Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Update on State Arts Standards Adoption

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) has released a report entitled "The Status of Arts Standards Revisions in the United States since 2014." The report is the result of an analysis of states who have revised their standards since the publication of theNational Core Arts Standards in June 2014.
The National Core Arts Standards for dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts, were created in a transparent inclusive process engaging over 130 arts educators as writers and 6,000 reviewers. These PreK-12 grade-by-grade standards were written to guide educators seeking to provide quality arts education for America's students, define artistic literacy, and support 21st century skills and college and career readiness. Commencing in January 2015, NCCAS member organization Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education, began conducting the research culminating in this report. With the assistance of other NCCAS member organizations, Americans for the Arts interviewed and collected information from more than 270 individuals and organizations from across the nation, including state department of education arts curriculum directors, state arts agencies, and several other public sector partners with expertise in state arts standards revisions.
Jane Best, executive director of the Arts Education Partnership said of the report, "It is affirming to see so many states reviewing, revisiting, and renewing arts education standards. This is a meaningful step to ensuring that all children have exposure to the arts as part of a well-rounded education."
The report may be downloaded from the resources section of the National Coalition for Core Arts standards interactive home at
The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards is an alliance of national arts and arts education organizations dedicated to ensuring quality standards-based arts opportunities for all students. Members include the American Alliance for Theatre in Education; Americans for the Arts; Educational Theatre Association; National Art Education Association; National Association for Music Education; National Dance Education Organization; NCCAS Media Arts Committee; and Young Audiences Arts for Learning.

Access the Standards in their Interactive home at

www.nationalartsstandards.orgIf your browser is having trouble accessing versions of the standards, p

AP access and success on the upswing for public high school students

States and districts are expanding [Opens in New Window]Advanced Placement access and success for public high school students, including efforts to secure funding for low-income students via new funding sources.

The AP Program Results: Class of 2016 released today shows an increase in both the participation and passing rates for the high school graduating class of 2016. The data show the number of public high school students taking at least one AP Exam has almost doubled in 10 years from 645,000 for the class of 2006 to 1.1 million students in the class of 2016. Since 2006, the percentage of U.S. students taking AP classes and then earning a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam has grown by 7.6 points from 14.3% to 21.9% of public high school graduates.

“There is a widespread belief in education that it is impossible to expand access while maintaining high performance. The AP Program tells a different story,” said David Coleman, president and CEO of the College Board. “Across the country AP participation rates are rising, as are passing rates for AP Exams. State and district leaders who have acted decisively to increase AP access are seeing those efforts pay off for students.”

State legislators are also making it easier for students to earn college credit by implementing statewide AP credit policies. So far, 22 states, encompassing more than 60% of the U.S. population, currently apply statewide AP credit policies, so students and families have a guarantee that the state’s public colleges and universities will award college credit for qualifying AP Exam scores.

An independent researcher from the American Enterprise Institute, [Opens in New Window]Nat Malkus, has called the rise in AP participation and performance “the rarest kind of success in public education.” His data show that in 2012, about 90% of all students attended a school that offered at least one AP course, and that rate was similar for black, Hispanic, Asian, and white students.

Students who have the opportunity to take part in challenging AP courses develop skills they’ll need for college and potentially save money and time by earning college credit. [Opens in New Window]Research shows students who succeed on AP Exams are more likely to earn higher GPAs in college, take more classes in their discipline, and graduate college on time.

For the first time, Massachusetts led the nation in AP results, achieving the highest percentage of public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam in 2016.

After leading the nation every year since 2009, Maryland this year had the second highest percentage of public high school graduates that scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

And Nevada had both the largest three-year increase and a one-year increase in the percentage of public high school graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Top 10 States with the Highest Percentage of 2016 Public High School Graduates Succeeding on AP Exams:

Massachusetts                        31.0
Maryland                                 30.4
Connecticut                             30.1
Florida                                     29.5
California                                 28.5
Virginia                                    28.3
New York                                27.3
Colorado                                 26.9
New Jersey                             26.5
Illinois                                      25.1

Reaching All Students with AP Computer Science Principles

The College Board launched a new course in the fall of 2016, [Opens in New Window]AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP), with the goal of creating leaders in computer science and giving those who are traditionally underrepresented in the computer science field tools and opportunities to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). As of the 2016–2017 school year, AP CSP is offered in more than 2,500 schools, making this the largest AP course launch ever.
Many states and districts are taking the lead in making computer science a priority for their high school students. At the end of last year, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval [Opens in New Window]announced that every school district in his state will offer AP Computer Science Principles beginning in the 2017–2018 school year.

