The OECD has released the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. Visit our collection of resources to help you interpret them in context.
In two recent Salon.com articles (here and here) political commentator David Sirota has pointed out key differences between Finland and the U.S. that he believes account for education discrepancies between these nations. It essentially boils down to differences in: 1) systemic equity, 2) incentives for and recruitment and support of teachers 3) focus on standardized testing, and 4) bipartisan support among all relevant stakeholders.
To open Sirota asks, “How has one industrialized country created one of the world's most successful education systems in a way that is completely hostile to testing”—and, I’ll add, that does not even attach consequence-based evaluation to teachers or schools? For answers, he refers readers to the documentary film "The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System” which paints the picture of an educational system that completely contrasts with what he calls “the test-obsessed, teacher-demonizing orthodoxy of education ‘reform’ that now dominates America's political debate.”
Some background to set the stage:
It’s clear by now that while the U.S. tests students more than any other nation, our students perform significantly worse in math and science than students in other industrialized countries. Nevertheless, Sirota points out that ...
Over the past few years, the idea of paying teachers a bonus based on student performance (typically on standardized tests) has been called into question for a number of reasons. Some education organizations have expressed concern about the focus it puts on tests they are not convinced accurately reflect student learning. They also question the underlying theory: That teachers can be motivated to work harder for more money; in other words, that they are not already working as hard as they can.
Some outside the education industry share this skepticism. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely expresses concern that these pay systems create odd incentives for teachers and points out that “If you teach, you want to focus on teaching and not on how your salary is changing every day. Not on your chance for a bonus.” Business writer Dan Pink questions how they motivate, believing that educators more than most respect the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Research also challenges the effectiveness of these systems. Last year, in what many considered the first controlled study of the issue, researchers found that Tennessee’s Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT), which awarded bonuses of up to $15,000 to teachers who raised student standardized test scores, had no overall impact on student performance – “It simply did not do much of anything.”
This week we got further evidence suggesting that perhaps this is not the path to improved student performance, with a new study by RAND.
In evaluating New York City’s Schoolwide Performance Bonus System (SPBP), RAND found no positive effects of bonuses on student achievement (as measured by performance on ...
ESEA reauthorization is clearly a hot topic in the education community. Recently, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)—an LFA member—published a white paper outlining their policy recommendations to be included in this legislation. As the white paper puts it, “[a]s Congress works to reauthorize ESEA . . . transforming educator preparation and strengthening accountability for preparation programs is vital to ensuring that high school graduates are college- and career-ready.” So why is educator preparation important—especially in the context of many competing interests and organizations vying for ESEA consideration? ...
Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Amanda Fitzgerald. Amanda is Director of Public Policy at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, a Learning First Alliance member).
You have to look hard to find anything about school counseling services or the role of the school counselor in the outdated No Child Left Behind education law. Currently, the only place the definition of the school counselor can even be located is in a small, discretionary grant program called the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program. This program, housed in the disappearing Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS), started out as a pilot in a school district in Iowa more than a decade ago. The purpose of the three-year grant is simple: To create and enhance a district’s comprehensive school counseling program. Funds can be used for hiring personnel, professional development, and school counseling curricula. Since its inception, the need for this program and school counseling services has grown so much that the Department of Education (ED) receives far more applications than they can come close to considering. ...
We have been hearing a lot recently about the importance of teacher evaluation in ensuring high-quality teachers in every classroom. We have been hearing a bit, though it seems to me much less, about the roles of teacher preparation and professional development in ensuring high-quality teachers in every classroom. But until very recently, we haven’t heard much about the role of hiring decisions in ensuring that high-quality teachers are in every classroom.
To me, it seems like kind of a “duh” statement. If you are serious about raising achievement substantially, you need teachers who can hit the ground running. And also, as has been made clear of late, it can be difficult – and costly – to get teachers out of the classroom once they get there.
But in the past, it seems that some districts have not always taken a close look at their new hires. According to a recent EdWeek article, teacher hiring in some districts typically consists of ...
Teacher evaluation is an extremely hot topic these days. Districts from Houston to DC – and states from Indiana to Washington – are experimenting with new ways to measure teacher performance. But, as Dr. Laura Goe (principal investigator for the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality and research scientist in the Performance Research Group at ETS) pointed out recently at the Learning First Alliance’s annual Leadership Council meeting, “Policy is way ahead of the research in teacher evaluation measures and models.”
In reviewing the research to date on teacher evaluations, Dr. Goe reminded us that we don’t really know which evaluation model and/or combination of measures will identify effective teachers. And what stuck out to me from her presentation: She, a very accomplished researcher on this issue, doesn’t promote any of the models of teacher evaluation currently in use.
Of course, as she pointed out, it is hard to develop or support an evaluation that can measure whether an educator is effective, given that we don’t have a good definition* of what an effective teacher is. As she said, “Much of the research on teacher effectiveness doesn’t define effectiveness at all, though it is often assumed to ...
Last week, the LFA held its annual Leadership Council meeting for our member organizations. The meeting featured a presentation by Mona Mourshed—a partner and researcher at McKinsey and Company—on a great resource for school improvement. Clearly many people feel they have winning formulas for school success, but this McKinsey research presents a truly compelling set of recommendations based on extensive research.
In the report, "How the world's best performing school systems come out on top,"—a follow-up to the 2007 publication by the same name—researchers examined the common attributes of school systems that exhibited continued performance. To do so, they conducted hundreds of interviews and gathered a large body of statistical data to create a comprehensive analysis of global school system reform. From this, they identified reform elements that they feel are replicable for school systems everywhere.
Diverse Case Studies ...
Preparing General Ed Teachers to Succeed with Students with Disabilities
96% of students with disabilities spend at least part of their day in general education classrooms. But how prepared are general ed teachers to work with those students?
Not very. And that may be part of the reason why students with disabilities perform significantly worse than their peers – even students whose disabilities should not prevent them from reaching the same academic outcomes.*
Yesterday, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education** and the National Center for Learning Disabilities released a white paper that lays out a new vision for preparing general education teachers to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. It also offers recommendations to federal and state policymakers, as well as providers of teacher education, as to how to make that vision a reality.
I was fortunate enough to attend a briefing on the paper, and one major theme stuck out at me: We’ve got to move beyond this notion that some general ed teachers have – and that our education system in many ways reinforces – that it’s not their job to handle all the issues that students with disabilities bring.
The paper points out that while teachers often work with a wide range of students in the classroom, their teaching license typically limits them to work in an elementary or secondary school, and as a general ed, special education or ...
Members of Generation Y made up nearly 1 out of every 5 classroom teachers in America in 2008 - a proportion that more than doubled since 2004. As Baby Boomers retire, this proportion will only grow. And, contrary to popular concerns that Gen Yers will have multiple careers over their lifetime, surveys have shown that 56% of these teachers want to make it a lifelong career, while most of the rest want to stay in the education field.
Given their increasing importance in the education workforce, and in an era of uncertainty in education, with everything from class size to collective bargaining rights and teacher evaluation up for debate, it only makes sense we examine Gen Yers thoughts on the teaching profession. And in a recent report, that is just what the American Institutes of ...
It’s been more than a week since the U.S. Department of Education sponsored International Summit on the Teaching Profession took place in New York City. For those of us who were observers, the conversation was valuable but the extended time spent sitting and listening challenged our ability to absorb all that was being exchanged. However, a few themes kept resurfacing:
- In countries with high performing students as measured by the PISA tests, the teaching profession is held in high esteem and attracts the strongest students to its preparation programs.
- Conversely, those same countries support a highly selective process for identifying potential teachers and
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
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