Friday, December 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
New Material on a Simplistic Approach to Teacher Evaluation and School Improvement
Many policymakers have recently become enthusiastic about using student test scores, and gains on student test scores, to evaluate and compensate teachers. We agree that every classroom should have a well-educated, professional teacher, and school systems should recruit, prepare, and retain teachers who are qualified to do the job. But evaluating and compensating teachers primarily by their student test scores can corrupt the educational process. Even the use of "value-added" test scores, in the absence of a holistic evaluation of teacher quality, can narrow the curriculum, encourage gamesmanship in education, and misidentify more and less qualified teachers.
The Economic Policy Institute has recently published two documents that elaborate on these points and that we want to share with you, our colleagues in the campaign for a Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. (click link to read further and if you are an education researcher or an educator, to sign-on to the statement on the use of student test scores)
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The Washington Post continues to insist in its post-election analysis that mayor Fenty's missteps were all about his personality and his failure to listen to his paid advisors. In the first salvo of their post-election analysis, reporters Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman traced back examples of Fenty's hubris over the past year. But their analysis manages to maintain the myth that his policies and accomplishments really deserved to get him re-elected.
What the Post seems incapable of understanding, but what those close to the ground in DC schools know only too well, is the story of how the missteps and reform strategies of the Rhee administration served to alienate at least as many parents and teachers as they served to inspire. The very constituencies that should have been supportive of the reforms, those that were desperate to improve the quality of teaching and learning in DCPS, were growing to hate the sloppy teacher evaluation process, the increasingly test-driven strategies, and the autocratic, demoralizing fear-based culture that is so antithetical to respect for teachers and good teaching. Its time the Post started to ask why the Rhee reforms are so unpopular among accomplished teachers and activist parents?
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
And Mark Simon got a Washington Post Op Ed published on what the Rhee administration did wrong and caused Fenty to be un-elected as a corrective to the lack of journalistic scrutiny of the Washington Post's coverage.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
DC test scores, which began to improve under Mr. Janey's tenure, have flattened. The Post struggles to defend Ms. Rhee by pointing to the nationwide pattern of lagging test score gains; quoting Ms. Rhee's spokeswoman (Jennifer Calloway) cautioning against drawing broad conclusions from single-year test data; and in a last desperate line of defense, suggesting that perhaps there was "some anomaly in the tests."
I would like for the Post to stop cheerleading for Ms. Rhee and look at the facts: her "reform agenda" is not working. Demonizing veteran teachers, relentless teaching-to-the-test, imposing a flawed and overly-subjective evaluation system (which, hypocritically, places strong emphasis on single-year test scores) have not succeeded.
Ms. Rhee, Mayor Fenty, and the Post cannot have it both ways: if test scores determine whether a teacher receives a raise or loses his/her job, then they should rightly redound on our city leaders in the same fashion. Why are teachers not given 3, 5, or 7 years to improve their students' test scores? Ms. Rhee calls the disparity "unacceptable" and pledges to eliminate it, but she offers no new plans. Increasingly it seems she and the Mayor have succeeded in firing alot of teachers and building some new schools while achieving little educational impact.
Buried at the end of the report is a telling quote from Bruce Fuller: "Part of this hitting the wall may be the troubling fact that we may need to somehow attack family poverty before we see greater progress in closing achievement." Troubling fact indeed! The Mayor and Chancellor have placed the entire responsibility for improving the education of our youth on classroom teachers when a broader societal effort is necessary. Until we face this issue testing, charter schools, Teach for America, IMPACT, and Ms. Rhee's "reform agenda" will have no positive and lasting effect.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The quality of the physical school environment makes a difference to students and teachers—their health, focus, and curriculum—and thankfully the District government is investing in much needed public school building projects throughout the city. However, the taxpayers of the District will be paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually to repay the billions in bonds that finance these projects, so it is important that this use of these public funds is covered by the Washington Post. But “Spreading D.C.’s money around, Recent data on projects indicate Fenty doesn’t favor particular wards” is not telling an accurate story.
In her Sunday, June 6, 2010 article Nikita Stewart says “…some critics of Fenty (D) have long branded the mayor as favoring white neighborhoods at the expense of black communities. But a Washington Post analysis of city data on school construction, parks and recreation projects, and funding for new libraries and schools over the past three years shows that the reality is more complex.”
It was so complex the reporter got it wrong for schools, the lion’s share of the capital spending.
