Tag Archives: Linda Darling-Hammond

The New York State ESSA Plan Released: Setting a New Path for Defining School Accountability or Recreating a Kinder “Test and Punish” Plan?

The scene in January 2002 was a civics text come to life. Flanked by jubilant members of Congress and standing in front of a cheering crowd, President George W. Bush declared the start of a “new era” in American public education with the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., shared the president’s enthusiasm. “This is a defining issue about the future of our nation and about the future of democracy, the future of liberty, and the future of the United States in leading the free world,” the legislative icon had proclaimed on the Senate floor. “No piece of legislation will have a greater impact or influence on that.”

from Education Next

Unfortunately Kennedy was correct, the legislation had enormous impact, an enormously negative impact. NCLB created a testing empire, classrooms became focused on test prep; art and music disappeared; recruiting high achieving kids became de rigueur as well as ridding schools of lower achieving kids. Chasing test scores replaced a well-rounded  school curriculum. Year after year the dems and the repubs dueled and the law remained unchanged.

Finally, a few years ago Senators Alexander (R) and Murray (D) began to work on a new law, a law called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While the law still requires grades 3-8 testing the law also grants states wide discretion in creating an accountability plan as well as addressing school improvement.

New York State employed two of the most widely respected educators in the nation as consultants, Linda Darling-Hammond, the Learning Policy Institute and Scott Marion, The Center for Assessment; they guided the process.

I’ve sat through hours and hours of meetings, occasionally participating in outreach sessions. On Monday the State Education Department released a draft of the plan to be followed by two months of public comment, review and edits by the governor and an approval vote in September.

Read a press release and a summary of the draft plan here and a lengthy Power Point here.

There is no jubilation, no standing in the streets cheering; however, the accountability section plan is a step in the right direction.

The accountability section of the plan still requires the identification of the lowest 5% of Title 1 schools. Under NCLB we only “measured” schools by results on grades 3-8 tests and high school graduation rates. The draft plan will add “growth” (also referred to as “progress”) as well as a number of other metrics. The results will be reported in a dashboard, a matrix; there will no letter or number grades.

I believe a much fairer plan.

Let’s be honest, the overriding reason for low achievement is beyond the ability of schools to overcome. School cannot erase the stain of poverty.  How many kids are faced with health problems caused by physical, social and environmental degradations?

A little math problem:

You intend to travel to meet  a friend who lives 100 miles away. Each day you get halfway there, how many days will it take to meet your friend?

The answer: you never meet him, you keep getting closer, you never get there.

Schools make “progress;” however you cannot overcome the external factors. You get better for a year or two and fall back for a year or two.  Schools do not control funding, school don’t control foreclosures, schools don’t control the movement of immigrants, yet, we hold schools fully responsible for kids reaching “proficiency.”

These are not excuses, schools matter, school leaders and teachers matter, they impact the lives of kids, unfortunately we do not hold the feds or the state or the local government accountable, only schools, school leaders and teachers.

The members of the Board of Regents debated, suggested, asked questions for three and a half hours. One of the board members pointed out a crucial factor: the 700 school districts in the state have independent, elected school boards who hire superintendents and principals. The commissioner can only intervene if the district commits malfeasance, a crime. How do you hold the local education bureaucracy accountable?

A number of other Board members asked: how do we hold ourselves responsible?

The Regents have no control over funding, the formulas are set by the legislature and the governor and the system is among the most inequitable in the nation.

In spite of the inadequacies in the larger picture the plan is fairer: progress will be acknowledged.

The second part of the plan is disappointing, how the state will assist the schools in the lowest 5%. Write a plan reflecting data that includes “evidence-based” approaches to improving teaching and learning. I knew, I know, the plan is simply following the requirements of the law. We’ve been writing school improvement plans for decades, we’re good at it, we’re not good at improving schools.

As the lengthy discussion moved along a number of the Regents asked whether the state was planning to design pilots that explored the use of performance tasks or portfolios as assessment tools. The law, ESSA, does require that the US Department of Education, somewhere down the road, select seven states to conduct pilot assessment programs. A few states, New Hampshire, Vermont and a few others are currently conducting pilot programs approved under NCLB waivers. New York State can create pilots; however, not in lieu of the current testing, in addition to current testing.

