Curriculum & Instruction

???Teacher effectiveness??? has made its way to the top of the education policy agenda, supplanting the focus on ???highly qualified??? teachers from No Child Left Behind and treading into the dangerous (but necessary) territory of measuring effectiveness, in part, with student test scores. President Obama and Secretary Duncan's decision to use the language of teacher ???effectiveness??? in the application for the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants (with student growth a ???significant factor??? in measuring teacher effectiveness ) was no small shift. We'll find out soon how serious Obama and Duncan are about ensuring ???great teachers and leaders??? ??? the RttT category worth almost a third of the application points -- as first round finalists will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda Gates have their sights set on the concept of teacher effectiveness as well, investing $290 million in four cities that are developing ???groundbreaking plans to improve teacher effectiveness.??? And just to be sure we all know what effectiveness means, they're pumping another $45 million into the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an initiative that will gather data on 3,700 teachers and try to create a more precise definition of effective teaching. (The MET project will use a variety of data including student surveys, teacher surveys, and videotaped teacher observations ??? sounds a lot like the teacher training program at Hunter College that was formed...

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OhioFlypaper

It's no surprise that Ohio's economy is in crisis, but you might be amazed at the price tag for some of Gov. Strickland's new education mandates. Terry points out the implications of decreasing class size in grades K-3 alone (to 15:1), which will cost $784 million per year by 2014. If you're wondering how, where, and when Ohio plans to come up with that money while facing an upcoming $8 billion deficit, join the club.

Meanwhile, Kathryn (the Fordham Foundation's director of charter school sponsorship) discusses Fordham's new contract with its charter schools. We're proud of Fordham's strict sponsorship (authorizing) contract, which allows schools maximum operational freedoms but requires that schools be held to high standards of operational and academic excellence. Be sure to check this piece out to learn what types of provisions are necessary for a high-quality contract between schools and their authorizers.

Also on the lineup is Emmy's response to the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU), which recently asked why the district would want to utilize charter schools as part of its transformation plan. Emmy says, ???For starters, how about better-educated students???? and points out that six of the top ten schools in Cleveland are charters. As CTU moves to unionize charters, find out what's at stake.

And don't miss several great reviews and Editor's Extras, including Teach for America alum Jamie's review of TFA'S new book, Teaching as Leadership, which outlines six principles embodied by TFA's most highly effective teachers,...

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The Education Gadfly

Watch our debate on school turnarounds vs. closures, and don't miss insightful and provocative comments from the panelists, including this one from Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools:

My friend Michelle Rhee, who I'm sure you all know here in DC, I've heard her say that she's heard from Warren Buffet, I think, that the quickest way to fix public schools is to get rid of private schools. Because then it would not be acceptable for half the kids not to graduate. It wouldn't be acceptable.

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You can find whatever your heart desires on the internet, and that's in part thanks to something called open source. It's a bit of an amorphous term, but that hasn't stopped this Utah virtual charter school from diving in to this potentially revolutionizing movement. Open source is just as its name implies--open. In terms of general internet material, that means that the source code (i.e., the program code behind the information) is available alongside the content, to be used and modified as the consumer desires. At an open source virtual charter, that means being able to personalize learning materials to a new level. (Read more about Open Source here.)

So what does this mean for Open High School? No commercial textbooks, which means that lesson materials aren't copyrighted and can be used and modified to a greater degree of specificity for each student. It also means that a staff of four teachers can give personalized attention to 125 ninth graders (tenth grade will open next year). That's a student-teacher ratio of 31.25:1. And that's all in addition to the more traditional benefits of virtual schools, like flexible learning time (the teachers often respond to midnight homework questions on their Blackberries) and basically no overhead (teachers and students work from home). The school is still in its infancy, so we have no metrics by which to evaluate it academically, but using the open copyright laws of the internet to get access to more content, make it more specified,...

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The Education Gadfly

Quotable:

"I think it would be a tragedy to talk about Martin Luther King Jr., while not being able to talk about the fact that he had a strong Christian faith. I'm hoping that's not the direction we're headed."

- Jonathan Saenz, Lobbyist, Free Market Foundation

"Texas Braces for Fight over Social Studies Lessons," Washington Post

Notable:

$3.95:

Price for a lesson plan on apartheid in South Africa on teacherspayteachers.com.

