Tag Archives: Accountability in Education

Stanford University study: Urban charter schools outperform public peers

29 Mar

Moi supports neighborhood schools which cater to the needs of the children and families in that neighborhood. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education. It is for this reason that moi supports charter schools which are regulated by strong charter school legislation with accountability. Accountability means different things to different people. In 2005 Sheila A. Arens wrote Examining the Meaning of Accountability: Reframing the Construct for Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning which emphasizes the involvement of parents and community members. One of the goals of the charter movement is to involve parents and communities.
Business Week has a concise debate about the pros and cons of charter schools featuring Jay P. Greene, University of Arkansas; Manhattan Institute arguing the pro position and Jeffrey Henig, Columbia University arguing against charter schools. http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2008/03/charter_schools.html The Education Commission of the States succinctly lists the pros and cons of charter schools http://www.ecs.org/html/issuesection.asp?issueid=20&s=pros+%26+cons

Abby Jackson reported in the Business Insider article, The results of a new Stanford University study could surprise charter school critics:

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has a new study out finding urban charter schools outperform traditional public schools (TPS) in urban areas.
The results are the latest in mounting evidence that many charter schools provide tremendous benefit to students — particularly those located in urban areas.
“The charter school sector has gotten to a point of maturity where it’s dominated by established charters that have stood the test of time and are operating a lot more efficiently and effectively for kids, and so we’re starting to see now this general positive impact of charters on student achievement,” Patrick Wolf, PH.D., a distinguished professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, told Business Insider…. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-results-of-a-new-stanford-university-study-should-quiet-charter-school-critics-2015-3#ixzz3Vpm3kUip

Here is the press release from Stanford:

CREDO Study Finds Urban Charter Schools Outperform Traditional School Peers
STANFORD, Calif. – March 18, 2015 – Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the nation’s foremost independent analyst of charter school effectiveness, released today a comprehensive Urban Charter Schools Report and 22 state-specific reports that combine to offer policymakers unprecedented insight into the effectiveness of charter schools.
“One of our largest research efforts to date, this study targets our focus on charter schools in urban areas because these are communities where students have faced significant education challenges and are in great need of effective approaches to achieve academic success,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO at Stanford University. “This research shows that many urban charter schools are providing superior academic learning for their students, in many cases quite dramatically better. These findings offer important examples of school organization and operation that can serve as models to other schools, including both public charter schools and traditional public schools.”
Across 41 regions, urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in both math and reading, which amounts to 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading. Compared to the national profile of charter school performance, urban charters produce more positive results. CREDO’s National Charter School Study results in 2013 found that charter schools provided seven additional days of learning per year in reading and no significant difference in math.
Similar to the results in the National Charter School Study in 2013, the Urban Charter School report found local variation in the results. Across the 41 regions, more than twice as many urban regions show their charter schools outpacing their district school counterparts than regions where charter school results lag behind them. Despite the overall positive learning impacts, there are still urban communities in which the majority of the charter schools have smaller learning gains compared to their traditional school counterparts.
Summary of urban charter regions
• 26 urban charter sectors have positive impacts
• 11 urban charter sectors have smaller learning gains
• 4 urban charter sectors provide similar levels of growth. READING
• 23 urban charter sectors have positive impacts
• 10 urban charter sectors have smaller learning gains
• 8 urban charter sectors provide similar levels of growth
The Center for Research on Education Outcomes
434 Galvez Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-6010
Telephone: 650.725.3431

Here is an overview of the study:

