Update: Mass. Adopts Common Core

The Boston Globe reports that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously voted this morning to adopt the national Common Core standards. Read the full story here. Massachusetts is now the 28th state to adopt Common Core.

Statement from Governor Patrick:

Massachusetts leads the nation in public education. Our children perform in the top tier, not just in the country but in the world. I want to keep it that way. That means we have to continue to raise the bar. That’s why we passed the education reform bill, to close the achievement gap once and for all. And that’s why I support the Board’s decision to sign on to the national Common Core standards. These standards will be as strong as the ones we already have in place, and in some cases will be stronger. And they are consistent with our MCAS, which has been and will continue to be a key element of our progress. Common Core will enhance the Commonwealth’s already rigorous standards.

UPDATE:

  • Release from the MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Statement from Boston Public School Superintendent Carol Johnson
  • Statement from Lt. Governor Tim Murray
  • NECN coverage: Mass. board unanimously approves national education standards
  • AP story: Mass. board approves education curriculum change
  • ASCD blog post: Critical Mass. for Common Core
  • Boston Herald story:  Mass. ed board votes to adopt fed standards

UPDATE–July 22 coverage:

  • Boston Globe op/ed: The education carrot
  • Boston Globe “Rock the Schoolhouse” blog post: Let’s celebrate: We have national standards
  • Boston Globe story: State panel adopts US academic standards
  • Boston Herald story: Critics: Education test standards too Common
  • Education Week story: Mass. adopts Common Core amid fiery debate
  • Fox25 Boston coverage: What new education standards mean for MA
  • Fox News story: Massachusetts raises concern by swapping state curriculum for national standards
  • National Review story: The Common Core curriculum
  • NECN coverage: Mixed reaction to Common Core decision
  • Quincy Patriot Ledger story: New educational standards comes as surprise for parents
  • WBUR coverage: New ed. standards stress public speaking, probability
  • Worcester Telegram & Gazette story: State adopts new academic standards

Mass. Standards Versus Common Core

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a new study, The State of State Standards–and the Common Core–in 2010, which offers a state-by-state comparison of Common Core vs. states’ existing academic standards. The study’s central findings are:

  • Based on our criteria, the Common Core standards are clearly superior to those currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states, the Common Core is superior in both math and reading.
  • Three jurisdictions boast ELA standards that are clearly superior to the Common Core: California, the District of Columbia, and Indiana. Another 11 states have ELA standards that are in the same league as the Common Core (or “too close to call”).
  • Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have math standards in the “too close to call” category, meaning that, overall, they are at least as clear and rigorous as the Common Core standards.

How did Massachusetts fare? The study deemed both ELA and math standards “too close to call.” A full analysis of Massachusetts is available here.

Fordham’s president Chester Finn described the study’s results on WBUR’s Morning Edition today; listen to the story here. The Massachusetts Board of Education is expected to vote on adopting the Common Core standards today.

On Twitter: Follow WBUR @WBUR; follow the Fordham Institute @EducationGadfly; follow the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Paul Reville, @MassEducation

Massachusetts Considers Common Core Standards

Massachusetts’ Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has recommended that Massachusetts schools adopt a unified set of national academic standards known as “Common Core Standards,” calling them as strong–if not stronger–than the state’s existing standards. In a memo he wrote to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the commissioner listed the strengths that distinguish the Common Core standards:

  • The focus on reading and writing across the curriculum
  • The attention to speaking, listening, and vocabulary
  • The treatment of text complexity and approaches to matching with student reading skills
  • The consideration of emerging, new literacies (digital and print sources) for research and production and distribution of ideas and messages
  • The treatment of varying student needs and achievement levels in the delivery of the mathematics curriculum
  • The accessibility of the mathematics standards to grades K-8 teachers
  • The vertical articulation of the mathematics standards as enhanced by the habits of mind that are critical to effective mathematics practice

The Board will vote tomorrow on the adoption of the standards, so stay tuned.

See which states have already adopted the Common Core standards here and follow the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education on Twitter @MassDESE.

