Every year for the past 44 years, Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup have done a Poll On Education issues. This year’s poll results were just released. I’ve been out of town for the past couple of days, and haven’t had a chance to review it in-depth. I thought, though, that it would be useful to share with readers some of the commentaries on the poll that will be on on my reading list this weekend.
I’m not going to make a separate “The Best…” list related to Steve Brill’s new book on school reform, “Class Warfare.” However, here are three articles that join Steve Brill’s Report Card on School Reform, the New York Times book review, as the best commentaries that I’ve seen it:
Earlier this morning, the results of the latest Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup Poll On Education issues were released. I thought I’d pull together some good analyses and reports on it, and will continue to add to this list.
Here are my choices for The Best Posts/Articles On This Year’s Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup Poll On Education:
Most people trust public-school teachers and want them to have more freedom in the classroom. Even though a solid majority (68 percent) of respondents said most of the news they hear about teachers is bad, an even higher percentage (71 percent) said they trust public-school teachers to do their jobs. And more still—73 percent—said teachers should be given greater flexibility and not have to follow a strict curriculum.
It’s not uncommon to hear someone inaccurately state that the teacher has the biggest influence on student achievement — period. Of course, the true statement is that — of the in-school factors — teachers have the biggest influence. On top of that, research has shown that over two-thirds of the factors that influence student achievement occur out of school.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t continually look at ways to help teachers become better. It does mean that we should also figure out ways to change the outside factors, too — lack of affordable housing, health care, safety. That is one of the main messages of my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools, which offers practical suggestions on how schools can work with parents on these issues. It also means that placing all the blame on teachers, which some “school reformers” are prone to do, is disingenuous.
In addition to my book, I thought I’d bring together links to other resources that provide research (and analyze it) about this topic. Feel free to offer additional suggestions.
Here are my choices for The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher (& Outside Factors) Have On Student Achievement:
Rothstein, a former New York Times national education columnist, discusses the false narrative about public education — especially urban schools — that currently exists. Rothstein maintains that many education reform proposals, especially those that focus on teacher accountability, are based on a misinterpretation and misuse of data. He stresses the direct correlation between poverty and educational failure.
Rothstein makes many important points but, because of some of the key ones he makes, I’m adding the video to this list.
…school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.
Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t.
After citing some pretty irrefutable data documenting the role of poverty in student achievement, here are some excerpts from what he writes:
Some want to make the absurd argument that the reason low-income youngsters do poorly is that, mysteriously, all the incompetency in our education systems has coincidentally aggregated around low income students. In this view, all we need to do is scrub the system of incompetency and all will be well. An equally absurd variant on this theme is that poor performance in low-income districts is a function of, again coincidental, misalignment between state standards and local curriculum. Get these in line and all will be fine say the ideologues. Others want to banish any discussion of socio-economic status (SES) and educational performance for fear that it suggests that SES is destiny. It does not. We all know of notable individual exceptions to this rule, but they are exceptions. The averages tell the story….
It is now blatantly apparent to me and other education activists, ranging form Geoffrey Canada to Richard Rothstein to Linda Darling-Hammond, that the strategy of instructional improvement will not, on average, enable us to overcome the barriers to student learning posed by the conditions of poverty.
As others have argued, we need “a broader, bolder” approach, one that meets every child where he or she is and gives to each one the quality and quantity of support and instruction needed to attain the standards. Those of us who have the privileges of affluence know how to do this at scale with our children. We wrap services and supports around these children from the pre-natal period through their twenties. We know how to do it, but do we have the will to do it for “other people’s children”? And do we know how to institutionalize the necessary services and supports that are best provided through families?
Yes, we need to make sure that all children, and particularly disadvantaged children, have access to good schools, as defined by the quality of teachers and principals and of internal policies and practices.
But let’s not pretend that family background does not matter and can be overlooked. Let’s agree that we know a lot about how to address the ways in which poverty undermines student learning. Whether we choose to face up to that reality is ultimately a moral question.
In it, he discusses differences between “good” teaching and “successful” teaching, and describes “successful” learning. It’s too difficult — at least for me — to summarize succinctly, so I’d recommend you read his entire post.
Here are his final two paragraphs:
Not only does this policymaker error about quality classroom instruction confuse the personal traits of the teacher with teaching, it also nurtures a heroic view of school improvement where superstars (e.g., Geoffrey Canada in “Waiting for Superman,” Jaime Escalante of “Stand and Deliver”, Erin Gruwell of “Freedom Writers”) labor day in and day out to get their students to ace AP Calculus tests and become accomplished writers and achieve in Harlem schools. Neither doctors, lawyers, soldiers, nor nuclear physicists can depend upon superstars among them to get their important work done every day. Nor should all teachers have to be heroic. Policymakers attributing quality far more to individual traits in teachers than to the context in which they teach leads to squishing “good” teaching with “successful” learning doing even further collateral damage to the profession by setting up the expectation that only heroes need apply.
By stripping away from “good” learning essential factors of students’ motivation, the contexts in which they live, and the opportunities they have to learn in school–federal, state, and district policymakers inadvertently twist the links between teaching and learning into a simpleminded formula thereby mis-educating the public they serve while encouraging a generation of idealistic newcomers to become classroom heroes who end up deserting schools in wholesale numbers within a few years because they come to understand that “good” teaching does not lead automatically to “successful” learning. Fenstermacher and Richardson help us parse “quality teaching” into distinctions between “good” and “successful” teaching and learning while revealing clearly the error that policymakers have made and continue to do so.