Overview of the Urban Charter School Study
Welcome to the digital report of the Urban Charter School Study. This website has been developed to host the results of CREDO’s study of charter schools in 41 urban communities in the United States. This overview introduces the approach of the research project and explains the layout of the reports that are available on this site.
Through our valued data sharing partnerships with state education agencies across the country, CREDO has a unique opportunity to look at the urban landscape of charter schooling. Since urban education is a topic of strong concern among parents and policy makers, we hope a concentrated study of the presence and performance of charter schools in urban settings can provide a useful contribution to on-going efforts to successfully educate all urban K-12 students.
Moreover, we recognize that a study of this type will attract different kinds of interest — some more global and some decidedly local in scope. The reports on this site aim to maximize access to the full set of analytic findings in a manner that would not be possible in a traditionally-formatted report. All the reports are created as Adobe Acrobat .pdf files to ensure universal compatibility. (If a download of Adobe Acrobat is needed, click here.)
The Urban Charter School Study covers 41 urban communities in 22 states, which were chosen on the basis of a set of criteria described in the Technical Appendix. The study found that the typical student in an urban charter school receives the equivalent of 40 additional days of learning growth (0.055 s.d.’s) in math and 28 days of additional growth (0.039 s.d.’s) in reading compared to their matched peers in TPS. The results were found to be positive for nearly all student subgroups, but especially strong for students who are minority and in poverty, who are a signficant portion of the urban student population. These national findings are presented in the Urban Charter School Study Executive Summary and in graphic form in the Urban Charter School Study Workbook.
The results also show there is surprising variation in the performance or charter schools in differing urban communities. We developed individual in-depth reports for the urban regions included in the national analysis. These region-specific results are grouped by state and are presented in a Demographic Landscape slide deck and a Charter School Impacts slide deck. A User’s Guide is available to walk the user through the Impact slides and explain how each question was answered. http://urbancharters.stanford.edu/overview.php

There is no one approach that works in every situation, there is only what works to address the needs of a particular population of children. If the goal is that ALL children receive a good basic education, then ALL options must be available.


1. YouTube Link of Professor Carolyn Hoxby Discussing Charters

2. PBS Frontline – The Battle Over School Choice


3. WSJ’s opinion piece about charters and student performance


4. Charter School Students More Likely to Graduate and Attend College


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Are rules which limit choice hampering principal effectiveness?

8 Apr

As more emphasis is placed on holding schools accountable, more scrutiny is directed toward school leadership, particularly school principals. It is generally agreed that strong leadership at the school building level is essential for an effective school, the question is whether shool principals have the authority to accomplish their task? David Miller Sadker, PhD,  Karen R. Zittleman, PhD in Teachers, Schools, and Society list the characteristics of a strong school:

Factor 1: Strong Leadership

Factor 2: A Clear School Mission

Factor 3: A Safe and Orderly Climate

Factor 4: Monitoring Student Progress

A variety of commentators say that strong leadership is key to an effective school.

Gary Hopkins of Education World surveyed 43 principals and reported upon his findings in the article, Principals Identify Top Ten Leadership Traits:

The result of that survey is this list of the top ten traits of school leaders, presented in order of importance.

1. Has a stated vision for the school and a plan to achieve that vision.

2. Clearly states goals and expectations for students, staff, and parents.

3. Is visible — gets out of the office; is seen all over the school.

4. Is trustworthy and straight with students and staff.

5. Helps develop leadership skills in others.

6. Develops strong teachers; cultivates good teaching practice.

7. Shows that he or she is not in charge alone; involves others.

8. Has a sense of humor.

9. Is a role model for students and staff.

10. Offers meaningful kindnesses and kudos to staff and students.


Again, there is an emphasis on leadership.

Charmaine Loever describes What Makes A Principal Effective?

A good principal creates a vision of high standards which is later imparted to all stakeholders. It is one that calls for excellence, is strong, clear, and is articulated in such a way that employees are convinced to “buy in” to it….

 Having a strong character is one of the qualities of an effective principal. Such a leader demonstrates self-control, will power, persistence, confidence, is well organized, and consistent. …

An outstanding principal doesn’t get easily agitated in the face of turmoil, but remains calm and is level headed. Principals who remain calm in unpleasant situations also demonstrate strength of character. They possess sound judgment which causes them to frequently make good decisions. As a result, they earn the trust and the respect of the people around them….

The effective principal shows empathy.
These school understand what it is like to be in the classroom and therefore are not quick to
pass judgment. They support their teachers and defend them in any way possible. Teachers enjoy working with, and appreciate principals who can identify with their situation….

An exceptional principal celebrates the achievements of all staff members and shuns discrimination.
These principals know that celebrating the accomplishments of all employees will motivate them to do their best.It is unfortunate that some practice favoritism, as this is one of the negative components that they need to strive to eradicate from the school environment. …

An effective principal includes all stakeholders in the decision making process. These administrators are cognizant of the fact that it takes teamwork to build an effective school….

Being a good role model is one of the essential characteristics of an exceptional school administrator. Principals need to conduct themselves in ways that teachers, students, parents, and other community members would want to emulate….

