Teachers

In many school districts, classroom observations make up as much as 75 percent of teachers’ evaluation scores, according to a new study published in Education Next. And these scores predict a teacher’s ability to raise student test scores the following year, as measured by value-added models. With that in mind, analysts did a deep-dive into the observation practices of four school districts. They found that score stability and the quality of the information gathered improved as the number of individual observations increased, and that evaluations by trained, independent, outside evaluators (instead of principals) were more predictive of the following year’s value-added gains. The report recommends that districts observe teachers at least two or three times annually, using an outside observer at least once. Moreover, the study draws attention to the latent bias against teachers with lower-achieving students or who teach in struggling schools. Although value-added models are careful to control for students’ backgrounds and achievement levels, there’s often no such adjustment for classroom observations. (Simply put, it can be much harder to teach a great lesson when the kids are below grade level or unruly.) Unchecked, this can push teachers to avoid assignments at more challenging schools where the need is greatest, widening the achievement gap. The authors suggest that states conduct statistical analyses to control for these variables. The implications of this study are particularly pertinent for Ohio; although the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) is now entering its second year of statewide implementation, many of the aforementioned suggestions...

Fuzz-free math

CCSS myths, noncognitive skills, Dana Goldstein, and gifted ed.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Gifted Education Work? For Which Students?, by David Card and Laura Giuliano, National Bureau of Economic Research (September 2014).

Hitting pause on testing, vouchers, and union solidarity

Michelle and Robert applaud Secretary Duncan’s reasonableness, question a North Carolina trial judge (but have a solution), and disparage union agency fees. Amber tells us how classroom peers affect the achievement of students with special needs.

Amber's Research Minute

Peer Effects in Early Childhood Education: Testing the Assumptions of Special-Education Inclusion,” by Laura M. Justice, et al., Psychological Science (2014): 1-8

Transcript

Michelle G:               Hello. This is your host Michelle Gininger of 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 Seth Meyers of education reform, Robert Pondiscio.

Robert P:                    I'm not even sure what that means and hello Michelle.

Michelle G:               Hello. I guess you unlike everyone else in America with not watching the Emmy's.

Robert P:                    No, no, I have a 16 year old daughter so of course my daughter.

Michelle G:               You know more about this than anyone.

Robert P:                    I describe this as the cultural equivalent of secondhand smoke, you're close it. You absorb some of it unintentionally but does that mean I'm focusing on it, no. Were you happy with who won?

Michelle G:               I've heard some of these reviews. I thought it was funny. I thought Seth Meyers did a pretty good job. There are some jokes that I laughed. I felt ...

Robert P:                    Okay. He's a funny guy.

Michelle G:               I felt like a real American. Usually I don't want all the award shows are doing any of that but I thought I was participating in what America does. Maybe I'll watch a football game this season.

Robert P:                    All I know is what I heard in the background blah, blah, blah, Game of Thrones, blah, blah, blah, Game of Thrones, blah, blah, blah, Game of Thrones.

Michelle G:               Isn't that all you need to know about TV?

Robert P:                    Pretty much.

Michelle G:               All right, with that we're going to play part in the Gadfly with our Com. Dev. intern Ellen. Ellen, take it away.

Ellen Alpaugh:          Last week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared that states with NCLB waivers could wait until the 2015 - 2016 school year to tie test scores to teacher evaluations. Is this just one year delay and nothing more or does this say something bigger about the testing over the long run?

Michelle G:               Both. Robert, you want to elaborate.

Robert P:                    Lordy, this is such a complicated question and no I don't think it goes away. I think it ... This delays it but I think a hard rain is going to fall on this. There was some polling data out last week that we talked about. A PDK poll on education next poll and you should never I suppose paint with two broader brush based on any particular finding. Look, let's be honest, testing is not popular. I was a teacher for several years and you can't blind yourself to the deleterious impact that testing is having on our classrooms.

                                    Curriculum narrowing, anxiety, lots of push back against testing. What's interesting when you look at the polling numbers is that testing itself is not necessarily unpopular. Something that jumped out to me ... At me in the ed next poll is that things like SAT testing, AP testing are really popular or as popular as a test is going to be. It's when you start looking at these accountability test in grade three through eight under whether there's no child left behind or common core.

                                    The people have lost track of why we do this. You have this kind of conundrum which is the ed reform movement is still largely popular. People like things like charter schools and choice and even vouchers but testing is really unpopular right now. Testing you could or it has created the momentum for these things at the same time it's almost threatening to turn on itself. Arne Duncan thanks for giving us a year off, buy us some time for common core and all these other good things but at some point we're going to have to decide what is exactly the role of testing in K-12 education and in ed reform.

Michelle G:               I completely agree. Yes, testing is no fun, it's awful, it's an imperfect measure, all of those things but if you look at what we support in education or what the public supports in education. A lot of it is because we have evidence that it work and we have evidence that it works because of test. Voucher programs even some school choice supporters don't like the independent evaluations that we've had on the DCPS program and the program in Milwaukee. Yet, those same folks are using those testing results to show that school choice work. You can see this across the issues. Why do we like charter schools? Probably because we're seeing some data that they are educating students better.

