Teachers

Wonky but good

Mike and Kathleen Porter-Magee discuss New York State’s half-release of its half-good Common Core test, commend TFA’s diversity surge, and debate the debate about the AP U.S. History Framework. Amber shares a wonky study about teachers’ work hours.

Amber's Research Minute

"New Measures of Teachers' Work Hours and Implications for Wage Comparisons," by Kristine L. West, Education Finance and Policy, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer 2014).

Transcript

Mike Petrilli:             Hello. This is your host, Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,here at The Education Gadlfy Show and on line at atexcellence.net and now please join me in welcoming my co-host, the Hillary Clinton of education policy, Kathleen Porter MaGee. 

Kathleen PM:            The Hillary Clinton.

Mike Petrilli:             Well I was looking for somebody who's on the rise and has been changing jobs and playing a lot of different roles.

Kathleen PM:            I see.  I don't think at Fordham I'm taking the Hillary Clinton of education policy as a compliment. 

Mike Petrilli:             Well look,  gee, I think among conservatives she's kind of having a moment right now.  

Kathleen PM:            All right.

Mike Petrilli:             She's distancing herself from President Obama.  Look, I think there are several conservatives out there who like her on some issues so I wasn't going for that.  I was going as a way of saying, Kathleen's here, she is on her way to her new job being superintendent and chief active officer of the partnership for ...

Kathleen PM:            ... inner city education.

Mike Petrilli:             ... inner city education.  Yeah. Can we talk about that name for a second? Didn't Paul Ryan get in trouble for using that term? Are we allowed to still say inner city?

Kathleen PM:            I didn't realize it was illegal.  No, so the partnership's been around for like 2 decades so I don't think they were about to change their name thanks to any political whims but I don't know if ...

Mike Petrilli:             Yes, I think a little asterisk in there ...

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             ... that could say, just for clarification, we came up with this name back in the 90s when it was okay to still say inner city.  I'm confused, are we allowed ...

Kathleen PM:            Why is that not okay?

Mike Petrilli:             Do you remember this? 

Kathleen PM:            No.

Mike Petrilli:             Paul Ryan said that men in the inner city, their work ethic is not what it used to be or that their work participation is not what it used to be.  Anyways he got all this flak for people saying, "Oh that was race baiting," and ...

Kathleen PM:            Are we sure that the problem was that he used inner city or was that he said something offensive?

Mike Petrilli:             Yes. 

Kathleen PM:            Maybe.

Mike Petrilli:             People talked a lot about inner city, that was code word for ...

Kathleen PM:            I see.

Mike Petrilli:             Anyway, okay.  Here we are.  Many of us are feeling pretty sad this week of course about Robin Williams' memorable roles in many ... and many education related roles.  Of course Dead Poet's Society.

Kathleen PM:            Dead Poet's Society.

Mike Petrilli:             Right.  But he was also in Good Will Hunting and that had some education angles and other things but we will miss him dearly, but we must go on. The show will go on and we will talk education reform.  So Pamela in her last appearance on the Education Gadfly Show before moving to California ... Pamela, let's play Pardon the Gadfly.

Pamela Tatz:             New York State just released half of the test questions from the most recent round of the state's common core ELA and math tests.  What do you think?  Can the state do better? 

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, so I mean, let's just say first and foremost that New York State has become everybody's favorite whipping post when it comes to common core implementation, and ...

Mike Petrilli:             Its' my favorite one.

Kathleen PM:            Right, so there you go, exactly.  I think New York State deserves credit for working really hard to get things out there early and first, to get the curriculum resources out there, the teachers and to moving to a common core aligned assessment.  I think many states are going to have a real rude awakening next year when Park and Smarter Balanced come on line. I think they deserve credit for that for sure. 

Mike Petrilli:             Um hmm.

Kathleen PM:            Yes, but, there is certainly room for improvement.  I took a look at especially the ELA tests and it looks like some of the passages are pretty darn good actually.  The passage selection is getting better and better.  We're using authentic text which I think is great.  But some of the questions ...

Mike Petrilli:             And by authentic text, you mean actually things from literature.

Kathleen PM:            Things you would find in literature, exactly.

Mike Petrilli:             Right, not something some grad student wrote ...

Kathleen PM:            In order to confirm to ...

Mike Petrilli:             ... to meet a certain form.

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, the commissioned texts, which were the norm in most reading tests in the past.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Kathleen PM:            I think they've shown that they're going to use real literary and informational text ...

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Kathleen PM:            ... not self-created text.  As I read some of the questions, I just found myself feeling really disappointed.  It just seems like while we're trying to nudge in the right direction, too many of them seem like more of the same.  I agree that some of them were confusing.  I really didn't think they were pushing for the kind of evidence based literary analysis that we want our kids to be doing.  So, from a signaling perspective, I just don't think these questions are quite getting us where we want to be.

Mike Petrilli:             So I have been skeptical.  I mean you are hearing a lot of these horror stories from teachers and others about the test and my own view is I have yet to understand why New York decided to rush ahead with its own test right?  Here is Park and Smarter Balanced spending 3 or 4 years, hundreds of millions of dollars developing these tests.  We hope that's going to result in these great tests. We will be finding out soon.  It just seemed like, wow, New York, on an incredibly tight time line, incredibly tight budget, was going to do it by themselves.  It sounds like they've done, as you say, better.  They deserve credit for that, but I don't understand why they just didn't have the patience to say, let's just wait for Park. 

Kathleen PM:            You know, there's two sides to that though.  Waiting for Park, then you're asking your teachers to shift and teach to new standards but you're assessing old standards.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, I know.