Chester E. Finn Jr. agrees that strong leadership is essential for effective schools, but he questions whether principals have the freedom to lead. Finn, is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. He is also senior editor of Education Next.

Finn writes in the Atlantic article, Why School Principals Need More Authority:

A venerable maxim of successful organizational management declares that an executive’s authority should be commensurate with his or her responsibility. In plain English, if you are held to account for producing certain results, you need to be in charge of the essential means of production.

In American public education today, however, that equation is sorely unbalanced. A school principal in 2012 is accountable for student achievement, for discipline, for curriculum and instruction, and for leading (and supervising) the staff team, not to mention attracting students, satisfying parents, and collaborating with innumerable other agencies and organizations.

Yet that same principal controls only a tiny part of his school’s budget, has scant say over who teaches there, practically no authority when it comes to calendar or schedule, and minimal leverage over the curriculum itself. Instead of deploying all available school assets in ways that would do the most good for the most kids, the principal is required to follow dozens or hundreds of rules, program requirements, spending procedures, discipline codes, contract clauses, and regulations emanating from at least three levels of government–none of which strives to coordinate with any of the others.

In short, we give our school heads the responsibility of CEO’s but the authority of middle-level bureaucrats…

To top it off, today’s school principals get paid barely more than the senior teachers in their schools, though they typically work year-round versus the classic 180-day, 9-month teacher contract.

No wonder principals are retiring in droves. No wonder many of our ablest young educators –such as those emerging from the Teach for America program — shun the principal’s office, at least in district-operated schools. (Many gravitate to the charter-school sector, where principals have far greater authority.) No wonder entrepreneurs, risk-takers, and change agents seldom last long as principals, or that many of those who do endure are people content in middle-manager roles….

The underlying causes are threefold.

First, a dysfunctional and archaic governance structure for public education that pays homage to “local control” yet turns into bureaucratic management of dozens or hundreds of schools from burgeoning “central offices,” rather than vesting any real control at the level closest to teachers, students, and parents. Setting policy for that system, typically, is an elected school board that itself has grown dysfunctional, particularly in urban America, as adult interest groups manipulate who serves on it. Atop all this sit state and federal agencies — multiple agencies at each level — as well as (in many states) county or regional administrative units.

Second, we’ve layered so many responsibilities on our schools that the teaching and learning of basic skills and essential knowledge has all but vanished under efforts to rectify injustice, foster diversity, provide multiple services to kids with varying needs, prevent drug abuse, adolescent pregnancy and obesity, forge character, keep children off the streets, ensure physical fitness, and observe a near-infinity of special events, holidays, and interest-group enthusiasm.

Third, every time something goes wrong anywhere, a blizzard of new rules and procedures descends upon the school’s obligations, lest that mishap recur anywhere else. Whether it’s bullying or a playground accident, an unwanted intruder or a disgruntled parent, a kid who doesn’t get into a particular course or a library book that offends someone, the checklists, regulations, and prohibitions multiply.


Finn does not have one solution as to how the rules which inhibit principals accomplishing the task of leading their schools and making them more effective can be loosened. It will be a state by state struggle and not to mention some of the mandates at the federal level. Still, people must have the tools to effectively do their jobs.

Strong leadership is essential for struggling schools. Strong leadership requires not only accountability, but authority.


New research: School principal effectiveness https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/new-research-school-principal-effectiveness/

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Helping community college students to graduate

8 Feb

Tamar Levin of the New York Times reported on the trend of community colleges offering four year degrees in the 2009 article, Community Colleges Challenge Hierarchy With 4-Year Degrees More people are switching careers several times during their working career and that means that they must be retrained. Many students cannot afford a traditional four year college either in terms of cost or time spent away from home. Community colleges have always offered these students educational opportunity. See, Robert Franco’s The Civic Role of Community Colleges: Preparing Students for the Work of Democracy

Community colleges were created to democratize both American higher education and the students who came through their open doors (Brint and Karabel 1989; Gleazer 1994). However, some observers have argued that community colleges have become overly focused on diverting students into low- and mid-level occupations and that they have not played a major role in transforming perpetuated structures of inequality. With a rapid growth trajectory, America’s 1,166 community colleges now serve increasingly diverse populations. Community college leaders need to recommit to three essential missions: developing strong transfer programs that provide students with equal educational opportunities; preparing students for twenty-first century careers; and preparing students for the work of democracy in the world’s dominant democracy. Service-learning is the leading pedagogy that community colleges can employ to achieve these missions and truly become civically engaged campuses in the communities they serve.

