Amercia the Beautiful

Mike and Rick break down the flaws in the latest Race to the Top and explain why Obama and Duncan really aren’t twins when it comes to ed policy. In her Research Minute, Amber analyzes Podgursky’s latest insights on pensions.

Amber's Research Minute

Who Benefits from Pension Enhancements? by Cory Koedel, Shawn Ni, Michael Podgursky

Collecting student-level data is a necessity for schools and districts looking to track and improve achievement. But it is not sufficient. To realize the transformative power of data, teachers must know how to analyze and utilize this information to inform instruction. Yet teacher-preparation programs provide woefully inadequate training on this front, according to this National Council on Teacher Quality report. The authors evaluated 455 courses in 180 undergraduate and graduate teacher-prep programs along three needed “areas of knowledge”: assessment literacy (whether the course teaches how to measure student performance), analytical skills (whether it teaches how to analyze data), and instructional decision-making (whether it informs the use of data to plan instruction). The upshot: Teacher-preparation programs are doing a lousy job on all of these fronts. NCTQ offers recommendations to rectify this situation. For example, the federal government should invest in research, states should tighten the accountability screws on these programs, and foundations should develop institutional datasets on which prospective teachers can practice during the course of their prep programs. Most interesting is the recommendation that districts leverage their hiring power to influence the syllabi and course-offerings of...

The race is on!

Mike and Education Sector’s John Chubb analyze Mitt Romney’s brand-new education plan and what RTTT will look like for districts. Amber considers whether competition among schools really spurs improvement.

Amber's Research Minute

Heterogeneous Competitive Effects of Charter Schools in Milwaukee

The New Teacher Project's (TNTP) Greenhouse Schools considers the link between a school’s instructional culture and both teacher retention and student achievement. TNTP surveyed 4,800 teachers in 250 schools nationwide (including charter schools) to determine what it calls “greenhouse schools”, or schools that nurture a great learning environment. These schools prioritize quality educators above all else, in attempts to foster the best learning environment possible. TNTP found that “greenhouse schools” keep more top teachers and get better results for students compared to schools with weaker instructional culture. The report then looks at what those schools are doing differently.

Based on its study, TNTP suggests that these are the principles for improving schools, using strong instructional culture as a foundation:

  • Teachers desire strong instructional culture. It helps to retain quality teachers and fosters a better learning environment where educators share the same vision and goals.
  • Schools with better instructional cultures help students learn more efficiently. The report found that greenhouse schools had a 21 percentage point higher math score and a 14 percentage points higher score in reading, compared to schools with weaker instructional culture.
  • Schools leaders who hire early and selectively tend to attract the highest quality teachers. Investing
  • ...

A report released by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education advances the discussion about quality teacher evaluations and professional development within the greater context of a continuous learning system. Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching by Linda Darling-Hammond, argues for a high-quality teaching and student learning system that doesn’t simply focus on arbitrary value-added measures; rather, it follows these three objectives: (1) Supports all stages of teaching, (2) Relates seamlessly what teachers do in the classroom and how they are prepared and assessed, and (3) Develops teaching contexts that facilitate good practice in addition to identifying and rewarding effective teachers.

There are seven criteria necessary to achieve these goals:

  1. Teacher evaluation should be based on professional teaching standards and support development from beginning teacher to expert teacher,
  2. Evaluations should include multi-faceted evidence of teacher practice, student learning, and professional contributions,
  3. Evaluators should be knowledgeable about instruction and well trained in the evaluation system,
  4. Evaluation should be accompanied by useful feedback, and connected to professional development opportunities,
  5. The evaluation system should value and encourage teacher collaboration,
  6. Expert teachers should be part of the assistance and review process for new teachers, and
  7. Panels of teachers
  8. ...
Rebecca Sibilia
Director of Fiscal Strategy

Guest blogger Rebecca Sibilia is the director of fiscal strategy for StudentsFirst.

School leaders in cities, school districts, and states across the country continue to grapple with revenue shortfalls that often require teacher layoffs.  Unfortunately, the impact of these layoffs is exacerbated when schools are required to use Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) policies, which require layoffs to be issued in the order of reverse seniority, because such rules mean more teachers, of all skill levels, will lose their jobs.

While the problems of quality-blind layoffs that force good teachers out of the classroom are obvious, the way these policies exacerbate the disruptive impact of teacher layoffs is also important. LIFO not only hurts students by firing newer teachers regardless of their performance, it also harms students and teachers by requiring that districts lay off a greater numbers of teachers than they would need to let go in a system that was based on performance.

A recent study in Education Next showed that only 16 percent of teachers laid-off under LIFO would also be laid-off in a system that uses performance, rather than seniority, as the deciding factor. Good teachers can be found at every level of experience. When districts...

The Gadfly’s "grand swap"

Mike and Rick analyze Senator Alexander’s ed-for-Medicaid trade and critique America’s private-public schools. Amber delves into a startling SIG success story.

Amber's Research Minute

School Turnarounds: Evidence from the 2009 Stimulus

Where are the wild things?

Checker joins Mike on the podcast to recount his recent investigation of Asian gifted education and predict the outcome of California’s waiver gambit, while Amber has some issues with a recent report on the Common Core’s potential.

Amber's Research Minute

William Schmidt Common Core State Standards Math: The Relationship Between High Standards, Systemic Implementation and Student Achievement - Download the Powerpoint

An independent task force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security brought together by the Council on Foreign Relations released a report in March that found that "the United States' failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country's ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain its leadership role."

These findings may be disconcerting, but they're not new. Politicians, policymakers, educators, parents, and even students have long understood that far too many American students leave high school without having mastered the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and on the job.

There is no shortage of reforms put forth by earnest education advocates eager to improve student achievement. But who is right?

Of course, there is no shortage of reforms put forth by earnest education advocates eager to improve student achievement. Many believe that small classes are our best route to closing the achievement gap. Others feel similarly about setting clear and rigorous standards. And still others push for accountability reforms that use results from assessments to hold students, teachers, and leaders accountable.

Who is right?

There is a saying among high performing schools that there is no 100...

The Gadfly’s spring line is out!

Janie and Daniela debate designer Kenneth Cole’s foray into education reform and the Department of Education’s CTE overhaul, while Amber examines turnover among charter school principals.

Amber's Research Minute

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector by New York City Charter School Center