THE BLOG
01/11/2013 08:30 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2013

Education Rankings, Anti-Common Core Alliance: Ed Today

Who Is The Biggest (Educational) Loser? As we reported yesterday, Education Week released its Quality Counts report, one of the most comprehensive education rankings in the United States. For the fifth year in a row, Maryland came out on top. Who came in last? South Dakota. Things like rankings can be a bit trickier than they appear -- for example, some of the differences between states might not be statistically significant. But they are incredibly useful, at least politically.

Amy Hightower, who leads the staff that compiles the report, told me about a time when a lawmaker from a certain state called her up. He'd heard that his state came in first on the soon-to-be-announced report card, and he wanted to verify that. Indeed, Hightower told him, his state had come in a fraction of a point above New York. He told her something like: "I'm going to take that fraction of the point over to the statehouse and use it to advocate for more school funding."

All this made me think South Dakota's barely-passing grade might actually be mighty useful to some politicians there! In 2012, a few SD pols got an initiative that would have abolished teacher tenure onto the ballot. That measure failed. But I can see how coming in dead last on a national education ranking would help them make their case! Failure is powerful.

Strange Bedfellows In Indiana? Something very interesting came across my inbox last night. I was forwarded a strategy memo from a coalition that's fighting the Common Core standards in Indiana.

For those playing catchup: the Common Core is a new set of English and math learning standards adopted by most U.S. states. Some conservatives hate it because they love local control. Some liberals hate it because they worry it'll herald even more testing. When the state's chief Tony Bennett was unseated, he blamed his defeat on his opponent's rhetoric on the Core. The state legislature will revisit the topic next Wednesday. Anyway, the memo:

As I mentioned, one of the way we got rid of Tony Bennett in Indiana was by forging unlikely alliances.  The conservative Tea Party groups in Indiana actively mobilized opposition to the Common Core and PARCC assessment.  This alliance continues, as legislation to undue Tony's Common Core reforms has been introduced and gaining bipartisan support.  We are working closely with our new Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, who campaigned in opposition to PARCC and expressed serious concerns about the Common Core.

The advocate then proceeded to invite folks to a rally this weekend. So, what's interesting here is the strange bedfellows situation tends to pop up in education in the strangest ways. We saw it last year, for example, when Rand Paul invoked Diane Ravitch during No Child Left Behind hearings. Bizarro!

New Grades For Show-Me State Schools? Missouri is the latest in a string of states to roll out new school grading systems, the Post-Dispatch reports. "A new rating system for Missouri's school districts will intensify pressure on low-performing school districts to improve, while exposing even the best schools to new scrutiny from parents and the public," quoth the P-D. The bar is supposed to be "higher," so a bunch of schools might see a sudden score drop -- not unlike the sudden standardized test score drop parents around the country will see in 2014 when their kids take the first round of Common Core exams. (For extra credit see ShankerBlog. Failure for all!

Yet Another Testing Revolt? When presented with the Measures of Academic Progress exam, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle felt they had to fight. The too-cool-for-tests teachers, KPLU reports, want to ditch them because they feel they take up too much time, they're not up to state standards, and the results are unreliable. (I remember a Chicago teacher telling me he felt the same way about the last point -- that the MAP results didn't measure up with his kids' learning). The students, unsurprisingly, are totes on board with this. "This test means nothing," the student body president told KPLU.

Tech Oops?According to a new report, technology in Marblehead's schools is simply not up to snuff. It is, in the words of some guy named Lord, "in very poor shape." This could be a major problem down the line when the district is forced to implement computerized testing -- and finds that it can't! (h/t Ken Libby)

Friday Grab Bag And to round things out, here is a recently-cleared government report on how -- get ready -- subtitled music videos can help improve learning. Don't stop there. It's actually kind of cool. Some teachers in Hawaii put kids with learning disabilities in front of some videos, featuring "a karaoke-style subtitling intervention." And, as it turned out, those kids scored better than their peers on reading exams! So, basically, karaoke for all!