National PTA President Otha Thornton discusses why his organization supports the Common Core, dispelling myths and sharing resources to help parents learn more and support successful implementation of the standards.
Today the largest teachers’ union in the US, the National Education Association (NEA), announced an action plan to strengthen the teaching profession and invest in the development of teacher leaders whose advocacy for and support of effective classroom practitioners will result in improved student learning and stronger public schools. The recommendations made today are based on the work of an independent Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching made up of accomplished teachers and educational leaders that looked at best practices from effective teachers across the country. These recommendations will result in an increase in the quality of teacher candidates before they reach the classroom; ensure that teachers remain at the top of their game throughout their careers; and improve student achievement by improving the profession.
The NEA Action Agenda has three major components:
- Raising the Bar for Entry—advocating to strengthen and maintain strong and uniform standards for preparation and admission to teacher preparation programs
- Every teacher candidate should have one full year of residency under
Too often when discussing the challenges public K-12 education faces, sweeping generalizations are made that in addition to being inaccurate, unfairly categorize professional educators and public schools as uniformly unsuccessful or at best inadequate. For instance, there is no proof that charter schools are guaranteed to produce better results than traditional public schools. In fact, the best research to date suggests that just 17% of charter schools outperform traditional public schools – and that 37% of them actually perform worse, though that is a statistic that is rarely acknowledged in some camps. There are great public schools and great charter schools, and then there are struggling schools in both categories. There are great teachers and there are bad teachers. Would we all like great teachers, great schools, and well-educated students? ...
Last week I had the interesting and mostly pleasant experience of attending two events showcasing issues in public preK-12 education on the same day: one sponsored by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), the education arm of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and the second hosted by the National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) honoring America’s National Distinguished Principals. As one would expect, the two organizations have very different perspectives on the status of public schools and the people who work in them.
With the exception of Steve Brill’s closing luncheon speech, the ICW meeting was generally balanced and featured interesting panel discussions around the event’s theme, “Race to the Top: Are We There Yet?” (Never mind that we’re barely a year into the competitive, federally funded, state administered large scale initiative. It’s lucky the first checks are in the mail much less that we’re “there”, wherever that might be.) A couple of the panelists, Dan Cruce from the Delaware Department of Education and Pat Forgione from ETS in particular, provided reality based presentations on state department collaborations that work towards effective change management. ...
If the mainstream press reporting on public schools wasn’t important, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. But, the fact is that the general public gets its information about public education (and private education) from the mainstream press both in print and online, so how our work is depicted is key to the support we get from the public we serve. Last week, Jay Matthews, the education reporter/columnist for my home town newspaper, The Washington Post, not only misrepresented how successful school districts operate, he also got his facts wrong. ...
This week, the American Education Research Association and National Academy of Education hosted Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: A Challenge for Policy Makers, which highlighted concerns of education researchers with using value-added modeling (VAM, a model that measures a teacher's contribution to student test scores) in teacher evaluations.
The consensus of the research community: Most believe VAM is not appropriate as a primary measure for evaluating individual teachers. The standardized test score data used in these models is just not reliable, given issues with the small sample size of classrooms, the nonrandom assignment of students to classrooms, and the fact that while a student might, for example, work on reading skills with a teacher, a parent, a tutor and a paraprofessional, the only one who gets credit (or blame) is the teacher.
Two studies were cited that I found particularly disturbing: One found that 27% of teachers who get an “A” rating one year on a VAM-based system get a “D” or “F” rating the next – and that 30% of “F” teachers get an “A” or “B” the next. Another found that these models predict the influence of a 5th grade teacher on their students 4th grade test scores – scores received prior to the teacher even meeting the students.*
Despite the concerns of the research community, districts all over the country are including VAM in teacher evaluations – and ...
A recent Salon article by Natasha Lennard discusses the central role of women’s issues in the current Wisconsin political saga, including this week’s recall elections. For six months, since Governor Scott Walker sought to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights—among other measures curbing public worker benefits and reducing the state’s expenditures, workers and their advocates have voiced vehement protest, culminating in the recall elections for some of the representatives who supported Walker’s policies. Women’s rights have been central to the debate over teachers’ unions in Wisconsin since the beginning, since Walker targeted teachers and nurses—professions in which the vast majority of workers are women. He exempted the male-dominated (and Republican-leaning) fields of firefighters and police. It’s unclear whether Walker was consciously trying to target women, but, regardless, that is the effect of his policies. ...
Social media in education is a touchy issue, for some good reasons. In utilizing social media, schools, educators and students take certain risks. Consider the consequences when bullying on sites like Facebook creates a distraction at school – or is conducted on school-owned equipment. And think about the (extremely rare) cases in which a social media site contributes to an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student (the state of Missouri is so concerned about this potential it has enacted a law that says contact between these parties must be in the public, not private, sphere – in other words, “teachers can set up public Facebook pages or Twitter accounts but can’t reach out to their students as friends or followers, or vice versa”).
There are educational consequences, too. For example, recent research suggests that middle school, high school and college students who are active on Facebook get lower grades, display more narcissistic tendencies, and are more prone to anxiety and depression than students that aren’t.
So why would we promote the use of social media in education?
Last week I attended the first #140edu event, a conference that allowed stakeholders from students to teachers to company owners share their thoughts on “The State of Education NOW” – specifically, the effects of the real-time web on education. And I heard a number of great reasons why social media should be incorporated into a school culture.
Conference co-host Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann, for those of you on Twitter), principal of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, pointed out that social media gives students the power to be “in and of their world,” – for example, the ability to ...
Last week I had the chance to attend the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) annual conference. For those who don’t know, National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential, achieved through successful completion of a voluntary assessment program designed to recognize effective and accomplished teachers who meet the high standards set by the National Board. The program appears to do a good job of recognizing talent (though of course there are a large number of amazing teachers who have not undergone this certification process) - as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out to the group, while “National Board Certified teachers [NBCTs] are only 3% of the teaching force, you account for fully 20% of the 2011 Teachers of the Year.”
But especially given that the conference was a gathering of some of America’s best teachers, I was dismayed about some of the frustrations that they expressed. ...
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 ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
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