Are virtual schools failing students?

A new in-depth analysis of school performance measures for full-time virtual and blended schools indicates they might not be as successful as traditional public schools.

The data comes from the National Education Policy Center’s (NEPC) Sixth Annual Report on Virtual Education, Full-Time Virtual and Blended Schools: Enrollment, Student Characteristics, and Performance.

Virtual schools continued to under-perform academically, including in comparison to blended schools. Overall, 36.4 percent of full-time virtual schools and 43.1 percent of blended schools received acceptable performance ratings.…Read More

6 tools for real formative assessment

Delivering formative assessments is made easier with classroom technology tools

As education policy moves away from the much-maligned No Child Left Behind and toward new legislation focusing on learning outcomes, technology-enabled formative assessments are moving to the foreground as a way to gauge student learning in real time.

Assessments have long presented a challenge for educators in their various forms and frequency. Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the summative assessment pressure of NCLB eases and formative assessments become more important.

Research indicates formative assessments still deliver needed data to educators, who, when equipped to properly interpret and use data, can adjust their instruction depending on students’ needs.…Read More

Survey: Teaching demands taking toll on educators

U.S. teachers say they are frustrated with testing, changing agendas, lack of influence

A new survey reveals teachers are concerned and frustrated with shifting policies, an outsized focus on testing and a lack of voice in decision-making.

Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices, from the Center on Education Policy (CEP), found a majority of teachers expressing satisfaction with their own school, but about half or more agreed with statements indicating diminished enthusiasm, high stress and a desire to leave the profession if they could get a higher-paying job.

Teachers also expressed their views regarding their limited impact on certain decisions affecting their professional lives. Forty-six of teachers surveyed cited state or district policies that get in the way of teaching as a major challenge. Roughly 94 percent of surveyed educators said their opinions are not often factored into state or national decisions, and 77 percent said their voices are not often considered in district-level decisions. At the school level, however, 53 percent of educators agreed that their opinions are considered most of the time.…Read More

Common Core is changing how schools teach ELA and math

New report finds Common Core is affecting reading and math — but not test scores

States considered strong adopters of Common Core are more likely to see a de-emphasis of fiction and a decline in advanced math enrollment among middle school students, according to a new report that also found a trivial difference in test scores between states that have and have not adopted the standards.

The report, from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings, pulls data from surveys conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to see how far Common Core recommendations have seeped into states’ instruction, comparing data from 2011 to 2015. The question of whether students should focus on analyzing fiction, which has been traditionally favored by schools, or nonfiction, which is favored by the CCSS, was considered a major implementation hurdle just a few years ago.

On that point, it appears Common Core’s suggestions are winning out over entrenched practice. In 2011, according to the data, 63 percent of students had teachers who said they emphasized fiction, compared with 38 percent of students with teachers who said they were emphasizing nonfiction — a 25 percent gap. By 2015, however, that gap had shrunk to just eight percent, with 45 percent of students who have teachers emphasizing nonfiction. The gap shrunk for eighth grade students from 34 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015.…Read More

The benefits of adding video to teacher evaluations

A Harvard researcher shares her national perspective on improving professional development

One of the biggest challenges in K-12 education is finding an effective and productive way to evaluate teacher performance. In a world where technology is rapidly reshaping the classroom, it’s natural to look to its potential, especially considering that many schools now have the technology to do classroom observation via video. However, these same schools aren’t yet convinced whether the investment will change status quo evaluations. To find out, in 2012, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, where I work, piloted the Best Foot Forward Project (BFF), a study that grew out of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project.

BFF began with pilot programs in large districts in Georgia and North Carolina as well as Relay Graduate School of Education. In an effort to gather data from large and small districts in both urban and rural areas, we then expanded the study to include Los Angeles Unified School District, the state of Delaware, and a number of districts in Colorado.

We randomly selected half the teachers to be in a treatment group that would take videos of themselves in the classroom. These videos were then passed along to their principals for evaluation purposes. We also had remote peers provide our treatment group teachers with formative feedback on their subject matter. The control group did “business as usual” when it came to their evaluations.…Read More

These 3 policy areas could help principals become more effective

New report details how state policymakers can help strengthen, support principals

principals-policyWhile school principals are often low priorities on state education policy agendas, a handful of states have taken steps to strengthen the role principals play in schools, according to a new report commissioned by the Wallace Foundation.

After analyzing how principals are supported and prioritized in a number of states, Paul Manna, professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary and the report’s author, suggests that those states’ actions focus on three areas in policymaking.

1. State leaders can move principals higher on policy agendas. Teachers typically have the larger share of agendas and professional development investments, according to the report. But when principals are elevated in state policy agendas, it can strengthen other state education efforts. “Numerous state education policy initiatives developed during the last two decades depend heavily on excellent principals for their success,” the report notes.…Read More

Three federal education policy updates

School funding cuts could be severe under sequestration.

As Congress nears a deadline to form a compromise and avoid sequestration, education stakeholders are hoping to avoid devastating school funding cuts that could put an end to some promising practices across the country.

A recent Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) webinar explored where some federal education policies stand, what President Obama’s second term holds for teachers and students, and what could happen if sequestration occurs.

President Obama’s education reform plans…Read More