Posts tagged ‘education reform’

September 25, 2014

Seven myths of education are hobbling education reform

by Grace

Author Daisy Christodoulou argues that the “chief barriers to effective school reform are not the usual accused: bad teacher unions, low teacher quality, burdensome government dictates”, but instead are the Seven Myths about Education:

1 – Facts prevent understanding
2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive
3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
4 – You can always just look it up
5 – We should teach transferable skills
6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn
7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. points out the relevance of these myths today, with the nationwide embrace of Common Core Standards that comes after the failure of No Child Left Behind reform.

Ms. Christodoulou’s book indirectly explains these tragic, unintended consequences of NCLB, especially the poor results in reading. It was primarily the way that educators responded to the accountability provisions of NCLB that induced the failure. American educators, dutifully following the seven myths, regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge; in preparation for the tests, they spent many wasted school days on ad hoc content and instruction in “strategies.” If educators had been less captivated by anti-knowledge myths, they could have met the requirements of NCLB, and made adequate yearly progress for all groups. The failure was not in the law but in the myths.

While Hirsch focuses most on reading skills and how CCS employ ‘the same superficial, content-indifferent activities, given new labels like “text complexity” and “reading strategies”‘, the entire list of myths is in play to doom the latest reform efforts.

… If the Common Core standards fail as NCLB did, it will not be because the standards themselves are defective. It will be because our schools are completely dominated by the seven myths analyzed by Daisy Christodoulou….

Despite some rhetoric to the contrary, CCS implementation continues the educational establishment’s crusade against “knowing things” and “being taught things”.  Instead, in accordance with the seven myths it downplays outside knowledge and encourages a “discovery-oriented” approach instead of direct instruction.

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E. D. Hirsch, Jr.,  “A Game-Changing Education Book from England”, Huffington Post, 06/27/2013.

September 18, 2014

‘Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable’

by Grace

In New York, the rushed implementation of Common Core Standards combined with the new method of evaluating teachers have produced bizarre results that seem to offer no value in the effort to improve schools.

In Scarsdale, regarded as one of the best school systems in the country, no teacher has been rated “highly effective” in classroom observations. It is the only district in the Lower Hudson Valley with that strict an evaluation. In Pleasantville, 99 percent of the teachers are rated as “highly effective” in the same category.

“Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable,” said Charlotte Danielson, a Princeton, New Jersey-based educational consultant who has advised state education departments around the country. Danielson’s model for evaluating teachers via classroom observations, Framework for Teaching, is one of the best-known models in the country and believed to be the basis for New York’s evaluation system.

The new method for evaluating teachers is as flawed as the old method.

The fact that 80 percent of the evaluation is based on local measures can inject a lot of subjectivity into the process, critics say. A look at the teacher evaluation data by the state Education Department shows that districts have the most leeway in the classroom observation portion of the rubric, which accounts for 60 percent of the evaluation.

“The local administrators know who they are evaluating and are often influenced by personal bias,” Danielson said. “What it also means is that they might have set the standards too low.”

Administrators feel they must game the system to protect their teachers.

Pleasantville schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter defended her district’s classroom observation scores, which use the Danielson model — saying the state’s “flawed” model had forced districts to scale or bump up the scores so “effective” teachers don’t end up with an overall rating of “developing.”

“It is possible under the HEDI scoring band (which categorizes teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective”) to be rated effective in all three areas and yet end up as developing,” Fox-Alter said, adding that she understood Danielson’s concern.

“Danielson has said that teachers should live in “effective” and only visit “highly effective’,” said Fox-Alter, president of the Southern Westchester Chief School Administrators.

But adhering to that philosophy might put her teachers in jeopardy, she said.

The use of tests to measure teacher effectiveness is not without controversy, but as usual our public schools have compounded the problematic aspects with their sloppy implementation.  The result is a thorny mess that falls short of achieving previously stated goals.

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Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, “Teacher evaluations: Subjective data skew state results”, lohud.com, September 15, 2014.

