August 2011 Archives

Early childhood education has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, and is frequently promoted as a strategy for narrowing achievement gaps and improving children's educational and life outcomes. But achieving these outcomes is going to require improvements in the education and skills of the adults who currently work with our youngest children. Despite the lip service we give to the importance of early learning, the adults who work with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are among the lowest paid workers--and many have very low levels of education and skills themselves. In a new paper published today by the Brookings ...

Interesting debate emerging in D.C. about whether or not closing the D.C. schools today, in response to yesterday's earthquake, was a good decision. Obviously the 13 schools that sustained damage need to be closed until engineers confirm it's safe for kids and adults to be in the buildings--but that's only about 10 percent of the system. Complicating this is the fact that DC schools only reopened for the 2010-11 school year on Monday, so a closure this early into the year is extra disruptive, since students are just starting to settle in--and teachers I've talked to are pretty ...

Man, Stephen Brill and his new book are everywhere this week! Including at fellow Ed Week blog Politics K-12, where Michele McNeil interviews Brill about the origins and scoring debacles of Race to the Top. Interesting stuff! But this quote from Brill took me aback: To me, at the end of the day, there is a big issue, that you can't take the only workplace in America that is currently failing to produce the results we'd like and have it be the only workplace where performance should never be counted. Umm, really? I'm hardly a "school reform denier" but I ...

We hear so much these days about many young men's struggles with literacy and the demands of an increasingly verbally-oriented world. So it's exciting to see an example of educators working with young men to help them use language to express their emotions, experiences, and challenges. And that's what you'll find in this amazing poetry, written by young men who are incarcerated at the New Beginnings Center, a juvenile detention facility for the District of Columbia. Print version here, audio here....

Ok, I recognize that my previous post on this is pretty long, so here's a quick and dirty about what you need to know. In order to compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant, states will have to: Commit to and set targets for improving school readiness of high-need children in their state. Demonstrate that they have in place a solid strategy and plans to improve early learning outcomes in the state, that they have a track record of progress on and investment in improving early childhood quality and access, and and that they have established coordination and alignment across ...

This afternoon, while most D.C. workers were loitering on sidewalks outside the office buildings from which they'd been evacuated due to an earthquake in Virginia, staff from the White House, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services stayed put to lead a national conference call announcing the release of final criteria and application for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge program. The final application and criteria released today are significantly different--in a number of key respects--from draft criteria released earlier this summer. Key highlights: Priorities The ELC competition will have only one absolute priority: "Promoting...

A lot of early ed folks have been tweeting and recommending this recent NPR story that calls preschool "the best job training program," provoking a lot of eye-rolling on my part. Look—I support high-quality pre-k as much as anyone. There's strong evidence that the "soft skills" James Heckman talks about matter tremendously for labor market and life outcomes (and I wish we talked about them more in K-12, too!), and that high-quality pre-k improves children's educational and life outcomes—particularly for low-income kids. All well and good. But, even stipulating all that, calling preschool "the best job training...

Under recently passed legislation, states are moving to adopt evaluation regimes that, in most cases, assign teachers one of four effectiveness ratings: Highly effective (or something like that) Effective (or something like that) Needs improvement (or something like that) Ineffective (or something like that) Most of the laws we recently reviewed also take steps to ensure that ineffective teachers (generally those who are rated ineffective two years in a row, or fail to improve after completing an improvement plan) can be dismissed. But what about teachers who are rated "Needs Improvement"--but never actually improve? Under many of these laws, ...

The perverse consequences of "Last in-first out" teacher layoffs have gotten a ton of attention over the last few months--and several states have recently passed legislation designed to end this practice. But it's important to understand that a focus on ending seniority based layoffs actually gets it wrong here. A few states--for example, Arizona and Tennessee--passed legislation to end seniority-based layoffs--without indicating an alternative basis on which layoffs should be determined. This could potentially allow districts to keep using some of the other bases--higher education credentials, random lottery--they currently use as secondary considerations in making layoffs. That would be an ...

Recently passed teacher effectiveness legislation--in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and a number of other states--takes steps to link personnel decisions to teacher effectiveness, rather than seniority or other characteristics. That's often a positive step to put kids' interests first, but for the most part, these policies are still focusing on personnel decisions from the perspective of how they affect adults, rather than kids. So, for example, several states allow for the dismissal of teachers who are rated "ineffective" for two years in a row. But only one state--Indiana--takes steps to prevent an individual child from being assigned to ineffective ...

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the purposes of Bellwether's recent analysis of recent teacher effectiveness legislation in 5 states is to highlight ways these states--all of which have made significant progress to improve their policies related to teacher effectiveness--could make their laws even better. So over the next few days, I'll be highlighting a few key things states could do to improve on recently passed teacher effectiveness legislation. (Legislators in other states, take note, too: You also have an opportunity to include these things from the get-go in future teacher effectiveness legislation). Let's start with transparency and reporting: Provide ...

Over the past 2 years, several states have passed legislation to create new teacher evaluation systems linked to student learning, and to require results from those evaluations to be used to inform key personnel decisions--particularly teacher layoffs. Some of these bills have received considerable press attention, particularly for their higher profile provisions. Bellwether Education Partners recently analyzed recently passed legislation in 5 states--Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee--against a scoring rubric to help provide the public with a better understanding of what each of these states' laws do and do not do, how they stack up against one another, and ...


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