Tag Archives: Common Core Standards

Will Cursive writing go the way of the dinosaur?

6 Apr

Moi wrote about the importance of handwriting in The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum:

Gwendolyn Bounds reports in the WSJ article, How Handwriting Trains the Brain:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and ”adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518.html


See, The Importance of Cursive Writing  http://www.enterpriseefficiency.com/author.asp?section_id=1077&doc_id=236382and The Case for Cursive http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/us/28cursive.html?_r=0

The Takepart.com article, Goodbye, Cursive Writing? lists the reasons cursive writing is important:

The Common Core State Standards for English do not require cursive. Some schools are electing to find a place for cursive in the curriculum, but administrators in many districts say that teachers don’t have time to teach writing along with everything else that is required.

Although typing skills are a must in a technological future, a legible signature is also still needed for daily life, say experts. Others argue that if students don’t learn cursive, how will they read historical documents? And what about the sheer personalization of writing?

Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger’s Reading Centre in Norway has extensively researched the importance of writing with a pen. According to Mangen, writing by hand gives the brain feedback for motor skills. The touching of a pencil and paper ignites the senses. Mangen, along with a neurologist in France, found that different parts of the brain are activated when children read letters learned by handwriting.

Numerous studies show that daily handwriting lessons in schools have decreased from an average of 30 minutes to 15. Now they are on the verge of disappearing completely.

A 2010 study by the Carnegie Corporation of New York reported that students’ reading skills can improve if they write what they are reading in addition to them learning writing skills and increasing how much they write.

Vanderbilt University education professor Steve Graham, a leading researcher in this area, said in an interview last year with NPR that the brain lights up less with typing, a simple motor skill, than writing, a more complex one. But it’s not cursive writing, Graham argues, but simply handwriting. He also notes that cursive script could be taught in kindergarten or first grade instead of third grade because it’s not as elaborate as it once was.

I would make the case that we want kids to either be really fluent and legible in either manuscript and cursive or both, but also in keyboarding, and the issue is that’s three versus teaching two, you know, there’s a real push on time in schools,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Education recommends in its “Tips for Parents on National Writing Day” to teach children to print before attempting cursive.

But some school systems are bucking the trend of abandoning cursive. In Wisconsin’s Eau Claire School District, students are now learning cursive in second grade instead of third in order for them to perform better on standardized tests. Studies show that students who know cursive often excel on tests because they can write their thoughts down faster using cursive.

The debate on cursive is likely to continue as schools eliminate—and then reintroduce—penmanship to the curriculum. http://news.yahoo.com/goodbye-cursive-writing-225300486.html

T. Rees Shapiro writes in the Washington Post article, Cursive handwriting disappearing from public schools:

The curlicue letters of cursive handwriting, once considered a mainstay of American elementary education, have been slowly disappearing from classrooms for years. Now, with most states adopting new national standards that don’t require such instruction, cursive could soon be eliminated from most public schools.

For many students, cursive is becoming as foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In college lecture halls, more students take notes on laptops and tablet computers than with pens and notepads. Responding to handwritten letters from grandparents in cursive is no longer necessary as they, too, learn how to use email, Facebook and Skype.

And educators, seeking to prepare students for a successful future in which computer and typing skills have usurped penmanship, are finding cursive’s relevance waning, especially with leaner school budgets and curricula packed with standardized testing prep. So they’re opting not to teach it anymore.

It’s seeing the writing on the wall,” said Patricia Granada, principal at Eagle View elementary in Fairfax County. “Cursive is increasingly becoming obsolete.”

Michael Hairston, president of the Fairfax Education Association, the largest teachers union in the county, called cursive “a dying art.”

Cursive writing is a traditional skill that has been replaced with technology,” Hairston said. “Educators are having to make choices about what they teach with a limited amount of time and little or no flexibility. Much of their instructional time is consumed with teaching to a standardized test.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/cursive-handwriting-disappearing-from-public-schools/2013/04/04/215862e0-7d23-11e2-a044-676856536b40_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

See, Should cursive writing be required? A N.C. bill would mandate it http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/23/should-cursive-writing-be-required-a-n-c-bill-would-mandate-it/

Science Daily reported in the article, Better Learning Through Handwriting:

Together with neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay at the University of Marseille, Anne Mangen has written an article published in the Advances in Haptics periodical. They have examined research which goes a long way in confirming the significance of these differences.

An experiment carried out by Velay’s research team in Marseille establishes that different parts of the brain are activated when we read letters we have learned by handwriting, from those activated when we recognise letters we have learned through typing on a keyboard. When writing by hand, the movements involved leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, which helps us recognise letters. This implies a connection between reading and writing, and suggests that the sensorimotor system plays a role in the process of visual recognition during reading, Mangen explains.

Other experiments suggest that the brain’s Broca’s area is discernibly more activated when we are read a verb which is linked to a physical activity, compared with being read an abstract verb or a verb not associated with any action….

Since writing by hand takes longer than typing on a keyboard, the temporal aspect may also influence the learning process, she adds.

