Little change in Wisconsin’s NAEP scores

From the Department of Public Instruction

Reading and mathematics results for the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, remained steady in Wisconsin compared to prior years, with fourth-graders overall at the national average and eighth-graders just above the national average for both subjects. 

Average scale scores for 2017 fourth-grade reading in Wisconsin were 220, a decline that is statistically significant when compared to the 2015 average score of 223. The state’s 2017 reading results for fourth grade are statistically the same as the national average scale score of 221. For eighth-grade reading, state students had an average score of 269, which is above the national average of 265.

In mathematics, the average scale score in fourth grade was 240 for Wisconsin compared to 239 nationally. At eighth grade the average mathematics scale score was 288, which is above the national average of 282. Gaps in achievement are apparent across racial and ethnic groups and for students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and students learning English and their peers. 

“Wisconsin’s NAEP results, and those of the past decade plus, show how desperate the need is for us to work together to close opportunity gaps for our kids,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “As our population continues to diversify, we cannot afford to leave large numbers of our students behind their peers and expect the Wisconsin economy to continue without disruption.” 

Administered last spring to approximately 3,300 fourth-grade students and 3,100 eighth-grade students in Wisconsin public schools, NAEP is largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Nationally, about 143,400 students were tested in grade four reading and 137,200 in grade 8. The national sample was approximately 144,000 for fourth-grade mathematics and 140,200 for eighth grade. This was the first year NAEP fully transitioned to digitally based assessments. The NAEP reading and mathematics scales range from zero to 500. 

Read more (opens pdf of complete DPI news release).

Teachers’ mental health declining due to job stress, political discourse, survey finds

The growing stresses of teaching, coupled with the coarseness of the nation’s political debate, is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of teachers, according to a survey released Monday by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots organization focused on social justice.

Well over half of the educators surveyed – 58% – said their mental health was “not good” for seven or more of the previous 30 days. That is up from 34% just two years ago.

The summary of the survey – titled “2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey” – says safe, welcoming, healthy schools flourish when teachers and school staff are empowered by support and respect on the job.

“Educator working conditions have a direct effect on the learning environment of our students. Teaching is a difficult job, and working conditions are a strong predictor of teacher turnover — more so than other factors like teaching in a high-poverty school,” its says.

“Studies have shown that teachers in high-poverty schools with good, supportive working conditions are likely to stay. The people who know teachers best — those who are part of their school and local communities — respect them the most. There’s a large and growing body of research that shows that community engagement and collaborative practices in schools and districts improve student outcomes. We can ensure safe, welcoming, supportive learning environments for kids when communities, parents, educators and administrators work together to build supportive working environments for teachers and school staff.

“Fostering safe, welcoming environments in schools is even more critical in our current political climate. A study released by UCLA in October 2017 shows that since January’s presidential inauguration, high school teachers across the United States are reporting more stress, anxiety and bullying among their students than before.”

Randi Weingarten, AFT president, is quoted in USA Today as saying that over the past few years, teachers have swapped one kind of stress — an intense national focus on standardized skills tests — for another, the nastiness of our political debate.

“This notion that being coarse and tough and enabling hate is OK is highly, highly, highly disruptive and problematic in schools and goes completely against what parents and teachers know is absolutely important for kids, which is a safe and welcoming environment,” Weingarten said.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • The people who know teachers the best — parents, co-workers and students — showed much more respect for teachers than elected officials and media members, many of whom rarely set foot in a classroom.
  • While educators felt most respected by their colleagues, they also indicated that their direct supervisors showed them much more respect than their school boards, the media, elected officials and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (86 percent of respondents did not feel respected by DeVos).
  • While the majority of educators felt they had moderate to high control over basic decisions within their classroom, their level of influence and control dropped significantly on policy decisions that directly impact their classroom, such as setting discipline policy, setting performance standards and deciding how resources are spent. This lack of voice over important instructional decisions is a tangible example of the limited respect policymakers have for educators.
  • Policies that support healthy interactions in schools are tremendously important. The survey found that educators experience workplace bullying at a much higher rate — more that three times as high — than other workers. While most educators reported that their schools have workplace harassment policies prohibiting bullying, a smaller proportion of respondents said that their schools or districts offered regular training on bullying.
  • These and other factors contribute to an unhealthy work environment. Teachers reported having poor mental health for 11 or more days per month at twice the rate of the general U.S. workforce. They also reported lower-than-recommended levels of health outcomes and sleep per night.
  • The stressful workload, the feeling of having to be “always on,” the lack of resources, and the burden of ever-changing expectations take a toll on educators, and the health problems educators face are compounded by deficient building conditions, equipment and staff shortages, and insufficient time to prepare and collaborate with colleagues.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that strong educator unions are vital.

