After decades of education
schools’ oligarchic control over teacher licensure, alternative-certification
pathways have gained traction in recent years. (Fordham has tracked
and supported
these pathways since the first such emerged in NJ.) Still,
resistance to them remains. Many critics argue that alt-cert pathways
cherry-pick their entrants. (Much has been written about TFA on this front). This paper by Tim Sass,
a CALDER researcher and economics professor, analyzes three of Florida’s nine  alternate pathways to teacher licensure—none
of which engage in heavy recruiting, and some of which require no coursework
before or after licensure. Overall, the author finds that teachers who enter
the profession with no education
coursework under their belts are better at raising student achievement than
either those from traditional teacher-prep programs or alt-cert programs
requiring some formal coursework—though there is much variability in programs’
effectiveness. Sass also investigates prior coursework taken by teachers who
enter through each pathway and produces an interesting finding: Alternatively
certified science teachers took far more discipline-specific courses than those
who have been traditionally trained, though the same cannot be said for math
teachers. Of particular note is the...

As everyone in the
education world already knows, the New York Times won a lawsuit that forced the New York City
Department of Education to publish the teacher-level value-added data it has
been collecting as part of its accountability system. The result? The public
unveiling of the work product of an expensive system that is confusing,
unreliable—and apparently—error-riddled.

Before we go further down
this path, now is probably as good a time as any for education reformers to
pause and ask themselves if this kind of top down effort is really what will
lead our schools to excellence?

The question is not whether student achievement data should be used as one
of several measures of teacher effectiveness, but rather how those data should be used and who is ultimately in the
driver’s seat.

Critics of using test
data argue that it’s unfair; that standardized tests are imperfect and
therefore cannot be used to determine whether students have learned what they
should have, and certainly not whether teachers have taught what they were
supposed to.

Such arguments are
misguided for lots of reasons, chief among them that there is, in no

There has been much discussion recently about teacher
effectiveness: can it be measured, how much of it should depend on student
outcome, and what are the consequences of these evaluations. The Obama
administration placed its seal of approval on teacher evaluations by releasing
yet another round of Race to the Top, this one aimed at improving teacher
effectiveness. Leading up to the U.S. Department of Education’s release of RESPECT, the National Council on
Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released the 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook.

The 2011 release makes the fifth edition of the State
Teacher Policy Yearbook, in which NCTQ takes a look at the laws and policies
concerning teacher quality in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each
state receives a grade for five specific goal areas, and an overall grade that
summarizes how the state matched up against the five goals. The goal areas are:

  • Delivering
    well prepared teachers
  • Expanding
    the teaching pool
  • Identifying
    effective teachers
  • Retaining
    effective teachers
  • Exiting
    Ineffective teachers

Ohio ranked seventh in the nation
with an overall grade of C+, beating...

We are
obligated to respect the office of President of the United States but nobody needs to
agree with what the occupant of that office says. And Barack Obama could not
have been more wrong in his mid-day
yesterday to the nation's governors on the subject of school

Barack Obama
The President could not have been more wrong in his remarks yesterday to the nation's governors on the subject of school teachers.
Photo by jamesomalley.

In perhaps his
most vivid example yet of election-year pandering to the teacher unions that
comprise a non-trivial part of the Democratic Party's "base," he
rattled on at considerable length about the need to "get more teachers
into our classrooms."

MORE teachers.
Not better teachers. Not teachers that add greater value to their students and
make their schools more effective. Not teachers who know their subject matter.
Not more pay and greater professional opportunities for outstanding teachers.

CORRECTION. This fantastic Gotham
Schools article
explains that
New York’s rating system was designed to guarantee that “effective” and “ineffective”
teachers would be found all over the city. Which renders the New York Times story—and my post—basically
Still, this wasn’t the first bit of evidence showing that we might not have a
teacher effectiveness gap, or at least much of one. This rigorous CALDER study, in particular, found that:

average effectiveness of teachers
in high-poverty schools is in general less than teachers in other schools, but
only slightly, and not in all comparisons. The authors also find differences in
within-school-type variation in teacher effectiveness in nearly
every comparison. These differences are largely driven by the longer tail at
the bottom of the teacher effectiveness
distribution in high-poverty schools. Teachers at the top of the effectiveness
distribution are very similar across school settings.

So the evidence on the lack of a gap isn’t as open and shut
as my post implies. But it certainly appears likely that the gap is much
smaller than we once...

Pioneer Institute—no friends of the Common Core to begin with—released a report
this week claiming that it will cost the nation $16 billion to implement the
new standards. (If you read the full text, the authors frequently note that
this is, in their opinion, a wild underestimate.)

astronomical estimate is not entirely surprising. If you want to scare
cash-strapped states away from moving forward with their Common Core plans,
it’s not hard to attach a frighteningly large price tag to implementation.
After all, the purpose of standards is to create the foundation upon which the
entire education system is built. So, obviously, changing standards must mean
knocking down the house, re-pouring the foundation, and starting again.

Concrete Housing Construction in Chile
Implementing Common Core doesn't necessarily mean knocking down the house and starting from scratch.
Photo by Concrete Forms.


not quite.

implementing the Common Core will...

It’s Rick-sanity!

From Lin-sanity to charter school discipline, Mike and Rick take on political correctness in this week’s podcast. Amber breaks down the recent Brown Center report and Chris defends Michael Jackson’s dance moves.

Amber's Research Minute

The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education

Download the PDF

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

‘Billie Jean’ dance move a show stopper - 9 year-old boy suspended for performing Michael Jackson dance move.

The governor of New
York, Andrew Cuomo, received some well-deserved
praise last week for bringing the state education department and the teachers
unions together on a new teacher evaluation rubric. (See here.
And here.
And here
and here
and here
and here.)
As Joe
wrote in the Daily News:

Weeks after declaring he would be a “lobbyist for students,”
Gov. Cuomo delivered his 2.75 million young clients a major victory Thursday,
using the weight of his office to break through the logjam blocking a
common-sense mechanism for evaluating teachers based on whether children are

Though there will be much grousing about how common-sensical
it is to judge teachers based on how their students do on standardized tests
(40 percent of the evaluation)—“it’s a dark day when politicians impose an
untested scheme on educators,” wrote Diane
—the more fascinating part of this story is the New York City

New York's new 'impartial' observors promise to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already bloated

The United...

Embracing the Common Core

Embracing the Common Core - Michael Cohen Presentation

Mike Cohen, president of Achieve, speaks at Embracing the Common Core: Helping Students Thrive to the specifics of PARCC (the assessment consortia Ohio joined last fall) and warned that the implementation of the new standards in ELA and math will not be easy and that districts should start the implementation process now.

Download his presentation here.

Weighing the waivers

Mike sat down with Fordham’s new school choice czar, Adam Emerson, to question just how flexible ESEA flexibility turned out to be and to ponder Obama’s abandonment of the D.C. voucher program. Amber looks at a new study on how much value principals add while Chris learns that they sometimes need to bob and weave when handing out teacher evaluations.

Amber's Research Minute

Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity: The Case of School Principals

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

Springfield, MA teacher punches vice principal during evaluation