The term ‘haptic’ refers to the process of touching and the way in which we communicate by touch, particularly by using our fingers and hands to explore our surroundings. Haptics include both our perceptions when we relate passively to our surroundings, and when we move and act.

A lack of focus

There is a lot of research on haptics in relation to computer games, in which for instance vibrating hand controls are employed. According to Mangen, virtual drills with sound and vibration are used for training dentists.

But there has been very little effort to include haptics within the humanistic disciplines, she explains. In educational science, there is scant interest in the ergonomics of reading and writing, and its potential significance in the learning process.

Mangen refers to an experiment involving two groups of adults, in which the participants were assigned the task of having to learn to write in an unknown alphabet, consisting of approximately twenty letters. One group was taught to write by hand, while the other was using a keyboard. Three and six weeks into the experiment, the participants’ recollection of these letters, as well as their rapidity in distinguishing right and reversed letters, were tested. Those who had learned the letters by handwriting came out best in all tests. Furthermore, fMRI brain scans indicated an activation of the Broca’s area within this group. Among those who had learned by typing on keyboards, there was little or no activation of this area.

“The sensorimotor component forms an integral part of training for beginners, and in special education for people with learning difficulties. But there is little awareness and understanding of the importance of handwriting to the learning process, beyond that of writing itself,” Mangen says.

She refers to pedagogical research on writing, which has moved from a cognitive approach to a focus on contextual, social and cultural relations. In her opinion, a one-sided focus on context may lead to neglect of the individual, physiological, sensorimotor and phenomenological connections….

“Our bodies are designed to interact with the world which surrounds us. We are living creatures, geared toward using physical objects — be it a book, a keyboard or a pen — to perform certain tasks,” she says….

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by The University of Stavanger. The original article was written by Trond Egil Toft; translation by Astri Sivertsen. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm

It is interesting that in Silicon Valley where many of the tech elite live, many of the top managers send their children to an “old school” school. See, The private school in Silicon Valley where tech honchos send their kids so they DON’T use computers        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052977/The-Silicon-Valley-school-tech-honchos-send-kids-DONT-use-computers.html#ixzz2PjQ8sOfD

Matt Richtell reported in the New York Times article, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute:

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

While other schools in the region brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all

There is quite a lot that researchers need to explore about how technology affects the mind and body connection as well as how technology affects interpersonal relationships.

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No more reading To Kill A Mockingbird: The scourge of the ‘Common Core,’ Producing automatons in mass

9 Dec

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Common Core Standards have been introduced in most of the country. As the implementation of the standards proceeds, moi observation is the structure is geared to mass produce automatons which are defined:

automatons  plural of au·tom·a·ton (Noun)


  1. A moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.
  2. A machine that performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions.

Moi wrote about Common Core Standards in Will ‘Common Core Standards’ increase education achievement?

There will continue to be battles between those who favor a more traditional education and those who are open to the latest education fad. These battles will be fought out in school board meetings, PTSAs, and the courts.

There is one way to, as Susan Powder says, “Stop the Insanity.” Genuine school choice allows parents or guardians to select the best educational setting for their child. 2012 Brown Center report from the Brookings Institution, How Well Are American Students Learning? raises questions about what effect, if any, the Common Core Standards will have on education achievement:


What effect will the Common Core have on national achievement? The analysis presented here suggests very little impact. The quality of the Common Core standards is currently being hotly debated, but the quality of past curriculum standards has been unrelated to achievement. The rigor of performance standards—how high the bar is set for proficiency—has also been unrelated to achievement. Only a change in performance levels has been related to an increase in achievement, and that could just as easily be due to test score changes driving changes in policy, not the other way around.

The Common Core may reduce variation in achievement between states, but as a source of achievement disparities, that is not where the action is. Within-state variation is four to five times greater. The sources of variation in educational outcomes are not only of statistical importance but also bear on the question of how much state policy can be expected to change schools. Whatever reduction in variation between, say, Naperville and Chicago that can be ameliorated by common standards has already been accomplished by Illinois’s

state efforts. State standards have already had a crack at it. Other states provide even more deeply rooted historical examples.

California has had state curriculum frame-The Common Core may reduce variation in achievement between states, but as a source of achievement disparities, that is not where the action is. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2012/0216_brown_education_loveless/0216_brown_education_loveless.pdf

See, Common Core won’t likely boost student achievement, analysis says http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/common-core-wont-likely-boost-student-achievement-analysis-says/2012/02/16/gIQAOfZuJR_blog.htmlThe Common Core State Standards Initiative has some excellent information about the standards. https://drwilda.com/2012/02/19/will-common-core-standards-increase-education-achievement/

Some classic American literature may be dropped from the curriculum.

The U.K.’s Telegraph reports in the article, Catcher in the Rye dropped from US school curriculum:

Schools in America are to drop classic books such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye from their curriculum in favour of ‘informational texts’.

A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.

Books such as JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by “informational texts” approved by the Common Core State Standards.

Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council.

The new educational standards have the backing of the influential National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being part-funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Jamie Highfill, a teacher at Woodland Junior High School in Arkansas, told the Times that the directive was bad for a well-rounded education.