The State Education Department has learned from the Common Core fiasco and conducted innumerable meetings around the state, I participated in one meeting, the outreach has been unprecedented.

First steps are crucial, the introduction of the Common Core was mishandled, alienating instead of building consensus, it was dead on arrival. The current efforts give stakeholders, in fact, anyone who pleases the opportunity to participate.

At the same time the commissioner is revising and renaming the Common Core State Standards, now called Next Generation ELA and Math Standards. Once again, the outreach was significant – see the Next Generation Standards here.

Standards are statements of what skills students should be able to exhibit in each grade. One of the recommendations states: “Establish a transparent and open process by which New York standards are periodically reviewed by educators and content area specialists.” I’m baffled, should English and Math standards vary from state to state, change every few years within in a state?  I passed the Next Generation Standards on to a few folk who I consider experts. The Math folk were highly critical and ELA folk mildly critical. Standards are subjective,

For me, the underlying core problem: we do not have curriculum aligned to state standards.  State Ed maintains that curriculum is the responsibility  of school districts. School districts do not have the technical expertise or the funding to create curriculum, they have adopted the EngageNY curriculum modules, and, as the commissioner acknowledged at the last meeting, the curriculum modules became a script.

One state has consistently led the nation in NAEP scores, the state of Massachusetts, referred to as the Massachusetts Education Miracle, If Massachusetts was a nation it would rank among the highest achieving in the world, New York State falls well below the midpoint of states.

Massachusetts aligned standards to curriculum to professional development to teacher preparation to testing, with spectacular consistent results.

Ashley Berner, Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy in “The Promise of Curriculum: Recent Research on Louisiana’s Instructional Reforms” cuts to the core of the question of improving student outcomes. (Read full paper here).

Berner explains in detail why America has been reticent, if not hostile to the concept of a common curriculum, in spite of the fact that high achieving nations around the world all have content rich national curriculum.

And so the curriculum rarely rises to the level of action. Massachusetts is an exception: the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 required the creation of coherent, intellectually challenging curricular frameworks. The state then created an entire system around curriculum that influenced teacher preparation, professional development, assessments, and student learning.

The one state that recently has made significant progress is Louisiana.

Louisiana was among the top five states in narrowing several achievement gaps: the white-black gap in 4th-grade math, the white-Hispanic gap in 4th grade math and reading; the white-Hispanic gap in 8th grade math and reading (“NAEP 2015: Mathematics and Reading Assessments” 2015).

In an Education Next article (“Why Curriculum Matters“) Charles Sahm writes,

There are no silver bullets in education. But a growing body of both empirical and real-world evidence makes a compelling case that curriculum is a key component of student success.

I am concerned that New York State, in spite of their best intentions, in spite of the dedication of the commissioner and her staff, are not moving in the right direction. ESSA opens a window, a rare opportunity, to change direction, I fear we may missing the opportunity.

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ESSA, Martin Luther King and Accountability: Will the New York State Plan Address Fiscal Inequalities?

Learn baby learn, earn baby earn.” Martin Luther King, 1967

Early this morning I donned my winter bike gear and pushed off, a light snow had fallen; it was crisp, really crisp, with the rising sun low in the eastern sky; a glorious morning to greet Martin Luther King’s birthday.

I spent last night listening to MLK speeches; I had never listened to his 1967 speech to the students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia entitled, “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” Take fifteen minutes and listen to the speech here – it is as relevant today as it was a half century ago.

A year ago we were jubilant, a new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act promised a new era, the end of the notorious “test and punish” No Child Left Behind.” The new law returned to the states the power to set education policy within broad guidelines set by feds.

Tomorrow the Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos, who has spent her career and political dollars, with considerable success, opening unregulated charter schools in Michigan. Her vision of education is a return to the pre-Brown v Board of Education days, a voucher system that would return to schools segregated by race, class and parental income; a repudiation of the essence of King’s life work. A few days later the inauguration of Trump: dark clouds hover over our nation.