Data show that many students who are likely to do well on an AP Exam in computer science or other STEM subject don’t go on to take the exam in high school. For example, out of all students in the class of 2016 whose scores on the PSAT/NMSQT showed they would likely do well on the AP Computer Science A Exam, less than 9% took the exam. Among the rural students and female students in that group, less than 5% took the exam. AP CSP was built to appeal to students who have the potential to succeed in a college-level computer science class but who might not believe that computer science—or STEM courses in general—are for them.

For rural students, especially, AP CSP offers a way to get familiar with the foundational concepts of computer science. AP CSP classes can be led by teachers from a variety of backgrounds, which allows more rural schools to offer the course.

“In all 50 states, the number of job openings that require computing skills far exceeds the number of qualified graduates,” said Trevor Packer, the College Board senior vice president responsible for the AP Program “We believe all students deserve to attend a high school that provides coursework like AP Computer Science Principles, a class designed to prepare students for the incredible career opportunities of our century.”

What’s the Future of AP Exams Funding?

Since 1998, the federal government has joined the College Board in reducing the cost of AP Exams for low-income students. In 1999, over 45,000 low-income students used a combination of federal funding and College Board fee reductions to eliminate or greatly reduce the AP Exam fee; in 2016, more than 450,000 did. The College Board offers eligible low-income students a $31 fee reduction per exam.

Due to a change in the [Opens in New Window]Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states and districts can’t access funds through the AP Test Fee Program because funding is no longer earmarked exclusively for AP Exam fees. States and districts need to proactively dedicate funding under ESSA Title IV and Title I, or under their own education budgets, to cover the exam fees and provide AP courses not currently offered.

Several states have already responded to the federal funding changes. In November 2016, the Texas Education Agency announced that in addition to the $30 state subsidy it provides for funding each AP Exam taken by low-income students, it will use its ESSA Title IV-A federal funds to maintain fee assistance for over 200,000 students. The Texas Education Agency is currently working with districts and state charter schools to create a cost-sharing strategy for future funding of AP Exams taken by low-income students.

Declaring that “all students should have equal access to the benefit of Advanced Placement,” Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt announced in December 2016 that his department would use state funds to cover the loss of dedicated federal funding for low-income students’ AP Exams. The Kentucky Department of Education stated it was making this commitment so that “schools will continue to provide Kentucky’s [low-income] students with the opportunity to take rigorous AP courses that prepare them to excel in their future college and career choices.”

“There are more than 500,000 low-income students sitting in AP classes now who are affected by the federal funding changes,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and Instruction. “These students have embraced the challenge of advanced coursework, doing the extra work AP classes require, so we urge states and districts to partner with the College Board to subsidize the fees for these students, ensuring access to the college credit these low-income students have been working so hard to secure for themselves.”

More than ever, low-income students are participating and experiencing success in AP, making the funding of AP Exams under ESSA grant programs an essential part of creating equal access for all students going forward.

For more information about the 2016 AP Program Results: Class of 2016, please click here.


 The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and EducationCounsel today released Lifting the Pension Fog: What teachers and taxpayers need to know about the teacher pension crisis. The report evaluates state teacher pension policies, and includes policy profiles and tailored recommendations for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

EducationCounsel’s Sandi Jacobs explains, “This report documents the ways that optimistic projections, willful ignorance, and continued deferral of consequences hang like a fog over the teacher pension policy landscape.” Jacobs continued, “At this point, state teacher pensions won’t turn around with just a few good years on Wall Street. The crisis can’t be solved without intentional action by policymakers.”

Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality added, "The pension crisis has a direct impact on teacher compensation and the ability of school districts to attract and retain high quality teachers. Reforming pension policy is an education issue, not just a financial one."

Key findings on the teacher pension crisis:

  • This report examines the sustainability, flexibility, and fairness of each state’s current teacher pension policies. New for 2016, NCTQ and EducationCounsel also examine pension policy transparency in the states. Nationwide, just 11 states meet benchmarks in any one of these four areas– and no state meets them all.
  • Poor funding. In 2016, just seven states have teacher pension systems that are well funded (funded at 90 percent) or higher. South Dakota and Wisconsin are the only two states in the nation with fully-funded teacher pension systems. At 42 percent, Illinois continues to have the lowest funded pension system in the nation. 
  • Large pension debt. Nationwide, more than two-thirds of every dollar contributed by employers to teacher retirement systems goes to servicing the enormous pension debts that have accrued across the states rather than to current teacher benefits (or saved for future benefits to the teachers contributing now).
  • Limited flexibility. In 38 states teachers have only one option. They are enrolled in defined benefit pension plans.  Only Alaska provides teachers with a flexible and fair defined contribution plan. Six other states – Florida, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington – offer teachers a choice.
  • Pension costs rising. Since 2008, when NCTQ started collecting data on teacher pensions, 31 states have increased teacher contributions to pension systems. Just since 2012, 36 states have increased the contribution rates required of employers.
  • Teacher benefits squeezed. Every state except Arizona, Minnesota, and South Dakota now delays teacher vesting in pension systems for longer than three years. Twenty states make teachers wait seven to 10 years to vest. Only six states allow teachers to take their contributions and at least a portion of employer contributions when they leave the pension system.
  • Inequitable accrual of benefits. In 38 states, pension benefits are a function of the years of service a teacher has worked, rather than age only, and most also allow for retirement at young ages with full benefits, at a cost of as much as $841,000 per teacher just for the benefits collected before the age of 65.

Key findings on the pension fog:

  • There is no doubt that pension reform is a complex and technical policy arena, which contributes to a lack of clarity and understanding in discussions of the subject. But the fog blanketing teacher pension policy suggests that states and stakeholders are, at best, engaged in short-term magical thinking about the long-term viability of their retirement systems.
  • Lack of public disclosure. Few states with traditional defined benefit pensions provide adequate information to policymakers on pension system health or to teachers on their personal retirement benefits. Only 15 states publicly report projections for the future contributions that would be required to pay off pension debt.
  • Poor information for teachers. Only two states (South Dakota and Vermont) provide teachers with information on the amount of money employees and teachers contribute to the pension system each year. South Dakota does better than most states by providing teachers with a detailed annual benefits statement that includes some of the most important data teachers should have about their own nest eggs.
  • Unrealistic assumptions and risky investment. In 2016, 41 states made their pension calculations based on a 7.5 percent or higher rate of return on investments, and 13 of those states set their expectations at an 8 percent or higher return, when actual returns on investments are much lower. In an effort to boost investment returns and make up for lost ground, pension systems have made increasingly risky investments and are paying astronomical fees to investment managers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Students more likely to succeed if teachers have positive perceptions of parents

Parental involvement is commonly viewed as vital to student academic success by most education experts and researchers; however, the quality of research on how to measure and improve parental involvement is lacking. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that teacher ratings of parental involvement early in a child's academic career can accurately predict the child's academic and social success. Additionally, they found that a teacher training program can help improve the quantity and quality of teacher-parent interactions. Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education and co-director of the Missouri Prevention Center, says these findings show the importance of teacher-parent connections and also the need for training teachers on how to create effective relationships with all parents.

"It's clear from years of research that teacher perceptions, even perceptions of which they are not aware, can greatly impact student success," Herman said. "If a teacher has a good relationship with a student's parents or perceives that those parents are positively engaged in their child's education, that teacher may be more likely to give extra attention or go the extra mile for that student. If the same teacher perceives another child's parents to be uninvolved or to have a negative influence on the child's education, it likely will affect how the teacher interacts with both the child and the parent."