Daniel de Vise has a great article in the Washington Post, 25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College which reports online information from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Going to a community college is one way to reduce the cost of college.

The Lumina Foundation provides the following statistics:

  • Forty-six percent are 25 or older, and 32 percent are at least 30 years old. The average age is 29.
  • Fifty-eight percent are women.
  • Twenty-nine percent have annual household incomes less than $20,000.
  • Eighty-five percent balance studies with full-time or part-time work. More than half (54 percent) have full-time jobs.
  • Thirty percent of those who work full time also attend classes full time (12 or more credit hours). Among students 30-39 years old, the rate climbs to 41 percent.
  • Minority students constitute 30 percent of community college enrollments nationally, with Latino students representing the fastest-growing racial/ethnic population.

Source: The American Association of Community Colleges, based on material in the National Profile of Community Colleges:Trends & Statistics, Phillippe & Patton, 2000.

Many of those attending community college will need a variety of assistance to be successful in their academic career.

Jennifer Gonzalez reports in the Education Week article, Multiyear Study of Community-College Practices Asks: What Helps Students Graduate?

The first of three reports, “A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success” was released last week. It draws attention to 13 strategies for increasing retention and graduation rates, including fast-tracking remedial education, providing students with experiential learning, and requiring students to attend orientation.

The strategies specified in the report are not new. In fact, many of them can be found at two-year colleges right now. But how well those strategies are working to help students stay in college and graduate is another matter. The report found peculiarities among responses on similar topics, suggesting a disconnect between institutions and students, while also raising questions about how committed institutions are to their own policies and programs.

For example, 74 percent of students said they were required to take academic-placement tests, but only 28 percent said they used materials or resources provided by the college to prepare for those tests. While 44 percent of participating colleges report offering some sort of test preparation, only 13 percent make test preparation mandatory, the report said.

Also, 42 percent of part-time students and 19 percent of full-time students work more than 30 hours per week. More than half care for dependents. But only 26 percent of entering students reported that a college staff member counseled them about how many courses to take while balancing commitments outside of class.

Colleges need to figure out a way to better align their programs and policies with the needs and realities of their students, Ms. McClenney says. The report found a sizable gap between the percentage of students who plan to graduate and those who actually do, suggesting that what colleges think works may not be helping retain and graduate students. In fact, fewer than half (45 percent) of entering community-college students actually graduate with either a certificate or associate degree within six years after enrolling at an institution, according to the report….

Requiring Success

This is the first time that the research organization has analyzed data from four surveys and combined the results into a multiyear project. The responses came from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the Survey of Entering Student Engagement, the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, and the newly created Community College Institutional Survey….

A major stumbling block for community-college students is remedial education. Many students languish in those reading, writing, or math classes and eventually drop out, curtailing their transfer or graduation plans. The problem is especially acute among minorities and low-income students.

But the report says that among institutions that have accelerated or fast-tracked remedial courses, only 13 percent require students to enroll in those courses. That’s a missed opportunity, because earlier research suggests that students who take those intensive classes perform equally as well as, or better than, students in traditional remedial education.

The report found similar results regarding orientation services, which include providing students with information on navigating the library and finding support services such as academic and mental-health counseling. Previous research shows that participation in orientation leads to greater use of support services and improved retention of at-risk students, the report says. However, among colleges that offer orientation programs, only 38 percent report that they require it for all first-time students.


Ashley Marchand writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about strategies which can help community college students succeed.

In 6 Strategies Can Help Entering Community-College Students Succeed, Marchand reports:

The six benchmarks listed in the report offer staff members and administrators ideas about how to help more students stay in college and graduate or transfer. They are fostering “college readiness” programs for high-school students, connecting early with students, encouraging faculty and staff members to have high expectations for students, providing a clear academic path, engaging students in the learning process, and maintaining an academic and social-support network. http://chronicle.com/article/6-Strategies-Can-Help-Entering/64871/

In the article, Community Colleges Address Financial Barriers to Success For Low-income Students which was published in the Sacramento Bee:

Of the close to 8 million credit students annually attending community colleges, 46% currently receive some form of financial aid (state, federal, or institutional). The additional benefits the students might access through BACC include a range of federal programs, such as those that provide health insurance, food, and child care. Such support services are especially critical for community college students, many of whom juggle work, studies, and family responsibilities. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/08/4248177/community-colleges-address-financial.html

Given the numbers of students attending community college and the population demographic, more must be done to help this students graduate.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

More states considering ‘Parent Trigger’ laws

2 Feb

California has enacted a law called the “Parent Trigger.” Parent Revolution describes the Parent Trigger

What is the Parent Trigger?

