schools when we hear about drop out rates.  But aren’t we assuming an education policy knowledge among likely voters that is far, far out of whack with reality? 

Yes, we all should believe that federal policy should be changed to help improve our high schools.  But we also need to know that real improvement only comes when state and local policy, and buy in from practitioners, is part of the equation.  Policy itself does improve education.  It merely serves as a blueprint.

Perhaps I am wrong, and this November there will be an outpouring of votes cast because of ESEA and Congress’ inability to reauthorize the law.  But I doubt it.  I’d love to be wrong, but we have never enjoyed a year when congressional elections were decided on education issues.  And with the economy and healthcare still swirling, do we honestly think this is the year education moves from fifth to first place?