Tag Archives: reading

New PISA Results Bring the Same Old Disappointing News

Have you heard of PISA? No, it’s not some delicious Italian dish you can buy in a restaurant. It’s the preeminent international assessment of student performance in more than 70 countries across the world. A project of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA is administered to a representative sample of 15-year-olds in these countries every three years. Sadly, the recently released results of the 2015 PISA assessment are significantly harder to swallow than tasty Italian food. For those of you who are particularly wonky, you can find the full report on the most recent PISA results here. Other folks may prefer to surf OECD’s curated topline results and interactive map, which can be found here. If you are culturally insensitive and only interested in the results for the United States, those can be found here. If you really, truly don’t want to be bothered with all those numbers, don’t fret. We’ll cover the big stuff right here in this post.

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New PARCC Scores Are Ugly, but the Real Question Is Why

(An important note for today’s post before we get started: PARCC results cannot and should not be compared to previous TCAP or CSAP results. Seriously, don’t do that. Yes, I’m looking at you.) A lot of kids my age would love to go to the park on a fine Friday like this one. I, however, feel obligated to spend some time trudging through a PARCC of a different sort today. Buckle your seatbelts for some intense nerdery. Yesterday saw the release of Colorado’s first-ever PARCC results. For those not in the edu-loop, PARCC is Colorado’s new statewide assessment in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. It officially supplanted the TCAP last school year. Many of you probably know that PARCC hasn’t exactly been happily embraced. A great many states have run away from it like scalded dogs (note that the number of PARCC states is now six, with D.C. tacked on for good measure) despite recent changes designed to make the test less onerous. Given all the hubbub, saying that folks on all sides of the issue were anxiously anticipating these results would be an understatement. Unfortunately (though not unexpectedly), those results were less than flattering. I’ll let you dig […]

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Of NEA, ACORN, Duncan and Electric Chairs: EIA is Back with a Bang

If you aren’t a regular reader of Mike Antonucci’s Education Intelligence Agency (EIA), you don’t know what you’re missing. Mr. Antonucci is one of the best national experts on teachers unions, has a very keen perspective on the significance of issues in unions and education politics, and breaks many stories with his vast network of (mostly anonymous) sources. That’s why when he took a break from his online reporting and commentary for nine or 10 days a little earlier this month, I was suffering from a mild case of withdrawal. But EIA’s Intercepts blog is back, with two new pieces I commend to your reading enjoyment and enlightenment: “NEA & ACORN: The Details” (adding more depth to an issue my Education Policy Center friends covered recently on our Independent Teachers site) How the two national teachers unions now face the equivalent of a political “electric chair” in their education policy discussions with a Democratic presidential administration … big stuff EIA is back with a bang. Happy Monday!

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Online Elementary Teacher of the Year Gives Cyberschool Sneak Peek

If my mom and dad were to sign me up for one of Colorado’s many public online education programs, what would my school experience look like? Would I be chained to the computer all day, blogging for the Independence Institute? Okay, I’m teasing. Of course not. But you may be really surprised to find out what it’s like. If you or someone you know are considering the cyberschool option, you really ought to listen to our latest iVoices podcast. Click the play button below to hear Colorado’s online elementary teacher of the year Christina Narayan explain how she teaches reading and math to students all over the state while building a sense of community and cooperation: Mrs. Narayan, a teacher for Branson School Online, really seems like a remarkable lady. But what’s even more noteworthy is how her passion and excitement for what she does reflects the bright future for this increasingly popular education option. That, and the fact she got to throw out the first pitch last month at a Colorado Springs Sky Sox game. I’m so jealous!

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A Glimpse at New Schools: Atlas Preparatory Charter, Colorado Springs

It’s Monday, which means it’s time again to highlight a new public school opening here in our great state of Colorado. Today we look south along the Front Range to the Colorado Springs area, where the Atlas Preparatory Charter School has kicked off its very first classes today. One hundred fifth-graders represent the first cohort of what is slated to take students all the way up through eighth grade by 2012-13. Using an intense college-prep model, the leaders of Atlas have set specific goals to make high academic achievers out of their students, and will incorporate a longer school day with extra focus on reading and math to get it done. While as a tuition-free public charter school Atlas is open to all comers, they are especially geared toward instilling a focus on achieving a four-year college education in young people who may be the first in their family to take that academic step.

