Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cross-State Comparison of CCSS Standards Revisions

Abt Associates conducted a cross-state analysis of revisions to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) made in nine other states as part of a much larger report designed to inform the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education of the standards review process that has been conducted. The Board had directed the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to consult with K-16 educators, curriculum specialists, and others to help identify recommendations for potential improvements to the Massachusetts English Language Arts (ELA) and Literacy and Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks based on lessons learned from implementation of the standards over the previous five year.
Abt initially conducted a broad scan of the standards review processes conducted across states that adopted CCSS, and ultimately settled on a more detailed review of the revised standards in nine states (AL, AR, CA, FL, GA, MS, NJ, OH, and UT) that, like Massachusetts, had revised the Common Core State Standards.

These stayes were selected these states by eliminating the 4 states (AK, NE, TX, VA) that never adopted Common Core State Standards, the 3 states (IN, OK, SC) that reported having repealed or withdrawn from CCSS, the 6 states (LA, MI, MO, PA, TN, WV) in which public accounts indicated that states intended to or had begun a process to repeal or replace CCSS, the 8 states (AZ, ID, IA, KY, MT, NY, ND, SD) undergoing a standards revision process still underway by August 31, 2016, and the 20 states (CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, KS, ME, MD, MN (ELA only), NV, NH, NM, NC, OR, RI, VT, WA, WI, WY) that have made no revisions to CCSS to date.  

Overall 26.5% of mathematics standards across the nine states were revised. No changes were made to 73.5% (2,548) of the standards. The number of standards revised or added by these states ranged from a 17 to 282. Additionally, across the nine states, eight states added 51 total new standards. Some states added standards for new courses. For example, three states added calculus standards and one state added courses for Algebraic Connections, Discrete Mathematics, Mathematical Investigations, and Analytical Mathematics standards.

Among the revisions made in these nine states, the majority (68%) of the math revisions were clarifying changes in which states revised standards’ wording, formatting or notes or made changes to the examples provided. The next most common type of revision (25%) was to add a concept or skill to a standard. Figure 1 shows the percentage of mathematics standards that were revised and not revised, and, among the revised standards, the percentages of each type of revision made across the nine states reviewed. 

Figure 1. Nine-State Analysis of Mathematics Standards Revisions

No change to standard, 73.5%
Change to standard, 26.5% 

Moved cluster, 0.0%
Moved higher, 0.5%
Combined standards, 0.0%
Clarification, 67.8%
Addition, 24.5%
Removed concept/skill from an existing standard 5.6% 

Deleted standard 1.3%
Moved lower, 0.0%
Split standard, 0.2%

English Language Arts 

In ELA, across the nine states reviewed, the average number of changes made to standards was 102 and the number of standards revised by each state ranged from 12 to 330 of total standards.  2,851 (76.8%) ELA standards were not revised and 794 (23.2%) were revised. 

The majority (69.0%) of the ELA revisions were clarifying changes. Adding a concept or skill to a standard was the next most common revision (24.8%). In addition to revising standards, states also added a total of six new ELA standards, with states ranging from adding zero new standards to adding three new standards. Figure 2 below shows the breakdown of changes by type of revision to the ELA standards. 

Figure 2. Nine-State Analysis of ELA Standards Revisions 

No change to standard, 76.8%
Change made to standard, 23.2%
Moved cluster, 0.0% 
Moved higher, 0.1%
Moved lower, 0.2%
Combined standards, 0.0%
Split standard, 0.1%
Clarification, 69.0%
Addition, 24.8%
Deletion, 5.8%
Deleted standard, 0.0% 

On balance, the large majority of changes made in these nine states focused on clarifying the standards already in place. The revisions suggest that states mainly retained the original standards as adopted.


A new report says investments in early learning are not meeting the needs of families across the nation, and many eligible families are not receiving services.

The report, “The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education Joint Interdepartmental Review of All Early Learning Programs for Children Less Than 6 Years of Age,” reviewed all federal programs identified by the Government Accountability Office and concluded that only eight programs have the primary purpose of promoting early learning for children from birth to age 6:

Child Care and Development Fund
Head Start
Early Head Start
Preschool Development Grants
Department of Defense Child Development Program
Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Part B, Section 619 of the IDEA
Family and Child Education (FACE)

Other Key Findings:

Child development researchers, neuroscientists, and economists agree that high-quality early learning programs are a compelling investment for the nation’s economic and educational success. Research demonstrates that, in particular, low-income children benefit from attending high-quality, well-resourced early learning programs prior to entering kindergarten.