ESSA, our new education law, passed Congress with wide support across party lines, a rare example of truly bipartisan legislation. As the regulations have been promulgated the fifty states have begun to craft their required accountability plans: the essence of the new law. New York State, after a slow start is fully engaged drafting the plan.

A simple question: How will the plan impact the lives of classroom teachers and students?

We currently live in a world driven by annual English and Mathematics tests in grades 3-8 and exit exams in high school. The unintended consequence was to create a narrow, rigid “test and punish” system. For superintendents and principals the goal was “proficiency:” how many students scored in the proficient realm.

School resources were targeted to kids “approaching proficiency” and ignored kids far below or far above proficiency. The Arts, physical education, school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and enrichment programs fell victim to the targeting of resources to a narrow band of students. Race to the Top dangled dollars if states fully implemented the Common Core State Standards and, New York State was the first state to both fully implement the CCSS and move to Common Core tests.  Standards are not a curriculum, they are skills; while curriculum is the responsibility of the school district the State produced Curriculum Modules on their Engage NY site;  modules that were adopted by schools districts around the State. Since the state produced the tests and the modules it would be foolish not to adopt the modules regardless of what you thought of them.

ESSA allows states to decide how to define accountability, and the change can drive education in a different direction: it all depends upon the New York State plan.

The state can decide to move from proficiency, a score on a test, to growth, comparing scores over time.

A few examples: a new principal came into a very low achieving school, the students made impressive progress, no one cared, and the school was still below proficient. What was he doing differently? What organizational and/or instructional changes had taken place?  The school was below proficient; the school district was only interested in high achieving schools. Another school had a steady flow of new immigrants, scores were very low; however, the kids in school a few years were doing quite well, the students were below proficient; that’s all that mattered.

Under a growth accountability system, or a combination of proficiency and growth, both schools would receive recognition for their hard work.

This year the Commissioner and the Regents have had a laser focus on educating themselves, reaching out to all constituencies and collaboratively creating an ESSA accountability plan.

Each meeting of the Board of Regents has been a learning experience – experts from across the nation presenting ideas, warning about pitfalls, describing what other states are doing and making a range of suggestions.

Check out the presentations, high quality Power Points below:

ESSA Law Explained: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/essa.html

ESSA State Plan Development Activities (10/16): https://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/ESSA.pdf

SED High Level Concepts for Draft Plan (10/16): http://www.nysed.gov/news/2016/state-education-department-proposes-high-level-concepts-draft-every-student-succeeds-act

Linda Darling-Hammond Papers on ESSA (4/16): https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/pathways-new-accountability-through-every-student-succeeds-act

Michael Cohen, Achieve, College and Career Readiness, Equity and ESSA (11/16); http://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/Full%20Board%20Monday%20PM%20-%20MCohen.pdf

Scott Marion: Opportunities and Challenges in the Design of ESSA Accountability Systems (12/16): https://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/FB%20-%20Monday%20ESSA%20Assessment%20and%20Accountability%20for%20RegentsSMarion.pdf

Update on the Development of a State ESSA Accountability Plan (12/16): https://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/FB%20Monday%20-%20ESSA%20Commissioner.pdf

Linda-Darling Hammond Presentation at the Jan, 2017 Board of Regents Meeting: https://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/FB%20Tuesday%20-%20Building%20an%20Accountability%20System.pdf

All the presenters suggested moving away from proficiency only, to multiple measures, called a dashboard, a range of indicators to both define and measure “success.”  In other words, you have to define accountability before you can measure accountability. Yes, the law requires annual grades 3-8 tests; however, the law does not proscribe or define a test. Some states are exploring performance tasks or portfolios of student work; a complex path: how do you assure inter rater reliability? Should the five regents exams be the only path to a diploma? Should we substitute AP exams? Industry certifications in CTE areas?

Other states are exploring the dashboard concept: in addition to proficiency and growth using attendance, parent and student surveys, as well as other possible questions: Can we “measure” non-cognitive behaviors? Should resilience in post-secondary education impact a school?  Should English language learners in their first few years and some students with disabilities be “measured” differently than all other students?

