The metrosexual edition

In this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli and and Robert Pondiscio look at Jeb Bush's recently released education plan through the ESSA lens, knock a proposal to change college admissions from a group of elite schools, and debunk the idea that parents shouldn't help their kids with math homework. In the Research Minute, Amber Northern discusses how student teaching experiences affect attrition rates.

Amber's Research Minute

Dan Goldhaber, John M. Krieg, and Roddy Theobald, "Does the Match Matter? Exploring Whether Student Teaching Experiences Affect Teacher Effectiveness and Attrition," CALDER (January 2016).


Mike:                    Hello this is your host Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute here at the Education Gadfly Show and online at and now please join me in welcoming my co-host, the revenant of education reform, Robert Pondiscio.

Robert:                 Does that mean I've come back from the dead?

Mike:                    Or just from a long absence, if you look it up.

Robert:                 It's only a week Mike?

Mike:                    Have you seen the movie yet?

Robert:                 I have not, but I'm looking forward to it honestly.

Mike:                    Oh you do see movies, this is good. You're absolutely like a [carmegene 00:00:43] about pop culture.

Robert:                 No, I'm not ... Yes.

Mike:                    It's quite a movie. I did it. It's yes, wow. To see Leonardo DiCaprio go through all kinds of hell, fascinating. You know what struck me though, see if you agree with this afterwards. This movie it's about Jeb Bush.

Robert:                 It is?

Mike:                    Yeah.

Robert:                 He's back from the dead?

Mike:                    Well maybe, if he comes back. If there is a comeback story, you know because he's basically been buried alive and yet, here he is trying to crawl.

Robert:                 Let's see how far we can beat this man into the ground. Deeper into the grave than Leo was buried in.

Mike:                    We're all back in the contention. Of course somebody on Twitter, who was it, I'm going to forget asked, "Who is the bear in that analogy?" To which I reply, "Well if you really have to ask that question, you haven't been paying attention to this years political contest."

Robert:                 Pretty much all the other candidates.

Mike:                    Well, one in particular.

Robert:                 Yeah, one or two.

Mike:                    Okay, speaking of Jeb Bush, we're going to talk about his new education plan and other education reform goings on this week. Clara let's play pardon the Gadfly.

Clara:                     Jeb Bush recently released his campaign's education plan. What are the highlights and where did he fall short?

Robert:                 Jeb the revenant Bush.

Mike:                    Jeb the revenant Bush. Here he is. Yeah, he has a plan out and it's quite good.

Robert:                 Okay. That's not surprising.

Mike:                    That's not surprising.

Robert:                 All of that the gang of how many there are left, he's got the deepest resume on education by far.

Mike:                    He does, now look, his track record in Florida was stellar. It's been a big part of his post-governor life. He's going around the country helping other governors, especially Republican governors craft education reform plans and he got great results.

Robert:                 I think it's not a national issue but ...

Mike:                    Yeah, I mean look at the state level, Florida made huge gains under his tenure. You'll be accused of [nisnepary 00:02:24] if you say that you can prove that's because of his policies, but it sure seems like something did something to get student achievement up dramatically for low income kids in Florida. It was probably those set of reforms certainly had something to do with it.

Robert:                 Among the most choice friendly states in the country.

Mike:                    Choice friendly as well, we are reminded that by a big rally for school choice in Tallahassee just this past weekend. A lot of good stuff. Now here's the trick, is that of course congress just passed a big overhaul of the 'No-child left behind' act, his brother's big education bill so there's really not much to be done in the K-12 front going forward. None of these folks are going to do much on K-12 education, because they're not going to re-open this new ESSA. His most interesting stuff is really at the pre-school level, and at the higher-ed level.

Robert:                 There is always that bully pulpit argument.

Mike:                    And there is the bully pulpit stuff. You know what's interesting Robert and kind of still ... It makes you scratch your head. He as one of the leading Republicans on this issue, he makes the case, both at pre-K and at college to try to focus scarce resources on the neediest kids.

Robert:                 Right.

Mike:                    It's the Democrats who talk about universal pre-K and universal free college.

Robert:                 Right, the holiest word in the biblical lexicon, universal, yeah.