 Notable economists, including the President’s Council on Economic Advisors and a Nobel Laureate, find the expansion of access to high-quality early learning programs to be among the smartest investments that we can make as a nation for our economic and social well-being.7,8

Starting Early Benefits Children and Maximizes Federal Investments 

This year, nearly 4 million children will be born in the United States,9 and according to the 2014 Current Population Survey Estimate, 23.81 percent of children under five are living in poverty. Neuroscientists have shown that the brain’s most rapid growth and architecture for learning and social skills occur in the first five years of life. These years represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in school. Too many children, however, are born into families without enough resources to secure high-quality early learning opportunities. Additionally, some children are born with medical conditions, disabilities, or developmental delays that require specialized attention and intervention early in order to maximize their potential. The gap in development between low-income and more economically advantaged children is detectable as early as nine months of age, and by kindergarten entry there is a full standard deviation gap between these children’s early literacy and math skills.10 Together, these findings point to the importance of expanding access to a continuum of high quality early learning experiences for our most vulnerable children, in order to bridge opportunity gaps and prevent achievement gaps before they form. 

Affordable, Quality Early Learning Programs Remain a Significant Need for Poor and Low- Income Working Families 

In addition to helping prepare children for success in school, early learning programs make it possible for parents and caregivers to remain employed. Today, children increasingly need financial support from both parents, whether or not they live in the same household.11 In 2014, among families with children under age six, both parents were employed in 59 percent ofmarried-parent households, and 62 percent of single mothers were employed.12 Given these findings, many infants, toddlers, and preschoolers need high-quality early care and learning programs, both to ensure their safety and security while their parents work, and to help them develop strong social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Approximately half of infants and toddlers in 2012 were in some form of non-parental care settings, and this proportion increases with age.13
For millions of parents, affordable early learning programs are critical to maintaining a stable job. Low-income single mothers are more likely to have a job, and to work full-time, when they have child care subsidies.14 Low-income mothers with preschool-age children are more likely to work nonstandard hours, due at least in part to the high cost of non-parental child care.15 

However, early learning programs, particularly high-quality programs, are expensive and low-income families often cannot afford them without subsidies. Even with these programs there are many children that do not have access to the early learning programs they need to succeed. 16 Studies show that the cost of child care, particularly high-quality child care, accounts for an enormous proportion of family income that families must balance with other basic needs, such as housing and food. In 2011, families in poverty spent on average more than 30 percent of their income on child care.17 The annual average cost of full-time, center-based infant child care not taking into account the cost of quality is more than the cost of public college tuition and fees in most states.

 The cost of child care fees for two children exceeds annual median rent payments in every state, and exceeds mortgage costs for homeowners in 24 states and the District of Columbia.19 Child care subsidies can help defray these high costs of child care, but the average subsidy just more than $5,000 a year per child under age six - is far less than the cost of a quality program. Due to funding limitations, only one in six eligible children receives a child care subsidy. Head Start serves fewer than half of the income eligible children. While Head Start helps fill in some of that gap, millions of eligible low-income children who need help to afford high quality early learning programs do not receive any federal assistance. Simply put- high quality early learning experiences are out of reach for too many working families, which not only harms their work stability, but also puts their children at a disadvantage, well before the first day of kindergarten, that is difficult to recover from in the school years. 
Children in Poor and Low-Income Families Can Benefit the Most from High-Quality Early Learning, but Access is Out of Reach for Too Many 

A significant percentage of children in the United States are living in poor or low-income families, and live under conditions associated with economic hardship. For example:
  •   Roughly one-in-five children under age six are living in poor households.20 Almost half of children under age six live in low-income (at or below 200 percent of poverty) households.21
  •   In the 2013-2014 school year, an estimated 1.4 million children were homeless, 39 percent of whom were between the ages of one and five.22 Among families with children under age six, the risk for homelessness is highest; children under age one are the most likely to experience homelessness.23
In 2013, about 21 percent of children lived in food-insecure households.24 

While high quality early education is beneficial for all children, it benefits low-income families and at-risk children even more than other groups. The gaps in access to early learning services exacerbate the uneven foundation on which children from poor and low-income families will build their knowledge and skills as they enter kindergarten, which leads to more costly “catch up” interventions later in school. It also means poor and low-income families struggle to maintain employment and enrollment in job training programs and ensure that their children are cared for. Investments in federal early learning programs have helped millions of children, but an even greater percentage of eligible children under age six still do not have access, and as such experience an unfair opportunity gap before their first day of kindergarten, due to current funding levels.

