National PTA's Sherri Wilson shares resources to engage families in minimizing summer learning loss.
Editor's note: This post was originally written for Edutopia.
As 2011 winds to a close, we are about to turn the page on a year that saw new evidence suggesting that the education reform policies du jour aren't really working. Most charter schools perform no better than traditional public schools (at least in Chicago); value-added modeling does not produce consistent, reliable measures of teacher effectiveness; and the school curriculum is narrowing, in part because of the pressures of state tests (according to teachers).
Student performance on standardized assessments has remained stubbornly flat during the past few years (though much more progress has been made in math than reading). And despite all our efforts over the past decade to dictate down school improvement through governance and accountability policy, the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their middle- and upper-class peers is actually growing. We must be doing something wrong.
In looking ahead to the education agenda of 2012, I hope that we can learn from what hasn't worked in school improvement over the past few years, as well as what has ...
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. ...
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 ...
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? ...
The Washington Post recently featured an article by Donna St. George that discusses the trend to reevaluate zero tolerance approaches in school discipline. Zero-tolerance policies enacting severe punishments for offenses related to weapons, drugs, and behavioral issues caught on among schools in the early 1990s—aided by federal legislation through the Gun-Free Schools Act that requires students who bring guns to school be expelled, and intensified after the school shooting at Columbine High School. The article summarizes that “over the years, ‘zero-tolerance’ has described discipline policies that impose automatic consequences for offenses, regardless of context. The term also has come to refer to severe punishments for relatively minor infractions.”
Though this approach is still commonly implemented, there is evidence that it can be ineffectual, misapplied, and even counter-productive, leading a growing number of educators and elected officials to scale back on implementation. A University of Virginia education professor (Dewey Cornell) interviewed for the article claims that suspension and expulsion—common punishments in zero-tolerance policies—do not improve student behavior or ...
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 ...
Over the past several years, many in the education industry have debated the significance of master’s degrees for teachers, and often also whether this higher degree warrants more pay. Many blogs have commented on this issue, including Education Week blogs, university blogs, and newspaper blogs.
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), a member of the Learning First Alliance, is also contributing to the conversation. Their website currently highlights the controversial issue of the relationship between teacher master’s degrees and student classroom success.
They note recent comments by Bill Gates and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that little current evidence suggests a positive correlation between the two, and that therefore we should question the efficacy of master’s degrees and the validity of rewarding them monetarily. Two organizations - the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education and the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children - have responded by writing letters to these two influential public figures, pointing out an IES- supported 2010 study on special education teachers in Florida that found a positive correlation between advanced degrees and ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!