Teachers

Student outcomes do matter
Deborah's vision is beautiful—but does it work?
Photo by scottwills

This article originally appeared on Education Week’s Bridging Differences blog, where Mike Petrilli is debating Deborah Meier through mid-June.

Dear Deborah,

Your last post was amazing—one of the most coherent, cogent articulations of a reform alternative that I've ever read.

I was particularly moved by this passage:

We need quiet places and noisy places, places full of books and computers and others full of paint and clay. We need adults with the freedom to make spontaneous decisions—shifting the conversation in response to one of those "wonderful moments" and deviating from any designed curriculum. Teachers need the time to mull over what they have learned from student work (written as well as observed) and collegial time to expand their repertoires. We need feedback from trusted and competent colleagues. We need time for families and teachers to engage in serious conversations. We need settings where it seems reasonable that kids might see the school's adults as powerful and interesting people who are having a good time.

It reminded me why I loved your books when I was studying at the University of Michigan's education school twenty years ago—and why you and your ideas are so beloved today. This is a joyous,...

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By July 1st, Ohio law will require public school districts (charter and district) to establish a teacher evaluation policy. The evaluation policy must conform to a framework that depends half on student growth on test scores and half on classroom observations.[1] Based on these measures, teachers will earn an overall rating: accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.

In our recent survey of superintendents, Ohio’s teacher evaluation policy received mixed reviews. Nearly three out of four (73 percent) said that teacher evaluations would become accepted practice five years hence. And, 42 percent said that teacher evaluations would lead to “fundamental improvement” in the state’s K-12 school system. So, there’s modest optimism toward teacher evaluation.

But there’s undeniable angst about the policy details. Nearly all superintendents (93 percent) think that there will be lawsuits when personnel decisions are based on Ohio’s evaluation framework. And nearly all (86 percent) think that the classroom observation mandate will “put too much pressure on principals.” One superintendent said

“It will over-tax the principals and render them useless. They will need to spend so much time on evaluations, they will not have time for anything else.”

When one looks at the Ohio Department of Education’s website, one can see from whence this sentiment emerges. For example, the “teacher evaluation resource packet,” which operationalizes the classroom observation portion of the policy, clocks in at 22 pages. By simple extrapolation, this suggests a small mountain of paperwork for a principal who supervises 20 teachers.

Is there...

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You call that "flexibility"?

Mike and Dara discuss NCLB reauthorization, NYC’s teacher evaluations, and the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes. Amber revels in the glory of having finally gotten Fordham’s epic pensions report out the door.

Amber's Research Minute

For advocates of value-added measures of teacher effectiveness, high school presents a conundrum, as testing is less frequent and often in non-contiguous subjects (making it difficult to compare prior years' results). Using data from the ACT's QualityCore program, Dan Goldhaber and his colleagues analyzed two value-added models—the traditional model comparing pre- and post-tests and a more complex analysis that considers individual student outcomes across multiple subjects—and compared their results. The benefit of the more complex model, which uses a "cross-subject student fixed-effects approach," is that it skirts the issue of non-contiguous classes and the need for pretests in subjects that students may not have encountered before. They found that the fixed-effects approach estimated smaller teacher effects (meaning that teacher quality was less important to the final score than other variables), though it is impossible to know which model was "better," as there is no objective measure of teacher quality against which to benchmark. More importantly, Goldhaber found significant variation in the results of the two models: Nearly 10 percent of the teachers who were placed in the top quintile by the fixed-effects model—the top-echelon of educators—were actually in the bottom quintile when the traditional model was used. In the world of high-stakes testing, this is concerning (especially if you're a teacher!) and reminds us that, while value-added measurements have superior predictive power relative to other methods of estimating teacher effectiveness, they are imperfect—and the tradeoffs ought to be made clearer in the popular debate.

SOURCE: Dan D. Goldhaber, Pete Goldschmidt, and...

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After a judge ruled last year that Los Angeles was in violation of the Stull Act—a forty-year-old state law signed by Governor Ronald Reagan requiring that principal and teacher evaluations include student-achievement measures, and spurred on by Los Angeles’s ongoing attempt at obtaining a district-level NCLB waiver, Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy announced that, as of next year, the district will “fully implement the evaluation changes” tested in an ongoing pilot program.

After three years of failed negotiations and angst galore, New York City has a teacher-evaluation plan. Teachers’ evaluation ratings will be comprised of student-test scores (20 to 25 percent), school-established measures (15 to 20 percent), and in-class or video-recorded observations (55 to 60 percent). But don’t break out the celebratory flan just yet! Some are balking at plans to assess subjects like art, gym, and foreign languages, and at least one mayoral candidate has already come out against the plan.