Using Science To Advance English Learner Equity In California Schools

While English learners face significant achievement gaps in science, some California districts are accelerating their success by utilizing innovative practices that fuse together language development and science instruction, a new report from The Education Trust–West reveals. 
The report, entitled “Unlocking Learning: Science As A Lever For English Learner Equity”, highlights California’s severe achievement gap in science between fluent English speakers and ‘English learners’ – a disparity wider than gap between racial groups and by economic status. The report emphasizes the overwhelming benefits of prioritizing science education for English learners and puts forth a blueprint for how California can do this most effectively. 

“It’s time to eradicate the notion that science education and English learning should be mutually exclusive. Too often, California’s English learners are receiving additional English instruction only at the expense of science education, and the consequences are profound,” said Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of Ed Trust–West. “In this report, we see examples of California classrooms where effective and equitable integration of science with language development is dramatically increasing academic achievement for English learners.” 

Additionally, the report investigates innovative approaches various schools and districts are implementing that are successfully leveraging science to advance achievement levels for English learners. Districts featured in the report range from rural to urban settings, including Calipatria Unified School District, Imperial Unified School District, Oak Grove School District, Oakland Unified School District, San Francisco Unified School District, and Westminster School District. 

These programs were guided by new standards that will soon go into effect statewide, presenting districts with a crucial opportunity to make positive reforms. 

Based on an in-depth analysis of what has worked well in those schools, as well as an evaluation of the challenges schools face, the report offers specific policy recommendations at both the district and state level for how best to integrate science education and English language development and unlock the potential of California’s English learners. 

Key report takeaways:
  • ●  Many of California’s 1.37 million English learners don’t even have access to rigorous and/or advanced science courses, let alone being equipped with the tools to thrive in them.
  • ●  Research shows that weaving together science and language development can increase students’ academic performance in reading, writing, and science simultaneously.
  • ●  In schools and districts taking an innovative approach to combined English language and science instruction through NGSS, some promising practices are resulting in achievement levels that are double and even triple the state average for English learners who met or exceeded proficiency.
  • ●  With new state education standards and a redesigned funding system, districts have an opportunity to overhaul their approach to science education and language development informed by best practices from schools featured in this report.

Implementation of Title I & Title II-A Program Initiatives

A new report on federal Title I and Title II-A programs finds that nearly every state had adopted college-and-career-ready content standards by 2013-14 and many incorporated more sophisticated items into state tests to assess higher-order thinking.

The Institute of Education Sciences released a new report today (Jan. 19) entitled Implementation of Title I and Title II-A Program Initiatives: Results from 2013-14. The report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) examines implementation of program initiatives promoted through Title I and Title II-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) during the 2013-14 school year. Title I addresses the needs of students who are economically disadvantaged, and Title II-A provides support for educator improvement.

This report is based on surveys of all states and the District of Columbia as well as nationally representative samples of districts, schools, and teachers. It describes policies and practices in several core areas: content standards, assessments, accountability, and educator evaluation and support.

Major findings include:

•    Most states adopted and most principals and teachers reported implementing state content standards that focused on college- and career-readiness. All but one state had committed to having college- and career-ready standards in place by 2013–14. A majority of principals (67-69 percent, depending on subject) reported fully implementing state content standards, and most teachers reported receiving professional development relevant to state content standards (79 percent of teachers) and weekly use of aligned instructional activities (92 percent of teachers);

•    Many state assessments incorporated more sophisticated response formats to better assess students’ college- and career-readiness. In their reading/English language arts (ELA) summative assessments, many states (between 24 and 36, depending on grade level) reported using extended constructed-response formats, a type of response format intended to assess higher-order thinking skills. Nineteen states used this response format in math assessments;

