The SAT — that anxiety-provoking test required for so many college applications — is being redesigned to focus more on classroom learning and less on brain teasers.
The College Board announced Wednesday that its revised SAT will be ready in the spring of 2016. The new version will have two parts, “evidence-based reading and writing” and math, and will return to a highest possible score of 1600. An optional essay question will be graded separately.
“I hope it takes some of the intense anxiety of this high-stakes exam away,” said Barbara Gill, assistant vice president of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland, College Park and a College Board trustee.
Dawn Neely-Randall, a 24-year veteran teacher in Ohio, has watched with alarm the rising influence of standardized testing on public education in recent years. In an e-mail, she said she is “weary” of the “testing abuse inflicted” on her students and profession. Neely-Randall wrote the following piece a few days ago about what she sees happening in education, and she hopes other teachers will stand up and tell their own stories.
It isn’t even 6:30 at night, but I’m done. I already have my pajamas on and don’t have the energy to do one productive thing all evening. I drove home after an after-school meeting (looking at student test data) tonight feeling a bit sorry for myself since this is my least favorite time of the school year…the countdown to the big Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) which is the end-all, be-all in the Ohio world of education.
Our fifth-graders have learned so much this year. Most of them can write a seven-paragraph essay in one sitting. They have read novel after novel after novel. They know what plot events are, credible sources, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, and how an author arranged a non-fiction piece of writing. They’ve studied Rosa Parks, Robert Frost, Lucretia Mott, Abraham Lincoln, Garrett Morgan, Emily Dickinson, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller, MLK, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, etc… (over 30 biographies in all). We’ve “been to” England, Mexico, Ireland, Denmark, and Japan during our school studies. It has been an exciting, fun, whirlwind year and I love these kids. This has been one of my favorite groups of students ever.
Education policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations has suffered from failure to acknowledge a critical principle of performance evaluation in all fields, public and private—if an institution has multiple goals but is held accountable only for some, its agents, acting rationally, will increase attention paid to goals for which they are evaluated, and diminish attention to those, perhaps equally important, for which they are not evaluated.
When law and policy hold schools accountable primarily for their students’ math and reading test scores, educators inevitably, and rationally, devote less instructional resources to history, the sciences, the arts and music, citizenship, physical and emotional health, social skills, a work ethic and other curricular areas.
Over the last decade, racial minority and socio-economically disadvantaged students have suffered the most from this curricular narrowing. As those with the lowest math and reading scores, theirs are the teachers and schools who are under the most pressure to devote greater time to test prep, and less to the other subjects of a balanced instructional program.
This is a guest post from fellow CTQ Collaboratory member, John Visel. He shares a perspective on who should qualify to lead education policymaking that I think deserves broader discussion. Share your comments and thoughts:
I’m an elementary school teacher who has served in the Army National Guard for twelve years. My job in the Army is coordinating and playing music at inagurations and high level military ceremonies. I’ve progressed in rank and responsiblity over the years. My leadership stops at that point, though. I will never be running a team of Army Rangers or Navy SEALS. I have no experience fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. So why does education do the equivalent?
Many of our state education policy makers have never been teachers. Our nation’s secretary of education has never been a teacher. He holds no degree in teaching. In fact, the last secretary of education to have any teaching experience whatsoever taught one year- 1946-47. My state secretary of education also has zero teaching experience.
My fear is that the leaders of my organization lack the intuition for what works that comes from years of experience in a classroom. It’s normal to have leaders who are not trained in the fundamental tasks of a company. But as a teacher, it just feels, well, weird. How important is it that the person at the top has done the job of the people at the bottom? Many corporations have structures for trying to get knowledge from the bottom to make its way to the top. But that’s different than having a leader with the basic experience. Especially when that experience is defining and identity-shaping. Doing the lowest job changes you, especially if it’s extremely challenging. On the Emmy-winning show Undercover Boss (available on Netflix) each of these C.E.O’s usually comes away changed by what he sees at the lowest level.
By Emma Brown, The Washington Post
The District is slated to begin administering new tests next year that aim to gauge students’ performance on the Common Core State Standards, new national academic guidelines that are designed to promote critical thinking instead of rote memorization.