“I’m afraid we are taking out all imaginative reading and creativity in our English classes.

“In the end, education has to be about more than simply ensuring that kids can get a job. Isn’t it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9729383/Catcher-in-the-Rye-dropped-from-US-school-curriculum.html

The Common Core seems to ignore the value of a liberal arts education in favor of a checklist.

Moi wrote in Cultural literacy: Is there necessary core knowledge to be academically successful?

Back in the day there was this book entitled Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. It was published in 1988 and was written by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Moi liked the concept, some others, not so much. “Cultural Literacy” is defined by Education. Com:

Having sufficient common knowledge, i.e., educational background, experiences, basic skills, and training, to function competently in a given society (the greater the level of comprehension of the given society’s habits, attitudes, history, etc., the higher the level of cultural literacy). http://www.education.com/definition/cultural-literacy/

Marci Kanstroom wrote E.D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy and American Democracy which was published in Education Next liked the concept. http://educationnext.org/e-d-hirsch-cultural-literacy-and-american-democracy/ Others, like Patrick Scott criticized the concept in articles like Scott’s A Few Words More about E. D. Hirsch and Cultural Literacy. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/378146?uid=3739960&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=55881093943 Scott takes issue with Hirsch’s criticism of education icons Dewey and the NEA.

Bernard Schweitzer wrote an interesting 2009 piece for the NEA, Cultural Literacy: Is It Time to Revisit the Debate?

Some will say, “What’s so wrong with being unable to pick up references to a few historical figures, most of them dead White males? Our students are equipped with vibrant local cultural knowledges of their own.” Others will caution me not to expect too much from freshmen, saying that it is my job to ensure that they leave the academy armed with a degree of common knowledge that they may not have when entering it. Yet others may be more concerned, agreeing that while a basic fund of knowledge should be expected of freshmen, my students are perhaps performing so poorly on general knowledge issues because most of them come from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds (e.g., poor inner-city high schools) and diverse ethnic backgrounds (e.g., immigrants). But here’s the rub. If undergraduate students have never heard of Gandhi, Orwell, or Thoreau (or have no reason to remember them), they obviously have such a huge gap in general knowledge that four years of college education are not likely to make up for what has been missing since middle school. Although I may strive diligently to fill those gaps, I realize that we no longer live in a culture that encourages and reinforces a shared knowledge basis with regard to history, geography, literature, and the sciences. But that does not mean that this kind of cultural literacy has ceased to be relevant. Indeed, I believe it is still alive and well, but that it is now cultivated only in a narrow circle of the privileged classes. The reason I don’t see much evidence of this shared knowledge in my own classroom is that I do not, as a rule, encounter the products of the country’s elite preparatory school systems. What I’m saying, then, is that the issue of cultural literacy is socio-economically coded.

Some will say, ‘What’s so wrong with being unable to pick up references to a few historical figures,most of them dead White males?’

The problem with the argument that cultural literacy is irrelevant is that it does actually matter to some. It matters to the upper-middle and upper classes, who hold the reins of wealth and power. Those families who can afford to send their children to top schools can be sure that their offspring are inculcated with precisely the kind of cultural fluency that some are trying to persuade us holds no importance in today’s diversified world. The more we argue the unimportance of cultural literacy among the general populace, the more we relegate the possession of this knowledge to the province of a socio-economic elite, thereby contributing to a hardening of social stratification and a lessening of social mobility. In the upper echelons of society, cultural literacy indicates belonging, and it signals the circulation of knowledge within tightly knit coteries. http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/TA09CulturalLiteracy.pdf

Whether one wants to argue that certain cultures are not included or do not have a prominent enough place in the definition of cultural literacy, the real question is what is the baseline knowledge necessary to be upwardly mobile?

Kenneth P. Ruscio argues in the Christian Science Monitor article, Why a liberal arts education is the best job preparation:

Although my own position, unsurprisingly, is that the fundamental philosophy of the liberal arts is more relevant today than it ever was, I base this belief on the strengths and weaknesses that today’s students bring to college. These strengths and weaknesses, in fact, are the opposite of what they were 20 years ago.

When I first started teaching, I found myself writing comments on term papers along the lines of, “You have a great thesis and you argue it with great passion and fluent writing. Unfortunately, you have no evidence to support it.”

When I left teaching a few years ago, I was writing comments like these: “Congratulations on the mass of data you have discovered. Unfortunately, you have no thesis or central argument. I have no idea what you are trying to prove.”

Students today can easily find information. The challenge is making sense of the whole, finding connections, evaluating the credibility of the information, taking a position, and dealing with complexity.

If ever there was a time when we should be emphasizing education – more than distributing information or training for specific jobs – if ever there was a time for the classic liberal arts, this is it. And I worry that in our enthusiasm to embrace new technologies, we will play too much to our students’ supposed strengths, ignoring the weaknesses they bring to us.

It is hard to find a commonly agreed-upon definition of the liberal arts. For those of us who experienced this kind of education, the definition would be personal. If we went to a college that claimed to be a liberal arts college, we would define a liberal arts education as what we got there.

