If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

by Matt HurtOn January 29, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an op-ed written by the patrons of HB319 and SB616 (The Virginia Literacy Acts). In this article, the legislators wrote that we must implement strategies adopted by other states if we wish to improve the reading abilities of our students.  While there is always room for improvement, one should always consult the data to determine to what degree our process should change in order to realize that improvement. If you’re at the bottom of the heap, you probably should change your approach dramatically. If you’re one of the top performers, maybe subtle tweaks are the more reasonable approach.Consult the Data!When it comes to early elementary reading, the most relevant dataset we have to compare our performance in Virginia to those of other states is the Reading 4 NAEP test. When we consider our results relative to the other 49 states, it appears that Virginia as a whole has performed admirably. Given that Virginia has achieved near the top very consistently, it is not apparent that we should make radical changes to our statewide reading program.In the op-ed linked above, the legislators referenced the fact that a number of states had implemented the “Science of Reading” as proposed in the Virginia Reading Act. However, a comparison of Virginia’s reading outcomes to outcomes of those states does not suggest that it would be reasonable to follow their lead.In 2019, the relative poverty rates of states accounted for 47% of the variability in relative student outcomes in the NAEP Reading 4 assessment results.  When controlling for this variable, Virginia still outperforms that general trend.While there are some declines in the outcomes for Virginia students in 2019, it is important to note that there was no change in the state’s approach to reading in the years just prior to that. Several other factors could have had an impact, such as:

  • Since approximately 2015, the Board of Education has pushed performance-based assessments and has been downplaying high- stakes assessments, primarily in History and Writing. However, the message received by many educators was that the SOL test is not a good measure of student outcomes in general.
  • The Board of Education implemented a growth measure in the 2017 Standards of Accreditation which has been used for accreditation purposes. Many educators have stopped focusing on ensuring students are proficient since a student who demonstrates growth counts the same as a proficient student for school accreditation purposes.

The Real ProblemVirginia’s reading problem is not an overarching issue that affects every student, but rather localized pockets of underachievement. Overall, the state performs quite well. Some schools and divisions punch above their weight when considering the high rates of at-risk students they enroll and the very high achievement rates they produce. Other schools and divisions perform much less well.  While there are achievement gaps among different subgroups of students in almost every school and division in the Commonwealth, those gaps are much more pronounced in some localities than others.One has to consider the possibility that the solutions proposed by the Virginia Literacy Act will disrupt schools and divisions that are already demonstrating high student achievement rates and low subgroup performance gaps (see General Assembly To Enlist in the Reading Wars?). Instead of fixing what ain’t broke in those schools and divisions, why not target those with the actual achievement problems?The most effective means by which to improve the outcomes for an organization is to improve the outcomes for the lowest performing operational units of the organization. I have personally witnessed this process in many divisions and schools that have made significant improvements in student outcomes. They didn’t ask folks who were already getting it done to change what they were doing. They gave those who were performing their reigns and let them run. These successful schools and divisions placed their entire focus on helping those who were struggling.In conclusion, instead of broadly sprinkling state dollars all over the state, why not focus those dollars where the need is the greatest and leave everyone else be? It is likely that the same amount of dollars widely distributed will have less impact on student outcomes than if they were concentrated where the need is the greatest.Matt Hurt is director of the Comprehensive Instructional Program based in Wise.

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79 responses to “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”

  1. VaNavVet Avatar

    If you would be agreeable, how could one reach you by email to carry on the discussion as BR is not a very good vehicle.

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Another well-argued, common sense article. Your arguments and data have moved me away from some of my preconceived notions.

    One should be skeptical of legislators, who are generalists, trying to embed specific techniques into state law, whether it be in education or some other field. Often, these specific techniques are really just the latest fad; other times, later techniques or approaches will be shown to be superior and one is stuck with the inferior approach in state law.