Kathleen PM:            I mean, honestly there's no really good answer in this sort of middle ground implementation before the assessments come on line.

Mike Petrilli:             It is an awkward phase.  It's like there's no good answer to being a teenager.  I mean you just have to get through it.  

Kathleen PM:            Yes.

Mike Petrilli:             I will say in the states that have waited, if you look at California, look at Maryland, these other blue states that are similar politically to New York, they don't have a backlash to the common core.

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             They're not on fire.  Look, I think you're right, we'll find out a year from now and we’ll talk about how it's going in those other states and whether ...

Kathleen PM:            Did they just delay the pain or did they avoid it?

Mike Petrilli:             Exactly.

Kathleen PM:            That remains to be seen.

Mike Petrilli:             Well said.  Okay, topic number 2 Pamela.

Pamela Tatz:             TFA is more diverse than ever.  Half of the 5,300 new recruits identify as people of color marrying the demographics of our school age population as opposed to a mere 17% of the nation's teaching force as a whole.  This is great for TFA, but how can we increase the diversity of US teachers in general?

Mike Petrilli:             Right, or put this a different way Kathleen.  Why can't Ed schools do this too?

Kathleen PM:            I don't know how much of an effort they're put ... TFA has made this a real central part of their mission and I think you have to be that deliberate about it.  There's no way diversity is going to magically increase.  It has to be a goal and it has to be one of your top priorities, otherwise I don't think it's going to happen; and I just don't know, have Ed schools made it as much of a priority as TFA? [crosstalk 06:32]

Mike Petrilli:             Other people say, look, bottom line is Ed schools don't recruit right?

Kathleen PM:            Right.

Mike Petrilli:             I mean they are just very passive, as ... look, as are most programs in colleges.  They get who they get and so they continue to get mostly white women from the suburbs and small towns, that's what they're getting except for a handful of programs in big cities.  What's your take on this though Kathleen, some people would argue why are we even focusing on race, why does it matter, why not just focus on teacher effectiveness?  What's your take on this?  Is it important to have a diverse teaching staff?

Kathleen PM:            I think so.  Yeah, definitely.  I think that especially because some of our neediest students are students of color and they're students from disadvantaged neighborhoods and I think if you only have white middle class women does a disservice to those communities.  People really do respond to role models and also it's hard for us to know our own blind spots.  It's important to have, not just diversity of color, but diversity of thought.  I think one way to get to that diversity of thought and idea is to have other kinds of diversity as well.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, there's been some interesting studies.  Education Next has published a few that show that look, all else being equal, kids do better, African American kids do better, with African American teachers. 

Kathleen PM:            You can understand, I mean it makes sense.  We even say that in white middle class communities, we want to see more male kindergarten teachers because we think boys respond to male role models.  Why would it be any different for students of color.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, yeah. I will say, my 4-year-old Leandro passed his first belt test in karate this last weekend ...

Kathleen PM:            Nice.

Mike Petrilli:             ... which involved breaking a board.  I'm pretty sure that this was some kind of trick board that had some kind of seam in it ...

Kathleen PM:            That's pretty bad.

Mike Petrilli:             ... because they just stomped on it and it broke and believe me, something was going on there with those boards because this was not a very strong stomp.  Anyway, the teacher is this man and I just see the way that he responds to that guy versus how he's responded to some of his female teachers.  It is different. 

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             It’s ... all right so.

Kathleen PM:            Well even for actually girls.  When I see my oldest daughter, I would love for her to have role models, particularly in the early elementary age who are men as well, to see that ... to give a different impression of what sort of male gender roles are. 

Mike Petrilli:             Yes.

Kathleen PM:            I think it's important for everybody.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, okay.  Topic number three Pamela.

Pamela Tatz:             The RNC just piled on to the growing push back against the college boards AP US history framework and the college board has now promised to clarify the framework.  Will this response work?

Mike Petrilli:             So Kathleen, finishing up your tour of duty at the collage board.  I know you're ... I'm not asking you to speak on behalf of the college board, but wow, this quickly became a big controversy, got somewhat linked to the common core controversy, a lot of the same groups pushed back against this.  On this one though, we've looked at the AP history framework that came out in 2012, and I thought there were some legitimate concerns about it.  What's your take on all this?

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, so it's really interesting.  I was able to dive deep into the weeds and to work our head of AP and to work with David and to really understand because when this controversy started brewing, I hadn't been as involved in the development of this stuff so I didn't know as much about it, which was nice, I got to look at it with fresh eyes.  It's interesting, a couple things.  First of all the framework does not exist in a vacuum. 

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Kathleen PM:            The framework is one piece of many that AP history teachers use and it's actually far more comprehensive than what they had in the past.  In the past there was I think a 4-page document that was literally a bullet list of a couple of things that included very few people.  This new document is trying to give a much more holistic picture of US history.  In addition, it's not the only thing.  It is paired with the US history assessment which AP US history teachers have always had access to. They use it to drive their instruction, they use it to drive their assessment.  I'm glad that the college board made the decision to release the assessment.

Mike Petrilli:             Um hmm.

Kathleen PM:            I think it is ... for me, when I read the framework, I thought, okay this is solid but what else, and when I read the assessment, I said this is exactly the kind of thing that I would want to use to drive teaching and learning in a US history classroom.

Mike Petrilli:             What were the complaints, that it was what ... that there wasn't enough focus on the founders, that there wasn't focus on heroes in American education, in US history?

Kathleen PM:            Yeah, I think that many of the critics felt that it was portraying a negative image of the United States and of American history and it didn't put enough focus on great leaders, again the founders and great leaders in American history.

