January 2008 Archives

Last week's teacher effects brouhaha brings me back to where this blog started - not eduwonk channeling Britney, but rather how to measure teacher effectiveness. We know a lot more about estimating teacher effects on student test scores than we did 10 years ago. (Readers know well that I am as concerned with academic and social outcomes of education that are not measured by test scores, but that is for another post.) Nonetheless, big picture questions linger, and Mary Lou Retton-worthy technical gymnastics won't make teachers feel comfortable with value-added until these questions are answered. Here's what I'd like to ...

Though the Two Americas campaign is kaput, let’s talk about a new Maxwell School poll on Americans’ attitudes towards inequality. (Juju to Andrew Leigh for the link.) What continues to surprise me is how, despite a rising tide of inequality, a high proportion of Americans still believe that everyone has a fair shot.Here are the key findings from the September 2007 survey: Though 67.4% of Americans think that we’re becoming a society of haves and have nots and only 33.4% believe that everyone in America has an opportunity to succeed, less than half (45.7%) ...

1) Prelude to a Post: A few weeks back, Robert Pondiscio, eduwonk, Charlie Barone, and I went at it about the impact of NCLB/accountability systems on curriculum and instruction. Now, Ms. Frizzle explains how NYC's Progress Report system is affecting her school (A Fairy Tale), and the Tempered Radical contemplates the costs of cutting out higher order thinking skills to up his scores (Tricks or Trash?). Stay tuned for my very tardy follow-up on this debate.2) When Bad Clothes Happen to Good People: I noticed, too. Fashionista A-Rus talks wardrobe (Spellings, Jessica Alba, and the Polar Bear from ...

What's worse: evaluating college quality using standardized tests (Madame Secretary's pet project), or relying on Rate My Professors? At Rate My Professors, students rate their professors on "educational" qualities like their hotness, their easiness, their helpfulness, and their clarity. (Here's a nice Village Voice article about RMP; hat tip: Mike Arnzen). Now MTV has kicked off a spoof called "Professors Strike Back," in which profs respond to comments ranging from "I want to be her slave" to "Eats children for breakfast."A mocking blog called Rate Your Students has emerged in response - you can read about some unbeloved students ...

Yo yo yoWord up to Dan BrownFor showing how to breakA billionaire downShameful practice?DOE, you're just like a cactusSoaking up data but ya head is all dryRead the research, yoI'm telling you whyMy boy Brian Jacob and his main man LarsWrote a paper saying you're down from MarsFor holding back kids when they're 14 years oldCheck their results, J.K., then see if you're soldNext time someone argues that rapping doesn't require talent and skill, direct them to this post. You'll handily win the argument.Seriously, the Jacob and Lefgren paper, based on analysis of Chicago's similarly structured 8th ...

Let's give it up for guest blogger Dan Brown, the author of the Bronx teacher memoir, “The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle.” You can email him at [email protected]’s a rough time to be a struggling student in New York City.Mayor Bloomberg has now pledged to end the “shameful practice of social promotion” for eighth-grade students who fail either of their two state tests or any core classes. This means nearly 17,000 more eighth-graders than last year may be retained. For his tough position on boosting standards and student ...

Irrespective of which candidate you're gunning for, who isn't happy that it's W's last State of the Union? Here's my retrospective of the Bush years via recent education posts:1) Doomed to Repeat It: Chicago is intent on resurrecting a school closing strategy that didn't work the first time, says Mike Klonsky (More Shock and Awe in Chi-Town). 2) You Get What You Pay For: Robert Pondiscio at Core Knowledge quips about haggling over the price on student incentives, while the Quick and the Ed (If You Pay Them, They Will Pass) and Ed Sector (per USA Today) pleasantly surprise ...

Now that the spring semester is in full swing, I’ve concluded that excuse writing deserves its own genre. College-level excuses are a) painfully specific and b) include details better kept to oneself.Profgrrrrl’s recent post sparked a personal mission to track down the best excuse ever given. (Hat tip: Sherman Dorn.) There are excuse generating websites (if you need to squeeze out of a wedding or work, click here), but my colleagues can beat them all. Some candidates included missing the final exam because of a heroin overdose, having “totally THE WORST cramps ever,” winning last minute tickets ...

