Teachers

I've long shared the core principles of the Education Equality Project, above all the conviction that great schools and teachers??can and should be expected to do a lot to equalize educational opportunity and results in the United States--this in contrast to the defeatist??"Broader Bolder" assertion that schools can't do much until society sends them an improved model of child and family. I'm also a longtime admirer of most of EEP's leaders. But I didn't sign on myself until today. Because a terrific weekend op ed on teacher effectiveness, besides hitting the mark substantively, indicated that the estimable Michael Lomax has replaced the unspeakable Al Sharpton as a co-chairman of EEP (along with Joel Klein and Janet Murguia). This morning I confirmed that happy news and instantly added my name to the list of signatories. Bravo for the Education Equality Project, both for having its policy precepts and tenets in proper order and for having cleaned up its own house.

--Chester E. Finn, Jr.

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Hurrah for the Education Policy Council??of Florida's House of Representatives for endorsing the bold teacher-reforms of pending bill HB 7189,??now headed for the House floor tomorrow or Thursday. This pathbreaking legislation--twinned with an identical measure already approved by the State Senate--has many moving parts but three of its provisions are noteworthy. It would, in effect, abolish tenure in Florida's public schools. It would base teacher evaluations at least 50 percent on student performance. And it would create a statewide "merit pay" plan for uncommonly effective teachers. [quote]

These are precisely the kinds of far-reaching reforms that my colleagues and I called for four years ago when the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, based at Stanford's Hoover Institution, evaluated Florida's Jeb Bush-era policy changes. (You can read our entire document here and the teacher-specific chapters by??distinguished political scientist Terry Moe and??acclaimed economist Eric Hanushek.)

Here is what our Task Force--including Paul Peterson, Paul Hill, Diane Ravitch, Caroline Hoxby, John Chubb, Williamson Evers, E.D. Hirsch, and Herbert Walberg, as well as Moe, Hanushek and myself--said should happen regarding??teachers and teaching in the Sunshine State:

"Florida has long been concerned about rewarding and retaining effective teachers and has recently moved vigorously to address the issue. In 2002, the state legislature required that districts base a portion of their teacher-salary determination on student performance. Because district response to the law was slow, the state legislature, in

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The schools that serve Ohio’s poor, urban and minority youngsters overwhelmingly fall short when it comes to academic performance. But there are a small handful of schools that buck these bleak trends and show serious achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.

This study profiles eight of these high-performing outlier schools and distills their successes, in hopes that state policymakers and educators can learn from them and create the conditions necessary for more schools like them.

To study the schools, Fordham commissioned two reseachers, Theodore J. Wallace and Quentin Suffren, who spent 16 days and hundreds of hours in eight schools in five cities to observe what makes them successful.

See the news release here. View the PowerPoint, an overview of findings and policy recommendations that we shared with state lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference on May 25, here.

Profiles of the eight Needles schools

Citizens' Academy (video)

College Hill Fundamental Academy (video)

Duxberry Park Arts IMPACT Alternative Elementary School

Horizon Science Academy - Cleveland Middle School (video)

King Elementary School (video)

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The National Council on Teacher Quality recently reviewed the 16 Race to the Top finalist states' ???great teachers and leaders??? application sections. NCTQ rightly pointed out one significant reform Ohio has going for it in this area ??? last summer the governor and legislature moved teacher tenure decisions until after a teacher's seventh year on the job (instead of after the third).

But in reading the rest of NCTQ's Ohio blurb, I can't help but notice how many verbs are in the future tense. The Buckeye State's ???yellow??? rating from NCTQ (???proceed with caution???/stoplight metaphor) seems too generous unless it's a flashing yellow and you're turning right onto a crowded 70 mph highway while driving a Smart Car.

NCTQ reports (italics and parenthetical comment mine):

The state adopted a new licensure system in 2009, which it promises will be calibrated with its performance-based evaluation system (which doesn't exist yet). Ohio??? also plans to revamp its guidelines to districts regarding how tenure decisions are made. Ohio also says it intends its new four-step licensing system to provide the foundation for new teacher compensation statewide.

And the kicker, the optional clause:

Ohio proposes that participating districts can ???opt to pursue??? compensation reform based on teacher effectiveness measures.

Andy has already done some great analyses of states' Race to the Top applications and has expressed frustration over several forward-looking promises and plans to...

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Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy just released a proposal for ???America's Teacher Corps,??? a federally funded program that would recognize highly effective teachers in Title I schools, award them a salary bonus ($10,000), and give them a ???portable credential??? transferrable from state to state so as to encourage the best teachers to flow to the highest-need schools. Perhaps most important, ATC would encourage states and districts to develop metrics to identify highly effective teachers in the first place. (All exciting stuff.)