•    States used ESEA flexibility to re-set their accountability goals and to target a narrower set of schools for additional support. Forty-three (43) states had received ESEA flexibility for the 2013-14 school year. The most common accountability goal adopted by states with ESEA flexibility (28 of the 43 states) was reducing by half the percentage of students and subgroups not proficient in 6 to 8 years. States with ESEA flexibility identified 5 percent of Title I schools as lowest performing and an additional 10 percent of Title I schools with substantial student achievement gaps, compared to non-flexibility states that reported identifying 43 percent of Title I schools as lowest performing;

•    Almost all states adopted new laws or regulations related to educator evaluation systems between 2009 and 2014, and most districts reported full or partial implementation in 2013–14. Only four states had not adopted new teacher evaluation laws or regulations by 2014, and a majority (59%) of districts reported fully implementing, piloting, or partially implementing a new teacher evaluation system. However, few districts (18 percent) reported using system measures of student achievement growth and classroom practice consistent with emerging research; and

•    Proficiency rates on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) slightly increased from 2005 to 2015, with the largest increases in 4th and 8th grades and smaller or no increases in 12th grade.

Highly gifted children benefit from explanation as much as their peers

We often assume that highly gifted children always perform at maximum capacity. Psychologist Bart Vogelaar discovered that this group too benefits from training and explanation. Strangely enough, the benefits are the same for both groups.

When children have tests at school or when their learning abilities are assessed, they don't always show their full potential. Exam stress and/or lower metacognition -- knowledge that makes learning easier -- can cause a child to underperform. This problem can be countered using dynamic tests, where children receive training during the test and their progress is measured to give a better image of their learning capabilities. 'The general assumption is that gifted children always work to their full potential in such tests and that they don't need training or explanations,' development psychologist Bart Vogelaar explains. 'I'm not sure that assumption is correct.'

Measuring progress

For his PhD research, 522 children aged between five and ten years -- 173 highly gifted and 349 averagely gifted -- took part in dynamic testing with a so-called learning potential test. The children had to solve analogical reasoning tasks, comprising four boxes with different geometric figures. The first three boxes were filled with figures that changed from one box to the next according to a particular rule, for example, in size or in position. The children had to use analogical reasoning to draw the figure in the last box.

Starting assessment

The test comprised an initial assessment based on a series of tasks, after which the children were given a training session followed by a further set of tasks as a post-assessment. Vogelaar: 'This kind of test gives a better insight into how well children learn because we are able to measure not only how much they progress on a new task, but also how much and what kind of help they need to achieve this progress.'

Training helps

The test showed that all groups of children made progress, from the starting to the post-measurement, with major individual differences. 'It confirmed that highly gifted children also benefit from explanation and training, and that they don't always show their full potential in tests.' Vogelaar concludes from this that dynamic testing gives better insight into the reasoning capabilities and learning process of children -- whether or not highly gifted -- than conventional testing, such as with an IQ test.

Equal training and instruction

What really surprised Vogelaar was that the two groups of children were not very different from one another. The test showed that highly gifted children have the same need for instruction as averagely gifted children, and that they exhibited the same degree of progress from the starting to the post-assessment. The highly gifted children started at a higher level of reasoning, but made the same amount of progress as their averagely gifted peers.' These findings suggest that they learn just as much from the training and instruction as averagely gifted children.

Highly gifted children also need extra support

Schools tend to assume that highly gifted children can manage by themselves and that they do not need any extra support. As a result, they sometimes seem to be forgotten. Vogelaar's research shows that highly gifted children also need extra learning support. 'The fact that these children are clever does not mean that they always perform to maximum capacity.'

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Parents struggle with when to keep kids home sick from school

It can be a nerve-wracking, game time decision for parents: whether their sick child should stay home from school.

What parents say are the symptoms that are most likely to warrant a sick day.
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll
But opinions among parents differ when it comes to how sick is too sick, or the importance of sick day consequences such as parents missing work or kids missing tests, according to a new national poll from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

Seventy-five percent of parents report at least one sick day for their child in the past year. The top factors in parents' decision to keep a child home included concern that the illness would get worse or spread to classmates, according to today's nationally representative poll report.

Parents of younger children (ages 6 to 9) most frequently rate health related concerns as very important considerations in calling a sick day while two in five parents of high schoolers place similar value on missing tests or falling behind in class work.

Symptoms also make a difference. Most parents (80 percent) are not likely to send a child to school with diarrhea, but have less agreement about vomiting (58 percent) or a slight fever but acting normally (49 percent). Few parents say they are not likely to send a child with red watery eyes but no fever (16 percent), or a runny nose, dry cough and no fever (12 percent).

