The Public School Insights Blog
Larry Cuban's thoughtful op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post has received remarkably little attention in the education blogosphere. That's surprising, because he assesses the performance of DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, whose name is usually catnip to education bloggers everywhere.
Cuban argues that Rhee is a sprinter in a world where marathon runners are most likely to succeed. He faults her and other sprinters for attempting to tackle the unions far too early while paying little attention to other critical ingredients of long-term school reform:
[Sprinters] suffer from ideological myopia. They believe low test scores and achievement gaps between whites and minorities result in large part from knuckle-dragging union leaders defending seniority and tenure rights that protect lousy teachers. Such beliefs reflect a serious misreading of why urban students fail to reach proficiency levels and graduate from high school.
As important as it is to get rid of incompetent teachers, doing so will not turn around the D.C. school system or any other broken district. The failure of urban schools has more to do with turnstile superintendencies, partially implemented standards and other ...
Here's our lineup of recent success stories on Public School Insights:
- Personal attention creates a "home field advantage" for students in a Virginia high school, 11/20/2008
- High expectations and student engagement transform a diverse New York middle school, 11/13/2008
- An Alabama middle school takes the road from good to great, 11/6/2008
- Field trips are making a difference for poor students in a wildly successful Alabama elementary school, 10/30/2008 ...
On Thursday, the Center for American Progress released Financial Incentives for Hard-to-Staff Positions, a report on teacher pay that draws lessons from fields like government, the military, medicine and private industry. The report offers very valuable analysis of the kinds of incentives that might coax effective teachers into hard-to-staff schools.
Yet it also disappoints in a couple of respects. For one, it offers little information about effective pay-for-performance structures in other fields. (It will hardly end acrimonious debates between supporters and critics of performance pay). It also minimizes the importance of other strategies for ensuring poor and minority students access to the most effective teachers and administrators.
Among the points that caught my attention are these:
- Teachers' base pay should be competitive with base pay in other fields. "In each of the sectors we studied, financial incentives for hard-to-staff positions are layered on top of a starting salary that is fundamentally competitive with candidates' job opportunities in other industries or organizations."
- Incentive pay in education tends to be way too low. "Employers across sectors are providing much larger incentives than
At a conference last Monday, Geoffrey Canada raised a very important concern: In a sputtering economy, funders' single-minded focus on reading and math results could spell disaster for vital education programs. Canada pointed out a glaring double standard:
We're giving huge amounts of money to people who admit that not only have they failed but they almost destroyed the whole economic system of the world. Then somebody asks me if kids should take violin and do I have evidence?! [via the Core Knowledge Blog and Gotham City Schools]
The temptation to divest from anything that doesn't immediately inflate math and reading scores will grow as budgets shrink. Canada reminds us that divestment will create trouble over the long haul.
For years, business leaders have offered public educators all manner of advice--some for better, some for worse. Here, too, we can learn a valuable lesson from the business world: That an exclusively short-term "results-oriented" ...
AFT President Randi Weingarten's recent address at the National Press Club made big news, but much of what she said went largely unreported. Not surprisingly, newspapers and blogs went for high drama with headlines like: "Union Prez: Teacher Pay Tied to Performance Works." Weingarten's central argument--that the nation must invest in "collaboration, capacity and community" in difficult economic times--received much less attention.
Yes, Weingarten signaled the AFT's openness to innovative compensation and accountability plans that are "good for children and fair to teachers." Yet this isn't exactly news. Some of the nation's most established pay-for-performance programs were developed in collaboration with unions. ...
If you ask George Wood, the federal role in public education is out of whack. His concern: The feds have meddled with teaching and learning--not exactly their strong suit--and forgotten their traditional role as guarantors of education equity.
As executive director of the Forum for Education and Democracy, Wood has been working with leading education luminaries to call for changes to the federal role. The fruits of this work appear in the Forum's report, Democracy at Risk, which offers recommendations for more constructive federal involvement in public schools.
Wood, who is principal of the ironically named "Federal Hocking High School" in rural Ohio, recently spoke with us about some of these recommendations. (These recommendations resemble the recommendations LFA offers in its own recent report on the federal role in public education.)
Download the entire interview here or listen to about six minutes of interview highlights:
A transcript of these highlights appears below.
Alternatively, you can download the following ...
The usually astute Alexander Russo really misses the mark in a recent article criticizing initiatives such as community schools. In the most recent issue of Scholastic Administrator, he argues that such initiatives' focus on out-of-school factors like health care and family well being distract from schools' fundamental academic mission.
Russo writes that such initiatives "shift attention away from classrooms" and successful school improvement efforts. "Now is not the time to abandon these efforts," he intones, knocking down the same straw man so many others have toppled before him.
Advocates for community schools have no intention of abandoning school improvement efforts. They clearly describe student success in the classroom as a primary goal of their strategy. They also marshal solid evidence that their approach improves student learning outcomes. ...
Yesterday, education blogger Corey Bower challenged the received truth that U.S. Education spending has skyrocketed:
[W]hile education spending in the U.S. appears to have skyrocketed over the past 85 years, it has actually shrunk as a ratio of wealth over the past 25.... [R]eal per-pupil expenditures almost doubled between 1980 and 2005, but real per capita [Gross Domestic Product] nearly quadrupled during that same timespan.... In other words, even though we're spending more money on education we're spending a lower percentage of our wealth on education.
Public schools have not enjoyed a full share in the fruits of economic growth. Let's hope that they--and the children they serve-won't experience more than their fair share of the nation's financial distress. ...
As Americans swoon over Finland's celebrated education system, we often forget about another high achiever just to our North: Canada. Canada scores among the top three countries in PISA assessments of 15-year-olds' reading literacy and science.
What are the reasons for this success? Canadian education leader Dr. Raymond Théberge believes they include Canada's commitment to education equity and its strong support for struggling schools. He also credits the country's general dedication to the health and well-being of its children and families: "We cannot expect the schools to solve all of our society's problems."
We recently spoke with Dr. Théberge, who in 2005 became Director General of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). (In Canada, responsibility for education rests entirely with the thirteen provinces and territories. The CMEC helps provincial education ministries collaborate with one another and the federal government on strategies for improving Canadian schools.)
You can download our entire 17-minute conversation here (a transcript of highlights appears below).
Alternatively, you can listen ...
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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