Core Knowledge and Joanne Jacobs both picked up on a blog this week by Linda Perlstein, who says that Obama is "wrong" to suggest that teachers are the single most important factor related to student achievement. Perlstein points out that this is accurate only in that "of the various factors inside school, teacher quality has had more effect on student test scores than any other that has been measured."
I don't think it's fair to suggest that Obama has misrepresented the evidence. He didn't say "of all things measured and non-measured on the earth, teacher quality is the most important." Of course not everything has been measured, but do you expect the president to include that nuance in a 20 minute speech? Moreover -I don't see the point in asking policymakers or politicians to clarify that teacher quality is just an "inside school" factor (which actually Obama did mention in the quote Perlstein uses).?? Of course we're only talking about inside school factors. Those touting teacher quality as a critical factor to student achievement are not claiming it's paramount to everything else, ever --just that it's the most important factor thus far that we've measured, and that we actually have some degree of control over.
And, given how much public money we spend on teachers (their salaries and benefits make up about 80 percent of districts' overall budgets) should we really be surprised when politicians talk about teacher
Fordham, along with Catalyst Ohio and the FDR Group, conducted a survey this past spring that measured Ohioans' attitudes on a variety of education issues (note: the sample was 1,002 randomly selected Ohio residents and was the third of its kind -??following 2005 and 2007 surveys). When asked about teacher efficacy as it relates to impacting poor students, the Fordham poll found a relatively even split among respondents. Slightly fewer Ohio residents (46 percent) identified with the statement "good teachers lead even students who are poor and have uninvolved parents to learn what they are supposed to" than the statement "It is too hard even for good teachers to overcome these barriers" (48 percent).
These survey results indicate that roughly half of Ohioans think good teachers can make a difference in student lives despite obstacles such as poverty, while the other half holds to the more traditional view that socioeconomics??has more weight??than teachers when it comes to impacting student learning.
Views on teacher efficacy from "Checked Out: Ohioans Views' on Education 2009" survey
* Numbers do not add to 100 due to rounding.
These results are especially interesting when contrasted with the recently released Public Agenda results from the survey, "Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today."
This survey is markedly different from the Fordham survey in that it surveyed only teachers and not the general public.
Here's an interesting article about Harlem Success Academy, a??New York City charter school whose kindergarten field trip to a farm is more than a cute story about pumpkins and cows.
"The schools haul their students to a farm each year, hoping to expose them to rural life and lift their [test] scores," since questions on New York state tests often center on "livestock, crops, and other staples of the rural experience." A Harlem Success Academy teacher explains, "[the students] are good at reciting and remembering things, but they can't make the connection unless you show it to them."
For most students growing up in urban environments, state test questions that include passages about milking, plowing, cornstalks, and pumpkins are foreign and therefore more challenging, and "educators have long known that prior knowledge of a subject can significantly improve a child's performance on tests."
Though there's no way of knowing the precise impact that such field trips will have on Harlem Success students' test results, this charter school is right to emphasize the importance of content and background knowledge, especially for young readers. Such "real-world" learning might even impress the "21st century skills" camp, although the purpose for Harlem Success Academy's field trips seems less about?? fostering critical thinking, innovation, or creativity (those buzzwords that 21st century folks have a proclivity for) and more about overcoming deficiencies in background knowledge experienced
I'm usually not the first person to throw my hands up in response to extracurricular programming being cut from schools. If something's got to go in this economic climate, better to be athletics and arts than social studies testing or early college academy high schools.??
Still, it's disconcerting that Ohio schools districts like Reynoldsburg have no junior varsity sports programs left, in part because families can't afford the required $500 athletic fees. And South-Western schools-who have already lost athletic and extracurricular programs- are in the news again as they hinge their hopes on the upcoming November levy. Even if it passes, athletes will still have to pay $150 per sport and there are no waivers for low-income students. For Big Walnut schools, pay-to-play fees could rise to as high as $300 if voters don't pass the upcoming levy.
Why care about cuts to sports programs? I admit that as a lifelong soccer player, I lack neutrality. But more important than my bias is the fact that many student athletes spend years getting good at their sport because it provides a pathway to college. College access can broaden exponentially for student athletes, particularly those whose families don't have savings or the willingness to take on exorbitant amounts of student loan debt.
For some Reynoldsburg students, nearly 30 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, I'd guess that a $500 fee not only threatens their eligibility for a sports season,
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Core Knowledge Blog
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- Education Next Blog
- Getting Smart
- Gotham Schools
- Jay P. Greene
- Joanne Jacobs
- NACSA's Chartering Quality
- National Journal Education Blog
- NCTQ Pretty Darn Quick
- NCTQ Teacher Quality Bulletin
- Ohio Education Gadfly
- Politics K-12
- Quick and the Ed
- Rick Hess Straight Up
- The Corner
- The Hechinger Report
- Top Performers