Teachers

For the better part of
three decades, MetLife has taken the pulse of American teachers. (We at Fordham
have offered summaries of  recent iterations of this work.) This latest check-up—which
diagnosed how the economic downturn has affected teachers and schools—yielded
some disturbing news. Since 2009, teacher satisfaction has dropped more than
fifteen percentage points; at 44 percent, it’s now at its lowest in two decades.
Though MetLife doesn’t look for causation, a few correlated (and
common-sensical) data points offer possible explanations: Low job satisfaction
is linked to feelings of job insecurity and experienced most commonly by
teachers in financially strapped schools. Moreover, teachers with low job
satisfaction are 21 percentage points less likely to feel that they are treated
as professionals by the community. (These trends persist regardless of
teachers’ demographic characteristics.) Worse still, teachers in schools that
have experienced budget cuts are less likely to be optimistic about improved
student achievement: Forty-six percent of those in schools experiencing cuts
don’t believe that student achievement will increase over the next five years,
compared to 35...

Kathleen Porter-Magee is half right,
maybe two thirds
.
Principals should indeed be responsible for evaluating the teachers in their
schools—and should have the authority to engage, retain, deploy, and
dismiss individual instructors (and other school staff) according to their best
judgment.

That does not, however, mean "education reformers [should]
get out of the business of trying to improve the civil service rules of our
broken education bureaucracies...." Surely she doesn't want the system's
present HR rules and practices to endure intact. And surely they're not going
to be wiped away altogether. So they need to be reformulated. And one crucial
area of reform (among many) does involve teacher evaluations and the
appropriate use of student achievement information—test scores and more—within such evaluations.

No, teacher evaluations should not be based entirely on student
test scores. No, I don't think such evaluations should be made public (though
significant portions of them should be accessible to parents, especially the
parts linked to student achievement within teachers' classrooms). But chaos
will reign if there are no district or statewide practices, templates, model
programs, and suchlike...

In part
1
of my New York City
teacher evaluation commentary, I explained the judicial decision which
determined that the public had a right to know how individual teachers were
doing. Most tellingly, perhaps, was Judge Kern’s dismissal of the argument that
flaws in the data mattered to her decision. Referring to a previous ruling by the
state’s highest court, Kern said, “there is no requirement that data be
reliable for it to be disclosed.”

We have to do this in public, a welcome window-opening
in a system of baroque halls and closets.

This means that we have to do this in public, a welcome window-opening
in a system of baroque halls and closets. The New York Times, one of
the media outlets that had sued to gain access to the Teacher Data Reportshan
(TDR), made
the data available
and issued an
invitation
to teachers to “respond to your data report.”

In fact, surprising many, Michael
Winerip
, the On Education
columnist for the Times and normally
no friend to education reform, had it about right:

At first, when I
...

Everyone predicted that Justice
Cynthia Kern’s ruling
last January to allow the release of the value-added
scores for New York City teachers—with the teachers’ names—would set off a
firestorm when the names were released (which is what
happened
when Los Angeles did the same thing in 2010). And it did.

“Teachers will be right in feeling assaulted and compromised,” declared
Merryl Tisch
, chancellor of New York
State’s Board of Regents, just after New York City released
some 18,000 teacher evaluations to the public last week.

“The arrogance of some people to say that the parents don't
have the ability to look at numbers and put them in context and to make
decisions is just astounding to me,”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg shot back
. “This is about our kids' lives. This is
not about anything else.”

It is possible that in a different era, a court might very well have
concluded that releasing teachers’ names was quite insane.

That pretty much set the tone for the debate: another assault on
teachers versus the public’s right to know. And it turns out that the best
...

This is a guest post from Eric Hanushek, the Paul and
Jean Hanna senior fellow 
at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, in response to Mike
Petrilli’s essay, “The
‘teacher effectiveness gap’ was just a myth: 3 implications.

Let me try to put some of the issues raised by Erik Hanushek Mike Petrilli’s recent post in perspective. Much of the research has found substantial
variation in teacher quality within all schools. It is difficult to
ascertain how much variation there is between schools, but I don't think
answering that question is key to policy.

  • We want to improve the quality of teachers
    everywhere—which in my opinion calls for weeding out the ineffective teachers
    everywhere.
  • Even if little of the variation in teacher
    quality is between schools, it does not eliminate concerns about what is
    happening in disadvantaged schools.
  • A recent EdTrust
    West paper
    —which is great and which tried to analyze the issues in a
    serious way—finds some substantial differences in average quality (biased
    against disadvantaged students) in Los Angeles—so if
  • ...

Sounding off on "snobs" and Santorum

Mike and Rick break down the week’s news, from the prospects of John Kline’s ESEA reauthorization proposals to the college-for-all controversy. Amber analyzes the latest report on Milwaukee’s voucher program Chris wonders whether robbing a bank is enough to get a school bus driver fired.

Amber's Research Minute

The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

School bus dispatcher was bank robbery getaway driver - WFTV.com

As everyone in the education world already
knows, several news media organizations won a lawsuit that forced the New
York City Department of Education to release many of the teacher-level
value-added scores it has been collecting as part of its accountability system.
The result? The public unveiling of confusing, unreliable, and—apparently—error-riddled
data.

Before we go further down the teacher
evaluation path, now is a good time for education reformers to pause and ask
themselves whether 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.

Teachers ultimately should be held accountable for how well
they are able to drive achievement in...

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...

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