Mike Petrilli:             Now there were a couple criticisms that I thought were totally unfair.  For one, they wanted to tie this to David Coleman ...

Kathleen PM:            Right.

Mike Petrilli:             ... who of course was one of the architects of the common core, but this was done before he got to the college board, so okay, that one doesn't work so well.  The second one was, I remember the American Principles Project saying something about how it wasn't appropriate for this ... who does the college board think they are to select which topics in history kids should learn?  Okay, they've been doing this for 50 years.  There's a test, you've got to figure out what's going to be on the test.  Unless you want to get rid of the AP program, you're going to have to do that. 

Kathleen PM:            Right, I mean you have to get specific if you're going to have a core set of tests aligned to it.  What I'll say, so the AP US history has been in development long before David took over, but what David has brought to the college board is a promise of transparency and I think that's what you're seeing now with the release of the AP US history test which has never ... I mean that's more transparency that we've seen from the college board in the past; and the promise of real clarification in the future.  I think he's making good on the promise of transparency and I think critics will be happy with what they see.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, that's good.  I think it's fair and people raise fair points and there was plenty.  I will say this, I would bet a lot of money that you will get a much more traditional view of American history from your US AP history course than if you took US History 101 on any college campus in America.

Kathleen PM:            Absolutely, yeah.  There's actually a lot of ... so AP US history teachers, they actually create their own curriculum that is aligned to the framework and there are some samples up on the college board website and there are more that teachers are developing all the time.  This is real opportunity here for AP US history teachers on the right to develop a framework that they think really embodies the principles of American history and to put that out there as exemplars.

Mike Petrilli:             All right, that is all the time we've got for Pardon the Gadfly.  Now it's time for everyone's favorite, Amber's research myth.  Amber, welcome back to the show.  Amber is sad, sad days here with the Robin Williams news. Was there a performance of his that you particularly liked.

Amber Northern:      Thank you Mike.

Mike Petrilli:             Amber is sad, sad days here with the Robin Williams news. Was there a performance of his that you particularly liked.

Amber Northern:      It had to be Mrs. Doubtfire.  [crosstalk 13:02]

Mike Petrilli:             Oh, I didn't see you go for that.

Amber Northern:      Come on, really.  He was just magnificent in that, and the outfit.  It still makes you smile when you see him in that getup.   Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             It was a great movie. 

Amber Northern:      Oh, fantastic. 

Mike Petrilli:             All right.  Well Amber, what do you have for us this week?

Amber Northern:      We got a new paper out by Christine West.  She seeks to settle the question of exactly how many hours teachers work which seems like a simple question, but it's a little more complicated.  We often hear that teachers work late into the night grading papers, they stay late after school to help kids, they work weekends.  We recognize this as former teachers.  Then other people say, well yet, they have the summers off, so it all kind of balances out.  Anyway, the data hadn't been great to answer this question so far.  So, she uses a new data source, well new to answer this question.  It's called the American Time Use Survey, it collects data on how Americans spend their time via a time diary.  Individuals are periodically asked about all their activities over a 24-hour period beginning at 4 a.m. on the day prior to the survey, so the data don't rely on recall so they're more reliable.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Amber Northern:      All right, she goes and uses the diary data for full time teachers and non teachers from 2003 to 2010.  Bottom line, teachers work an average of 34.5 hours per week annually, translates to 38 hours a week during the school year ...

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Amber Northern:      ... 21 hours during the summer.

Mike Petrilli:             Hmm.

Amber Northern:      Non teachers work 40 hours most of the year and 38 in the summer.  The summer by the way, that average includes teachers who may be working in year round districts, districts in which the school year stretches into June and starts in August and includes teachers taking PD in the summer or teaching summer school.  Okay?

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Amber Northern:      Second, West finds that when hours are properly accounted for, high school teachers earn 7-14% less than their demographically similar workers at other occupations.  That's in part because high school teachers are more likely to work in the summer, since more secondary kids attend summer school.  Yet, elementary, middle and special education teachers earn slightly higher wages than their demographically similar workers. Finally the report finds that teachers are more likely than most any other occupation; nurses, computer scientists, financial analysts, doctors, sales reps, like a ton of them; to over report work hours when diary data are compared to other report sources.

                                    Anyway, bottom line is she ends up talking ... a quite nice discussion at the that says, you know, this is yet another reason why we don't need the single salary schedule ...

Mike Petrilli:             Um hmm.

Amber Northern:      ... especially when secondary teachers have different work schedules, different responsibilities. 

Mike Petrilli:             Well, that's fascinating because isn't the history of why we have these master's degree pay bumps was because that was a way to get more money, more higher salaries to secondary school teachers.

Amber Northern:      Um hmm.

Mike Petrilli:             It was mostly high school teachers who were getting master's degrees.  Now, those were also mostly men so it was also a gender thing where we're going to pay the male teachers more than those female elementary school teachers, but it does sound like ... so you could say, well there is a differential, then. There is some evidence that those high school teachers should be getting paid more.

Amber Northern:      Now, you've got these 5-year master's programs where a lot of those elementary teachers go straight through and get their master's so we're not seeing a big difference between the master's degree holders. 

Mike Petrilli:             Interesting.  Is this ... do these numbers seem about right to you guys?  I mean those really sound low.

Amber Northern:      Yeah, the summers yeah.  [crosstalk 16:27].

Mike Petrilli:             [crosstalk 16:27] take this image of teacher's working 50-60 hours a week.