When the dust clears, the State ESSA plan will define accountability and identify the bottom five percent for intervention. This is NOT Lake Woebegone where all children are above average.

In her slide deck Linda Darling-Hammond reached that moment of truth: describing “Support for Intervention.”

* Teams of expert educators trained to work with struggling schools.

* School pairs and networks for learning.

* Content collaboratives/ subject matter projects

* Trained curriculum coaches.

* Wraparound services including extended learning after school and in the summer.

* School redesign initiatives based on research and best practices.

I don’t want to be discouraging – haven’t we been doing some or all of the above?  Does school and district leadership have the capacity to carry out the supports described, and, a question asked by a number of Board members: equity. Where do schools and school districts get the funds to carry out the interventions?  Vice Chancellor Brown asked if the issue of equity can be included in an ESSA plan. Linda Darling-Hammond gave a hesitant “yes.”

Should plans acknowledge that kids don’t start from the same place and by continuing a pattern of extreme inequality in funding aren’t we exacerbating inequality and undermining any plan?

Fifty years after the MLK speech referenced above we are still asking kids to compete on unequal grounds.

High potential; however, a long complex path; can the Commissioner require schools and teachers, who have the ultimate responsibility to enact the new law,  to move forward without an even funding playing field?

Authentic Assessment: Will New York State Begin to Move from “Bubbling” to “Deeper Learning”?

Back in 2009 The New Teacher Project (TNTP) issued a report, The Widget Effect, school districts only rarely observed teachers or even attempted to discharge teachers.

“A teacher’s effectiveness – the most important factor for schools in improving student achievement – is not measured, recorded, or used to inform decision-making in any meaningful way.”

If we could “measure and record” teacher effectiveness, if we could identify the worst teachers and fire them we could improve student achievement. What we have seen is an unrelenting assault on teachers: use student test scores to assess teacher quality and remove tenure (See Vergara v The State of California here); make firing teachers easier.

The assumption that there is a long line of highly effectiveness teachers waiting to replace the “bad” teachers is ludicrous. In fact, 40% of teachers leave within their first five years of service, in high poverty, low achieving inner city schools the percentage of much higher; a revolving door of new teachers seriously impacts student achievement.

A perhaps well-intentioned reform, replacing “bad” teachers with new teachers had an unintended consequence,  a hugh unintended consequence. Since student test scores now drove teacher competence decisions, prepare for the tests, in fact, preparing for the tests became the driver of instruction.

In New York State the opt out movement exploded and eventually Governor Cuomo, to his credit, announced a four-year moratorium on the use of student test scores to assess teacher quality.

Couple the moratorium with the new ESSA requirement to create a new student accountability model and a window opens. Watch a webinar from the Learning Policy Institute laying out the opportunities under ESSA here .

Under the far more permissive regulations in ESSA, the new law states have wide discretion.

Teachers agree:  we should assess what we’re actually teaching?

In the ideal world, we teach a curriculum, a word that has virtually disappeared from the education vocabulary, we assess student performance periodically based on maybe a portfolio of work, a series of performance tasks, a lab report based on an experiment:  referred to authentic assessment:

A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills” — Jon Mueller

“…Engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field.” — Grant Wiggins

Performance assessments call upon the examinee to demonstrate specific skills and competencies, that is, to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered.” — Richard J. Stiggins.

The movement, frequently called “deeper learning,” supports the change from bubbling in multiple choice answers to “create and produce,” a Stanford University online (MOOC)  Massive Online Open Course describes performance assessments,

Whether students are learning to select, use, and explain evidence to support a claim or to analyze data to evaluate a hypothesis, tests that require that students only bubble in a scantron are inadequate to measure (or support) students’ learning and growth. Performance assessments are more suited to this task. Performance-based tasks require that students create and produce rather than recall and regurgitate. While performance assessments vary along multiple dimensions, including duration and focus, they all demand that students use and apply critical skills and knowledge to demonstrate understanding.

Stanford has created a performance assessment resource bank, , a rich repository for schools planning to move from bubbles to deeper learning.

