The Futures of School Reform, edited by Jal Mehta, Robert B. Schwartz, and Frederick M. Hess, is a collection of essays that try to push the boundaries of current education reform efforts in order to generate dramatic change through high leverage issues. In the second of the essays, “Building on Practical Knowledge,” Carnegie President Anthony Bryk, Senior Fellow Louis Gomez, and Mehta, who is at Harvard Graduate School of Education, advocate an approach to professionalizing the field of education by using the principles of a Networked Improvement Community. The authors argue that teaching is not a professionalized field, in which knowledge is shared and best practices are developed. The hierarchical and bureaucratic state of schools, districts, and state and federal governments results in the disregard of local learning and adaptation when creating standardization across schools and implementing policies. There is no formal system to develop teachers’ practical knowledge, training, or apprenticeship, resulting in a wide variation in teacher performance.
In addition, the authors write that traditional approaches to educational research—translational research and action research—are often divorced from practice and have failed to help further the improvement of teaching and student learning. Translational research uses innovation as a stage-wise linear inquiry process and generalizes solutions well, but fails to accommodate local insights. Action research, on the other hand, flows from practice and is improvement-based, but puts a low priority on generalizable mapping of cause and effect, resulting in an inability to scale successful changes.
The authors discuss a “third way”: a Networked Improvement Community (NIC), which is the Carnegie approach to problems of practice that Bryk and colleagues are attempting to integrate into the field of education research. Through the use of common targets, a shared language, and common protocols for inquiry, this “third way” uses improvement science to consider local contexts and networks to help generalize and scale solutions. Thus NICs can help contribute to professionalizing teaching by framing the profession around practice improvement, engendering routines that enable inquiry, and helping teachers feel part of a broader profession. NICs create a system to support a knowledge profession through the use of human capital building centered on practice, allowing states and districts to focus on providing an infrastructure for educational improvement, and creating policy that allows for a “greenfield” for social learning. Doing this will help improve performance, learning, and equity in our schools, the authors note.
In order to get there, the authors believe every actor has a role to play. School leaders should think of their institutions as areas that can learn, unions should free up teachers and schools to take responsibility, governmental actors need to move away from a focus on control and compliance and towards support and learning, and institutions need to act as focal points for large collective action problems. They conclude, “If all actors, throughout the system, began to conceive their jobs as transforming an Industrial Age compliance structure into a profession of competent, skilled, and continuously learning practitioners, collectively we might finally be able to move our education system into the twenty-first century” (64).
The chapter helps highlight the motivations and results of a well-functioning NIC. Carnegie’s two NIC-supported programs, the Community College Pathways and Building a Teaching Effectiveness Network, can not only directly help students become more successful, they can also help professionalize the teaching profession, thus accelerating improvement. Through the use of NICs,
Some of the News Fit to Print
TEACHERS, STUDENTS RETURN TO CHICAGO SCHOOLS
Delegates for the Chicago Teachers Union voted to call off its seven-day strike, sending some 350,000 public schools students back to class this morning and ending the daily scene of teachers dressed in red picketing their schools. The article is in the Chicago Tribune.
VALUE-ADDED MEASURES: A NEW APPROACH
Tulane Professor Doug Harris writes in the Huffngton Post: President Obama and other Democrats are challenging teachers unions and urging them to recognize the need for deep reforms -- a bold political move that we see only rarely among political allies. So, it took gall for Governor Romney, Jeb Bush, and others at the Republican National Convention to say that teacher unions control the Democratic Party. If that were true, there wouldn't be a strike. Despite its boldness, all might have turned out well for the Democrats if not for another seemingly small choice that the Obama Administration made in the design of its Race to the Top initiative. They smartly embraced the idea of multiple measures of teacher performance, but decided to lump all the various measures together into an index and use that as the mother of all measures -- to be used for all personnel decisions. The raging debate since then has been over what percentage of the index should be given to value-added versus the other measures.
BLACK MALE GRAD RATE STILL LAGS
The four-year graduation rate for black males has steadily improved over the last decade, but remains dismally low compared to the rate for their white male peers, according to a study released this morning. In its fifth biennial report on graduation rates for African-American males, the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that in 2009-10, 52 percent of black males graduated from high school with a regular diploma within four years. It’s the first time that more than half of the nation’s African-American boys did so, according to Schott’s report. The article is in Education Week.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
EFFICIENCY IN JOB TRAINING
Bachelor degree production isn’t a big problem in this country. Associate degrees and certificates are where the U.S. lags other industrialized countries, according to the latest study from Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
MOOC HOST EXPANDS
Coursera continued its ambitious expansion in the growing market for MOOC support today, announcing accords with 16 new universities to help them produce massive open online courses — more than doubling the company’s number of institutional partners and pushing its course count near 200. The new partners include the first liberal arts college, Wesleyan University, to leap formally into the MOOC game, as well as the first music school, the Berklee College of Music. Coursera also announced deals with name-brand private universities, such as Brown, Columbia, Emory and Vanderbilt Universities; some major state institutions, such as the University of Maryland System, the Ohio State University and the Universities of Florida, and California at Irvine; and several international universities, such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Universities of British Columbia, London, and Melbourne. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
CAN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES STILL COMPETE?