Robert P:                    When you say data, you mean?

Michelle G:               Results from test.

Robert P:                    There you go.

Michelle G:               It's sort of like dieting. It's not fun, no one likes eating rice cakes and celery and exercising but if you want to stay slim and fit you got to these things.

Robert P:                    Sure.

Michelle G:               It's just the way it is. It's not fun thing but guess what, it's life.

Robert P:                    Yeah, and I wrote a piece about this early this week and I describe this using Jefferson's quote from 1820's about slavery. Our relationship with testing is like holding a tiger or a wolf by the ears, you don't much like it but you can't let go.

Michelle G:               A lot of people on Twitter were liking your analogy there, bravo on that.

Robert P:                    Bravo Mr. Jefferson.

Michelle G:               All right, Ellen.

Robert P:                    A steal from the best.

Michelle G:               Question number two.

Ellen Alpaugh:          On Thursday a North Carolina trial court judge held unconstitutional a state voucher law that allowed public money to pay tuition at private and religious school. How big of blow is this for voucher proponents and how should they respond?

Michelle G:               All right, I'll say that this is a moderate blow to voucher proponents but a big blow to families in North Carolina.

Robert P:                    Especially when they're starting school and they got to write a tuition check.

Michelle G:               Yes, just over ... Almost 2,000 scholarships have been issued for this program and private schools started this week for a lot of student in North Carolina. That just puts a lot of upheaval in many families lives. That's what the first issue but the second is this is a program that was means tested. Families qualified if they were at or below 133% of the poverty level and according to the Alliance for School Choice which I worked for, full disclosure there.

                                    They hit seven of the eight accountability measures for voucher programs. It's very, very, very high on the accountability spectrum. In all intent and purposes this was a great program. Why it was ruled unconstitutional? I'm not a lawyer. The North Carolina does not have a blind amendment but this is a blow to families. I think they'll go back at it and they'll try to pass the program in the slightly different way. Perhaps changing the funding mechanism or whatever is needed but it's just a longer wait time.

Robert P:                    Sure. I'm reading for the decision here and it says that, "General assembly fails that children of North Carolina when they're sent with public tax payer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything. I guess you could argue that but I'm not sure that's a credible argument. Look as Brandon Wright our colleague in Legal Expert says, "If that's the test, well then you just need to go back to the drawing board. Pass a law that says that private schools will give out the accountability measures, the test, etcetera and then problem solved.

Michelle G:               Yeah, and I think that proponent should have seen this coming. I looked back there's a great study that the Institute of Justice put out many years ago that I still go back to which looks at the ... State Constitutions in all 50 states and says whether school choice programs, whether vouchers or scholarship, text credit programs would be constitutional and it says yes, no depending on the program. For North Carolina it did say vouchers and scholarship text credit programs were constitutional but it did say that if a bill was to be ... Law was to be passed it should not draw from the public school funding stream which is basically what they did. No surprise in the long run.

Robert P:                    Of course there'll be an appeal.

Michelle G:               It's America, there you go. Ellen, question number three.

Ellen Alpaugh:          New York City's United Federation of Teachers supported a Saturday march against police brutality. Pitting one city union against another and angering many teacher union members. Teachers in NYC can choose not to be a member and avoid dues but all teachers still have to pay agency fees. What does such union activity say about these mandatory contributions?

Michelle G:               Mr. New Yorker?

Robert P:                    Man, the contributions is not withstanding. This is such a good old fashion New York City style food fights. Some of the stuff that's coming out with the police just the outrage from that the UFT would take this on and that Michael Mulgrew would participate in this protest is just amazing. I heard one teacher say, "Would we want cops protesting in our schools over low test scores?" The head of the PBA said something, I got it right here in front of me, "How would Mulgrew like it if police officers with the activist who oppose his efforts to shield bad teachers and undermine effective charter schools?" This is quite ... The fur is flying here.

Michelle G:               Only in New York it seems.

Robert P:                    Sure but you have to wonder what was Mulgrew thinking. This is ... Look, you can't make light with this, this is serious incident somebody died but if you're deciding where to spend your political capital and your members capital capital. I'm not sure this was the wisest decision.

Michelle G:               I think this is what happens when you work outside of your very narrow issue. On one hand you're building a strong coalition on the other hand when you go outside of your one issue for us education or for the unions education you're going to get people who's ... Your own members here are going to say, "I don't quite agree with that," and that just what happens. I think it's a decision that you have to make and in this case it looks like it was a messy one.

Robert P:                    Yeah, and Mulgrew ... Push back by saying, "Look, we have a history as a union of getting involved in these kinds of issues. You invoked union, activism around the freedom riders many, many years ago. Sure you can understand the process that got him from A to B but still the police are institution in New York City and as many police officers have been saying, "Look, you know, our sons and daughters and wives and husbands are teachers." It just feels this was a little bit of a third rail that did not need to be touched.

Michelle G:               Couldn't agree more. That's all the time we have for Pardon the Gadfly and now it's time for Amber's Research Minute. Welcome to the show Amber.

Amber Northern:      Thank you, Michelle.

