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July 2011 Archives

Zombie Postmortem: Why Merit Pay Died in NYC, and Why It'll Rise Again (and Again, and Again...)

Last week, NYC announced the end of its merit pay program after 3 years and $56 million. It's good timing—the Atlanta cheating scandal has cast a pall over any attempt to tie compensation to test scores. The Times reports: The decision was made in light of a study that found the bonuses had no positive effect on either student performance or teachers' attitudes toward their jobs. ... Weighing surveys, interviews and statistics, the study found that the bonus program had no effect on students' test scores, on grades on the city's controversial A to F school report cards, or on the...


How to Fix Accountability in U.S. Schools

The Atlanta cheating scandal has sparked a national debate about the wisdom of accountability based on high-stakes testing. As I argued in my last post, I don't think tests themselves are the problem; it's our accountability structures that need to be rethought. Here's my take on what we should do to fix accountability. Make it local. No agency is more poorly equipped to hold schools accountable for their performance than the U.S. Department of Education. With nearly 100,000 schools in 50 states and other jurisdictions, federal-level accountability cannot be anything other than a clumsy tool. But when students ...


Why We Still Need Standardized Testing Post-Scandal

@eduleadership In the wake of several major cheating scandals, most notably Atlanta's, several prominent voices, including Yong Zhao and Diane Ravitch, seem to be calling for an end to standardized testing. It's easy to understand why. In what future generations will cite as a textbook case of Campbell's Law, standardized test scores have been treated as the goal of education itself, rather than one among many ways of gauging our progress. Because of this distortion, educators' behavior has been focused on raising test scores by any means necessary rather than on improving the substantive educational experiences of students in legitimate, ...


Did D.C. Fire the Right Number of Teachers?

@eduleadership Bill Turque at the Washington Post reports today that the District of Columbia has fired more than 200 teachers as a result of negative evaluation ratings: Those fired amount to nearly 6 percent of the 4,100 teachers in the city school system. They were dismissed for poor scores on the evaluation system known as IMPACT, which grades teachers on five 30-minute classroom observations and their compliance with nine broad standards. These include ability to express course content clearly, teach students with differing skill levels and manage time effectively. For some teachers, half of their appraisal is contingent on ...


Subsidies to the Teaching Profession

@eduleadership As Nicholas Kristof noted a few months ago in the NY Times, the quality of the teaching profession was long subsidized by discrimination and other barriers preventing talented people from entering other fields: Until a few decades ago, employment discrimination perversely strengthened our teaching force. Brilliant women became elementary school teachers, because better jobs weren't open to them. It was profoundly unfair, but the discrimination did benefit America's children. These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers -- and 47 percent of America's kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured ...


State Report Finds Egregious Cheating in Atlanta

@eduleadership It's DC all over again. EdWeek's Christina Samuels writes on the District Dossier blog: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published on its website the entire 400-page state report that alleges that principals and teachers changed student answers on state tests in order to get higher scores. ... The conclusion in the report is scathing and unequivocal: "Without question, cheating occurred in [Atlanta Public Schools] on the CRCT in 2009 and previous years. The erasure analysis is no longer a mere red flag, but is supported by confessions and other evidence of cheating in 78.6 percent of the elementary and middle ...


Floor Standards vs. Ceilings

@eduleadership When critics think about the merit of public schools, they're often thinking simultaneously about performance at both ends of the spectrum. On the bottom end, we want to make sure that Johnny can read. We have a variety of assessments that give us data about our progress toward this mission. On the top end, we want to make sure that our schools are allowing students to become all that they can be. In most cases, schools aren't adequately fulfilling this mission—though we don't have very good data, because we fail to ask the right questions. This failure is increasingly...


Good Research and Good Marketing: Marzano and the Evidence

@eduleadership I spoke with Michael Toth of Learning Sciences International last Monday, after he called EdWeek to discuss my recent post on Marzano's new "causal" evaluation system. LSI is partnering with Marzano to help states and districts implement the model, and Toth expressed some concern that I was misrepresenting it. He claimed that the model has indeed been validated by new research, and took umbrage at my statement that Marzano is simply drawing on his previous meta-analyses of teaching techniques to throw more weight behind his framework. There is no specific research validating the framework itself, much less its godlike ...


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