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October 28, 2016

NAEP science scores reveal progress at lower grades, stagnation at 12th-grade

The National Assessment Governing Board released its 2015 Science scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders.  The results were positive overall, with achievement gaps narrowing and scores improving for almost all student groups in fourth and eighth-grade students.  Twelfth-grade scores remained stagnant across all groups.

The tests assess students’ ability to identify and use science principles, use scientific inquiry, and use technological design in physical science, life science, and Earth and space science.  Student responses are a combination of written (including multiple choice and open-ended questions) and interactive computer and hands-on tasks.

Of great concern, however, are the persistent gaps between students of different races, genders, and education status (English Learners and Special Education students).  While these gaps are narrowing, we have to figure out how to provide greater opportunities to all students.




Some states are improving at faster rates than others (only noted if the state had a statistically significant change):


Source: www.nationsreportcard.gov


It seems that the gains made in fourth and eighth-grade scores erode by 12th-grade.  Some of this may be due to lack of access to engaging classes and curriculum that could draw students into STEM fields.


Source: http://www.amgeninspires.com/students-on-stem/

2015 NAEP Science scores show similar trends as math and reading tests, which emphasizes the question: How do we move the needle for 12th-graders, as well as continue to improve opportunities and achievement for all students?

October 20, 2016

Let’s talk about college and career readiness

Ensuring students have the skills they need to succeed in college and the workforce is widely recognized as the ultimate goal of K-12 education. Toward this end, many states and districts have adopted and implemented college and career-readiness standards— a move that has caused some angst and outright rejection around the country.

While we know these are normal responses to change, we also know that new initiatives (especially within education) are hampered without community buy-in

It’s for this reason, the National School Boards Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have partnered with the Learning First Alliance’s Get it Right campaign to engage stakeholders around the importance of college and career readiness for all students.

A communications toolkit is the result of this joint project and it includes resources and materials (some of which hail from CPE’s bank) that will help educators spur dialogue, answer questions and hopefully build support for college and career readiness standards.

Find the toolkit here. Watch a sneakpeak of what you’ll find below.

Filed under: Career Readiness,CPE,standards — Tags: , , — NDillon @ 7:30 am

October 19, 2016

2015 Graduation Rates: All-time high

The National Center for Education Statistics released the 2014-2015 on-time high school graduation rates, and they look good: 83.2%. The all-time high rate continues the upward trends we have seeing for the last decade.

But, not all states look as good as others:

GradRates by State

While every student group is improving, you can see below that gaps between them are still present.

Grad Rates by Group

When you combine student poverty with state graduation rates, you see a picture that is a bit more clear.

Grad Rates

While the graph above is simply a best-fit line, it does show that states with higher poverty also tend to have lower graduation rates.  What we should be looking at are states with the same poverty rates as others, but much higher graduation rates, to identify possible lessons.  Is it a more homogeneous population?  Are more resources invested in schools?  Do teachers have better training?  Are graduation requirements easier?  There is a lot that goes into graduation rates.  So, even though we can be excited that they’re increasing for all groups, increasing opportunities for thousands of students, we still have a lot of gaps to fill.


Filed under: Achievement Gaps,CPE,Graduation rates,High school — Tags: , , — Chandi Wagner @ 10:37 am

October 12, 2016

Lessons for California’s Prop. 58 on Bilingual Ed

Bilingual Education requires patience and flexible thinking.  Hopefully Californians will have both of those things as they go to the polls in November.  Prop. 58 is a ballot initiative that would undo 1998’s Prop. 227, which drastically reduced bilingual education for the state’s 1.4 million English Learners (ELs).  To put this in context, 42% of Californian students speak a language other than English at home and 22% of Californian students are learning English at school.  In 1998, the state overwhelmingly supported a shift to English-only education, though school districts and parents did have some options to continue using students’ native languages.

Political rhetoric abounds when addressing the language of education, so for today we’ll put opinions aside and look at the argument that both sides are making about how students learn.  Do English-immersion or bilingual/dual-language programs provide better outcomes for students?  Even as a former bilingual teacher, I sometimes struggled against the intuition that said that my students would learn English best by teaching only in English, even though I knew that research said otherwise.  So, it’s understandable that others would have the same wonderings.