    Finally, to your last point. As you and others on this blog have demonstrated, it is often not a question of more money, but just better teaching. It should the role of DOE to (i) identify the weak divisions and (ii) identify the strong divisions, (iii) figure out what the strong ones are doing right, and (iv) use what the strong ones are doing right to help the weaker ones.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Excellent article Matt! And you nailed it with the data IMHO.

    Virginia is not the best and it does need to improve but I feel you very accurately described the issue with respect to “pockets”.

    The critics and their “ideas” seem to ignore this data –

    Virginia needs Charters and “Success Academies” like we need a
    hole in our head.

    1. Just remember two things. First, Matt’s data goes through 2019 — it’s pre-COVID data. Reading performance in the COVID era has been a disaster.

      Second, Virginia arguably is engaged in a race to the bottom with other states. The real test will come next time Program for International Student Assessments PISA) conducts its international exams. The last tests were in 2018. Tests are scheduled again for 2022.

      If the U.S. falls even further behind international standards, and if Virginia loses ground nationally, that will speak volumes. I don’t know that that will happen. But there are plenty warning signs that it could.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        One MIGHT presume that Va will get back to normal after COVID – why presume otherwise? Also, when you say “race to the bottom”, that’s Grade A Hyperbole IMHO. You have to remember on PISA that Virginia scores get pulled DOWN by the states below it. Virginia by itself would rank HIGHER on PISA.
        The bottom line here is that Virginia ranks HIGH relative to most other states and to say or imply otherwise is at best missing context and at worst – not honest. Virginia has issues especially with it’s racial/low income GAP so it does need to improve but the baby out with the bath-water approach is totally uwarranted.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Just a rule of thumb. Look at the people ahead of you to see what they’re doing, not at those behind you. You are already better than those behind you. If you’re near the lead, and the guy in last place suddenly jumps to the middle, whatever he did isn’t going to help you. Flash in the pan.

      Cheat off the smart kid’s paper.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        ergo – don’t look at Mississippi’s tremendous progress and think Virginia should adopt it.

        It’s the relentless criticism in BR from the usual suspects – over and over – which seeks to present a wrong view of Virginia – relative to other states and then to use that false narrative as justification to radically change our current – successful approach that places us in the top 10 in the country.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          That’s exactly it. That which takes 50th to 20th ain’t gonna take 5th to 1st. 1st is 1st because they are doing it right to start with.

  4. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    Amen to that!

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      At first blush, it sounds not good but have you ever tried to create a user account with the IRS? Not fun!

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        They rely on Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          sig other just did the process.. indeed facial recognition.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          News Flash – ” IRS announces transition away from use of third-party verification involving facial recognition

          WASHINGTON − The IRS announced it will transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts. The transition will occur over the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season.

          During the transition, the IRS will quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition. ”

          Boy that was quick….

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Sometimes, Republicans are useful.

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Could you explain the difference between, and the pros and cons, of performance-based assessments and high-stakes assessments? That might too complex a discussion for this format, however.

    As for growth measures, I am not sure of how they should be used in accreditation, but it seems to me theat they are a fair way to evaluate a teacher. For example, if a teacher gets a student in the fourth grade who is reading at a second-grade level, if she can get that student reading at a little higher than third grade level, then she should not be faulted for not getting that child to fourth grade proficiency. It is somewhat comparabl3 to my grandsons’ swimming program. If they win their race in a meet, that is great, but improving their times is just as important.

    1. Matt Hurt Avatar

      I’ll do my best. A performance based assessments, performance tasks, or authentic assessments as they now call it, is what we all used to do in the good old days prior to the advent of multiple choice testing. These have really been pushed in History and Writing, where they are more applicable. For instance, the student may be asked to write a paper on the relationship between two historical accounts of a given event in history. Basically, this is the way to go with history, as it is more important that students understand the why (or different theories of the why) than simply be able to regurgitate trivial facts (Google does that for us now).

