Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 12, Number 42
November 8, 2012
Opinion + Analysis
A not-so-great night for education reform
The hangover sets in
Student nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s schools
The education carousel
By , ,
Education recovers from elections and super storms
The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don't Have Them and How We Could
Teacher Absence as a Leading Indicator of Student Achievement
And what districts can do about it
The Achievable Dream: College Board Lessons on Creating Great Schools
Looking back, looking forward
Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teacher Profession
The next generation
Michael J. Petrilli / November 8, 2012
The results are in and Ed Reform, our non-partisan candidate, had a mixed performance. Let’s see how eight key races and referenda turned out:
- Tony Bennett lost his re-election bid. There’s no sugar-coating it: This one hurts. Bad. As I wrote on Tuesday (and profanely explained to the Huffington Post), this was a referendum on the most aggressive reform agenda in the country. Despite being massively outspent, the unions managed to get one of their own elected to this critical post. We’ll have to wait for more data to determine the degree to which conservatives also punished Bennett for his support of the Common Core (perhaps inadvertently egged on by Arne Duncan’s tone-deaf cheerleading). But it’s no secret that some of them are gleeful. If they were the deciding factor, it will go down as one of the stupidest moves in the annals of education-policy history. Bennett will be fine (I suspect he’s already getting calls from Florida, Ohio, and other states looking for a hard-charging education leader). But a union-backed state superintendent is going to do her best to wreak havoc on the state’s new voucher program and much else. (Just ask
Ed Reform Idol Tony Bennett's loss was an unexpected blow.
Photo by Joe Portnoy.
Many schools throughout the land have revolving enrollment doors: large numbers of pupils who enter and leave during the same school year. In such circumstances, teachers face nonstop interruptions and the challenge of integrating new students (at various levels of achievement, with various family circumstance, etc.) into their classrooms and curricula, even as they struggle to maintain the pace of learning for those who have been in class all year. Districts are tasked with making mid-year transportation arrangements for new arrivers, as well as accommodating unanticipated demands for special-education services, English-language instruction, and more. It’s a huge challenge. But it’s also sometimes proffered as an excuse, as in, “How can you hold us responsible for the education of kids who have only been in our classrooms for part of the year?” And it surely complicates results-based accountability schemes and value-added measures.
Ohio schools struggle with revolving enrollment doors.
Photo by Jason Trevino.
Yet despite the burden of pupil mobility, the research on it is slim and data are scant; no one has systematically examined its scale or patterns across an entire state.
Recognizing that void, we at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute set out to document and try to understand both the extent of mobility and its crucial particulars, such as whether
The Education Gadfly / November 8, 2012
Hurricane Sandy temporarily shuttered 198 school districts in New York City and more than 300 in New Jersey last week, amounting to what Education Week called one of the “largest disruptions to schooling in the United States in recent years.” When most Big Apple students returned to school on Monday, they faced gridlock that would make even the most jaded New Yorker balk: packed trains, long lines at bus stops, and persistent gas shortages. Our hats our off to the Gotham teachers, parents, and students who overcame these obstacles and more to keep kids learning this week.
For aspiring education know-it-alls, Goldman Sachs has a simple (and lucrative) challenge: Explain what we should do to create a strong U.S. education system that works for all, improves student outcomes, and enables our country to regain its leadership position in the field of education—in three pages or less. The best entry will garner one lucky person a cool $10,000 (and the ancillary benefit of having mapped out a way to fix education). Gadfly would enter, but just can’t seem to explain Reform Realism in less than four pages.
President Obama will have quite the agenda in his upcoming term—what should he and Arne Duncan tackle first? Will they jump right to Head Start reform? Perhaps crack down on states and districts not
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / November 8, 2012
In 135 pages (not including a swell foreword by Benno Schmidt), John Chubb does a fine job of examining key barriers to teacher quality in American public education and suggesting three big strategies for overcoming them. He unpacks 1) the potential of technology to augment the teacher arsenal (by reducing the total number of flesh-and-blood teachers that the system needs and thus advancing selectivity and compensation); 2) teacher preparation and the enforcement of quality and effectiveness in that domain, primarily via information and market forces; and 3) how to empower principals to staff their schools with individuals best suited to meeting the instructional needs and priorities of those schools. This paragraph gives you the flavor:
In exchange for the freedom, schools, and, especially, school leaders must be held strictly to account for student programs. That is the bargain that professionals should want—autonomy to control their work fully, to be compensated for it fairly, and to accept responsibility for its results. This is a very different arrangement than the one that has long governed education—and that now impedes the improvement of teacher quality. Policymakers need to take a fundamentally different approach. Teacher quality cannot be prescribed.