The Parent Trigger is a historic new law that gives parents in California the right to force a transformation of their child’s current or future failing school. All parents need to do is organize – if 51% of them get together and sign an official Parent Trigger petition, they have the power to force their school district to transform the school.

What would the transformation look like?

President Obama has laid out several ways for a low-performing school to be transformed into a great one. The Parent Trigger empowers parents to choose any one of these four options. They are:

1) Charter conversion:

If there is a nearby charter school that is outperforming your child’s failing school, parents can bring in that charter school to transform the failing school. The school will then be run by that charter school, not the school district, but it will continue to serve all the same students that have always attended the school.

2) Turnaround:

If parents want huge changes but want to leave the school district in charge, this option may be for them. It forces the school district to hit the reset button by bringing in a new staff and giving the local school community more control over staffing and budget.

3) Transformation:

This is the least significant change. It force the school district to find a new principal, and make a few other small changes.

4) Closure:

This option would close the school altogether and send the students to other, higher-performing schools nearby.  Parent Revolution does NOT recommend this option to parents – we believe schools must be transformed, not closed.

5) Bargaining power:

If parents want smaller changes but the school district just won’t listen to them, they can organize, get to 51%, and use their signatures as bargaining power.

Parents get to pick which option they want for their children and their school. For a much more detailed overview of each one of these options, please click here.

How do I know if my school is eligible?

The Parent Trigger applies to every school in California that is on Program Improvement Year Three or above, has an API score of under 800, and is not classified as one of the lowest 5% of schools in the state .

Jennifer Medina is reports in the New York Times article, At California School. Parents Force Overhaul Medina has another excellent New York Times about how difficult it is to change the status quo in education, ‘Parent Trigger’ Law to Reform Schools Faces Challenges

Lee Cowan reported in the NBC News story, ‘Trigger law’ put to the test in Compton, Calif.

On its face, the idea sounds so simple: if a school is persistently failing, give parents the power to change it. But the reality of putting that notion into practice is proving challenging, at best.

In the last two years, California, Texas and Mississippi have passed so-called “parent trigger” laws. In each, the law stipulates that if at least 51 percent of the parents of children enrolled in a school sign a petition, they can trigger change. The laws vary in terms of the specifics, but in general, the new law allows parents at persistently failing schools to fire the teachers and principal, and in some cases, turn the school into a charter school instead. Twenty-two other states are considering giving parents the same kind of power.

But there is strong opposition to the laws from teachers’ unions. They argue parents don’t have the experience that career educators do to make big policy changes.

So far, the law has only been put to the test once, in Compton, Calif., and it has sparked a battle. Hundreds of parents signed a petition to turn McKinley Elementary into a charter school. Parents say they had good reasons. Less than half their kids were meeting state standards in math and reading.


As states try to find solutions for failing schools, “Parent Trigger” laws are increasingly seen as one solution to the problem.

Emily Richmond writes in The Atlantic article, Should Parents ‘Pull the Trigger’ on Failing Schools?

There’s a significant buzz out of Florida regarding proposed legislation that would enact a so-called “Parent Trigger:”  Dissatisfied families could vote to have a local public school undergo significant restructuring including being converted to a charter school or turned over to a private operator. 

Similar legislation has passed in California and Texas, not without controversy and ensuing conflict, and Indiana is also considering enacting a parent trigger.

Here’s part of the problem: There’s no clear picture of what happens once the trigger is pulled or much hard evidence that the students would ultimately benefit from the intervention. 

Florida is ranked third in the nation for its charter school laws, according to the latest report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Among the elements that earned the Sunshine State high marks is its lack of a cap on the number of charter schools permitted. Florida also allows state universities and community college boards to authorize specific types of charter schools, opening up additional avenues beyond the local school board.