"Intellectual Property at Issue," Centre Daily Times

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What are the implications of "tracking," or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement? Many schools have moved away from this practice and reduced the number of subject-area courses offered in a given grade. In this new Thomas B. Fordham Institute report, Brookings scholar Tom Loveless examines tracking and detracking in Massachusetts middle schools, with particular focus on changes that have occurred over time and their implications for high-achieving students. Among the report's key findings detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. The report also finds that detracking is more popular in schools serving disadvantaged populations. Read the full report to find out more.

The Education Gadfly

Our latest report, "Tracking and Detracking: High Achievers in Massachusetts Middle Schools ," analyzes the implications of tracking, or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement.??It takes a look at Massachusetts middle schools - both those that have retained tracking and those that have moved away from it (detracked). Among the report's key findings: detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. Read the full report here .

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This week The New Teacher Project (TNTP) unveiled its Cincinnati-focused report on human capital reform. The report's recommendations for Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) are similar (predictably so) to client reports for other districts, like Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's because problems related to teacher quality are ubiquitous in American urban education.

Read the Cincinnati findings as well as the defensive reaction of the CFT, and you'll swear you could be reading a narrative of any city's human capital challenges: late hiring timelines prevent districts from snagging the best teacher candidates; evaluating teachers once every five years is meaningless; single step salary structures aren't the best way to recruit and reward excellence. It's chocked full of a lot of common sense. But common sense doesn't always translate into political action and policy reform.

Where TNTP's client cities part ways is in their willingness to truly make "teacher effectiveness" the helm of the human capital ship, and to measure this with student performance data. (There are other ways that districts/states can improve teacher quality but whether they place "effectiveness" at the core of their human capital philosophy says volumes.)??

In Ohio, the budget bill raised the bar for teacher tenure to seven years (the highest in the country among tenure-granting states) and made it easier to dismiss the worst teachers. These changes are positive, but ultimately don't overhaul the way that teachers are evaluated. Without meaningful...

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A week ago, I posted this in response to Secretary Duncan's speech about education schools at Teachers College. Over the course of several days, there were 11 comments posted that, when printed out, clocked in at 20 pages (single spaced, mind you). What was all the ruckus, you ask?

It was a vigorous give-and-take between two loyal Flypaper readers, Ze'ev Wurman and Karl Wheatley. Ze'ev once served as Senior Adviser in the U.S. Department of Education and helped shape California's math standards; Karl is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Cleveland State University. Their long-winded debate started when Karl took umbrage at my accusation that education schools often don't deliver what all teaching candidates need-namely, a thorough understanding of the content they'll be teaching. By mentioning E.D. Hirsch's work, I thought Duncan highlighted the need for content-prepared teachers and content-rich curriculum.

Karl insisted that education professors (after all, he is one) ARE listening on this front, but that Duncan's proposals have "shown a weak grasp of the issues and what works in education." Eschewing "teacher-dominated" instruction, Karl goes on to say that "educational approaches with integrated, interest-based, real-life curriculum, substantial student choice, local control, and authentic assessment simply work better in the long run." Further, he insists that, "pretending a teacher who has content knowledge is ???highly qualified' is like pretending a plumber who owns a wrench is a good plumber."

Then Ze'ev picks up the gauntlet and reminds Karl of the...

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Whew, I just finished reading Secretary Duncan's??meaty address to the faculty and students at Teachers College at Columbia University. It's a fairly brave speech by Education Secretary standards (despite the fact that he defines great teaching as "a daily fight for social justice").

Duncan calls out weak teacher prep programs and pushes them to better measure their success based on teacher outcomes:

....Simply put, incoming [college] freshmen don't know the content because too often they have been taught by teachers who don't know the content well. ......Now the fact is that states, districts, and the federal government are also culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs. Most states routinely approve teacher education programs, and licensing exams typically measure basic skills and subject matter knowledge with paper-and-pencil tests without any real-world assessment of classroom readiness. Local mentoring programs for new teachers are poorly funded and often poorly organized at the district level.

Less than a handful of states and districts carefully track the performance of teachers to their teacher preparation programs to identify which programs are producing well-prepared teachers-and which programs are not turning out effective teachers. We should be studying and copying the practices of effective teacher preparation programs-and encouraging the lowest-performers to shape up or shut down.

...... Right now, Louisiana is the only state in the nation that tracks the effectiveness of its teacher preparation programs. Every state in the nation should be doing the same-and, as I said,

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