Common Core Success

The Wall Street Journal has a story out today on Kentucky’s success with the Common Core State Standards and the relatively minimal pushback the standards have seen there relative to other states.

I’ve written before about Kentucky’s Common Core pioneering and the early start and strong communication tactics used to help ensure success there.

Specifically, on communication and community engagement, it has been noted:

Regarding the success of these efforts, the report notes:

The expansive outreach campaign has helped the vast majority of teachers feel comfortable and ready to teach the Common Core standards. Last November and December, the Kentucky Department of Education conducted an anonymous, voluntary survey to gauge educator attitudes about the state’s new standards. According to survey findings, 86 percent of respondents believe that they are prepared to teach the standards, and 90 percent believe that the new standards are more rigorous than the previous standards.

Despite an earlier report noting some fairly dismal scores as the state shifted to Common Core, current trends indicate an improvement in both scores and high school graduation rates.

Kentucky has, since 1990, been an education policy pioneer. One hallmark of the success experienced in the Bluegrass State is an aggressive communication strategy that includes all stakeholders. Additionally, the state engages both educators and the business community early on in any reform discussion.

While it may be too late for some states currently struggling to get a handle on Common Core dissent, Kentucky’s experience suggests a model for other states in terms of how to handle education reform generally.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

A Kentucky Teacher Talks Poverty and Testing

Kentucky Education Report is always looking to highlight teacher voices on education policy issues. Too often, education debates leave out input from the frontline players: The teachers.

Today, teacher Tiffany Dunn shares with us her thoughts on two key issues: Poverty and testing.

About Tiffany Dunn:

I am a parent whose child (3rd grade) attends one of the highest performing elementary schools in the state (Kenwood Station – OCPS) and a teacher in one of the lowest performing middle schools in the state (Lassiter Middle – JCPS).  I am in my 6th year of teaching and this is my 2nd year as an ESL teacher at Lassiter, a “low performing” school.

How she became an education activist:

I became involved in education activism after starting my first year at Lassiter.  Going into the position (after seeing their KPREP scores – oh my!), I thought “great, I’ll stay here one year and get the heck out as soon as I can apply for a transfer!” BUT I soon found out that Lassiter is an amazing school with so many wonderful kids…poor kids.  I found out that Lassiter has many great teachers, that the reason for the “low performance” wasn’t the teachers, it was the socioeconomic status of our students.  Who knew all the bad teachers didn’t just congregate at all the “low performing” schools?!?!  Now I’m telling anyone who will listen about the real crisis in education, poverty.

How poverty impacts the kids Tiffany teaches:
Lassiter is over 85% free and reduced lunch.  We have a large ESL/LEP population.  These kids are at a disadvantage.  Most of them started school behind and they will stay behind because of the conditions they live in.  They worry.  They worry about food.  They worry about utility bills.  They worry about clothing.  No child thinking about these things can give their all in school.

Is all that testing and test prep helping the kids at Lassiter?

Unfortunately, we are not addressing this issue.  Instead of putting an assault on childhood poverty, we’re pumping money into ill-advised standards and testing.  We tests these kids ALL the time.  On top of all the state/federal mandated tests our district has its own mandated diagnostic and proficiency assessments.  They require us to teach certain CCSS standards each 9 weeks and then test them.  This is ON TOP of our own classroom and PLC assessments!  All in the name of the almighty KPREP.  The district uses these tests as a predictor as to how well kids will do on KPREP.  Because this ONE test is how we label our kids, our schools and our teachers.    As an ESL teacher, I can’t keep up with the teaching/testing schedule.  My kids are way too low.  It is educational malpractice to set kids in front a test knowing they are going to fail or move them along at a pace that is too fast.  Best practice would be to take all of this time testing and test prepping and put it into actual teaching.

On Labels from Tests and Opting Out:

I could go on and on about the wrong direction we’re taking in education.  I refuse to accept the labeling of our children and schools by one test score, by one set of standards.  Ranking, filing and pitting schools against one another is wrong.  There will always be a “loser” in this system.  I will be opting my own daughter out of any and all testing that does not guide classroom instruction; this includes KPREP.  Teachers and especially parents must speak up and demand more for our kids!

