Teachers

Just how generous are public pension plans? In this AEI report, Andrew Biggs tabulates the benefits—including pension and Social Security benefits, but not including health care benefits—that an average, full-career, state employee who retired in 2011 or 2012 now receives and compares the total with the income of full-time, full-year employees in his state. (Bear in mind that twenty-two states include teachers in their state retirement systems, while twenty-seven have separate systems for them.) In the average case, a retired state employee enjoys combined pension/Social Security income greater than the income of 72 percent of full-time employees working in his/her state. At the less generous end of this spectrum we find Maine, where benefits to full-career government employees (including teachers) exceed the earnings of 31 percent of full-time workers. At the high end is Oregon, where state retirees (including teachers) exceed the earnings of 90 percent of full-time workers in the Beaver State. (You read that right.) Other exceptionally generous states include West Virginia, California, and Nevada, all of which pay average full-career state retirees benefits that exceed 87–89 percent of the wages earned by full-time workers in those jurisdictions. Biggs also examines replacement rates, which measure retirement income as a percentage of pre-retirement earnings. Most financial advisors recommend a replacement rate of 70 percent, meaning that one’s retirement benefits (including Social Security) should equal 70 percent of one’s pre-retirement salary. Well, Biggs finds that the replacement rate paid to an average full-career state employee is 87 percent of final...

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Dallas Independent School District (DISD) superintendent Mike Miles has been on the job in Texas less than two years and he hasn't always had easy sledding there.

But he hasn't hunkered down or blown with the gale-level political winds of a city that's had eleven superintendents in the past quarter century.

In particular, he has incubated and refined the pioneering teacher-evaluation-and-compensation plan that brought Dr. Miles to national attention in his previous post in Harrison, CO.

In my experience, what Miles developed in the shadow of the Rockies and now seeks to adapt and apply in the Lone Star State embodies the most sophisticated approach that the U.S. has seen (sorry, MET project!) to combining the multiple elements of a teacher's performance that deserve consideration with a thoughtful yet affordable structure for compensating that teacher in a way that's fair but also performance-linked. (Actually, the fundamental structure of this plan is compatible with the MET findings about the best ways to gauge teacher effectiveness.)

Dallas is a much larger school district than Harrison—and much pricklier for all sorts of reasons. But Miles has persevered, and in the next few weeks, the DISD school board is expected to adopt his “Teacher Excellence Initiative.”

I can't count votes on the DISD board, but I do know this: the plan makes sense, the kids will benefit (and Lord knows Dallas kids have nowhere to go but up), and...

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No one disputes that great teachers are essential. But how do we get more of them—do we find them or make them? In this book, an elaboration of her New York Times Magazine cover story, Chalkbeat’s Elizabeth Green roundly refutes the narrative that the teaching ability is like a “gene,” contending instead that teaching skills can be taught. The author retraces the history of pedagogical research—from education psychologist Nate Gage through math pedagogy expert Deborah Ball—to illustrate the institutional resistance to instruction-centered reforms. Though scholars, policy makers, and educators are obsessed with quality teaching, the myth of the teaching gene silences efforts to study and improve teachers’ techniques. New instructors, working in isolation, continually reinvent the wheel, with little success. But perhaps that’s starting to change. Some researchers are beginning to systematically observe and record teachers’ methods, allowing successful approaches to emerge. (For instance: Lemov’s taxonomy and Ball’s “This Kind of Teaching.”) This book bears good news for the American education community: if effective pedagogy can be learned, we needn’t wait for great teachers to come to the profession—we can start improving the ones we have.

SOURCE: Elizabeth Green, Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone) (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, July 2014)....

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Mike and Michelle acknowledge that school board members, for better and sometimes worse, affect student outcomes in their districts. But they don’t have to accept the misleading headlines on Indiana’s standards debacle (a case study in the hazards of politicization if there ever was one), nor must...
Mike and Brickman consider whether “college for all” is the right goal, whether a competitive assessment marketplace will be good for Common Core implementation in the long run, and whether Wyoming is better off without the Next Generation Science Standards. Amber drops a line about online learning...