Between Kanye West's role modeling (post here) and "I will steal your car," ED in '08 has struggled with commercials. As primary season gets into full swing, I figured they could use my pro bono help:Wouldn’t you know it? One moment we’re on the road to reform, when suddenly it gets interrupted. And when I looked at our outcomes, I was embarrassed.That’s why for guys like me with E.D., there’s E.D. in '08. E.D. in '08 is clinically proven to go to work fast and to have effects that last up ...

I hate leftovers, too. But there is a lot left to say about last week's theme of data-driven decision making, so I'll tie up loose ends this week. Forthcoming posts include: How are data currently being used in schools, and who's entered the business of providing data solutions? What are some of the technical challenges with value-added models of teacher effectiveness? And what are their potential unintended consequences?...

Facebook detective Virgil Griffith has cooked up a clever graph plotting students' favorite books against their institutions' average SAT scores. The result is a cheeky (non-causal) cultural portrait of American college students. Books at the top of the SAT food chain include Lolita, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Crime and Punishment, and Freakonomics. Books hugging the bottom include the The Color Purple, Flyy Girl, Fahrenheit 451, and books by Zane. Here's what I want to know - will Lolita get an Amazon bump from crazed parent collegeseuirs?...

Freakonomics and Marginal Revolution face off on unintended consequences - it's timely food for thought about the potential consequences of adopting value-added as the primary measure of teacher effectiveness. As I've noted before, value-added as one of many measures works for me; value-added as the master measure - which I fear it would become - does not. Why? Teaching is a multifaceted task, and value-added measures use a simplistic evaluation rubric to monitor a complex task. Alex Tabarrok sums up the potential problem here:The law of unintended consequences is what happens when a simple system tries to regulate a ...

skoolboy returns to weigh in on data-driven decision making:I’m as much a fan of data as the next guy. But I worry that proponents of data-driven decision-making are understating just how hard it is to use data thoughtfully.I’d like to describe the strategy championed by the New York City Department of Education, and point out the difficulties involved. The logic that the DOE is promoting is (a) use data to identify an area where a school is lagging, either in relation to some absolute standard or to other similar schools; (b) use the available data systems ...

Over at the Ed Sector, there's some confusion about my concern with the ethics of the NYC teacher experiment (see here). To be clear, my problem is not that NYC is collecting value-added data. As I have written before, standardized tests have a role to play in teacher assessment alongside holistic evaluation of teachers' effectiveness. But as eduwonk himself noted, the methodological issues are hairy and as of yet unresolved. The concern expressed in my earlier post was how this experiment was conducted in secret and, in my opinion, in violation of generally accepted human subjects policies. The entire enterprise ...

Helen Ladd, an economist at Duke, has turned in an exceptional commentary about rethinking the ways we hold schools accountable. Ladd has spent a decade studying the effects of North Carolina's accountability system. Here's an excerpt:The bottom line is clear: Test-based accountability has not generated the significant gains in student achievement that proponents — however they perceived the problem to be solved—intended. Nor is the country on track to meet either the high proficiency standards required under the No Child Left Behind law or the equity goals suggested by its name.As a reform strategy, test-based accountability falls short ...

In many ways, data-driven decision making (D3M) in education is an old idea packaged as a new one. As far back as anyone can remember, teachers have given their students regular quizzes, projects, and tests. When students performed poorly, "data-driven" teachers retaught the material or tried to figure out what went wrong. Without the benefit of spreadsheets or data displays, teachers have attempted to tailor their instruction to different groups of students. To be sure, there have been assumptions, blindspots, and kids overlooked, but the fundamental idea of teaching, assessing, figuring out what works for whom, and re-teaching is as ...

Tomorrow's Carnival of Education will be hosted at The Median Sib. Til then, check out some of these posts: 1) Bloomberg Betting and Bingo: Read NYC Educator's thoughts on a Bloomberg run, Dave Bellel's post on predicting Bloomberg's probability of running via Candidate Bingo, and a new blog called "Respite From Mike." If you're not electioned out by then, check out this interview with Ed in '08's Roy Romer. 2) Steven Covey for Principals: A Shrewdness of Apes provides life lessons for principals . 3) Laugh Out Loud: BellRingers, which I discovered last week and really like, has two funny posts ...

