Teacher Evaluations Need to ‘Support, Not Sort’ was one of my posts at Education Week Teacher. In Part One of a three-part series, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel, and 2012 National Teacher Of The Year Rebecca Mieliwocki shared their thoughts on teacher evaluations.
The New York Times published a column that highlights all of what is wrong about merit pay. However, they talk about it in the context of doctors and the medical profession and not teachers. It’s titled The Problem With ‘Pay for Performance’ in Medicine.
Lily Eskelen Garcia, the National Education Association President spoke at the American Federation Of Teachers Convention.
It’s definitely worth watching:
Donna Brazile announced the formation of Democrats For Public Education at the American Federation of Teachers Convention in Los Angeles. It’s designed to support effective and teacher-supported education efforts.
You’ve got to watch this video of her speech at the Convention:
“Chicago education officials …approved the largest-scale, single-year closure of public schools of any major school system in the nation, approving the shuttering of 49 elementary schools that are located mostly on the city’s impoverished south and west sides.”
Here’s a video interview with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and NYU Professor Pedro Noguera. I’ve highlighted this quote from it:
I put out a request, as I do every year, to readers to share the best education-related books that they had read over the past year. The books could have been published earlier and the only requirement was that you had read them sometime this year.
Here are The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2012:
DRIVE by Daniel Pink-speaks volumes to non-educators, educators and definitely administrators!
“Why School” by Will Richardson. An ebook for sale on Amazon that takes about 90 minutes to read. One of the most important books of this year.
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the best book I’ve read this year. Her voice jumps from the pages and inspires you to do more. Inspires you to give students the unique opportunity to find what types of literature they enjoy. You can feel the warmth and connections that she has made in her classroom. I don’t know how any teacher who reads this book wouldn’t be compelled to make a change. Love it.
Stratosphere by Michael Fullen
Katz, “Designing Information”. My Amazon review: “Three pages in I wanted to stop and write this review but forced myself to read the rest of the book before writing. My opinion was unchanged. “Designing Information” is a delightful, delectable, informative, visually rich, entertaining exploration of the business of making information more accessible…..”
I’m choosing Why School? by Will Richardson, too. I think Will does a fantastic job of exploring the changing nature of education and offers up suggestions for how teachers and administrators can take steps to meet the changing needs of today’s students (for tomorrow).
Don Tapscott’s “Grown Up Digital.” I reference it nearly every day in class. It gives me great hope for this generation. Check out his excellent TED Talk too. Tapscott uses startling examples and backs them up with research. A great counterpoint to a lot of what comes out denigrating this generation (Mark Bauerlein’s “The Dumbest Generation” or Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows” or Jeane Twenge’s “The Narcissist Epidemic”). A must read for every teacher entering the profession.
Net Smart by Howard Rheingold: Hugely informative and wise on the topic about how the thrive online. My review here.
Creating the Opportunity to Learn by Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera. This is one of the best books on what we need to do in America to deal with the huge gap in accessibility to quality education in the US.
The Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen was also a wonderful book. It is very interesting to think about how to apply these principles to schools, to help teach our students to be creators or innovators.
Fall Down 7 Times, Get up 8: Teaching Kids to Succeed by Debbie Silver. I am so tired of all of the time and effort some educators put into devising elaborate reward systems, which, in my opinion, do little to change behaviors. I reviewed this book for Middle Web. Debbie does a great job of combining current research and practicies in an entertaining manner, filled with many examples. Here’s a link to my review.
A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives edited by Anderson and Krathwohl moves away from the multiple choice tests that were the focus of the original taxonomy. Since educational objectives are the foundation of the Common Core State Standards, this book is already more influential than the original. The revised taxonomy answers many of the questions teachers raise about how to teach under Common Core.
I recommend Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion” book (with accompanying DVD of video teaching clips) as a great illustration of numerous actual teaching tips, strategies, and approaches. Theory is important, but educational leaders need to always prioritize real-life examples, challenges, and solutions.
21st Century Skills Rethinking How Students Learn edited by James Bellanca & Ron Brandt This book is a culmination of research and expertise written by favorite authors of education. They provide a framework of learning that marries core knowledge and background knowledge with innovation, creative thinking, problem solving and technology.
“Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess. The cover tagline reads: “Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator.” This claim holds up! This book will inspire the tenured and new teacher to unleash their passions in the classroom. The book has three parts: 1. The PIRATE (acronym) philosophy and system 2. How to create engaging lessons 3. Final thoughts and guidance. The two things I like most about Dave Burgess’ approach is that he is tells classroom stories I can relate to and I feel challenged by his strategies for creating engaging curriculum.
I have to go with Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. This resource, along with his previous book Choice Words, has helped me change the way I listen and speak with students. Opening Minds is the only book I can think of that I have personally shared with teachers, parents and my wife.