Chubb is exceptionally qualified to author this book. Currently acting chief of Education Sector, a policy think tank, he formerly spent seventeen years with EdisonLearning, where he served as chief education officer. Then there’s his
Daniela Fairchild / November 8, 2012
The sun rises in the East. Grass is green. And teachers are the most important in-school factor in determining student achievement. This last truth has long guided the push for more robust teacher-preparation programs, heartier evaluation systems, and altered HR policies. This short report by Raegen Miller highlights another strategy, small but fruitful, for eking more out of today’s instructional workforce: Ensure that teachers come to school each day. Using data from the Civil Rights Data Collection survey, Miller discovers that, on average, 36 percent of teachers were absent (whether for sick or disability leave or vacation time) ten or more days during the 2009-10 school year. Nationally, these missed school days cost taxpayers $4 billion. Interestingly, about two-thirds of the variance in chronic-absenteeism rates exists between districts within states—highlighting the power that district policies and bargaining agreements play in determining these rates. (In that vein: Charter-school teachers were 15 percentage points less likely to be truant than their peers in district schools.) Miller further dissects the data by school level and student race (predominantly black schools face higher rates of teacher absenteeism), but he stops short of analyzing them by socioeconomic status—a key shortcoming of the report. (The coarse data necessarily used here leave further questions unanswered regarding total amount of leave taken and type of leave requested.) While not a comprehensive assessment, Miller’s report does bring
John Horton / November 8, 2012
Thirteen profiles (of quality school leaders, innovative big thinkers, and stellar teachers) comprise this volume by former College Board president Gaston Caperton (with Richard Whitmire)—and provide quite a “who’s who” in education: Mike Miles and the Harrison County School District’s pay for performance system is featured, along with David Steiner and the Relay Graduate School of Education and Chris Steinhauser and the Long Beach School District. Into each narrative, Caperton laces lessons that he’s garnered over his long career in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors on how to achieve great, equitable schools for all. None of it is mystical, which doesn’t mean it’s not worth heeding: Improve teacher quality by recruiting top-flight candidates. Increase rigor with high expectations, consistent use of data, and comprehensive AP programs. And embrace accountability. He also lauds inner-city exam schools. While not breaking new ground, Caperton utilizes his knowledge (and Whitmire’s fine storytelling capacity) to provide an encouraging set of strategies and examples that point toward a more equitable and effective education system.
SOURCE: Gaston Caperton and Richard Whitmire, The Achievable Dream: College Board Lessons on Creating Great Schools (New York, NY: College Board, 2012).
Asa Spencer / November 8, 2012
Baby-boomer retirements and mid-career (or early career!) departures have helped render America’s teaching force the greenest it has ever been. Does that mean it’s more receptive than ever to reforms? So you will read in this survey report from Teach Plus (interesting, even if the survey methods aren’t terribly rigorous). Of the “new majority” (teachers with ten or fewer years of experience), 71 percent favored using student gains as a factor in teacher evaluations. (Only 41 percent of veterans felt the same way.) Newbies were also more likely than veterans (42 versus 15 percent) to favor a new compensation system with higher tenure standards and higher starting and top salaries. Still, these young teachers are not ardent reformers: Neither subset of educators was willing to take larger class sizes for higher salaries, for example. Nor did either think that longer school days are necessary to increase achievement. How to leverage these findings to change teacher policy? The report offers one smart recommendation (building off the mission of Teach Plus itself): Encourage “new majority” teachers to seek leadership roles in their unions and districts.
SOURCE: Mark Teoh and Celine Coggins, Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teacher Profession (Boston, MA: Teach Plus, October 2012).