The NY Times reported yesterday on an ongoing experiment on teacher effectiveness in NYC schools. Principals in the treatment group (140 schools) receive extensive value-added information on each teacher, and then are asked to evaluate the teachers. Principals in the control group do not receive these reports but also provide evaluations of their teachers. As far as I can tell, the goal is to determine how principals' evaluations are affected by having access to value-added data. By the summer, the NYC DOE will decide how these data will be used, and Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf has even suggested releasing individual ...

Tune in to the Brian Lehrer Show, which is hosting its annual MLK Tribute....

Walk into any school's faculty meeting, and you'll think you've stumbled into a tongue twister competition. The push for data-driven decision making, DDDM, D3M - whatever you prefer to call it - is everywhere. This week I'll explore what data-driven decision making can and can't do for education and share some of the research on how data are currently used in schools. Got something to share about how data are used in your school? Email me at eduwonkette (at) gmail (dot) com. In the meantime, you can check out some resources on DDDM over at Scott McLeod's site (the writer ...

Let me pile on to the eduwonk-Barone-Pondiscio debate. I'm no fan of the "NCLB: The Silent Killer" melodrama that blames the No Child Left Behind Act for all of our schools' problems, and there's obviously plenty of it to go around. This is what Charlie Barone and eduwonk reacted to yesterday when they pointed to a NYT article about college prep to argue that NCLB is not forcing schools to become drill and kill test-prep factories. (See eduwonk's post here.) Robert Pondiscio responded at Core Knowledge by providing an insider's view of currriculum narrowing and test prep. He concluded, "Dismiss ...

New York City posted the nomination narratives from its "Thank a Teacher" awards program. Here's the first one, about a physics teacher named Sidney Harris: Mr. Harris’s expertise was in physics but what he taught me went far beyond science. He pushed me. He shaped the way I thought about my future. And he set expectations for me that were, before then, unimaginable. What was his value-added on this kid's Physics Regents? We'll never know, but Mr. Harris' former student Joel Klein says: "I really believe I am chancellor today in no small measure because of Sidney Harris." Read ...

Spoiler alert: I'm going to write about data-driven decision making next week, so who better to profile than Kathryn Boudett, who teaches at the Harvard Grad School of Ed and is a co-author of the book Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning. Note that the book is about improving teaching and learning, not just test scores! And that's why I like it. Here is a little snippet about the book, which I will say more about next week, and the syllabus for her course....

Test your skills with this word problem: A comprehensive high school in New York City has an enrollment of 900 9th graders. The NYC Department of Education decides to close the school and replace it with 5 new small schools, each of which will enroll 108 9th graders. How many 9th graders are left over? Extra credit, Part I: Imagine that the NYC Dept of Ed closes 2 comprehensive schools in one year with enrollments identical to those above. Now how many 9th graders are left over? Extra credit, Part II: Where will the displaced kids go to school? If ...

"Welcome to the 154th Carnival of Education. Out on the red carpet, emotions are running high. Margaret Spellings took off her Sexy Librarian Glasses to wipe her brow. Rod Paige clung to Reg Weaver's arm to steady himself. And rumor has it that Bill Gates has even stopped talking about education and the election. I'll be hosting you this evening with my colleague - " "Ryan Seacrest.""Ryan Seacrest?! I asked for Stephen Colbert. Or Patrick Dempsey.""Stephen has to write his own show now, eduwonkette. And McDreamy is all about solidarity. Let's get started with Number 40 on this week's ...

Earlier today, Diane Ravitch drew attention to American education's growing faceoff between non-educators and educators. She writes: How did American education fall so effortlessly into the control of Know Nothings from the world of business, law, and politics? Now, John Merrow releases a podcast with NYC's past and present Chancellors (moderated by Jay Mathews) that squarely hits on this philosophical divide. Some highlights: *Joel sums up his job with a song: "Give a little, take a little, let your poor heart break a little…" * Joel identifies leadership and attracting new and different teachers into teaching as his top two improvement ...

On Sunday, the NYT wrote about admissions anxiety stemming from a larger than average senior class in Connecticut. It turns out this isn't just another case of helicopter parent mania - economists John Bound and Sarah Turner analyzed 50 years of data and found that the size of the cohort in a state actually does affect the percentage of students getting a BA (Paper here). After ruling out competing explanations for this outcome – for example, that larger cohorts are less prepared for college – Bound and Turner concluded that a 10% increase in the size of the college cohort within a ...