I believe the state is edging in that direction; remembering the Common Core disaster. The introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards coupled with Common Core state tests angered everyone and saw standardized test score grades flip from two-thirds “proficient” to two-thirds “below proficient.”  Either teachers forgot how to teach and students forgot how to learn or the entire process was deeply flawed.

A “deeper learning” approach to teaching, the use of authentic assessments requires “buy-in” from schools and extensive teacher training. Keeping track of student progress in a class of twenty-five or thirty students can be onerous, a three-day test in April may be viewed as a lot easier.

We don’t have to use a “one-size-fits all” approach to teaching and learning. School districts or clusters of schools in the “Big Five” can opt in while other schools continue the more traditional approach.

Commissioner Elia has been extremely sensitive to the “field,” aka, the stakeholders; opportunities for consultations and engagement have been myriad. For example, the Higher Education Committee is moving toward recommending changes in teacher preparation regulations, there have been I believe ten open forums around the state, all the Deans, from CUNY, SUNY and the privates have been invited to be part of the process.

A reminiscence: an authentic assessment.

An alum is writing a history of the school at which I spent my career teaching and is interviewing former students and publishing the history in the alum bulletin.  I was surprised and overjoyed at one of her articles. Around 1980 I was teaching a Sociology class, and, decided to create an exercise: create a statistically correct (“stratified random sample”) survey of student attitudes and opinions, questions dealing  from homework, to pot-smoking, to condom distribution to the quality of teaching to race relations. We worked on the assignment for weeks, eventually presented the report to the Principal and invited him to the class to discuss the findings. When the alum interviewed the former students and asked them what they remember about their school career three of them referenced that assignment – more than thirty years earlier – think they remember what was on the Regents that year?

Meandering Toward an ESSA Plan: Can the Commissioner/Regents Satisfy the Electeds, Parents, Teachers and Create a More Equitable Learning Environment?

Where you ever driving down a dark road, lost, you keep on driving, maybe, just maybe you’re not as lost as you think you are, and, it’s a long drive back … unfortunately I fear the folks at State Ed are on that road.

At this point in the process of constructing an ESSA plan the state has identified 36 “High Concept Ideas” and seven questions that it is asking the education community. (Read the High Concept Ideas and Questions here).

The first High Concept Idea:

To ensure all schools are provided with accurate measurement of their students’ academic proficiencies, NY proposes to determine a State-designed rigorous action that will lead to improvements in the participation rate of schools that did not test 95%of their students (as opposed to an action designed by USDE).

So, the most important High Concept Idea, the idea that leads the list is an “idea” that might reduce the number of opt out parents. I understand, we live in a political world, and, it is the political side that votes budgets; increasing the participation rate, in theory, will make the governor, the legislature, and the activist parents happier.

Will Johnny and Mary and Jose and Jamaal learn to read better and calculate better and think better?

The process of creating an ESSA plan forces the state to take a look at itself: have we been moving in the right direction? Are our students ready for post-secondary education, be it college or career? And, if not, why not? And, how can we change direction? And, what direction?

The Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper has a relevant article. New Hampshire is in the midst of a major change in direction, moving away from the age-old standardized test to performance tasks and project-based pedagogy.

… when we do hire new employees we find many are ill prepared for the 21st century workplace. Young workers who lack strong communication skills, who struggle with spreadsheets and many who lack the math skills needed to be successful in the world of work today. This challenge is felt in every sector from advanced manufacturing to health care to professional services.

The problem is an outdated understanding of what graduates should be able to do when transitioning from school to the job market.

Business has changed dramatically over the past two decades, and skills that are needed now are far different from those just a short time ago. Think of social media managers, app developers and cloud based engineers – positions that were not heard of 10 years ago. Teamwork, problem solving, technical and critical thinking skills are in high demand, but many employers are having a hard time finding these qualities in graduates from schools that up to now have been focused on old education models of lecturing and exams.