* “Three of four Americans oppose the idea of paying students money to read books, attend school, or strive for better grades. Consistent with this finding, only one in four parents said they paid their children to do better in school.” (for my feelings, see The Problem With “Bribing Students”)
I thought I’d share some more resources in this new list. My hope is that not only will readers find them useful, but that you’ll be able to suggest more. I’ll be working on a report covering this topic next week, so thanks in advance for your recommendations.
Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments:
The term “performance-based assessment” is a term used to describe one way to evaluate student achievement (the Consortium’s process would fit into this category). This basically means that students are evaluated on work they have “constructed” as opposed to choosing from a list of pre-determined answers. This could mean a writing assessment, similar to what is done in Vermont or Kentucky, or filling-in the blanks in a cloze (there are usually multiple appropriate responses), or describing how a student would develop a science experiment. The Stanford Center For Opportunity Policy In Education has developed a brief that lays-out the case for performance-based assessment and how it might be implemented. You can also learn more about this topic here.
The Other Kind of Testing is a good column by Walt Gardner in Education Week. It’s about “performance-based assessment” for students
School leaders can’t use a checklist approach to observing teachers and providing feedback. Teacher observation requires a comprehensive model that acknowledges the segments that make up a lesson.
A comprehensive observation method includes teachers’ self-reflection, walkthroughs and formal observations by principals and peers…The goal…is for feedback to be part of the culture of the school.
In a recent article in Ed Week, James Stigler writes about the “lesson study” process in Japan, where teachers covering the same content meet regularly, develop their methods of student evaluation, and then meet together to examine the results. He contrasts that system of teacher accountability with those presently being suggested by Gates, Duncan, etc. He says W. Edwards Deming would call what Gates and Duncan want “the inspection method.” In reality, Deming says, “real and continuous improvement occurs only when the workers themselves study outcome variability and the processes that produce it.”
A study has just come out of Chicago which reinforces the potential effectiveness of using trained teachers to give feedback to colleagues. In the study, teachers were far more demanding than principals using the same evaluation system. It’s still too early to tell, though, about its effect on student achievement. This kind of system is apparently called Peer Assistance and Review.
Does this mean that testing makes no contribution to teaching? Absolutely not. Test scores tell teachers which students need help and where help is needed. And they also can tell school boards which schools need a bigger budget. Or a new principal.
But in evaluating a teacher, priority should be given to expert judgment. Principals and department heads worthy of their position know which teachers care about their students and know the strengths and needs of each one, which teachers are dedicated to what they teach and have advanced knowledge in the field, and which teachers painstakingly plan their lessons.
This twelve minute video of Anthony Bryk from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is one of the best things I’ve seen about teacher evaluation. Among other points, he compares summative teacher evaluation with teacher improvement.
I learned about it from Matthew Di Carlo at The Shanker Blog, a “must-read” blog for educators.
I learned about it through the Pebble Creek Labs blog, which I will continue to encourage people to check-out.
That blog post, which today is written by Cynthia Moore, has a good one sentence summary of the article:
Our insistence on teaching the classics is far less about pushing kids out of their comfort zone and more about staying in ours.
Cynthia’s post shares some of the best quotes of the article, so you might want to explore it before you read the article itself.
Here is my favorite quote:
Much of what students read in
school should be interesting, global,
provocative, critical, relevant, diverse,
creative, emotional, and imaginative.
Those are hardly the adjectives students
use to describe most of what they
read for school. Ask a kid to list the
“bold” and “fascinating” readings they
have done in school. That is, texts that
have encouraged them to question their
assumptions and opened their minds to
stimulating ideas. That will be a very
short list indeed.
• More than 2/3 of respondents in the national poll favored paying teachers bonuses when their students score well on standardized tests. More than 4/5 agree that teachers with advanced degrees should be paid more.
• Only 28% of those polled had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” impression of No Child Left Behind.
• Only 26% of the public favor lifetime contracts (tenure, as defined in the poll) for teachers. 66% think teachers should have the right to a legal review before principals fire them.
• Question: If your local schools needed teachers in science, math, technical subjects, and vocational subjects, would you favor or oppose…relaxing teacher education and certification plans so more people could qualify to teach these subjects? In 2009, 71% were opposed. In 1986, 74% were opposed.
• About 3/4 of Americans favor a single national set of standards for the certification of public school teachers.
• And, finally, an oldie but a goodie: Asked to assign grades to (1) school your oldest child attends; (2) public schools overall in your community; and (3) public schools nationally, the percentage getting “A or B” were, respectively: (1) 74%, (2) 51%, and (3) 19%.
The Goals Of Education is the title of a great article by Richard Rothstein and Rebecca Jacobsen that appeared in the December, 2006 issue of the Phi Delta Kappan.
I just happened to find it in some research I was doing. It gives a excellent historical perspective about what the purposes of schools have been in this country, and the effect of standardized testing on these original goals.
The article is particularly helpful to me by its description of the original intent of “civics” instruction, which is more in-line with what I teach in my Government class than what is typically done in most classrooms today.