Charter schools were always supposed to be the “Next Great Idea” in public education, allowing seeds of innovation to flourish without the perceived distractions attributed to collective bargaining agreements and district regulations. The idea was that with charter schools blazing the trail, public schools could follow. 

But when well-meaning parents and community groups launched some of these independently operated schools, what they quickly discovered is that the business of education is more difficult than they had ever envisioned. 

Into that wide breech stepped education management organizations, often promising the moon plus a rocketship to get there. The moon has yet to be delivered. Or even the rocketship, really. There are certainly examples of strong charter schools. But there are significant gains still to be made. (For more on how for-profit and nonprofit-managed charter schools are performing compared with traditional public schools, click here. Time Magazine, via the Hechinger Report, also has an excellent story on what happens when charters are forced to close .)

In California, actual attempts to pull the parent trigger appear mostly to have fired blanks. A Compton public school was the first to test the new law and survey parents about what they wanted to happen to a struggling campus. What resulted,  according to an editorial from the Los Angeles Times, was the “stuff of high educational drama — claims of intimidation from both sides, an intransigent school board that put parents through ridiculous hoops to verify their signatures and, eventually, legal defeat when the petition was found lacking on largely technical grounds.”

The editorial board at the Sun Sentinel  has significant reservations  about Florida’s proposed legislation, warning that “private education companies could chum the waters in beleaguered districts with political campaigns to tilt parents toward privatization.” The editorial also raises concerns that parents who are “often too busy even for PTA meetings would face a steep and brief learning curve in making such a game-changing call. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/should-parents-pull-the-trigger-on-failing-schools/252343/#.Tyo0ei4SzMs.email

Educated Reporter logo

More on the Charter School Experiment: Skimming Students?
Should Teachers “Friend” Students?
When Digital Schools Don’t Add Up

Ramsey Cox reported in the Education Week article, Parent ‘Trigger’ Law Draws Attention, Controversy about the push back which is occurring because of the Compton parents use of the “Parent Trigger” law.

The Dec. 7 petition by a group of parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton could add momentum to a push in other states for similar legislation, in the view of Robin Lake, the associate director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

California’s parent-trigger law, passed in January, allows 51 percent of parents at a school that has failed to meet “adequate yearly progress” requirements for three consecutive years to sign a petition that prompts one of four actions: converting to a charter school, replacing the principal and staff, changing the budget, or closing the school entirely.

Mississippi passed a similar law in July, and Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, and West Virginia also are considering parent-trigger laws.

Entrenched entities will always resist change. Whether the “Parent Trigger” laws are one solution remains to be seen.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©


The importance of appropriate grading

11 Jan

Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), teacher(s), and school. Standards are a benchmark, but students and families need to prepare for and support student education success. Teachers must be prepared and supported in meeting the standards adopted by the schools. Schools must be learning environments which support and mentor teachers and keep children safe. Otherwise, standards are simply a nice goal.

A report, Standing On the Shoulders of Giants by Mark S. Tucker examines high performing education systems. Among the recommendations are:

What follows is a new agenda for recasting the structure of the preceding section, derived from the experience of the countries that have consistently outperformed the United States. It was constructed simply by taking the subsection headings and reframing the language of the preceding sections in the form of an action agenda. To be clear, this is not an agenda for the United States; it is an agenda for individual states:

Benchmark the Education Systems of the Top-Performing Countries

  • Make sure you know what the leaders are trying to achieve, the extent to which they achieve it and how they do on common measures

  • Compare your state to the best performers, with particular attention to countries that share your goals

  • Conduct careful research on the policies and practices of the best performing nations to understand how they get the results they get

  • Benchmark often, because the best never stand still

Design for Quality

  • Get your goals clear, and get public and professional consensus on them

  • Create world-class instructional systems and gateways

  • Define a limited number of gateways — not more than the end of basic education, end of lower secondary and end of upper secondary (matched up to college entrance and work-ready requirements)

  • Create standards for each gateway, making sure they are properly nested and are world class

  • Create logically ordered curriculum frameworks (topics for each year or each subject) for the basic education sequence

  • Create curriculum (broad guidelines, not lesson plans) for each school level leading up to the gateway exams (the level of detail at which this is done should be inversely related to the quality of your teachers)

  • Create exams for each gateway, based on standards and curricula

  • Train teachers to teach those curricula well to students from many different backgrounds….

