When a school district makes a big to-do about the use of "evidence to make decisions about how to help students learn, where to put our resources and how to manage our staff," is it fair to criticize it for implementing unproven and experimental programs? skoolboy supports modest experimental innovations, as long as they are evaluated carefully before expansion to a scale that would encompass an entire population. After all, students and teachers aren’t guinea pigs. The fact that schools are failing is not a justification to do any old thing, on the assumption that any innovation will be ...

When Robert Pondiscio pages, I answer. Yesterday, the Boston Foundation released a study on the efficacy of charter and pilot schools, which had the advantage of including both observational estimates of these schools effectiveness (comparing the performance of students in these schools with those in traditional public schools, net of some control variables) as well as lottery-based estimates of their effectiveness (comparing those who won lotteries with those who did not).Kudos to the research teams (Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Josh Angrist, Sarah Cohodes, Susan Dynarski, Jon Fullerton, Tom Kane, and Parag Pathak) - this is a well-done, careful study that provides ...

Okay, barring the bad karma that seems to hang over the state of Illinois, Arne Duncan is now firmly ensconced as President Barack Obama’s nominee as Secretary of Education, thereby forestalling the Apocalypse predicted by the detractors of Linda Darling-Hammond. But eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, or something like that, and the fears have shifted to the future of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the federal government’s arm for education research and evaluation. Founding Director Grover “Russ” Whitehurst has moved on from his six-year term, and there are researchers lying awake at night in fear ...

This blog has a history of profiling "cool teachers you should know," and I wanted to start off 2009 by celebrating the life and work of Bob Kiessling, a legendary New Jersey math teacher and cross country/track coach who passed away over the holiday break.Throughout my junior and senior years of high school, Bob Kiessling and I met in the dark at 5:30am and put in 5-7 miles. He wasn't the coach at my school, but my friend ran for his team and convinced me to tag along over the summer. Because of an arcane NJ sports ...

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 ...


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