Amber Northern:      I guess the summer is quite of interesting because that's what they were saying.  Teachers, it's impossible to report ... consider your yearly work average when you've got to figure out the summer, so that's why I thought the report was fascinating.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Kathleen PM:            Yeah.

Amber Northern:      It tries to actually put a number on it.  If you really do work in the summer, it's just hard to figure out how much of that time is spent.

Kathleen PM:            I think it's a challenge to average any of this right?  You've got how many, 3 something million teachers and this is the average, so that means you have some teachers who really are slamming it the way people say, that teachers can; and you have others who probably are working, well obviously, are working less than the average. 

Mike Petrilli:             Also, this note that teachers have the summers off. I would suspect that those teachers who are parents would disagree with you that the summers aren't "off". 

Amber Northern:      Right.

Mike Petrilli:             They are home with their own kids all summer long.

Amber Northern:      Right. 

Mike Petrilli:             They may end up wanting to go back to school in the fall just like everybody else.

Amber Northern:      Yeah.  Another thing that's sort of hard about this is a lot of teachers get paid over the full year ...

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah.

Amber Northern:      ... so they may be reporting weeks that I'm paid, not weeks that I work.  I don't know.  [inaudible 17:32] all these reasons why this is really hard to figure out.  I don't know, it's kind of a wonky little study but it's a neat measure and I think it was kind of cool.

Kathleen PM:            And it provides new information.  It's interesting.

Amber Northern:      Yes, yes.

Mike Petrilli:             Lovely.  All right Amber, thank you for bringing wonky but cool.  That is all the time we've got for today.  Until next week.

Kathleen PM:            I'm Kathleen Porter Magee.

Mike Petrilli: And I'm Mike Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, signing off.  

Education Next

With a 2010 New York Times Magazine cover story, “Building a Better Teacher,” twenty-something journalist Elizabeth Green leapt to national prominence—as did the heroes of her article, Deborah Ball, the dean of the University of Michigan ed school, and Doug Lemov, a founder of Uncommon Schools, a network of high performing charter schools.

Now, four years later, she’s back with a book-length treatment of the subject with the same name. The book examines what great teaching looks like and how many more people can learn its secrets. Along the way, Green tells fascinating stories of teachers and researchers on a quest to create a true science of education—and pushes back against the notion that great teachers are born, not made.

In this edition of the Education Next Book Club podcast, Mike Petrilli talks with Green about her book, what’s she’s learned about great teaching, and her hope that it can become common practice in America.

Listen to the podcast on the Education Next website.

Additional episodes of the Education Next Book Club can be found here.

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Source: Students Matter. Note: NCTQ recently updated their data to reflect Ohio's new seven-year probationary period.


It’s open season on teacher employment protection laws in U.S. state courts. The watershed moment, of course, was June’s Vergara v. California verdict holding California’s laws unconstitutional. Vergara began back in March of 2012, when nine public school students filed suit against the State of California, arguing that California’s laws violated its constitutional guarantee of an effective education. In the seven weeks since, two high-profile copycat cases have been filed in New York State. Have we reached a point of no return? And if so, is that a good thing—even for those who oppose tenure? Don’t be so sure.

It’s important to keep in mind that teacher tenure is a state-law issue. Every state writes its own legislation, so laws are usually different from state to state. Just because teacher tenure is poorly structured in California doesn’t mean tenure is bad everywhere. In fact, the current landscape provides a perfect opportunity to showcase this important lesson. Let’s start with California.

In Vergara (and its copycats), three types of laws were at issue: (1) tenure, which determines under what circumstances the state will grant a teacher employment protections; (2) dismissal, defining the process through which states fire tenured teachers; and (3) seniority, which mandates what

...
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Ohio’s new teacher-evaluation system requires evaluators to conduct two, formal thirty-minute classroom observations. Yet these legally prescribed observations seem ripe for compliance and rote box-checking; in fact, they may not be quite the impetus for school-wide improvement that policymakers had hoped for.

If this does end up happening in practice, all is not lost. Rather, as I discuss below, informal channels for teacher feedback might actually be more conducive to helping teachers (and their schools) improve than formal procedures.

Consider Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s recent work on New York City’s charter schools. The research duo takes great pains to uncover what school-based factors make a great school tick. In my estimation, one of their key findings is how strongly the frequency of informal teacher feedback correlates to school effectiveness.

Dobbie and Fryer measure school effectiveness in two ways. For the full sample of thirty-nine schools, they use a statistical model (a matched student-pair approach) to estimate a school’s impact on achievement. Second, for twenty-nine of the schools, lottery-admissions data were used to estimate school effectiveness. Lottery-based computations are typically considered preferable, because researchers can approximate a random experiment. The researchers then probe the schools’ “inner-workings” during the 2010-11 school year, to gauge which school-based factors differentiate higher- and lower-performing schools.

The study concludes that a “bundle” of practices and attitudes—generally those associated with a “No Excuses” charter-school model—are linked with more-effective schools. Overall, this might be expected, given the powerful research findings on KIPP charters and...

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Eva Myrick Chiang

Imagine reading this job advertisement:

WANTED: Credentialed professional with at least a master’s degree to run a school. Will work on average fourteen hours per day or more, six days per week, and be on call twenty-four hours a day most days of the year. Must handle pressure and stress well—oh, and the pay isn’t that great, either.

In many places across the United States, this is the type of workload we demand of our school leaders. Each and every one of our schools desperately needs a talented, competent leader, but what intelligent person would sign up for that job?

It’s time for us to have an extreme makeover in what we expect from our school principals. Traditionally, principals were seen as building managers and disciplinarians. They made sure that the lights were on and that everyone was following the rules. But the role has changed, and the needs of our students demand that we now have visionary instructional leaders running our schools.