Appropriate use of grading and testing are methods to determine whether the education system is meeting stated goals.

University of Michigan Center For Research On Learning and Teaching suggests in Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams, adapted from M.E. Piontek (2008) :

The most obvious function of assessment methods (such as exams, quizzes, papers, and presentations) is to enable instructors to make judgments about the quality of student learning  (i.e., assign grades). However, the method of assessment also can have a direct impact on the quality of student learning. Students assume that the focus of exams and assignments reflects the educational goals most valued by an instructor, and they direct their learning and studying accordingly  (McKeachie  & Svinicki, 2006).  General grading systems can have an impact as well.  For example, a strict bell curve (i.e., norm-reference grading) has the potential to dampen motivation and cooperation in a classroom, while a system that strictly rewards proficiency (i.e., criterion-referenced grading) could be perceived as contributing to grade inflation. Given the importance of assessment for both faculty and student interactions about learning, how can instructors develop exams that provide useful and relevant data about their students’ learning and also direct students to spend their time on the important aspects of a course or course unit? How do grading practices further influence this process?

Guidelines for Designing Valid and Reliable Exams

Ideally, effective exams have four characteristics. They are:

  • Valid, (providing useful information about the concepts they were designed to test),
  • Reliable (allowing consistent measurement and discriminating between different levels of performance),
  • Recognizable  (instruction has prepared students for the assessment), and
  • Realistic (concerning time and effort required to complete the assignment)  (Svinicki, 1999). 

Most importantly, exams and assignments should focus on the most important content and behaviors emphasized during the course (or particular section of the course). What are the primary ideas, issues, and skills you hope students learn during a particular course/unit/module? These are the learning outcomes you wish to measure. For example, if your learning outcome involves memorization, then you should assess for memorization or classification; if you hope students will develop problem-solving capacities, your exams should focus on assessing students’ application and analysis skills.  As a general rule, assessments that focus too heavily on details (e.g., isolated facts, figures, etc.) “will probably lead to better student retention of the footnotes at the cost of the main points” (Halpern & Hakel, 2003, p. 40). As noted in Table 1, each type of exam item may be better suited to measuring some learning outcomes than others, and each has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of ease of design, implementation, and scoring.

Table 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Commonly Used Types of Achievement Test Items

Type of Item Advantages Disadvantages
True-False Many items can be administered in a relatively short time. Moderately easy to write; easily scored. Limited primarily to testing knowledge of information.  Easy to guess correctly on many items, even if material has not been mastered.
Multiple-Choice Can be used to assess broad range of content in a brief period. Skillfully written items can measure higher order cognitive skills. Can be scored quickly. Difficult and time consuming to write good items. Possible to assess higher order cognitive skills, but most items assess only knowledge.  Some correct answers can be guesses.
Matching Items can be written quickly. A broad range of content can be assessed. Scoring can be done efficiently. Higher order cognitive skills are difficult to assess.
Short Answer or Completion Many can be administered in a brief amount of time. Relatively efficient to score. Moderately easy to write. Difficult to identify defensible criteria for correct answers. Limited to questions that can be answered or completed in very few words.
Essay Can be used to measure higher order cognitive skills. Relatively easy to write questions. Difficult for respondent to get correct answer by guessing. Time consuming to administer and score. Difficult to identify reliable criteria for scoring. Only a limited range of content can be sampled during any one testing period.

Adapted from Table 10.1 of Worthen, et al., 1993, p. 261.


Choosing the appropriate measurement is important for accurate evaluation.

Education Research reports in the article, Teachers so focused on fairness issues they overlook best practices in grading:

The 77 teachers who participated in the study completed questionnaires asking them to rate their awareness of 4 grading principles and to provide information about their own grading practices.  Among the results:

  • 29% reported considerable awareness of recommended grading principles
  • 40 % reported some degree of awareness of grading principles 
  • 17% of teachers said they had only very little awareness
  • 13% said they had no awareness of the grading principles.

When asked how much they used these principles in their grading practices, 

  • 23% of teachers agreed that they followed the principles
  • 43% somewhat agreed that they followed   the principles
  • 10% said the principles did not apply to them
  • 13% somewhat disagreed that they fol- lowed the principles
  • 3% disagreed that they followed the prin ciples and 10% felt they did not apply to them.

