I pay a lot of attention to teacher evaluation in this country, and it seems that the issue grows in urgency every day. Yet I have to stop and ask: How much can we expect teacher evaluation to accomplish? There's no one I respect more as an authority on the teaching profession than Linda Darling-Hammond, so it was with great interest that I saw this brief for policymakers on WaPo's Answer Sheet blog. The brief, titled "Getting Teacher Evaluation Right," was created in collaboration with Jesse Rothstein and other experts. It's a great take on value-added and other salient issues—I...


Right now, teacher education varies tremendously within the US. Nearly all teacher training and certification programs are housed in colleges and universities, where they are widely regarded as "cash cows"—easy to get into, and profitable for their institutions. Some of these programs are excellent, many are fair to middling, and some are very poor. We have the kind of variation you'd expect in a country this big, with as decentralized an education system as we have. It is our way. We are also a fairly entrepreneurial country, which contributes to our resistance to a top-down nationalized education system. We like...


It will be very difficult to raise the status of the education profession if our goal isn't to have an education system that's on par with the best in the world. At present, our school districts merely have to compete with each other for talent, so the profession isn't very competitive compared with other career options for the bright and driven. Many still choose it, but not in the numbers we see in Finland and Singapore, which have national "top-third" teacher recruitment strategies. If teacher salaries and status are going to increase, it's going to be due to a large-scale ...


In a Sunday WaPo op-ed, Jay Mathews suggests that the Common Core State Standards Initiative is doomed to failure, and isn't a good idea anyway: Such specific standards stifle creativity and conflict with a two-century American preference for local decision-making about schools. The decentralized nature of our education system is the least of our problems. We should focus on better teaching methods and better training of teachers, as well as school structures that help educators work more as teams. Those teachers could then employ whatever methods and standards make sense. Wait, so Mathews is saying that multi-state standards stifle creativity, ...


There's little doubt that the Social Security system is broken. While it provides a critical safety net for senior citizens, it's one of the worst retirement investments I could possibly make. I honestly don't expect to see a dime of the Social Security tax I pay returned to me as retirement benefits. At some point, I'd prefer to see Social Security phased out (except as a safety net), so that people who are depending on their future benefits will still get them, but younger people won't be perpetually forced to pay into a system that can never pay them back. ...


Last week, I shared a provocative quote from Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy: All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing. Tucker is saying not that we presently have a very poor teaching force, but that our teacher education programs are now attracting the weakest students they've ever attracted, because they simply cannot compete for the stronger students. This is happening for both historic and economic reasons, as he explains in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: When the baby boom was leaving our colleges, many people predicted ...


Earlier this week, I shared an extended quote from Marc Tucker about the future of the teaching workforce in the US, in which he presents a dire perspective on the "quality" of people entering teaching today. Since testing and accountability didn't turn out to improve education very much, national attention is now turning to teacher quality, with numerous reports and think tanks addressing the way we attract, train, and retain teachers and other educators. At the center of most of plans for improving education by focusing on teachers is some sort of plan for attracting "better" people to the teaching ...


"All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing." So says Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in this July 22 podcast (MP3) from Bloomberg EDU. He explains: We are now about to get the worst teachers we have ever had, for at least 100 years, if we do nothing. All we have to do is pursue our current policies, not change them, and we will have, over the next 5 or 10 years, a dramatic, dramatic dive in the quality of our teaching force. ... The only ...


There's no question that NCLB and RttT have marked an unprecedented level of federal involvement in education. In response to the sweeping and unproven reforms that these laws have brought to our nation's schools, there is an increasing call for the federal government to stay out of what has traditionally been regarded as a local issue. But in the modern era, can education be a "local issue"? In her brilliant ethnographic report "We Are Mountain: Appalachian Educators' Responses to the Challenge of Systemic Reform," Maureen Porter notes the inherently local nature of education reform and change: While policies may be ...


We've been "data driven" for at least a decade in education, with many a fortune made on assessment training for educators. I have no problem with using data to inform instruction, but I am starting to think we've gone too far in demanding that instruction be driven by data. Collecting data is not a neutral or free activity; you have to decide what's worth measuring and how you're going to measure it, and you have to take time away from something else in order to collect data. Assessments can be, but often aren't, meaningful learning opportunities for students. They can ...


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