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September 25, 2014

An increase in student homelessness

The National Center for Homeless Education reported that there were a total of 1.3 million homeless public school students in the United States during the 2012 – 2013 school year. The number of homeless students increased 8% from the previous year and 85% since the beginning of the recession. This number includes students whose families are sharing homes and students who are living in shelters, hotels, motels or without shelter altogether.

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education asked the students whether they were living with their parents and recorded that 76,000 homeless students were “unaccompanied.” These unaccompanied minors face greater threats of physical and sexual abuse and exploitation.

EdWeek has reported that the increase in homelessness can be explained by “an inadequate supply of public housing and assistance, growing rent costs, and relatively flat income levels in recent years.” Furthermore, this information has prompted child welfare advocates to push for the passage of the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would expand the definition of homelessness, remove federal restrictions, and require better data and information on homeless individuals.

This last piece of the proposed legislation is important because the numbers released by the NCHE tend to underestimate the number of homeless students, who may be embarrassed to talk about their living situation. Additionally, CNN Money reported that part of the increase in homeless students could be explained by more accurate measures of homelessness. Regardless, it is still apparent that the number of homeless students continues to rise in the wake of the recession.






September 23, 2014

What animation looks like from the beginning

Have you seen our latest animated creation? If you haven’t take a look.

Is It Worth It from Center for Public Education on Vimeo.

Hard to imagine, the process began like this over a year ago:

Earlysketches_Part1EarlysketchesPart2

Many thanks to our animator, Bart Collart, for bringing our ideas to life.

Filed under: CPE,Data,Public education — Tags: , , — NDillon @ 11:59 am





September 18, 2014

PDK/Gallup poll Part 2 shows teachers matter

The folks at PDK and Gallup apparently had so much to report in this year’s annual poll of public attitudes toward public schools, they had to release it in two parts. Part 1, which we summarized here, addressed the Common Core state standards and perceptions about public schools more generally. Part 2, released this week, focuses primarily on public attitudes about the teaching profession. What they have to say should provide comfort to beleaguered teachers.

First, nearly two-thirds of the public expresses “trust and confidence in the men and women teaching children in the public schools.” The study’s authors note that this represents a decline from previous years. Nonetheless, it must be a refreshing show of support for teachers who have many reasons to feel beat up by the punditry.

The public also recognizes the key role teachers play in student learning and by large margins would welcome policies to bolster their preparation and training. A full 81% believe prospective teachers should be required to “pass board certification” similar to that for other professionals like doctors and lawyers on top of their college degree in order to be licensed to teach. Likewise, 60% thought that there should be higher entrance requirements into teacher prep programs at the front end. The majority also support the idea of requiring a longer period of supervised practice before teachers take charge of their own classrooms. A plurality of 44% thought such a bridge period should last one year with 27% saying new teachers need two (see chart).

 

PDK2

 

Political affiliation had almost no effect on opinions about teacher preparation. Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike called for increasing rigor. Not so when asked about teacher evaluation, however, possibly in response to growing political controversy over new evaluation policies that are based in part on teachers’ impact on student learning. Nationally, 61% of the public opposes evaluations that include “how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests.” Yet only 50% of Republicans were opposed compared to 68% of Democrats. Interestingly, overall opposition to using evaluation in this way is much higher now than it was just two years ago when slightly less than half of the overall public thought it was a bad idea.

Similar party-affiliation gaps were evident when pollsters asked about the purposes of evaluation: 86% of Democrats said using evaluation to help “teachers improve” was “very important” compared to 71% of Republicans. In contrast, Republicans were much more favorable to linking evaluation to salaries or bonuses: 51% of Republicans said this was “very important” compared to only 41% of Democrats.

Other questions explored whether the public thinks their schools need to change “to meet today’s needs” and if so, how. More than half (58%) said that schools need to change compared to 47% who though so in 2006. The biggest needed change the public would like to see is a greater emphasis on career-technical education: 60% “strongly agreed” that “high school students should receive more education about possible career choices” while 32% said the same about placing “more emphasis” on college preparation for all.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the public thinks career education is more important than college readiness. It could indicate that they think high schools are doing ok with college prep but they need to do more to get students ready for work. But either way, the message is clear that the public is looking toward high schools to make sure all graduates are able to thrive in the new workplace.

