Help on the Way?

A recent poll by the Education Week Research Center reaffirms what other polls have shown — that teachers are well aware that the textbooks and materials they are expected to use do not line up with the standards they are expected to satisfy.

That was true when there were 50 different state standards, and it remains true now that 43 states have adopted the Common Core.

So it will be interesting to see if EdReports.org, a new nonprofit organization, can provide the kind of help teachers, districts, and states need by acting as a Consumer Reports-like arbiter of quality and alignment of textbooks and other materials. (Full disclosure: Ed Trust Vice President Sonja Santelises is on the board of EdReports.org.)

It will be a while before their first reports are issued, however, and in the meantime, teachers have taken matters into their own hands. The American Federation of Teachers has an online lesson bank, Share My Lesson, that relies on crowdsourcing to validate lessons; and the National Education Association has assembled a team of what it calls “master teachers” to develop lessons on the website, Better Lesson. Both are attempting to provide Common Core-aligned lessons, and both are free to any teacher who wants to use them.

I would love to hear from educators who have used these resources and are willing to share whether they are helpful.

Vote for Ed Trust at SXSWedu 2015!

Every March, Austin, Texas is abuzz with the SXSWedu® Conference & Festival. It brings together educators, advocates, journalists, and others to engage in and collaborate on various education issues. The best part? SXSWedu asks for community input to decide the programming for the conference. So, Ed Trust needs your help! Let’s make sure there are substantive panels about equity in education, led by the Ed Trust team.

SXSWeduClick to read more about our sessions below, and be sure to give them a “thumbs up” so that they’re included during SXSWedu 2015:

From Research to the Field: Closing High-End Gaps: Over the past decade, gaps between students of color and white students at the low end of achievement have narrowed, while gaps at the advanced level have widened. Presenters will highlight strategies used by high-performing schools to push students not just beyond the threshold of proficiency, but to advanced levels of achievement. They will also discuss ongoing advocacy work in communities to ensure that schools are closing gaps at all levels.

Tough Love: Minimum Quality Standards for Colleges: The federal government gives $180 billion (in the form of federal student aid and tax benefits) to U.S. colleges annually. Yet, when the checks are cut, performance on access, completion, and post-enrollment success essentially doesn’t matter. Ed Trust experts will discuss how to protect students and taxpayers from failing institutions, how the federal government can use its existing resources to improve performance, and how to use our interactive tool, College Results Online, to see which schools are already up to par.

Voting (which you can do by creating an account — it only takes a minute!) is open through September 5. We thank you for your support.

Helping the Rich Get Richer — At Every Level

School funding in America is unequal. As a nation, we spend less in the places with the highest percentages of low-income students — not just in states and districts, but also in the specific schools they attend. It’s hard to imagine any additional inequity built into this system, but a new analysis suggests that there is — funding disparities actually exist between classrooms within the same school. Continue reading

A Teacher Who Saw the Tragedy of Harsh and Arbitrary Discipline

I’ve been rereading Up the Down Staircase, the 1964 classic tale of a dysfunctional urban high school, and one of the points that struck me is that one of the students worst served by the school was Italian-American.

In all the current discussions about achievement gaps among ethnic groups, it is often forgotten that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Italian-American students — particularly boys — were often marginalized and expected to drop out of school before graduation. Continue reading

How We Think About Teaching

An interesting article in last week’s New York Times Magazine, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” identifies several principal problems of American teaching: Teachers, as a general rule, do not:

  • observe their colleagues teaching,
  • discuss the science and craft of teaching with their peers and experts, or
  • get much support to improve instruction from either their principals or the textbooks they use.

Continue reading

Where in the Pell Are They? U.Va. Can Be Selective Without Being Exclusive

High-achieving students from low-income backgrounds aren’t fictitious characters from the Game of Thrones HBO series; they exist — and in much larger numbers than many elite institutions would have you believe. Too many of these institutions rely on their selective admissions requirements to explain why so few low-income students enroll in their college.

In fact, at a symposium we co-hosted this month in Charlottesville, Va., a senior administrator at the University of Virginia used this excuse while attempting to explain why Pell Grant recipients make up only 12 percent of undergraduates, even though about 42 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds without a college degree in the Commonwealth are from low-income or working-class family backgrounds.

Pell Grant recipients as percentage of undergrad enrollment

The subtle undertone in the “we are selective” defense is an oft-used and erroneous assertion that students from low-income and working-class backgrounds don’t meet the academic standards required to earn admission. Besides being demeaning, this assertion simply isn’t true. Continue reading