Colleges not ready for ‘college ready’ Core grads

Students who pass Common Core-aligned tests in high school could end up in remedial college classes, writes Allie Grasgreen on Politico.

The new standards are supposed to represent “the knowledge and skills necessary for students to be college- and career-ready.” But most university systems won’t use Common Core proficiency to decide who’s placed in college-level courses.

State universities in California and Washington plan to use students’ test scores to guide college placement, writes Grasgreen. Colorado and Ohio are moving in that direction. But most universities are holding back. They’re not sure what “proficient” will mean.

Educating migrants

Macarena Vicente Morales
Macarena Vicente Morales, 18, with her U.S.-born son, Jacob, goes to high school in rural Delaware.

Nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border last year fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, reports Al Jazeera America. Schools are struggling to educate immigrant children with “different levels of education and English skills, and in many cases, fragmented families, histories of trauma and very uncertain futures.”

Macarena Vicente Morales was 17 years old and nearly eight months pregnant when she swam across the Rio Grande last spring, marking the end of her childhood in Guatemala and the beginning of a new life in the United States.

But Morales said she wasn’t escaping violence; she came to provide a better life for her son. During her three-month stay at a Texas refugee shelter, Morales gave birth to Jacob. And in July, the new mother and baby moved in with Morales’ older sister in Georgetown, Delaware – home to one of the highest concentrations of Guatemalans in the United States.

Under federal law, unaccompanied minors from countries that don’t border the U.S. can stay while they await deportation proceedings.

Migrant workers have been coming to Sussex County, Delaware, since the early 1990s, seeking work in agriculture and poultry plants. Back then, just 2 percent of Georgetown’s population was Latin American. By 2013, that number had soared to 43 percent.

But few were prepared for this new wave of young migrants. Donald Hattier, who’s on the school board of the Indian River School District in Sussex County, said the arrival of nearly 70 migrant children in one school year blindsided his district.

The high school created a special program for the new students. “Reading and writing is definitely a struggle for them, because they don’t read and write in the first language,” teacher Lori Ott said. Some come from Indian communities and don’t speak Spanish or English.

Via This Week in Education.

What’s working in Hartsville

A poor South Carolina town has the highest graduation rate in the state. 180 Days, Hartsville, which premieres on PBS tonight, goes inside two Hartsville elementary schools.

About that ‘miracle’ school

When Chris Stewart tweeted about George Hall Elementary — “99% black. 98% student poverty. All proficient.” — skeptics wondered if the “miracle” was real.

The turnaround school in Mobile was one of the highest-performing schools in Alabama in 2013, according to Education Trust, I noted.

A George Hall student

A George Hall student

Ed Trust’s Karin Chenoweth explains how George Hall went from one of the worst-performing schools in the state in 2004 to one of the best. No miracles were involved, she writes.

A new principal followed “what research indicates is important” and aligned “curricula, lessons, professional development, schedules, budgets, discipline — everything — . . . to support high-quality instruction.”

“Our children can’t help what they come from,” Terri Tomlinson told me when she was the principal. “It’s our job to teach them. And I think we do a pretty good job of it.”

At George Hall I have read student essays, heard students read, and talked with them about what they’re learning and what they hope to be when they grow up. The children at George Hall are not “miracle” children but children who have ambitions and — like all humans — are hardwired to learn.

I believe the faculty and staff would find deeply offensive the idea that the only way that their students can achieve at high levels is through divine intervention.

Getting It Done: Leading Academic Success in Unexpected Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2011) by Chenoweth and Christina Theokas profiles Tomlinson and other leaders of  24 high-performing, rapidly improving schools that serve disadvantaged students.

Hall students strive to improve in behavior and academics. Photo: Dan Carsen

Hall students strive to improve in behavior and academics. Photo: Dan Carsen

WBHM profiled George Hall in 2012 as part of a series on turnaround schools.

In 2004, the district transferred most of the teachers, hired Tomlinson and let her recruit a new set of teachers with “a strong work ethic and a belief that all kids can learn at a high level,” reports Dan Carsen. Teachers were offered $4,000 signing bonuses plus performance bonuses.

The community was angry about the changes, says Tomlinson. “We were a predominantly white staff and a white principal who came into a black school with a predominantly black staff and a black principal, and it was … it was hard for it not to be racial. And there were threats.”

Now, people lie about where their kids live so they can enroll them at George Hall, writes Carsen.

The principal and teachers “leave nothing about teaching and learning to chance. They’re very strategic,” says Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice. “They know where every child is. They have a plan ensure that they move from point A to point B. If they’re not moving along that trajectory, they have a plan to intervene.”

Teachers assess students very frequently, and principal Tomlinson analyzes the data every day. Faculty planning time is protected, and instructional time is guarded like treasure. Tomlinson says you practically need a letter from the Pope to get on the intercom, and teachers recently voted to lengthen the school day by 50 minutes.

Teachers use common lesson plans, and group planning sessions often span grade levels. Collaboration is key.

There are a few white students now, writes Carsen. They are the children of teachers.

If a book says it’s Core-aligned, is it really?

EdReports.org, a non-profit that aims to be the“Consumer Reports” for Common Core finds learning materials, isn’t impressed with allegedly “Core-aligned” math materials, reports the Washington Post.

Angie Todd uses Eureka Math to teach kindergarteners about place values in Pinesville, Louisiana. Photo: Tia Owens-Powers Town Talk

Angie Todd uses Eureka Math materials to teach kindergarteners about place values in Pinesville, Louisiana. Photo: Tia Owens-Powers, Town Talk

Out of 20 sets of K-8 math materials in widespread use, only one series — Eureka Math — was aligned with the Common Core for all grade levels, the report concluded. Teachers and math experts analyzed the texts.