February 6, 2013

Quick Links – GED test changes; race-based college admissions; flipped classrooms; and more

by Grace

◊◊◊  GED test changes will make it harder to pass

Normally, there’s no rush to complete the seven-hour test, which is designed to approximate a high school education by measuring proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. If students pass only some components of the test, they have as long as they want to retake the sections they failed.

But test-takers’ previous scores will expire when a new version of the GED debuts Jan. 1, 2014 — a change that will affect more than 4 million people nationwide, said CT Turner, the GED Testing Service’s director of public affairs.

Other changes to the test are expected to include a higher required reading comprehension level, mirroring a slight increase nationwide in the performance level of graduating high school seniors.

The test, which had previously been offered on paper, will become online only.

Applicants rush to fulfill GED requirements before rules get tougher (lohud.com)


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  POLLS FIND DISDAIN FOR RACE-BASED COLLEGE ADMISSION PREFERENCES (The College Fix)

A Supreme Court decision on whether universities can use race as an admissions factor is expected by June, however the court of public opinion has already weighed in on the matter – and Americans of all stripes stand largely against affirmative action, according to a variety of recent polls.

In those surveys, at least half if not more of those polled voiced opposition to race-based preferences.

Take a Rasmussen national telephone survey, which found only 24 percent of likely voters were in favor of using race as a factor in college admissions, while 55 percent stood opposed, and the rest were undecided. That survey was conducted 11 months ago.

More recently, a survey released in October found that 57 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 – so-called young millennials – are opposed to racial preferences in college admissions or hiring decisions. In other words, nearly six out of every 10 opposed the practice.


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  Flipped classrooms shows positive results in a Detroit school, but lack widespread evidence that they improve academic achievement.

Flipped learning apparently is catching on in schools across the nation as a younger, more tech-savvy generation of teachers is moving into classrooms. Although the number of “flipped” teachers is hard to ascertain, the online community Flipped Learning Network now has 10,000 members, up from 2,500 a year ago, and training workshops are being held all over the country, said executive director Kari Afstrom.

Under the model, teachers make eight- to 10-minute videos of their lessons using laptops, often simply filming the whiteboard as the teacher makes notations and recording their voice as they explain the concept. The videos are uploaded onto a teacher or school website, or even YouTube, where they can be accessed by students on computers or smartphones as homework….

Class time is then devoted to practical applications of the lesson — often more creative exercises designed to engage students and deepen their understanding. On a recent afternoon, Kirch’s students stood in pairs with one student forming a cone shape with her hands and the other angling an arm so the “cone” was cut into different sections.

Promising results in a Detroit school

In the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township, Clintondale High School Principal Greg Green converted the whole school to flipped learning in the fall of 2011 after years of frustration with high failure rates and discipline problems. Three-quarters of the school’s enrollment of 600 is low-income, minority students.

Flipping yielded dramatic results after just a year, including a 33 percent drop in the freshman failure rate and a 66 percent drop in the number of disciplinary incidents from the year before, Green said. Graduation, attendance and test scores all went up. Parent complaints dropped from 200 to seven.

Green attributed the improvements to an approach that engages students more in their classes.

“Kids want to take an active part in the learning process,” he said. “Now teachers are actually working with kids.”

But no substantial evidence that flipped classrooms are better

“They’re expecting kids to do the learning outside the classroom. There’s not a lot of evidence this works,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a New York City-based parent advocacy group. “What works is reasonably sized classes with a lot of debate, interaction and discussion.”

Teachers flip for ‘flipped learning’ class model (Yahoo News)


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  What Uncle Sam can (and cannot) do to improve K–12 schooling: Lessons for the next four years (American Enterprise Institute)

A new report from AEI:

… As Obama and Duncan prepare for a second term, it is worth examining what the federal government can and cannot do to reform America’s system of education. Washington has been particularly effective in ensuring constitutional protections are upheld in education, connecting education reforms to national priorities, giving states and districts incentives for implementing policy changes, and collecting and reporting data related to school reforms. However, because decisions directly affecting individual schools are made at the state and local levels, Washington bureaucrats have largely failed at enforcing mandates and fixing poorly performing schools. The new Obama administration would do well to embrace a more measured approach to education reform that reflects lessons learned from past successes and failures….