For me, a liberal arts college is one premised on learning together what we cannot learn alone. A liberal arts education provides perspective and raises the “why” question along with the “what” question. In a hierarchy that starts with information, then moves up the ladder to knowledge, and then even higher to wisdom, a liberal arts college aspires to be operating at the highest rung.

One of the best books I have ever read on the liberal arts came out this year. “College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be” was written by Andrew Delbanco, a literature professor at Columbia University. Early on, he provides wonderful focus for what is to come.

“A few years ago,” he writes, “I came upon a manuscript diary – from 1850 – kept by a student at a small Methodist college, Emory and Henry, in southwest Virginia. One spring evening, after attending a sermon by the college president that left him troubled and apprehensive, he made the following entry in his journal: ‘Oh that the Lord would show me how to think and how to choose.’”

Mr. Delbanco considers that probably the best way to define the mission of the liberal arts: to teach people how to think and how to choose. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0919/Why-a-liberal-arts-education-is-the-best-job-preparation

We are developing a system to mass produce automatons.

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Technology report: Ed-Fi, the student info data base

14 May

Julia Lawrence of Education News is reporting on the growing acceptance of Ed-Fi in the article, Ed-Fi Signs Up More States, Teachers and Companies:

Collecting data on students in order to closely tailor the classroom experience to student strengths got easier last year with roll-out of Ed-Fi™ Tool Suite, a free software solution to help educators conduct useful analysis in a timely manner. Since its launch in July 2011, Ed-Fi™ has been used by schools and districts in 8 states, with 4 more taking advantage of the software’s functionality through the Shared Learning Collaborative. Nearly one in three teachers and as many students are now making use of this technology nationwide.

The software was designed to comply with the Common Education Data Standards which allows seamless transfer of knowledge between schools, school districts and the states. Companies who have licensed the software in order to integrate it in their own education-targeted products include e-Scholar, Curriculum Associates and Wireless Generation, among others. http://www.educationnews.org/technology/ed-fi-signs-up-more-states-teachers-and-companies/

The stated goal is to make student data more accessible and user-friendly for educators. A significant part of the push for more data has to with the introduction of Common Core Standards. See, Will ‘Common Core Standards’ increase education achievement? https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/page/2/

According to the Ed-Fi site, Ed-Fi is a product of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation:

Developed for the K-12 sector, Ed-Fi is open, XML-based, and CEDS-aligned to integrate information from a broad range of existing sources so it can be sifted, analyzed and put to use every day.

Ed-Fi enables educators to:

  • Easily access current, accurate classroom and student-level data
  • Develop more effective, progress-based lesson plans
  • Strengthen student academic growth and achievement
  • Conduct more objective, fact-based parent-teacher dialogues
  • Integrate data from existing systems such as student information systems (SIS), grade book applications, curriculum planning systems, and benchmark testing and reporting systems

Ed-Fi enables districts and agencies to:

  • Access consistent, comparable performance data across districts, schools and states
  • Continuously monitor, assess and improve program effectiveness
  • Manage evolving compliance-reporting requirements
  • Integrate with existing infrastructures
  • Ensure system interoperability
  • Accommodate future technological developments

Ed-Fi enables vendors to:

  • Develop reusable products for multiple districts, states and other vendors
  • Align to existing national standards
  • Address shifting requirements without major code overhauls
  • Streamline and systematize complex integration processes
  • Develop productized solutions for use among multiple districts, states and vendors
  • Focus on innovations that address emerging needs and open new markets

Available free of charge, Ed-Fi licenses provide school districts, state education agencies and vendors with access to all Ed-Fi components.

About Ed-Fi and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation was established in 1999 to help improve the lives of children in need around the world. The Ed-Fi initiative supports the goal of ensuring that all children have access to quality education in public schools, one of the foundation’s key objectives.

Designed to function as a national data standard, Ed-Fi was developed based on input from vendors as well as state and local education agencies. The Ed-Fi data standard is governed by foundation representatives working in collaboration with an advisory council of education agency representatives from states that opt to implement the standard. The Ed-Fi standard is vendor-neutral and does not require any specific vendor’s hardware, software or protocols.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Ed-Fi:

General (11)


Here is a portion of the press release from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation:

AUSTIN, Texas, May 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Since launching in July 2011, the Ed-Fi Tool Suite, including the data standard and dashboards, has gained significant momentum in K-12 education among state education agencies, school districts and vendors.  Eight states have licensed or are in discussions to license the Ed-Fi Tool Suite, and an additional four states will benefit from Ed-Fi-enabled tools through the Shared Learning Collaborative. This represents 34% of K-12 students and 36% of teachers across the United States. 

Ed-Fi is the only free, flexible and complete ed-tech solution to empower educators with relevant, timely, student-centric information that enables better data collection and reporting to improve decision making, facilitate targeted action plans and drive higher student outcomes. The Ed-Fi data standard aligns with Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) and facilitates secure data exchange among disparate data systems in the K-12 education sector. The Ed-Fi data standard enables interoperability among education systems that states and districts have already implemented, and enables organizations to build on prior investments in existing IT systems and processes. Most importantly, it puts the transformative power of information in the hands of teachers and other educators when and where they need it most: their classrooms.