Last week, Madame Secretary unveiled a shiny new toy called the "National Dashboard." I pooh-poohed it, saying that most of these data were already available in the National Center for Education Statistics' Common Core of Data or elsewhere. After checking it out (and seeing how pretty it is!), I like it. If you need a tidbit of data quickly, this is helpful, and most data consumers aren't going to take the time to navigate the Common Core. Score one for the Madame. What does the dashboard include? Demographics, percentage of schools by state making AYP and in restructuring, NCLB funding, ...

Edwize is pulling in a gaggle of guest bloggers to comment on the NYC Progress Reports - check out Sherman Dorn's post on "Bundling Accountability," Seth Pearce's post on "The Importance of the School Progress Debate," and my post, "The NYC Progress Report Catch-22"....

Number of Golden Globe nominations for “Juno”: 3 Percent of teenage girls who received abstinence-only sex education with no information on birth control (2002): 21% Percent in 1995: 9% Increase in teenage birth rate for 15-17 year olds in 2006: +3% Percent of all births to unmarried mothers in 2006: 38.5 Extent to which Ellen Page got shafted at the Golden Globes: Majorly Number of viewers of 4th Season’s opening "Grey’s Anatomy" episode: 20.5 million Number of "Grey’s Anatomy" Golden Globe nominations: 1 Mortality rate due to homicide, white 15-17 year olds (per 100,000, ...

Last week, A-Rus asked if "The Wire" is just "poverty porn." This week, Dave Bellel puts up a clip from last night's episode that hits the "no excuses" debate in less than 2 minutes. Is the Ed Trust or Richard Rothstein doing the ghost writing? You decide....

eduwonkette is going theme-less this week - we'll have the Carnival of Education and a mishmosh of other posts. For those unfamiliar with the Carnival, every Wednesday, one blogger aggregates posts from around the edu-blogosphere. Send your posts to me at eduwonkette (at) gmail (dot) com by 7pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, January 15th. You can also use this submission form....

Rewind to the conversation you overheard on Sunday, where I’m on the other end of the line with the mother of Madison (MOM), a friend on the brink of a school shopping meltdown. Here’s what I had to say: 1) The school Madison attends is not going to make or break her test scores. When it comes to academics, the more your home is like a high quality school (particularly in the early grades), the less the school matters. That means that if you own Baby Einstein and have oodles of books, maps, and science kits cluttering up ...

From time to time, my colleague skoolboy will pop in and say a word. (You can check out his holiday posts about class size here): Greene and Catherine Shock, writing in the Winter issue of City Journal, contend that ed schools care more about the political and social ends of education than basic academic skills. In a survey of U.S. News and World Report’s top 50 ed schools and 21 other flagship state universities, they examined course titles and descriptions in order to calculate a “multiculturalism-to-math ratio”—the ratio of courses that emphasize multiculturalism to those that focus ...

Some people protest war. Others protest hunger and suffering. Less discussed, but no less common, is a special class of protest reserved for parents: conscientious objection to their children’s troublesome friends. When parents look out into the world, they see peers whose values and attitudes are contagious. And they are notorious for circling the wagons to keep out unwanted intruders.Which brings us back to the question of whether the school your kid attends matters as much as you think it does. On Monday and Tuesday, I pointed out that the differences between schools in improving test scores are ...

Madame Secretary's rolling up at the National Press Club for lunch today, vowing to take matters into her own hands on NCLB (USA Today article here). She's expected to chat about expanding growth models, differentiating sanctions, and requiring states to adopt a uniform definition of high school graduation. More details here. I'm all for growth models. But growth models that don't ditch the 100% proficiency fantasy are not much of an improvement. Stay tuned for the GWG's talk....

Cool people you should know #14! Russ Rumberger teaches at the University of California - Santa Barbara's School of Education. Not only does he have the most zany academic website I've ever visited (animation + music), he's done a lot of NCLB-relevant work on dropouts, English language learners, and student mobility. Check out his recent study on a critical question - how does the high school a student attends affect her test scores and likelihood of dropping out or transferring? Despite the recent media frenzy about "dropout factories," Rumberger determined that after you control for student background characteristics, schools don't vary ...

We've now entered a P.F. (Post Freakonomics) age, and talk of incentives is everywhere. Education is no exception - there's rising interest in the idea of paying kids for upping their scores (more on this idea here). See the New Yorker's pithy take on incentives and the afterlife here: Eternity lasts a very long time. Our resources, though “infinite,” are not unlimited....Focus groups have suggested that offering a mere year or two of heavenly bliss, coupled with the threat of a single hour spent bathing in hot pitch and being harassed by demons, would generate ninety-seven per cent ...

