Friday, September 04, 2015

In Context: Stephen Pruitt and School Reform

And how does Achieve, Inc. fit in?

This from Chapter 2 of Combs & Fair (eds.) Meet Me at the Commons, New Forums (2015). Whose Standards Are These?: A Brief Historical Timeline of the Development of the Common Core State Standards with References to Next General Science Standards, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies by Richard Day

1989: The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) published their highly influential report, America’s choice: High skills or low wages! which called for new set of national educational performance standards to be bench­marked to the highest educational standards in the world and met by American students by age 16. Many states began enacting policies recommended by NCEE (National Center on Education and the Economy, 1990). 

1989: President George H. W. Bush invited the nation’s governors to an education summit, where influential AFT President Albert Shanker urged them to begin creating a national system of high standards and rigorous assessments with real consequences. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton took charge of the governors’ effort to draft national goals for the year 2000, a major policy shift away from keeping students in school without any real standards of achievement. 

1989: Kentucky drew national attention when its Supreme Court declared the entire system of schools to be unconstitu­tional in Rose v Council for Better Education, 790 S. W. 2d 186, (1989). The Rose court accepted a standards-based rationale for determining whether the state had met its constitutional obliga­tion, and that launched another wave of school reform litigation based on both equity and adequacy claims as expressed in state constitutions (Day, 2011). 

1990: In response to the Rose decision, the Kentucky General Assembly passed the nation’s most ambitious statewide school reform package, the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) (Day, 2011; Guskey & Oldham, 1997). Arguably, KERA’s most powerful feature was the advent of a new kind of high-stakes accountability system based on student achieve­ment outcomes (test scores). The old method of reporting only school-wide means concealed the substandard performance of as much as a third or more of the student population. The new data, disaggregated into subgroup performance, revealed those short-comings and changed the way educators talked about student success. The public reporting of student test score data by subgroups, along with the ranking of schools – a contribution of the news media - proved to be a powerful tool for driving change in this new era of high-stakes assessment. The promise of equality of educational opportunity that had guided American schools for a century was effectively replaced by a new goal – equity of student achievement outcomes (Day & Ewalt, 2014). 

1993: Separately, the National Research Council issued a set of national science standards, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science published its Benchmarks for Science Literacy (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study publish The Opportunity Equation calling for a common set of science standards (National Research Council, 2012). 

1994: President Bill Clinton’s effort to create voluntary national standards fell apart when history standards, which included social justice issues, were attacked by conservative groups as the epitome of left-wing political correctness (in Ravitch, 2010, pp. 16-22). Clinton backed away from national standards and provided funding under his Goals 2000 program for states to write their own standards, pick their own tests, and be account­able for achievement (Ravitch, 2010). 

1996: The National Governor’s Association, in concert with corporate leaders, created Achieve, Inc., an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization based in Washington D. C. that focused its efforts on helping states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, and strengthen accountability (American Diploma Project, 2011). 

2001: Achieve sponsored a National Education Summit and joined with the Education Trust, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and the National Alliance of Business to launch the American Diploma Project (ADP) to identify the must-have knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers. 

2001: When President George W. Bush signed the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act into law, a new definition of school reform became nationalized, one characterized by accountabil­ity (Ravitch, 2010). The Act required states to test every child annually in Grades 3 – 8 in reading and math and report disag­gregated test scores. This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was built upon a standards-based reform whose roots were found in policy responses to A Na­tion at Risk (Kaestle, 2006). Nationally, there was concern over the “vast differences in educational expectations [that] existed across the states” (Conley, 2014, p. 1). 

2004: The American Diploma Project (ADP) published, Ready or not: Creating a high school diploma that counts which described “specific content and skills in English and mathemat­ics graduates must master by the time they leave high school if they expect to succeed in postsecondary education or high-performance, high-growth jobs.” The standards were said to be “considerably more rigorous than [the existing] high school standards” (American Diploma Project, 2007, p. 7). 