Arizona, Kansas and New Mexico join Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texasin using Ed-Fi to power their ongoing efforts to ensure that educators have the information and insight they need to understand the individual needs of every student and be equipped to respond.

Vendors including e-Scholar, Curriculum Associates, SunGard and Wireless Generation have also licensed Ed-Fi. Further, the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) has chosen Ed-Fi to power its scalable shared technology services, which aim to accelerate progress toward personalized learning for every K-12 student in the United States.  The SLC will help existing and future instructional technology investments in states, districts and schools work better together, and will extend the reach and potential of Ed-Fi to additional states including Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina….

Ed-Fi does not replace existing education data or information systems, nor does it supplant existing data standards; it enables them to work together to give educators nationwide what they need: holistic portraits of students that are detailed, easy to understand and up-to-date at any given moment. Moreover, Ed-Fi addresses a long-standing challenge to meaningful systemic improvement in schools nationwide: The multiple and often non-interoperable information and education data systems used by schools, districts and states.

“Ed-Fi fills the persistent need in the education sector to harness the power of data already collected in school districts and states,” said Fey.


“Joining Ed-Fi and uniting behind a common data standard is an important step forward for Arizona’s education community to provide powerful student-level data to educators,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal. “Arizona is undergoing transformative education reform, and improving the quality of education through sound data-driven decision making is a key part of that change. I applaud the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for offering such a robust education technology solution, at no cost, to the Arizona Department of Education.”

“Colorado has consolidated 19 primary data collections, and we now have eight. We were able to do this by taking a student-based approach to data as compared to the old way of approaching data based on programs.  Ed-Fi wholly supports this enterprise view of data.  By streamlining the flow of information and eliminating redundant data requests, Colorado can reduce the data administration burden for schools while shifting resources towards using data to enhance performance,” said Robert Hammond, Commissioner of Education, Colorado.

“Use of the Ed-Fi standard allowed us to significantly accelerate the development life cycle for our Education Insight warehouse and dashboard projects, enabling us to move from analysis to production in just 12 months. Ed-Fi provided a compass that guided the transformation of data from a variety of disparate data sources into meaningful real-time metrics for classroom decision-making, while allowing us to customize the teacher dashboard to the specific needs of Delaware educators,” said Reese Robinson, Education Insight Project Manager, Delaware Department of Education….

About Ed-Fi

Ed-Fi is a universal educational data standard and tool suite that enables vital academic information on K-12 students to be consolidated from the different data systems of school districts throughout the United States. Ed-Fi acts as a universal translator of academic data, integrating and organizing information so that educators can start addressing the individual needs of each student from day one, and can measure progress and refine action plans throughout the school year.

Developed through funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Ed-Fi licenses provide school districts, state education agencies and vendors with unrestricted access to all Ed-Fi components free of charge. For more information, visit www.ed-fi.org. The Ed-Fi initiative supports the goal of ensuring that all children have access to quality education in public schools, one of the foundation’s key objectives. http://www.educationnews.org/technology/ed-fi-signs-up-more-states-teachers-and-companies/

Schools also have to be concerned with student privacy rights.

Kelly Field reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, New Rules Would Allow for A Broader Sharing of Student Records

The Department of Education will release new rules today that will make it easier for states to develop data systems to track students’ academic progress and evaluate education programs.

The proposed new rules would allow high-school administrators and state officials to share student-level data with researchers, auditors, and other agencies without violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or Ferpa.

The changes are being welcomed by education reformers but criticized by privacy advocates, who fear they could undermine longstanding student protections. Under Ferpa, colleges must generally obtain a student’s consent to release data from an education record.

In an effort to strike a balance between privacy and accountability, the department has hired a chief privacy officer and created a technical-assistance center to advise states, schools, and colleges on privacy and data security.

But critics of the rule say such efforts won’t do enough to protect students in the face of expanded data-sharing.

The U.S. Department of Education has a site about the Family Education Act and Privacy

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) Home

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

For additional information, you may call 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327) (voice). Individuals who use TDD may call 1-800-437-0833.

Or you may contact us at the following address:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-8520

Although, the database may make accessing student information easier, student privacy concerns should also be addressed.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Will ‘Common Core Standards’ increase education achievement?

19 Feb

There will continue to be battles between those who favor a more traditional education and those who are open to the latest education fad. These battles will be fought out in school board meetings, PTSAs, and the courts.

There is one way to, as Susan Powder says, “Stop the Insanity.” Genuine school choice allows parents or guardians to select the best educational setting for their child. 2012 Brown Center report from Brookings Insitution, How Well Are American Students Learning? raises questions about what effect, if any, the Common Core Standards will have on education achievement:


What effect will the Common Core have on national achievement? The analysis presented here suggests very little impact. The quality of the Common Core standards is currently being hotly debated, but the quality of past curriculum standards has been unrelated to achievement. The rigor of performance standards—how high the bar is set for proficiency—has also been unrelated to achievement. Only a change in performance levels has been related to an increase in achievement, and that could just as easily be due to test score changes driving changes in policy, not the other way around.

