December 2008 Archives

Yesterday, I wrote about Morgaen Donaldson’s research on the survival rates of three cohorts of Teach for America teachers in their initial placement schools and in teaching overall. Today, I’ll describe one of her analyses of why TFA teachers leave their schools, focusing on the complexity of the teaching assignment and the corps member’s academic preparation for the subject(s) that she or he taught. For this analysis, a complex teaching assignment for an elementary school teacher is one in which the teacher teaches more than one grade in a given year. Similarly, a complex teaching assignment ...

skoolboy remains fascinated by the way in which Teach for America, a program serving perhaps 3% of the students in the districts in which it operates, can seem like the tail wagging the dog. Like eduwonkette, I see many virtues to the program, but do not view it as a solution to the nation's challenge of developing a corps of skilled career teachers to serve our children and youth. TFA recruits make a two-year commitment to teaching in a high-needs school, and the limited nature of this commitment is a recurring source of concern. If TFA recruits stay just two ...

skoolboy still has nothing substantive to say about Arne Duncan. But he's pleased to note that Duncan's a member of the tribe: his B.A. from Harvard is in sociology. Duncan took a year off from school to write a senior thesis on life in Kenwood, the south side Chicago neighborhood in which his mother Sue had founded an after-school program in 1961. Duncan's 123-page thesis, entitled "The values, aspirations and opportunities of the urban underclass," was read and praised by William Julius Wilson, among the most eminent urban sociologists of our time. Duncan's appointment will vault him into the ...

skoolboy has absolutely nothing of substance to say about Education Secretary nominee Arne Duncan, whom he has met exactly once. But he continues to mouth off about New York City's Teacher Data Reports, the NYC Department of Education's version of value-added assessment. Which are not to be used to evaluate teacher performance. But rather for instructional improvement. Excuse me, skoolboy has something in his eye. It's hard not to view these Teacher Data Reports as a Trojan Horse. Just how is a tool that is designed for capacity-sorting supposed to function for capacity-building? After all, a teacher value-added measure might ...

This is too precious not to comment on: the Center for Education Reform, the organization that sponsored that full page ad slamming the AFT charter study and the Times in 2004, threw this celebratory paragraph into their newsblast today (see background here):WHAT'S WORKING. D.C. charter schools are succeeding, according to The Washington Post, and "have opened a solid academic lead over those in [the city's] traditional public schools." An analysis of test results for economically disadvantaged students shows that "D.C. middle-school charters scored 19 points higher than the regular public students in reading and 20 points higher ...

Recall the Great Charter School War of 2004: After the NY Times published the results of an AFT report finding that traditional public schools outperformed charters, all hell broke loose. Every charter school advocate and their mother intervened in the name of educational research, arguing that the study was fundamentally flawed and that the Times story was biased against charter schools. Shortly thereafter, charter advocates took out a full page ad in the Times blasting the study and the Times for putting it forward.To be sure, students are not randomly assigned to charter schools, so these critiques were not ...

"Don’t think about elephants," skoolboy’s father used to joke, long before George Lakoff’s manifesto with a similar name. The joke, of course, is that by trying not to think about elephants, all that you can think about is elephants. The harder I tried not to think about elephants, the more I thought about them. The New York City Department of Education has its own variation. This month, the DOE is sending Teacher Data Reports, which purport to estimate the effect of individual teachers in grades 4-8 on students’ test scores, to school principals, who will then distribute ...

A thought experiment: If Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, was to jello wrestle his alter ego on central matters of public education, who would come out on top?In his article in the New Yorker this week, Gladwell's argument is that it's hard to predict who will become a great pro quarterback or teacher before job candidates start playing or teaching. Like most engaged in the teacher quality debate, Gladwell assumes that there are "good" and "bad" teachers, and this quantity exists a priori. But it's just impossible to observe it before a teacher steps into the classroom. It's not ...

Hilary Levey is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Princeton University. Below, she shares findings from her dissertation, "Playing to Win: Childhood, Competition, and the Credentials Bottleneck."Many parents work more hours outside of the home and their lives are crowded with more obligations than ever before; many children spend their evenings and weekends trying out for all-star teams, travelling to tournaments, and eating dinner in the car. What explains the increase in children’s participation in activities outside of the home, structured and monitored by their parents, when family time is so scarce? As the parental “second shift” continues ...

I promise that this whole week won't be deadly depressing, but Alexander Russo threw down the gauntlet about the media's lack of attention to results in Chicago Public Schools under Arne Duncan. So I took a look at Chicago's NAEP performance.Have gaps separating white/black and white/Hispanic students in Chicago shrunk in the last 5-6 years?Nah.There are no statistically significant declines in these gaps in 4th or 8th grade reading or math. In many cases - for example, 4th and 8th grade math and 8th grade reading - it's not that the black-white achievement gap is ...

We hear a lot about "gap closing" schools these days, though this term often gets tossed around loosely. Consider Steven Wilson's recent report on "gap closing" Boston charter schools, in which gap closing schools are defined as, "schools that serve students of color from economically disadvantaged families and post achievement levels that rival - and sometimes exceed - suburban school districts."Gap closing, according to Wilson, refers to proficiency rates on state tests, and herein lies the rub. It's possible for gaps to appear to be closing on state tests if we rely on proficiency levels, even as wide gaps ...

The recent flurry of attention to high school completion rates has revived interest in early warning systems designed to identify students at risk of dropping out of high school. The idea behind these early warning systems is that, through the analysis of administrative data, schools and school districts can develop models of risk factors which predict a high probability of dropping out of high school. If the models successfully distinguish probable dropouts from probable graduates, students at high risk of dropping out can be identified, and support resources can be focused on these students identified as at risk of dropout. ...

A month ago, Flypaper asked us to come up with appropriately silly backdrops for Margaret Spellings' portrait, which will be unveiled on December 18th.All you lame duck Department of Education staffers - here's something to post on the water cooler tomorrow morning. Enjoy....

Sean Corcoran is an economist who teaches at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU. One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers is the now-classic: To my knowledge, the Air Force has yet to experiment with bake sales. But—according to three papers presented at last month’s National Tax Association meeting in Philadelphia—private contributions through local education foundations have become a significant source of operating funds for many of the country’s public schools. Education foundations are not your grandmother’s PTA. School foundations organize as 501(c)(3) corporations, and in some cases ...

DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is on the cover of this week's Time magazine. The accompanying article features a striking statistic: according to her office, she answered 95,000 e-mails last year. Allow skoolboy to speculate about this figure. Let's suppose that Chancellor Rhee responds to e-mail seven days a week, and that she worked 50 weeks last year. (skoolboy would hope that she worked less, because that's a grueling pace.) 95,000/350 is about 270 e-mails per day to which she responded. Suppose further that it takes one minute to read and respond to an e-mail. (Some will ...


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