SIG, Tests, and State Legislative Proposals

• The U.S. Department of Education just announced more SIG money going out the door. At a TBFI event late last year, the Department and I tussled about the results to date, which showed that more than a third of participating schools (already among the lowest performing in the nation) had gotten worse despite this multi-BILLION dollar program. I sadly predicted these grim results several years ago—not because I’m clairvoyant but because stacks of research over decades showed that turnarounds aren’t a reliable or scalable strategy for generating more high-quality seats. But the Department remains bullish; the release says, “Early findings show positive momentum and progress in many SIG schools.”Many of us are looking forward to thoroughly analyzing the program’s effects, but we’ve been in a holding pattern. The Department still hasn’t released school-level results from Year 1 yet (even though those tests were given two years ago), and we’ve not yet received any results from Year 2 (even though those tests were given a year ago). Forgive the quick snark, but maybe we just have to wait until close of business on the Friday before Thanksgiving week again to get results.

• If you follow the common-assessments consortia, make sure to read this post by Catherine Gewertz about PARCC’s and SB’s plans to maintain financial sustainability when federal dollars run out. This is just one of the many, many, many reasons to fret about Common Core–aligned tests. Need more? CCSSO’s sharp, well-connected leader Chris Minnich just predicted that some states may abandon Common Core when the new tests go live.

• It seems like the legislatures in NC and MD are going in very different directions. A leading NC senator just introduced a reform package that includes provisions on compensation, tenure, school report cards, and more. Meanwhile, in MD, establishment groups and the head of the state’s largest district are backing a bill that would stop the state from implementing the evaluation reforms promised via Race to the Top. Montgomery County’s Superintendent Starr, who thinks it “insane” to use student performance (at least as measured by state tests) in teacher evaluations, (in)famously called for a moratorium on state testing leading up to the administration of PARCC and SB. Earlier this month, that effort hit a speed bump when a study showed—thank goodness for assessments!—that some achievement gaps in his district were actually growing.

-Andy Smarick

This blog entry first appeared on Flypaper.

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