This change of roles can be problematic for districts because, well, the lights still need to be turned on, payroll still has to be processed, and buildings still have maintenance issues. That is why we now have to shift our thinking about who is doing what in districts. We have to make the principal’s job more doable, more protected, and more supported so that the job appeals to our most talented professionals. We have to create the district conditions that support effective school leaders so that...

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According to this brief from Third Way, our current teacher pension system is a “rip-off”; furthermore, “no private plan would be allowed to behave this way.” Under federal guidelines set by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, private-sector employees are partially vested in their pensions in three years and fully vested in six years. By contrast, states have the authority to determine their own teacher vesting periods—which can last up to twenty years. Nineteen states “require their teachers to spend at least 10 years in the classroom before they can even vest at the minimum level of their retirement.” With 40 to 50 percent of teachers leaving the profession within five years, most teachers never reap their employers’ contributions, leaving states to eagerly inhale what’s left behind. Another big problem: teachers in twelve states (over 40 percent of the teaching force) work outside of the Social Security system, and no feasible guidelines exist for transferring one pension to another or a pension to Social Security coverage. To reboot the public pension system, the authors propose a mobile “cash-balance” system that would “allow cash flow to be uninterrupted for current and future retirees.”

SOURCE: Tamara Hiler and Lanae Herickson Hatalsky, “Taking Immediate Steps to Provide Teachers with a Secure Retirement,” Social Policy & Politics Program (Washington, DC: Third Way, July 2014).

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A new report by TNTP outlines the main pitfalls of the current teacher-pay system and offers some insightful solutions. The authors explain that teachers’ starting salaries are 25 percent less than in other comparable fields and are stagnant during the first decade of a teacher’s career. What’s more, teachers only receive pay raises in two ways: by climbing another “step” on the salary scale or by earning a more advanced degree. High-performing teachers earn their raises the same way as everyone else: by letting time pass. Since the system encourages mediocrity and there is no incentive to perform well, schools end up retaining vast numbers of average teachers and losing their high performers. The report’s suggested remedy: higher entry-level salaries, raises for performance, and incentives to teach in high-need schools—all while maintaining salaries at 65 percent of per-pupil revenue—and ending automatic raises for advanced degrees and enhanced credentials that have not been shown to improve student outcomes. (Yes, that sounds a lot like D.C.’s IMPACT system, a model that TNTP lauds.) Schools spent an estimated $8.5 billion on raises for teachers due to their obtaining master’s degrees and $250 million on automatic pay increases for ineffective teachers, the report notes. If these funds were redistributed along the lines suggested here, the teacher profession could become more competitive and a more attractive option for high-performing teachers.

SOURCE: TNTP, Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay (Brooklyn, NY: TNTP, July 2014)....

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Justin Bieber, Orlando Bloom, and pop culture ineptness

Mike and Michelle talk teacher-tenure lawsuits, charter schools offering pre-K, and teacher-union midterm politics. Dara ups the stakes with a study on high-stakes testing of voucher students.

Amber's Research Minute

"High-Stakes Choice Achievement and Accountability in the Nation’s Oldest Urban Voucher Program," by John F. Witte, et al., Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (June 9, 2014).

Transcript

Mike Petrilli:             Hello. This is your host, Mike Petrilli, at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, here at The Education Gadfly Show and online at edexcellence.net. Now, please join me in welcoming my co-host, the Orlando Bloom of education reform, Michelle Gininger.

Michelle G:               I'll take that.

Mike Petrilli:             You know why we say that [crosstalk 00:00:36]? Orlando Bloom, who I'm not sure I know who that is, but I like him because supposedly he punched Justin Bieber this week.

Michelle G:               What do you have against Justin Bieber? Are you on the anti-Bieber chain?

Mike Petrilli:             Look, I don't know the Justin Bieb- ... the Biebster, what do we call him? The Bieber? Biebster? [Biebalicious 00:00:54]? I don't know. What do we call him? I don't know him all that well. But I will say this. [crosstalk 00:00:58] He does look pretty annoying. It sounds like he was what, hitting on Orlando Bloom's wife?

Michelle G:               Ex-wife, I believe.

Mike Petrilli:             Ex-wife? All right, then why'd he hit him?

Michelle G:               We probably should have had more information before we went [crosstalk 00:01:11] down this.

Mike Petrilli:             Folks, listeners, listen. There are many, many hundreds of you out there. Sometimes I need help with pop culture references, so send them my way at Michael Petrilli.

Michelle G:               But we do know education policy.

Mike Petrilli:             We know education policy and that's what we're going to get to. Michelle, let's do it. Brandon is here to help us. Brandon, let's play, Pardon the Gadfly.

Brandon Wright:       7 families in Albany have filed the nation's 2nd Vergara-inspired lawsuit, arguing that New York State's teacher tenure and teacher seniority laws violate their children's right to effective education. Are these New York versions of Vergara a good idea?

Mike Petrilli:             So, what do you think, Michelle? This is the Campbell Brown suit. Campbell Brown. Do you support this? Are you happy?

Michelle G:               I'm pretty excited because we're going to disagree. I know you're not a big fan of the other states following suit. I am. Yes, it's a total mess when you bring in the courts. It's going to blow everything up, but teacher tenure is not good in any instance. I am against teacher tenure.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay. Let's [head 00:02:10] back this a little bit here. All right? Yes, there is a huge problem with getting the courts involved in this kind of education policy [crosstalk 00:02:17].

Michelle G:               On that, we agree.