      The problem with performance based assessments is that it is nearly impossible to score them objectively. Approximately 15 years ago, VDOE launched a program called the Virginia Grade Level Assessment, which was a portfolio test designed to assess students with disabilities who could not “show what they know” on the much more objective SOL test. Those of us who are old enough to remember those days can recall all of the heads that rolled as our students with disabilities magically became significantly more proficient! VDOE is doing it right now with the performance based assessments these days- they are not used for any high stakes accountability measures.

      For accountability purposes, especially with reading and math, we really need an objective measure, and folks need to be held accountable to ensure that the results are a valid assessment of where our kids actually are. There is no doubt our current SOL reading and math tests could be improved, but they do a pretty good job of determining if our kids have mastered the expectations of grade level skills.

      The growth measure (for grades 4-8 reading and math and algebra I), as far as accountability is concerned, came about with the 2017 amendments to the Standards of Accreditation. Basically, they compared a kid’s score (who failed the SOL test during the current year) to their score last year. VDOE provided growth tables, and if a kid progressed at least one level to the next according to the table, the kid demonstrated growth. That kid still failed the SOL test, but their growth counted as a pass in the accreditation calculations. This process was not ideal, but it did give schools credit when kids made progress. The best thing about the progress tables, was that if a kid scored a 0 on their third grade test, and the school was able to help them make adequate progress each year, the kid would score at least proficient by 8th grade.

      The new growth measure “scheme” is not as beneficial for our students, but is significantly more beneficial for our schools. Our kids performed worse this fall on their growth measure than they did in the spring, despite unprecedented participation, hours, staffing, blood, sweat, and tears that we expended this summer- more than ever before. Therefore, we either made our kids stupider in our summer programs, or the data collected this fall was not reliable. Everyone knew the fall data would be used as a baseline to calculate growth, and everyone understands that worse pre-test scores and better post-test scores equal more growth. This, we’re going to demonstrate PHENOMINAL growth this spring, but there’s no indication that this will ever lead to proficiency in the future.

      The presentation below includes the current growth tables (slides 5 and 6) that will be used to determine growth from fall to spring. If a student fails the SOL test and moves from left to right on the table at least one column, the kid demonstrates “growth”.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: ” There is no doubt our current SOL reading and math tests could be improved, but they do a pretty good job of determining if our kids have mastered the expectations of grade level skills.”

        Matt, do you know where the objective standards themselves – the criteria if you will that defines what a kid should be able to do in reading and math by a certain grade – come from?

        Carol was references the NAEP criteria standards for Basic, Proficient and Advanced where they lay out very detailed descriptions of the skills and performance for each of those but WHERE did THEY come from and WHERE did the SOL criteria for each tested grade come from? Who/what decides what a kid in the 3rd grade should be able to do (or not)?

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          I’m not sure of how all of that came about. I know the Standards of Learning first came about in 1995, but I’m unsure of how they determined what the criteria was. I assume they probably gathered a group of folks together to come to consensus on what that should be. It was all probably an amalgam of curricula from different text series of the time.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar


          2. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            My mpression is the state SOL were mandated by No Child Left Behind.

            Every state teaches pretty much the same stuff in science but when varies considerably due to what is called spiraling. There are about 36 distinct concept systems in SciEd and how they move around among them differs. Examples are electricity, atoms, chemicals, cells, ecology, astronomy, etc.

            An interesting feature is that the order in each concept system is usually that of historical discovery over 400 years. Very little 20th century science is taught.

          3. Matt Hurt Avatar

            NCLB did mandate certain tests. We began SOL testing in about 1997- high school end of course, and certain grades at the elementary and middle school. NCLB mandated reading and math state assessments in each grade from 3-8 and at least once at the high school level in each content area. To meet this requirement, we added reading and math in 4th, 6th, and 7th grade that had not tested before. This legislation also mandated science testing at least once at each level- elementary, middle, and high. We already had that covered. NCLB does not require any history or writing SOL tests.

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    A school that is struggling with reading scores should have access to dollars and resources directly. Bypass the school board and send the help directly to the principal of the struggling school. That leader should know how to best utilize the resources.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      what if the principal is the issue? How do we know?

