Saturday, January 29, 2011

Regress to Focus on Inputs Rather than Outcomes

Flaws in a Less Rigorous Education 'Dashboard'
Education Week Commentary by Ze'ev Wurman & Williamson M. Evers

January 28, 2011

On Monday [Jan. 24], U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released an online “Education Dashboard” that is supposed to show how American schools and students are performing and to encourage public debate and discussion.

Where the Bush-era indicators defined college readiness by college-admissions-test scores of high schoolers, Secretary Duncan has replaced them with the rather meaningless measure of “public school graduates who took at least one Advanced Placement test”—took, but did not necessarily pass.

While many distracting inputs have been added, an important one has been dropped. That measure of input, which was included in the Bush-era indicators, is broadly meaningful to the public: average national K-12 spending per student. Such a figure is a vital component of any effort to measure productivity. Per-pupil spending has continued to rise even during the recession. Yet this figure is now absent from the Obama administration’s dashboard and thus hidden from the public.

In summary, we are disappointed that Secretary Duncan and the Obama administration have chosen, in effect, to lower achievement expectations and regress to a focus on inputs rather than on outcomes.

Ze'ev Wurman is a manager in a Silicon Valley technology startup company and was a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Education during President George W. Bush’s administration. Williamson M. Evers is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a member of the institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. He was the assistant U.S. secretary of education for planning, evaluation, and policy development during the same administration.


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Winning the Future?

Sandra Stotsky on "Education's Long Forgotten Vision" by Avner Molcho.

The first step in facilitating a more equitable allocation of academic credentials was development of national standards in English and mathematics loosely tethered at the secondary level to their traditional content. That step was completed with the help of the Gates Foundation, which paid for the development, review, post-facto validation, and promotion of the reading and mathematics standards Common Core released in June 2010, and which also influenced the selection of most of the personnel involved. Public officials and the media were repeatedly told by the developers of the standards that they were research-based and internationally benchmarked, even though independent subject matter experts and researchers indicated this was not the case.[2] To clinch the first step, the U.S.D.E. ensured state adoption of these skills-oriented standards (about 45 states so far) with the lure of Race to the Top competitive funds.

Efforts are already underway to make sure that all “college ready” students can be successful in their freshman college courses. Public colleges are being asked to “align” entrance requirements and the content of freshman courses to Common Core’s secondary standards, not the other way around. And, to ensure that “college ready” students can graduate from a college degree program in record time, all of their freshman courses must be credit-bearing, not tagged as remedial. (Otherwise, these students could not be called “college ready.”)

Once upon a time, making students “college ready” meant strengthening, not weakening, the high school curriculum.


Rather than working to improve K-12 outcomes, efforts are underway to weaken college requirements.  Winning the future?  (Yeah, right!!)

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Commoditizing Education

Duncan: Common Standards Will Produce Tech Innovations

"Companies that have stayed clear of the market because of having to develop different products to meet different states' standards will soon have a shot to sell goods across states"

"With common standards coming, and with common assessments coming, we are creating a much more efficient marketplace," Duncan said, "and there are lots of folks out there who could do very well by doing good, going forward."


"It was very tough, with a lot of different standards, trying to customize everything at the local level," he added. "There are huge inefficiencies there. With a common measuring stick and common standards, I think the market becomes much more attractive for those geniuses on the entertainment side, to get into the education sector."


This word just came to mind when I read the article.  It makes me very uncomfortable when coupled with education. 








Movement toward perfect competition; the process by which a good or service thought to be unique or superior becomes like other, similar goods and services in the eyes of the market. Commoditization is the movement toward undifferentiated competition between two or more companies offering the same good or service. This leads to lower prices.




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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Local Control

Locally elected school board members have a responsibility to consider all pertinent information before casting their votes.  This is the issue at hand in Seattle regarding their high school math adoption.

Rather than considering all of the information available to them at the time, a slim majority of School Board members followed the ill-conceived recommendation of the district's administration and recommended a math series that is ineffective.

I've summarized recent events below, but if you would like read the entire back story, go to Seattle Math Group.  Martha McLaren has done a great job of keeping us all up to date!

I believe this is a very important case!  Elected School Boards should be held responsible for making good decisions based on all available pertinent information.

Please consider contributing, even a small amount, to the Seattle Math Group legal fund!  



Back in February, the Court found that there was "insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering Series"

The Washington State School Director's Association filed an Amicus Brief  recently which is simply wrong! 

Their argument fails apart on p. 4 where they claim that “By determining that there was insufficient evidence for any reasonable board member to approve the selection of the Discovering series math curriculum, the trial court threw its weight behind the competing ‘direct instruction’ curriculum.”  There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE to support that statement. 

On p. 9 they affirm that “Although RCW 28A.645 provides for judicial review of school board decisions, review of school board legislative or quasi-legislative acts is limited to determining whether the board acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner or contrary to the law.” 

Which is EXACTLY what Judge Spector found!!

And on p. 10 they state that “Agency action is arbitrary and capricious only if it is willful and unreasoning in disregard of facts and circumstances”  

Which (AGAIN) is EXACTLY what the Judge found because they did not consider all of the information that was provided.




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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!

Best and Worst in American Education, 2010

from the Hoover Institute  


Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education pored over the year’s key events, deliberating, arguing, voting, and finally rendering a verdict. The eleven education experts in the task force selected nine notable events; four exclusively in the best-of-year category, four in the worst category, and one—U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan’s high-profile “Race to the Top” competition—clearly in both.


4) of "the best"


Education reform discussions often neglect curriculum. The first of these path-breaking and methodologically sophisticated IES studies shows that curriculum matters at least as much as higher-profile reforms.  

Sadly, the second study shows that it is extremely difficult to improve teacher performance via professional development and raises the possibility that most current efforts of that sort are a waste of time and money.  

There was a renaissance of rigorous, federally sponsored education research during the George W. Bush administration; these laudable studies were launched during that renaissance.

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