When will assessments finally test deeper learning?

Technology means assessments can focus on more than just multiple-choice. Can testing keep up?


When we imagine the future of assessment it’s easy to envision all sorts of impressive ways to help gauge what students know and what they can do. Gaming and simulations, especially, create all kinds of possibilities.

But the major focus of assessment technology in recent years, of course, has been on efficiency of test delivery and administration—with little true innovation making it to students’ test booklets or computer screens.…Read More

How ESSA will boost ed-tech funding

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes block grants intended for technology, among other uses. It also opens the door to new state testing systems

essa-ed-techEight years after the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to expire, Congress finally passed a bill to replace it—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—that gives states more latitude in deciding how to close achievement gaps. The legislation also includes a sizeable state block-grant program intended for technology, among other uses.

Although it’s not the program that ed-tech advocates had hoped for, many expressed cautious optimism that a section of ESSA under Title IV (“21st Century Schools”) could help schools use technology tools to transform teaching and learning.

“We’re pleased that the federal government has renewed its commitment to funding educational technology,” said Lan Neugent, interim executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, in an interview. “It’s great to see that become a priority again.”…Read More

Every Student Succeeds Act shifts more power to states

Much-anticipated bill attempts to satisfy all stakeholder groups as it moves away from NCLB mandates

every-student-succeedsWhile a “new and improved” version of the hotly-debated No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) would still require reading and math testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school, states would have much more leeway when it comes to defining teaching and learning objectives and outlining accountability measures.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the power to determine their own academic goals and measure progress toward those goals–a departure from NCLB, which aimed for 100 percent math and reading proficiency by 2014.

States or districts will be in charge of determining how to improve persistently underperforming schools. Previously, NCLB gave the federal government a strong voice in what happened to those schools. Now, under Every Student Succeeds, schools requiring much intervention would be among the lowest-performing 5 percent in the state.…Read More

More than half of students struggle with reading, report says

New report examines literacy development and urges Congress to do the same as NCLB rewrites progress

reading-literacyNearly half of minority students and students from low-income families enter the fifth grade without basic reading skills, according to a new report urging Congress to focus on students’ literacy development beginning in early childhood.

Noting that 60 percent of both fourth and eighth graders currently struggle with reading, the report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) notes that Congress should put an emphasis on students’ literacy development from the early years and up through grade twelve as it works to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The report, The Next Chapter: Supporting Literacy Within ESEA, is based on the 2013 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. According to the report, 50 percent of African Americans, 47 percent of Latinos, and 47 percent of students from low-income families read below NAEP’s basic level.…Read More

ESEA rewrite passes Senate, education orgs respond

Passage moves act one step closer to replacing NCLB

senate-nclbVoting 81-17, the U.S. Senate has replaced the controversial No Child Left Behind with the Every Child Achieves act, which solidifies a commitment to standardized testing but gives states more freedom on how to hold schools who are not meeting objectives accountable.

Under the act, schools would still test students in reading and math and those scores would be used alongside other factors, such as graduation rates, in measuring progress. But now states themselves would be able to decide how much weight to give each factor and determine whether a school is meeting goals or not.

The federal government would have some ability to dispute a state’s measurement criteria, but some civil rights groups have contended that the bill lessens overall accountability (an amendment from several Senate Democrats that would have strengthened accountability in the bill was rejected).…Read More

Senate to tackle NCLB update

Education Committee will begin reviewing details of a plan to update NCLB

nclb-eseaA proposed update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would strengthen state and local control and end federal test-based accountability.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on April 14 is set to begin action on the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, a bipartisan agreement touted as a fix to the divisive No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which in 2001 was the last reauthorization of ESEA.

Written by committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the legislation would give more power to states and local school districts when it comes to creating accountability systems and puts a renewed focus on improving struggling schools.…Read More

Duncan calls for NCLB repeal

Education secretary promotes innovation at state, local levels

duncan-nclbU.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on January 12 laid out a vision for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that continues a focus on the nation’s most vulnerable students.

During a speech on the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the nation’s cornerstone education law, Duncan called for scrapping the law known as No Child Left Behind and replacing it with a version that not only prepares children for college and careers, but also delivers on the promise of equity and real opportunity for every child–including minority students, students with disabilities, low-income students and English learners. Duncan, joined by civil rights leaders, educators, parents, students, members of Congress, clergy, nonprofit community leaders and others, emphasized the critical role of ESEA in protecting the rights of all students to a quality education that will set them up for success.

“I believe we can work together–Democrats and Republicans–to move beyond the tired, prescriptive No Child Left Behind law. I believe we can replace it with a law that recognizes that schools need more support–more money–than they receive today,” Duncan said. “A law that recognizes that no family should be denied preschool for their children. A law that recognizes the hard work educators across America are doing to support and raise expectations for students, and lifts up the profession of teaching by recognizing that teachers need better preparation, better support, and more resources. A law that says that educational opportunity isn’t an option, it’s a civil right.”…Read More

Why we need a new education law—and why ed tech should play a role

The reauthorization effort will re-establish a democratic process that will allow those in the field to weigh in with suggestions that might put us back on the road to true education reform.

“Learning Leadership” column, July/August 2013 edition of eSchool NewsThe reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has eluded Congress for too long. Without Congressional action, the current administration has seized the moment and used regulatory fiat to implement its policies. But many of us feel that the policies being implemented lack counsel from the educators in the trenches.

The voices of teachers, principals, superintendents, and board members go unheeded, and we are on the verge of causing serious harm to an educational system weighed down by federal rules and regulations. The reauthorization effort will re-establish a democratic process that will allow those in the field once again to weigh in with suggestions that might put us back on the road to true education reform.

Unfortunately, bipartisan conversations are not happening, and we have been subject to both parties in both chambers creating their own bills [see story]. Nevertheless, superintendents are encouraged by the fact that there is more agreement than disagreement. For example, the 2011 bill that emerged from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee shifted responsibility for educational accountability from the federal government back to the state and local levels. A similar approach can be seen in the bill crafted by House Republicans.…Read More

Obama threatens veto of House GOP ‘No Child Left Behind’ update

President Obama is threatening to veto a House bill to update the No Child Left Behind education law, The Hill reports. The bill, called the Student Success Act, would “represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our Nation’s children and their families prepare for their futures,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. The administration worries that the bill, authored by Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), is too lax on state education standards, neglects students in historically underserved areas and fails to address poorly performing schools…

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Texas says ‘no’ to testing, seat time

The state that spurred the major expansion of standardized testing decades ago and became a model for No Child Left Behind is now saying “no” to copious amounts of testing, de-emphasizing seat time requirements, and placing a priority on online and vocational learning.

Starting in fall 2014, the roughly 1.4 million high school students in Texas will only have to complete five tests, down from 15. House Bill 5 was unanimously passed by both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate, and is designed to give more flexibility to students who want to focus on career and technical training, not just college-prep courses.

Changes in testing happened in large part amid a backlash from students, parents, and teachers about too much testing, as well as low passing rates for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam (STAAR).…Read More