The Common Core may reduce variation in achievement between states, but as a source of achievement disparities, that is not where the action is. Within-state variation is four to five times greater. The sources of variation in educational outcomes are not only of statistical importance but also bear on the question of how much state policy can be expected to change schools. Whatever reduction in variation between, say, Naperville and Chicago that can be ameliorated by common standards has already been accomplished by Illinois’s

state efforts. State standards have already had a crack at it. Other states provide even more deeply rooted historical examples.

California has had state curriculum frame-The Common Core may reduce variation in achievement between states, but as a source of achievement disparities, that is not where the action is.


See, Common Core won’t likely boost student achievement, analysis says http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/common-core-wont-likely-boost-student-achievement-analysis-says/2012/02/16/gIQAOfZuJR_blog.html The Common Core State Standards Initiative has some excellent information about the standards.

In Frequently Asked Questions, which is a section much too long to excerpt on a blog, The Common Core Standards Initiative provides the following answers:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are educational standards?

Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.

Why do we need educational standards?

We need standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce. Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common standards will provide a greater opportunity to share experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.

Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they do help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have so that teachers can build the best lessons and environments for their classrooms. Standards also help students and parents by setting clear and realistic goals for success. Standards are a first step – a key building block – in providing our young people with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college and work. Of course, standards are not the only thing that is needed for our children’s success, but they provide an accessible roadmap for our teachers, parents, and students.

How are educational standards determined now?

Each state has its own process for developing, adopting, and implementing standards. As a result, what students are expected to learn can vary widely from state to state.

Is having common standards the first step toward nationalizing education?

No. The Common Core State Standards are part of a state-led effort to give all students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The federal government was not involved in the development of the standards. Individual states choose whether or not to adopt these standards.

What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. The standards have been informed by the best available evidence and the highest state standards across the country and globe and designed by a diverse group of teachers, experts, parents, and school administrators, so they reflect both our aspirations for our children and the realities of the classroom. These standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The standards are benchmarked to international standards to guarantee that our students are competitive in the emerging global marketplace.

What will these common core state standards mean for students?

The standards will provide more clarity about and consistency in what is expected of student learning across the country. Until now, every state has had its own set of academic standards, meaning public education students at the same grade level in different states have been expected to achieve at different levels. This initiative will allow states to share information effectively and help provide all students with an equal opportunity for an education that will prepare them to go to college or enter the workforce, regardless of where they live. Common standards will not prevent different levels of achievement among students. Rather, they will ensure more consistent exposure to materials and learning experiences through curriculum, instruction, and teacher preparation among other supports for student learning. In a global economy, students must be prepared to compete with not only their American peers in the next state, but with students from around the world. These standards will help prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.

Who will manage (or own) the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the future?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was and will remain a state-led effort. In addition to supporting effective implementation of the Common Core, NGA and CCSSO are committed to developing a long-term governance structure with leadership from governors, chief state school officers, and other state policymakers.


The standards battle is really the war between those who favor a traditional approach to education with control that is local and those who don’t.


Parents’ Guide to Student Success


Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Early learning standards and the K-12 continuum

3 Jan

Preschool is a portal to the continuum of life long learning. A good preschool stimulates the learning process and prompts the child into asking questions about their world and environment. Baby Center offers advice about how to find a good preschool and general advice to expectant parents. At the core of why education is important is the goal of equipping every child with the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR dream, whatever that dream is. Christine Armario and Dorie Turner are reporting in the AP article, AP News Break: Nearly 1 in 4 Fails Military Exam which appeared in the Seattle Times:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

Many children begin their first day of school behind their more advantaged peers. Early childhood learning is an important tool is bridging the education deficit.

eSchool News.Com reports that the Pre-K Coalition, which includes the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association has released the report, “The Importance of Aligning Pre-K through 3rd Grade.”

Gains made in high-quality preschool programs must be sustained and built upon throughout the K-3 years, according to the report. Robust P-3 initiatives align comprehensive early learning standards with state K-3 content standards in an effort to promote children’s healthy development, social and emotional skills, and learning. Those standards should be connected and build upon one another so that pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and primary grade educators can develop and select effective curricula, teaching strategies, and assessment systems. Teaching teams should engage in joint professional development….
The Common Core State Standards hold promise in helping schools connect early learning to later grades, but many state K-12 systems might not connect to early childhood education systems within the same state….
In particular, it suggests that federal policy makers:
Encourage the development of P-3 teaching credentials.
Support joint planning and professional development between early childhood providers and P-3 teachers.
Reduce parallel sets of regulations and reporting requirements across federal funding streams.
Allow blending of federal and state early childhood education and care funding to strengthen systems building efforts….