In 2004, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher’s (R-Lexington) education agenda featured the idea of getting high schoolers ready for college and the workplace, including year-end assessments and better curriculum alignment across all core content areas. Fletcher’s plan was developed based on research conducted through the state's participation in the American Diploma Project, a joint effort of three Washington-based education reform groups: Achieve Inc., the Education Trust, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation – which are not coincidentally, also the groups behind the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).[1]

When Fletcher’s Education Secretary Virginia Fox met with the National Governor’s Association in February 2005, she reported that Kentucky already had a pre- K-16 council working to forge stronger ties between high schools and higher education. "We've been working very hard on the issue of alignment," added Ms. Fox. "That's a track we're on, and we'll continue aggressively - and, in fact, probably accelerate."[2]
2005: At the National Education Summit on high schools that year, governors from 45 states joined with business leaders and education officials to address a critical problem in American education – that too few students were graduating from high school prepared to meet the demands of college and careers in an increasingly competitive global economy. The result was ADP’s creation of a set of benchmarks that were proposed as anchors for other states’ high school standards-based assess­ments and graduation requirements. ADP identified an impor­tant convergence around the core knowledge and skills that both colleges and employers – within and beyond ADP states – require (American Diploma Project, 2004). The American Diploma Project set five goals and the criteria against which participating states were measured to determine if the goal had been met:  

Common Standards – The criteria are met if the standards’ writing process is guided by the expectations of the state’s postsecondary and business communities, if those com­munities verify that the resulting standards articulate the knowledge and skills required for success in college and the workplace, and if an external organization verifies the standards’ alignment to college- and career-ready expecta­tions (American Diploma Project, 2011).  

Graduation Requirements – High school graduates need to complete a challenging course of study in mathematics that includes the content typically taught through an Algebra II course (or its equivalent) and four years of grade-level English aligned with college- and career-ready standards (American Diploma Project, 2011).  

Assessments – States must have a component of their high school assessment system that measures students’ mastery of college- and career-ready content in English and mathematics. The assessment must have credibility with postsecondary institutions and employers such that a certain score indicates readiness (American Diploma Project, 2011).  

P-20 Data Systems – States must have unique student iden­tifiers to track each student through and beyond the K-12 system and must have “overcome all barriers to matching” and have “the capacity to match longitudinal student-level records between K-12 and postsecondary, and matches these records at least annually” (American Diploma Project, 2011, p. 18).  

Accountability Systems – States must value and reward the number of students who earn a college- and career-ready diploma, score college-ready on high school assessments, and enter college without the need for remediation (Ameri­can Diploma Project, 2011). 

   2006: ACT’s report, Reading between the lines argued that there are high costs ($16 billion per year in lost productivity and remediation) associated with students not being ready for col­lege level reading and suggested that students were actually losing momentum during high school, that poor readers struggle, are frequently blocked from advanced work, that low literacy levels prevent mastery of other subjects, and is commonly cited as a reason for dropping out (ACT, 2006). NAEP reading results from 1971-2004 showed average reading scores for 9-year-olds were the highest on record but scores for 13-year-olds had risen only slightly since 1975. Reading scores for 17-year-olds, however, had actually dropped five points between 1992-2004 (Perie, Moran, & Lutkus, 2005). 

2007: The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) issued a report that established the lack of any continuity among the various state accountability systems. Under the provisions of the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), states were re­quired to report annually the percentages of students achieving proficiency in reading and mathematics for grades 3 through 8. But the law allowed each state to select the tests and set the pro­ficiency standards by which it determines whether the state has met its adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals. The NCES report revealed that proficiency standards varied so much from state to state that comparisons were impossible. Students in states where cut scores for proficiency had been set low appeared to be achieving at remarkable rates. But when the performance in these states was mapped against the estimate of students achieving a “proficient” rating on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), there were substantial differ­ences found. The variations could be explained by differences in both content standards and student academic achievement from state to state, as well as from differences in the stringency of the standards adopted by the states. As a result, there was no way to directly compare state proficiency standards in an environment where different tests and standards were used (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007, p. 482).

November 2007: The Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) policy forum discussed the need for one set of shared academic standards. 

2008: Achieve report Benchmarking for success: Ensuring U.S. students receive a world-class education recommended states upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive (National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, & Achieve Inc., 2008). 

July 2008: With the release of Out of many one: Toward rigorous Common Core Standards from the ground up, CC­SSO Executive Director, Gene Wilhoit, argued that all students should graduate from high school prepared for the demands of postsecondary education, meaningful careers, and effective citizenship, and that a state-led effort is the fastest, most ef­fective way to ensure that more students graduate from high school ready for college and career, a universally accepted goal. “ADP Core has become the common core as a byproduct of the alignment work in each of the states.” (Achieve, Inc., Press Release, July31, 2008). 