  7. Wait a minute: less than 38% proficient doesn’t sound all that great, even if the majority of other states have the same or worse percentages. Proficient does not mean at grade level and basic means partial fundamental skills. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading/states/achievement/?grade=4

    NAEWP says,”It should be noted that the achievement level does not represent grade-level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments). NAEP achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted and used with caution.”

    “NAEP Basic=This level denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for performance at the NAEP Proficient level.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I don’t disagree but what would you use instead to measure – and compare?

      What NAEP is measuring is fairly well defined, right?


      ” Fourth-grade students performing at the NAEP Proficient level should be able to integrate and interpret texts and apply their understanding of the text to draw conclusions and make evaluations.

      When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, fourth-grade students performing at the NAEP Proficient level should be able to identify implicit main ideas and recognize relevant information that supports them. Students should be able to judge elements of author’s craft and provide some support for their judgment. They should be able to analyze character roles, actions, feelings, and motives.

      When reading informational texts such as articles and excerpts from books, fourth-grade students performing at the NAEP Proficient level should be able to locate relevant information, integrate information across texts, and evaluate the way an author presents information. Student performance at this level should demonstrate an understanding of the purpose for text features and an ability to integrate information from headings, text boxes, graphics and their captions. They should be able to explain a simple cause-and-effect relationship and draw conclusions.”


      1. But that doesn’t say how well they can read! What’s the measure for Basic? Since scores don’t represent at grade levels, what would at grade scores be? Third grade? Second Grade? Think about it– 69% of the 4th grade children taking the test are not at 4th grade level.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          On that link provided are the definitions for all the proficiencies. When the page says 4th Grade NAEP – what does that mean if not 4th grade? What grade do they give the NAEP tests in? But if you wanted some other way to ascertain Va SOLs what other measures beside NAEP are available? To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the SOL criteria laid out in the detail that the NAEP criteria is , no?

        2. Matt Hurt Avatar

          By who’s definition? There’s not a standard metric for what is considered grade level proficiency among the states- every state sets their own expectations. The NAEP tests pretty much select an arbitrary expectation, and then assess everyone to that standard. I wouldn’t look at the NAEP results as a measure of our kids’ abilities, but rather as a relative measure of how our students are progressing compared to kids in other states.

          1. It’s a meaningless exercise. Our concern should not be with other states’ results. If other states want to say our kids are no worse off than anyone else’s, let them. The question needs to be how are our Virginia kids doing compared to others in the Commonwealth. As you pointed out, there are areas with exceptional performance and others with much less success in teaching children to read. The VDOE needs to be the agency learning what does work and directing those struggling districts how to follow suit.
            You’re right that just sprinkling money around doesn’t help overall. Money alone is useless without a plan for what needs to be done.

          2. Matt Hurt Avatar

            We need to conduct these analysis at all levels. Otherwise, how do we know that we’re doing as well as we can? How do we know if our expectations are appropriate?

            Unfortunately, education is a people business, and we can’t boil everything down to a simple algorithm- do this, get that. Our most successful divisions understand this, and have implemented this.

            Without comparing ourselves to others, we’re flying blind.

            VDOE is an agency that reacts to the direction of the Board of Education, the Governor, and the General Assembly. These entities apparently have many other priorities than making sure more kids are proficient, or have misaligned their priorities.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            and when we compare the US with other developed countries , we come up short – 20th and lower depending on the subject area.

            PISA is another arbitrary standard in some respects if i understand correctly, it’s what 15yr olds should “know” AND be able to USE in solving problems:


            Carol sounds like to me that she is not in favor of “outside” setting and measuring of academic standards and that Virginia should decide on it’s own what they should be and how they should measure – and I stand to be corrected if I did not accurately capture her sentiments.

            It does beg the question, at least to me, as to who decides, for instance, what a 3rd grader should know and be proficient in to what levels? Each state do their own based on their own research and related?