On Tuesday, D.C. councilmember David Catania announced seven proposals that could reform the District’s public education system dramatically—including a five-year facility plan and a process for handing over surplus buildings to charters. For her part, Chancellor Kaya Henderson expressed interest in some pieces (e.g., more money to low-performing high schools) but resisted the more dramatic ones (e.g., a set metric that would mandate closure for consistently underperforming schools)....

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By July 1st, Ohio law will require public school districts (charter and district) to establish a teacher evaluation policy. The evaluation policy must conform to a framework that depends half on student growth on test scores and half on classroom observations.[1] Based on these measures, teachers will earn an overall rating: accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.

In our recent survey of superintendents, Ohio’s teacher evaluation policy received mixed reviews. Nearly three out of four (73 percent) said that teacher evaluations would become accepted practice five years hence. And, 42 percent said that teacher evaluations would lead to “fundamental improvement” in the state’s K-12 school system. So, there’s modest optimism toward teacher evaluation.

But there’s undeniable angst about the policy details. Nearly all superintendents (93 percent) think that they’ll be lawsuits when personnel decisions are based on Ohio’s evaluation framework. And nearly all (86 percent) think that the classroom observation mandate will “put too much pressure on principals.” One superintendent said

“It will over-tax the principals and render them useless. They will need to spend so much time on evaluations, they will not have time for anything else.”

When one looks at the Ohio Department of Education’s website, one can see from whence this sentiment emerges. For example, the “teacher evaluation resource packet,” which operationalizes the classroom observation portion of the policy, clocks in at 22 pages. By simple extrapolation, this suggests a small mountain of paperwork for a principal who supervises 20 teachers.

Is there a...

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Teach For America (TFA), the demonstrably effective teacher placement and preparation program, is wrapping up its first year in the Buckeye State. In 2012-13, TFA placed 34 teachers in schools and pre-K centers in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky area and another 50 in Cleveland-area schools. (Six TFA teachers taught at Dayton Liberty Academies, Fordham-sponsored charter schools, and Fordham has supported TFA’s start-up efforts in Southwest Ohio financially.)

A series of articles (accessible here, here, here, here) by reporter Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer kept tabs on three of Ohio’s inaugural class of TFA teachers: Sarah Theobald, Paige Fryer, and Tierra McGee. Theobald taught preschool at Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Fryer taught first grade at Impact Academy, a charter school, and McGee taught seventh grade at Holmes Middle School in the Covington (KY) School District.

What do the Enquirer articles tell us about TFA teachers? Three characteristics are apparent:

1.)    They’re resilient – Theobald, the pre-K teacher, reported the challenge of having three Spanish-speaking students in her class. With the help of her peers, she’s managed to integrate them into her classroom—and she’s also made learning Spanish a priority.  

2.)    They learn fast – Fryer, who teaches at Impact Academy, reported how she quickly learned on-the-job teaching tricks. One was as simple as giving students clear instructions. McGee, who teaches at Covington, found that role-playing engaged her students, so she adapted her lessons accordingly.

3.)    They achieve results –Fryer, for example, achieved 1.5...

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Bianca Speranza

Last week I began my long awaited journey as a 2013 Teach for America Corp member in Southwest Ohio (SWO). Fellow corps members from all over the state, country, and even world convened in Cincinnati for a weeklong induction. The week served as an introduction into the region where we will be working for the next two years, as well as time for us to get to know each other and the motivation behind our reasons for wanting to join TFA.

We spent the week focusing on two major themes: heart and getting started. Heart: Who are the people we are working with, what are we trying to accomplish, and why does this work matter to us and to others? Over the course of five days we dove head first into the history of Cincinnati, Dayton, and Covington, discovering the people that make up these great cities and the unique challenges associated with each of them. The experiences ranged from visiting the Freedom Center to learn about the racial inequalities that have plagued Cincinnati for many years, as well as eating dinner in the home of a single-parent mother and hearing from her first hand what is important to her as a parent in Covington, KY. We also visited high-performing charter schools such as the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), hearing from their leaders, students, and teachers that the stale status quo of under achievement in a city can be just that and that there are ways to reach above...

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The Academic and the Wonk

Can wonky Mike and data-loving Dara come to an agreement on Texas’s education reforms, Illinois’s rebuff of online learning, and a moratorium on Common Core–related stakes? Amber joins the number-cruncher brigade with a study on the effect of career and technical education on math achievement.

Amber's Research Minute

Balancing Career and Technicial Education with Academic Coursework: The Consequences for Mathematics Achievement in High School,” by Robert Bozick and Benjamin Dalton, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

Mike the Squish

Is Mike going soft on accountability? Are private schools doomed? And why on earth is anyone still majoring in journalism? We ask, you decide.

Amber's Research Minute

Voice of the Graduate by McKinsey & Company, May 2013

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