Teachers

The rapid gentrification of many large American cities represents a triumph and an opportunity for Republicans—a triumph because it was mainly Republican ideas (welfare reform, aggressive crime-fighting tactics, pro-growth policies) that set the trend in motion, and an opportunity because the wealthier and (frankly) whiter new residents are more likely to vote for the GOP.

Cities are for strivers

Yet a natural Republican constituency—parents with children—continues to exit cities once their kids reach school age. This is bad for Republicans, to be sure, but it’s also bad for...

The Washington Post (and many others) roundly decried the Department of Justice’s petition to disallow Louisiana from awarding vouchers to students in public schools under federal desegregation orders. Surely it’s folly to block students (mainly black and all poor) from escaping failing schools to which they would otherwise be condemned—and it’s outrageous to claim that this is good for civil rights. As 90 percent of the kids benefiting from Louisiana’s voucher program are African American, Gadfly cannot help but suspect political motives. We join the chorus:...

Amanda Ripley delivers a familiar admonishment to a new generation of Americans: The (mediocre) schools we have are the schools we deserve. In her first—and quite excellent—book on education, Ripley skillfully communicates this message through the experiences of teenaged U.S. exchange students inserted into three countries—Finland, South Korea, and Poland—for one year. All three countries have made recent leaps and bounds in educational achievement, and all three approach education in different ways: Finland’s “Utopia” model relies on highly trained, autonomous teachers and effective school choice. South Korea’s “Pressure Cooker” approach demands hard work in an ultra-competitive environment. And...

The future is competency-based learning, according to this new, almost hour-long audio documentary from American RadioWorks—and that future is upon us. For generations, wealthy parents in the U.S. and abroad have employed private tutors to deliver individualized instruction to their children, thus recognizing and acting upon a truth long ignored by our school system: Not all children learn at the same pace or in the same way. In the past, tutoring has proved difficult to scale. But the creators of this documentary hail the Carpe Diem campus in Indianapolis and Moorseville Middle School in Moorseville, NC, for cracking...

When it comes time to pick a career path, young Americans certainly don’t perceive teaching to be the fairest of them all—in any sense of the term. This new report from the Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership emphasizes how pension systems are especially unfair toward young teachers and examines the effects of two cost-neutral pension reforms on teacher compensation for the ten largest U.S. public school districts. The first reform is switching from the traditional defined-benefit (DB) pension system, under which teachers accumulate little retirement wealth until later in their careers, to a...

Mike and Michelle join the WaPo in decrying the DOJ’s anti-voucher antics and debate who’s worse: private school parents or those who settle for failing schools. With Amber off saying “I do,” Dara takes over the research minute with a tale of unfair teacher-pension policies.

Growing numbers of parents, educators, and school administrators are calling for a local "opt-out" from state tests and accountability systems.

Is this opt-out a cop-out? Or would students benefit from a system that their own teachers and principals devised? Should all schools be offered an opt-out alternative, one in which they propose to be held accountable to a different set of measures? What about opt-outs for high-achieving schools or schools with good reason to be different? Would such a system move us toward or away from the goals of the Common Core? As for charter schools, must they continue to be tethered to uniform statewide accountability systems? Or should we rekindle the concept of customizing each school's charter and performance expectations?

Someday, when they write the history of the education-reform movement, future scholars will tug their chins in puzzlement as they ponder today’s obsession with high-stakes teacher evaluations. But not for all the usual reasons that people raise concerns: the worry about whether we’ve got good measures of teacher performance, especially for instructors in subjects other than reading and math; the likelihood that tying achievement to evaluations will spur teaching to the test in ways that warp instruction and curriculum; the futility of trying to “principal-proof” our schools by forcing formulaic, one-size-fits-all evaluation models upon all K–12 campuses; the terrible timing of introducing new evaluation systems at the same time that educators are working to implement the Common Core.