Mike:                    Universal, I don't get it. Why is it that the Democrats are the ones that want to give free stuff to rich people and it's the Republicans who only want to give free stuff to poor people?

Robert:                 Here's what I don't get. Right now, our presidential choices have been narrowed to one party has narrowed it down to 2 old white candidates, and the other party is the Republicans.

Mike:                    Yes it's very well said, very well said Robert. You should be on Fox News with that kind of commentary, I love it.

Robert:                 Just trying to keep it moving Mike.

Mike:                    Look, who knows if Jeb is the revenant and can actually come back from the dead. Probably not likely but his education plan may live on. It's certainly something that a Marco Rubio could pick up, or other senator candidates if they were to find themselves in the White House. Okay topic number 2.

Clara:                     A group of elite colleges are out with a proposal to change college admissions, is it praise worthy?

Mike:                    Are you going to praise it brother Pondiscio?

Robert:                 Well-

Mike:                    Can we get an amen?

Robert:                 Not quite. Look, you know me Mike, I am not a cynical guy right? Would you describe me as a cynical guy? I'm a fairly earnest fellow right?

Mike:                    No, but you're skeptical, rightfully so.

Robert:                 Yeah but appropriately.

Mike:                    You called the high raising graduation rates bullshit last week.

Robert:                 I did, I kind of used that word, didn't I?

Mike:                    Yeah.

Robert:                 I'm sorry about it, well I'm not going to use it for this report, but I'm tempted. I mean look, there is this report out from a group of higher-ed institutions led by the Harvard graduate school of education and look full disclosure, I did not have a chance to read this report in depth, I'm going to read it tonight, I'm going to write about it tomorrow, but Frank Bruni wrote about it in the New York Times yesterday, because I'm not Frank Bruni, he gets the advanced copy, I do not.

Mike:                    Yeah.

Robert:                 But look the issue here is they are saying there is too much pressure on high achieving kids, they are taking hundreds of APs, there's this kind of academic arms race in the colleges you're saying, that's got to stop. But a glance at this report, they're not taking that many meaningful steps, it's all messaging. They want to promote meaningful contributions to community service, engagement with the public good, et cetera, et cetera. That's their concern, that there is too much pressure on kids. They're putting too much pressure on themselves to be super achievers. They're forgetting the common good. They're lacking in empathy. It's starting to sound like forgive me, they are concerned about a 'kumbaya' gap.

                                Now I mean come on, we're not going to be able to legislate away human nature. You're are always going to have ambition. The college presidents cannot message their way out of kids wanting to be in elite institution. But you know what, that's not even what bothers me most about this, what bothers me most about this is this assumption, this tacit assumption that the high end, the high end achievers, the affluent kids and their parents are what drives education in this country. We do not have a problem. I refuse to believe that we have a problem of over ambition and over served kids. We have just the opposite problem.

Mike:                    Right.

Robert:                 This just sends the wrong signals.

Mike:                    Well, look this is an issue for like 5% of the schools, these hot and how schools.

Robert:                 Thanks.

Mike:                    They happen to be the ones that many of our kids go to and the children of the media elites and et cetera so we pay attention to this stuff.

Robert:                 And we think that's universal, there is that word again.

Mike:                    Sure there are some kids who are stressed out in these schools, and then some of these schools may over do it, but on the other had, look if as a parent you don't want your kids stressed out? Don't worry about them going to Harvard.

Robert:                 Right.

Mike:                    I mean, there is a lot of other kinds of colleges that they can go to, where they can have a more relaxed atmosphere.

Robert:                 Here is my pie in the sky solution, you really want it in the academic arm's race Harvard, Yale, Princeton, do this.

Mike:                    Yeah.

Robert:                 Publish your criteria. Say, "We're looking for these scores. We're looking for this GPA, these many hours of volunteerism," whatever it is, publish it make it transparent. Every kid that applies who is qualified, lottery them in.

Mike:                    Yeah, people will hate that, but you're right, it's probably more fair. Let me understand ...

Robert:                 But it also-

Mike:                    Are they saying this in this 'kumbaya' proposal, are they saying, "Less focus on GPAs, less focus on SAT or ACT scores?"

Robert:                 Well that's the devil in the details. Are they willing to take kids with lower SAT scores? In other words, it's one thing to say, we're messaging that these other things are important, but unless you are clear in your criteria, kids are going to have to do everything they can to stand out from among this very, very crowded field.