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: meaningless exercise – what should the standards be and where do they come from? Who decides what a kid should know (or not) in the 4th grade – in Virginia, in other states, in other countries?

            Should Virginia decide independently what 4th graders should know (or not) without regard to other states, countries, standards?

            re; ” The VDOE needs to be the agency learning what does work and directing those struggling districts how to follow suit.”

            VDOE does use the SOLs as standards for measuring, and for curriculum and mapping but are you also advocating that VDOE tell teachers across the state HOW to teach perhaps along the lines of what Matt’s District 7 is doing with CIP?

  8. dave schutz Avatar
    dave schutz

    “They gave those who were performing their reigns and let them run.” ….The reign in Speign falls meignly on the pleign…

  9. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    This is an aside but since you folks are interested in reading skills it might be of interest. The Common Core Standards (were they implemented in Virginia?) require English classes to teach the reading of science content. Given that English teachers are experts in literature, I have to wonder how well they will teach the comprehension of science that they themselves may not understand? I have seen nothing on this.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      In order to understand science, you have to be able to read , no? I don’t think they expect language teachers to “teach science” but I also wouldn’t use a generalization to say that no language teachers understand science either.

      But I can guarantee one thing and that is if you don’t know how to read AND understand, you will NEVER “know’ science.

      Teachers have a saying – You learn to read (first) so that you can then read to learn (many fields including science).

      1. David Wojick Avatar
        David Wojick

        You seem to have missed my point. But in any case I guess the answer to my question is no, you do not know anything about this specific situation.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          re: ” The Common Core Standards (were they implemented in Virginia?) require English classes to teach the reading of science content”

          can you provide a link that supports this? And explain the point you were making that I did not see? thanks!

          1. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            No link, sorry, not worth my time. But science education is a field of mine, so you can take my word for it. See http://www.stemed.info/
            We specialize in the language aspects of K-12 science education.

            My point is that it might be hard for English teachers to teach the comprehension of scientific material when they know nothing about the science therein. They will not be able to answer the student’s questions or resolve their confusions. So I wonder how this problem has been resolved.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            I think I got that point but I’m skeptical to be honest. I don’t think most language teachers teach science per se or try to – they just try to teach reading and comprehension to the level that will be needed to read and understand scientific content.

            They don’t have to be “scientists”, for instance, to be able to read and understand the top level description of a scientific study… – to basically be able to understand the focus of the study, how it was conducted, findings, conclusions, etc.


            Do you teach k-12 science?

          3. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            Under CC the English teachers give the students a page or two of science stuff. The students are then tested on comprehension and remedial action taken as needed. I am very skeptical of this requirement.

            I do not teach K-12 science. My team mapped the cognitive structure of it for the Energy Dept’s Office of Science. My field is human understanding (although I also do research on cognition in other animals:

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            Thanks for filling me in. Do you support the NAEP standards ?

          5. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            I thought NEAP was tests, not standards. I am very skeptical of these National and global tests because what they claim to measure to 3 significant figures cannot be so measured.

    2. Matt Hurt Avatar

      Virginia is one of the few states that never adopted the Common Core Standards.

      1. David Wojick Avatar
        David Wojick

        Thanks Matt. My understanding is that the Feds payed states to do it so maybe VA is a cut above. When I mapped the cognitive structure of K-12 science education we used the VA SOL a lot because they were among the best in the country.

        On the science education side there is a fascinating issue. Two thirds of students are still under the traditional SOL while the other third are now under the Next Generation Science Standards, which are very different. So there are two different systems of science education going on. Might be fun to compare the results.

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          USED did dangle a lot of money out there in the Race to the Top grants. Most other states took them up on their offer, and I understand paid a very high price for the paltry sum they received.

          The fact that we are concurrently operating two different sets of standards is criminal. Folks in Richmond tell all teachers to teach the new standards, yet some are held accountable for tests on the old standards. If we are going to implement new standards, it should be across the board, for everyone, with the same accountability. We’re doing the same with history and English. All this does is cause chaos and aggravation.

