Much research has spotlighted the “dance of the lemons”: the shuffling of mediocre-to-bad teachers from one school to another. But is the same thing happening between grades within schools? This CALDER report by Helen Ladd and Sarah Fuller investigates. Tapping North Carolina’s robust set of data (from 1995 to 2009), Ladd and Fuller examine two research questions: First, are teachers in the upper elementary grades (3-5) of higher quality than those in the lower elementary grades (K-2)? And second, do school-based accountability policies (i.e., No Child Left Behind and North Carolina’s state-level accountability system, known as the ABC system) contribute to these differences by filtering the better teachers into the tested grades and shuffling the lower-quality teachers into those that are untested. The upshot? Teachers in the upper elementary grades do indeed have higher licensure-test scores (the proxy these researchers used for effectiveness, as teachers in lower grades have no value-added scores to analyze). What’s more, the advent of the NCLB accountability era (2003-2009 for this study) increased the gap in teacher quality between the lower to upper grades and the tendency of schools to move teachers of higher quality from the lower to upper grades and vice versa. (Though...

Curriculum nerds

Kathleen Porter-Magee makes her podcast debut, debating reading requirements with Mike and explaining why the new science standards need improvement. Amber wonders whether upper-elementary teachers outshine their K-2 peers.

Amber's Research Minute

School Based Accountability and the Distribution of Teacher Quality Among Grades in Elementary School by Sarah C. Fuller & Helen F. Ladd - Download PDF

After reading about the eleventh-hour teacher evaluation deal brokered by Governor Andrew Cuomo (see the New York Times report here) in my local newspaper (which I’m not divulging, to protect the innocent), I turned the page and was drawn to a regular section of the paper called “Restaurant Inspections.” Like its cousin, “Police Blotter,” this is where the dirt is, so to speak. And I read about many of our local restaurants, in detail that I’m sure did not make the owners very happy. Here's one with five violations:

…the restaurant was found to have a dirty slicer with dried food debris, a dirty floor with grease and food debris accumulation around equipment and inside the walk-in refrigerator, no visible thermometer in the prep refrigeration, absorbent tablecloths stored on the shelf underneath the cook’s prep table with dried food debris on the baking supply rack, and a can of wasp/hornet spray stored in the kitchen on the shelf next to a flour storage bin.

I wondered, What if these restaurant inspection results were sent only to the restaurant’s patrons? Why do they have to be published in the paper for all to see?


Bah humbug

Checker and Mike explain why individual charter schools shouldn’t be expected to educate everyone and divide over Obama’s non-enforcement policies. Amber analyzes where students’ science skills are lacking.

Amber's Research Minute

The Nation’s Report Card: Science in Action: Hands-On and Interactive Computer Tasks from the 2009 Science Assessment - National Center for Education Statistics

Guest blogger Paul Gross is an emeritus professor of life sciences at the University of Virginia and former head of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

Yesterday in Ed Week, an article by Nora Fleming highlighted the results from a recent NAEP assessment of “hands-on” science skills, which demonstrated that “elementary, middle, and high school students failed to demonstrate a deep understanding of science concepts when they performed activity-based science tasks and investigations…” This breathless account hardly merits close attention. The NAEP data will receive it in due course. But the remarks of the NAEP Governing Board’s spokesman, here quoted, are disturbing. They call for a response not much longer than statements quoted in Nora Fleming’s article.

Cell Culture
All scientific "situations" are "real life."
Photo by Umberto Salvagnin.

First, the comment attributed to Alan J. Friedman implies that, until now, K-12 science education has consisted of “rote memory and how to follow instructions.” Abandonment of this canard by science teachers (and their teachers) is long...

Rick fades in the fourth quarter

Mike and Rick ponder the future of teacher unions and the College Board while Amber provides the key points from a recent CDC study and wonders if the kids are alright after all.

Amber's Research Minute

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2011 by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Total recall

Mike and Janie discuss the fallout from the Wisconsin recall election and teacher unions’ image problem, while Amber explains what we can learn from the best CMOs.

Amber's Research Minute

Managing Talent for School Coherence: Learning from Charter Management Organizations by CRPE & Mathematica DOWNLOAD PDF

Historically, teacher evaluations have been “nothing burgers,” with nearly 100 percent of educators rated “satisfactory” or better (often based on a single classroom observation, if that). These empty-calorie appraisals of educator effectiveness keep the teaching profession plump—but don’t provide the right regimen to ensure its health. Recently, however, some have begun changing their diets. This report from Public Impact, 50CAN, and ConnCAN offers detailed profiles of ten meaty programs: Delaware, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Hillsborough County (Tampa), Houston, New Haven, Pittsburgh, D.C., Achievement First, and Relay Graduate School of Education. (Why CO's Harrison School District 2 wasn’t included, we’re unsure.) It explains how each handles all aspects of teacher assessment, from student-achievement measures and classroom observations to nonacademic measures; data accuracy, validity, and reliability; and evaluation-result reporting. Tennessee, for example, gathered teams of educators in each of the subjects not on state tests (and therefore not available for value-added analyses) to determine growth measures for these courses. And, to handle the sticky situation of team teaching, Rhode Island weights value-added results to reflect the amount of time each teacher spends with a student. Those hungry...

“We’ve got it; let’s spend it!” seemed to be the motto of most state pension program in the 1990s.

“We’ve got it; let’s spend it!” seemed to be the motto of most state pension program in the 1990s. After finding surpluses in these kitties, most states beefed up their pension benefits (called “benefit enhancement”)—as opposed to putting the money in the bank. In Missouri—as this new study by pension guru Michael Podgursky and colleagues explains—these sweeteners included, but were not limited to, upping basic payouts (by tweaking the calculation of final average salaries), raising the cap on the cost-of-living adjustments (twice), and adding a retroactive bonus for career teachers (those with thirty-one-plus year of service). The state, and its current teachers, are now paying dearly for the spending spree. Podgursky and co. examined personnel data from 1995 through 2009 from the Missouri Dept of Ed and the Public Service Retirement system to determine the impact of these policies. They estimate that the net immediate increase in pension benefits for educators was roughly $25,000 per teacher (double that if the promised increases are factored in). However, these benefits were distributed highly unevenly: Teachers on the cusp of retirement saw “large windfall...

Chicago Teachers Union members began voting yesterday on whether to authorize a walkout, potentially strengthening CTU President Karen Lewis’s hand in contract negotiations with Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools. Even with an affirmative vote, a strike is not guaranteed, but the union and district remain divided over class size and compensation (pay raises, merit pay, pay for a longer school day) and the conflict grows more complex daily as outside advocacy groups join the fray and hizzoner’s star continues its rise. The timing of the vote is revealing: As the Chicago Tribune pointed out, “taking the vote now will allow 1,500 retiring teachers—most of them union stalwarts—a chance to vote as well.” This not-insignificant cohort of the CTU’s nearly 30,000 members could be counted on to toe the line, so the union did the stretching necessary to ensure that loyalists got to cast their ballots. Regardless of whether the union ends up walking out on students next fall, such maneuvering is telling: As the teaching force greys and its faith in unions dwindles, catering to the whims of veterans who benefit the most from the status quo puts the CTU (and the AFT and...