Next will be English Language Arts and high school materials.

Educators need “a trusted resource for rigorous, independent and public reviews of the alignment and usability of classroom curricula,” said Eric Hirsch, EdReports.org’s executive director.

“Several recent analyses have found that while many academic publishers slap a “Common Core aligned” label on their books and teaching materials, few actually follow the new standards, notes the Post.

Eureka was created by a nonprofit called Great Minds, which won a contract with the New York Education Department to develop Eureka/Engage New York math. Education departments in Louisiana and Tennessee have praised Eureka/Engage NY, reports Jessica Williams in the Times-Picayune.

Great Minds, which had to change its name from “Common Core” to avoid confusion with the standards, developed its English Language Arts and math curricula for Core classrooms. Eureka is not an update. It’s new.

20 states raise proficiency standards

Twenty states strengthened their student proficiency standards from 2011 to 2013, while eight states weakened standards, according to a study in Education Next.

All the states showing strong improvements have adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the authors note.

There remains a 30-point differential between the percentage of students defined as “proficient” by the average state and the percentage of students considered proficient by NAEP.

In many states, taxpayers have been funding tests that are a “weapon of mass deception,” writes Matthew Ladner. “Regardless of where you stand on the Common Core project, and we’ve beat the horse into hamburger on it here, state tests with the approximate rigor of a My Little Pony coloring book — look Mommy I colored this unicorn blue-I’m PROFICIENT!!! — deserve no one’s support.”

Denmark debates Muhammad art in textbooks

Denmark is debating printing Muhammad cartoons in text books and requiring social studies teachers to explain why the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran the cartoons in 2005, reports the Washington Post.

This was the most controversial of the "Muhammed cartoons" run in 2005 by a Danish newspaper.

This was the most controversial of the 2005 Muhammed cartoons printed in 2005 in a Danish newspaper.

Weeks ago, a gunman opened fire, killing one man, at a Copenhagen cafe hosting cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew Muhammed as a dog in 2007.

Months ago, French journalists were murdered at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, known for its depictions of Muhammad.

Children need to learn about the cartoons, wrote Mai Mercado, a spokesman for the right-wing Conservative Party, in  Jyllands-Posten: “No matter how strong one’s religious feelings are, or how much one cultivates their religion, you do not earn the right to violence or threats.”

Liberals, stop ‘awfulizing’ my kids

Schools can’t defeat poverty by ignoring it, writes Anthony Cody, a veteran teacher in Oakland, in an exchange with the Gates Foundation. “In the US, the linchpin for education is not teacher effectiveness or data-driven management systems,” he writes. “It is the effects of poverty and racial isolation on our children.”

Dear Lord, Stop These Liberals From Awfulizing My Kids, responds Chris Stewart on Education Post.

Every possible chart, graph, study and statistic paint an ugly picture where all poor kids of color live in violent urban neighborhoods and suffer from PTSD. Exposure to violence has reduced their test scores. Bad parents have not taught them to speak enough words. Indeed, their parents are socially, emotionally or intellectually unfit.

One in six of these kids is in “extreme poverty.” This breaks their brains and leaves them developmentally delayed.

The numbers “receiving free or reduced price lunches has grown significantly,”  “one child in ten has been foreclosed upon” and more “than one million students are homeless.”

All this encourages teachers to lower expectations, writes Stewart. “Why is it failing teachers so often discuss poverty and successful teachers discuss pedagogy, curriculum, instruction and learning?”girl_englewood-716x320

Cody slams “education reformers” for pretending that teachers can “push students to new heights with our high expectations.”

Teachers account for no more than 20 percent of the variance in student test scores, writes Cody, while more than 60 percent correlates to out-of-school factors. “We cannot solve the problem of educational inequity while we ignore the inequitable and inadequate resources available to low-income children in their homes and communities, as well as their schools.”

Stewart wonders: “How does it feel to be a ‘teacher’ who sees teaching as futile?”

It may feel compassionate to enumerate all the life problems of our children, but it isn’t. It is limiting and hurtful. Bright poor kids are as likely to be discounted as struggling ones.

Stewart teaches only his own five children, he writes. “Still, I interview talented teachers and committed administrators often, and they speak differently than the fatalists . . . They are students of success, not experts on failure.”

In The Smartest Kids In The World, Amanda Ripley recounts a conversation with a Finnish teacher.

When she asked him about educating poor students, he was “visibly uncomfortable labeling his students,” she says. He responded, “I don’t want to think about their backgrounds too much…There are twenty-three pearls in my classroom. I don’t want to scratch them.”

. . . “I don’t want to have too much empathy for them, because I have to teach. If I thought about all of this [their poverty] too much, I would give better marks to them for worse work. I’d think, ‘Oh, you poor kid. Oh, well, what can I do?’ That would make my job too easy.”

That attitude does more to help children who live in poverty than “awfulizing” them, concludes Stewart.

U.S. is more educated — especially females

Educational gains have been steady and long-standing

One of Vox’s 21 charts that explain how the US is changing highlights the growth in schooling:  “The majority of the population over 25 went from not having a high school diploma to at least having some college in the span of 40 years.”

Women have overtaken men in earning college degrees.

Teachers of the year on Core teaching

The National Network of State Teachers of the Year has released 12 videos of “teachers of the year” discussing how Common Core standards have affected their classrooms.

Here’s Jane Schmidt, Iowa teacher of the year in 2014: