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Education Reform for Dummies – Race to the Top, Common Core, PARCC and Smarter balanced assessment


Race to the Top (RTT) is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education contest for all 50 states and DC created to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education.

Arne Duncan, previous CEO of Chicago schools who changes the school systems in Chicago and the current US Secretary of Education was the person behind the idea and implementation.  His idea was to bring the students in US at par with other countries that have advanced Math programs like Korea, China, India, Japan etc.  President Obama backed it under the ARRA act of 2009.

The idea was to award money to various states who submitted applications showcasing better curriculum, assessment methodology, performance-based standards, implementing common core curriculum, turning around the lowest-performing schools, and building data systems.  Points were awarded for each of the criteria and the state getting maximum points of a possible 500 wins the money!  As simple as that.

What the program did though was unify states and expedite the process to adopt the common core curriculum. Get more information   48 states adopted the common core by the August 2010 deadline.

12 states won the Race to the Top competition and were awarded the money with NY and FL getting the maximum $700 mn each.

Now the states won the money to implement better methodology, implementing common core curriculum, turning around schools, rewarding parents etc.  Now, the next logical step was the assessment, how to ensure all the students across the country are tested at the same level and are tested with 21st century skills, real time application testing. So the federal government under the RTT awarded money to 2 consortiums.

PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) http://www.parcconline.org/ had 23 states – DC and Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.  This consortium was awarded $170 million (Award Letter) would develop next generation assessment tests that would replace all existing assessments in these states and use the PARCC assessment.  The PARCC assessment would be done twice a year – mid-year and end of the year assessment.  They will start with a pilot of 1 million students in spring 2014 and have all the other 22 million students using PARCC by the academic year 2014-15.  The tests would be governed either on computers or by print for the initial 2 years and then completely online.

SMARTER Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) http://www.smarterbalanced.org/ – was another consortium of 22 states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and they were awarded $160 mn (Award letter).  They decided to take a different approach with a computer based adaptive test rather than just assessment to ensure the questions get difficult if the student is getting them right and vice-versa.

For both the assessments – A web-based Consortium platform will be developed to manage assessment data and provide sophisticated data reporting and analysis tools for customized reports.

So no matter what state or school you belong to – the coming school year – be prepared for computer based test which will test the students application/cognitive skills rather than having bubble based simple multiple choice questions. 21st century – here we come!

image: edweek.org

Back to school – implementing common core


A lot has been said about Common Core Curriculum in the past 2-3 years.

How it helps the greater good -This article from NY times and NEA today-



how it is not worth it at all –this article from Washington post and Fox news- http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html


To Myths vs Facts – http://www.corestandards.org/resources/myths-vs-facts

What we know for fact is that

  1. Common core is here to stay.
  2. 45 states have adopted it and there was no federal say in it.
  3. It was all community driven – parents, teachers, community leaders, school administrators all worked on standards, pitched in and created them
  4. It defines what is expected of each child of each state at each grade level

Now, when we keep debating if they are good or not, in my opinion we are arguing if our educators are any good or not. Not the government, the educators -Since these standards were created by them. And we can never be in a good shape if we question our educators and now show faith in them, so let’s support them and work on a path to ensure that the core standards are well implemented and help our kids and nation grow.

Now, coming to the second part – what needs to be done to implement core standards. So every educator including a company like ours has varied opinions on that. Let me present PracTutor’s opinion. We need to ensure 3 things while thinking of implementing any standard, any policy.

  1. Is it going to be fun, easy and motivating for the kids (who actually will be doing all the work)
  2. Is it going to be easy for the teachers to know what they need to do – across 45 states?
  3. Is it going to be satisfactory for the parents who are apprehensive about all the changes?

So at PracTutor we did a lot of brainstorming bringing in educators, technologists, consultants, leaders, parents and of course kids. To ensure all the above 3 things are well implemented we did the following 3 things.

  1. Made learning and practicing/testing fun with rewards, exciting environment
  2. Made everything aligned to core standards with flexibility to make changes so the teachers are comfortable knowing what is expected of each standard and how can they bring in their creativity
  3. Keep parents connected with students and teachers to know how the students are performing and what the teacher is implementing

This makes all 3 involved parties very content.

To ensure this works, we give it for FREE to most school districts/teachers so they are prepared when common core hits them.

This is our opinion, we may be wrong, but we are willing to do the hard work with the right people and ensure we make it right and I guess that is what the US education system needs right now.

E –learning: government policy feeds the online education

Probably, you have noticed that recently the concept of education has been changing and one of the main changes can be seen in the form of education contents and tools.

Face-to-face learning is still the basic form of education, namely school and academy education, but more teachers are driven by government policy towards the e-learning tools.

This can be seen in the US, but also in other Countries, like Korea, China, Australia and Sweden.

What advantages in the e-learning?

Conventionally, we all got a land based education, we attended school classes and could experience a direct contact to our teachers and classmates. The latest government policy spins educators to use more online tools and to get more confident with the internet platforms and software for education purposes.   Student learning online

In fact, we can see that there are many education websites in the internet. University courses often offer a web page where students can get homework and other important information from home.

More and more university students sign up for online classes and do exams from home.

The concept of education s going virtual and remote. This means that students don’t have to waste precious time traveling from home to the university campus in order to attend classes. They can access online and sometimes free learning tools (eBooks…) directly from home, saving both time and money.

Online education is the ultimate frontiers for learning easily and more effectively. Tutors and educators are often available in the web through a web cam: there are many websites where you can get a personal tutor for a low cost price.

From e-learning to the job market

Now, you will possibly wondering what consequences the e-learning education can have on the job seeking… Well, if the education is going virtual, just know that even many jobs are going virtual!

So, for students who gained their diplomas or higher education degrees online it will be easier to access and get confident with the online jobs: web masters, web developers, IT analysts, copywriters, and many more professional profiles are linked to the web.

Students in the South Africa already discovered the importance and advantages of learning online. For them, finding a better job in the web is much easier than for the previous generations.

Job hunting: where to start from

After gaining your degree, you can focus on your first job seeking experience. Make sure you prepared a good and interesting CV and get started with your hunting.

You can sign up at Zigo Jobs South Africa. This online platform represents one of the most effective and safest tool for all those who are looking for a job and for all recruiters who need to hire new employees.

Job seekers can join Zigo at no costs, while recruiters can choose one of the following profiles: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum.

With Zigo you can easily find a job in the field you selected and in the area you prefer, thanks to the advanced research tools and database of this platform.