Tag: value-added assessment


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Watch: Chris Christie and Geoffrey Canada on the Need to Embrace Reform Teacher Quality Reform


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Within the past year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has earned the ire of National Education Association bosses and defenders of the state’s traditional public school establishment for daring to…

Within the past year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has earned the ire of National Education Association bosses and defenders of the state’s traditional public school establishment for daring to overhaul traditional teacher compensation. From finally enforcing a rule requiring teachers to pay a modest amount towards their healthcare benefits to seating a commission to revamp performance evaluations, the governor has become one of the biggest proponents for shaking up a culture of mediocrity that has been far too satisfied with just spending money and not with improving education for poor and minority kids.

In this video, Christie discusses the need to improve teacher quality with Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone has been one of the leading proponents for school reform. Watch, listen and consider what needs to be done to ensure that every child gets high-quality instruction.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Take It Higher


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This week’s Dropout Nation Podcast focuses on the internal cleansing school reformers and other caring adults must do to reform American public education. Far too many within traditional public education…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

This week’s Dropout Nation Podcast focuses on the internal cleansing school reformers and other caring adults must do to reform American public education. Far too many within traditional public education are either defending the status quo of systemic academic failure, anti-intellectualism, obsolete organizational structures and poor practices that perpetuate a dropout crisis in which 150 teens every hour drop out into poverty and prison. Strong action in reforming public education — including calling out those defenders — is key to improving and elevating education for our children.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, Zune, 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.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Get Rid of Poor-Performing Teachers (and the System that Protects Them)


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I discuss how poor-performing teachers damage the educational destinies of students, bring down the morale of their colleagues and foster the nation’s dropout crisis….

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I discuss how poor-performing teachers damage the educational destinies of students, bring down the morale of their colleagues and foster the nation’s dropout crisis. The damage wrecked by ineffective teaching — and the culture of mediocrity they foster — is promoted and sustained by schools of education, collective bargaining agreements, state laws and cultures within districts.

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 Network and Zune Marketplace.

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The Magic Bullet-Shooting Holes Fallacy in the Urban Teacher Quality Debate


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One problem within the debates over education reform is what I call the “magic bullet-shooting holes” fallacy: The tendency of each side to either attempt to use some sort of…

We need a Chase Mielke in every urban classroom. Let's get to making it happen. Photo courtesy of the Kalamazoo Gazette

One problem within the debates over education reform is what I call the “magic bullet-shooting holes” fallacy: The tendency of each side to either attempt to use some sort of magic bullet to prove their argument or tear down the argument by complaining that the research is full of holes. Given the fact that education research is, for the most part, so notoriously lacking in rigor that debates can end up being little more than shouting matches with five-dollar words in substitute for salty language, this isn’t surprising. But it often means that one of the two sides tend to miss the point entirely.

Stanford economist Eric Hanushek– one of the foremost researchers in education — exemplifies this in a commentary on Education Next about addressing the low level of academic instruction in America’s poorest schools. Arguing that there is more inference than evidence that low teacher quality is the underlying cause of woeful student achievement, Hanushek then declares that several of the key methods used by school reformers to determine this — most-notably the teacher salary comparisons pioneered by Marguerite Roza and the Education Trust — offer little evidence that this is so.

Certainly the Roza model isn’t exactly foolproof. Some of the worst-performing school districts certainly have plenty of veteran teachers. Which is often as much a problem in those districts as having far too many inexperienced teachers. Considering that just 1.4 percent of tenured teachers are ever dismissed for performance issues (and less than seven-tenths of one percent of newly-hired instructors are ever fired), the veteran status of teachers merely means they have avoided felonious activity and more-rigorous performance management. Additionally, as  Dan Goldhaber and Michael Hansen of the Center for Reinventing Public Education pointed out in their report, the average 25-year veteran is no more effective at improving student achievement than a teacher who has taught for four years.

But the Roza method does offer a  good starting point for measuring teacher quality among and within school districts. Why? Because the nature of the current teacher compensation system — in which teachers must earn years of seniority and numerous degrees before gaining high levels of salary and benefits — means that salary can be used to measure the number of newly-minted teachers in a school or district. Salary and experience are positively correlated (even if experience and teacher quality may not). As Hanushek concedes, there is correlation between the number of rookies on a teaching staff and the quality of instruction. I have used Roza’s basic method in my own work, most-notably in a 2006 editorial on improving teacher quality in Indiana’s poor urban schools.

Yet Hanushek fails to consider the fact that there are other ways of measuring teacher quality in urban schools which can stand scrutiny. This is something he should know quite well.

There are teacher absenteeism levels: For one, the higher the level of absenteeism, the more likely students are being taught by substitute teachers — who, no matter one’s views on credentials, are usually teaching out of field and thus providing lower-quality instruction; the measure may also show whether a large percentage of a teaching staff is coasting towards burnout. There is also the percentage of teachers with less than three-to-five years of experience; Hanushek already concedes that there is a correlation between number of rookie teachers and quality of classroom instruction.

