Teachers

The dictum states: Teacher quality is the single most important in-school factor for student achievement. The corollary goes: It’s hard to staff low-income schools with high-bar teachers. Thus: Students who need the strongest teachers often do not get them. This recent Institute of Education Sciences report, using data from seven large urban districts that participated in its two-year Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), analyzes whether school districts can incentivize top-tier teachers to transfer into chronically low-performing schools. TTI recruited districts’ top 20 percent of elementary and middle school teachers (based on two years of value-added scores). It offered each potential participant $20,000 in added pay (awarded over the course of two years) if he or she transferred to and remained in an identified low-performing school. (Retention bonuses of $10,000 were also awarded to upper-echelon teachers already in low-performing schools.) Most eligible teachers did not apply to participate in the TTI program. Of this group, 29 percent cited their lack of confidence in teaching in a low-performing school as reason not to transfer. A quarter stated that $20,000 was not a large enough incentive. Still, the 24 percent who...

I am pretty good at math. Unsurprisingly, the story about why I am good at math has a lot to do with a few exceptional teachers I had growing up in a small coal-mining town in Illinois.

One in particular was Mr. Nagrodski, my high-school math team coach, who seemed to conjure talented mathematicians out of thin air. In the late 80s, he pushed for a major acceleration in the junior-high math curriculum in our district so that more kids were ready for tough math classes in high school. He convinced the district to let him teach those tough math classes, which hadn't been offered before he arrived. As a result, his teams won state math competitions year after year after year—and not incidentally, turned out far more talented students of mathematics than anyone would have guessed could come from a little town of four thousand. (Among many other accolades, Mr. Nagrodski, was profiled in Fortune magazine back in 1991 as one of “25 Who Help the U.S. Win.")

By the time I was a middle schooler gearing up for Mr. Nagrodski's infamously difficult math team practices, roughly half of my class of 75 or so kids had been identified as...

Six years and still buzzin'

On the podcast’s iron anniversary, Rick and Mike reflect on the highs and lows of education policy since 2006. Rick also provides a glimpse into the future (of the Common Core) while Amber explains what exactly can be learned from charter school management organizations.

Amber's Research Minute

Learning from Charter School Management Organizations: Strategies for Student Behavior and Teacher Coaching

Exam
Photo by Alberto G.

Direct from America’s cheating capital comes an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article describing suspicious test score patterns in lots of districts around the country. According to the analysts, who looked at scores from 69,000 schools, 196 districts had swings so extreme that the odds of them occurring by chance alone were less than one in a thousand. While the newspaper acknowledged that its analysis is not proof of cheating, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel wrote that it should trigger a thorough review. The union boss’s support of transparency on this issue is heartening: Wide-spread cheating undermines the foundations of standards-based reform and further investigation is indeed warranted. Accountability based on objective measures of student knowledge demands that those measures be accurate and trustworthy, else myriad efforts that rely on a clear understanding of performance—merit pay, tenure reform, VAM—are damned. But, of course, those are things that Van Roekel and his crew abhor, so he spoiled his message about cheating by also bemoaning the “corruptive influence high-stakes tests have...

A recent piece in the American Journalism Review ripped mainstream education journalism, especially the televised variety, for fostering a false sense of crisis. It contains a shred of truth. “The sky is falling!” is no longer a fair assessment of American education, as witness modest gains on NAEP and high-school graduation rates. But the author, hell bent to attack “reform,” doesn’t appear willing to give reform any credit for any of that, either.

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled ed school objections to the National Council on Teacher Quality's ongoing efforts to appraise America's teacher preparation programs. The more attention their resistance to transparency gets the better: It just makes more obvious how self-serving their complaints on this issue are.

A new poll shows Cleveland residents support Mayor Frank Jackson's school reform plan. Here’s hoping that leaders in Cleveland and across Ohio will keep in mind that it's the community, not special interests, that should be driving the education agenda.

Reformers bemoan specific bureaucratic hurdles to improving schools, but perhaps the real issue is American education’s basic tendency...

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post created a stir this weekend with an American Journalism Review article ripping mainstream education reporting for being uncritical of school reform. His comments were particularly pointed when it came to television coverage of the subject, especially NBC’s.