Mike:                    Let me ask a difficult but frank question.

Robert:                 Sure. You don't know, I don't think so.

Mike:                    Is this about lowering the percentage of kids at these schools who are Asian-American?

Robert:                 You know what I think it is? And again-

Mike:                    Can I explain?

Robert:                 Sure.

Mike:                    I mean, look we see increasing evidence ... First of all there are some college campuses where there's a huge percentage of those kids are Asian-Americans right?

Robert:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike:                    Those kids are by and large outperforming everybody else in America. They are outperforming most other people around the world, when you look at the ratings right?

Robert:                 Absolutely.

Mike:                    Incredibly high achievement, whether you look at test scores, whether you look at GPAs you look at kids taking these AP classes, they are crashing it on average, of course I'm talking about in generalities. I think some of this reflex white parent's anxiety that their kids cannot compete with Asian-Americans if you just look at test scores, if you look at GPAs, if you look at APs. Maybe if you start to look at these other warm and fuzzier things, their kids can look better.

Robert:                 Here is what I think it is, it's a variation on that theme. I don't want to reduce this to a demographic battle. But I think there is some legitimate concern and I don't minimize it on the part of a lot of parents said, "Hey my kid really is too stressed out. Hey my kid really is facing a lot of pressures to achieve and stand out." Rather than say what you just said, "Hey you know what? Maybe my kid is not going to go to Harvard, maybe that's okay." They still want that prerogative, so they want nobody to be able to stand out.

Mike:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:                 We've got to change the rules for everybody so my kid can still be less stressed and still go to Harvard.

Mike:                    Okay, topic number 3.

Robert:                 That's hypocritical.

Mike:                    Topic number 3.

Clara:                     Is it really true that parents shouldn't try to help their kids with their common core math.

Robert:                 Oh lord. Please.

Mike:                    We have to have our silly common core debate. It's been a little while but Robert, supposedly somebody important said that they, you know, "Parents stop trying to help your kids with common core math. You're too damn to do it, leave it to the experts."

Robert:                 Okay can we unpack what happened here. Jason Zimba who I know and respect, but he's a controversial figure right? He wrote the common core state math standards. He was one of the principle authors. He gave an interview, I believe it was the hechinger report a few weeks ago and the headline was ridiculous. The headline which had nothing to do with the report or what Zimba said was something to the effect of, "Butt out parents, don't help your kids with their homework." What followed after that was a reasonable story about doing just the opposite, helping your kids. I think it was Bright Bud or some other conservative website basically went after Jason Zimba and said, you know, "Here's this guy saying butt out, don't help your kids with their math homework." He never said that. He's got a piece on our blog that is a little bit more nuance and smarter, sorry [Bright Bud 00:10:11].

Mike:                    No and look, I think what Jason said, I remember years ago him making the case that we would have avoided a lot of the controversy and backlash if schools had been a little bit smarter about what they assigned for homework. For example, rather than sending home all of these stuff that looked really unfamiliar to all of us who didn't go through math this way, right about you know, graphing out the answers to your problems, now all of a sudden the number lines and all that stuff. Instead, just assign, especially for little kids, assign them to just practice their math facts, which is a big part of the common core, and which is a great activity to do at home with the flash cards, with apps on iPads, with all kinds of things. By the way, that's the kind of thing where you just need to take the time to take that practice so that as the standards expect you get those math facts down to automaticity.

Robert:                 Automaticity matters and one of the points that Jason made in his piece on our blog is exactly that. That whether you can help your kid with the more advanced math or not, you can do things like work with them on their math facts, play math games, et cetera. Look I'll be honest, I wasn't able to help my daughter with her math homework past probably 7th or 8th grade, math is not my best subject. We still played lots of math games. Still to this day, we play math games and we invent ourselves.

Mike:                    Plus that poker game you've got.

Robert:                 Oh yeah, that. But she beats me now, so I don't do that anymore.

Mike:                    All right, very good. That's all the time we've got for pardon the Gadfly. Now it's time for everyone's favorite Amber's research minute. Amber, welcome back.

Amber:                 Thanks Mike.

Mike:                    Hey did you see the revenant yet?

