Teachers

The results of New York’s hard-fought, revamped, and supposedly tougher teacher-evaluation system are in: 91.5 percent of teachers were rated either highly effective or effective, 4.4 percent were rated “developing,” and just 1 percent were rated “ineffective.” This appears to be a continuation of a trend: After a huge push for rigorous teacher evaluations tied to achievement, the results are mostly the same. These outcomes are especially interesting when juxtaposed with those from the recently lauded D.C. IMPACT system [link to SR]. Mike Petrilli, unsurprised, notes that the natural local response to top-down mandates is to resist.

A thoughtful article in National Review Online profiled the battle against “progressive education” over the last half century and, in particular, the contributions of E.D. Hirsch Jr. to the cause. It is a must-read for anyone those who wish to understand more clearly the philosophical underpinnings of the education-reform movement.

New York Times op-ed columnist Bill Keller highlighted the move to reform teacher preparation, noting in particular the calls for greater selectivity in admissions (a key point in Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World), better training in content knowledge (as quoted in the article, researcher William Schmidt reckoned that about 60 percent of America’s future middle school math teachers were being trained at “Botswana-level teacher programs”), and the introduction of “sustained, intense classroom experience” into prep programs.

Seven states—Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington—will participate in a...

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Playing telephone in the age of the internet

Are states making progress towards implementing the Common Core ELA standards? Did New York waste its time revamping its teacher-evaluation system? Is Teach For America getting too big for its britches? And what exactly is the anti-blob? Mike and Michelle ponder these questions, while Amber lays out the impact of IMPACT.

Common Core & Curriculum Controversies

Common Core & Curriculum Controversies

Does three times four equal eleven? Will "fuzzy math" leave our students two years behind other countries? Will literature vanish from the English class? Is gifted-and-talented education dying? A barrel of rumors and myths about curriculum has made its way into discussions of the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts. Experts will tackle these fears and claims at Fordham on October 23, 2013. Hear from Jason Zimba on math myths, Tim Shanahan on the texts that teachers may assign, and a panel of practicing K--12 educators for an early look at Common Core implementation in their states and districts.
 
Common Core math myths: A conversation with Jason Zimba
 
Are teachers assigning Common Core aligned texts? A conversation with Tim Shanahan
 
An early look at Common Core implementation: A panel discussion
 
Moderated by Michael Petrilli

As a born optimist, I don’t generally enjoy being “against” reforms. This sometimes makes playing the role of gadfly challenging. If only I had the curmudgeonly qualities of Checker Finn, my mentor and boss, it would be so much easier. (Even Rick Hess, for all of his straight talk and fun-loving, bare-kneed exploits, is much more the natural cynic.)

So it brings me no pleasure to predict, as I have on multiple occasions, that the project to create rigorous teacher evaluations by fiat is likely to fail. But read this passage within a recent post by Megan McArdle (on Republican states actively working to torpedo ObamaCare implementation), and see if it rings alarm bells for you, too:

Obamacare is in jeopardy, and Democrats are casting around for a way to blame this on Republicans. The answer they have settled on: It's their fault because Republican governors did not set up exchanges.

Think about what they are actually saying: “We passed a law that was so incredibly fragile that it was destined to fail unless all the state governments controlled by the party that opposed this law worked hard to make the system a success.”

And

As anyone who has ever implemented a new program (corporate or government) can tell you, one of the biggest hurdles is getting people who don’t care about your program, or who actively oppose it, to make their piece work. Even if they’re trying in good faith,

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In recent months, so many reformers have come down with a case of the shakes, fretting about everything under the sun.

There are those who list the supposed litany of missteps made by our movement’s leaders. Then there are those who offer expansive mea culpas for all of the grievances thrown their way.

But no specific policy topic has caused more reformer repentance than educator evaluations. These new systems, we’re told by our erstwhile comrades-in-arms, have infuriated teachers, corrupted the formative nature of observations, and so much more. In fact, Mike Petrilli just cited these new evaluation systems as the easiest-to-criticize element in reform’s agenda.

Hopefully, the new, very encouraging study of Washington, D.C.’s IMPACT will coax some of my panicky friends out from under their covers.

I’ve long been a huge fan of IMPACT. It’s an educator-evaluation system that dramatically improves observations, makes use of student performance, rewards excellence, and has meaningful consequences for persistence low performance.

And it turns out—sorry Chicken Littles!— it’s working.

The study by Dee and Wyckoff found several positive effects. Maybe most importantly, it’s bringing about greater effectiveness across the board. It’s helping struggling teachers improve, and, remarkably, even causing those at the top to get better and better. In the words of one of the coauthors, “We find strong evidence that this system causes meaningful increases in teacher performance.”

It’s also helping to encourage the lowest-performing teachers to voluntarily leave the...

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Last week, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute was lucky to co-host "Re-Imagining Teaching: Five Structures to Transform the Profession" with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). There was a great conversation (both in house and on Twitter), with one key takeaway standing apart from the others: The education-policy world needs to listen more to teachers.