Michelle G:               You were on Fox and Friends this weekend weighing in on this very issue [UFT police brutality protest]. What do you have to say about?

Amber Northern:      I was. I start out with it's outrageous. It's outrageous and teachers know ... Teachers always know, "Well, some of our donations, some of our fees go to politics," but wow this was right in their face. I loved it. I was like, "You know what, they finally get it." They finally get it because this was ... The zebra was showing it stripes, we just went off on Fox. They call me the next day and said, "You want to do it again tomorrow." My families called me like, "You are riled up," I'm like, "I know, like it just got me," and I dug into the contributions.

                                    Because Doug and I write a report about teacher union strength what seem hasn't been that long but it's ... I think it was two years ago. Anyway, and then when Doug back in the contributions and year after year after year they we giving donations to Al Sharpton's National Action Network along with plan parenthood and a host of other liberal leaning causes. Teachers need to dial like, "Hey, this is where some of our money goes to, like it or not."

Robert P:                    My money, $35 a paycheck for five years. Never joined the union but they got my money.

Amber Northern:      I think they knew this intuitively but then it was just out there blatant. I thought it was good that it happened. I didn't know how it works, you don't get a lot of time to go into the new ones. I didn't even get to talk about ...

Michelle G:               You don't get ... I can go in TV to go into new ones, I'm shocked.

Amber Northern:      I was, "I didn't get to take the agency fees," and all that stuff but anyway it was fun.

Michelle G:               You got riled up and you got your pay across.

Amber Northern:      I got riled up and I then I have a friend of mine taped it because I hadn't watched. My whole face was contorting. I was mad, I was, "Wow. It was really ugly doing that segment," but that what happens when you're riled up but anyway ...

Robert P:                    She's riled up again right now.

Amber Northern:      Riled up about our new study this week. It is a new study out in psychological science that's called peer effects in early childhood education, kind of a boring title but this is interesting study. It examines the performance of preschoolers both those without and with disabilities and how they are impacted by their peers when they're in a mainstream classroom. This is actually according to the authors and I think they're right. This is the first study of peer effects an inclusive classroom that serves preschoolers with disability.

                                    We've got a lot of peer effect research but never on the preschool level and never with kids in the mainstream classrooms. Anyway, they study the language skills of 670 preschoolers average age of four in multiple school districts in a single mid western over the course of a year about half of the kids had high EP's. Three key findings, number one there was indeed evidence of peer effects in the classroom have shown by the strong relationship between kids spring language scores and the language skills of their peers. Definitely a strong relationship between the two.

                                    Number two, the impact of peer effects varied based on whether the child had a disability. Specifically peer effects were stronger for kids with disabilities than those without. Preschoolers in classroom of kids with high language skills tended to have better language scores than preschoolers in classes of kids with lower skills. The lowest skilled kids, if you got that, made the greatest gains. This is what we've seen in other studies.

Robert P:                    Yeah, no surprise there.

Amber Northern:      Kids at the bottom make the greater gains. Kids with disabilities are more influenced by their classrooms language skills than children without. Last bottom line, children with the highest skills were not adversely impacted by the lower performing kids whether they had disabilities or not which is what everybody is always searching for, right? Like, "What about the kids on the other end of the spectrum.?" The study was correlational, it's not causal.

                                    It was one year, it's not a trend study and they also ... The instrument they use which I was kind of dug in. It was a teacher report instrument ... It's a dibble or something.

Robert P:                    It's squishy.

Amber Northern:      Which you typically have to do with young kids you have to deal one on one measure but it wasn't really standardized in a way. A little bit of clumsy there but I think it was encouraging because it showed us once again that peer effects matter and they matter greatly when we mainstream these kids. Which it's not an argument for against mainstreaming but it's interesting stuff.

Robert P:                    Persuasive because the kids at the high end so to speak no adverse effect.

Amber Northern:      They were harmed, right. Why do I want help? They weren't harmed either. They still scored at the end of the year higher than ... Their post test was still higher than a pretest. It wasn't a bad thing.

Michelle G:               Is your recommendation more research?

Amber Northern:      Wow. In my case I won't do it. Anyway, it was a needed area to do research. I think it's a neat idea because they're really striving for balance. On this half the kids with IP's. It's not like you've go 90% of the kids with Ip's you know what I mean. They're really striving to get what set up optimal affect and impact on kids. Half and half seems to be interesting, seems to be a positive outcome. I don't know if they change the percentages whether we would have see the same thing.

Michelle G:               Exciting stuff.

Robert P:                    Is it my imagination or we seeing a lot more pure effects research lately?

Michelle G:               I feel I've been reading more. It's also one of my sort of ... What do we call that, sew boxes if that's the word again. I tend to pay more intention to it just because he's interested in it. He wrote a lot about it in his book. Yeah, I don't know saying more as maybe just we just cover it more.

Robert P:                    You're paying attention. Fair enough.

Michelle G:               Either way both a good thing I think. All right. Thank you, Amber. That's all the time we have for the Education Gadfly Show till next week.

Robert P:                    I'm Robert Pondiscio.

Michelle G:               I'm Michelle Gininger for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute signing off.

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.

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

...

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...

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...

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).

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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