Tag: Jason Kamras


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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Five Steps Toward Fostering Great Teachers


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast,  I offer some important steps towards recruiting and developing more high-quality teachers. Eliminating tenure, eliminating seniority-based benefits and embracing the use of student performance…

Dropout Nation Podcast CoverOn this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast,  I offer some important steps towards recruiting and developing more high-quality teachers. Eliminating tenure, eliminating seniority-based benefits and embracing the use of student performance data — along with moves such as the dismissal of 241 poor-performing teachers last week by D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — are important steps towards improving teacher quality. But we must also improve how we recruit, train and reward good-to-great teachers in order to improve instruction for every child and foster high quality performance throughout all of American public education.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, add the podcast on Viigo, if you have a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android phone.

2 Comments on The Dropout Nation Podcast: Five Steps Toward Fostering Great Teachers

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Watch: Michelle Rhee on Teacher Quality and Achievement Gaps


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(Click on the headline to watch the video) Certainly Michelle Rhee knows how to stir up controversy — especially when it comes to her efforts as chancellor of D.C. Public…

(Click on the headline to watch the video)

Certainly Michelle Rhee knows how to stir up controversy — especially when it comes to her efforts as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools to improve the district’s abysmal quality of teaching and curricula. Her decision to dismiss 241 teachers rated as ineffective by the district’s year-old IMPACT system (which uses student test score data as part of evaluations) is going to be contested by the district’s dysfunctional American Federation of Teachers local and will play its part in the election battle between her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty and rival (and Rhee foe) Vincent Gray. Rhee’s bedside manner isn’t exactly lovely. But she deserves much praise for her Churchillian commitment to seriously overhauling a school system once called the Superfund Site of American public education and for slowly revamping an obsolete regime of teacher compensation that is terrible for children and high-quality teachers alike.

In this clip from her 2008 testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee, Rhee not only explains why improving teacher quality is important, but why we can no longer count on integration and the noble desire to improve education for all children to address racial-, ethnic- and gender-based achievement gaps. Improving education for all children not only requires dedication to the idea that all children can learn and deserve the best education. It also means restructuring a system that has long damned itself (and kids) to low expectations. Also, watch this Dropout Nation video on how Rhee’s teacher czar, Jason Kamras, is working to improve teacher quality and the challenges he faces in doing so.

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Rewind: Jason Kamras on Performance Pay


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As disappointing as the Washington, D.C. school district’s contract with its American Federation of Teachers local may be, the fact that the district’s performance management system — the first in…

As disappointing as the Washington, D.C. school district’s contract with its American Federation of Teachers local may be, the fact that the district’s performance management system — the first in the nation that uses test scores as a dominant factor in teacher evaluations — remains intact is a great victory for efforts to reform teacher quality. This Dropout Nation report and video from this past January, which features the man at the heart of this effort, offers some insight on why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s push to improve the quality of education in the district has come under such fire.

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As D.C. Public Schools and the American Federation of Teachers’ Beltway local continue to spar over competing contract proposals — and Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s school reform plans — the district’s teacher quality czar continues to implement IMPACT, the performance review program that features the use of student test score data in evaluating teacher performance.

Jason Kamras may be the most-important person in education today. Yes, more important than Arne Duncan or Joel Klein or any of the two national union heads or even Rhee herself. On Rhee’s behalf, he is overseeing the most-comprehensive reform of teacher evaluation and performance management going on today. More importantly, he is already saying that the results he sees from this effort may be used in wide-ranging ways, from rewarding the best teachers to deciding which ed schools are deserving of D.C.’s patronage.

At a meeting with education professionals last night, Kamras admitted that the plan still needed some work. Although D.C. held a mass professional development session early in the school year, along with other meetings, Kamras said the district needed “to do more communication [with teachers]. We can never do enough of that” He also noted that the student benchmark tests given throughout the year aren’t fully included in the value-added analysis used in evaluating teachers; the final value-added assessment isn’t completed and delivered to teachers for their evaluations until July, just when they have to decide whether to stay and go through the remediation (if they are lagging) or quit. That said, Kamras notes that the rest of the evaluation scores, which are given in June, should give teachers more than enough info on where they are likely to stand; especially if their performance is in  the proverbial red.