I really enjoyed “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character” by Paul Tough. I think Tough argues quite vividly and persuasively that the skills such as “curiosity, self-control, and social fluidity” (ability to get along); skills that today are often called “soft” or “non-cognitive.” The book focuses on the determinants of success or failure among developing children and argues clearly and persuasively, in non-technical plain English, that the current-day educational policy emphasis on cognitive development among young people is seriously off-base. Tough’s book is brief and right on point. I recommend it highly.
Carly’s Voice by Arthur an Carly Fleishmann. While it is not a how to education book, it offers a deep understanding of children with autism who are non verbal. Because I had a student starting at my school with this description, I knew this would give me insights. It has made it’s rounds through my staff and because they have read it, they understand our new little student. They have more compassion and less pity for his situation. I would recommend this book to anyone who feels that autism is a mystery. Carly helps you understand more of the “why’s” behind the actions and reactions of children with autism.
I will be using Eleanor Dougherty’s book, “Assignments Matter: Making the connections That Help Students Meet Standards” as a resource for my curriculum class this spring. I believe it is well written and extremely helpful for teachers trying to align standards with assessments.
Angela Maiers’ Passion Driven Classroom and Habitudes has been very enlightening to my teaching. Another book I’ve recommended to at least 2 dozen folks (parents, neighbors) anyone who is truly interested in education is Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap; it will really get people thinking!
Necessary Endings by Dr. Cloud. Once we find something that works, we don’t just stick with it forever after. We need to keep reevaluating if it is still the best way to go. Carol Dwecks Mindset and Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage are honourable mentions.
As a parent and educator I love Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner. Wagner profiles real life innovators and their parents and the educators who influenced them. I’m seriously thinking about how our school can do a better job of developing innovators.
What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali. An inspiration for all teachers and reminder of the power we wield. The perfect book to read before heading back to school.
Pathways to the Common Core : Accelerated Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman was a very informative and motivational read in preparation for transitioning my staff into common core. It explains how the new standards will work and creates an easy to follow roadmap that helps a CCSS novice navigate through this new transition and movement.
My top read of 2012 for educators is Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate. Dave shows teachers how to develop energized lessons, the kind that make his classes among the most popular on campus. Teach Like a Pirate offers specific strategies on how to tap into and cultivate the wellspring of creativity educators already possess! This book is an empowering read, transcends disciplines, and is the type of book I wish had been included in my own teacher preparation program.
Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers. Kids need to be told that they are geniuses! They need to keep that spunk and assertiveness well into high school, so they can truly show their geniuses as they mature, instead of being ashamed of what they do. Great lessons embedded, and resources any grade can use.
Several of my favorites have already been listed here but I have to lend my support to them as well! Creating Innovators is a fantastic read as it tells an important story by spotlighting students and families. Pathways to the Common Core is also a great tool to support our transition. I’m only half way through it, but it’s impacting my work tremendously.
Other favorite that were not yet listed include:
Best practices, 4th edition as it reflects on what we know works and incorporates the new movements/initiatives thoughtfully.
Blackants and Buddhists for proving a concrete example of teaching perspective, tolerance, openmindedness, evaluating for biases, and for its usefulness as a tool for my equity team.
Sensible Mathematics, 2nd Ed. by Steve Leinwand. There aren’t a ton of books written about teaching math, or leading the reform that math education needs in this country. Leinwand hits the nail on the head with this book, laying out exactly why and how math class needs to change if we are to realize the promise of the CCSS. His companion work, Accessible Mathematics, geared more towards classroom teachers, is equally as good.
I would agree with Matt Renwick on Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. This book has influenced my own work in the classroom and also my understanding of my dissertation work. As Johnston says, words create worlds, and each interaction I have with my students creates a particular type of world. Johnston has helped me become more conscious of what worlds I’m creating and be more intentional with my language. I believe that all teachers should read both Choice Words and Opening Minds several times during their careers as with experience and new circumstances, Johnston’s ideas become more relevant.
I share a strategy a week with our staff from Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion; 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College”
Thanks again to everybody who contributed! Feel free to leave additional recommendations in the comments section.
Currently, teacher pay is based primarily on years of service and continuing education, including advanced degrees. In recent years, pay-for-performance or merit-pay systems have been tried around the country—systems in which teachers are rewarded for student achievement, with achievement usually being measured by test scores.
The ACT report argues that neither system succeeds. And it offers a framework for professional growth and compensation that creates incentives for well-qualified individuals to enter the profession, continue to grow, and to share what they know so that the entire enterprise of education improves. This report can be used to inform policy at the state and district level to create thoughtful, research-based compensation systems that actually improve teaching.
I’ve embedded the video below. I think it’s a good one, though I think there are better stories than the one he uses to demonstrate how a teacher can use effective classroom management. I think the action by the teacher he highlights could have just as easily ended up escalating the conflict instead of de-escalating it.
