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Policy


Revolutionizing learning nationwide.

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Policy


Revolutionizing learning nationwide.

Education policy is not easy or simple. Decisions are not "yes" or "no." Our nation's education systems are not as simple as good vs. bad, or perfect vs. broken. Policy makers must address challenges facing cities, the nation, and the world – not simply classrooms or schools.

Consider, for instance, some key players in the K-12 education system: the U.S. Department of Education, state boards and departments of education, state-level administrators and staff, district superintendents, school principals, local educators, parents, students, the press, and the public at large. Of course, colleges and universities, businesses, textbook developers, testing companies, and additional stakeholders play a role, too.

Even making everyday policy decisions is difficult. While careful reflection is vital, time is short and decisions must be made quickly. From my policy experience at the state and national levels, these demands confirm my conviction that translating the science of learning is essential. To revolutionize public education, we must be armed with clear, specific, and applicable strategies for improving learning.

Here are a few highlights about my policy experience:

  • Served as Illinois' Director of K-12 Assessment, responsible for 7 statewide standardized tests, the drafting of Illinois' No Child Left Behind Waiver, the selection and adoption a student growth model, and the management of a $43 million budget
  • Experience at the U.S. Department of Education and the College Board, examining educational technology, educational research, and international assessment policies

 

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Measuring Learning


Learning what works.

Measuring Learning


Learning what works.

My time as Illinois’ Director of K-12 Assessment (leading the development and administration of all standardized tests statewide) was exactly how it sounds: exhausting, fascinating, and bewildering. (I have lots of stories to share about the inner workings of standardized tests. Contact me and let’s start a conversation.)

Improving and measuring the academic performance of 2 million students is not an easy task. Even so, the big picture was inspiring: How do we know if a teaching strategy works? How do we know if student learning is increasing over time? And more specific to assessments: How can we measure learning? How do we collect, protect, and report student data? How do we improve standardized tests to make them more reliable, valid, and applicable?

When it comes to measuring learning, specifically through the use of standardized tests, my opinion is: it’s complicated. I don't believe that standardized tests are evil. I also don't believe that standardized tests are perfect. Far from it. There is great value in examining whether our education systems are effective – but figuring out how to do this well will always be problematic. The world is not simple, education is not simple, students are not simple, and measuring learning will never be simple. But learning what works (and endeavoring to measure it) is critical.

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Growth Models


Cultivating long-term learning. 

Growth Models


Cultivating long-term learning. 

In an era when decisions have been based solely on student assessment scores, the progress and growth of a student received little attention. More recently, public interest in student growth models has increased because they provide valuable and meaningful information to educators, parents, students, and stakeholders about the ongoing progress and improvement of our education systems. 

As part of my role as Illinois’ Director of K-12 Assessment, I spearheaded the state's creation and adoption of a Value Table growth model for student progress and achievement. The report my colleagues and I wrote compared multiple growth models and ultimately recommended a Value Table model, which was adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education with support from numerous stakeholder groups. Our recommendation for a Value Table growth model was approved more than 4 years ago and the development of growth models has progressed considerably over the years. Then, as is the case now, we noted that the use of growth models at the classroom level (e.g., as part of teacher and principal evaluations) is to be used cautiously, due to constraints such as missing student data and assorted subject areas. I look forward to the evolution and use of growth models in the coming years.

The cultivation of student learning over days, weeks, and years is a commendable undertaking. Demonstrating student progress over time requires more than statistics. The collection of accurate student information is tricky: students move across cities or states, many students are absent during assessments, and computerized data systems face technical problems. Even so, learning what works in our education systems and ensuring it works in the long-term drives my passion for transforming learning nationwide.