Teachers

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“No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.” This is carved into a massive stone wall on the FDR memorial in Washington, but it could have been the preface to this slender, timely, punchy book by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann. These authors make a...

British author and director of research at the Centre for Market Reform of Education, Gabriel Sahlgren brings us back to Economics 101 with the contention that there is one root cause of all problems afflicting education today: a lack of proper incentives for quality. He argues that the...

The cheesehead edition

Is it all just politics in the Badger State? Have you ever heard of the Common Core? Mike and Brickman talk dairy, while Amber hashes out the latest Education Next survey results.

Amber's Research Minute

The 2013 Education Next Survey by Michael Henderson and Paul E. Peterson, (Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG))

When Fordham’s expert review team issued its mostly-critical review of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in June, we made these commitments:

We will undertake in the near future to provide individual states with some additional information regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their current science standards in relation to those of NGSS. (We will also review the recently released Appendix L of NGSS, which maps the alignment between these standards and Common Core math.)

Today we kept both promises by issuing a pair of additional analyses related to NGSS.

Today we kept both promises by issuing a pair of additional analyses related to NGSS.

The first report consists of short-form, side-by-side, comparisons of NGSS and the current science standards of 38 states—those that our reviewers deemed "clearly inferior" or "too close to call" vis-à-vis NGSS. We also compare them to the standards of three jurisdictions—D.C., Massachusetts, and South Carolina—whose science standards earned exceptionally high marks from our reviewers.

These concise comparisons may prove useful to educators and policymakers in states pondering whether to replace their current science standards with NGSS. Several have already done so. Others are deciding.

Our advice is straightforward: U.S. science education needs an overhaul, no question about it, and that needs to include much stronger K–12 standards for this key subject than most states have been using. (Of course, it needs effective implementation of standards even more than it needs standards; as with the Common Core for English and math, it’s folly to...

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By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Emily Barton is Assistant Commissioner for Curriculum and Instruction at the Tennessee Department of Education, and she may be leading, alongside State Chief Keivn Huffman, the most intensive and impressive state-level Common Core implementation plan in the nation. As you’ll read below, the thoughtfulness and scope of this undertaking are remarkable.

Emily Barton Tennessee

As is Emily.

A former classroom teacher and executive with Teach for America, she has accomplished one big professional thing after another with humility and grace. And she’s done it all so early in her career that she’d provoke crazy envy were she not so darned nice.

Her colleagues speak glowingly of her, not just because she’s talented and friendly. Emily is so genuinely committed to the cause of improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged kids that she’s passionate, energetic, creative, and doggedly determined. Even if you fall on the opposite side of an issue, you can’t help but disagree agreeably with Emily—you know she’s honestly fighting firmly for her vision of the best interests of boys and girls.

If I were starting an organization, struggling with a knotty challenge, or besieged in a trench, I’d want Emily Barton around. Education reform is stronger because it keeps her company.

Ladies and gentlemen, Emily Barton.

Can you describe what Common Core implementation in...

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The Dayton Public Schools, like so many other urban districts, has been in a state of decline. The district enrolls about 13,700 students; less than a fourth of the system’s peak (1965) enrollment, and down from 25,000 students in 2000. As the district has shrunk student achievement has languished. A majority of the district’s students (53 percent) attended a school building rated academic watch (D) or academic emergency (F) in 2011-12.

The numbers don’t lie and very few familiar with the district’s travails would deny it has long struggled to deliver the quality of education the city’s children need; 94 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged. There are many reasons behind the district’s struggles, but one thing is certain. For the district to improve academically it must have a high quality teaching force. . We know from researchers like the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek that “having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.”

Teachers matter greatly, especially those teaching our neediest students. It is in recognition of this fact that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Learn to Earn Dayton teamed up with the Dayton Public Schools to request a review of the district’s teacher policies and practices. No organization does this work better than the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and their in-depth study Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Dayton offers powerful advice on how the district can improve its teaching force.

Among...

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Big Ideas Edition

With Mike beaching it in an undisclosed location, Dara and Daniela take on some big topics: If affirmative action were to end, how could colleges maintain diversity? Do teachers need convincing to use technology? All things considered, is college worth it? Amber charts a course to charter quality.

Amber's Research Minute

National Charter School Study 2013,” by Center for Research on Education Outcomes (Stanford, CA: Center for Research on Education Outcomes, June 2013).

GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due in part to the involvement of his campaign chairwoman, State Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, he has fostered a relationship with charter advocates and Randi Weingarten. We’ll see how he handles this balancing act.

Chris Walters, a Virginia native and newly minted Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD, has...

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In which Terry celebrates cheating (sort of)

Terry livens up the airwaves, bantering with Mike about NCTQ’s blockbuster report, the Blaine Amendment, and Philly’s budget woes. Amber waltzes through the dance of the lemons.

Amber's Research Minute

Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers and Teacher Performance: Examining Equity and Efficiency,” by Jason A. Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Nathaniel Nakashima, NBER Working Paper No. 19108 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2013).

GadflyNew York City’s graduation rate dipped very slightly in 2012—information that was hailed as a win by Mayor Bloomberg, given that the class of 2012 was the first cohort not given the option to graduate with an easier-to-obtain “local diploma.”

The United Federation of Teachers has announced its support for former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s bid for mayor of New York City—the union’s first endorsement in a mayoral election in more than a decade. But have no fear, ye other candidates—Mayor Bloomberg has derisively dubbed the union endorsement a “kiss of death” (to which the union responded by likening Bloomberg’s approval as “worse than a zombie attack”). And Gotham politics continue.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Superior Court judge John Lewis bucked U.S. Supreme Court precedent and ruled that the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program directed public money to religious schools, in violation of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—a provision banning government aid to “sectarian” schools that has its roots in the anti-Catholic bigotry pervasive in the late 1800s. (Blaine Amendments still exist in thirty-six other states.) Judge Lewis’s ruling marks the first time a tax-credit-scholarship program has been struck down on these grounds. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court had determined that tax-credit-scholarship money never reaches the state treasury and thus cannot be considered public. An appeal in the...

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Teacher Prep ReviewEight years ago, Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” was Billboard’s top song, Pluto was still a planet, and the National Council on Teacher Quality began work on its comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s 2,400 educator-preparation programs housed in 1,130 higher-education institutions. This Tuesday marked the culmination of that gargantuan effort (a partnership with U.S. News and World Report). Of the secondary programs evaluated at more than 600 higher-education institutions, just four—Ohio State, Lipscomb, Furhman, and Vanderbilt—received top honors (four stars); zero elementary programs earned the same accolades. Across both levels, 14 percent of programs were placed on a “Consumer Alert” list for earning zero stars. Appallingly, 64 percent of California’s seventy-one elementary programs earned the lowest rating. Why? In 1970, in an overwrought effort to strengthen teachers’ content knowledge, California “all but prohibited the traditional education degree,” requiring candidates to obtain subject degrees as undergraduates and limiting their pedagogical coursework to a maximum of one year—to disastrous results. NCTQ based its rankings on eighteen criteria in four main areas: rigor of candidate selection, quality of content-area preparation, amount of professional skills the program teaches, and the impact of a program’s graduates. Along with the overall rankings, NCTQ provides detailed data on how programs fare across each of its eighteen criteria, offering page after page of sobering analyses in an attempt to bring order to the “Wild West” of teacher-preparation programs....

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In this new NBER working paper, Jason Grissom and colleagues explore the implications of involuntary teacher transfers (or those in which educators are shuffled from one school to another without say) in Miami Dade County’s public schools. Specifically, analysts examined which types of schools made use of—and accepted teachers from—the transfer policy, “the characteristics of transferred teachers and their replacements, and whether the transfers affected productivity, at least in terms of teacher absences and value added. First, they examined involuntary transfers from 2009 through 2012, finding that seventy-three (of 370) of the district’s schools transferred at least one teacher in at least one of those years, totaling 375 teacher transfers. Schools that used the policy tended to be far lower achieving and tended to serve higher percentages of African American students and those with free-and-reduced-price-lunch than schools that did not. The involuntarily transferred teachers were sent to higher-achieving schools than those they left (on average, they were moved from D to B schools on Florida’s A–F grading system). With regards to teacher characteristics, the booted educators were relatively experienced, with 60 percent having five or more years of teaching under their belts and only 8 percent having one year or less. They were absent more often than other teachers—and in mathematics, they had significantly lower value-added scores than those who were not transferred. Importantly, their replacements tended to be younger, less experienced, and generally higher performing (though the sample size for this particular analysis was small). Finally, the authors found...

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