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| NEWS | High School & Beyond

New Equivalency Tests Make More Inroads

The GED appears to have lost its foothold as the dominant high school equivalency test in Wyoming, one more sign that the high school testing market is undergoing profound shifts.

Only 49 people took the GED in Wyoming in 2015, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, while 1,993 took the High School Equivalency Test, or HiSET, a competitor introduced last year by the Educational Testing Service and Iowa Testing Programs.

According to ETS, 19 states use the HiSET. Twelve states are using the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC, another new GED competitor, according to CTB/McGraw-Hill, which makes the test.

Until the appearance of the TASC and HiSET, the marketplace was dominated by the General Educational Development test. Wyoming is testimony to the changes that are taking shape on the high school testing market. Fewer people have been taking the GED, and fewer have been passing. Passing rates had hovered around 70 percent, but had fallen to 60 percent a year ago.

The two tests yielded differing passing rates in Wyoming: 73 percent for the GED in 2015 versus 89 percent for the HiSET, according to the Tribune Eagle. Pearson reworked the GED in 2014, making it more rigorous, to reflect the Common Core State Standards.

–Catherine Gewertz

| NEWS | Inside School Research

Why Should Researchers Speak Up In Debates About Education?

What do researchers go into the education field for? Is it pure interest in puzzles, taking apart aspects of learning and schooling to see what makes them tick, or is it the drive to make education better and more meaningful for students?

In a commentary for Education Week, Jeffrey R. Henig of Teachers College, Columbia University makes an impassioned appeal to the latter motivation, urging researchers to become involved in education debates more actively than publishing in journals.

"The temptation can be strong to just say no, and lie low," said Henig, a professor of political science and education. But the often-bitter debates about issues like teacher evaluations, charter schools, and achievement gaps are exactly the places where scholars need to step in, he said: "The more public discourse about education becomes partisan, ideological, simplistic, and simple-minded, the greater the need becomes for at least some reasonable voices to be heard—voices that distill and accurately reflect what research has to say."

The need for more help and support from researchers is only likely to deepen as the Every Student Succeeds Act rolls out. The Institute of Education Sciences is already trying to build more partnerships among educators and scholars to meet the law's new evidence standards for school improvement.

How can a researcher contribute meaningfully to education debates without getting mired in acidic back-and-forths? Patrick McCarthy, writing for the William T. Grant Foundation, calls for researchers not to shy away from "inconvenient truths" they find in their own work and others'.

"Evidence doesn't turn itself into policy, especially when it contradicts prevailing paradigms or entrenched funding streams," he writes. "If we are serious about a What Works movement, we can't allow ourselves or other decisionmakers to pick and choose which results we want to act upon."

–Sarah D. Sparks

| NEWS | Teacher Beat

Recruiting Out-of-State Teachers Is a Common Phenomenon

According to federal data, some states issue more than half their initial teaching credentials to teachers who are prepared out of state.

The U.S. Department of Education's Title II website houses state-reported data collected under the Higher Education Act; the most recent comes from 2012-13.

According to the data, Wyoming granted the highest percentage of out-of-state certificates, 72 percent.

Wyoming has just one university that prepares teachers, and apparently an oil boom has made it easier to raise salaries and attract talent from elsewhere.

Other states where half or more of teachers hail from out of state? Alaska and Hawaii, both of which have had to import talent from many sectors over the years, are on the list. But so are Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington state, and West Virginia.

Some of those states are currently struggling with teacher shortages, so this makes some sense.

This phenomenon is a good reminder that teacher supply and demand issues are complicated: The idea of a "teacher shortage" needs to be approached with a lot more specificity.

Some fields, like special education, are in an almost-constant state of shortage, while others, like elementary teaching, are more flush. Regional shortages can pop up even in states with good pipelines, because teachers aren't evenly distributed across communities and geographies.

There's one caveat to the federal tally: It's not entirely clear how accurate the Title II data are for every state. Alabama, New York, and New Jersey reported issuing not a single certificate to anyone trained out of state, which doesn't on first glance seem correct.

–Stephen Sawchuk

| NEWS | Charters & Choice

Nevada's Sweeping School Choice Law Placed on Hold After Judge's Ruling

Implementation of Nevada's new school choice program has been put on hold until a final decision is made on whether the program is constitutional.

The state treasurer's office was supposed to start providing money to more than 4,000 families enrolled in the program starting in February, according to the Associated Press. Opponents of the law asked for an injunction in November, which a state district judge from Carson City granted Jan. 11.

Nevada's education savings account program was created by the legislature last June and allows all public school parents to use state education funding allocated for their child to attend private schools (including those affiliated with a religion) or to home school. The state places the funds, a little over $5,000 a year, in special savings accounts, which parents can use for approved education expenses—such as tuition, tutors, and transportation.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the state is expected to appeal the judge's decision and that Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, wants to get an expedited final ruling on the law from the Nevada Supreme Court.

Implementation of the education savings account program has been a struggle for the state from the get-go. Not only is the law facing two other lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, there is no playbook for state officials to go by because the program is the first of its kind in terms of its scope.

Although education savings accounts exist in a handful of other states, they are limited to select, small populations. Nevada is the first to offer ESAs to all public school students.

–Arianna Prothero

| NEWS | Marketplace K-12

Cognitive-Game Company Lumosity To Pay $2 Million to Settle Federal Claim

The company Lumosity has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a federal complaint that alleged claims about the benefits of its cognitive games for students and adults were not sufficiently backed up by science.

The settlement with the Federal Trade Commission is part of a stipulated court order for $50 million against Lumosity, a judgment the agency has agreed to suspend as long as the company follows the conditions of the court order.

As part of the agreement, the San Francisco-based company will be barred from stating that its products improve student performance in school or sports, and can help stave off the onset of age-related cognitive decline, unless Lumosity can meet certain thresholds for evidence. Among them: The company's claims must be shown to be "non-misleading" and backed up by "competent and reliable" scientific research.

"The decision to settle with the FTC will allow the company to move on and continue delivering its research-based cognitive training platform to its millions of active and future users," Lumosity said in a statement to Education Week.

–Sean Cavanagh

| NEWS | Politics K-12

Alexander Would Assure Swift Action On Any Education Secretary Nominee

If President Barack Obama nominates an education secretary, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate education chairman, pledges he'll move to immediately on a confirmation of that nominee.

"I said to President Obama at the [Every Student Succeeds Act] signing ceremony in December that I would strongly recommend that he nominate an education secretary, that I didn't think it was appropriate to go a whole year, the last year of his term, and not have someone confirmed and accountable to the Senate," Alexander said at a hearing of the committee Jan. 12. "And if he would send him or her up, I'd pledge to have an immediate hearing and markup and, barring some kind of scandal, work to have that person immediately confirmed. And I still hope the president will do that."

Josh Earnest, the president's press secretary, said earlier this month that he didn't think Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King would get a fair shake from a "stridently partisan" GOP majority.

But Alexander said a confirmed secretary is especially important given the role that King and his team will play in implementing ESSA.

For his part, King has said the nomination is up to the White House, but that he doesn't feel hamstrung by his "acting" designation.

–Alyson Klein

Vol. 35, Issue 18, Pages 8, 18

Published in Print: January 20, 2016, as Blogs
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