Assessment Briefly Stated

Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed

October 01, 2019 7 min read

Principals, When You’re Down, Take Heart, Americans Trust You

Congratulations, principals. Americans trust you. They trust you more than police, more than military leaders, and not surprisingly, more than journalists and members of Congress.

In fact, principals, the American public gives you high marks for being honest with information and how you handle public resources, says a new Pew Research Center survey.

Maybe it’s time to ask for that raise. Here’s a closer look at how the public views you.

Eighty-four percent of Americans say principals care about others or people like them “all or most of the time or some of the time.”

Principals also get high grades for providing fair and accurate information to the public—79 percent of respondents said they do so “all or most of the time or some of the time.” And 81 percent said principals handle resources responsibly.

The questions were part of a Pew Research Center project on how Americans view select groups that hold vast power and responsibilities. Pew sought to capture how Americans view these power brokers’ job performance, empathy, ethical behavior, and willingness to own up to mistakes.

In addition to the other groups, the survey asked about religious leaders, local elected officials, and technology-company leaders.

Despite Americans’ high level of trust in school leaders, they said principals, like many of their counterparts in power, often act unethically. Still, principals stack up better on ethics than most of the other professions included.

For example, although 81 percent of respondents said that members of Congress act unethically all or most or some of the time, only 52 percent thought the same of principals.

For the most part, Americans think those in positions of power carry out the major tenets of their jobs responsibly, though that was one of the areas in which principals did not lead the pack.

The positive views of principals extend across racial lines, but black respondents, in particular, had more positive views of principals than whites.

New Scores, Same Patterns: Success on SAT Follows Racial, Ethnic Lines

The latest scores from the SAT college-admissions test reveal pretty much what we’ve come to expect: Asian and white students score higher, often dramatically higher, on average, than their black and Latino peers. The results set off a familiar debate over the extent the scores reflect disparities in preparation and opportunity—or biases in the test itself.

Out last week, the mean scores from the evidence-based reading and writing and math portions dropped from the previous year. Also declining was the proportion of test-takers who scored high enough to be deemed prepared for college.

Overall, male students fared better than their female counterparts, mostly because of higher math scores. Female students scored slightly higher in reading and writing.

The achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups remains all too evident.

Asian students earned the highest scores—1223 on a scale of 1600—and 75 percent are considered ready to enter higher education.

White students followed, averaging 1114 in total, with 57 percent meeting the college-ready benchmark.

Latino students scored 978 on average; 29 percent are deemed prepared for college.

And black students averaged 933, with 20 percent considered college ready.

Based on the exam results, 27 percent of Pacific Islanders, and 18 percent of Native Americans are prepared for higher education.

At Hearing on Giving Fewer Exams, N.Y.C. Talks About Adding

Surreal may be the best way to describe a recent city council hearing in New York.

New testing requirements are in the offing for city schools—even as teachers, students, and advocates blasted a culture of excessive exams at the hearing.

District officials said schools may soon be required to test students several times a year to see how they’re doing before the high-stakes, state-mandated exams arrive at the end of the year.

The irony wasn’t lost on City Council member Mark Treyger, who convened the hearing.

“We just had a whole discussion on the impact tests have on our schools,” Treyger said, “and we’re saying we’re going to implement another one.”

Linda Chen, the district’s chief academic officer, said the new city tests will be “low stakes” and simply give schools more data on how prepared students are before the all-important state exams come along, allowing schools to adjust their teaching if necessary.

But Treyger questioned the need for any new exams. “You could just call the school and talk to a teacher rather than investing in a new fancy test,” he said. “You will save money, headaches, bad press.”

New York already has one of the most extensive testing regimens in the country.

DonorsChoose: It’s Not Just for Teachers Anymore

When crowdsourcing sites came along to help teachers acquire classroom materials, it felt like manna from heaven. But that laissez-faire way of operating looks to be turning the page.

One of the most popular sites, DonorsChoose, is entering formal partnerships with a handful of districts, hoping to make what’s generally been a diffuse, teacher-by-teacher effort into something districts can support in a more coordinated manner.

The partnerships, announced last week, would also seem to be an attempt by the nonprofit to further distinguish itself from other providers in the crowd—pun intended—and a response to some districts putting the kibosh on teachers’ crowdsourcing efforts.

To kick off the effort, DonorsChoose will work with 10 districts, ranging from biggies like Los Angeles to small, rural ones like the 350-student Richland R1 district in southeast Missouri. It also plans to match up to $250,000 in donations across those districts for teachers’ proposed projects.

Each of the districts will have its own landing page on DonorsChoose.org, where it will be able to put teachers’ proposed projects in one place. Then they’ll be able to monitor what’s been donated. Principals will be notified each time a project is funded so they’ll be able to be on the lookout for materials shipped to their school, while administrators will receive early notification when donors or philanthropies list new opportunities. Teachers still will get to be creative and flexible with what they want funded.

A more philosophical question about crowdsourcing begs to be answered: Are districts sending the message that they can simply fundraise to make ends meet—and, by implication, that they don’t need property tax increases or other revenue-raising methods?

‘Trump Effect’ on Foreign Students Infecting High Schools

Those figurative “keep out” signs are not just at U.S. colleges and universities anymore. High schools are also feeling the chill of the so-called Trump effect that discourages students from coming to the United States for an educational experience.

Administrators at high schools that have traditionally attracted large numbers of foreign students say it’s become more difficult to recruit them. Those who have been able to maintain large international student populations say it’s only because they’ve become more aggressive in their recruitment efforts so they can counteract the visa denials and the impression that the United States has become less welcoming.

Take Orono High School in Maine. At present, it has three international students—one of the smallest groups the school has had in recent memory.

At Maine’s Fryeburg Academy, more than 14 percent, or 84, of the 575 students at the private school this year are international.

“It’s a big number, but it used to be bigger, almost entirely because of a decrease in enrollments out of China,” said Erin Mayo, the head of school. “The Chinese demand, which had been really hot and heavy in the past few years, has decreased significantly in the past two years.”

Public high schools trying to recruit foreign students find themselves in an even more challenging situation. They can admit international students for only one year under U.S immigration law. Then, some transfer to another school. Others attend only in their senior year, then might try to attend college in the United States.

Still, administrators from public and private schools agree that having foreign students contributes essential diversity to the learning experience for all students. The tuition and boarding costs that international students pay also don’t hurt.

After the nationalistic speech President Donald Trump gave at the United Nations last week, the welcome mat might get dustier: “The future,” he said, “does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.”

Briefly Stated contributors: Stephen Sawchuk, Denisa R. Superville, and Tribune News Service. Edited by Karen Diegmueller.
A version of this article appeared in the October 02, 2019 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed

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