A Farewell

When I started this blog two years ago, I set out to learn what performance means in education. I've focused on teacher and principal evaluation, on international comparisons, and on a host of other issues that have come up along the way. I've only scratched the surface of performance issues in education, but I've learned a great deal and hopefully shared a few insights of value. I've greatly enjoyed engaging with readers through email and comments, and I hope to stay in touch one way or another. However, this post will be my last at On Performance. My true passion ...


Why U.S. Schools Are Simply the Best

Pat Quinn, the "RTI Guy," (not the Pat Quinn who is the Governor of Illinois) recently sent this article to his mailing list, and graciously agreed to allow me to re-post it here. I wanted to share it for further discussion since it speaks very directly to issues of educational performance. Simply the Best, by Pat Quinn The United States system of education that has been created for students in Kindergarten through High School is the best educational system in the world. No exceptions. No disclaimers. No doubt. It is simply the best. While other countries may offer excellence in ...


A Real "System," American Style

I said recently that I don't think our 13,000-plus school districts and states can coherently form an education "system" the way smaller nations like South Korea and Finland can, and for that reason, we will never see the same level of performance from our schools. And yet, I must stop short of actually advocating for full federal control of schools. Such a takeover would (massive complications aside) surely reduce inequities, but it would be profoundly un-American. The researcher in me doesn't find that a very compelling reason to stick with an inferior arrangement, but I don't see local communities ...


The Meta-Work Trap: The Downside of a "Laser-Like Focus on Student Achievement"

How can educational leaders make the greatest difference for students? If you're not the one who actually does the teaching, what can you do to ensure that good things happen in your school or district? I've been thinking about this since I came across Larry Cuban's incisive post "Can Superintendents Raise Test Scores?" I think the answer to his question is yes—sometimes—but it depends on the particular set of challenges that the superintendent faces. In other words, it depends on what's wrong in the district and what needs to be done about it. And sometimes trying to raise...


The Magical Thinking of State-Level Education Goals

There's quite a controversy brewing over Florida's different academic proficiency targets for different ethnic groups. While most educators will be familiar with NCLB-style disaggregated student achievement goals (which are based on improvement over past scores, not lowered expectations for some groups), apparently such racially disaggregated goals at the state level are something new, part of Florida's NCLB waiver. Many are crying foul, labeling the goals "the soft bigotry of low expectations," to borrow a phrase from former President Bush. I'll go a step farther: setting goals at the state level is silly, period. States have a very, very indirect impact ...


How to Crush Principals with Meaningless Work

I'm all for better teacher evaluations, as well as devoting substantial time to informal instructional leadership activities. Time spent in classrooms is time well spent. But LA principals seem to be crushed with a burden of paperwork, "plans," and other administrivia that makes what I faced as a principal look like a day at the beach. The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, the principals' association in the nation's 2nd-largest school district, recently published a newsletter that serves as something of an open letter to Supt John Deasy and the rest of the sprawling district's senior leadership. They note the extraordinary ...


Equity and Waning Local Control

What is the relationship between educational excellence and local control? In my last post, I concluded that we will never have the kind of world-class education system that Finland or Singapore have as long as our "system" is made up of some 13,000 local school districts. Our approach, which Ken Mortland recently called "an extremely loose confederation," is never going to keep pace with a tightly coordinated, centralized system. Perhaps this is OK; after all, independence and autonomy are the American way. We're wary about top-down approaches that impose Washington's priorities on local affairs, and we don't seem to ...


The Efficiency Opportunity

I spent most of this morning reading Marc Tucker's last few posts on his excellent Top Performers blog here at EdWeek. In this post, he compares the US education and healthcare systems to those in the rest of the developed world, and explores the reasons our systems are so inefficient: In the health industry, just as in education, other countries are providing much better results overall at significantly lower cost than is the case in the United States. link He elaborates on this point in The Atlantic, arguing that it is the socioeconomic stratification of education and healthcare services that ...


Chicago Contract Busts Budget; Layoffs Loom for Lowest Performers

Chicago teachers voted overwhelmingly today to ratify their new contract, sealing the deal that ended September's 7-day strike. The Chicago Teachers Union prevailed in obtaining a 2-3% annual raise for the next three to four years (totaling as much as 17.6% cumulatively), and in keeping the teacher workday short despite a lengthening of the school day for elementary students. These two provisions will cost the city some $300 million and $150 million, respectively, over the next three years. While the Chicago school system has even bigger budget woes due to capital and debt issues, these new contractual obligations promise ...


Sabotage as a Professional Responsibility

Valerie Strauss has a great guest post on her Answer Sheet blog from NY principal Carol Burris, who argues that new teacher evaluations incorporating student test scores are in fact harming students. She explains that principals are now reassigning students to prevent great teachers from repeatedly receiving low scores: Some principals stated that they would change their teacher's assignment next year and assign them less needy students so that they could protect these excellent teachers from the ineffective rating. The unintended consequences to students are beginning. New York principals appear to have numerous concerns about the new evaluation rules, which ...


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