Along those lines, CPE’s Jim Hull has been analyzing work and other outcomes for the group of high school graduates who do not go to a two- or four-year college. His findings should produce some valuable insights into what career-readiness should look like. His first report will be released in the next two weeks so stay tuned. – Patte Barth






September 11, 2014

Chamber of Commerce grades states on their educational effectiveness

Report-Card The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation once again is grading each state on their educational effectiveness based on 11 indicators in their most recent Leaders and Laggards report card. However, if you’re looking to find out which state is this year’s valedictorian you won’t find it in this report card. Unlike student report cards, the Chamber didn’t calculate a composite GPA. Reason likely being the Chamber wanted to keep the focus on where state’s can improve in each of the 11 areas graded which would have likely been overshadowed by an overall ranking of states. For this, I applaud the Chamber as the report card should be viewed as a tool for continuous improvement not as a final evaluation.

Although each of the indicators has their limitations, they provide some context as to how each state compares to other states in a wide range of areas. As our Data First site highlights, there is no single measure that can accurately evaluate the effectiveness of our public schools and all measures have their limitations. Understanding these limitations is key to using any measure to evaluate our public schools.

Keep in mind, however, that not everyone has the same definition of effectiveness when it comes to our public schools. While we all may agree that the main objective of our public schools is to improve student achievement, others may argue that schools should also turn out good citizens or creative thinkers while others may argue an effective school is one that keeps children out of harms way. These are all valid characteristics of an effective school but it shows that effectiveness is really based on the values of the individual doing the evaluating.

And the Chamber’s report card is no different. While they utilized 11 indicators, these indicators align with the values of the Chamber and what they believe constitutes an effective school which may not align to the beliefs of you or me. That is important to keep in mind as you read the Chamber’s report card. As the report card likely doesn’t include all the indicators you would use to evaluate the effectiveness of your public schools.

So, just because your state may not have earned high grades on the Chamber’s report card, your state may have earned straight A’s on yours. – Jim Hull

 

The Findings

 

All states improved their academic performance between 2005 and 2013 but the improvement varied greatly by state

  • Hawaii, Washington, DC, and Maryland made the greatest gains during this time period by improving their NAEP 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores by 13, 12, and 10 respectively. Such gains are roughly equivalent to about a year’s worth more of learning.
  • On the other hand, South Carolina, Michigan, and South Dakota made the least amount of gains over this same time period by improving their scores by 1.5, 1.0 and .25 points respectively.
  • Half or more of 4th graders in just six states scored at or above the NAEP proficient achievement level on the 2013 math assessment.
    • In no state did at least half the students reach the NAEP proficient achievement level on either the 4th or 8th grade reading assessments.
    • Massachusetts was the only state where at least half (54 percent) of 8th graders reached the NAEP proficiency level in math.

States vary widely in the return on their education investment

  • Utah, Colorado, and Idaho received the most bang for their buck as they spend fewer dollars per NAEP score point when taking into consideration the differences in the cost of living.
  • On the other end of the ROI spectrum, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Delaware saw low NAEP performance along with high costs.
  • Yet, simply keeping costs down didn’t necessarily equate to higher ROI grades. For example, both Wyoming and Mississippi received F’s in their return on investment yet Mississippi ($9,330) spent over $7,000 less per student than Wyoming ($16,594).

The college readiness of most high school graduates is lagging

  • On average 20 percent of graduates passed at least one Advanced Placement (AP) exam.
    • No state did more than 30 percent of graduates pass at least one AP exam while in high school.
    • Maryland and Connecticut had the highest pass rates at 29 percent followed by Virginia at 28 percent.
    • Louisiana and Mississippi had the lowest pass rates at 5 and 4 percent respectively.
  • In those states with high pass rates provide both the access and the preparation to succeed in college-level courses.

Few students are receiving preparation for STEM related fields

  • Less than 10 percent of graduates passed an AP STEM exam nationwide.
  • Massachusetts had the highest pass rate of AP STEM exams at 16 percent followed by Maryland and Connecticut with 15.8 and 15.4 percent passing respectively.
  • Nine states had STEM AP exam pass rates of less than 5 percent with Louisiana and Mississippi achieving the lowest pass rates at 1.9 and 1.2 percent respectively.

Parental choice varies by state

  • Washington, DC has the largest market share for schools of choice—in terms of charter schools and voucher programs—which is by far the largest share of any state. The state with the next highest market share is Louisiana at 22.9 percent.
  • Wyoming has the smallest market share at just 2.5 percent
  • However, larger market shares didn’t necessarily lead to higher grades in parental options.
    • Indiana received an A despite the fact they only have 4.5 percent market share for schools of choice.
    • Maryland received a F while having a 15.9 market share for schools of choice.

