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For all the talk about the importance of recruiting the most talented teachers to our schools, there’s surprisingly little data about whether the tools districts use to vet candidates can actually predict anything about outcomes later down the road. This study by Dan Goldhaber and colleagues explores the predictive validity of hiring rubrics used in Spokane Public Schools. Teacher candidates in Spokane go through three steps before being hired: First they are pre-screened based on a rubric that assesses their experience and skills. The applicants who pass are then evaluated by additional screeners and principals using a more detailed evaluation rubric that assesses would-be teachers on ten criteria, including certification, training, classroom management, instructional skills, interpersonal skills, etc. Those results are then used to select candidates for in-person interviews. Analysts compared results from hired teachers to those not hired but employed elsewhere in the state. They merged a variety of teacher demographic and outcome data with the hiring data and found that the screening tools predict teacher value added in student achievement, as well as teacher attrition. Specifically, a one-standard-deviation increase in the score on the more comprehensive tool is associated with approximately a 0.07 standard deviation increase in math achievement, up to a 0.05 standard deviation bump in reading, and a decrease in attrition by roughly 2.5 percentage points. Of the subcomponents on the rubric, a few areas have the strongest relationship to teacher effectiveness: They include classroom management for both reading and math—and, for math only, it’s instructional...

On November 11th, the Fordham Institute’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. addressed a private meeting of reform-minded Catholic education leaders and philanthropists. What follows is adapted from his remarks on that occasion.

Two big changes in American education policy over the past several decades have been good for the country and for kids in general, but not particularly good for Catholic schools, especially the urban variety.

First, families now have myriad choices, many different kinds of schools and ways of getting educated, so we no longer take for granted that our child will go to your neighborhood or parish school. Second, we now judge schools by their results, not by their inputs, intentions, or reputations, and we’re increasingly hard-nosed about those results, looking—probably too much—at test scores and graduation rates and such.

Both of these changes have tended to leave Catholic schools behind. With some worthy exceptions, their leaders haven’t tried very hard to take advantage of them. They haven’t been nimble or enterprising in making use of the opportunities presented by new forms of publicly supported choice. Nor have they—or private schools generally—done well in accommodating the shift to judging schools by quantifiable and comparable outcomes.

Integral to both big shifts has been the creation of uniform, statewide, grade-by-grade academic standards. Accompanying those standards are statewide assessments, followed by complicated reporting and accountability schemes. In some places, Catholic schools must participate in these, usually as...

ON TRACK FOR SEGREGATION?
A recent press release from the U.S. Department of Education declared that tracking students by ability perpetuates a system of segregated schools and adds to the widening achievement gap. Because white students are more likely to enroll in gifted talented and classes from an early age, black and Latino students fall behind and are separated for the remainder of their schooling. In related news, Fordham’s fearless President Michael J. Petrilli passed withering judgment on the department’s approach to achievement gaps just a few days ago.

UNCOMMON POSITION 
As outlined in the Wall Street Journal, education might be a decisive issue if Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and perpetually embittered little brother, chooses to run for president. Bush’s outspoken support of Common Core (he is, after all, the chairman of an education think tank that has been unabashedly pro-standards) puts him at an uncomfortable distance from his natural base: As of October, 58 percent of GOP parents oppose Common Core.

KIDS TODAY
You’ve heard about the millenial kids, right? The trophy kids living in their parents’ basement? The “Me Me Me Generation” (real original, Time magazine)? Yeah, those guys. Using data from the Census, Department of Labor, and the Pew Research Center, NPR has put together a nice generational profile of the latest batch of young people to be dismissed as ungrateful little twerps. In brief: They're...

  1. The school choice sign-up campouts in Cincinnati are over for another year. It got very cold. This is a twisted system in more ways than one that has for some reason become a “rite of passage”. Check it out for yourself. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Editors in Cleveland opine today against HB343. Specifically, against the provision to remove minimum salary requirement language for teachers from state law. But the headline and the major objections to the provision indicate a much larger problem the editors have. See if you can spot where their cart and their horse have ended up. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. We’ve talked a bit about churches and schools interacting in the past, with some negative consequences reported for districts trying to sell buildings to churches or for districts holding school events in churches. That latter instance was exemplified in the Canton area during last school year’s graduation season. However, it seems that going the other way – churches renting out district space for services and events – is not only hunky dory in Canton, it’s downright lucrative. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. The Hubbard school district has a record retention problem. As in, an outside contractor is retaining their records and refusing to return them. It’s a twisty tale of digitizing gone awry, hard drive destruction (or did they?), and restraining orders. A giant and expensive mess that will likely be dragged out in court for a while yet. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  5. To end on a
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John Chubb

[Editor's note: This is the fourth post in our latest blog series by John Chubb, "Building a Better Leader: Lessons from New Principal Leadership Development Programs." See here, here, and here for prior posts.]

Our fourth lesson takes its title from a hit song by George Harrison, which doubles as an apt summary of the operational philosophy of all of the exemplar leadership programs explored earlier in this series. Conventional principal preparation programs take time, too—the time to earn sufficient credits for a master’s degree. But alternative programs are all about practice, practice, and more practice. Practice cannot be rushed. Practice takes time. Practice is in addition to whatever course requirements may be necessary for licensure as a school administrator.

Each of the examined programs in this series is based on a residency model of training. Much like medical training, they emphasize supervised practice for honing leadership skills. The New York City Aspiring Principals Program (APP) places candidates in residencies for a full academic year in a single school, with a one-month stay in another city school. Chicago’s Urban Education Leadership (UELP) also lasts a full year, with candidates playing different roles in receiving schools depending on their level of leadership experience. Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellows spend two years preparing to open their schools, with much of...