The DCPS school construction spending of the City since 2007 has favored Wards 2 and 3 far more than the rest of the city. The average spending on DCPS public schools in Ward 2 was $152 a square foot and in Ward 3 it was $118 a square foot. Not so in the other wards. The next highest spending was for Ward 5 DCPS schools at $74 a square foot, followed by Ward 6 at $62 a square foot, Ward 8 at $54 a square foot, Ward 1 at $52 a square foot, Ward 7 at $40 a square foot and Ward 4 at $37 a square foot.
Funding per building square feet gives the best characterization of the quality of the physical teaching and learning conditions. However, funding per student also gives a measure of equity and fairness. This is where it is more complex.
When looking at school construction funding per student, DCPS schools in Ward 3, rather than being the second highest falls to the fourth highest in spending per student. Ward 2 DCPS schools still top the list due to major modernization projects at School Without Walls HS, Hardy MS, Hyde/Addison and Thomson elementary schools. Ward 4 DCPS schools were again dead last. Another factor contributing to the inequity: Ward 7 and 8 had 34% of all of the DCPS students—14,388 students in the 08-09 school year, while Wards 2 and 3 enrolled only 19%—8,199 students.
There is good data and valid experience to support concerns about equity and how the District is making decisions about school construction projects and funding. Maybe it is not so complicated after all. Communities without social capital lose out on public investment when there is poor planning and no intentional public policy for equity.
Executive Director, 21st Century School Fund
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
It just came to light in the past few days that the Billionaire donors loaded on political conditions, like keeping the chancellor in place, that allows them to pull the money. The implications of donors getting to dictate policies does seem to cross the line in a public school system.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I was hopeful that this new contract, which seems like a good one given the circumstances, could mean a new day. I was hopeful that the Chancellor perhaps has learned that you have to work with and inspire trust from teachers to imporve the quality of teaching, and that the WTU perhaps has learned that a labor intensive focus on the quality of teaching has to be central for the union as well. I still think its a pretty good contract, but...
The cynics and mistrusters are going to come out of the woodwork on this one. In testimony before the City Council, according to the article by Bill Turque in today's online Washington Post, and even harsher pieces in the City Paper and the Examiner, Michelle Rhee tried to explain that the same budget that had caused her to have to fire 266 teachers in the fall now has a $34 Million surplus that can be used to fund the newly negotiated rasies. The explanation? A mistake in math by DCPS. Trust that!!
Whether this will "blow up" the contract ratification, as the City Paper Article implies is open to question, but bad faith it clearly seems to be.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
We received an overview of the proposed new contract, but I am looking forward to reading the details. I have a few questions that need to be answered.
1. Involvement of School Stakeholders
- Fortunately, contract language increases the involvement of LSRTs and other school-based committees in school management decisions. Will teachers, parents, and others in the school community have a real say in improving the school?
- Will these changes be enforced or remain on paper like previous attempts at school community involvement?
- How will the changes ensure that LSRTs have meaningful input in decision making at all schools?
2. Merit Pay
- Although the merit pay program is voluntary, why would we, as educators, reinforce the idea that tying teacher pay to student achievement will lead to improved teaching?
- Is there clear evidence that merit pay increases student achievement?
- What will be used to accurately determine student progress and achievement in the classroom?
- Will this lead to more teaching to the test or pruning of poor performing students from classes?
- Too many students are already "dumped" from non-neighborhood schools because of truancy, behavior problems and poor academic performance. In a similar fashion, will it lead to students being removed from classrooms when teachers recognize they are adversely affecting their chances for merit pay?
3. Removing Ineffective Teachers
- Streamlining DCPS's ability to remove ineffective teachers is a good thing as long as it is done fairly. What will be the exact criteria for determining "ineffectiveness?"
- Currently, many teachers do not get the basic supports they need to effectively teach. At the same time IMPACT holds teachers to extremely high, and in some cases, unrealistic expectations. Is this the system we want to use to determine teacher effectiveness? (I realize that teacher evaluations are a nonnegotiable issue in the contract, but there needs to be a discussion about these important issues.)
- Will IMPACT be revised so that it becomes less subjective and reflects the realities of classroom teaching?
4. Foundation Money
- Will the $65 million in donations influence DCPS education policy in areas beyond pay raises?
- Can we really expect these private funders to give money without any strings attached?
- Do we want to promote the practice of a small group of wealthy donors using their private money to influence education policy (e.g., Gates' money used for small high schools)?
The contract can be an important tool in improving the quality of teaching and education in DC. However, we must ensure that it addresses the fundamental problems existing in many schools. I am reserving judgment and hope to have my questions answered soon.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Link to: Inexcusable -- Empty Promises to a D.C. School