Education Gadfly Weekly

Opinion + Analysis: 
Opinion
The modern education-reform movement is essentially made up of two distinct but complementary strands: one focuses primarily on raising K–12 academic expectations, particularly for poor and minority students, who have long been held to lower standards than their middle-class and affluent peers. The...
Briefly Noted
Perhaps New York mayor Bill de Blasio is starting to see that attacking charter schools is a better Democratic-primary strategy than governing philosophy. This turn of events can be illustrated by his appearance earlier this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show , where he encountered a surprisingly...
Reviews: 
Working Paper
Just because the label on that pint of ice cream says it’s “fat free” doesn’t mean it won’t expand your waistline—and just because a textbook is labeled “Common Core aligned” doesn’t mean it actually covers the material it’s supposed to. In this new study (which has already garnered some serious...
Journal Article
Research has repeatedly found that being a firstborn can come with advantages—they tend to be natural leaders , have higher IQ’s , and are often chosen to portray James Bond . They also perform better in school. This new NBER study sheds light on why this is so, testing the conventional wisdom that...
Report
New York mayor Bill de Blasio has made clear his aversion toward charter schools , singling out in particular his predecessor’s policy of allowing charter schools to co-locate with the city’s traditional public schools for free. But what impact has charter co-location actually had on New York’s...
Study
“Grit” is a hot new buzzword—and what some believe to be the key to whether a student succeeds. But this study takes a slightly different tack, demonstrating a link between a teacher’s grit and her effectiveness and longevity in the classroom. The authors determined the “grittiness” of a selection...
Gadfly Studios: 
Podcast
Mike and Leo Casey of the Shanker Institute prepare to duke it out over New York’s charter school debate, education finance, and whether positive school trends mean reform is unnecessary—but end up with surprisingly similar conclusions. After studying the effects of birth order, Amber is surprised...

The modern education-reform movement is essentially made up of two distinct but complementary strands: one focuses primarily on raising K–12 academic expectations, particularly for poor and minority students, who have long been held to lower standards than their middle-class and affluent peers. The second is aimed at expanding education choice through various mechanisms, chiefly charter schools and vouchers.

Unfortunately, these reforms have often been pursued in isolation, with advocates pushing for one or the other but not both together. Some even claim...

Perhaps New York mayor Bill de Blasio is starting to see that attacking charter schools is a better Democratic-primary strategy than governing philosophy. This turn of events can be illustrated by his appearance earlier this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show, where he encountered a surprisingly sharp round of questioning from the roundtable of (left-leaning) hosts on the matter. The New York Times notes that de Blasio is softening his rhetoric and reaching out to charter groups “more sympathetic” to his administration. With his approval rating already down to 39 percent—just ten weeks after...

Just because the label on that pint of ice cream says it’s “fat free” doesn’t mean it won’t expand your waistline—and just because a textbook is labeled “Common Core aligned” doesn’t mean it actually covers the material it’s supposed to. In this new study (which has already garnered some serious attention from the press), USC assistant professor (and alum of Fordham and AEI’s...

Research has repeatedly found that being a firstborn can come with advantages—they tend to be natural leaders, have higher IQ’s, and are often chosen to portray James Bond. They also perform better in school. This new NBER study sheds light on why this is so, testing the conventional wisdom that earlier-born siblings put more effort in school and perform better than their later-born siblings partly because their parents are more strict with them. Using the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (which includes data from parent surveys), they track outcomes for children as they transition between the...

New York mayor Bill de Blasio has made clear his aversion toward charter schools, singling out in particular his predecessor’s policy of allowing charter schools to co-locate with the city’s traditional public schools for free. But what impact has charter co-location actually had on New York’s public schools? This timely report from the Manhattan Institute digs in, measuring the academic growth of public school students in grades 3–8 in math and English language arts over five years. When the author compared individual students’ test scores before and after co-location or when the co-locating charter schools expanded (taking up more space in the building), he uncovered no evidence to suggest...

“Grit” is a hot new buzzword—and what some believe to be the key to whether a student succeeds. But this study takes a slightly different tack, demonstrating a link between a teacher’s grit and her effectiveness and longevity in the classroom. The authors determined the “grittiness” of a selection of first- and second-year teachers via a blind rating system of their résumés, awarding points to individuals who remained in activities (sports, clubs, and so on) for more than two years and extra points for high achievement in those areas. Then, the researchers assessed the teachers’ performance via their students’ proficiency on a standardized assessment. The teachers who were most effective possessed demonstrably higher grit ratings than their counterparts. Grittier teachers were also more likely to complete the school year. Other measures—such as demographic characteristics,...

“Grit” is a hot new buzzword—and what some believe to be the key to whether a student succeeds. But this study takes a slightly different tack, demonstrating a link between a teacher’s grit and her effectiveness and longevity in the classroom. The authors determined the “grittiness” of a selection of first- and second-year teachers via a blind rating system of their résumés, awarding points to individuals who remained in activities (sports, clubs, and so on) for more than two years and extra points for high achievement in those areas. Then, the researchers assessed the teachers’ performance via their students’ proficiency on a standardized assessment. The teachers who were most effective possessed demonstrably higher grit ratings than their counterparts. Grittier teachers were also more likely to complete the school year. Other measures—such as demographic characteristics, school assignment, SAT scores, college GPA, and leadership abilities—did not yield the same statistically significant correlation. The researchers concluded that strong teachers can be identified during the hiring process through a careful examination of the right personality traits, which manifest in teachers’ high-school and college activities. Principals, take heed!