          Luckily, everyone is on the same page with math.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            is there a link on VDOE about the “next generation science” in Virginia?


          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            yep. thanks. This is not mandatory but voluntary? Sounds more like a different way of teaching than different standards. Wrong?

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            I am being told that this is guidance on how to clarify to students how to better approach/understand the SOL test questions. Is that consistent with your perspective?

          4. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Well, this is just the current iteration of the science standards of learning. The General Assembly requires the Board of Education to review/revise the standards every 7 years. Each time they do that, the standards reflect the next shiny idea that comes along in education. That being said, I think the new standards in all content areas did a much better job of focusing on application rather than inane trivialities. For example, the 2009 math SOLs required students to be able to identify different mathematical properties. The new 2016 standards require students to use those properties- a big step in the right direction. It’s like going from playing Trivial Pursuit to doing something practical.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            I asked in another reply,…narrow it down – Do you have thoughts on why the US/Va rank in the 20’s on PISA ? Do other developed nations kids actually have better educations in math?

          6. Matt Hurt Avatar

            I think when you read that book I mentioned (Smartest Kids in the World), it lays out the reasons. Basically, we don’t invest in education as much as those other countries. An by invest, it’s not just a monetary investment. In those countries, it seems that education is a much bigger priority than here.

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            I just reserved the book at my local library. This is swirling – Common core standards, SOLs, NAEP standards, and whatever standards the top PISA countries use – and our own SOL standards.

            It does not sound like – even with Region VII CIP that – that region would be competitive with the top ranked PISA countries, no? Or is that an unfair / wrong view?

          8. Matt Hurt Avatar

            From what little I know of PISA, that it measures higher level skills, I’d say you might be right, but I can’t say for sure. Virginia standards are the bare minimum expectations.

          9. LarrytheG Avatar

            so any thoughts on what Virginia would need to do to try to meet those results?

          10. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Well here are some of the conditions in those countries that outperform us, at least according to that book. These conditions are not consistently present in all of the countries- some have this and others have that.

            For example, in Finland, getting into the teaching field is a highly competitive process. Teachers are very well paid and extremely highly regarded in the culture. We pay teachers significantly less, and show them we don’t believe in their abilities by forcing “programs” on them. We may provide more disincentives to get into the teaching field these days than incentives, and it seems to be getting worse.

            In South Korea, students sleep in school. Their real work begins after school when they go to hard core tutoring “dojos” (for lack of a better term). Kids spend all night working diligently in these places where their parents pay big bucks to send them, and that’s why they need to sleep at school. Parents there seem to place so much emphasis on achievement (possible too much) because post secondary opportunities are inextricably tied to a student’s K-12 performance.

            Please keep in mind that it has been several years since I read the book, so my details may be a little fuzzy, but these were some of my takeaways.

          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            So each country may have a different approach but the thing they seem to have in common is
            a higher achievement standard at least higher that most states in the US.

            And what I get from your view is that it’s not something that VDOE can “fix” with requirements
            for more rigor in teaching and measuring.

          12. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            The PISA star countries have cultures the US will never have. We are right there with the other big western countries and the 3 digit rankings are ridiculous.

          13. LarrytheG Avatar

            I thought the 3 digits were cut scores

            so you don’t think the US should or could aspire to the levels of other countries in PISA?


          14. Matt Hurt Avatar

            It appears to me to be more of a cultural thing. For example, in the book the author relates a story told by a US exchange student to Finland. The student related how in her US classes, there were stoners who sat at the back of the class, and never participated. She then reported that stoners were in the back of the classroom in Finland, but they participated like everyone else.

            From what I got from the book, there were very high expectations in place in all of these places, whether held by the teacher, the parents, or the community as a whole. It was like they truly placed a very high value on education. It was almost like they had read those studies how that while not a 1:1 correlation, doing better in school usually yields more success later in life. And they were all dead serious about it.