Amber:                 Just have no interest.

Mike:                    Really?

Robert:                 What?

Amber:                 Don't have any interest.

Robert:                 Oh.

Amber:                 I mean it's gory, what is it a guy fighting a bear. I mean, that's not great.

Mike:                    That's a small part of it, but yes.

Amber:                 Who cares, like every stupid trailer is him all bloody and dirty and gangly fighting a bear.

Mike:                    Oh but there are some great survival skills that are taught in this movie. I ended up sharing some details with the boys, of course I couldn't help myself and Megan started shoving me because I'm going to give them nightmares based on some of the stuff.

Robert:                 Oh you didn't take them yourself?

Mike:                    No I didn't take them, I didn't take them but I had to tell them about some of the things. It was amazing.

Amber:                 I don't know, maybe it's just for me I hate to be gender, but is it a female, is it a guy thing? Because all I see is him killing this bear? Because I'm just not-

Mike:                    It's definitely ... There's not a ... Well, it's probably mostly a guy movie, and ... But I think the bear was amazing, wait till you see the horse.

Amber:                 The horse.

Robert:                 Wait a minute. Here is all I know, what do the revenant and Washington have in common right now? A lot of snow.

Mike:                    Oh there it is.

Amber:                 This is why it is sort of funny because I want to see Brooklyn-

Robert:                 It's great.

Mike:                    I saw that too. See Robert and I, metro section style, we go both ways on these movies.

Amber:                 Oh no, that's the movie.

Mike:                    It's a great movie.

Amber:                 My husband's like, "Do we have to?" I was like, "Oh we're going."

Mike:                    It's goo, it's good but yes.

Robert:                 There is this podcast online, Mike and Rob go both ways. Okay, can I go now?

Mike:                    Okay, yeah. Why don't we get to the research.

Amber:                 All right, we've got a new study out by Colder with our buddy Dan Goldhaber. It examines a potential link between student teaching experience and both later teaching effectiveness and the likelihood of leaving the teaching profession. Okay?

Mike:                    Hasn't Dan done this study like 10 times?

Amber:                 Well ...

Mike:                    I'm sorry Dan, I had to say it.

Amber:                 No. He hasn't.

Mike:                    Okay, sorry.

Amber:                 He analyzed data from 6 Washington State University based teacher-ed programs and they graduate about a third of the teachers in the state by the way. A ton of data on teacher candidates they're cooperating teachers where they did their internship, how long it was I think. They had all this administrative data relative to race and gender and education background and teaching endorsement, talk about a powerhouse of data. The sample included individuals who had completed their teaching experience between 1998 through 2010, so about 8,300 teaching candidates.

                                All right, good old Dan says about a million times that these are descriptive not calls or findings, okay?

Mike:                    Okay.

Amber:                 Because he's got all these models that are great and wonderful but at the end of the day, they cannot account for the non-random sorting that occurs here between teachers of schools and teaching positions. Descriptive, descriptive, descriptive, nevertheless, interesting stuff. Okay?

Mike:                    But descriptive.

Amber:                 But descriptive, teachers who taught ... Student-taught in schools with low levels of teacher turnover are low and behold, less likely to leave teaching. That's not real ...

Robert:                 Wow. Yeah, okay. Regardless of where they were place after?

Amber:                 Right, that's right.

Robert:                 Okay.

Amber:                 Second, teachers appeared to be more effective, this is really interesting when the student demographics at their school reflect those of the school in which they student taught.

Robert:                 Also makes sense.

Mike:                    Yeah.

Amber:                 For example students in a high poverty school are predicted to score about 0.15 standard deviation higher if their teacher taught in a school with the same free and reduced lunch percentage than if their teacher taught in a low poverty.

Robert:                 That actually strikes me as my only counter intuitive, I'll tell you why in a minute.

Amber:                 I've got my own anecdote, okay. Of interest, teachers are more likely to have student taught in a more advantaged school than their current school, okay, so 60% of teaching interns are student teachers, teach their first teaching gig in a school with a higher percentage of free and reduced lunch kids and their school where they intern.

Mike:                    Yeah, not surprising.

Amber:                 Not surprising. This means that students in disadvantaged schools are less likely than those in advantaged schools to have a teacher who's internship matches their school setting so advise ...