SOURCE: Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Lee Duckworth, “True Grit: Trait-Level Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals Predicts Effectiveness and Retention among Novice Teachers,” Teachers College Record 116(3).

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Education Gadfly Weekly

Opinion + Analysis: 
Opinion
Last week President Obama announced a five-year, $200 million charitable initiative called My Brother’s Keeper to help young African American men. The program seeks to address the many disparities in outcomes for black men, including large gaps with white men regarding high-school graduation rates...
Opinion
The K–12 education world brims with debates and dichotomies that get us into all manner of needless quarrels and cul-de-sacs, thus messing up every reform initiative and retarding progress. In every case, both sides are certain that they speak the whole truth; convinced that opposing views are...
Briefly Noted
Big changes are on the way for College Board’s SAT college-admission test . The headlines announce that the timed essay will be revamped and become optional , that the scoring scale will return to 1600 , and that the test will no longer focus so heavily on “obscure” words (when’s the last time you...
Reviews: 
Journal Article
Do the characteristics of a school and its neighborhood affect whether prospective teachers apply to teach there? To answer this question, analysts attended three large job fairs for Chicago Public Schools in Summer 2006 and compiled extensive data on the preferences and demographics of the 4,000...
Report
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) has emerged as one of the nation’s staunchest proponents of charter-school quality. In November 2012, it launched its ambitious One Million Lives campaign , the purpose of which is “to bend the quality curve upward.” Among the key...
Gadfly Studios: 
Podcast
Mike and Dara “Let It Go” with student free speech, Obama’s federal budget request, and Louisiana’s CTE revamp. Amber confirms the obvious: location matters to prospective teachers. Amber's Research Minute “ New Evidence on Teacher Labor Supply ,” by Mimi Engel, Brian A. Jacob, and F. Chris Curran...

Last week President Obama announced a five-year, $200 million charitable initiative called My Brother’s Keeper to help young African American men. The program seeks to address the many disparities in outcomes for black men, including large gaps with white men regarding high-school graduation rates, college enrollment and completion rates, lifetime earnings, longevity, and the likelihood of incarceration. According to The New York Times...

The K–12 education world brims with debates and dichotomies that get us into all manner of needless quarrels and cul-de-sacs, thus messing up every reform initiative and retarding progress. In every case, both sides are certain that they speak the whole truth; convinced that opposing views are misguided, perhaps even evil; and insistent that changes the system needs will go awry unless their side prevails.

These philosophical tug-of-wars lead to paralysis akin to what we witness today in Congress and many legislatures. Of them we ask, “Why can’t you compromise, split the difference, make a deal, take the best of both positions, and get something done?”

The ten education dichotomies outlined below should be seen in similar light: neither side owns the truth—and what would do kids the greatest good is an intelligent middle ground that melds the best of both views....

Do the characteristics of a school and its neighborhood affect whether prospective teachers apply to teach there? To answer this question, analysts attended three large job fairs for Chicago Public Schools in Summer 2006 and compiled extensive data on the preferences and demographics of the 4,000 attending applicants, as well as where they lived in relation to the schools in which they expressed interest. Here are four key findings: First, schools with a larger proportion of white or Asian students had more job fair applicants—a 10 percentage point increase in white or Asian students is associated, on average, with four more applicants per school. Similarly, an increase in free-lunch-eligible students of 10 percentage points is associated with four fewer applicants per school per job fair. Second, African American candidates are more likely to...

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) has emerged as one of the nation’s staunchest proponents of charter-school quality. In November 2012, it launched its ambitious One Million Lives campaign, the purpose of which is “to bend the quality curve upward.” Among the key strategies to improve quality, while maintaining growth, is to close as many as a thousand low-performing charter schools and to open two thousand high-performing ones. Under the closure-replication strategy, NACSA calculates that one million additional children will enroll in a high-performing school by 2018. In the Year One update, NACSA reports that the campaign is off to a strong start. The upshot: as a result of proactive authorizing practices, 491 promising, new charter schools...

Mike and Dara “Let It Go” with student free speech, Obama’s federal budget request, and Louisiana’s CTE revamp. Amber confirms the obvious: location matters to prospective teachers. Amber's Research Minute “ New Evidence on Teacher Labor Supply ,” by Mimi Engel, Brian A. Jacob, and F. Chris Curran...

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