Schools’ new curriculum adds up to harder work – The Daily-Journal

5 Mar

Published in The Daily Journal print edition March 3, 2012How much students grow academically each year will become a key measure of whether schools and teachers are meeting state learning standards.

The new “growth model” of testing is a key part of the Illinois State Board of Education’s plan to correct the failures of the No Child Left Behind Act — which relied on a single test each year to gauge what percentage of students met, or did not meet, state standards.

“It’s the better measure of the benefits students are getting from the classroom,” said Myron Palomba, Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53 superintendent, whose opinion is shared by many other local educators.

While the new method is considered a fairer way to judge teachers and schools, it doesn’t mean they won’t be required to meet set goals.

“While a growth model is good, we have to get all students to standards,” said Chris Minnich, Council of Chief State School Officers’ senior membership director, whose organization helped establish the new learning standards adopted by 44 states. “At some point we have to care about proficiency. We can’t just grow kids if we don’t get them to where we want to be.”

In Illinois’ plan — outlined in a waiver filed with the U.S. Department of Education to NCLB’s rules last week — growth must be on a trajectory to, within six years, cut in half the number of students who won’t meet or exceed state standards. Students will take shorter tests several times per year, rather than a single, multiple-day test — starting in the 2014-2015 school year.

If enough students aren’t growing quickly enough, the school won’t earn a passing grade.

“We can’t just say they’re growing and growing,” said Margaret Trybus, Illinois Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development president and associate dean of Graduate and Innovative Programs at Concordia University in Chicago. “We might have to say, ‘You need to grow faster.’

” Gary Phillips, vice president and chief scientist for the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit organization that helps states write their standardized tests, said meeting state standards is often easier with growth models.

“I suspect more students will be meeting it, but it will be a fairer measure,” Phillips said. “Student success isn’t just how much you’ve learned, but also how much you’ve improved.”

But it won’t be that easy, because passing the Illinois Standard Achievement Test will also get harder. The state board will be raising the minimum scores required for students to meet or exceed state standards. That will leave about 50 percent of elementary schools below state standards, compared to 15 percent currently, the state board estimates.

The growth models are also considered a better way to gauge the effectiveness of teachers than the old status tests of NCLB. In Illinois, the results will appear on teachers’ performance evaluations — accounting for 30 percent of their evaluation — and the results will be made public on a school-by-school basis.

“If you’re a lazy teacher with smart students you get credit for them,” Phillips said. “But you might have an energetic teacher who makes a lot of progress, and she doesn’t get any credit.”

Dan Montgomery, Illinois Federation of Teachers’ president, said growth models are an improvement, but he still has reservations.

“These are elaborate statistical models,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think it’s possible to isolate every influence and measure a teacher on it — but people are trying.”

In the modern world of education, 2+2 won’t just = 4.

The right answer will require students to illustrate the answer with a picture and a written narrative explaining how two whole numbers equal another whole number. A good answer would include the reasoning that two even numbers added together equal another even number.

“You used to see districts teaching the steps to get to the right answer,” said Joshua Ruland, Manteno Community Unit School District 5 director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. “We now want kids to understand the concept so they know the alternative ways of solving it, and why it’s a correct answer.”

The simple math problem serves as an example of how classrooms will be transformed across Illinois — and across the nation — under the Common Core State Standards being adopted in 44 states. They define what students across the state are expected to learn in school and what will be on standardized tests.

The change to the more rigorous standards was a requirement of a waiver the Illinois State Board of Education filed last week with the U.S. Department of Education to the No Child Left Behind Act’s rules.

Likewise, the way schools and teachers are held accountable for student learning is going to get much more complicated. “It will become more difficult for parents to understand,” said Chris Minnich, senior membership director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, whose membership includes the state education officials overseeing the changes. In Illinois, schools will be measured by how much students grow academically over the school year. Instead of being tested once a year to see if they meet a set standard, they will be tested multiple times to see how much they are learning. But they will also be measured against set standards, according to the accountability measures outlined by the state board in the waiver.

The teachers who help their students grow the most will have better job security, because the teachers who don’t will be the first to go, if a school sheds jobs for financial reasons.

The work will also be getting harder.

The new standards will require students to learn skills and concepts earlier than they presently are, pushing subjects such as algebra into lower grades and requiring students to read more difficult books earlier. And even more, they will have to demonstrate the ability to use their knowledge.

Margaret Trybus, Illinois ASCD (formerly Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) president and associate dean of the College of Graduate and Innovative Programs at Concordia University in Chicago, said that will be challenging for some educators. But research has shown kids can handle it.

“What we know is we can’t underestimate how well a child can evaluate and synthesize and contrast and compare. Those are higher thinking skills,” Trybus said. “If we’re going to be competitive, we need critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers. Those are [21st] century skills.”

via Schools’ new curriculum adds up to harder work – The Daily-Journal.

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