Mike:                    But they are also not putting up as student teachers.

Amber:                 They're also not putting up student ...

Robert:                 Oh, in the low SAS.

Mike:                    Yeah, I mean ... Right, the fewer of these high poverty schools actually have student teachers which you could argue is a good thing, we're not practicing on the poor kids.

Amber:                 Ah, the poor kids, okay. Their take, is that if teacher-ed programs are committed to teachers who can be successful in disadvantaged schools, then they need to be placing more teachers there.

Mike:                    Yup.

Amber:                 Anyway, I just thought, I mean there is no huge take away from Amber here except that, we don't have enough good research on teacher-ed schools, right? Because we don't have rock house databases like the one that Diana assembled together.

Mike:                    Right.

Amber:                 I thought, even though these weren't caused, that they were pretty intriguing and interesting findings.

Robert:                 Here is what I would like to say, and this is completely intuitive, no data whatsoever just one teacher's experience. I've always thought it would be, I would have been a better teacher if I had my first year of teaching in a high functioning ... How are we going to define this goal, regardless of demographics, but a school that was solid, stable high functioning. Then send me to the South Bronx school where I did my actual first year teaching because I spent so much time my first year learning the nuts and bolts, getting my discipline down that until I had that down, I couldn't really teach at all.

                                I'd rather come in, having learned my craft so to speak and then having my classroom management, my discipline down, and that makes me a better teacher.

Mike:                    Yeah. I definitely look, I think that we shouldn't put anybody in a bad school for student teaching or in a with a bad teacher for student teaching, right? I mean you definitely want people to see what it looks like when it's done right.

Robert:                 Yeah.

Mike:                    I think that is important. Now, I think you can find good high poverty schools out there and those are the ones that we want to try to place kids in. Look I definitely think that these teacher-ed programs should be having specific programs for urban education or for high poverty schools, and some do, right?

Robert:                 Not enough.

Mike:                    Recruit kids on the front end who want to do those mission based schools and focus everything on, "Hey, here's the curriculum that they teach in our big inner city district and let's make sure you're ready to teach them." Let's do the discipline and let's read [Lamave 00:17:48] and let's ... Does, do any of those ed schools exist?

Robert:                 Not a lot. Relay, much in Boston but not a lot.

Amber:                 Yeah. My anecdote is I had all AP kids in my student teaching experience.

Robert:                 Wow.

Mike:                    Yeah.

Amber:                 Then I went to Norfolk public schools, urban.

Mike:                    But did that help?

Amber:                 Well ...

Robert:                 Yeah, did that? ...

Amber:                 No. These kids are on a different ... Believe it I had at risk 9th graders and I just came from 12th grade AP students. I don't think it's ideal either way to go, like it's a shock to your system, right? Hey, one other fact I didn't get to. Interns assigned to cooperating teachers with advanced degrees are less effective once they enter the workforce.

Mike:                    I wonder what that is?

Amber:                 Head-scratcher, huh.

Robert:                 Interesting.

Amber:                 We know that teachers of masters degrees ... It's not predictive of more effective teaching so, anyway ...

Mike:                    Interesting.

Amber:                 I know I can ...

Mike:                    Hey, here's my other big question Amber, how many Dan Goldhaber studies have you now done on the research minute over the past 8 years or so?

Robert:                 All of them.

Amber:                 I know. I can't help it.

Mike:                    I think Dan is definitely the most of anybody, right?

Amber:                 Well, but Dan listens to the show and he knows when we cover his research and he thanks me for knowing it.

Mike:                    I know, so other researchers out there, pay attention. Amber is open to suggestions. If you want your study covering.

Amber:                 I know, I can be this way.

Mike:                    We're definitely into double digits on Dan Gold.

Amber:                 We are, and various NDR papers.

Robert:                 Dan is the research revenant, he'll be back.

Mike:                    But he's not even close to being dead.

Robert:                 All right.

Mike:                    No, Dan is more like the ... I have to think about this.

Amber:                 Get ourselves in trouble.

Mike:                    Okay. Thank you Amber fascinating stuff, and Robert till next time.

Robert:                 I'm Robert Pondiscio.

Mike:                    And I'm Mike Petrilli, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute signing off.