SURVEY SAYS
It’s been nearly six months since the Vergara decision declared California’s state tenure and seniority laws unconstitutional. A recent Education Next survey asked how teachers rate their colleagues and, perhaps indirectly, how they feel about the consequential decision. Teachers gave high marks for 69 percent of their colleagues and gave low or failing marks to 12 percent. And as it turns out, only 41 percent of teachers favor tenure and also believe it should not be tied to student performance.

ADMISSION ISN'T ENOUGH
The National Student Clearinghouse reports that the proportion of students graduating from college has declined since 2008, when the economic recession hit its low point. Of students who enrolled in either two-year or four-year degree paths, only 55 percent graduated within six years. Clearinghouse directors suggest universities focus on helping already-enrolled students reach the finish line instead of attracting prospective applicants.

HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW
After months of stagnation in the Senate, the Child Care Development Block Grant was passed Monday evening, updating safety standards for child care...

  • Cheers to Katie Nethers of Cincinnati. When life circumstances required her to leave high school before finishing in 2013, Katie strove to earn her GED. She ended up having to travel to West Virginia to do so because Ohio law required a superintendent sign off on GEDs for people under the age of 19, and her district’s supe wouldn’t sign. But rather than stopping there, she campaigned and testified to change that sign-off requirement (and the minimum age for a GED as well). The changes were signed into law and just went into effect this fall.
     
  • Jeers to kicking the can down the road. The failure of a property tax levy in the Ledgemont school district earlier this month seemed a strong indication that district residents were interested in merging with nearby Cardinal schools—an outcome already favored by both districts’ superintendents and made easier by legislation passed in Columbus earlier this year. However, neither district’s board took the action required of them to set the plan in motion. By voting down a “territory transfer,” elected board members are leaving it up to outsiders—the county ESC and/or the state of Ohio—to actually force the transfer that most folks already want.
     
  • Cheers to the Beavercreek school board, who voted last week to accept as a gift from FedEx (which also earns a cheer) a decommissioned Boeing 727. The intention is to convert the plane to a STEM classroom for students anywhere to visit and study in. “That
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis has been having a sort of radio revival this week, returning to a number of radio stations to talk Common Core for the second or even third time. Sadly, the questions haven’t really changed, and even discussion of the status of the latest legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio isn’t prevalent. Odd. First up today, WSPD-AM in Toledo, where Chad answered questions from host Scott Sands and callers for nearly half an hour. Next up, WFIN-AM in Findlay, where it was just Chad and host Chris Oaks. Chad’s part starts at about the 2:45 mark.
     
  2. Chad’s testimony on HB228 from last week, urging the legislature to slow down on their efforts to place an arbitrary time limit on the amount of state testing, is referenced in this piece from Marion published yesterday. A bit old news, but we’ll take it. (Marion Online)
     
  3. So, what’s the up-to-date haps on HB228 (the kids still say “what’s the haps?”, right?)? It was recommended by the House Education Committee yesterday by a vote of 12-3 to send the bill to the full House. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Editors in Cleveland opine on NCTQ’s latest report, evaluating a number of teacher training programs across the country. Ohio universities whose programs were graded low are bothered by several points. The PD’s editors are not unsympathetic, but they fall upon the side of rigor and anything that legitimately detracts from rigor should be investigated and improved.
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MORE ON COMMON CORE READING
NPR has wrapped up its four-part series on Common Core reading with a great look at a classroom of Washington, D.C. fifth graders picking their way through American history readers. The complexity of their standards-aligned texts—which require the students to answer questions using evidence from the reading—should challenge them to read more closely and develop an appetite for greater difficulty. Fordham’s incomparable tandem of Robert Pondiscio and Kevin Mahnken tackled this aspect of the literacy wars back in September.

BUT WHO WILL INVENT SELF-WRITING PERSONAL ESSAY SOFTWARE?
As high school seniors are beginning to make college plans, tech companies are stepping up to provide more tools to do so. Among them, LinkedIn’s new University Finder helps students identify schools with high grad-employment rates with certain companies, and Parchment.com purports to show students their chances of getting into their top schools. Check out the other online tools and pass them along to college-seeking seniors.

FORDHAM BOOK CLUB
Newsweek’s Abigail Jones talks to John Demos about the strange story of the Heathen School, chronicled in the historian’s 2014 book of the same name. Opened in Connecticut 1817, the Foreign Mission School (as it was officially known) sought to educate and convert American Indians as well as immigrants from China, Hawaii, and India. Local prejudice doomed the project from the start, and Andrew Jackson’s obsession with Indian removal...

John Chubb

[Editor's note: This is the third post in our latest blog series by John Chubb, "Building a Better Leader: Lessons from New Principal Leadership Development Programs." See here and here for prior posts.]

Every leadership development program is guided by leadership standards, statements of what successful leaders should know and be able to do. This is true of the exemplars examined in this blog series and of open-enrollment programs run by countless colleges and universities. Thirty-two states comprise the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) which developed a competency framework that is used in programs licensed in member states. It includes standards relative to school culture, management, community relations, and vision of learning.

In fact, most competency frameworks—whether guiding mundane licensure programs like many carrying the ISLLC imprimatur or other, more heralded alternatives—include similar expectations. School leaders should provide vision, set worthy goals, build effective teams, cultivate positive cultures, drive quality instruction, and get results. One would be hard pressed to distinguish successful from unsuccessful leadership development programs by looking only at competency frameworks.

KIPP’s framework has but four elements, consistent with the expert advice that less is more: student focus (what KIPP also calls “prove the possible”), drive results, build relationships, and manage people. Tellingly, the framework began with just the first two elements—in essence an almost maniacal focus on student achievement, which had been the founders’ secret to success. As KIPP sought to develop more school leaders, it recognized the crucial importance of working with the adults in...

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