NNSTOY executive director Katherine Basset and Fordham executive vice president Michael Petrilli kicked off the event:

The panel then turned to an extraordinary panel of teachers—all of whom are themselves in “hybrid roles,” mixing teaching and policy.

We certainly didn't forget Common Core:

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As part of the AEI Teacher Quality 2.0 series, the authors of this paper take on the delicate issue of school-staffing design. In the first two pages, they rip apart arguments others have spent years carefully constructing: Teacher pay may be too low, but, they counter, across-the-board raises are impossibly expensive for even profligate spenders ($16 billion per year, or roughly the entire Title I budget for just a $5,000 per teacher raise, according to their calculations). Professional development is also important, but won’t do much good when teachers have so little adult interaction and feedback. And of course we want able, motivated individuals to enter the profession, but they leave quickly when they find no pathway to advance professionally as they could and would in other lines of work. So what’s the alternative? The authors offer up several staffing models that have in common a reduction in the number of teachers—who, in today’s standard model, are chiefly responsible for two-dozen or so students at a time. Since the 1970s, they remind us, the number of staff in our schools has increased by 84 percent, while the number of students has only increased at least a tenth of that rate. Instead, the paper calls for giving top teachers more students or oversight over multiple classrooms, allowing those in the primary grades to specialize by subject, employ blended learning, or even teach remotely. Touchstone Charter Schools in New Jersey, for example, created a teacher career ladder by allowing “master teachers”...

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Staffing Design: The Missing Key to Teacher Quality 2.0, and the exemplar programs its authors highlight are worth a look. As part of the AEI Teacher Quality 2.0 series, authors Bryan Hassel, Emily Ayscue Hassel, and Sharon Kebschull Barrett examine many of the HR policies offered by both the status-quo and reform camps and find both lacking. Each side makes important points, argue the authors, but their oft-proposed solutions aren’t going to make much of a dent if we maintain our current education-delivery model.

In the first two pages, the authors rip apart arguments others have spent years carefully constructing: Teacher pay may be too low but, they counter, across-the-board raises are impossibly expensive for even profligate spenders ($3.2 billion per year for just a $1,000 per teacher raise according to their calculations). Professional development is important, but won’t do much good when teachers have so little adult interaction and feedback. Of course we want able, motivated individuals to enter the profession, but they leave quickly when they find no ability to advance professionally as they could and would in other lines of work.

Reformers understandably yearn to replace ineffective teachers with instructional superstars, but “if the nation succeeded in attracting 50,000 more new teachers each year who ended up as effective as today’s top 25 percent; tripled the dismissal rate of ineffective teachers; and doubled the retention rate of excellent teachers, even after five years, the number of classrooms with excellent teachers in charge would rise from 25 percent to just...

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Dear Deborah,

I’m glad you brought up the topic of democracy. In future posts, I plan to explore the habits and attributes we hope to inculcate in our youthful, budding citizens, including a commitment to self-sufficiency. But today let’s continue the conversation about democratic...

Thanks to the tireless work of school-choice advocates and wise policymakers, millions of U.S. children and their parents now have education options that were not available to them a few short years ago. But the choice picture is sorely incomplete. Consider:

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Does school accountability boost students’ long-term prospects? That’s the question this new study by David Deming, Sarah Cohodes, Jennifer Jennings, and Christopher Jencks seeks to answer by examining the impact of accountability pressure in the Texas public high schools in the 1990s. (Jennings...

We all know the story: the team that's always way back in the standings employs a brilliant new strategy to try to close the gap between itself and the wealthy powerhouses. The strategy works, but only briefly, as the well-off teams quickly steal the winning strategies to maintain their...

Politics aside, the fate of the Common Core begins and ends with implementation. Particularly during this initial transition, it is critical that educators have sufficient support and guidance to successfully teach these standards. Unfortunately, much existing information focuses on content...

Politics aside, the fate of the Common Core begins and ends with implementation. Particularly during this initial transition, it is critical that educators have sufficient support and guidance to successfully teach these standards. Unfortunately, much existing information focuses on content rather than instructional strategy, leaving educators baffled as to how to navigate the shift to Common Core in their own classrooms. Enter the Achievement Network (ANet), a nonprofit serving low-income schools. (Check out Education Next for great background.) Released as part of a collection of Common Core resources published by the Aspen Institute, this paper was informed by substantial on-the-ground work with 460 partner schools in seven states and the District of Columbia. It’s structured around three rubrics: one for “Leader Actions,” one for “Teacher Actions,” and one for “School Structures.” Each is designed to help on-the-ground educators diagnose their school’s current practices and details how to shift from basic to innovative practices in key areas. The report includes specific strategies ranging from how leaders can help teachers understand and plan from the new standards to how to improve teachers’ analysis and use of student data. For example, school leaders are urged to work closely with teachers to set goals based on individual students’ growth potential and to assist them in selecting one or two priority standards and instructional shifts on which to focus. The guide also includes sample questions upon which leaders can frame school-level discussions and provides case studies as examples of how other schools and...

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