“When it comes to fixing schools, the federal track record is bleak.”

August 21, 2012

‘we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others’

by Grace

The public has become increasingly unhappy with what teacher unions have come to represent. – rigidity, mediocrity, and a sense of entitlement.

The notion that seniority drives every decision — assignments, promotions, layoffs — is unsustainable.

Frank Bruni in the New York Times recounts how teachers are being put on the defensive.

  • President Obama is not seen as a strong champion of teacher unions.
  • Democratic mayors like Antonio Villaragosa of Los Angeles, who calls teachers’ unions “the most powerful defenders of a broken system.”
  • Popular media – One example is the upcoming movie, “Won’t Back Down”, about a mother fighting against the public education bureaucracy.
  • “Grim economic times” that find many struggling parents who believe teachers are enjoying cushy jobs and benefits rarely seen in the private sector.
  • Tight government budgets mean curtailed spending for public schools, where staffing is typically the greatest expense.

Bruni says we need “constructive dialogue and  real flexibility from unions”.

We have to find a way out of this. Weingarten noted that most public school children are taught by teachers with a union affiliation, if not necessarily a union contract. That won’t change anytime soon. So a constructive dialogue with those unions is essential.

But so is real flexibility from unions, along with their genuine, full-throated awareness that parents are too frustrated, kids too important and public resources too finite for any reflexive, defensive attachments to the old ways of doing things.

“Our very best teachers ought to be treated much, much better than they are today,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “But in order to get there, we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others.”

These latest tenure decisions from the New York City school district are good evidence that administrators are now willing to “say out loud that some teachers are better than others”.

Only 55 percent of eligible teachers, having worked for at least three years, earned tenure in 2012, compared with 97 percent in 2007.

Wow!

March 22, 2012

New York’s flawed teacher evaluations are a step towards a ‘choice-based educational system’

by Grace

Many school principals and teachers are protesting the new teacher evaluation system scheduled to be phased in this year in New York State, believing it has been rushed into place.  They have concerns that it is flawed and that its introduction has been “confusing, contradictory and, frankly, disastrous.”  From what I’ve seen, I would agree there are serious problems, ranging from questionable state test data to the diversion of scarce resources for implementation.  However, I wonder if many parents are like me, willing to go with this flawed system because we’re so frustrated with things as they are, including the tenure system and the practice of laying off teachers based solely on seniority.

Walter Russell Mead writes about the growing public pressure.

But just because current methods of teacher evaluation are, to say the least, imperfect, doesn’t mean teachers can escape growing public pressure to show results. Teacher unions would like for virtually all teachers to have lifetime tenure and for evaluation to play little or no role in their lives. Principals don’t want parents nosing into administrative decisions or complaining that their kids are getting stuck with subpar math teachers. Pointing to the deep and real flaws in everything from standardized tests to score students to individual teacher assessments is, among other things, a way to stave off public pressure for more accountability in the schools.

The public wants a look inside the “black box” of the American school. Some parents are too ignorant, too dysfunctional or just too laid back to care, but increasingly parents want to make sure that their kids are getting the best available teachers—or at least avoiding the turkeys.

This pressure isn’t going away; school districts and teachers are going to have to live with it. Demand for parental choice is growing, and it will grow further as more educational opportunities arise. Between charter schooling, homeschooling, and new forms of online education, there are now opportunities that simply weren’t available thirty years ago.

He predicts this is one step on the road to school choice.

Ultimately most parents are going to insist on the right to choose which schools their children attend. Schools will have to provide information about their teachers and their success in order to attract pupils. Today’s crude and often unfair bureaucratic evaluation methods are a baby step in the direction of a choice-based educational system. More and better steps will come.

Change will come, but I’d really like to know how many generations will it take.

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