Monday, July 26, 2010

Civil Rights Coalition Calls for Changes in Obama Approach to Education

A coalition of the leading Civil Rights organizations released today a 17 page report titled "The Opportunity to Learn Campaign," in which they take to task the approach of the Obama administration to the reauthorization of NCLB. Specifically, the report critiques the "Race to the Top" concept of competitive grants, stop-gap grant-driven innovations that amount to a revolving door of programs of the moment, and systemic reform that relies on charter schools. The Civil Rights groups oppose school closure as a strategy. Instead the report urges reliance on the tried and true, research supported efforts involving early childhood programs, wrap-around services, and targetted resources to communities in need. Valarie Strauss commented on the report in her column today, pointing out that though polite, the report basically "skewers" the programmatic centerpieces of the Obama administration education program. Ed Week has a good piece that points out that the Civil Rights groups seem to have a lot in common with the assumptions behind the Broader Bolder Approach founded in 2008. We may see a rebirth of that effort in the Fall of 2010.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drop In Test Scores Should Make Us Think

Valarie Strauss points out in her Post blog column yesterday, that the whole house of cards that has been built by the Rhee administration in which tests scores are the be-all and end-all is brought into question by the reactions of the administration, and for that matter the editors of the Washington Post, to the recent drop in scores. Jay Mathews has had to have a similar "epiphony." The fact is that standardized test scores are not a good enough proxy for learning, or for teacher quality, or for school quality, or for that matter for the quality of a Chancellor. They admit that when the scores drop, but when they're rising, foolishly calibrate the quality of everything on this very imprecise measure.

The other point that Strauss fails to mention is that rises in test scores are frequently followed by a drop because the little cheats -- the test prep tricks or removal of low scoring students, or just the fact that kids get used to a particular test format and process and therefore do better regardless of whether they actually know more or not -- that caused the scores to go up have played themselves out. So the lack of an unnatural bubble makes it look like you've had a drop.

So the new consensus is the drop in test scores doesn't mean much. Test score results are only ever meaningful to the politicans, not so much to the students. Valarie Struass' epiphony is that they perhaps shouldn't have been touted as meaning so much when the scores went up, either.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Study on Teach For America

Valarie Strauss reports today that a new study that reviews the the national literature on Teach For America (TFA) out of the University of Texas at Austin, shows that 50% of TFA recurits leave after 2 years and 80% leave after 3 years. TFAers also get worse test score results in reading and math than fully credentialed recruits. The only clear win is when TFAers are brought in to a district that had been filling vacancies with non-certified, unqualified teachers. The authors of the study caution that districts considering using TFA consider both the long term cost implications of having to continuously retrain new recruits, and alternative ways to spend the same dollars for better results.