States have also begun to adopt a more aligned P-3 approach. For example:
In Washington, the State Department of Early Learning Starting and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction host a two-day conference for teachers, early childhood educators, principals, superintendents, parents, and policy makers, which aims to create a shared understanding of the research and key elements of pre-kindergarten through grade 3 models.
New Jersey has created a P-3 teaching credential, which recognizes the unique aspects of early childhood teaching—including child development, early childhood curriculum, developmentally appropriate practice, and philosophical and theoretical foundations of early childhood education. The certification is required of all lead teachers in preschool settings in Abbott school districts, and is a valid certificate for teaching in preschool through third grade in non-Abbott districts.
In Virginia, the State Board of Education collaborated with the governor’s office and many key agencies to focus on improving the state’s early education workforce. The effort has aligned P-3 teacher competencies with foundational documents and devised a Curriculum Review Rubric and Planning Tool for early educators, which is being piloted in several preschools.
Georgia has developed and implemented the Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (GKIDS), a performance-based assessment intended to provide teachers with information about the level of instructional support needed for students entering kindergarten and first grade. This strategy has promoted the internalization of standards, curriculum, and instruction by P-3 teachers, as well as joint professional development opportunities to advance vertical teaming and transition children from pre-kindergarten into kindergarten and first grade. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/12/22/report-sets-forth-early-learning-recommendations/

Moi is using “preschool” to mean the same thing as “nursery school,” the schooling for children around three and four years of age. Professionals sometimes use the term “early childhood education” to mean the same thing.

There is an important distinction, however, between preschool and child care. Child care refers to the day-to-day, routine care of children from birth to three years, and to those parts of an older child’s day in which the primary focus is not on education. Preschool, on the other hand, refers to the portion of the day in which the main goal is developmentally appropriate education. (This isn’t to say that there isn’t some overlap, of course. A lot of what goes on in a preschool classroom involves taking care of a child’s physical and emotional needs, and a lot of what goes on in a good child-care setting is, in fact, educational.)

Kayla Webley has written an excellent report in Time magazine about Pew Charitable Trusts’ findings on a studies of preschool. In Rethinking Pre-K:5 Ways to Fix Preschool Webley reports:

Against this backdrop, Pew is exiting the pre-K stage with several hard-boiled recommendations. TIME got an early look at the report, Transforming Public Education: Pathway to a Pre-K-12 Future. Here are the highlights, plus a handicapper’s guide to the chances of implementing these directives:

1. Stop thinking K to 12, and start thinking pre-K to 12

States are required to provide education for students in grades 1 to 12, which means that even in tough economic times, they can reduce funding only on a per-child basis. The same is not true for preschool. Only a handful of states are required to provide pre-K; all the others can choose to cap enrollment for low-income children or stop funding these programs altogether. “One of the reasons that it’s easy in some states to cut back pre-K investments when times are tough is this idea that it’s just a program for some kids, not something for all kids…”

Reality check: Shifting the vernacular from K to 12 to pre-K to 12 shouldn’t be too hard. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that K to 12 became a common household phrase. But families won’t start thinking about preschool as a crucial part of the educational continuum until their elected officials do….

As state legislatures and Congress convene January to what may look to some like an empty cash drawer, this is a plea to fully fund basic education at all levels. We need more educated people, not just people who sat in chairs, either passively or unwillingly, until they in their own mind received their parole as evidenced by a meaningless diploma. We need more people who have the critical facilities and independence of mind to not be swayed by the wackos at either end of the political spectrum. People who do not simply spout meaningless platitudes based upon their own empty thoughts, which are unchallenged by either facts or reflection, but people who pragmatically consider the available options. Finally, the nasty trend that we do not live in community with others but live at the expense of others must be challenged. Education and learning should start early.

Our goals should be: A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood. ©

Think small, Not small minded ©

Money spent on early childhood programs is akin to yeast for bread. The whole society will rise.


Why Preschool Matters?

Why Preschool is Important?

The Benefits of Preschool

Will Preschool Education Make a Child Ready for Kindergarten

Preschool, Why it is the Most Important Grade

National Conference of State Legislatures Resources on Kindergarten

Education Commission of the States, Full Day Kindergarten: A Study of State Policies in the United States

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

New Haven schools adopt ‘Singapore Math’

27 Dec

Melissa Bailey reports in the New Haven-Independent article, Singapore Math: New Haven Schools Adopt New Method Of Teaching From Abroad:

The new tools emerged as Carr and other elementary teachers try out a new method called Singapore math. In effort to get New Haven kids up to speed with their international counterparts, and in stride with a national Common Core State Standards initiative, the city is rolling out Singapore math to all classrooms in grades K to 5, starting this year with grades K to 2.

The method is based on a curriculum introduced in 1992 in Singapore’s public schools. Teachers take a slow pace, focusing on thorough understanding of the fundamentals of math, with multiple approaches to the same problem. After implementing the new curriculum with its half-million public school students, the Southeast Asian country has been the top-performing nation in elementary math for every year since 1995, sending school districts around the world scrambling to replicate their success.

New Haven tried out the method in a few classrooms last year at King-Robinson International Baccalaureate School and Celentano Museum Academy. Now Rosalie Carr is one of about 260 teachers doing Singapore math this year.