Summer 2008: CCSSO’s Executive Director Gene Wilhoit and Student Achievement Partners Co-founder David Coleman convinced philanthropist Bill Gates to spend more than $200 million advancing Common Core. Over the next two years, Gates would fund groups across the political spectrum and by June 2009, CCSS would be adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia (Layton, 2014).

April 2009: NGA & CCSSO Summit in Chicago called for states to support shared standards. 

In April 2009, Stephen Pruitt was selected as Chief of Staff for the colorful Kathy Cox, in the Georgia Department of Education. He had been with the department in various capacities since 2003. He had previously been a high school AP Chemistry teacher.
May 2009: The CCSS Initiative development began on the college and career ready standards (National Governors Asso­ciation Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2014). 

In 2009, the Kentucky legislature passed Senate Bill 1 which was sponsored by a host of Republicans including former Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville) along with Sens. Katie Stine (R-Southgate) and Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) who have recently had second thoughts. SB1 directed the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Council of Postsecondary Education (CPE) to plan and imple­ment a comprehensive process for re­vising the core standards so they are fewer in number, more focused and in-depth, evidenced-based, incorpo­rate international benchmarks where possible, and are common from high school to postsecondary introduc­tory courses.
July 2009: Based on positive responses from the states Com­mon Core State Standards Writing Panels began their work. 

July 2009: President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced $4.35 billion in competitive Race to the Top (RTTT) grants. To be eligible, states had to adopt “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the work place” (U. S. Department of Education, 2009, para 4). But the support of the Obama administration for this hitherto voluntary national
effort would create confusion as to whether CCSS was a national effort or a federal effort. When viewed as a federal effort, CCSS became ripe for politicization. 

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday had been on the job less than a week, in August 2009, when he sat before the Interim Joint Committee on Education to talk about the implementation of Senate Bill 1. Listening were many of the key crafters of the bill including Rep Katie Stine (R-Southgate) .

“Kentucky has long been known for national leadership in education reform,” said Holliday. “Your insight and preparation in Senate Bill 1 will lead us into the next generation of education reform.” He made it clear that he was ready and able to follow their game plan.

A key provision of the bill seeks to ensure high school graduates are prepared for college or jobs eliminating the need for zero-credit developmental classes in the process. Holliday and CPE President Bob King confirmed to the SB1 sponsors that they understood the legislators’ desire for a Kentucky high school diploma to truly indicate the student has completed work which is synchronized with the course requirements needed for college success.

KDE staff handed out detailed time lines for implementing the deadlines imposed by the bill – which was to be fully implemented by 2011. College Readiness Workgroups had already been established to review the common core standards. After reviewing the time lines Stine encouraged Holliday and King saying, “It’s a tall task but it looks like you’re well on your way.”[3]
September 2009: 48 states (not Texas or Alaska), Washing­ton, D. C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were counted as participating in the CCSS effort (National Governors Associa­tion, 2009). 

January, 2010: Responding to fears that Common Core might squeeze social studies out of the curriculum, an alliance of social studies organizations, including a state collaborative working under the CCSSO called the Social Studies Assessment, Curricu­lum and Instruction (SSACI), the National Council for the Social Studies, and the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools (CMS) began an initiative to focus on the four state standards identified in the No Child Left Behind Act: Civics, Economics, Geography and History. The group expanded to include 15 organizations and formed the Task Force of Professional Organizations to work with SSACI (Swann & Griffin, 2013). 

February 11, 2010: Kentucky adopted CCSS, the first state to do so. 

March 2010: First draft of CCSS was officially released

June 2, 2010: The standards-development process was com­pleted in approximately one year by Achieve, Inc. (Mathis, 2010). The Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts and Math) were finalized on June 2, 2010 (Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2010). 

July 2010: Kentucky launched Leadership Networks for teacher, school, and district leaders around the implementa­tion of the Common Core State Standards within the context of highly effective teaching, learning, and assessment practices. 

September 2. 2010: Education Secretary Arne Duncan awarded $360 million to two multi-state consortia to develop standardized tests: The Partnership for Assessment of Readi­ness for College and Careers (PARCC) and The Smarter Bal­anced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) (U. S. Department of Education, 2010) 

July 1, 2011: The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study published A Framework for K-12 Science Education Standards: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, the guiding document for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

2011: Achieve began managing the state-led development of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards. 

At this point, Stephen Pruitt was in his first year at Achieve, serving as Vice President for Content, Research, and Development and developing instructional materials, including rubrics to assess the quality of instructional material. 

Spring 2012: Kentucky assessed CCSS in a new accountability system. 