Read the USA Today summary:

Survey: Teachers’ mental health declining amid job stress

A long list of anxieties – around school budget cuts, bullying, coarse political discourse and the shaky status of immigrant students – is taking a toll on teachers, a new survey shows, with more educators now saying their mental health is suffering than just two years earlier.

Read the entire survey report:

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Wisconsin improves participation and performance on AP 

From the Department of Public Instruction

Wisconsin improved both public school student participation and performance on Advanced Placement (AP) exams administered last May.

The state had a 5.7 percent increase in participation from the prior year with 42,783 public school students taking 72,637 AP exams, an increase of 2,326 student test-takers. Nationally, nearly 2.4 million students took almost 4.3 million AP exams. The exams are scored on a scale of one through five, with scores of three or higher generally receiving college credit, advanced standing, or both at many colleges and universities. Wisconsin students had 65.9 percent of their exams scored three or higher compared to 65.5 percent in 2016. Nationally, 56.0 percent of 2017 exams were scored three or above. Disparities in achievement among student groups by race and ethnicity are apparent both in Wisconsin and nationally.

“Congratulations to all those students who demonstrated their college readiness by taking advanced coursework and succeeding on Advanced Placement exams,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “The AP program is a great opportunity to get a jump start on requirements or electives for technical college and university studies. We need to continue efforts to extend opportunities for rigorous coursework to all students and support their success.”

The preliminary AP results accompanied the College Board’s national release of results for SAT college and career readiness exams. Wisconsin had 1,252 public school students in the class of 2017 who took the SAT at least once during their high school career. Results for these students were considerably higher than their peers nationally. Wisconsin’s ERW (evidence-based reading and writing) score was 652, compared to a national score of 527. The mathematics score for Wisconsin 2017 graduates was 657 compared to 517 nationally. The SAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.

Why have they taken the fun out of kindergarten?

Kindergarten was designed as an introduction to schooling, and one that should help children discover that learning can be fun. But many believe that kindergarten has become the new first grade, and that pressure on schools to demonstrate student progress, even at the kindergarten level, has led schools to take the playfulness out of kindergarten. This week, Wisconsin Public Radio examined this issue by interviewing Christopher Brown, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in early childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin, who says that heightened standards have pushed some teachers to forgo the emphasis on play and spend much more time on structured learning.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the research is showing that those opportunities for kids to have those times to play, those times to engage with others, are diminishing specifically to engage in academic instruction,” Brown said.

And this trend is not only exhausting for children, it has resulted in some teachers leaving the profession because they no longer feel like they can do what they love.

“They miss the opportunity to engage with kids in a more playful manner, to be able to follow kids’ interests, to be able to pursue a project that kids want to learn more about, rather than being told what to teach and when to teach it and how long to teach it,” Brown said.

Read more and listen to the podcast:

Professor: Playtime Dwindling In American Kindergarten Classrooms

Today’s kindergarten classroom is much different from even that of 20 years ago. Heightened standards have pushed some teachers to forgo the emphasis on play and spend much more time on structured learning, says Christopher Brown, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in early childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin.

Racine Education Association asks for audit of all standardized testing

REA President Angelina Cruz

The Racine Education Association is asking the school board to conduct an audit of testing in the district, including an inventory of all standardized tests, the purpose of the tests, time spent taking each test, and time spent on test preparation.

According to the Racine Journal Times, REA President Angelina Cruz said she would like to see the board direct the district to not only work with teachers on testing issues, but show that meaningful work is actually being done.

“Beyond the social and emotional damage high-stakes standardized tests have on children, there is also a definite fiscal impact — whether it be the costs of the tests themselves, time lost on teaching and learning, use of technology, etc. — that should be considered as well,” Cruz said.

The Journal Times also quotes REA member Theresa Jakala, a literacy teacher at Gilmore Middle School, as telling the school board: “Students take MAP in fall, winter, and spring, showing higher proficiency on their winter MAP because no other test is going on. By the time spring MAP and the Forward Exam come around students are tested out. The district needs to consider eliminating spring MAP assessments to give students a mental break for the Forward Exam.”

Read the Racine Journal Times article:

REA renews call for testing audit

RACINE – The Racine Education Association is renewing its request for a testing audit. Submitted in a letter to the Racine Unified School District Board of Education on Monday, the request is essentially identical to the one given to the board in November, and asks for an audit that should include, among other things, an inventory of all standardized tests, the purpose of the tests, time spent taking each test, and time spent on test preparation.