Are you a Kentucky teacher with a story to tell? Email me at andy@spearsstrategy.com

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

Community Outreach and Common Core Success

The Center for American Progress has a new report out: Roadmap for a Successful Transition to the Common Core in States and Districts in which recommendations for transitioning to the Common Core State Standards are made.

The report highlights states and districts getting things right about Common Core implementation. Specifically, the report mentions Kentucky’s efforts around community engagement and the Common Core State Standards.

Noteworthy is the mention of the aggressive communication efforts by the Kentucky Department of Education in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Regarding the success of these efforts, the report notes:

The expansive outreach campaign has helped the vast majority of teachers feel comfortable and ready to teach the Common Core standards. Last November and December, the Kentucky Department of Education conducted an anonymous, voluntary survey to gauge educator attitudes about the state’s new standards. According to survey findings, 86 percent of respondents believe that they are prepared to teach the standards, and 90 percent believe that the new standards are more rigorous than the previous standards.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards and the state has consistently communicated expectations to both teachers and the larger community.  The coordinated communication effort appears to be paying off in a successful implementation of the standards.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Common Core and Community Engagement

Deborah Walker of the Louisville-based Collaborative for Teaching and Learning offers thoughts on how to engage parents as Common Core State Standards become the norm.

She outlines three key principles:

1. School leaders should communicate the ways CCSS help support student academic success.

2. School leaders should note that CCSS are designed to guide students toward college and career readiness

3. School leaders should highlight the importance of nurturing a student’s future aspirations.

The Common Core State Standards were designed to help promote critical thinking and guide students to a deeper understanding of key concepts.

Whether or not that goal is achieved will be determined by how states implement the CCSS.  Parent and community engagement is one key to success.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

Don’t Stop the Music

A Kentucky teacher makes a plea for the importance of music education in the midst of tough budget decisions:

One of the first things we learned in my music education program my freshman year of college was how to advocate for music education. I always thought it odd that I would learn how to keep my job before I ever got one. Now as the budget gets tight in districts around the state as well as my own, I am continually approached by my teaching peers wondering what programs will be cut next year. Will my program be cut? With the push for more focus on Common Core and reduced funding, is there room for extras? But then I have to ask, why cut something that only reinforces and supports the Common Core while fully implementing 21st Century Skills and the Kentucky Program Reviews?

Read More

For more on Kentucky education policy and politics, follow us @KYEdReport

Core Pioneers

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt and implement the Common Core State Standards.  They’ve just finished their second year of Common Core tests.  So, how’s it going?

The good folks over at Hechinger Report have some analysis.

Here are some highlights:

1) Results are mixed.  This is to be expected.  It’s early on in the process.  Kentucky experienced similar “growing pains” with KERA and ultimately ended up with some pretty solid results — overall improvement on NAEP standings and stronger scores for low-income kids.  Are they where they want to be? No.  But the path of raising standards and focusing on both investment and equity has gotten results.  20 years ago, Kentucky and Tennessee were in roughly the same place in terms of NAEP standings.  Now, Kentucky’s students consistently test higher on NAEP.

2) The improvement is not fast enough. Scores on the Common Core tests are still pretty low.  So, state officials want faster improvement.  However, unlike the KERA reform, this reform has not been met with significant new investment in schools.  And, some advocates and even the Commissioner of Education are calling for a renewed commitment to investing in Kentucky schools.

3) It may be too much, too soon for some kids. Teachers and parents are expressing frustration over the “pushing down” of standards to lower and lower grade levels.  That is, what was once covered in 6th grade math is now expected in 5th grade.  There is some legitimate concern that younger children aren’t developmentally ready for what the Common Core expects.

4) There is some good news. Despite the somewhat bleak picture painted by Hechinger as they state, “Across the state, test scores are still dismal…,” a closer look at this year’s results offers some key points of optimism. Specifically, the Prichard Committee points out:

Looking at group patterns, students with disabilities improved in every subject, and the Gap, free and reduced meal, and African American groups improved in all but one–with most of those results being quite strong. 

So, other states should watch Kentucky — to see what’s working and what can be improved.  And Kentucky policymakers should focus on providing the necessary investments to make Common Core work.  Additionally, the Commissioner and Governor should be willing to make changes to implementation where necessary — and listen to educators for guidance on where those changes are needed.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow us @KYEdReport