Veronica's Question

When a rookie 6th grade math teacher asks you a wonky question, you just gotta respond...because usually rookie teachers have no time to do anything other than try to stay sane.

Waivers on NCLB would be bad and bring us back in the direction of having different standards in each state, or not?

Also, where does Common Core fit in?

Background:

1. Massachusetts passed a law in 1993 to create math and English standards; MCAS was the new test supposed to see which kids were hitting the mark. The same law also pretty massively increased spending on education.

Other states did something similar.

2. Ted Kennedy and George Bush worked on a national version of this deal in 2001. That was No Child Left Behind. States that didn't have a Massachusetts-like set-up created one. States like MA just tinkered with what we already had in place, which include not just standards and tests, but public goals. So it wouldn't be okay to just say "Hey those kids will always do badly."

3. Problem. Goals sometimes seemed arbitrary and unrealistic. I.e., when will 90%+ of the kids get half the questions right on a state test like MCAS (which then means they are "proficient")?

So the feds allow for "Waivers" which allow states to set new, updated goals. Eduwonk wrote a good description of the issue here.

4. Common Core.

One issue with each state setting its own goals: some states chose a very low passing bar (not to be confused with a low passing bar). That's to make parents and voters believe kids are doing better than they really are.

See this chart? In Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Louisiana, and a few other states, MCAS "proficiency" tends to be close to the bar for NAEP "proficiency" (that's a national, no-stakes test). Red and blue bars are close.

But in many states, a ton of kids are deemed "proficient" by their state when they're not even in the ballpark of proficient as judged by the feds (NAEP). Those are states where red bar is much higher than blue bar.

Hey this could be a good bar graph lesson for your kiddos.

Anyway, enter Common Core. If it had a facebook status, CC's would be: It's complicated. But some people think that CC will make it harder for states to choose very low cut scores, like Alabama.

5. Bottom Line.

I don't think NCLB waivers will much affect the day-to-day lives of most teachers. I don't think many policymakers have a coherent idea of what teachers are up against in real life, and how they process test score targets.