September 2012 Archives

Per this, new analysis from EdTrust Michigan finds that 99% of teachers in the state's largest districts were rated "effective" or "highly effective" even after the passage of recent legislation making changes to the state's evaluation system. To be fair, these results reflect only partial implementation of the 2011 law reforming Michigan's teacher evaluation systems: Although districts have implemented annual evaluations using a 4-tiered evaluation system, student learning gains don't factor in annual evaluations until 2013-14, phasing in over time to 50 percent of the evaluation in 2015-16, and the Michigan Department of Education is still working on a state ...

Today the American Enterprise Institute is releasing a new paper that I wrote with my colleagues Andrew Rotherham and Rachael Brown looking at some of the tensions in the current policy shift towards new teacher evaluation systems--and advising policymakers on how to avoid some potential pitfalls implicit in those tensions. Obviously, Andy, Rachael and I are no foes of the move towards new systems of teacher evaluation: We believe the previous system--which ignored student learning completely, failed to recognize excellence or give teachers meaningful feedback to improve, and rated 99+% of teachers satisfactory or better--was clearly a broken one. We ...

Per this and this, the Strategic Data Project at Harvard School of Education recently looked at whether or not low-performing students are more likely to be assigned to novice (first year) teachers--and found strong evidence that the answer is yes. Check out this very cool infographic they put together explaining their findings. On average, students assigned to novice teachers had scored .31 standard deviations lower on math tests the previous year (before they were assigned to a novice teacher) than students assigned to non-novice teachers. That's a meaningful difference. This difference reflected patterns of inequitable distribution both across schools (novice ...

In an interesting piece in Tuesday's New York Time, Checker Finn argues that the U.S. is focusing too much attention on improving achievement for low-achieving students, at the expense of doing too little to identify and maximize the abilities of students at the opposite end of the ability distribution. There's much to applaud in this argument--certainly, maximizing the abilities of our most talented youngsters is also an important part of developing our human capital. And there is evidence that our schools are not doing as much as they could on this front--particularly for talented low-income and minority students who ...

A bunch of people on twitter have been asking how I can stand by this report debunking the idea of a "boy crisis" when new NAEP writing scores find twice as many girls as boys are proficient in writing.* A couple of thoughts here: First of all, the NAEP Writing assessment is only one measure, one that is administered fairly infrequently and has historically shown some of the largest gender gaps of any academic achievement measure we have--and has for some time. The 2011 NAEP Writing assessment results can't be compared with prior years' results (due to the use of ...

We're now in day 5 of the Chicago teachers' strike. I found these quotes from the CTU attorney, Robert Bloch, interesting: CTU Attorney Robert Bloch said Thursday the CTU finally felt on Wednesday that it was getting through to CPS negotiators on their concerns about the new teacher evaluation system. "The system they are using to evaluate people is based on an extremely complicated, esoteric formula to measure student growth -- so complicated I think everybody on the CPS team will admit they don't understand it," Bloch said. "Experts developed it but not educators." Gosh, and golly. Educators didn't develop ...

Looks like it's gonna be a full week without school for Chicago kids. I've steered clear of saying much on the CTU strike because with so many people commenting and writing about this it gets hard to have anything original to say, but with so many people weighing in it's inevitable some of them will be saying ridiculous things that deserve calling out. One of the weirder memes I've seen going around the last few days is the notion that "the real problem here is that there's no evidence the teacher evaluations Rahm Emanuel wants to put in place work." ...

Per this, a couple conversations with family over the past weekend have got me thinking more about the issue of how individual kids are assigned to teachers and individual kids' experiences over time: A relative of mine, a retired educator, has been working with a young lady who recently started her first elementary teaching job in a middle and working class suburban district. On her first day, she was dismayed to find that 1/3 of her first graders had IEPs and none of them were achieving at grade level. Later, talking to her fellow first grade teachers she was ...

A bunch of folks have asked me about today's Washington Post article on charter school waitlists and families switching among multiple schools as the start of the year as they get off waitlists. Lots of smart people are working on this, but a few key points: 1. It's a good, thorough article that explains the complex issues in play here. The Post's Emma Brown is a worthy successor to Bill Turque. 2. The current charter application and waitlist system is not optimal for anyone, not for families who have to separately apply to and go through lotteries and waitlists at ...

Last week the White House the President's Advisory Council on Educational Excellence for Hispanics named 10 "Champions for Change"--exemplary Hispanic educators who are making a difference for Hispanic students. It's particularly good to see pre-k teacher (and TFA alum) Vanessa Lugo-Acevedo on the list. Nationally, Hispanic youngsters are significantly less likely to attend pre-k than their white and black peers, despite clear evidence that pre-k has real early learning benefits for Hispanic students. That makes highlighting the accomplishments of Hispanic early educators all the more important. More than half of Hispanic youngsters live in the 7 states that constitute ...

One of the things that I find incredibly frustrating about the current discussion on teacher evaluation is that it's almost entirely focused on adults, rather than kids. Obviously, "putting adult interests ahead of kids" is a complaint you hear a lot in education reform conversations, and there's clearly an element to that here: In the debate over teacher evaluation systems, there's a tremendous emphasis on whether these systems are fair to teachers: Are student learning gain measures are accurate and valid reflections of teachers' impact? Are observers unbiased and sufficiently trained? Are teachers identified as ineffective are given sufficient opportunity ...


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