An education roundup: National assessment results, privacy & common core, addressing a possible teacher shortage

As Education Week points out

The 2014-15 school year marked a big change for many states because they switched to tests that for the first time reflect the Common Core State Standards.

Follow the link for a state-by-state report and note these cautions in interpreting the results.

First, state-to-state comparisons can only be made among states that use the same test. In 2014-15, for instance, 18 states used Smarter Balanced [Note: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada and Montana are among them] and 11, plus the District of Columbia, used Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. (PARCC and Smarter Balanced are two federally funded testing consortia that developed exams aligned to the common core.)

Second, when a state gives the same test year to year, those results can show growth or declines in achievement. But when a state switches to a new test, first-year results can’t be used to compare achievement to that of previous years.

Comparing the results of old and new assessments can show other things, however. A drop in proficiency rates on the new tests could mean that students are still getting used to the new test format, or that schools are still adjusting to teaching new material, or it could mean that states set higher cut points on the new tests than on their old ones.

And speaking of Common Core standards, former Attorney General Rob McKenna writes in the Seattle Times to debunk a false charge leveled by critics of the standards.

Over the past two years, critics of Common Core State Standards have claimed these new learning goals will subject students to “cradle-to-the-grave” government surveillance. Common Core, they say, will do everything from creating databases with sensitive information, such as religious and political affiliation, to monitoring facial expressions and eye movement.

While such Orwellian predictions are effective in raising alarm, they simply aren’t true.

Read the whole thing, especially McKenna’s conclusion.

…Common Core State Standards keep control where it belongs: at the state and local level. By setting high, comparable learning goals and letting teachers and school boards decide how to achieve them, Common Core ensures what is taught in our schools remains in the hands of those closest to the classroom.

When student data are used appropriately, they serve to improve education and close achievement gaps.

And, finally, the Seattle Times editorial board takes note of the increased education funding provided by the 2015 Legislature and the need to hire more classroom teachers

…having the money for all those new teachers is not the same as having them in place. Some schools already are having a hard time filling positions and the oncoming surge in demand could lead to a serious teacher shortage.

The editorial identifies some strategies for filling the positions with highly capable instructors, including hiring bonuses, boosting entry level salaries and making it easier for out-of-state teachers to transfer to Washington.

No doubt we’ll be hearing more about these issues in the coming session and election cycle. Our foundation report touched on some of them. Among our observations, 

Washington must take steps to ensure that the very best teachers are in every classroom, every day. The state can meet that challenge by continuing to assess teacher performance, providing opportunities for current teachers to enhance their skills, making assessment of student outcomes a factor in personnel evaluation, and ensuring principals have authority to hire the best teachers.

It’s a critical discussion of a key strategy to expanding opportunity for all Washingtonians.