The authors of the paper are spot-on in pointing out the rationale for such a program. There are general problems with the profession not recruiting the best and brightest, being plagued with high turnover, inequitable distribution of talent, etc. The ATC would minimize credentialing barriers. Ohio needs this desperately, as it doesn't always grant reciprocity for out-of-state teachers ??? i.e. making Teach For America alums jump through certification hoops regardless of prior classroom experience/performance.

Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat has a good write-up about it. He also expresses concern over a few ???potential pitfalls,??? among them the fact that a program like ATC would rely on districts having valid and reliable teacher evaluation systems.

Which is where the excitement stops.

The paper suggests that teachers will be advocates within their districts for the creation of evaluation systems that would make them eligible for the program.

We believe that the incentives of extra compensation, a portable credential, and national recognition??? will...

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???Teacher effectiveness??? has made its way to the top of the education policy agenda, supplanting the focus on ???highly qualified??? teachers from No Child Left Behind and treading into the dangerous (but necessary) territory of measuring effectiveness, in part, with student test scores. President Obama and Secretary Duncan's decision to use the language of teacher ???effectiveness??? in the application for the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants (with student growth a ???significant factor??? in measuring teacher effectiveness ) was no small shift. We'll find out soon how serious Obama and Duncan are about ensuring ???great teachers and leaders??? ??? the RttT category worth almost a third of the application points -- as first round finalists will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda Gates have their sights set on the concept of teacher effectiveness as well, investing $290 million in four cities that are developing ???groundbreaking plans to improve teacher effectiveness.??? And just to be sure we all know what effectiveness means, they're pumping another $45 million into the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an initiative that will gather data on 3,700 teachers and try to create a more precise definition of effective teaching. (The MET project will use a variety of data including student surveys, teacher surveys, and videotaped teacher observations ??? sounds a lot like the teacher training program at Hunter College that was formed...

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Ohio State University President Gordon Gee has been in the press lately for his ideas to ???reinvent??? higher education (including changes to the way professors are awarded tenure). Gee probably isn't unique in recognizing the perverse incentive structure inherent to the university tenure process, as reflected in this quote??in the LA Times:

The traditional formula that rewards publishing in scholarly journals over excellence in teaching and other contributions is outdated and too often favors the quantity of a professor's output over quality.

But Gee is exceptional in his willingness to swim against the current, by openly speaking against the holy grail of postsecondary and K-12 education alike ??? educators' tenure. In fact, it's probably the only time you'll read the words ???bold??? and ???tenure??? and the name of an Ohio education leader in the same sentence.

Admittedly, arguments for and against tenure differ dramatically at the university and K-12 level (there are legitimate reasons to incentivize non-teaching work in universities) and it's important not to conflate them. But the sentiment behind what Gee is doing ??? suggesting dramatic changes to the status quo and probably ruffling a lot of feathers in the meantime ??? is something that K-12 leaders would do well to emulate.????

The National Council on Teacher Quality, in its recent State Teacher Policy Yearbook (a look at state laws, rules and regs over the teaching profession), gave Ohio a D+.?? Our inability to ???exit ineffective teachers??? is one area...

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The Education Gadfly

Watch our debate on school turnarounds vs. closures, and don't miss insightful and provocative comments from the panelists, including this one from Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools:

My friend Michelle Rhee, who I'm sure you all know here in DC, I've heard her say that she's heard from Warren Buffet, I think, that the quickest way to fix public schools is to get rid of private schools. Because then it would not be acceptable for half the kids not to graduate. It wouldn't be acceptable.

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The Education Gadfly

???Shining a spotlight on those teachers and those principals who are doing a great job, rewarding them, learning from them--cloning them, if possible--is part of the solution.???

--Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

"Duncan Vows Tough Love for Schools," Politico

$4800

The maximum annual scholarship amount available to students in Alaska under the proposed Governor's Performance Scholarship

"Alaska Ed. Chief Defends Merit-Based Scholarships," The Associated Press

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An article in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch delivered two important reminders regarding teacher performance-pay. First, even in cities that have experimented with it for several years (Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati) the results are incredibly difficult to measure. (Recall that even Texas, which has some of the oldest and most comprehensive performance pay plans, has mixed results.)??

Second ??? and most salient on everyone's minds ??? is the fact that performance-pay is very expensive. Districts relying on grant funding from programs like the national Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) or the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) eventually need to use their own funds to supplant grant money. The Dispatch provides an example:

The four Columbus schools that have been trying TAP the longest -- Easthaven and Parkmoor elementary schools, Champion Middle and South High -- are no longer funded by the grant, which means the district is picking up the tab. The grant for the four other schools -- Fifth Avenue and Lindbergh elementary schools, and Clinton and Starling middle schools -- will run out at the start of the next school year???. The district also must cut its budget by millions, a promise made by the school board in its 2008 levy campaign. There's no guarantee that TAP will continue.

With so many Ohio districts facing sizeable budget deficits (not to mention the tidal wave of costs resulting from Gov. Strickland's ???evidence-based??? mandates), maintaining ??? let alone expanding ??? performance-pay programs...

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