Mike Petrilli:             All right. But, that's a huge issue. That's what this is. It's a court case, Michelle, okay? If the question is, should we be pushing in the New York legislature to reform tenure? Fine. I'm fine with that. I'm particularly interested in any kind of reform that gets at LIFO, that says that school districts have to consider seniority when making termination decisions. But here's the thing about New York versus California, right? In California, it was what, a 2 year probationary period for teachers. New York is 3. That makes a difference. Look, you've got 2 years, 2 cycles of teacher evaluations, 2 cycles of value-added scores, when you are trying to decide if somebody should get tenure.

                                    What we see in New York City is when Joel Klein came in and said, "Look, we're going to take this seriously. We're going to actually make real decisions at this point of determining tenure and we're not going to just automatically give tenure to teachers because they reached that period," guess what? It worked. They were able to push a lot of teachers out of the system. Why not focus on that, do that statewide, instead of filing a new lawsuit?

Michelle G:               I mean, I agree that doing things by the court is a really messy, not great way of doing it, but how long [crosstalk 00:03:23]. How long have we been trying, have ed reformers been out there trying to reform tenure in states? How long?

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah. Yeah.

Michelle G:               Right. A very, very long time.

Mike Petrilli:             That depends. We got some real reform in the last few years. We've seen a lot of movement.

Michelle G:               But then, and you know ... Bloomberg did a really great job of not just giving tenure to everybody, but that depends on who your leader is. Is Bill de Blasio going to be holding this up right and doing the right thing and not just handing out tenure to every teacher? I don't think so. I think that 3 years, 5 years, like in Ohio, isn't enough time to earn tenure. If you're not doing your job, you're not performing, it shouldn't be impossible to fire someone. You're going to be Fordham's incoming president later this week. If you're not doing your job, you're not bought in.

Mike Petrilli:             I didn't think you were going to go there, Michelle. I thought you were saying that I should have the authority to fire the staff at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Michelle G:               You do have that authority.

Mike Petrilli:             I do have that authority. Okay.

Michelle G:               Which is why we all do our jobs.

Mike Petrilli:             Which is why, in the end, you agree with me.

Michelle G:               Oh, yes, I do. Mike was right. Mike was right.

Mike Petrilli:             That's very well done. I'm just teasing about that. All right. Topic number 2, Brandon.

Brandon Wright:       In the upcoming school year, New York City charter schools will be allowed to offer pre-K for the 1st time, but many other states continue to make it all but impossible for charters to offer preschool services. Should they?

Mike Petrilli:             Well, yeah. Michelle, we have a study in the works on this question by [Sara Meech 00:04:48], who is doing the study for us and for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, looking at what that landscape is out there across the states, in terms of charters getting access to preschool funding and policies. This is a no-brainer, right?

Michelle G:               This is a no-brainer and this is crazy that we're even in this situation, especially since some of these folks who are against charters want universal pre-K. How are they going to do that without including, say, charter schools? That's a huge sector that can educate a lot of pre-K kids.

Mike Petrilli:             Yup. There's certainly plenty of states, like our home state of Ohio, where there simply is not much state money for pre-K. Okay? It's basically, there's the federal funds for Head Start and not much more than that. Look, I'm ready to say that's a problem, okay? I do think pre-K investment makes sense if you do high quality and all the rest. In states though that do provide some kind of funding to traditional public schools, they should absolutely make sure that funding goes to charter schools. We see here in D.C. what happens. When a charter school can start at age 3 with kids, they got an incredible impact, and particularly the high-performing charter schools. These 2 sectors, the charters and the preschool worlds, they need to come together.

Michelle G:               Yes. On this question, we agree 1000%.

Mike Petrilli:             It's like, what, peanut butter ... It's like, what, peanut butter and chocolate?

Michelle G:               Yeah. I thought you were going to say jelly, and then I was going to say, well, what kind of jelly do you like, and then that could bring us down a whole other path.

Mike Petrilli:             No, no.

Michelle G:               Because grape jelly is no good.

Mike Petrilli:             I prefer the Reese's peanut butter cup analogy.

Michelle G:               Yeah.

Mike Petrilli:             You can't beat peanut butter and chocolate. It's as good as it gets. That is what charter schools and pre-K ...

Michelle G:               Could be.

Mike Petrilli:             Yes, thank you. Very good. Okay, Brandon, topic number 3.

Brandon Wright:       Teacher unions are set to play hardball in this year's midterms and Politico reports that they'll likely spend at least $70 million and are encouraging female teachers to try to convince their husbands to vote Democrat. Is this likely to work?

Michelle G:               Mike, I have a question for you.

Mike Petrilli:             Yes, Michelle?

Michelle G:               Does [Megan 00:06:44] dictate your vote?

Mike Petrilli:             She does not. She has, at times, dictated where I live, and that is how I ...

Michelle G:               That seems fair.

Mike Petrilli:             ... and how I turned up to be the only Bush administration appointee living in Takoma Park, Maryland, the Berkeley of the D.C. area. Look, this is funny. Mike Antonucci, who follows the unions better than anybody, of course he quipped that he is pretty sure that whoever devised this plan is not married, at least not successfully.

Michelle G:               Yes, I mean, there's a great ... What's the advertising show called?

Mike Petrilli:             Mad Men?

Michelle G:               There's a great Mad Men episode where they're talking about the Kennedy election, the wives are, and one of the woman says, "Well, I'm going to have to ask my husband how I'll vote." We have come a long way. Now, women are dictating how their husbands are going to vote. This is a win.