In every classroom, in every school and district the prime emphasis is the grades 3-8 tests and in high schools graduation rates; which equates to passing regents exams. The Work Group on Regents Exams also reported at the Regent Meeting; one of their recommendations was an appeals process for students who failed regents exam: the local district, upon a review of the student’s record could change the failing grade to a passing grade!!  The Work Group chair bemoaned kids who failed regents numerous times; instead of asking why the student failed, instead of perhaps modifying the instruction, for example teach Algebra 1 in a four-term sequence rather than a one year course, the Work Group simply wants to pass the student along to the next teacher in the higher level course. Repeating the course numerous times is foolish, the “answer” is asking ourselves what we can do to intervene so that the student doesn’t fail in the first place.

Later in the day Michael Cohen, the president of ACHIEVE and Linda Darling-Hammond leader of the Learning Policy Institute made presentations to the Board of Regents.

Read presentations:

Michael Cohen, ACHIEVE, “College and Career Readiness. Equity and ESSA,” (http://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/Full%20Board%20Monday%20PM%20-%20MCohen.pdf)

Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute,” ESSA and Equity – Opportunities to Close the Opportunity Gap,” (http://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/Full%20Board%20Monday%20PM%20-%20ESSA%20and%20Equity_0.pdf)

Cohen compared New York State with other states and took a deep dive into New York State data; his first slide lays out a troubling picture.

* Too many NY students leave high school poorly prepared for college and career

* There are significant “preparation gaps” based on race, ethnicity and income.

* State policies can help improve preparation and close gaps – but not as NY has designed them.

Darling Hammond is clear and concise,

* States are expected to adopt challenging Academic Standards for all students

* Assessments must measure “higher order thinking skills and understanding.”

* These may include “portfolios, projects or extended performance tasks.”

* Scores must be based on multiple assessments during the course of the academic year rather than single summative assessments.

When teachers use and score performance assessments, they [the teachers] can develop a deeper understanding of academic standards and student learning, which translates into more effective teaching and thereby enhances equity.

Take a few minutes and read the presentations from Cohen and Darling-Hammond.

The final plan will not be submitted until mid-July, many months to continue to craft a plan. The process is a unique, states  rarely have an opportunity to make “mid-course corrections,” unfortunately states are like ocean liners, it takes many miles to even change course; and. of course, the problem of Newton’s First Law of Motion  – momentum.

“Why do you do it this way?”

“This is the way we’ve always done it.”

Moving from the traditional classroom to a classroom described by Darling-Hammond is a huge jump that requires buy-in from school districts, school leaders, and, most importantly, the teachers. The lesson from the Common Core, hopefully learned, is the commissioner is not Moses, s/he cannot simply hand us the new Ten Commandments.

Vermont is moving towards adopting performance tasks in lieu of standards tests, the phase-in is in Year 3, each year another cohort of districts entering the process.

On one hand I’m concerned, on the other optimistic; we have a long road ahead of us.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

If the head of the new President-Elect’s Transition Team called you and asked for advice …

Last week I was at an Manhattan Institute conference: “America’s Accountability Movement: Progress or Retreat:” Marcus Winter, a senior fellow at the Institute presented two brief papers, “School Accountability in NYC Under de Blasio” (Winter’s conclusion: there is very little accountability), and “Choice and Accountability in Education,” followed by a keynote address by Jeb Bush (Bush’s conclusion: vouchers for all – a free marketplace). A panel (Michael McGee, CEO of Chiefs for Change (See Chief for Change evidence policy paper here), Morgan Polikoff, professor at University of Southern California and Marcus Winters moderated by Matt Barnum, a staff writer at The 74, discussing  “New Opportunities for School Accountability,”

Under the new law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, states will have wide discretion in establishing accountability systems: what kind is testing, defining accountability, etc.  About fifteen states have been working with the Chiefs for Change since the spring and another dozen with Linda Darling-Hammond.

The panel agreed that the rigid NCLB system, based solely on proficiency did not work, and, was counterproductive; the unintended consequence was to create both a test prep culture and a concentration on getting kids to the proficiency point (in New York State – 3.0).and ignoring the others. The panelists all supported a growth model – perhaps combined with proficiency; in other words measuring individual student growth, regardless of their place on the proficiency scale.  A school that moved kids from 1.8 to 2.2 would still be far below proficient; however, shows significant growth.