          15. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            I think the NGSS are mandatory once a state adopts them, because they replace the prior SOL. Compared to traditional SOL they are much more abstract, so fewer facts are taught. Also they have a 3D structure that is far more complex than they realize. As a result I think testing has been a problem, but I stopped following them when they became final. The NGSS org is still certifying lesson plans.

            For example the NGSS moved climate change from high school to middle school and greatly increased the scope.

          16. LarrytheG Avatar

            sounds like according to Matt – they are not 100% in Virginia yet. A teacher I know had a different take than you. They felt that the original guidance was too vague and not focused and that the new guidance narrows down what the SOLs really are looking for. I don’t know NGSS and their relationship to VDOE and it’s SOLs. Maybe some inside baseball here beyond my current perspective? Any relationship between NGSS and say, NAEP or PISA?

          17. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            Last I knew 16 states had adopted NGSS as their science SOL, about one third of US students. Sounds like VA is one but it takes time to implement. I can imagine VA working to make them workable.

            I doubt PISA cares since they are global NAEP may have a real problem since there are now two different SOL systems in place. NAEP’s tests have to match what is taught. For example NGSS adds a lot of engineering. If NAEP favors one system it penalizes the states with the other one.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          re: ” Two thirds of students are still under the traditional SOL while the other third are now under the Next Generation Science Standards, which are very different.”

          This is in Virginia? Is the “next generation” a curriculum standard ?

          How can a district establish that as what will be taught but then test SOLs without issues?

          1. Matt Hurt Avatar

            They’re just the most recent set of Standards of Learning. Every time they update the standards, they’re touted as critical changes inscribed on stone tablets that were handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. There are some good changes, but changing the standards cause a lot of work at all levels realigning instruction and materials. Therefore they have to play them up to keep everyone from fussing about all of the work required to adjust to them.

            That being said, I’m not convinced that the new standards will usher in a new way of teaching and higher achievement, but they do have a little more practicality baked in.

            Teachers only have a limited amount of time from the first day of school to the SOL test. They’re not as many as you would think once you figure in when SOL tests are administered, snow schedules, early dismissals, school programs, and etc. Teachers barely have the time to teach one set of standards, much less two. Therefore, most folks tend to focus on the set to which the accountability is tied.

            If the BOE really felt that all their new standards were what they are touted to be, they would have updated all SOL tests so that all children would have that benefit.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            no disagreement.

          3. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            No the two thirds and one third are nationally. At least 16 states have adopted NGSS as their SOL, with about a third of all public school students.

        3. LarrytheG Avatar

          I saw Common Core as an attempt to increase our standards to be competitive with PISA/ Europe/Asia.

          Not true?

          1. Matt Hurt Avatar

            I have not done an in-depth analysis of the Common Core Standards, but from some of the information I have read, and conversations with those who implemented it, it seems to me that they were cooked up in the highest reaches of the university ivory tower somewhere by someone who hasn’t darkened the doorstep of a classroom in decades. It seems that they were created with pie in the sky ideology and didn’t take into account a number of practical considerations, such as not everyone subscribed to that ideology, among others.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            Have you read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Core ?

            agree or disagree with the history of it?

          3. Matt Hurt Avatar

            I am not well enough versed to parse the details, but that’s my general understanding of it.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            going out on a limb here and disregard if you have no view but do you have an opinion as to WHY
            the US (and Virginia) rank so low on PISA for reading, math, science? Do you believe that other developed countries kids are better educated in reading, math and science?

          5. Matt Hurt Avatar

            If you haven’t read this book, it sheds some light onto that subject. It’s very interested to see how this plays out in other countries that are at the top of the heap. The common theme is extremely high expectations, and they arrive there through different means.


          6. David Wojick Avatar
            David Wojick

            That is certainly true of NGSS. The original design was from the National Academy of Sciences by a team of change-the-world academics.

  10. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    It would be interesting to figure out what comprehension features are keeping VA in the 5-9 slot? If we knew that they might be able to do something about it. I have a taxonomy of 126 kinds of confusion that might be applicable.

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