May 1, 2017

Common Core Testing, US News Ranking, Duncan Talking, More!

By Bellwether

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Bonnie O’Keefe and I look at look at all the interstate testing consortia that are not three-ring circuses.

Elsewhere,  Smarter Balanced now partnering with U.C. Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension for its fiscal agency and ops. Meanwhile New Meridian will now maintain the PARCC assessment.  Headline from 2020? “Area man excited for opportunity to oversee testing consortia from spare bedroom.”

For a while one question about the two testing consortia has been whether PARCC ran into political trouble because of how it was organized and operationalized, the fact that red states were early adopters so the politics boomeranged faster, or some other reason that would catch up with SBAC or if something else was going on more PARCC-specific. Stay tuned!

The 74 checks-in with Arne Duncan about his new project.

Nat Malkus doesn’t like the US News high school rankings. He has two basic objections – who is to say “best” in the first place and that the focus on AP is too narrow. He’s not the first to raise either one. With the caveat that I’m hopelessly biased here because I’m a contributing editor at U.S. News and have been affiliated there for years and also helped design the rankings in the first place a decade ago, a few thoughts.

First, I get the “best” argument, but who knew they were so existential over there at AEI? At the core, here’s the thing: the high school that is best for your child is the high school that is best for your child. It’s hard to do a ranking of that. At best, it’s an interesting essay. And even rankings that are ostensibly objective run into problems. For instance by a bunch of measures the Washington Capitals are outplaying the Pittsburgh Penguins in their playoff series. Still, as you may have seen, the Pens are up two games to none in that series. No ranking is without its real world limitations.

You have to measure something in K-12 education and by eliminating schools with big achievement gaps and dropout problems and then focusing on AP and IB (although this year IB data were not available) you identify schools that are propelling students to college. Is that the only thing that matters? No. Is it one thing and something we can learn from in terms of some of the schools that are doing exceptionally well – yes. Malkus suggests that perhaps state systems might be more robust for parents. That’s an interesting idea, but the evidence from states as divergent as California to Virginia suggests otherwise.

Could U.S. News go broader? Perhaps if there was better comparable data across states.  And while I’d be keen to see or help design a ranking of high school CTE programs that’s not the project of these rankings right how.  Is “best” a marketing conceit to some extent. Of course. The U.S. News brand and rankings are widely used a across a range of fields beyond education. But the schools that pop on this list are pretty good and ones we should be discussing and learning from.

Public Impact and Education Cities on education quarterbacks as a governance strategy.  Choice and equity in Baltimore. PIE on state ESSA plans.

F-bombs and union drives. Check out Carl Anderson.

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