Another is the percentage of teachers reassigned to new schools more than once every three years; this allows researchers to determine the percentage of teachers who are part of the notorious dance of the lemons that occurs between schools year after year. One could even use teacher test scores on such tests as the Praxis I — which is required in most states for initial certification — along with the percentage of teachers who have failed those tests and retake them for a second or third time.  As Katie Haycock of EdTrust (Hanushek’s foil in this debate) also points out, even the value-added assessment techniques Hanushek pioneered is offering new evidence that low-quality teaching is at the heart of urban school failure.

It is sad that Hanushek (and, to a lesser extent, Fordham Institute research czar Mike Petrilli) engage in the same sort of “magic bullet-shooting holes” argument that plagues so much of the education reform dialogue. Improving the quality of education for the poorest students requires high-quality reasoning and dialogue, along with high-quality research.

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Read: Shutdown Edition


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What’s happening today in the dropout nation: In Kansas City, Superintendent John Covington is taking a radical approach to dealing with the urban district’s declining fiscal profile: Shut down half…

Walking into trouble: Kansas City school superintendent John Covington.

What’s happening today in the dropout nation:

  1. In Kansas City, Superintendent John Covington is taking a radical approach to dealing with the urban district’s declining fiscal profile: Shut down half of the city’s 60 traditional public schools, according to the Star. Whether or not this will actually work is a different story. Such efforts have shown little result, either in improving revenues, cutting costs or improving the quality of learning for children. It may be time for Covington to give a call to my fellow A Byte At the Apple co-authors, Rick Hess and Jon Fullerton, about how to revamp the district’s back-office and transportation functions. Oh, and Dave Eggers’ brother, who specializes in revamping government operations.
  2. Covington, who just arrived in K.C. after serving in Pueblo City, Colo., is having a little trouble with the school board president too. Given the reported history of infighting within the district’s board, Covington may have just landed in dysfunction (and may find himself praying for mayoral control) for the next three years.
  3. K.C. isn’t the only district with budget problems.A.P. notes that other districts may need to cut budgets as they run out of federal stimulus funds. This may force many to adapt a Houston/N.Y.C/L.A. Unified solution and do a better job of weeding out laggard teachers before they achieve tenure. Or re-work the traditional system of near-free health benefits for their teachers(which will happen eventually anyway because of the high costs of such benefits). Unless Obama comes up with a second stimulus, as I have also predicted.
  4. Across the state line in Kansas, school districts and their lawyers were told by the state supreme court that their funding lawsuit would not re-opened, according to the Star. The lawsuit resulted in a judgment against the state to fund the suing school districts to the tune of $1 billion; the state has since retreated in order to handle its budget deficits.
  5. Speaking of school leadership, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to spur reform of how superintendents and administrators are trained, reports eSchool News. As he pointed out, it’s a bit much to require a superintendent to take a course in, say special ed, before assuming his job. Especially if the superintendent has plenty of experience teaching in — and running  — such programs.  Of course, as seen in Indiana (where superintendents are often not recruited from outside the state borders), diversifying the field of potential administrators — including looking at executives with private-sector management experience — may do districts good, especially in addressing the important (but rarely well-managed) transportation, school lunch, human resources and capital maintenance functions.
  6. An example of leadership: New York City schools chieftain Joel Klein declares in the New York Post that laggard teachers must go.
  7. And, about Indiana: State officials there are unveiling a new value-added assessment system under which parents, teachers and school districts can see student progress over time, according to Andy Gammill. As you would expect, suburban districts aren’t too pleased, largely because the assessments show they aren’t doing as good a job improving student learning as most expect.
  8. Meanwhile in L.A. Unified, where the school reform effort has in some ways fizzled amid antics by both L.A. Unified and its AFT local, the state’s parent trigger is getting used, especially by parents in an enclave in the San Fernando Valley whose students attend Mount Gleason Middle School. L.A. Unified officials are afraid that there will parents at marginal schools such as this one who will just pull the proverbial trigger and the AFT local fears that the law will be used by charter school operators in order to gain market share. But, as far as they should be concerned, it’s not about their concerns. Their concerns shouldn’t matter. It’s those of the students and their parents that should matter most. Period. If this leads to the full devolution of L.A. Unified and other systemically failing bureaucracies, so be it. The children haven’t been well-served by them anyway.
  9. Speaking of more parent power and charters:The Washington Post editorial board backs Virginia Gov. bob McDonnell’s charter school expansion plan. And in New York City, the Daily News notes one consequence of the charter school movement’s growing power: Politicaly-connected charters get millions in state dollars, including one supported by state senate leader Malcolm Smith and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Charter advocates need to be as concerned about corruption within their ranks as they are about shenanigans by teachers unions and traditional school districts.
  10. The Mobile Learning Institute offers a video series on new approaches to instruction in this century. Some of the videos (particularly the one on portfolio-based instruction) argue for approaches that are actually tried (and failed). But others, such as the one featuring Green Dot founder Steve Barr discussing the reform efforts at Locke High School, are interesting.

Check out this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, this time on why school reformers should build ties to grassroots activists in order to sustain policy goals. Also read my Labor Watch report on how the collapse of an NEA affiliate may help spur overhauls of traditional teachers compensation.

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