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Common Core- Why the controversy? March 9, 2015

Posted by ajackl in Education.
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A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook entry that included a good explanation of why math is being taught differently now than years ago and then another posted a link to a set of complaints about Common Core. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/07/a-16-year-old-takes-the-new-parcc-exam-heres-her-disturbing-report/)

This is an interesting problem. Many of the complaints conflate the actual problems into one generic “Common Core is terrible” kind of statement.   I don’t believe that is accurate.  I think there ARE many many problems with how Common Core is being executed.  Her eare 8 issues that need to be addressed separately but I hear them compressed together as one issue all the time:

(1) There are those that dislike standardized tests in general- for those people the Common Core will always not be acceptable because they do not accept the fundamental premise upon which it is designed.  That is fodder for another article.

(2) There are those that have issue with the nature of how the PARCC and SBAC consortium were created and administered as a political issue.  That also is another topic and  doe snot address the educational aspects at all.   It also connflates the test with the pedagogical approach of the Common Core.

(3) There are those that say the Common Core is too broad and the standards are not granular enough to guide instruction.  Even the Common Core creators agree with that – but we have to start somewhere.

(4) The physical execution of the test can be flawed or challenging- in the case of the linked article the students was not used to a particular device (a Chromebook in that example)

(5) Poorly designed test items.  This is difficult – there will always be variance in quality of items on the best test. Out of thousands of items critics will be able to find a few  real stinkers.  I am not sure how to best compare the PARCC or SBAC tests to others to determine how many bad items is too many?  A good question but one that has to be looked at as a comparison to other tests NOT that there are some bad items.

(6) How time is managed in the school schedule to have the students take the tests.  This is an issue with how we design  our school schedules and how we approach test preparation.  This has little to do with Common Core though critics often blame the “Common Core” for “teaching to the test” and taking away valuable instruction time.   I think this IS a valid conversation for people to be having but they need to be clear this isn’t about Common Core – it is about how Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents are dealing with a new culture of accountability (for better or worse- I make no value judgement on that at all).

(7) The timing of the tests compared to the timing of the schools instruction and pedagogy.  A student being in the middle of Algebra II and then being tested on those concepts as if she had completed Algebra II.  This alignment of instruction ot assessment is a serious issue and one that must be dealt with but has nothing to do with the Common Core conceptually- it is a function of scheduling and timing.

All of these have little to do with the IDEA of Common Core- they are about the execution of it. Some districts and states have done a wonderful job with that and others- not so much. I think we need standardized tests (can’t see any way around it really) and we need to be as research-based and smart about it as possible and clear that it isn’t the be all and end all of understanding a student’s “learning status”. That being said – I think we need Common Core and we should be focused on improving it and its execution NOT fighting it.


Vertical vs. Longitudinal Reporting February 25, 2009

Posted by ajackl in Educational Technology, Enterprise Architecture.
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Someone asked me a basic question which, at first, I thought was obvious and then upon asking around discovered was not so obvious.     In the State enterprise system conversation what is the difference between “vertical reporting” and “longitudinal reporting”?

The answer is simple and complex:  time and space.

First, space: “vertical reporting” refers to the movement of data between organizations at different levels of hierarchy in their area.  For instance, many schools belong to a district, many districts belong to a regional service center, and many regional service centers belong to a state (some states skip the regionals).  Vertical reporting is the movement of data up that chain of organizations:  school data go UP to district which transmits them UP to the state.  Sometimes people will talk about “vertical interoperability” which means data can go both ways.

Second, time: “Longitudinal reporting” refers to the reporting, acquisition, and dispaly of data that have a time element to them.  It is often represented by graphs.  For instsance the change in enrollment over the last ten years would be an example of longitudinal reporting. Longitudinal reporting is the reporting of data with a time element attached and used as a dimension.

When people refer to longitudinal data systems (as in LDS Grants) they are referring to systems that almost always have a vertical and a longitudinal component to them.

The path forward- taking strides not small steps! January 22, 2009

Posted by ajackl in Education, Educational Technology, Enterprise Architecture, Schools Interoperability Framework, SIF.
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I have been thinking about what we will use the economic stimulus package for.  Particularly the parts impacting education.

I am going to not address tools that would be purchased singly by a teacher or school, but, rather, enterprise solutions- with economies of scale- that would be implemented at the district or state level.

Here is my initial list.   I hope you are listening Arne Duncan!!! 🙂

1. Flexible, SIF-enabled, unit-record-level(student, staff, course/section, building, district),  data quality-enforcing data collection systems.

2.  Semantically-tagged, multi-purpose, longitudinal, flexibly periodic, data storage

3. Enterprise Directory-enabled Portal solutions that provide authorization down to the parent, student, teacher level and provide security for both access to applications and resources but also constrict viewing parameters on reports.   Centralized management and indentity services but decentralized control

4. Inside these portal solutions Communities of Practice (data providers, teachers, families, program providors),  with collaboration and file sharing capabilities as well as access to reports designed specifically for them, and workflow tailored for them.

5. Learning Standards Repository and National Data Model and NCES Handbooks all available in referencible form and allowing free access to the date through a variety of APIs.

6.  Working with SIF and PESC and others to construct Transcript standards  and templates for the whole country

7. Mature the SCED specification to include elementary school and more metadata.

8. Mature the SIF specification to provide more value and out of the box interoperability to systems all through pk12.

9.  Provide Best Practices for maturing systems that are not driven by a single solution-providor but by healthy, standards-linked functionality.