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Fuhrman Leads Panel on Education Standards at Forum to Advise Obama and Congress

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TC President Susan Fuhrman moderated one of six panels at a recent public forum conducted by the National Academy of Education (NAEd) at which researchers and policymakers presented recommendations for education reform to advisors for President-elect Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress. The recommendations were distilled from a collection of “white papers” commissioned by NAEd that will be released later this year.
Fuhrman became president-elect of NAEd in October, and will assume the organization’s presidency in fall 2009, succeeding the current president, Lorrie Shepard of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was on the steering committee for the white paper initiative, which was chaired by Lauren Resnick of the University of Pittsburgh. The panel Fuhrman moderated at the forum dealt with the future of accountability and the alignment of education standards, assessments and curriculum. The panelists were Jane Hannaway of the Urban Institute; Robert Hauser of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kerri Briggs of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; Andrew Rotherham, co-founder and co-director of Education Sector and author the award-winning blog Eduwonk.com; and Ross Weiner of The Education Trust.
 
Other panels at the NAEd event addressed teacher quality, time for learning, math and science education, reading and literacy education, and equity and excellence in American education.
 
A briefing sheet summarizing the NAEd white paper on standards and accountability asserts that the U.S. education standards movement, launched 20 years ago, has ended up over-emphasizing accountability, with the result that “assuring that students master a broader set of skills and important content has become secondary.” The briefing cites concerns that “content standards adopted by many states are too voluminous, superficial and repetitive, and look  like laundry lists more than clear progressions for learning and teaching”; also that “accountability tests over-represent what is relatively easy to measure (such as basic skills) and under-represent highly valued reasoning skills such as problem solving.” The briefing calls for the “redesign of content standards – and the curriculum, professional development and assessments that must go with them – to present clear progressions for teaching and learning,” as well as the development of assessments that “measure and guide the learning that is intended.”
 
Among the highlights of findings and recommendations from the other white papers:
  • The time has come to “end the patchwork of curriculum, tests and teacher development that characterizes science and mathematics education in the United States”; to prepare math and science teachers “who can manage the give and take of multiple voices in the classroom,” who are well versed in content knowledge and can “analyze students’ confusions and guide their learning of complex new ideas.” Further, the federal government should foster development of “research-based learning progressions across grade levels, and teaching materials that include effective uses of technology.”
  • The United States faces “a growing literacy crisis” exacerbated by the nation’s “persistent failure to help the rapidly growing number of English language learners gain the capacity to read well enough to learn complex subject matter.”  The federal government and the states should “invest in early education programs and make oral language development a primary focus of preschool.”
  • The teaching profession must find ways to effectively support the many new entrants to the field, regardless of whether they come through traditional schools of education or via alternative certification routes. Schools should also institute “more rigorous early evaluation policies” for teachers, because recent studies show that “the performance of a teacher during the first two years on the job predicts later career effectiveness.”

To read the full text of the white paper briefings, please see the link to the right.

The panel Fuhrman is moderating on Tuesday will include presentations by Jane Hannaway of The Urban Institute; Robert Hauser, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Andrew Rotherham, co-founder and co-director of Education Sector, an independent national education policy think tank, and author of the award-winning blog Eduwonk.com.

Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer, who provided policy advice to the initiative in his role as Chairman of Strong American Schools, states: “The white papers will help the next President focus on the most pressing issues facing our public schools, and they will form a necessary bridge between policy-makers and the academic community.  President-elect Obama should act on meaningful education reform in his first hundred days in office.” 

“This forum is the culmination of a process in which we’ve brought together many of the top education scholars in the country,” said Lauren Resnick, the white paper initiative’s chair. Based on their findings, we know better than ever what works in education – and what doesn’t.  At this crucial time of a new administration, we are proposing policy changes that promise to bring the nation closer to the kinds of education results that we all want -- and that we want for all children.”

The final papers, subject to extensive peer review, will be released and available on the NAEd website early in 2009.

Founded in 1965, the NAEd consists of U.S. members and foreign associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarship or contributions to education. Since its establishment, the academy has undertaken numerous commissions and study panels, which typically include both NAEd members and other scholars with expertise in a particular area of inquiry. 
 
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