Teachers

It was hardly a surprise that Indiana took home the Education Reform Idol trophy today. Pundits from across the ideological spectrum have lauded the Hoosier State for its comprehensive reforms enacted this spring?including a best-in-the-nation teacher bill, an expansive private school choice program, and a serious effort at collective bargaining and benefits reform.

But why 2011? Mitch Daniels has been in office since 2005; Tony Bennett since 2009. While they haven't been twiddling their thumbs (last year, Bennett enacted new regulations revamping teacher professional development, for instance), legislators didn't get religion on reform until now. How come?

The answer is obvious: The 2010 elections, which gave Indiana Republicans control of the House and a super-majority in the Senate. The same thing happened in Ohio, where the House and governor's office both switched from blue to red. Big GOP victories in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and other states led to similar dynamics. Though it's not an ironclad law, it's still generally true that when Republicans take power, reforms take flight.

This point might be obvious, but it bears repeating, because so...

Guest Blogger

Which of the five states competing to be America's next Education Reform Idol did the most to advance teacher effectiveness during the 2011 legislative session? Consider our analysis below, and attend our event Thursday morning (8:30-10:00AM) to see key players in all five states defend their records in front of a panel of ed-reform celebrity judges?Jeanne Allen, Richard Lee Colvin, and Bruno Manno. And click here to cast your vote for Education Reform Idol.

Florida

Florida made important strides toward ensuring teacher quality in the state this year. Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 736, which ties teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests for the first time, using a ?value-added? model. The new evaluation system (which bases 50 percent of evaluation scores on student growth) will be used to inform decisions regarding pay raises and dismissals?these decisions will no longer be based on number of advanced degrees and/or last-in, first-out policies. Salary increases and bonuses will be awarded to teachers demonstrating high levels of performance, and to those who work in low-performing schools or high-need subject areas. Although the new law doesn't circumvent...

The latest Education Next poll results are packed-full of interesting findings on topics ranging from choice to merit pay, from NCLB to tenure reform. But particularly timely, in this era of fiscal austerity, are new insights about the public's views on school budgets. And guess what: On education, like everything else, Americans don't want to make tough choices. They want to keep taxes low while boosting school spending. Sound familiar?

Let's start with taxes. Question 25a asked: ?Do you think that local taxes to fund public schools around the nation should increase, decrease, or stay about the same?? Sixty-five percent of the public wanted taxes to remain steady or drop. The numbers were a little lower for African Americans, Hispanics, and parents, but not by much. (Half of teachers even expressed this view.) Interestingly, even more people (73 percent of the public) opposed raising local taxes, even if they were to be targeted to local (instead of national) schools.

OK, Americans don't want higher taxes. So they must want school spending to remain flat, right? Wrong. Question 3b queried: ?Do you think that government funding for public schools in your district should increase, decrease, or stay...

Education Sector is one of my favorite groups in K-12 policy, and not just because I have lots of friends who work there. Since its creation five years ago its analysts have produced a steady stream of thoughtful, thought-provoking papers and posts on the most important issues facing education policymakers today.

Which is why I can't understand why the organization continues to be so wrong about one of the most consequential developments in education today: The National Council on Teacher Quality's review of education schools nationwide.

First there was Chad Adelman (since promoted to the U.S. Department of Education), who complained that NCTQ's study wasn't focused enough on outcomes:

Absent some objective outcome measures, NCTQ will only be assessing inputs to teacher quality?. There will be no mechanism to determine if all of the box-checking that NCTQ will be assessing has actually produced effective teachers.

You don't say! As Chad acknowledges, NCTQ has been at the forefront of the push for states to collect value-added data linking ed schools with their graduates' results in the classroom. A handful of states are starting to do that. But what about the other 45+ states? Should NCTQ sit on...

Answering the phone falls into the wide range of duties I perform as the staff assistant here at Fordham. I've received some peculiar calls over my tenure, but perhaps none as hostile as one that came through today. I thought I'd share the paraphrased transcript:

Me: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, this is Chris

Female Caller: Hello. Are you the group doing the Education Idol event, or whatever it's called?

For those of you that weren't aware, the event she's referring to is the Education Reform Idol, an upcoming panel hosted by the Fordham Institute pitting representatives from Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin against one another in a battle to be named the ?Reformiest State of 2011,? (with the winner being determined by live audience and online vote). The conversation continued,

Me: Yes, Education Reform Idol, that's right. How may I help you?

Female Caller: I just wanted to tell you that your event is NOT the biggest education policy event this summer. That took place this past Saturday on the National Mall?

(referring to the Save Our Schools rally)

Me:...

The debates surrounding Ohio’s biennial budget and other education-related legislation during the first half of 2011 were intense, and it’s no wonder. The state headed into the year facing a historic deficit, federal stimulus money was vanishing, and school districts were preparing for draconian cuts. Meanwhile, despite decades of reform efforts and increases in school funding, Ohio’s academic performance has remained largely stagnant, with barely one-third of the state’s students scoring proficient or better in either math or reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Achievement gaps continued to yawn between black and white students and between disadvantaged youngsters and their better-off peers.

 Revised considerably by the General Assembly, Governor Kasich’s budget plan (House Bill 153), a 5,000-page document that both funded the Buckeye State through fiscal year 2013 and included dozens of education-policy changes, was signed into law on June 30. The Ohio House and Senate were also engaged during the spring in passing other legislation that impacts schools.

It’s time to take stock. To what extent have Ohio’s leaders met the challenges and opportunities before them in K-12 education? What needs to happen next?...

I talked for a bit last night with a DCPS teacher about IMPACT. While he expressed some concern about the system, he also said he was proof of it's effectiveness. See, he's a third-year elementary teacher at a struggling school in Northeast. He had twenty kids on IEPs in his class last year--which, along with the extra strife that caused in the classroom, meant hours of added administrative work. This spring, he got a job offer to teach at a school in a wealthy Virginia district--with a guarantee of no more than five IEP students per year and a significant salary bump.

He didn't take the deal. Why? Because he was ranked highly effective this past year and earned himself a $15,000 bonus through IMPACT. That bonus was enough to keep this quality new teacher in a classroom at a needy DCPS school. (A big deal when you note that the trajectory of so many strong teachers is to "put in their time" at an urban school and then slide over to a cushy job in a suburban district, draining our cities of teacher talent.)

So on that front, IMPACT seems to be working.

--Daniela Fairchild...

Laurent Rigal

A few days ago, 206 ?ineffective? or twice-rated ?minimally effective? teachers were dismissed from their positions at the District of Columbia Public Schools thanks to the District's new teacher-evaluation system, IMPACT. As we wrote in yesterday's Gadfly,

D.C.'s terminations over the past two years mark a major milestone: the first time that teachers have been systematically, objectively assessed?and then held to account for their performance. Not even Montgomery County or Cincinnati (both of which are praised for their teacher-eval systems) can boast the rigors or consequences of IMPACT. What's more, IMPACT has survived the Fenty-Gray mayoral shift (and the exit of its architect, Michelle Rhee). It looks like the evaluation system is here to stay.

But should we really be celebrating, as Kevin Carey has asserted, ?the triumph of empiricism?? Not just yet.

Claims that the ?system is working? are, at best, premature and, at worse, detrimental to that very system's future. (Is it no more than a fancy way to axe teachers, the opponents may say?) Tallying the number of educators fired cannot be the gauge for assessing the success or effectiveness of a program like IMPACT. And banners touting the...

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