As is the case in most questions of research, the results are somewhat mixed and nuanced.  But, in this case, they lean toward the side of bilingual education.

Luckily, California was smart and planned for the evaluation of Prop 227.  This evaluation found that English language acquisition programs were similar in results, and may vary by school capacity, teacher supports, and program details.  The achievement gap between ELs and native English speakers narrowed slightly during the same time frame, but cannot be attributed solely to Prop. 227.

However, other research from the same time period has found that even though ELs acquire English faster in English-immersion programs than various forms of bilingual programs, students are actually more likely to be deemed proficient in English if they spend more time in their native language through dual-language and bilingual programs.  Schools that only spend 1-3 years in a student’s native language, known as “transitional bilingual,” have very similar results as English immersion.  The most promising bilingual model is called “two-way dual-language,” in which native English speakers and ELs are in classes together, both learning English and the second language (typically Spanish).

Bilingual Ed

We also have to consider the benefits of fostering bilingualism and biliteracy.  Research shows that bilingual people may experience later onsets of dementia and have improved cognitive abilities.   The economy may flourish with greater opportunities for cross-national trade and understanding.  “Soft” student outcomes such as attendance and engagement are often shown to increase when they participate in bilingual programs.  Students and families may see more value in education and themselves as their language and culture are positively addressed.

The downside to some bilingual education programs is that they may segregate ELs from other students in special classes.  Also, they typically cost more, as schools often have to pay stipends or other incentives to attract bilingual teachers.

As is true for most educational programs, results depend on the inputs invested: teacher capacity and training, parental support, administrative supports, and equitable policies.  All of our students deserve to learn in an environment that values them and their cultures.

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,CPE,English Language Learners — Tags: , , — Chandi Wagner @ 3:46 pm

September 28, 2016

How do we measure the immeasurable— and should we?

We address what we assess. I’ve never cared so much about how far I walked until I bought a Fitbit and saw that my friends apparently walk 15 miles a day.  The same is true of schools.

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), we began assessing our students’ math, reading, and science abilities, and test scores improved.  While some of that growth may have been due to teachers teaching to the test or students adapting to standardized assessments, we should still acknowledge that having stronger data about achievement gaps has helped us build the argument for greater equity in education.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) adds a new, non-academic factor to school accountability in response to the over-emphasis on tested subjects that many schools experienced under NCLB.  States have to determine what their accountability plan will include, and policy wonks are chiming in with research and cautionary tales.  It seems that we can all agree that the non-academic factor should be equitable (not favoring particular student groups), mutable (able to be changed), measurable (we have to be able to put some sort of ranking or number on it), and important to student growth and learning (or else, who cares?).  So far, I haven’t heard any consensus come out of the field on what this could look like.


The reality is that states may even want to consider testing out several different variables to see what the data tells them.  The non-academic variable could be minimally weighted until states are sure that their data is reliable, both ensuring that schools aren’t penalized for faulty data and that schools don’t try to game the new system.  States may also choose to use multiple indicators to ensure that pressure isn’t exerted on one lone factor.  States also have to keep in mind that children develop at different ages.  While chronic absenteeism is a problem for students of all ages, first-graders may differ in their abilities to self-regulate their emotions, based on gender and age.

A group of CORE districts in California have been testing a “dashboard” of metrics for several years, and are offering their strategy to the entire state, as documented by Stanford’s Learning Policy Institute.  Forty percent of a school’s rating is based on social and emotional learning indicators, including measures of social-emotional skills; suspension/expulsion rates; chronic absenteeism; culture/climate surveys from students, staff, and parents; and English learner re-designation rates.  The other 60% is based on academic performance and growth.

The reality is that our students need more than just math and reading.  They need to learn how to interact with others who are different from themselves.  They need to be able to creatively problem solve.  They need to think critically about the world around them.  Good teachers have been teaching their students these skills for decades; now we just have to make sure that all students have these enriching opportunities.

Filed under: Accountability,CPE,ESSA — Tags: — Chandi Wagner @ 8:00 am

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