In May 2013, Stephen Pruitt was promoted to Senior Vice President and coordinated the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Network and led the development of science materials. 

2013: Nationally, with bipartisan support for a conservative proposal, and much evidence-based rationale, CCSS seemed to be on track for a relatively easy adoption among the 45 states that remained committed. The thornier issue appeared to be whether a set of national exams based on the CCSS could be agreed to and would be affordable. But backlash against CCSS was surfacing in state legislatures in Alabama, Indiana, Michi­gan, Missouri, Pennsylvania Missouri, Georgia, South Dakota, and Kansas (Ujifusa, 2013).

April 9, 2013: The final Next Generation Science Standards were released. The standards required evidence of three-di­mensional learning (including practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas) and learning progressions outlined with stan­dards at all grade levels, including engineering, and connections with common core standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013). 

April 2013: The Republican National Committee surprised many educators when it passed a resolution bashing the standards. In a letter to colleagues on the appropriations subcommittee that handles education funding, Sen. Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) calls CCSS an “inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children” (Strauss, 2013, para. 3). Grassley asked Congress to cut off all future funds for CCSS and its assessments, and “restore state decision-mak­ing and accountability with respect to state academic content standards.” The letter said in part:

While the Common Core State Standards Initiative was initially billed as a voluntary effort between states, federal incentives have clouded the picture. Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a ‘common set of K-12 standards’ matching the description of the Common Core. The U.S. Department of Education also made adoption of ‘college- and career-ready standards’ meet­ing the description of the Common Core a condition to receive a state waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Educa­tion Act. Race to the Top funds were also used to fund two consortiums to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core and the Department is now in the process of evaluating these assessments. (Grassley, 2013, para. 2) 

Once a public policy issue becomes politicized, it is dif­ficult to accurately predict its future. But a report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) found that, while concern over funding for CCSS implementation was high, state education leaders said that the effort would go forward. In their report, Year 3 of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: State Education Agencies Views on the Federal Role, CEP found that the majority of the 40 states responding to the survey, said that it is unlikely that their state would reverse, limit, or change its decision to adopt CCSS this year or next. Few state education leaders said that overcoming resistance to CCSS was a major challenge in their state (Renter, 2013).


Richard Day said...

For reasons I can't explain, Skip Kifer is experiencing difficulties posting to KSN&C!! So, I am posting this on his behalf:

This from Skip Kifer:
A couple additions to your timeline and thoughts:

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released a standards document in the late 1980's. They were, I believe, the first content standards. Those were followed a couple of years later with assessment standards.

The Clinton administration created two voluntary national tests, one for 4th graders in reading and one for eighth graders in mathematics. They were "formative" in their nature without the heavy handiness of the accountability stuff. Republicans in congress refused to fund their implementation. Instead some years later come up with the grades 3 through 8 tests, heavily in the accountability realm.

I disagree with your statement that outcomes rather than opportunities were the modus operandi for the Kentucky assessment, at least initially. (I know there are those who interpreted the much earlier Coleman report in that way.) In the document to which companies responded to compete for the assessment contract there was a heavy emphasis on Continuous Assessment, teachers being involved, and building a test "worth teaching to." Accountability, although a piece of the document, later took on a huge life of its own. We have suffered ever since. The opportunities were reinforced by after school stuff, Saturday meetings and summer school.

Richard Innes said...


This is an interesting compilation, but I question the comments for the 1990 entry about the new data being disaggregated into subgroup performance.

I don't recall seeing consistent, annual disaggregations until they were required by No Child Left Behind after the turn of the century.

I pulled my old file on the KIRIS Biennium 3 closeout reports and could find nothing about subgroup scores. If there were separate reports issued, I didn't see them and they were not being discussed at Kentucky Board of Education meetings (which I am sure they would have been) in that time frame, either.

If you can provide KIRIS era reports that show disaggregation, I would like to see that.

Also, while it is Kentucky-specific, Senate Bill 1 from 2009 played a notable role in Kentucky’s early adoption of Common Core and possibly needs inclusion for that reason.

You also might include Kentucky Senate Bill 130 from the 2006 Regular Legislative Session which led to statewide testing with EXPLORE, PLAN and the ACT. The 2015 EXPLORE test results in particular may prove important for the credibility of Common Core and could have some impact on the credibility of the 2015 NAEP Grade 8 math and reading results when those come out around the end of the year, as well.

Overall, very interesting list.