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Baltimore School Celebration Ends with Union Rules Imposed on Charter

Alexander Russo at This Week in Education reports that the city of Baltimore threw a party to celebrate some dramatic improvements in student achievement: No doubt, the city has pulled things together in recent years. The number of students exceeding the state reading standard increased by 92 percent over the last two years, and the number of students exceeding the state math standard increased by 107 percent. All this apparently without any of the standards-lowering that other states have engaged in. The district still ranks near the bottom of Maryland’s 24 districts. But it’s worth celebrating. Academic performance in Charm City must have been pretty bleak before, if after such improvements the district still ranks last in the state. But then you see what’s happening to a charter school that’s been the shining light in Baltimore, and you wonder about the level of commitment to continuing the improvement process they’ve started to celebrate:

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Arne Duncan & Feds Spending Freely, Doing Little for Real School Reform

Yesterday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to town. The good news is he visited two of Denver’s autonomy schools: Bruce Randolph and Montclair. The Education Secretary certainly is saying the right things about how this approach can grow: “The business we should be in is scaling up what works as quickly as possible,” Duncan said. “Let’s take those lessons, let’s replicate them and move on absolutely as fast as we can with a sense of urgency. We have to get dramatically better as a country, and we need to do it as fast as we can.” The $5 billion pot of “Race to the Top” innovation money is supposed to fulfill this purpose. As pointed out by Swifty Charlie and Flypaper’s Mike Petrilli, the reality is that “Race to the Top” is the only part of the federal stimulus funds that has even a legitimate shot at advancing school reform. Colorado may make some modest strides with the innovation dollars, but it very well could be outweighed by the much greater opportunity and resources wasted.

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John McWhorter: Why Don't More Schools Use Direct Instruction?

In a recent article in The New Republic, John McWhorter from the Manhattan Institute wants to know why the Direct Instruction method for teaching reading that has proven so effective is so little used to help correct the achievement gap for poor minority students: Yet a solution for the reading gap was discovered four decades ago. Starting in the late 1960s, Siegfried Engelmann led a government-sponsored investigation, Project Follow Through, that compared nine teaching methods and tracked their results in more than 75,000 children from kindergarten through third grade. It found that the Direct Instruction (DI) method of teaching reading was vastly more effective than any of the others for (drum roll, please) poor kids, including black ones. DI isn’t exactly complicated: Students are taught to sound out words rather than told to get the hang of recognizing words whole, and they are taught according to scripted drills that emphasize repetition and frequent student participation. In a half-day preschool in Champaign-Urbana they founded, Engelmann and associates found that DI teaches four-year-olds to understand sounds, syllables, and rhyming. Its students went on to kindergarten reading at a second-grade level, with their mean IQ having jumped 25 points. In the 70s and […]

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Arts Education is Good, But Does it Help Students in Reading and Math?

Today’s Rocky Mountain News explains Colorado education leaders’ attempt to put greater emphasis on the arts in the state’s new standards and assessments: [Commissioner of Education Dwight] Jones and [Lieutenant Governor Barbara] O’Brien addressed a news conference called to highlight a report showing that many Colorado students are not exposed to the arts, which include music, theater and dance, as well as the visual arts. The report, prepared for the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Council on the Arts, shows that art is offered at 93 percent of elementary schools, 86 percent of middle schools and 83 percent of high schools. But 29,000 students attend schools that do not offer art, the study found. Statewide, 53 percent of high school students don’t take art, which is not mandatory even at schools where it is offered. The study found that 75 percent of principals say the arts are being squeezed by the need to focus on reading, writing and math. One of the findings of the new report says that arts education “associates with higher scores” on CSAP tests. But as my smart friends at the Education Policy Center point out, the fact that the two items are associated […]

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"Brain Breaks" Not Enough for "Boy Crisis" — More School Choice, Too

According to the Rocky Mountain News, some educators in the Denver area – at least at one elementary school – are starting to adjust the school day to help boys: A not-so-quiet revolution is taking place in reading and writing instruction inside some classrooms at Hackberry Hill Elementary School in Arvada. Students are encouraged to get up and move, stretch and talk about their work every 20 minutes or so. Brain breaks, Principal Warren Blair calls them. In some cases, boys are also allowed to write about things that might have previously been frowned upon — bodily functions come to mind, or anything with a good gross-out factor. It’s part of the school’s attempts to address a global phenomenon, reinforced by recently released Colorado Student Assessment Program test results, showing boys consistently scoring lower than girls in reading and writing. Hey, I like this idea of a brain break. Sometimes you have to be creative to find ways to address the needs of different students. But I was left wondering what Hackberry Hill parents think of the idea. It would be interesting to see what moms and dads think. After all, they know their kids best. In writing about the […]

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