For their study, Herman and a team of MU researchers randomly assigned more than 100 teachers to receive a professional development program called the Incredible Years. The program is designed to prepare teachers to develop more effective relationships with parents and students, and to improve their classroom management skills. Teachers completed surveys about their more than 1,800 students and parents at the beginning and end of the school year, including answering questions asking about the quantity and quality of their relationships with parents and the parents' involvement in their children's education. The researchers also collected ratings and observations on student behavior and academic performance. Children whose parents were identified by teachers as more positively involved had higher levels of prosocial behaviors and more academic success. Additionally, the researchers found that parents who had children in classrooms where teachers received the training were more likely to develop more positive behaviors, including higher involvement and bonding with the teacher.

"Negative perceptions often bring out negative behaviors," Herman said. "We also know, from this and prior studies, that teachers are more likely to report less comfort and alignment with parents whose children have academic and social problems, and parents from low income and/or from racial or ethnic minority groups. In other words, often the families and students who need the most positive attention and support to re-engage them in education, are often the ones who are viewed the least favorably. Fortunately, this study shows that we can support teachers to improve their relationships with all parents, resulting in a better education for all children while also encouraging parents to become more involved in the education process."

Herman and other MU researchers have successfully implemented a teacher training program that improves teacher-parent relationships and creates more positive perceptions of parental involvement. Papers outlining this study and the teacher training program have been accepted for publication in School Psychology Quarterly and the Journal of School Psychology. Wendy Reinke, professor in the MU College of Education and co-director of the Missouri Prevention Center, co-authored both studies with Herman. Aaron Thompson, an assistant professor in the MU School of Social Work within the College of Human Environmental Sciences, was the lead author on the teacher training study published in the Journal of School Psychology. Melissa Stormont, a professor in the MU College of Education, and Carolyn Webster-Stratton, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, also co-wrote Thompson's paper with Herman and Reinke.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Students in Ohio's online charter schools perform worse than peers in traditional schools

Despite dramatic growth in enrollment in online charter schools in Ohio, students are not achieving the same academic success as those in brick-and-mortar charter and public schools, finds a study by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and RAND Corporation.

"Our research suggests that online schools - in their current form, a largely independent learning experience - are not effective for K-12 learners. Instead, learners still need the presence of teachers, mentors, or peers to help them through the learning process," said study author June Ahn, associate professor of learning sciences and educational technology at NYU Steinhardt.

The findings are published in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

In Ohio, where online charter schools have been authorized since the early 2000s, a variety of providers can operate online charter schools, including school districts, non-profits, and private for-profit companies. These K-12 schools deliver most or all education online and lack a brick-and-mortar presence.

Advocates of online schools argue that new technologies used in online learning have the potential to expand the courses available to students and provide flexibility in location and scheduling. However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of learning outcomes in online charter schools, as well as how they compete for limited educational resources.

In addition, research shows that certain factors can influence how families choose schools. If information is challenging to acquire - whether it has a cost, is in a language not spoken by the family, or is too complex - low-income families often base decisions on easy-to-access information. In choosing schools, at-risk students place less weight on academic indicators, and low performing students are more likely to attend a school with low average achievement.

In the current study, the researchers analyzed data from 1.7 million K-12 students in Ohio who attended a traditional public school, charter school, or an online charter school between the 2009-10 and 2012-13 school years. They measured educational outcomes using standardized tests and looked at demographic data, including attendance and suspension; race and ethnicity; free and reduced price lunch status; and participation in gifted education, special education, or programs for English learners.

Online charter school enrollment grew around 60 percent during the period studied, from approximately 22,000 students in 2010 to over 35,000 students in 2013, with high schools making up the majority of online charter enrollment. While enrollment in traditional charters also increased during this period, traditional public school enrollment decreased.

"Online charter schools accounted for two percent of Ohio's student population in 2013, but the sector experienced the largest growth during this four-year period," said study author Andrew McEachin, policy researcher in the economics, statistics, and sociology department at the RAND Corporation.

In studying the characteristics of students in each school sector, the researchers observed that students in charter schools - both online and traditional - have lower baseline achievement than traditional public school students, are more likely to qualify for free and reduced price lunch, and are less likely to participate in gifted education.