More Boston Students Not Fluent in English, New Data Shows

The Boston Globe reported today that the number of students in Boston Public Schools who are not fluent in English–called English-language learners, or ELL–has been greatly underestimated. According to the Globe, new data released by BPS shows that 28% of the district’s total enrollment, 16,000 students, were identified as ELL this year. Last  year, the number of ELL students was 11,000. This spike is likely a one-time event that can be attributed to a change in the testing mechanism for fluency to include reading and writing in English, in addition to speaking and listening to English.

State tests show that ELL students’ academic performance is, on average, below that of non-ELL students–oftentimes 20 to 30 percentage points lower (source). In City Connects’ 12 Boston elementary schools in the 2008-09 academic year, 53% of students had a native language other than English and 18% had limited English proficiency.  The figure below shows that City Connects (CCNX) intervention has had significant effects on the report card scores of ELL students.

Longitudinal change in Reading report card scores,
CCNX vs. comparison-school students, disaggregated by ELL status

Data source: Boston Public Schools report card data, 2001-02 through 2007-08.

ELL and non-ELL students who were in CCNX schools started, on average, with significantly lower report card scores than their respective comparison students. Both ELL and non-ELL students who were continuously in CCNX schools from grades 1 through 5 had significantly greater improvement over time in reading scores than students who were never in CCNX.

The effect of CCNX on reading and writing report card score improvements was largest for ELL students. By third grade, ELL students in CCNX schools demonstrated similar reading and writing report card scores to those proficient in English in the comparison schools, thereby eliminating the achievement gap in reading and writing between ELL and non-ELL students.

Source: The Impact of Boston Connects Annual Report, 2008-2009 [pdf], page 12. Learn more about City Connects student outcomes on our results web page.

More reading about ELL students in BPS: English Learners in Boston Public Schools: Enrollment, Engagement and Academic Outcomes of Native Speakers of Cape Verdean Creole, Chinese Dialects, Haitian Creole, Spanish, and Vietnamese [pdf], a 2009 study by the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts-Boston

New National Numbers on High-poverty Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics has just released its 2010 Condition of Education report, an in-depth examination of 49 indicators on the state of education across the country. This year’s report includes a special section devoted to profiling high-poverty public schools and their students, staff, and outcomes.

Lunch

The report used the percentage of students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) through the National School Lunch Program to determine school poverty status. High-poverty schools had 76 to 100% of students eligible for FRPL and low-poverty schools had up to 25% of students eligible.

How does this compare to Boston? According to the most recent data from the Boston Foundation’s Indicators project, approximately 71% of Boston Public School students–roughly 40,000 students–qualify for FRPL. Nationally, there were 16,122 schools that were considered high-poverty, which shows a 5% increase over the past decade (12% of schools in 1999-2000 versus 17 percent in 2007-08).

The report says that for both elementary and secondary schools, there was little difference between the distribution of school support staff between  high- and low-poverty schools. At high-poverty elementary schools, 62% of all staff were professional instructional staff, 5% were student services professional staff, 16%  were aides, and 17% were other staff. The numbers at low-poverty elementary schools were very similar.

Despite the staffing levels being nearly identical, the report reiterated the outcomes of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments in reading, mathematics, music, and art, where students from high-poverty schools did not perform as well as students from low-poverty schools.

  • The full report is available here.

Boston Increases Reading Scores on Nation’s Report Card

Good news for Boston in the latest release from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP):

Fourth graders in Boston Public Schools had NAEP reading scores higher than the national average for public school students in large cities in 2009. Of the 11 urban districts examined, Boston was one of four that showed an increase in average reading scores. You can view more data about Boston’s fourth grade reading scores here.

NAEP also surveyed eighth graders’ reading proficiency. While they too had above average reading scores for public school students in large cities, there was no significant difference between the 2009 and 2007 results.  Eighth grade reading scores are available here.

However, urban schools still lag behind the nationwide average. Taking all of the 11 urban districts’ results into consideration, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement:

Today’s report shows that the reading achievement of students in our largest cities has increased over time. At the same time, the results also show that cities have significant work to do . . . In cities, towns, and rural areas across the country, we have to work together so that all children are receiving the world-class education they deserve.