In a standards-based system,  it’s important for teachers to stay focused on assessing a student’s achievement against standards, the study says.  However, teachers persist in taking into account a hodgepodge of other factors such as student effort  or whether the student hands in work on time, according to the study on the grading beliefs and practices of 10th-grade math teachers in Ontario….

The 4 principles that formed the framework for the study were:

  1. Grades should be referenced to the curriculum objectives or learning expectations (criterion referenced)
  2. A grade should be an accurate representation of achievement and non-achievement factors should be reported separately 
  3. Results from multiple assessments should be combined carefully with weighting that reflects learning expectations 
  4. Information about grading should be clearly communicated so that grades are justified and their meaning is understood by students, parents, and other teachers. 

The study was part of a larger nationally funded study on teachers’ grading practices in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Ontario. One goal of the study was to determine how teachers calculated students’ final report card grades in 2 educational systems with differing assessment policies. http://www.ernweb.com/public/Grading-best-practices-fairness-achievement-standards-based.cfm

Appropriate grading practices is an important component of ensuring that an education system is using best practices.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Focus on charter schools: There must be accountability

24 Dec

Moi supports neighborhood schools which cater to the needs of the children and families in that neighborhood. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education. It is for this reason that moi supports charter schools which are regulated by strong charter school legislation with accountability. Accountability means different things to different people. In 2005 Sheila A. Arens wrote Examining the Meaning of Accountability: Reframing the Construct for Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning which emphasizes the involvement of parents and community members. One of the goals of the charter movement is to involve parents and communities. http://www.mcrel.org/PDF/AssessmentAccountabilityDataUse/4002IR_Examining_Accountability.pdf

What is a Charter?

There are several definitions of charter school but this definition from Education Week seems to capture the essence of what it means to be a charter.

According to the U.S. Charter Organization the reasons individuals seek to set-up a charter school are: 

The intention of most charter school legislation is to:

·         Increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all students

·         Create choice for parents and students within the public school system

·         Provide a system of accountability for results in public education

·         Encourage innovative teaching practices

·         Create new professional opportunities for teachers

·         Encourage community and parent involvement in public education

·         Leverage improved public education broadly

Business Week has a concise debate about the pros and cons of charter schools featuring Jay P. Greene, University of Arkansas; Manhattan Institute arguing the pro position and Jeffrey Henig, Columbia University arguing against charter schools. The Education Commission of the States succinctly lists the pros and cons of charter schools 

Alison Consoletti has written the report, The State of Charter Schools: What We Know-And What We Do Not-About Performance and Accountability for the Center for Education Reform.

Of the dozens of state and national entities that collect data about charters, only a handful actually document achievement from year to year, and only one — the publisher of this report — formally and annually collects, analyzes, and assesses the schools that are approved, opened and closed from year to year. That general data shows that, not only do charters schools deliver on student achievement, but a substantial percentage of charter schools are closed from year to year for reasons that any school should be closed. Far from a condemnation, these data points suggest a movement that has been amenable to course correction and closure since its inception.

Closing a charter school requires, first, that some government entity has enough data and authority to make an assessment. Second, once revealed, the assessment data must be available to the public and the media, so that pressure can be brought to bear to intervene and account for whatever failures are discovered. Regular, ongoing news reports must reveal the processes that are at play even when no one sees them. The fact that such reports often do result in positive change should make every charter advocate not only proud, but interested to know the facts.

That those facts seem often to escape some charter leaders, who prefer generalizations to clear, unambiguous achievement data (which sadly, is often lacking or unusable) is the reason for this report, which reveals not only that charters are successful, but also that accountability for results is alive and well in a way that is unique to these public schools.


See, Charter Schools Rarely Closed For Academic Performance: Report http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/21/charter-schools-closure_n_1164104.html

There is no one approach that works in every situation, there is only what works to address the needs of a particular population of children. If the goal is that ALL children receive a good basic education, then ALL options must be available.


1.      YouTube Link of Professor Carolyn Hoxby Discussing Charters

2.      PBS Frontline – The Battle Over School Choice

3.      The Center for Education Reform’s FAQs About Charter Schools

4.      WSJ’s opinion piece about charters and student performance

5.      Charter School Students More Likely to Graduate and Attend College

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©