However, students and families within the charter sector appear to self-segregate in stark ways. Low-income, lower achieving White students are more likely to choose online charter schools while low-income, lower achieving students of color are more likely to opt into a brick-and-mortar charter school. Around 50 to 60 percent of traditional charter school students are Black, compared to approximately 10 percent in online charters and 12 percent in traditional public schools.

"Our findings reveal that, across all grades and subjects, students in online charter schools perform worse on standardized assessments and are significantly less likely to pass Ohio's test for high school graduation than their peers in traditional charter and traditional public schools," said McEachin.

The researchers point to the importance of understanding how learning happens in online schools, much of which is self-directed and independent, but may not be suitable for many learners. They note that online curricula may be designed to efficiently deliver content, but should be combined with certain teaching and mentoring practices to serve students more effectively.

"In educational technology research, it is well established that technology as a delivery mechanism has no direct impact on student learning outcomes. What really matters is understanding how the introduction of technology impacts who chooses to participate in particular learning environments, and what they experience that result in learning outcomes," said Ahn. "In educational technology research, it is well established that technology as a delivery mechanism has no direct impact on student learning outcomes. What really matters is understanding how the introduction of technology impacts who chooses to participate in particular learning environments, and what they experience that result in learning outcomes."

Zero tolerance policies unfairly punish black girls

Black girls are disproportionately punished in American schools - an "overlooked crisis" that is populating the school-to-prison pipeline at rising rates, two education scholars argue in a new paper published in the journal Urban Education.

Dorinda Carter Andrews, associate professor at Michigan State University, and Dorothy Hines-Datiri, assistant professor at the University of Kansas and former doctoral student at MSU, cite various examples of black girls in elementary school being handcuffed and taken away in police cars for classroom disruptions such as temper tantrums.

These zero tolerance policies unfairly target students of color and should be abolished, Carter Andrews said. But while a wealth of research and public discussion has focused on black male students, little attention has been paid to the mistreatment of black girls in U.S. classrooms, she said.

"Zero tolerance constructs these young girls as criminals," Carter Andrews said. "It's a criminalization of their childhood, and it's a very prison-type mentality for schools to take."

The paper, which appears online in the journal Urban Education, notes that zero tolerance is defined as a form of school discipline that imposes removal from school for an array of violations, from violence to truancy to dress code violations. Black students are two to three times more likely to be suspended than white students and are overrepresented in office referrals, expulsions and corporal punishment, the paper says.

Black female students in the United States receive out-of-school suspensions at higher rates (12 percent) than female students across all other racial and ethnic categories, according to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Only black boys (20 percent) and American Indian/Alaska native boys (13 percent) have higher suspension rates than black girls.

Black girls are also more likely to receive harsher discipline than their white peers for minor offenses, such as talking back to the teacher, Carter Andrews said.

"The research shows that teachers and other adults may give a pass to certain students for the ways in which they talk back," she said. "Teachers may view some girls, particularly African-American girls, as attitudinal or aggressive, even though they may be using the same talk-back language as a white female student."

In addition to the abolishment of zero tolerance policies, the researchers call for the establishment of culturally responsive professional-development training for educators that would raise their awareness of the experiences of girls of color.

"We cannot afford to have more black girls' identities snuffed out by disciplinary policies and ultimately the educational and criminal justice systems," the study says.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Research on Connected Mathematics Project Shows No Effects on Math Achievement

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has reviewed the latest research on Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) and its effects on students in grades 6–8 for the Primary Mathematics topic area. The results are summarized in an intervention report released today (Feb. 14).

Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) is a math curriculum that uses interactive problems and everyday situations to explore math concepts and foster an inquiry-based learning environment.

This report includes the research examined in a 2010 intervention report on CMP and reviews of 40 additional studies that were not included in that report. Based on this research, the WWC found CMP to have no discernible effects on the mathematics achievement of students in grades 6–8.

Read the full report .

Visit the Mathematics topic area for more reviews on programs and methods that aim to improve mathematics achievement.