No, future historians are far likelier to wonder about the motivation behind the evaluation obsession. Was this a policy designed to identify, and remove, America’s least effective teachers? Or was it a kinder-and-gentler effort to provide critical feedback to instructors so they could improve their craft?

If the latter, as some reformers now claim, historians will wonder why we were so insistent on attaching high stakes to these evaluations—determined to “make human-resource decisions” based on the results, as the parlance goes.

And if the former, historians will ask: What the heck were they thinking? Did they really believe that teacher evaluations alone would be enough to push bad instructors out of the classroom?

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Consider, for instance, the Obama Administration’s decision to place three states on “high risk status” because...

Reform School: Tim Kitts

Reform School: Tim Kitts

Tim Kitts of Florida's Bay Haven Charter Academy explains his "plus" model of school improvement, and the axes of curriculum and department structures.

Terry Ryan on Collective Bargaining in Ohio

Terry Ryan on Collective Bargaining in Ohio

Terry Ryan talks about his testimony on Senate Bill 5 and what it means for Ohio.

Assuring Highly Effective Teachers for All Ohio Students

Assuring Highly Effective Teachers for All Ohio Students

A teacher's effectiveness has a tremendous impact on a child's learning and academic trajectory. Ohio has debated for many months about how best to strengthen the quality of its teaching force. The biennial budget adopted in June calls for the state to develop a model teacher evaluation framework by the end of 2011 and to adopt policies tying teacher evaluations to key personnel decisions such as compensation, placement, tenure, and dismissal. Likewise, school districts and charter schools must implement their own local evaluations, based on the state model, starting in 2013-14.

It's evident that Ohio schools are about to undergo a major shift when it comes to how teachers are evaluated and developed, a change with great potential to impact student achievement. For this reason, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, along with the Nord Family Foundation and Ohio Grantmakers Forum, are convening this public discussion (and another one in Lorain) on assuring highly effective teachers for students across the state.

Featured speakers include:

Mike Miles, superintendent of Harrison School District 2 in Colorado, a school system on the cutting edge of teacher compensation reform, will review the teacher-effectiveness work his district is doing and the results they're seeing. Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality, will discuss the state of teacher effectiveness nationally and what can be learned from research about teacher quality. Eric Gordon, new superintendent of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, will provide an Ohio voice on the panel. Gordon was one of the major architects of CMSD's Academic Transformation plan, which garnered national recognition for its approach to school reform.

Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, moderated the discussion.

Reform School: Tony Bennett

Reform School: Tony Bennett

Back in June, we at Fordham released a critical review of the final Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As we explained at the time,

…using substantially the same criteria as we previously applied to state science standards—criteria that focus primarily on the content, rigor, and clarity of K–12 expectations for this key subject—our considered judgment is that NGSS deserves a C.

Our review team felt that these new standards fell short in a number of critical areas. Far too much essential science content was either missing entirely or merely implied. Science practices, while essential to K-12 science learning, were given...

Back-to-school season is officially upon us and for many families that means new school supplies and backpacks and recalling where they stashed the warmer clothes. But if you're a public opinion pollster, back-to-school means it's time to dust off your old education surveys and see if anything’s changed from last year.

With three polls released this week (AP-NORC, PDK/Gallup, and Education Next),  trying to draw broad conclusions can be tricky given what, at times, seem to be fairly contradictory answers from the public. Some commentators have focused on what the data seem to show regarding hot-button policy...

“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 persuasive case for improving the academic achievement of U.S. students—and thus America’s human resources—so that the nation thrives well into the future. Schools are where human capital gets built, they argue, and the acquisition of essential skills is better measured by standardized tests than by years spent in class....

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 strongest system would be built on a functioning, choice-heavy education market. From there, his argument proceeds rationally: Readers are treated to a thorough explanation underpinning school choice as it relates to competition and quality. Sahlgren evaluates an impressive body of research, covering studies that are cross national (such as Hensvik’s 2012 finding...

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))

Chester E. Finn, Jr. breaks down why Fordham does not support implementation of the NGSS.

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...

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...

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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