Winnie Hu has an excellent article in the New York Times, Making Math As Easy As 1, Pause, 2, Pause…. It is not clear whether Singapore Math is simply another education fad or there is some true education benefit to the theory upon which the curriculum is based, that children must learn a concept deeply before progressing. Methinks, they are on the right track. See, US Teens Trail Peers Around the World On Math-Science Test

Perhaps the best concise description and information about Singapore Math is found at Home School Math which provides the following review.     

Singapore Math is the actual curriculum used in Singapore from 1982 to 2001 (English is the language of instruction in Singapore).

The Primary Mathematics U.S. Edition (for grades 1-6) series of elementary math textbooks and workbooks uses the Concrete> Pictorial>Abstract approach. The students are provided with the necessary learning experiences beginning with the concrete and pictorial stages, followed by the abstract stage to enable them to learn mathematics meaningfully. This approach encourages active thinking process, communication of mathematical ideas and problem solving. This helps develop the foundation students will need for more advanced mathematics.

The key concept is developing deeper subject matter knowledge. Joy Resmovits has an interesting article at Huffington Post.

In U.S. Students’ Low Math Test Proficiency Could Have Consequences For GDP Resmovits reports:

U.S. students rank poorly in proficiency on both domestic and international math exams, a problem that could cost the country $75 trillion over 80 years, according to a new study.

U.S. students fall behind 31 countries in math proficiency and behind 16 countries in reading proficiency, according to the report released Wednesday, titled “Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?

Resmovits is reporting about the report, Globally Challenged: Are U. S. Students Ready to Compete? The latest on each state’s international standing in math and reading by Paul E. Peterson, Ludger Woessmann, Eric A. Hanushek and Carlos X. Lastra-Anadón.

Here is a portion of the Executive Summary:

Proficiency in Mathematics

U.S. students in the Class of 2011, with a 32 percent proficiency rate in mathematics, came in 32nd among the nations that participated in PISA. Although performance levels among the countries ranked 23rd to 31st are not significantly different from that of the United States, 22 countries do significantly outperform the United States in the share of students reaching the proficient level in math. In six countries plus Shanghai and Hong Kong, a majority of students performed at the proficient level, while in the United States less than one-third did. For example, 58 percent of Korean students and 56 percent of Finnish students were proficient. Other countries in which a majority—or near majority—of students performed at or above the proficient level included Switzerland, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands. Many other nations also had math proficiency rates well above that of the United States, including Germany (45 percent), Australia (44 percent), and France (39 percent). Shanghai topped the list with a 75 percent math proficiency rate, well over twice the 32 percent rate of the United States. However, Shanghai students are from a prosperous metropolitan area within China, with over three times the GDP per capita of the rest of that country, so their performance is more appropriately compared to Massachusetts and Minnesota, which are similarly favored and are the top performers among the U.S. states. When this comparison is made, Shanghai still performs at a distinctly higher level. Only a little more than half (51 percent) of Massachusetts students are proficient in math, while Minnesota, the runner-up state, has a math proficiency rate of just 43 percent. Only four additional states—Vermont, North Dakota, New Jersey, and Kansas—have a math proficiency rate above 40 percent. Some of the country’s largest and richest states score below the average for the United States as a whole, including New York (30 percent), Missouri (30 percent), Michigan (29 percent), Florida (27 percent), and California (24 percent)….

Performance of U.S. Ethnic and Racial Groups

The percentage proficient in the United States varies considerably across students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. While 42 percent of white students were identified as proficient in math, only 11 percent of African American students, 15 percent of Hispanic students, and 16 percent of Native Americans were so identified. Fifty percent of students with an ethnic background from Asia and the Pacific Islands, however, were proficient in math. In reading, 40 percent of white students and 41 percent of those from Asia and the Pacific Islands were identified as proficient. Only 13 percent of African American students, 5 percent of Hispanic students, and 18 percent of Native American students were so identified….

Here is the citation:


Sarah D. Sparks reports in the Education Week article, Study Helps Pinpont Math Disability

Burgeoning research into students’ difficulties with mathematics is starting to tease out cognitive differences between students who sometimes struggle with math and those who have dyscalculia, a severe, persistent learning disability in math.

A new, decade-long longitudinal study by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, published Friday in the journal Child Development, finds that 9th-graders considered dyscalculic—those who performed in the bottom 10 percent of math ability on multiple tests—had substantially lower ability to grasp and compare basic number quantities than average students or even other struggling math students…

The study, she said, may help researchers and educators understand the underlying causes of persistent math problems and identify the students who need the most intensive instructional support.

Math-learning disability affects about 5 percent to 8 percent of school-age children nationwide, about as many people nationwide as are affected by dyslexia. Yet experts say research on the reading problem has for decades dwarfed studies of math difficulties by 20 to one…

We know that basic numeracy skills are a greater predictor of later success in life than basic literacy skills,” said Daniel Ansari, one of the pioneers in the neuroscience of dyscalculia, speaking at a research forum on the disability held in Chicago last month, who is unconnected to the Kennedy Krieger study.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education. There should be a variety of options.


  1. NCTM Focal Points and Singapore Math Curriculum
  2. Singapore Math FAQ
  3. What is Singapore Math?
  4. Where’s The Math

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©