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Daily Dish: A Dose of Education News Including Closing Achievement Gaps, Absenteeism, Testing, and #ESSA

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December 08, 2015 04:00 pm

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Today’s Dish explores education news articles on topics including closing achievement gaps, dealing with chronic absenteeism, whether or not U.S. students are over-tested, and the Senate vote on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The Washington Post takes a closer look at North Carolina’s efforts to mix students from low-income families with their wealthier peers to help close achievement gaps. In a number of school districts, children are assigned to a school partially based on their family’s income. Research shows that the system did benefit student performance, with the achievement gap between white and African American students narrowing within the county. The article includes the perspective of Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, who explained the new research shows “if we’re looking at academic achievement, socioeconomic integration is the more powerful lever, as opposed to racial integration.”

NPR Ed explores the issue of chronic absence, and how digging deeper into data can identify students who are missing more than 10 percent of the school year. The article explains that the current measure of daily attendance can often mask the attendance levels of individual students, so efforts are underway by the U.S. Education Department to reveal school-level data on how many students missed 15 or more days of school.

Reporter Elissa Nadworny unpacks what is happening in Baltimore public elementary schools as an example of how this problem occurs. The attendance rate is 93 percent, “but, look more closely and you find that nearly 20 percent of students in grades one through five have missed more than 20 days of school,” Nadworny writes, “That’s more than 6,000 children.” In the article, principal Mark Gaither shares the story of how his school, Wolfe Street Academy, turned around the issue of chronic absenteeism with a “kid-by-kid campaign.” Learn more: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/12/07/456208805/how-a-schools-attendance-number-hides-big-problems.

In her Hechinger Report column, Education by the Numbers, Jill Barshay shares the perspective of international education expert Andreas Schleicher, who claims: “The U.S. is not a country of heavy testing.” In comparison to other countries, like the Netherlands, Belgium, and some Asian countries, the U.S. administers far fewer standardized tests, according to Schleicher. Using recent surveys gathered alongside the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams, which are taken by students around the world, Schleicher explains why he believes that “there doesn’t seem to be a strong culture of assessment in the U.S.” Read the full piece: http://hechingerreport.org/24830-2/.

In other news, the Senate is considering the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the bill to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB). With a cloture vote of 84-12, the Senate is moving forward with the consideration, and the chamber will likely vote on final passage tomorrow. Stay tuned for more, and read today’s ESSA article from the Alliance’s Straight A’s newsletter to get up to speed on what has happened so far: https://all4ed.org/articles/the-final-days-of-nclb-legislation-to-replace-no-child-left-behind-act-set-to-be-signed-into-law-as-soon-as-this-week/.

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