Tuesday Reading List: In Search of Both a Better Data Point and a Better Way to Teach Math

Sorry the Reading List is so late this morning, but I was out until very late last night, doing *ahem* research ...

Elsewhere in the pursuit of reliable data, in the post-"No Child Left Behind" era, states and districts are looking for school quality indicators. Daarel Burnette has the story at Ed Week:

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states—in addition to using English-language proficiency, graduation rates, and scores on statewide achievement tests—add at least one new indicator of school quality or student success, such as school climate, chronic absenteeism, discipline, or college and career readiness. For many states, adding that new indicator may mean spending more on data systems and collection, avoiding approaches that might demand too much of a data lift, or picking something off the shelf rather than crafting a more challenging indicator, because the information isn't easily available. Complicating the matter, the law requires that the data for the new school-quality indicator must be valid, reliable, and comparable across districts, and that officials be able to break out the information by student demographics.

The best case scenario here is that a few states identify some critical indicators and find reliable, practical ways to measure them. The downside, though, is that a lot of states will develop arcane, bureaucratic mechanisms to measure indicators that don't matter. This will be a waste of time and money. Benjamin Herold looks at another problem of data reliability, this time having to do with the Common Core-aligned assessments, and whether or not taking those tests on different devices matters for scoring purposes:

The 2015-16 school year marked the first in which most state-required summative assessments in elementary and middle schools were expected to be given via technology. Over the past decade, states and districts have spent billions of dollars buying digital devices, in large measure to meet state requirements around online test delivery. To date, however, relatively little is known about how comparable state tests are when delivered on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or Chromebooks. Each type of device has different screen sizes and ways of manipulating material—touchscreen vs. mouse, for example—and inputting information—say onscreen vs. detached keyboard—factors that could contribute to different experiences and results for students ... From a practical standpoint, researchers say, the key to avoiding potential problems is to ensure that students have plenty of prior experience with whatever device they will ultimately use to take state tests.

That seems reasonable, as human error is the biggest factor driving the fidelity of device interaction in most contexts. Still, with all of the hits the Common Core is taking across the country, this adds another layer of complexity to an already fraught rollout. Will the Common Core EVER catch a break?

Dirk Tillotson wants to think beyond basic "safe spaces" for LBGTQ youth:

When the Oakland School for the Arts started, the founder was explicit about its purpose.  It was there to provide a top flight arts experience and create a place where kids, and LBGTQ kids and those perceived as such, could be themselves and grow.  It was more than a safe space it was a space for students to develop into themselves, cultivating their talents and identities.  He was out, and many of the staff were as well. And there was a casual ease as he walked through the halls, greeted by students who sometimes would likely face a very tough time in comprehensive high schools, but here found a home.  I am sure it was not perfect, but in terms of being accepted, this was good.

For folks who experience discrimination for either their sexual orientation or gender identity, providing safety in our public schools is a bare minimum. The school Tillotson describes is one where students can thrive, while embracing their identities. It's hard to overstate the importance of schools that do this for children. Finally, Emmanuel Fenton at the Hechinger Report wants the United States to look outward for improving math instruction, based on the NCEE report I covered last week:

The lessons may be more critical now, as most states continue to hold students to the more rigorous standards outlined by the Common Core ... Sharon Robinson – president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, an interest group representing the nation’s 800 schools of education – thinks the report makes some important points, particularly around selectivity. “GPA is not the issue,” said Robinson. “The average GPA for candidates is over 3.0, that’s for their work in college, and that leads us to ask, ‘what are we missing here?’ Is the college work not adequately rigorous or focused in a way that leads to candidates who will be able to learn to teach? We are also looking at selection at the hiring end. We are getting more folks interested in using measures that actually document candidates capacity to teach.”

The United States is notoriously behind when it comes to teaching math, and the combination of that baseline weakness, and raising the standards through the Common Core, means we have ever farther to go than we did a decade ago.