It will be an enormous shift in states across the country, one that likely will have far-reaching reverberations at a time when tests and test scores not only drive instruction in the classroom but also play a key role in determining how teachers and principals are judged and whether schools are considered successes or failures.
Now, on the cusp of that change, some D.C. education leaders are pressing city officials to study whether the District has chosen the right Common Core test or should switch to a different one.
“There’s some concern about, are we doing this right?” said Anne Herr of the Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, an advocacy group for charter schools, whose leaders have been particularly vocal about pressing for information about the coming shift. “It’s a big investment, it’s a big change, and we don’t want to have to do it twice.”
Four years ago, states formed two groups to develop new Common Core tests: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The District is committed to PARCC.
BOISE, Idaho — TO the chief counsel of the Idaho State Legislature:
In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?
I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.
I have had encounters with disgruntled students over the years, some of whom seemed quite upset, but I always assumed that when they reached into their backpacks they were going for a pencil. Since I carry a pen to lecture, I did not feel outgunned; and because there are no working sharpeners in the lecture hall, the most they could get off is a single point. But now that we’ll all be packing heat, I would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement.
At present, the harshest penalty available here at Boise State is expulsion, used only for the most heinous crimes, like cheating on Scantron exams. But now that lethal force is an option, I need to know which infractions may be treated as de facto capital crimes.
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Often, particularly in urban schools and districts, someone asks: “Where are the black male teachers?”
Statements affirming the need for more black male teachers are commonplace. As an experienced black educator and former assistant principal, I have heard assertions that more must be done to increase the number of black educators in our schools. I have also seen the tremendous impact an effective black male educator can have in the classroom. Notice I use the wordeffective; this is because an ineffective black male educator can have a more detrimental impact on a school than perhaps a teacher from any other demographic.
If I am being candid, I can attest personally to the fact that in many schools, the only abundance of black men comes in the form of custodians, food-service employees, and transportation workers. In addition, in conversations with my colleagues, it is widely understood that if black men are educators, they more often than not are physical education teachers or coach in some capacity. Black men are largely underrepresented in our nation’s classrooms; it has been widely reported that they make up less than 2 percent of our country’s teachers.
By Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst
Gregory Thornton is done with Milwaukee Public Schools. The Superintendent of Wisconsin’s largest school district is on to a new challenge – operating Baltimore Public Schools as their CEO.
Thornton’s move will send MPS back to the drawing board four years after hiring the administrator from the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania. His tenure lasted approximately half the time of his predecessor, William Andrekopoulos. For Thornton, with Act 10 and plenty of unrest revolving around the city’s public schools, it must have seemed much longer.
The former MPS head’s legacy will not be measured by time. Instead, it will be based on whether or not he was able to lead the district up from its status as one of Wisconsin’s most troubled districts. Looking at the city’s educational achievement scores, it is unclear whether the city will hold Baltimore’s new educational CEO in high regard.
The Common Core has been applauded by education leaders and promoted by the Obama administration as a way to replace a hodgepodge of state standards with one set of rigorous learning goals. Though 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to them since 2010, resistance came quickly, mostly from right-leaning states, where some leaders and political action groups have protested what they see as a federal takeover of local classrooms.
But the newest chorus of complaints is coming from one of the most liberal states, and one of the earliest champions of the standards: New York. And that is causing supporters of the Common Core to shudder.
Carol Burris, an acclaimed high school principal on Long Island, calls the Common Core a “disaster.”
“We see kids,” she said, “they don’t want to go to school anymore.”
Leaders of both parties in the New York Legislature want to rethink how the state uses the Common Core.
The head of the nation’s largest teachers union said the rollout of the new Common Core academic standards has been “completely botched” in many states and that wholesale changes taking place in U.S. classrooms need an immediate “course correction.”
Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, had been a steadfast supporter of the new K-12 academic standards that have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District since 2010.
But Van Roekel said Wednesday that after talking to about 10,000 teachers in listening sessions and focus groups over several months, he is convinced that implementation of the new standards in most of the country is chaotic.
“My greatest fear for the students of America is that we may lose the promise of the Common Core standards because we screwed up the implementation,” Van Roekel said.