Teaching Profession

Standards, Evaluations Hot Topics at ECS Forum

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 17, 2012 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The impact of the Common Core State Standards and the future of teacher-evaluation systems were big topics for officials and advocates gathered at the Education Commission of the States’ 2012 National Policy Forum in Atlanta last week.

Both were major features of the keynote speech delivered on July 11 by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has supported the development of teacher-evaluation systems around the United States. (The foundation also provides grant support for Education Week‘s coverage of business and innovation.)

Mr. Gates stressed the role of student surveys, classroom observations, and test scores as the three key measures of any good evaluation system. The most surprising finding of the foundation’s work in teacher evaluations, he said, was that student surveys could produce very informative answers about teacher practice.

“Asking students the right question is very, very diagnostic,” he said.

Mr. Gates also said that, even in difficult fiscal times, the development of teacher evaluations could be done at a cost of only 1.5 percent to 2 percent of overall education budgets.

But Sarah Brown Wessling, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, said in a panel discussion with Mr. Gates that even as broad systems are being tested, individual teachers still do their own strong research on best practices.

“It’s been on their own; it’s been isolated research,” she said.

Both she and Mr. Gates called for teachers to be heavily involved in creating evaluation systems.

Mr. Gates also called for policymakers to go “full speed ahead” on common standards in English/language arts and math, saying of the common core: “It is a substantial step forward in what should be taught.”

Far-Ranging Agenda

The July 9-11 forum also included discussions about such topics as workforce readiness and America’s “competitive edge” and its relation to education—along with plenty of sentiment that education policy work at the state level remains a hard slog.

State Rep. James Roebuck, a Pennsylvania Democrat and ranking minority member of the house education committee in that state, lamented what he sees as the rush to implement new policies and said they are implemented “erratically.” He was critical, for example, of a Pennsylvania law exempting charter school teachers from new evaluations that take student performance into account.

“Once you get something in place, it’s very difficult to remove,” said Rep. Roebuck.

In a July 10 discussion about the connection between education and the perceived loss of the country’s edge in economic competition, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, said that 3 billion people in the world are tussling for 1.2 billion jobs, and that teaching technical and practical skills is crucial for states in persuading companies to choose the United States over other nations for their operations.

“We are, in fact, in a global war for jobs, which really means that we are in a global war for talent,” Gov. Markell told the audience.

But a dissenting note was sounded by E.D. Hirsch Jr., the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation, a nonprofit group that stresses the incremental growth of student knowledge across content areas. Mr. Hirsch argued that broad skills and knowledge are important for students, “so that you can have the flexibility to do a number of things.”

Civics Education

One area where most U.S. students fall short is an understanding of American government, argued former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

In a July 11 speech, she cited data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2010 that most high schools seniors, 76 percent, were not proficient in knowledge of civics, despite research showing an overlap between the skills students needed in a global economy and ones they needed to maintain democracy in the United States.

Justice O’Connor, who leads the advisory council to the Silver Spring, Md.-based Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, praised Florida’s recent decision to eventually require students to pass a civics test in middle school.

“Our system of government is not just automatic,” she said.

Comparisons to other countries also arose in a discussion by David Coleman and Jason Zimba, lead authors of the common-core standards in both English and math.

Stressing his opinion that the depth of the standards is the key to their success, Mr. Coleman—the incoming president of the College Board—said that the math standards in the common core would more closely match what students are required to know in high-performing regions like Hong Kong. He noted that the standards eliminate some topics and focus more on supposedly basic areas like fractions, a foundation for understanding algebra.

“It’s actually the most demanding math,” he said of mathematical topics like fractions.

A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as ECS Sessions Tackle Menu of Policies

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession What Happens When Teachers Are Out of Sick Days?
We asked EdWeek's social media followers to share their school policies on COVID-related sick leave. Here’s how they responded. 
Marina Whiteleather
2 min read
Female at desk, suffering from flu symptoms like fever, headache and sore throat at her workplace
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Explainer: Why Are Chicago Schools, Teachers' Union Fighting?
The issue that caused the most chaos in the roughly 350,000-student district was when and how to revert to remote learning.
3 min read
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and supporters stage a car caravan protest outside City Hall in the Loop, Wednesday evening, Jan. 5, 2022. Chicago school leaders canceled classes in the nation’s third-largest school district for the second straight day after failing to reach an agreement with the teachers union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety protocols. (Ashlee Rezin /Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Teaching Profession Some Teachers Are Running Out of Sick Days, and Administrators Are Hesitant to Help
With a shortage of substitutes and pressure to stay open, administrators are reluctant to extend paid time off for teachers with COVID.
13 min read
Professional male social distancing or self quarantining inside a coronavirus pathogen.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Opinion 18 Ways to Improve Teacher Observations
Holding pre- and post-conferences, showing more compassion and less judgment, and organizing peer observations are valuable.
19 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty