There’s rising concern that our
test-based accountability system is broken…
test-based accountability system is broken…
Some experts argue that key elements of the US system,
especially annual testing and tying consequences for low scores
to schools and increasingly to teachers - and you know that’s
just a huge mess - are a far cry from the practices embraced
by these leading countries… I’m not sure it’s a particularly
healthy way to look at [teacher evaluation.] In many cases,
top performing countries do not test annually, and their approach
to accountability rests on gateway exams in high school with clear
consequences for students.
The keynote speaker at Friday’s Prichard Committee Fall meeting was Virginia Edwards, Editor-in-Chief of Education Week the nation’s top source for national education news. She spoke on the topic: 21st Century Education Reform: A National Perspective. Edwards, was a long-time friend of Bob Sexton’s, having met him as a freshman at UK in 1973 when he was the new-ish head of UK’s Office of Experiential Education. She double majored in journalism and political science and became the editor of the Kentucky Kernel. Edwards went on to report and edit for the Courier-Journal before a brief stint with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.
Now as President of Ed Week’s parent group, Editorial Projects in Education – where Sexton served as a board member - she says she has the perfect job, one that combined four “important-to-me things:” journalism that helps build political will through communication; a chance to improve education for kids; she gets to “run something;” and is part of the nonprofit sector.
From her unique perspective Edwards tells a familiar tale, that “Kentucky has been a national beacon of education reform” over the past quarter century, after languishing at the bottom of the heap for so many years. But, Edwards has been uniquely positioned to see education reform in other states mirror Kentucky’s efforts.
Edwards’s topic was “21st Century Education Reform: A National Perspective,” and she zeroed in on six “big picture” themes for the current year:
1. A difficult academic transition is taking shape: The common-core standards are different and hard, and the move to a new generation of assessments will be a challenge. The new standards and tests have implications across the board for everyone but it remains to be seen how well the supporters of the common core can sustain the momentum of the past year as the “real work” gets going.
2. Early Literacy: by which Edwards means early childhood education up to the third grade. Education Week will focus on cradle-to-career coverage, Edwards said. She underscored the importance of community support and parental involvement.
3. Tough budget times are getting tougher: The “funding cliff” was real; the end of most of the stimulus aid that “partly cushioned the blow of the Great Recession for states and districts.” In many states, the budget squeeze has reduced school funding and cost jobs while districts are challenged to offset significant losses with greater efficiencies.
4. Watershed political and policy changes are still being assimilated (or resisted) as the 2012 election looms. The K-12 system already had a full plate with the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act; the competitive-grant and school improvement initiatives of the Obama years have introduced another driver of policy; and schools in many states are now being whipsawed by dramatic changes enacted by a resurgent GOP. Against this backdrop, educators face the unknown timing and provisions of a new ESEA and the uncertainties of an election year with control of the White House, Congress, (most other states’) governorships, and state legislatures in play.
5. A conjunction of new entrepreneurship and new forces for innovation is reshaping the “education industry” and - maybe – education itself. “New programs, products, and services are emerging through the efforts of private investors, a new generation of philanthropists, and retooled older companies (with a nudge, in some cases, from federal dollars). New technologies are enabling much of this ferment, which could be “disruptive” as well as “sustaining” innovation in the field. Many educators are eyeing these developments warily; others see opportunities to rethink a century-old K-12 system.
6. The international dimension in education is more significant than ever: The financial and economic crisis of the past three-plus years has only heightened the urgency of seeing American education in its global context. How well the United States performs academically compared with overseas competitors is a first-tier concern in policy circles.