Kamras notes that there is still more work ahead. D.C. Public Schools is working with its test provider on delivering the final standardized test data in time so all the information can be used to fully evaluate teachers in a more-timely manner. There is also some discussion on how to use technology to conduct teacher observations; but, as Kamras noted in response to one question, cameras in the classroom aren’t comforting to teachers (who often prefer in-person observations) and given D.C. law (which requires a person to give permission to being taped on camera), it may not be worth it. Kamras notes that if a teacher rejects the use of cameras, then “we’re back at square one.”

The biggest impact may come in terms of choosing which ed schools from which D.C. and its sister traditional districts and charters schools they choose. Kamras said last night that if an ed school produces far too many laggard instructors, he will tell them that he’s not recruiting from their schools — and will tell his colleagues throughout the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland region as well. He will likely tell those districts about the successful ed schools as well. This could actually result in improvements in teaching quality throughout the area — and ultimately, the nation.

The efforts in D.C. are certainly interesting to watch. Whether or not other school districts will follow its model will largely depend on the willingness of school chief executives to take on the lax performance management cultures and servile relationships districts often have with their union locals. As you can see below, here is a short clip of Kamras’ response to a question about how he thinks performance pay will shake up teaching.


2 Comments on Rewind: Jason Kamras on Performance Pay

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Watch: Jason Kamras of D.C Public Schools on Performance Pay


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As D.C. Public Schools and the American Federation of Teachers’ Beltway local continue to spar over competing contract proposals — and Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s school reform plans — the district’s…

As D.C. Public Schools and the American Federation of Teachers’ Beltway local continue to spar over competing contract proposals — and Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s school reform plans — the district’s teacher quality czar continues to implement IMPACT, the performance review program that features the use of student test score data in evaluating teacher performance.

Jason Kamras may be the most-important person in education today. Yes, more important than Arne Duncan or Joel Klein or any of the two national union heads or even Rhee herself. On Rhee’s behalf, he is overseeing the most-comprehensive reform of teacher evaluation and performance management going on today. More importantly, he is already saying that the results he sees from this effort may be used in wide-ranging ways, from rewarding the best teachers to deciding which ed schools are deserving of D.C.’s patronage.

At a meeting with education professionals last night, Kamras admitted that the plan still needed some work. Although D.C. held a mass professional development session early in the school year, along with other meetings, Kamras said the district needed “to do more communication [with teachers]. We can never do enough of that” He also noted that the student benchmark tests given throughout the year aren’t fully included in the value-added analysis used in evaluating teachers; the final value-added assessment isn’t completed and delivered to teachers for their evaluations until July, just when they have to decide whether to stay and go through the remediation (if they are lagging) or quit. That said, Kamras notes that the rest of the evaluation scores, which are given in June, should give teachers more than enough info on where they are likely to stand; especially if their performance is in  the proverbial red.

Kamras notes that there is still more work ahead. D.C. Public Schools is working with its test provider on delivering the final standardized test data in time so all the information can be used to fully evaluate teachers in a more-timely manner. There is also some discussion on how to use technology to conduct teacher observations; but, as Kamras noted in response to one question, cameras in the classroom aren’t comforting to teachers (who often prefer in-person observations) and given D.C. law (which requires a person to give permission to being taped on camera), it may not be worth it. Kamras notes that if a teacher rejects the use of cameras, then “we’re back at square one.”

The biggest impact may come in terms of choosing which ed schools from which D.C. and its sister traditional districts and charters schools they choose. Kamras said last night that if an ed school produces far too many laggard instructors, he will tell them that he’s not recruiting from their schools — and will tell his colleagues throughout the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland region as well. He will likely tell those districts about the successful ed schools as well. This could actually result in improvements in teaching quality throughout the area — and ultimately, the nation.

The efforts in D.C. are certainly interesting to watch. Whether or not other school districts will follow its model will largely depend on the willingness of school chief executives to take on the lax performance management cultures and servile relationships districts often have with their union locals. As you can see below, here is a short clip of Kamras’ response to a question about how he thinks performance pay will shake up teaching.


6 Comments on Watch: Jason Kamras of D.C Public Schools on Performance Pay

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