National Summit on Ed Reform Asks For-Profits to Step Up

column | Common Core

National Summit on Ed Reform Asks For-Profits to Step Up

Nov 27, 2012

STEP UP TIME: Lots of conversation at the Jeb Bush-led National Summit on Ed Reform centered squarely on the coming Common Core curriculum -- and particularly around what the assessments will reveal. Friends, including Sarah Dillard, shared what they heard with us:

* Jeb Bush bashed the unions and argued for merit pay for teachers: "We need to have a teacher evaluation system that is based on teachers being professionals, not part of some collective trade union bargaining process," he said.

* West Virginia Governor, Bob Wise, says his state is on track to roll out Common Core assessments in the 2014 school year--even after watching Kentucky's students score lower on the preliminary CC assessments.

* The two groups creating the assessments for the Common Core: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) (which 23 states have said they'll use) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (which counts 25 states), are starting to share segments of their assessment either late this year or early next.

Those assessments will require states pay more for the programs, in some cases two to three times as much as they've been paying for standard assessments. (All of these tests will be done on computer although schools can use computer labs to administer them.) The SmarterBalanced program is an adaptive testing environment; PARCC is a fixed format.

* Tony Bennett, Indiana's outgoing superintendent of schools (as he lost his bid for reelection), pointed out that "messaging" around why America is moving to the Common Core will matter: "We have to message that CC is transformative in teaching, learning, assessment, and results."

A panel on the same day but at a different event, moderated by American Enterprise Institute pundit, Rick Hess, hashed through arguments about the role of for-profits in education. (Here are video snippets). Sarah Dillard noted that the conversation seemed backward facing: "A decade of low-road behavior by for-profit universities and SES providers has left a hangover," she notes.

* On that panel, Gates Foundation executive, Stacey Childress, put out a challenge to for-profit virtual schools: Open up the darn kimono:

"It would be really terrific if [for-profit operators] stepped up, as an industry group and said: 'Here are the ways we should be measured, against outcome standards, that indicate superior learning gains for students...'"

The Department of Education's Jim Shelton underscored her point, essentially warning companies that if they don't "step up" and establish quality standards, the market will eventually punish them. (Witness the rocky recent history of for-profit universities):

"The [virtual school] sector has the opportunity now to say, 'We, quality virtual schools providers, know what we can do to show you the kind of outcomes we produce and what the leading indicators of that are, because we collect that data as a natural course of business'....Yet the sector is not proactively setting the framework for how this discussion is going to take place. What's going to happen is that there will be another bad actor, who's going to mess up and get a lot of attention and there's going to be a reaction. And that reaction is going to painful not only for the bad actor but for a lot of people. And that's because the sector didn't step up."
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