Is it possible to test how creative someone is? There are quite a few tests on the internet that claim to do so. Of course, there are also “tests” on the internet than can tell you which Star Wars character you are. We know the people designing those tests are creative, but what about your regular American student?
This week’s Deeper Learning Digest covers a new creativity test designed for U.S. fifteen-year-olds and their international peers. It will also explain why fifteen-year-olds and other adolescents are hard-wired to adopt social media and take up extreme sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding. Finally, it will examine the common, the controversial, and why March—and not December—could be the most wonderful time of the year.
Are U.S. Students More Creative than Their International Peers?
Through the years, U.S. fifteen-year-olds have not fared well on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test given every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (See more in “How Does the United States Stack Up? International Comparisons of Academic Achievement.”)
Still, some education advocates tend to brush off poor PISA results by saying that U.S. students are much more creative than their international peers and THAT is the skill that really matters. As evidence, they point to the booming tech industry and the many successful start-ups that begin in the United States. Those examples are more anecdotal than empirical, but what if there was a test that could measure creativity?
Writing for Education Week, superstar reporter—and Alliance for Excellent Education fav—Catherine Gewertz notes that such a test is in the works:
“When teenagers all over the world take the PISA exam in 2021, they could face a new kind of test: one that aims to measure their creativity. And the maker of a major U.S. college-admissions exam—ACT—will build it,” Gewertz writes.
“A fundamental role of education is to equip students with the skills they need in the future,” said Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills and special advisor on education policy to the Secretary-General at OECD, in a September 19 ACT press release. “Creative thinking is a necessary competence for today’s young people to develop, as societies increasingly depend on innovation to address emerging challenges. PISA 2021 will take international assessments into a new phase by gathering data on young people’s creative thinking skills.”
Citing Mario Piacentini, the OECD scientist leading the project, Gewertz writes that the creativity component is not a sure thing, but that the plan is to “present the exam’s framework, and ideas for possible test questions, to the OECD countries in November, and gauge their level of interest in participating.”
If the test happens, we’ll finally know for sure whether American students are as creative as we all think they are. Or maybe we’ll just have something else to argue about.
Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act has been officially in place for a whole school year, states are beginning to release their lists of schools that need extra help. And there’s a particular group of schools that experts are watching closely: Additional Targeted Schools.
That’s a wonky term for a particular set of schools that need improvement, but it’s one to watch: It could end up describing anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of schools, according to preliminary observations by the Center for Assessment, a nonprofit that works with states on testing and accountability. (Although that may be the typical range, many states will be under the 30 percent threshold, the Center said.)
This bears out in individual states, too. In California, at least a quarter of schools would qualify, according to a report compiled by the state board of education earlier this year. (Check out page 429 of this document for more.) And a plurality of those schools would qualify because of struggling performance among students in special education.
Similarly, Louisiana found by using data from 2015 and 2016 that about 42 percent of its schools would fall into the category. Most would be identified because of poor performance of students in special education. (Check out page 66 of the state’s ESSA plan for more).
So what exactly are Additional Targeted Schools and what’s required of them under ESSA? Under the law, states must flag Title I schools that are in the bottom 5 percent of performers in the state for what’s called “comprehensive support and improvement.” In those schools, the district is required to come up with an evidence-based plan to fix the school’s problem, monitored by the state…
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Are states shirking their responsibilities around two of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) most important provisions for historically underserved groups of students? A new analysis says yes.Federal Flash delves into the findings, plus a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation and the latest on the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education.
A new Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) analysis finds that many states are not fully implementing the letter–or the spirit–of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. All4Ed released the analysis ahead of a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation, which we’ll cover later in this post.
All4Ed previously created “ESSA Equity Dashboards” for most state ESSA plans. These dashboards assess states on fourteen equity-focused policies in the law. In terms of actual outcomes for kids, however, not all of our indicators are created equal. That’s why our new analysis summarizes the two most important equity policies from the dashboards: (1) inclusion of subgroups in school ratings and (2) definitions of “consistently underperforming” subgroup used to identify schools for targeted support.
Unfortunately, the results are mixed, with many states at risk of masking the performance of historically underserved students. In other words, a school could receive an A rating, but have a graduation rate for African American or Latino students of only 60 percent – which is hardly an A. And in many states, low-performing students may not receive the assistance they need to excel because their schools are not identified for support.
12 states are red because they don’t include subgroups of students in all school ratings. Another 23 states get a yellow because they don’t include all of ESSA’s subgroups in ratings or are at risk of obscuring subgroup performance on school report cards. Just 17 states get a green rating for including all ESSA subgroups in all school ratings.
On the second indicator, 16 states are red because they are at risk for under-identifying schools for targeted support. 30 states earn a yellow because students will likely need to fail across multiple indicators before the school is identified for support. In other words, it won’t be enough for a subgroup to simply be below grade level in reading. Students would need to struggle in reading, math, and other areas before being identified. Only 6 states get a green for using a definition of consistently underperforming where subgroups receive support if students are struggling on a few key measures – like achievement and/or growth.
These two issues – school ratings and school identification – were major concerns raised by senate democrats in this week’s committee hearing.
But ESSA accountability wasn’t the only issue raised. Democratic senators called on Secretary Betsy DeVos to use her authority to prevent states from using federal funds for guns. Republican chairman Lamar Alexander, while he dislikes the idea of arming teachers, said states have the flexibility to use funds under Title IV of ESSA as they see fit.
Finally, the fiscal year 2019 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Education and several other agencies passed both chambers of Congress this week and President Trump has said he will sign it.
This is the first time since 1996 that the bill funding for the Department of Education has been signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year. This is notable because it allows states, districts, and schools to know what funding they will have for certain education programs prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the September 28 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the Pennsylvania Department of Education identified Pittsburgh Brashear High School as a priority school for improvement, the school’s educators began to rethink their approach to instruction. Teacher leaders wanted to identify promising practices that would improve engagement for the school’s 1,230 students, most of whom are African American or come from low-income families. They also were looking for ways to increase academic rigor and promote cross-curricular instruction to enable all students to achieve academic excellence. So what did they do?
Specifically, the educators wanted guidance on how best to nurture students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills and abilities to collaborate, communicate effectively, and direct their own learning—a set of skills collectively known as deeper learning competencies. So, in 2017, the leadership team from the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) Academy contacted the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) for direct technical assistance on implementing strategies that support deeper learning.