‘Proficiency’ means little in some states

States define “proficiency” very differently, write Paul Peterson and Peter Kaplan in Education Next.

Massachusetts, Tennessee and Missouri have the highest expectations, while Alabama and Georgia expect the least of their students. Texas, Michigan, Idaho, Illinois and Virginia also set a low bar.

Standards still declined in rigor in 26 states and D.C. between 2009 and 2011, while 24 states increased rigor, the study found.

The study grades the states for setting high standards, not on whether students meet those standards.

Having been graded an F in every previous report, (Tennessee) made the astounding jump to a straight A in 2011. . .  state tests were made much more challenging and the percentage of students identified as proficient dropped from 90 percent or more to around 50 percent, a candid admission of the challenges the Tennessee schools faced.

West Virginia, New York, Nebraska, and Delaware also strengthened proficiency standards, while New Mexico, Washington, Hawaii, Montana, and Georgia lowered the bar.

Uneven at the Start, a new Education Trust report, looks at academic performance to predict how different states will meet the challenge of Common Core standards.

New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts show strong performance and improvement for all students — and for disadvantaged students, reports Ed Trust.  Performance is weak in West Virginia and Oregon. Ohio and Wisconsin do well for students overall, but poorly for “or or more of their undeserved groups.”

Education Trust also has updated its EdWatch reports, which analyze  college and career readiness and high school and college graduation rates for all groups of students in each state.  The state academic performance and improvement tool shows how each state compares with the national average and with other states.

Utah leads in online learning

Utah is leading the way in digital learning, writes Matthew Ladner on Jay P. Greene’s Blog. A new state law based on Digital Learning Now’s Ten Elements of Quality Online Learning “funds success rather than just seat time, has no participation caps and allows multiple public and private providers.” The program starts for public high school students but then adds home-school and private school students.

Tom Vander Ark’s predicted “radical choice” at the lesson level,

We’ll soon have adaptive content libraries and smart recommendation engines that string together a unique playlist for every student every day. These smart platforms will consider learning level, interests, and best learning modality (i.e.,motivational profile and learning style to optimize understanding and persistence).

Smart learning platforms will be used by some students that learn at home, by some students that connect through hybrid schools with a day or two on site, and by most students through blended schools that mix online learning with on site support systems.

West Virginia’s state board of education has adopted the Digital Learning Now recommendations, writes Vander Ark on EdReformer.

Florida’s legislature passed a bill requiring high school students to take at least one online course. The law also ends the Florida Virtual School‘s monopoly on online classes.

Poor examples

To argue for $10 billion in education aid, President Obama brought two laid-off teachers to the White House. Both Shannon Lewis, a special education teacher in West Virginia, and Rachel Martin, an Illinois kindergarten teacher, were laid off because of declining enrollment, not funding cuts.

Martin is an “excellent, excellent” teacher who was laid off because enrollments had dropped and she was lowest in seniority, said Matteson School District 162 Superintendent Blondean Davis. Davis offered Martin her old job back the day after she returned from Washington, saying enrollment is back up.

Lewis was laid off by her own mother, who’s the county superintendent, because there are fewer students in the district.

West Virginia has not been forced to lay off  or furlough any teachers or other state employees, reports the Charleston Daily Mail.  Last year, West Virginia cut state education funding, filled the gap with federal dollars and used the savings for other government needs. That’s likely to happen again this year.

There must be two teachers in this country who were laid off because of funding cuts. I know California’s got plenty. You’d think Obama’s people could have found them.

Don’t hate Barbie because she’s beautiful

Barbie dolls would be banned in West Virginia, if a Democratic state legislator name Jeff Eldridge has his way. Actually, Eldridge wants to ban the sale of all dollars that “promote or influence girls to place an undue importance on physical beauty to the detriment of their intellectual and emotional development.”

Selling ugly dolls would be OK.

Kids need to know that “beauty from the inside” is just as important as outer beauty, Eldridge said.

Well, yes, but how does he know Barbie isn’t smart? Barbie, who  turns 50 on March 9, has succeeded in many careers, including teacher, doctor, dentist, nurse, vet, Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force officer, flight attendant, pilot, astronaut, business executive, paleontologist, cowgirl, See’s Candy cashier, world peace ambassador and president of the U.S.

Update: On the other hand, there’s Totally Stylin’ Tattoo Barbie, who “comes with a set of body art stickers to be placed anywhere on her body” and a pseudo-tattoo gun that lets kids stamp (washable) designs on themselves.  Einstein Barbie will have to wait.