Mike Petrilli:             No, we'll see. It is interesting. There's a huge gender divide in our politics right now. Women, much, much more likely to vote for the Democrats, although it's really single women that are much more likely. Married women, it's not quite as pronounced, but still, unions are saying, in a lot of these swing states, in the South or in the Midwest, you've got ... The Democrats have a hard time getting the votes of white men, especially in suburbs, exurbs, small towns, but plenty of those men are married to teachers. So, we'll see. You know what I say to this, to the NEA? Thank God for the secret vote, for the secret ballot. I'm really excited that generally you are not expected to go into the voting booth with your spouse.

Michelle G:               So you think, will we have a case of many husbands voting for Republicans but telling their wives and just being shocked when the election results come in?

Mike Petrilli:             Exactly.

Michelle G:               I have no idea how this happened.

Mike Petrilli:             Exactly. You can tell that to Nate Silver. The exit polls on this one are not going to be accurate.

Michelle G:               And we can thank the union.

Mike Petrilli:             Exactly. All right. That's all the time we got for Pardon the Gadfly. Thanks for helping us play, Brandon. You may notice a new voice there, Brandon Wright, taking over from the eminently talented Pamela Tatz, who is heading briefly to the West Coast, leaving us here at Fordham. We will miss her. We'll have her on the show 1 more time before we go and give her a hard time about this terrible career choice that she's making.

Michelle G:               And we do it every single day.

Mike Petrilli:             As we do. All right. Now it's time for everyone's favorite, Amber's Research Minute. Dara Zeehandelaar, welcome back to the show.

Dara Z:                       Thank you, thank you.

Mike Petrilli:             You are pitching in for Amber, who is on a well-deserved vacation. This means that you get to answer the question of the day, what do you think about Justin Bieber, and would you like to punch him?

Dara Z:                       I wanted to high-five Orlando Bloom when I heard about this story. I'm pretty sure that it has something to do with somebody's girlfriend or I didn't read that far enough into the story. I think it's about girls and not out of just general spite, but I don't care about the backstory. I think I speak for everyone ...

Michelle G:               We're unclear on the facts too.

Mike Petrilli:             But already, no, the fact that Dara had seen this headline. She knew what we were talking about. We had to just like Google pop culture and see what popped up, but you had actually [crosstalk 00:09:49].

Michelle G:               You're not supposed to tell people we do that.

Mike Petrilli:             I know. Is that what we do? Is that how we do it?

Dara Z:                       Oh my gosh. I wish that ...

Mike Petrilli:             Should we go to the trashy magazines? Anyways, very impressive, Dara, that you are in the loop even though you sit over there in that office doing research all day.

Dara Z:                       Oh my gosh. Could I take that back? I'd like to pretend like I didn't know what you were talking about.

Mike Petrilli:             Okay.

Michelle G:               Too late. [crosstalk 00:10:07]

Mike Petrilli:             Dara, not a Bieber fan. Okay, Dara, what do you have for us this week?

Dara Z:                       I've got a study from this month's Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis journal from John Witte, Patrick Wolf, Joshua Cowen, Deven Carlson, and David Fleming, all stars. It's called "High-Stakes Choice, Achievement and Accountability in the Nation’s Oldest Urban Voucher Program." It's a unique look at 1 very interesting aspect of the Milwaukee parental choice program. Now, we very well know that voucher programs, writ large, have little, if any, accountability mechanisms. We've talked about this before.

Mike Petrilli:             Mechanisms beyond parental choice itself.

Dara Z:                       Right.

Mike Petrilli:             I mean, test-based accountability.

Dara Z:                       Right.

Mike Petrilli:             Great.

Dara Z:                       But, in Milwaukee, as of the 2010-11 school year, private schools participating in the voucher program are required to test students who receive the vouchers with the reading and math portions of the state test, and to report the results for public consumption. Now, the researchers had that data, but they also, for a group of students, had pre-reform test scores, because this group was already doing an evaluation of the voucher program. This gave the authors the opportunity to estimate the impact of the accountability policy on student achievement outcomes.

                                    What they found is that high stakes testing has a positive impact on the achievement scores of voucher students, in the 1st year after private schools were required to test those students. They determined this by looking at the test scores of voucher students over a 3 year period, 2 years before the change and 1 year after. They had a fairly limited sample of 437, mostly 7th and 8th graders participating in the program, compared this group to a similar group of Milwaukee public school students.

                                    The voucher students saw a significant growth in their test scores during the 1st year of the accountability policy, with particularly positive results for students who were already at the high end in math and at the low end in reading. The policy had a positive impact on African American students in both reading and math, and for Hispanic, white, and Asian students, in math only. The authors did a number of tests of this result, and they fairly convincingly argue that the positive impact of the policy was a result of the policy, and not because of other factors.

                                    But, of course, a few caveats. It's hard to generalize to students in other grades, and it's very hard to generalize to students in other cities and other voucher programs, because of the scope of the Milwaukee program. It's also possible that the public reporting requirement motivated private schools to do better, period, and it had nothing to do with voucher students. Finally, because the researchers could only look at 1 year of data post-reform, it could be that this is a 1 year bump in scores, rather than a sign of sustained improvement.

Mike Petrilli:             [Woof 00:12:54]. Wow. That is very exciting, Dara, and this is in fact 1 argument we make when we argue for more test-based accountability for voucher programs. It was our hope that this would, in fact, raise student achievement. There were some indications from Milwaukee that that might have been the case, and this sounds like this is a much more in-depth, sophisticated analysis that says, "Yes, indeed, that's exactly what happened."

Michelle G:               Yes. This is really exciting news. I think there's been a lot of debate within the choice movement about accountability and maybe Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber can work it out, just like the 2 sides of the voucher argument can work it out too. Can we be optimistic here?