A number of states are working to move away from traditional testing, New Hampshire is moving toward using performance tasks in lieu of the Smarter Balance test. (Check out the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity – SCALE – https://scale.stanford.edu/student). McGee thought that New Hampshire would move to a state-wide performance task system.  Other states are exploring portfolios and other approaches (“authentic assessment”) to define accountability working with Linda Darling-Hammond (See an April, 2016 paper entitled, “Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act here)

Check out an excellent and coherent discussion of the pitfalls of proficiency (“When Proficient Isn’t Good: The Deceptive Nature Of Proficiency as a Measure Of Student Progress— and How to Fix the Funhouse Mirror” here).

:I asked the panelists: “If the head of the new President-Elect’s Transition Team called you and asked for advice – a few guiding principles …”

Jeb Bush (smiling), “Neither of the candidates is going to call me.”

McGee reiterated a dashboard approach to accountability, moving to growth and proficiency along with a greater role for stakeholders at the local level: teachers and school leaders.

Polikoff: Equity, the resource differences between the poorest districts and the wealthiest district is both dramatic and unconscionable.

As I left I mused: do any of these proposed changes actually impact teaching and learning?  As a classroom teacher how would these changes impact me?

The next day I sat in on a panel discussion at CCNY moderated by a CCNY professor, Terri Watson, “A Public Conversation About Testing and School Reform,” panelists included, David Bloomfield, Brooklyn College, Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal, Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for Alliance for Quality Education and R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, a sociology professor at the College. The panel was joined by Christopher Emden, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University (See recent op ed, “Why Black Men Quit Teaching” here)

The CCNY panel was at the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum. While the Manhattan Institute event focused on the big picture the CCNY panel focused on the impact of the “big picture” on students, parents and teachers. All the panelists supported the opt-out movement and opposed the current testing requirements. I asked: “The Leadership Coalition on Civil Rights,” representing over 200 organizations supports the testing requirements of the new law arguing that removing testing would result in removing the highly visual achievement gap.”  The panelists supported alternatives to the current testing, varieties of alternative assessments; perhaps portfolios. Emden, passionately, called for “culturally responsive pedagogy ”  and the recruitment of more teachers of color.

Both events left me unsatisfied – will changes in accountability or opt-out/testing alternatives/culturally responsive pedagogy actually impact teaching and learning, impact the classroom?

Policy-makers search for solutions, some magic bullet or combinations of bullets that will change the tide: perhaps reducing/ending inequality, recruiting more teachers/school leaders of color or a focus on school/teacher effectiveness; all or some may or may not be impactful but not dispositive.

How much can we actually change?

Psychologist Walter Mischel, conducted the Marshmallow Test research in the 1960’s and tracked the participants for decades: 4-year olds who were able to practice delayed gratification ended up with substantially higher SAT scores and numerous other lifetime positive impacts: should schools actually “teach” delayed gratification in the earliest grades?

David Epstein, in The Sports Gene” explores the roots of athletic success: why are Jamaicans the best sprinters in the world and Kenyans the best long distance runners? Nature or nurture? Is there a genetic component or does the culture of the environment reward success?

In other words are we selecting the most effective triggers for change?

Professor Emden, quoted in a TC publication, cogently suggests,

While recognizing the potential of black male teachers to “serve as powerful role models” and the need for more teachers of color in classrooms, Emdin writes that “they cannot fix the problems minority students face simply by being black and male … Instead of fixating on black male teachers, we need to examine how teachers are trained, their beliefs about young minority men, and how they engage their students. They should be prepared to teach to each student’s unique needs, and to recognize that no student learns best under conditions that make him feel uncared for.

“A better solution is to train all teachers, black and white, to acknowledge the biases they hold about their students based on their race, class, gender, sexual orientation and physical ability. Then they can learn strategies for being effective with these students despite their differences.”

There is no single path, no single bullet, hopefully we can explore the many pathways, build rich toolkits and continue to explore. The master teacher knows that blaming the kid, blaming society is futile. Teachers are writers, producers, directors and critics of a play that will run for one period or one day. What works today fails tomorrow; hopefully, we learn from our failures and our successes.

Coming attraction: Off to John Hopkins for a Coleman Report at 50 conference – what did we learn from the report?