Edwards then shared a partial list of issues Ed Week is following:
• Teaching and Learning
o Standards and Assessment (a favorite focus of business and policy circles)
o Teacher Effectiveness
o Teacher Preparation
o Expanded learning (out-of-school)
o College access
• Leadership, Districts, Research & Special Needs
o Leadership development
o Get-tough management
o Zero-tolerance (questioned)
o Nutrition standards
o ELLs and Common Core
o Special education and charter schools
o Special education expenses
o Neuroscience in the classroom
o Research and entrepreneurship
• Government and Politics
o Whither ESEA?
o RTT, SIG, i3 implementation
o The impact of state policy change and cuts
o The new players (PIE Network, Stand for Children, Students First, DFER, others… flex muscles in state policy)
o Campaign 2012 (See Politics K-12)
• Technology and E-Learning
o Online learning goes mainstream
o Bring your own device (portable digital technology)
o Games and education
o Research questions remain
• Education Week Priorities
o Develop and launch a business and innovation/ “education ventures” channel
o Expand the presence of Commentary online through our evolving “opinion channel”
o Build on our 2011-12 successes by disseminating even more of our work to new audiences through content partnerships or other means
o Build on our recent advances in social media by making more effective use of Facebook or Twitter to promote our work and engage readers
o Increase our skills and content knowledge by attending PD events and beat-area conferences
America’s leaders and much of the public have come to realize that an education system born in the Industrial Age can no longer effectively serve students in a complex, rapidly changing Information Age…Students need a combination of content knowledge, cognitive strategies and learning behaviors…high-quality education will increasingly become a necessity for building a successful adult life…must think creatively and critically…adapt…leverage technologies…work collaboratively… communicate clearly…
Yet, in 19th century fashion, we continue to rely on tests, and textbooks that are poorly conceived and inconsistently taught… This can be traced to teachers’ inadequate subject-matter knowledge… PD does little to make up for teachers’ deficits… too many students are unprepared as innovators, creative thinkers, problem solvers or leaders…
Recent years have seen unprecedented developments in the policy environment…growing momentum toward a very different educational experience… Most states have aligned with common core and high expectations… federally funded consortia developing next generation assessments…
“If the past two years can be characterized as a time of massive movement on the policy front, we believe the coming years will be occupied by the hard work of implementing these ambitious policies, bringing the new vision to the classroom, and making it real through curriculum, instruction and assessment, both formative and summative.”
Edwards told the Prichard gathering that Quality Counts 2012 will take on an international theme, and that the trips she joined to Finland, Toronto, Singapore and Shanghai were “not junkets.” Her observations taught her that high quality education was an important goal in those places, and that educators were held in high regard for civic and economic reasons.
Quality Counts will feature
• Career: focusing on college readiness
• Testing: “A recent report by the National Research Council suggests there’s little evidence to date that the current approach – with its high stakes for teachers and schools, but little for students – will produce the kind of academic gains hoped for.” …and they are not the practices of our leading competition
• Testingbox: An infographic with PISA and TIMSS
• Teaching: Teachers are universally seen as crucial but “in the US continue to be viewed largely through a pink-collar lens…”
• Curriculum: how international schools approach curriculum
Ed week is launching a new “channel” of coverage looking at innovation in a rapidly-evolving high tech education industry. Well established players, like Pearson, are aggressively staking new claims in the market, and Ed Week hopes to be an independent national resource to chronicle and analyze the changes in “the business world of K-12 education.
The idea is being shaped by the notion of “disruptive innovation,” change that alters the fundamentals of how we look at teaching and learning.
Ed Week online:
25 million page views last year
Edwards on the reauthorization of ESEA:
“I don’t think any of us think it’s going to happen quickly.”
“We’ve got to start telling our story better –
about why good schools are needed…”
“Education has suffered and continues to suffer from people
who are telling the story in a negative way.”
I’m a big fan of the democratization of information.
The internet is not going away.
Social media’s not going away…
so trusted media brands are more valued than ever.”
I think there is a common vision of where we are going
to the extent that the political ends have come around to meet
(on the possibility of other forms of education
that don’t have to be the cookie cutter of one teacher to 22 kids).
If four things could happen tomorrow,
here’s what I think could change the education system over night:
1. If we got rid of seat time
2. If we got rid of textbook adoption
(to help teachers become more creative
about the curriculum materials)
3. If we could figure out how to deploy
our human resources differently
(Who says you can’t sit with a 150 kids in a classroom,
particularly in AP?)
4. The technology piece.
(There are tons of teachers doing innovative things…
and people are not fretting over the possibilities as they were two years ago.)
“We’re on the verge of big change in education.”