U.S. Education Department proposes new regulations for school accountability

After more than 100 meetings across the nation with students, parents, educators, state and local leaders, and other stakeholders, the U.S. Department of Education has released a set of proposed regulations to help states as they rethink their accountability and school improvement systems under the new Every Student Succeeds Act. Whereas No Child Left Behind prescribed top-down interventions for struggling schools, the new proposed regulations provide flexibility for schools and districts to implement locally designed solutions and offer a more holistic approach to measuring a quality education than NCLB’s narrow definition of school success.

“Today marks the beginning of the opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposed ESSA regulations released by the Department of Education,” said WEAC President-Elect Ron Martin. ” I am excited about this opportunity for educators, parents and community members to weigh in on these regulations.  The whole process is much more transparent than when ESEA was implemented.  I hope educators take advantage of this opportunity and to share how they feel about these regulations.”

For a more comprehensive description of the Department of Education’s proposed regulations, see a chart about how they compare to NCLB, read a summary of the regulations or the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. For more information, visit www.ed.gov/essa. There will be a 60 day public comment period starting May 31 through August 1, 2016. The Department welcomes comment from all interested parties on the proposed regulations.

According to the Department:

Submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. We will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that we do not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID at the top of your comments.

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site under “Are you new to the site?”
  • Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, or Hand Delivery: If you mail or deliver your comments about these proposed regulations, address them to Meredith Miller, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., Room 3C106, Washington, DC 20202-2800.

Teachers say evaluation systems are having negative impact on education

U.S. teachers believe that teacher evaluation systems are having a profoundly negative effect on them and on education in general.

“Headlines report teacher shortages in nearly every state,” says the Executive Summary of a report titled; Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation. The report was published this week by the Network for Public Education.

“One factor reported in almost every story is the discouragement teachers feel from a reform movement that is increasing pressure to raise student test scores, while reducing support,” it states. “This pressure dramatically increased with the inclusion of student test scores in teacher evaluations, with some states using them to account for as much as 50% of evaluation scores. When combined with frameworks, rubrics, and high-stake consequences, the nature of teacher evaluation has dramatically changed, and narratives from educators across the United States document that it has changed for the worse.”

Among the top conclusions of the survey of educators:

  • Teachers and principals believe that evaluations based on student test scores, especially Value Added Measures (VAM), are neither valid nor reliable measures of their work.
  • The emphasis on improving test scores has overwhelmed every aspect of teachers’ work, forcing them to spend precious collaborative time poring over student data rather than having conversations about students and instruction.
  • Over half of the respondents (52.08%) reported witnessing evidence of bias against veteran educators.
  • Teacher professional development tied to the evaluation process is having a stiflng effect on teachers, by undermining their sense of autonomy, and limiting their capacity for real professional growth.

Below is an infographic summarizing the survey results, as well as six recommendations:

teachers-talk-back-npe-teacher-evaluation-report

Teachers feeling overloaded and stressed, according to Baraboo survey

TimeToLearnTimeToTeach_250pxImplementation of new educational requirements from the federal, state and local level, combined with the loss of collective bargaining rights, has teachers feeling overloaded and under growing stress, according to a survey of Baraboo teachers.

“There’s initiative fatigue,” Baraboo High School teacher and Baraboo Education Association President Kari Nelson told the Baraboo News Republic. “That is the sense we are getting from our members. It is initiative overload.”

Examples of initiatives cited by teachers as contributing to the feeling of being overloaded are the Educator Effectiveness teacher evaluation system, the Charlotte Danielson Framework for teaching, the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program and the Bring Your Own Device initiative which requires teachers to work with students on learning to use Chromebooks and new software.

“These initiatives demand a lot of time on the teacher’s part,” Nelson said. “A lot of the staff worry it is taking time away from the student-driven things teachers want to be doing. They want to give students more timely feedback and create highly engaging lessons and that takes time.”

WEAC Region 5 Executive Director Bill Froelich said the 2011 state law called Act 10, which limited public employees’ abilities to collectively bargain on anything other than base wage, has negatively impacted communication between teachers and administrators. However, there is nothing to prevent the administration and school board from engaging teachers and education support professionals in conversations and working toward joint solutions to problems such as teacher overload. The union continues to represent members in efforts to influence those decisions and make sure that educators have the time and resources to meet the needs of all students.

“We’re just saying we want to have more of a voice,” Froelich said.