Mike Petrilli:             Beautiful. Beautifully said, Michelle. I love it. I do suspect that it could be a 1 year bump or at least a bump that is not sustained forever. We've seen that in the traditional public schools. That, you look at the nation as a whole, we got a big 1 time bump in the late 90s or early 2000s, when states embraced test-based accountability. The improvements eventually faded out. They hit a plateau. Now we maintain that higher level of performance. We didn't get back down.

                                    You may see something here. [Lookit 00:14:04], when you suddenly know, as a school, that somebody's looking over your shoulder and they're going to look at the student achievement results, it makes sense. Any bit of little more focus, a little more focus on what's on the test, and you can see these kinds of results. Look, people on the other side of this issue, it doesn't take away from their argument, which is that, look, that might have led to teaching to the test. It might have forced schools to do something that ... to stop doing things that made them unique and made them special and made them in effect private. It's not that it answers these questions about trade-offs, but it's pretty compelling that this policy seems to be pretty good when it comes to student learning.

Dara Z:                       When it comes to student testing. When it comes to student learning, again, not to keep beating this drum, but we also need high standards and good tests.

Mike Petrilli:             Yeah, no, that's absolutely right. This is using whatever standardized test they were using for the evaluation or the state test?

Dara Z:                       It's the state test.

Mike Petrilli:             It's the state test. This is a big question. We finally, with our friends in the voucher world, came to say, you know, if we would prefer you to use the state tests for the voucher schools, including common core tests, if that's what you're moving to, but we understand the sensitivities around that and if it's just some kind of reputable standardized test, we are okay with that. That might be the best that we can do, because again, the trade-offs. We don't want private schools to lose their distinctiveness and feel like they all have to look like everyone else.

Dara Z:                       Right, although it does put some people into kind of a catch-22, because these researchers were able to say that the voucher students saw improvement, because they were using the same test, the state test, as the Milwaukee public school students. You can't make that conclusion robustly if you're not using the same test.

Mike Petrilli:             I see. I see. So if they'd used the Stanford 9 instead, we just don't know if they would have seen the same results.

Dara Z:                       Right.

Michelle G:               Right, and I think that was our inclination to using the common yardstick, as it being a tool for parents too. If you can see how a private school is performing on 1 test, and the public school on the same test, you get an understanding of where they are, even though, of course, tests aren't the perfect measure.

Dara Z:                       Right, but, like I said, it puts some people into a tough position because they want to be able to prove that the voucher system is effective, but they also don't want to sacrifice the flexibility of being forced to use the state test or not, in order to prove that it works.

Mike Petrilli:             Gotcha. The big question, where is Justin Bieber on this question? Do you think he's pro-accountability or no?

Michelle G:               Why don't you tweet him and ask?

Dara Z:                       I don't think that he would pass the 7th grade Wisconsin state test.

Mike Petrilli:             Ouch. Ouch. Throwing it. Loving it.

Michelle G:               Oh, man, I could actually, because [crosstalk 00:16:43].

Dara Z:                       Whatever. Bring it. I could take him.

Mike Petrilli:             You could bring it.

Dara Z:                       I could take him.

Mike Petrilli:             Well, yeah, that.

Michelle G:               But could you take Orlando Bloom?

Dara Z:                       Why would I want to?

Mike Petrilli:             Well said. Okay, gang. That's all the time we've got for this week. Until next week.

Michelle G:               I'm Michelle Gininger.

Mike Petrilli:             And I'm Mike Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, signing off.

I’m looking forward to Elizabeth Green’s forthcoming book Building a Better Teacher. A sneak preview will run in the New York Times magazine this weekend and already is up on the website.

The lengthy Times’ excerpt tells the story of a teacher who fell in love with novel ways of teaching math that were pioneered by reformers in the United States and adopted in his native Japan, reportedly to great success. But when Akihiko Takahashi came to our country years later, he was surprised and saddened to learn American classrooms were not the hotbeds of innovation he expected. “It wasn’t the first time that Americans had dreamed up a better way to teach math and then failed to implement it,” Green writes.

I’ll set aside for now the question of whether or not those methods (such as “reform math” championed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) are superior. But Green’s next paragraph leapt from the page:

The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.

This observation, that poor teacher preparation turns everything to garbage, strikes me as the skeleton key that unlocks so much of our failure to make and sustain gains in American education, regardless of grade, setting, subject,...

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When it comes to what constitutes a superb education in America, the general public and teachers have vastly different views, say Peterson, Henderson, and West in this book, a compilation of research reported originally in Education Next. Surveys fielded by over 5,000 teachers and members of the general public (2007–13) conclude that, overall, teachers and the public disagree most on issues pertaining to tenure, pensions, union efficacy, charter schools, school vouchers, and standardized testing. The authors also found that when a member of the general public was informed that their local school district’s national ranking was low, the teacher-public divide deepened. While teacher opinion doesn’t change when given new information, the public grew eager to support universal school vouchers, charter schools, and parent-trigger laws. The book meticulously underscores the striking way in which education is viewed through the scattered, often fluctuating lenses of the general public and solid stance of teachers. In the end, the authors conclude that in education, the public and teachers are more divided than Democrats and Republicans, young and old, rich and poor, and white and disadvantaged minorities. As a teacher—and one who does not consider herself to be “versus the public”—I agree that bridging the divide is key.

SOURCE: Paul E. Peterson, Michael Henderson, and Martin R. West, Teachers versus the Public: What Americans Think about Schools and How to Fix Them (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, April 2014)....

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