 

States can identify good teachers; they just can’t get enough of them

  • The recent reforms to teacher evaluation system appeared to have improved the states’ ability to identify teacher quality, retain effective teachers, and exit ineffective ones.
  • However, states are still struggling with preparing good teachers and expanding the pool of teachers through alternative certification programs.

Unfunded state pensions threaten public education

  • The inability of some states to fund their pension liabilities threatens their ability to fund all types of public services like education.
  • Connecticut, Kentucky, and Illinois are three states that have contributed less than half of what they should to keep their funds solvent.
  • On the other hand, Washington, North Carolina, and South Dakota have funded their programs at the required levels.
Filed under: NAEP,Public education,Report Summary — Jim Hull @ 12:33 pm





August 21, 2014

Common core support drops, local control rules, and other public opinion trends

Back to school season means it’s also time for the yearly ritual of gauging American attitudes about their public schools. Two major surveys released this week once again show that the public says its local schools are great even though they think U.S. schools overall are in the tank (a mathematical impossibility, by the way). The surveys also highlight some inconsistencies in public thinking as well as widespread acceptance of misinformation, particularly regarding the common core. So let’s start there.

First, what a difference a year makes! The 46th annual PDK/Gallup poll registered a big increase in public awareness about the Common Core State Standards between 2013 and 2014. Last year, only 38 percent said they had heard of them. This year, awareness has more than doubled to 81 percent. But that wasn’t the only shift. Of those who knew about the Common Core in 2013 a majority liked them, but that pendulum swung, too. Now according to PDK, only 33 percent support the new standards while a full 60 percent are opposed.

A new poll from Education Next shows the same downward trend in public support for Common Core as PDK, although EN shows that a majority are still favorable: 53 percent of the public supported them in 2014 compared to 65 percent the year before. EN teased out attitudes by party affiliation and found that Democrats were more far more likely to support Common Core than Republicans — 65 to 43 percent, respectively. Still, even among Republicans, support is significantly higher than PDK reported.

EN also conducted a small randomized experiment. They asked the same question about Common Core standards to one half of the survey pool, except they eliminated the words “Common Core” in the brackets below:

As you may know, in the last few years states have been deciding whether or not to use [the Common Core, which are] standards for reading and math that are the same across the states. In the states that have these standards, they will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance. Do you support or oppose the use of these [the Common Core] standards in your state?

Now it gets interesting. When the words “Common Core” are eliminated, public support rises from 53 to 68 percent. Moreover, Republicans approved of the non-Common Core statement at the same rate as Democrats. The conflicting poll results could suggest that the Common Core critics are winning the media war. As EN puts it, the words themselves may have become “toxic.” As further evidence, the poll found that the majority of the public believed statements about the Common Core that were not true, such as the federal government requires states to use the Common Core. Yet these beliefs have entered into the information stream and are affecting public attitudes.

Of course, it’s also possible that we are seeing a sea change in attitudes. The EN survey raises an issue that should be of major concern: teacher support for the Common Core declined the most. In 2013, a full three-quarters of the teachers polled were in favor of the Common Core. In just one year their support plummeted to slightly less than half (46 percent). One has to wonder if teachers are expressing their frustration with inadequate implementation support. If this is the case, state and district policymakers should pay close attention.

On other topics, the public continues to view public schooling as a mostly local concern, according to PDK. The majority of the public — 56 percent — say local school boards should have the “greatest influence in deciding what is taught in public schools,” followed by 28 percent who say the state should, and only 15 percent who say the federal government should. In addition, to know public schools is to love them. Consistent with results of the last 20 years, the public gives public schools nationally poor grades, but grade their local schools highly. In 2014, 50 percent of the public and 67 percent of public school parents gave their local schools an ‘A’ or ‘B’ compared to 17 percent who gave the nation’s schools high grades. However, this represents a slight drop from 2013 overall.

Both PDK and EN found that the public continues to like the idea of charter schools. But the polls conflict over voucher support. PDK reported that nearly two-thirds of the public opposed vouchers, while EN showed that about half support vouchers for students in “failing public schools” and even for “universal vouchers.” Surprisingly, only a third told EN they would support vouchers for low-income families.

As always, polls can be useful in understanding what the public is thinking. But this year’s polling seems to further cast a light on winners and losers in communicating their messages. – Patte Barth






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