Read the Baraboo News article:

‘Initiative overload’ stresses Baraboo teachers: Union survey points to disconnect with administration

Retired teacher Victoria Wiegand noticed big changes in workload and communication between administration and teachers during her last few years with the Baraboo School District. “I just think there were more initiatives,” Wiegand said. “It seemed like every year I taught, there were changes, new things that had happened.”

Teacher Workload Video:

This video focuses on the impact of growing teacher workload in Milwaukee Public Schools and the role Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association members are playing in working to ensure that educators have the time they need to meet the needs of all their students. But the concepts of teacher overload and the important role of the union in advocating for students and educators certainly apply to school districts statewide.

Find more resources at weac.org/workload

President Obama signs ESSA: Educators welcome new education law

From the National Education Association

President Obama shakes hands with NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia after signing the ESSA.

President Obama shakes hands with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García after signing the ESSA.

At a White House ceremony, President Barack Obama Thursday signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García joined the president. Mary Jo Bremner, a teacher at Browning High School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, and Sabrina Peacock, a third grade math teacher in Guilford County, North Carolina, also joined President Obama and President Eskelsen García at the White House signing ceremony.

“This new law is a well-deserved victory for our nation because the Every Student Succeeds Act will create greater opportunity for every student regardless of ZIP Code,” Eskelsen García said. “Educators welcome the end of No Child Left Behind and the beginning of a new era in public education in schools.”

“After 15 years of not having a say in public education, I feel very humbled and privileged to witness the signing of this new education law,” said Mary Jo Bremner, a teacher at Browning High School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. “My hope is we’ll now get back to where teachers can actually teach and all students can receive the type of education that ignites their curiosity and desire to learn.”

Throughout the reauthorization process, NEA’s focus has been threefold: elevate the voices of educators in the policymaking process, decouple standardized testing from high stake decisions, and create an “opportunity dashboard” to help close opportunity gaps in needy schools. Based on these measures, ESSA has the potential to be a game-changer.

“I am so excited to have been in the room to witness this signing ceremony,” said the North Carolina third grade teacher, Sabrina Peacock. “This was a collective effort involving educators, parents and entire communities—all coming together for our kids. With this legislation, what we are doing for one we are doing for all students. It’s great to see that our voice does make a difference.”

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill last week, and the Senate followed suit on Wednesday.

“We commend Congress for the bipartisan cooperation, leadership and hard work to get the job done for students and educators,” said Eskelsen García. “We thank President Obama for signing this important bill into law. Now our work begins in earnest as we shift our attention toward implementation. We look forward to working closely with state and local policymakers, as well as other key stakeholders, to raise our voice to deliver on the promise of ESSA and to provide opportunity for all students.”

President Obama’s remarks:

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President Obama signs ESSA: Educators welcome new education law

From the National Education Association

President Obama shakes hands with NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia after signing the ESSA.

President Obama shakes hands with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García after signing the ESSA.

At a White House ceremony, President Barack Obama Thursday signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García joined the president. Mary Jo Bremner, a teacher at Browning High School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, and Sabrina Peacock, a third grade math teacher in Guilford County, North Carolina, also joined President Obama and President Eskelsen García at the White House signing ceremony.

“This new law is a well-deserved victory for our nation because the Every Student Succeeds Act will create greater opportunity for every student regardless of ZIP Code,” Eskelsen García said. “Educators welcome the end of No Child Left Behind and the beginning of a new era in public education in schools.”

“After 15 years of not having a say in public education, I feel very humbled and privileged to witness the signing of this new education law,” said Mary Jo Bremner, a teacher at Browning High School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. “My hope is we’ll now get back to where teachers can actually teach and all students can receive the type of education that ignites their curiosity and desire to learn.”

Throughout the reauthorization process, NEA’s focus has been threefold: elevate the voices of educators in the policymaking process, decouple standardized testing from high stake decisions, and create an “opportunity dashboard” to help close opportunity gaps in needy schools. Based on these measures, ESSA has the potential to be a game-changer.

“I am so excited to have been in the room to witness this signing ceremony,” said the North Carolina third grade teacher, Sabrina Peacock. “This was a collective effort involving educators, parents and entire communities—all coming together for our kids. With this legislation, what we are doing for one we are doing for all students. It’s great to see that our voice does make a difference.”

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill last week, and the Senate followed suit on Wednesday.

“We commend Congress for the bipartisan cooperation, leadership and hard work to get the job done for students and educators,” said Eskelsen García. “We thank President Obama for signing this important bill into law. Now our work begins in earnest as we shift our attention toward implementation. We look forward to working closely with state and local policymakers, as well as other key stakeholders, to raise our voice to deliver on the promise of ESSA and to provide opportunity for all students.”

President Obama’s remarks:

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