Not Losing Sight of Achievement Goals for All

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

Between 2003 and 2015, the District of Columbia experienced large achievement gains for its students: double-digit gains in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a growth in attendance and graduation (despite recent setbacks), and more students reported satisfaction in their schooling. For a school district that struggled for so many years, there is so much positive. But during my time as a Policy Fellow for the State Board of Education, I’ve had the chance to absorb the data and hear upfront about some of the challenges families face here in the District. Overall, while there is much to celebrate, there is much more to do.

First, let’s examine the two most recent NAEP scores for the District – 2015 and 2017. Below is a graphic that compares the NAEP results for the District by race.

NAEP

Overall, there are distinct differences between races when it comes to student achievement. How can we make these equal? What positives can we take from the overall strengthening of scores over time and apply to everyone? How can we ensure that success is shared by all?

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Implications of the 2017 NAEP Results

By: Kit Faiella, Policy Fellow

On April 25th, three big names in education policy research gathered to discuss the implications of the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results. All three are senior fellows at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Chester Finn is the president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a member of the Maryland State Board of Education. He has been at the forefront of the national education debate for 35 years. Eric Hanushek is a widely-cited researcher known for his combination of economic analysis and educational issues. He has authored or edited 24 books and over 200 articles, and earned his Ph.D in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Finally, Paul Peterson is currently a government professor at Harvard University and the senior editor of Education Next magazine. Four of his more than 30 books have been recognized by the American Political Science Association as the best works in their field. The discussion was moderated by Amber Northern, the senior vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

“What do the scores mean?” was the first question posed to the group, and each speaker had a different take on the NAEP data: “each year we generate excitement about a flat line” was Dr. Hanushek’s response; “something changed in 2009” was Dr. Peterson’s response; and Dr. Finn noted that the achievement gains in NAEP have been inequitable. But the conversation quickly focused on accountability – did the scores flatline in 2009 because of the end of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) -era provisions, or in spite of them? Dr. Chester pointed out that the heavy-handed accountability may have worked to elevate scores for a time, but the flattening NAEP scores in later years of the Act demonstrated a ceiling for student achievement under the NCLB provisions. The panelists agreed with his point, but were also quick to note that NCLB was a “bad law” which the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has done a great job in replacing.

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School Discipline Reform: Hard Lessons from the Front Lines

By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst

Student discipline has been a hot topic in DC lately; Education Chair of the DC Council, David Grosso, proposed legislation that would ban non-violent infractions as a reason for suspension, which would lead to a decrease in school suspensions. He also held a hearing, inviting the public to testify on discipline policy, and roughly 90 witnesses signed up to testify[1].

In addition to Councilmember Grosso’s proposed legislation, there have been a few public events in DC about student discipline. SBOE Policy Fellow Kit Faiella wrote a blog post about one event at the Center for American Progress (CAP), “In Class Not Cuffs: Rethinking School Discipline.” Ombudsman Joyanna Smith was at the CAP event with Kit and noted that while the conversation was held in DC, none of the speakers or panelists addressed DC’s pending legislation or the multiple hearings Councilman Grosso has held on student discipline. I attended another event at the Fordham Institute entitled “School Discipline Reform: Hard Lessons from the Front Lines.” I was curious to see how this event might compare – would it make more connections to the DC context?

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Can We Bridge the Research-to-Policy Divide?

By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow

On Thursday, June 15, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, sponsored by the Knowledge Alliance, held a lively panel discussion on the topic: Moderated by the President of the think tank, Michael J Petrilli, discussants included: Dale Chu, VP of Policy and Operations at America Succeeds; Dan Goldhaber, Director, CEDR University of Washington & Director, CALDER & Vice President, AIR; Liz Farley-Ripple, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, University of Delaware; and Nora Gordon, Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University.

The discussion opened with a brief synopsis by Mr. Petrilli discussing the recent movement of policy making power and implementation from the federal to state level, as called for by the Every Student Succeeds Act. He noted that state legislatures are now Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.35.22 PM.pngresponsible for being catalysts of policy change driven by sound, empirical evidence. In order to exemplify what type of questions policymakers may be asking when driving such changes, Mr. Petrilli designed an interactive group exercise for panelists entitled, “The Wheel of Policy.” When spun, the wheel landed on the topic of teacher licensure. The group proceeded to brainstorm questions to spur conversation. What was the impact of having fifty different state licensure exams and what was the outcome of having an exam that differs significantly from surrounding states? Given the number of questions, it was clear to the panelists and event attendees that the breadth of teacher licensure is significant and can be broken down into a multitude of subtopics.

From here, the discussion moved to understanding the role politics plays in the dynamic interplay between research and policy. The consensus amongst Mr. Chu and Ms. Farley-Ripple was that as policy analysts, they were more inclined to seek out researchers who produced evidence that support their policy Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.34.40 PM.pngclaims and beliefs. This in turn prompted Mr. Goldhaber and Ms. Gordon to rebuke and state that it was imperative that the public understands what type of research was informing said policy claims and where and from whom educational institutions and think tanks receive funding from as there is greater potential for underlying evidential biases.

The event concluded with a brief question and answer session. Attendees talked about the impact of international politics on US policy implementation and whether there should be best practice guides for education policy. During closing remarks, Mr. Goldhaber made mention of and commended the efforts by DC Public Schools (DCPS) on being an exemplary model for other states to follow when creating policy that are clearly rooted in empirical evidence. Mr. Petrilli echoed this sentiment and followed up by stating that this practice was also led by charter school management systems. To learn more about the event and watch the replay, click here.