In recent posts, I focused on efforts to identify and remove teachers who are ineffective, incompetent or worse. The corollary is whether anything similar is being done with unfit principals. Or to frame the issue more positively, what steps are being taken to recruit and retain top candidates? It's a relevant question because only about half of beginning principals remain in the same job five years later, and many leave the principalship altogether when they go. Interestingly, the rate is about the same as that for beginning teachers. Recognizing the pressing need to replace these vanishing principals, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ...


The cover story of the latest issue of Newsweek is another reminder that the U.S. is on the threshold of a new era in teacher evaluation ("The Key To Saving American Education." Mar.15). Although standardized test scores are given the greatest weight in evaluating teacher effectiveness today, class observations still are used. It's instructive, therefore, to take a closer look at how the identification process operates. In the overwhelming majority of schools, principals or assistant principals observe teachers in the classroom on an announced or unannounced basis, or on both. Their ratings are sometimes supplemented by those of ...


Repeating something often enough does not make it true. This axiom has particular relevance in the debate over how to improve test scores in today's accountability movement. In this context, no phrase is as overused and misunderstood as "teaching to the test." The reason is a failure to distinguish between teaching to the actual items on a test (unethical and harmful) and teaching to the broad body of knowledge and skills that a test's items represent (effective and defensible). My views on the subject were published in the Christian Science Monitor on Apr. 17, 2008 ("Good Teachers Teach to the ...


The big news in education last week was Diane Ravitch's admission that she was wrong to support market-based strategies to reform public schools. Her decision took courage because of her renown. But what was most surprising was that it was so long in forthcoming.. For years, academics warned about the danger of running schools like businesses. The best book on the subject is "The Blackboard And The Bottom Line" by Larry Cuban (Harvard University Press, 2004). One of the points he stressed was "the century-long prickly relationship between educators and business leaders over school reform and their contrasting assumptions about ...


Just as diets to lose weight will always be in demand, so too will recipes to excel as a teacher. The latest example is a book that is scheduled for release in April titled "Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College." The New York Times Magazine gave the book unusual publicity in its story on Mar. 7 ("Building a Better Teacher" by Elizabeth Green). What the writer essentially said is that Doug Lemov, a former teacher, principal and charter school founder, has developed a surefire way to be successful in front of ...


If teachers are the single most influential factor in student achievement, then it follows that those who consistently fail to demonstrate their effectiveness should be fired. Central Falls R.I and New York City serve as examples of dramatically different approaches, which in both cases shortchange students. The media have given wide coverage to Central Falls High School, where the school board recently cleaned house by firing the entire staff. In one fell swoop, those deemed responsible for the failures of the school are gone. New York City, however, has not been as "successful" in dispatching the alleged villains. Despite ...


Whenever I attend a social function, I'm invariably confronted by other guests who can't understand why schools have gotten so bad. They are angry and frustrated. Truth to tell, if I hadn't taught for 28 years in a public school, I would probably feel that way too because the media are notorious for their coverage of all that is negative in the world of public education. The latest incident along this line took place at Central Falls, R.I. on Feb. 23, when the Board of Trustees of the state's smallest and poorest city voted five to two to fire ...


In a speech delivered at Teachers College at Columbia University on Oct. 22, 2009, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called schools of education cash cows that do a mediocre job of preparing their graduates for the demands of the classroom. Although his indictment made headlines, it was not new. For years, the nation's 1,206 university-based education schools have received low grades because of their lax admission and graduation standards. More than half accept virtually all applicants and require minimal evidence of competency for certification. There are notable exceptions, of course, in marquee names such as Harvard, Stanford and UCLA, as ...


One of the criticisms frequently leveled at public schools is that they're run for the benefit of teachers rather than for students. The media love to play up this angle because it is guaranteed to elicit heated responses. But there's another side to the story that needs to be heard. When teachers feel demoralized, they're not going to be able to do their best for their students. And when that happens, students are shortchanged. The military has long appreciated the importance of maintaining high morale if missions are to be effectively carried out. That's why so much emphasis is placed ...


It's easy to understand taxpayer frustration when the pace of school improvement has admittedly been glacial. Patience has its limits, even among supporters of public education. But blaming teachers alone, in the belief that they are overwhelmingly responsible, is counterproductive. To understand why, it's important to remember that educating the young is a partnership between parents and teachers. While it's impossible to ascribe an exact percentage to each, it's common sense that teachers are not miracle workers. No matter how dedicated and talented, they cannot do the job by themselves. This is particularly the case in schools in the inner ...


The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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