NBC has concentrated on initiatives favored by self-styled education reformers. The network has been particularly generous to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into promoting teacher merit pay proposals and privately run charter schools—an agenda strongly opposed by many public school teachers, labor unions and educators.
During its first "Education Nation" summit in 2010, for example, "NBC Nightly News" aired a profile of a Gates Foundation initiative, "Measures of Effective Teaching," which seeks to create a database of effective teaching methods. The reporter was former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw. During the second summit last fall, Brokaw showed up on "Today" with Melinda Gates to discuss the same Gates initiative. Turning from reporter to advocate, Brokaw told host Natalie Morales, "So what Bill and Melinda have done, and it's a great credit to them, and it's a great gift to this country, is that they have...

In what might be the quote of the day (if not year), Geoffrey Canada tells Anna Phillips of the New York Times that,

Folks are genuinely looking for opportunities to make peace and not war….  And I think that’s terrific. But someone has to make war.
A triumvirate of kumbaya they are not.

Who better to lead the troops than Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Eva Moskowitz, three of the most aggressive education reformers of the last decade, or, if you prefer, as Phillips has it, “some of the most well-known and polarizing figures in public education.”

A triumvirate of kumbaya they are not.

And what they have now done is form a group that intends to raise $10 million annually for the next five years to lobby the New York State legislature to protect the reform initiatives launched by Klein and his mayoral boss Michael Bloomberg in New York City, promote reform throughout the state, and, as Phillips writes,

…neutralize the might of the teachers’ unions, whose money, endorsements and get-out-the-vote efforts have swung many close elections.

Bloomberg’s third (and this time final) term expires at the end of next year. Says...

Mark Anderson is a special education teacher in the Bronx. He is originally from California and still trying to convince himself that skyscrapers are equivalent to mountains. Follow Mark on Twitter @mandercorn or on his blog Schools as Ecosystems.

From where I sit—as a special education teacher in East Tremont in the Bronx—it looks to me like the same issues that plague my public school and district plague the school system at large.

It's rare that content knowledge, pedagogical wisdom, or other experiential knowledge is transferred between classrooms, let alone between schools or between districts. It does happen, when those few teachers that establish meaningful relationships with one another talk about a lesson, or ask to borrow something, or ask for help when they are struggling with a concept. But it doesn’t happen often enough.

One would think that this sort of meaningful transfer of information would occur as a result of professional development or prep period time, but professional development largely seems to stand for "paying some institution lots of money so it can come and tell us how to teach." It's rare that anything that is...

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” ― André Gide

As we’ve said numerous times before, for the vast majority of states, adoption of the Common Core standards was an enormous improvement. (Click for Fordham’s review of each state’s standards and the Common Core.) It’s equally clear that we have an enormous challenge on our hands to ensure that the Common Core is implemented in a way that makes the most of these stronger and more rigorous standards. Change is hard but Common Core, correctly implemented, has the potential to amp up expectations and instruction across American classrooms. 

I’ve already posted about the danger of curriculum publishers co-opting the Common Core to promote their own (relatively unchanged) materials. But there’s a second, and potentially even more troubling challenge that lies ahead: a resistance among teachers to changing their instruction.

As the time comes to start implementing Common Core some teachers are starting to dig in their heels.

Of course, for teachers, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. There has been no shortage of curriculum fads and reforms that have demanded instructional changes and promised improvements,...

Guest blogger John White is Louisiana superintendent of education. This post originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The Advocate has recently published several letters to the editor on public education. I have to say as an educator, I'm disappointed with the prevailing tone and content of those letters opposing change.

Here are some passages that illustrate a common thread:

"We, the public school teachers of East Baton Rouge schools, can't educate children who don't want to be educated. We can't educate children whose parents don't care and are not involved."

"…the state is going to require that very poor students take the ACT… The weaker of these students are not college-bound students who have no intention to attend college, yet he has to be compared and compete."

And one writer simply stated, "Poverty is a significant factor affecting academic scores," leaving it at that—as if that absolves us of any responsibility to educate the child.

I'm so disappointed in these comments for two reasons. First, they betray a mindset that forsakes the American dream. They show a sad belief among some that poverty is destiny in America, defying our core value that...

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