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
Giving Parents the Runaround on School Turnarounds is the title of the press release from the respected Great Lakes Center announcing a review of a recent report on marketing unwise “school turnaround strategies.” Here’s an excerpt from the press release:
Federal school “turnaround” strategies that call for firing teachers, replacing managers, or closing or converting public schools into charters are often met with resistance and anger among the parents whose children attend those schools. A recent study released by Public Agenda which focuses on how to market the concept of turnaround strategies fails to address the substantive concerns of resistant parents nor questions the soundness of these strategies as a way to improve schools, according to a new Think Twice review.
The report, What’s Trust Got to Do With It? A Communications and Engagement Guide for School Leaders Tackling the Problem of Persistently Failing Schools, was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by William J. Mathis, an education researcher and former school superintendent who has studied school turnaround strategies.
Performance Beyond Expectations is a report by Andy Hargreaves and Alma Harris that covers a lot of important topics. However, because of its comments related to “turnarounds,” I’m adding it to this list.
However, I thought it would also be useful to start identifying pieces that do a good job of “putting it all together.” Towards that end, I’ve identified a small number to start off with and hope that others can suggest more.
Here are my choices for The Best Articles Providing An “Overall” Perspective On Education Policy:
As I wrote yesterday, The American Association of School Administrators has published the text of a speech (and the video) Diane Ravitch gave at their recent conference, and I don’t think you’re going to read or hear a better commentary on education anywhere.
These new scientific managers, like those of a century ago, prefer teachers with little training—who will come and go quickly, without costing much money, without vesting in the pension system and without raising many questions about an increasingly prescriptive system of testing and teaching that lines the pockets of private entrepreneurs (who provide teacher-proofed materials deemed necessary, by the way, in part because there are so many underprepared novices who leave before they learn to teach). Curriculum mandates and pacing guides that would “choke a horse,” as one teacher put it, threaten to replace the opportunities for teachable moments that expert teachers know how to create with their students.
The new scientific managers, like the Franklin Bobbitts before them, like to rank and sort students, teachers and schools—rewarding those at the top and punishing those at the bottom, something that the highest-achieving countries not only don’t do but often forbid. The present-day Bobbitts would create “efficiencies” by firing teachers and closing schools, while issuing multimillion-dollar contracts for testing and data systems to create more graphs, charts and report cards on which to rank and sort… well, just about everything.
Her speech will certainly be on “The Best..” list of educational policy articles for this year. It provides some fascinating historical background, including much I didn’t know.
Steve Brill’s Report Card on School Reform is a New York Times book review of Brill’s recent book. I’m adding it, with some minor reservations (I’m not as enthralled with Doug Lemov’s teaching techniques as the reviewer says she is) to this list.
Who Writes the Songs? is a very good post by John Merrow that I think gives a very good critique of what is being done in the name of “school reform.” His suggested next step — “peace talks” between opposing groups — sounds a little naive (see my Washington Post piece, Why we can’t all get along over school reform, along with Anthony Cody’s comment on Merrow’s post for a somewhat similar perspective), but the rest of it hits the mark.
These next two resources are wide-ranging interviews with Diane Ravitch where she responds to questions about many school reform issues, including ones on teacher tenure. One is from The Economic Policy Institute and the other is from GOOD.
Indiana Informs Wisconsin’s Push is a very interesting article in The New York Times. Not only does it provide a scary picture of what happens without collective bargaining, it also includes a quote from a political supporter of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s bill eliminating it that explains what teacher tenure is so important:
“I’ve talked to many teachers and public works employees in my county,” he said, “and almost every conversation comes around to the impact on their seniority and their concerns that their boss doesn’t like them and they won’t be treated fairly, and frankly I think there’s something to that.”
There have been some good posts challenging comments by some “school reformers” that the experience of having many years in the classroom is over-rated. They say that after the first few years, it has no impact on student achievement. Here are some posts rebutting that claim:
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.
A consensus is that outside of school factors account for about 60% of the variance in student test scores, while schools account for about 20% of that variance (Haertel, 2013; Borman and Dowling, 2012; Coleman et al., 1966). Further, about half of the variance accounted for by schools is attributed to teachers. So, on tests that may be insensitive to instruction, teachers appear to account for about 10% of the variance we see in student achievement test scores (American Statistical Association, 2014). Thus outside-of-school factors appear 6 times more powerful than teachers in effecting student achievement.
Myths and realities about KIPP is an excellent column in The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. It’s written by Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Here’s an excerpt:
The big difference between KIPP and regular public schools, however, is that whereas struggling students come and go at regular schools, at KIPP, student leave but very few new children enter. Having few new entering students is an enormous advantage not only because low-scoring transfer students are kept out but also because in the later grades, KIPP students are surrounded only by successful peers who are the most committed to the program.