"Parents often have to make a judgment call about whether their child's sickness warrants staying home," says lead author and Mott poll co-director Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H. "We found that the major considerations were whether attending school could negatively impact a child's health or the health of classmates."

Freed says parents may recognize that certain symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting would significantly disrupt a child's school day. But most parents did not view familiar symptoms, such as a runny nose or dry cough without a fever, as serious enough to miss school.

"It can be difficult to predict if a child will feel worse after going to school or how long symptoms of minor illnesses will last, so parents are often basing decisions on their best guess," Freed says.

Logistics also influence the decision to keep a child home from school. Eleven percent of parents cite not wanting to miss work as very important while 18 percent say not being able to find someone to stay home with their sick child is a very important factor. This is less of an issue as children get older, with 32 percent of parents allowing older children to stay home alone when sick.

Only 6 percent of parents say that missing after-school activities is very important.

The report was based on responses from 1,442 parents who had at least one child age 6-18 years.

What parents should know

Off to school or stay home? Doctors offer guidelines to consider if your child is sick.

* A phone call or visit to the child's health care provider can help you know whether the child has a serious illness, but may not clarify how long symptoms will last.

  • Does your child have a runny nose but is in good spirits, playing and eating? Send them to school with extra tissues. But if symptoms are accompanied by decreased appetite, lethargy, mood change or breathing difficulty, call the child's health care provider.
  • A spike in temperature does not always mean something serious. If children are attentive and playing, a school day likely won't hurt. But if the fever persists more than three days or comes with other symptoms (like listlessness or vomiting), keep them home, and consider calling their health care provider.
  • The cause of diarrhea and vomiting could range from a virus to food poisoning. If symptoms will disrupt the school day, are accompanied by pain or fever or if the child is too young to manage symptoms (e.g. making trips to the bathroom, being conscious of handwashing) keep your child home.

Talking to children about STEM fields boosts test scores and career interest

A new study finds parents who talk with their high schoolers about the relevance of science and math can increase competency and career interest in the fields.

The findings, published Jan. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show a 12 percentage point increase on the math and science ACT for students whose parents were provided with information on how to effectively convey the importance of science, technology, engineering and math. The same students also are likely to be more interested in pursuing STEM careers, including taking STEM classes in college and having a favorable impression of the fields.

The research by Christopher S. Rozek, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, and colleagues at Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Virginia provides new insights as policymakers in the United States look to increase the number of students going into the STEM fields. A strong pipeline of STEM graduates is seen as critical for economic growth and global competitiveness, with recent international tests ranking the United States 35th in math achievement and 27th in science achievement.

"Parents are potentially an untapped resource for helping to improve the STEM motivation and preparation of students," said Rozek, lead author of the research. "We could move the needle by just encouraging parents to have these conversations about the relevance of math and science."

Rozek and his colleagues focused broadly on what's known as expectancy-value theory, and more specifically, on the concept that individuals make choices depending on the relevance or usefulness to a current or future goal.

For the study, researchers designed materials that help parents talk to their children about the relevance of STEM fields, pointing to the role of math and science in how cell phones work or how the subjects factor into specific careers. Parents participating in a decades-long study in Wisconsin were split into two groups, with one group given the materials while the other served as the control. Researchers then tracked a variety of outcomes over several years to assess the effects.

The research follows up on initial findings from the study published in 2012 by Rozek and his co-authors showing that 11th- and 12th-grade students whose parents had access to these materials about the relevance of math and science took, on average, nearly one additional semester of STEM coursework in high school.

In the latest study, researchers found that when parents were provided with the STEM relevance information, their children showed improved math and science ACTs in addition to increased STEM course-taking in high school. The increased high school STEM coursework and higher scores on the math and science ACTs affected the number of college STEM classes in which students enrolled, the careers they pursued and their overall perception of the value of STEM fields.

The latest findings challenge widely held assumptions, including that parents already are effectively talking with their children about the importance of math and science, and that by high school, the views of students have solidified.

"By the time students are teenagers, many parents don't think there is much they can do to change their children's minds or help them be motivated. This research shows that parents can still have a substantial effect," Rozek said.

The findings provide new perspective on discussions at the federal level, where policymakers haven't focused on students' beliefs around STEM--an approach researchers described as cost-effective.