We've all played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The idea that we are all more connected than we think took off after psychologist Stanley Milgram's small world experiment. In the late 1960s, Milgram sent a chain letter to residents in Omaha and Wichita. The challenge for participants was to return the letter to a designated person in Boston by handing it off to the fewest people possible. Channeling Disney, Milgram found that it's a small world after all. It turns out that it took an average of six exchanges to get the letters back to Boston. What does this have ...

Today is NCLB’s 6th birthday. NCLB is, at its core, a policy predicated on the idea that schools vary widely in their ability to improve students’ test scores. By holding schools accountable, the hope is that “bad” schools will become more like “good” ones. (Note - this is a post about NCLB on NCLB's terms, so I'm going to focus on test scores. For more posts on NCLB, take a look here. However, as I wrote yesterday, once we take into account students’ background characteristics, school effects on standardized test scores are pretty small. The good news is that ...

On NCLB's birthday, Diane Ravitch suggests that we're prancing around in our birthday suits (Grading Schools): I find myself (once again) in the uncomfortable position of seeing ideas that I have supported as part of a broader set of reforms turn into unhealthy obsessions. I feel like someone who said that people should wear hats and then turned around to discover that people were talking about nothing else but their hats and walking around naked. Deb, I think that one of the things that has occasionally drawn us together is that we both have a vision about education, what it ...

I can't offer all you can eat shrimp or bottomless margaritas, but Ed Week has installed two handy new functions that you should check out. On the right hand bar, you'll find an RSS feed, as well as a gadget that delivers posts to your email. Enjoy. P.S. - I am the last living person without an RSS reader (or, OMG - a Facebook page), so I am directing you to do things I don't totally understand. What I forgot to say: if you subscribed to the RSS feed before, can you *resubscribe*? Many thanks....

In October, I awarded the first "Gold Star Book Award" to Mitchell Stevens' Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. (You can read more about the book here.) In this week's Chronicle of Higher Education, Stevens turns in an incisive op-ed that serves as a powerful rejoinder to the absurdity bug that bit the Wall Street Journal last week: By the time upper-middle-class 17-year-olds sit down to write their applications, most of the race to top institutions has already been run, and they already enjoy comfortable leads....For those kids, the big question is not whether they ...

It's no "Juno," but this video of a Caroline Hoxby talk on charter schools in NYC is well worth watching. Hoxby discusses her evaluation of NYC charter schools, which compares students who win charter lotteries with those enter but don't win. The charter effect on math scores is .09 standard deviations, while the effect on reading scores is .04 standard deviations (for a year spent in a charter school). Of particular interest in her description of the programmatic differences between these schools, the most central of which is a longer school day and school year. More on this study coming ...

While you were watching the NFL playoffs this weekend, economists converged on New Orleans for the American Economic Association's annual meeting - think Mardi Gras, but without the fun. For the early risers yesterday morning, there was a panel called "Student Incentives in Action: Experimental Evidence from Offering Money for Educational Achievement." Roland Fryer and Ceci Rouse, originally scheduled to present, were no shows, but there were three other papers presented: the first by Case Western's Eric Bettinger called, "Paying to Learn: The Effects of Financial Incentives on Elementary Test Scores" (policy brief available here), a second by Josh Angrist, ...

Ask your companions at a dinner party about their elementary or high school, and you will learn that everyone has a theory about what made it “good” or “bad.” The amazing teachers. The decrepit building. The souped up science labs. The pungent cafeteria food. Unique extracurricular activities. The football team’s reign of terror. And the lists go on. When it comes to our schools, we all fashion ourselves as mini-experts. Most of us are convinced that some schools are better and others worse. And above all, we are certain that which school our kids attend matters. What does it ...

Every year, the parents of 55.1 million American schoolchildren fret about where to send their kids to school. They inspect potential schools from top to bottom. They wonder if the private school up the road might give their kid an edge. And they talk - to their friends, other parents, and their colleagues - to get the skinny on the local schools. In a bloggable age, parents' searches have been split open for all of us to watch - and even participate. (My favorite blog in the school shopping genre is the San Francisco K Files, written by a ...


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