America’s public universities face unprecedented challenges. In the wake of the economic recession and the resulting budget crises, states have cut higher education funding. At the same time, the nation’s expectations for higher education have grown, with President Obama warning that our economic competitiveness will suffer unless our colleges and universities produce more graduates. College leaders are being asked to do more with less. In response to these new demands, most institutions have made small changes and battened down the hatches in the hopes that funding will return to normal. Public colleges have raised tuition to make up for lost revenue, made across-the-board cuts, and frozen hiring. These changes may help in the short-term, but they do little to prepare existing institutions for a “new normal” of tight budgets and high expectations. The article is from the American Enterprise Institute.
Some of the News Fit to Print
ABOUT HIGHER ED
STANFORD FOR ALL
Should Stanford encourage more of its faculty to produce these so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs? Should anyone profit from their distribution? And if the University does invest more heavily in online education, how might that affect students—and professors—on the home campus? During the past year such questions have been the subject of intense debate. Many professors say they like the idea of mass online education for humanitarian reasons. Some believe high-quality online courses could enhance the University's prestige in the same way that faculty-authored textbooks do, and help Stanford attract and identify brilliant students from around the world. And some would be happy to replace their large lecture courses with a more engaging educational model—one that many plugged-in Stanford students prefer. Other professors loathe the idea of lecturing to a camera, or of trying to assess thousands of students online. The article is in Stanford Magazine.
WE MUST INVEST IN OUR PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal writes in The San Francisco Chronicle: Our public universities are in trouble. Nationwide, they produce 70 percent of our college graduates. Yet, from coast to coast, unrelenting state budget cuts threaten the quality of our leading institutions, even as they force students and families to dig deeper and borrow more to pay the tuition. As we begin another academic year, our top priority must be to develop a stable, long-term funding model for public higher education. We need a path forward that preserves excellence, protects access and affordability and puts the United States on track to regain our standing as having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Our decline from first to 16th place since the 1980s demands action.
THE BUDGET CUTS TO COME
WASHINGTON — If Congress does not agree on a long-term plan to reduce the deficit by the end of the year, most higher education programs will face deep cuts in the mandatory spending reductions that go into effect Jan. 1, according to a report released Friday by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. For months, advocates for education funding (as well as those concerned about other budget areas) have braced for the cuts, known as sequestration. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
STATE MAY RANK IOWA TEACHER COLLEGES, GRADUATES’ PERFORMANCE
Ranking Iowa's teacher colleges and tracking the performance of their graduates are among ideas being considered by the state's board of education. The potential changes are part of a larger effort to overhaul the accreditation process for teacher preparation programs, a reform that Governor Terry Branstad said would be crucial to improving the academic performance of the state's children. The article is in the Des Moines Register.
IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENT TEACHING
The Chicago teachers’ strike was prompted in part by a fierce disagreement over how much student test scores will weigh in a new teacher evaluation system mandated by state law. That teachers’ unions in much of the country now agree that student achievement should count in evaluations at all reflects a major change from the past, when it was often argued that teaching was an “art” that could not be rigorously evaluated or, even more outrageously, that teachers should not be held accountable for student progress. Traditional teacher evaluations often consist of cursory classroom visits by principals who declare nearly every teacher good, or at least competent, even in failing schools where few if any children meet basic educational standards. As a result of this system, bad things can happen. High-performing teachers who have an enormous impact on student achievement go unidentified, and they often leave the district. Promising, but struggling, young teachers never get the help they need to master the job. And disastrous teachers who have no feel for the profession continue as long as they wish, hurting young lives along the way. The editorial was in The New York Times.
CPS FAILS TO GET COURT ORDER ENDING STRIKE
Lawyers for Chicago Public Schools were rebuffed today in their hopes of winning a temporary restraining order and immediately ending the teachers strike. A Cook County Circuit Court judge did not agree to hold a hearing on the matter today. Instead, Judge Peter Flynn raised the possibility of setting a hearing for Wednesday, but questioned if the legal issues wouldn’t be moot if the strike is over by then, according to Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department. The article is in the Chicago Tribune.
START-UP HOPEFULS TEST IDEAS WITH EDUCATORS
Many entrepreneurs in K-12 believe technology can solve education’s problems, but don’t work to understand those problems before prescribing technology to solve them. That frustrates educators and can be a recipe for failure for fledgling companies. The founders of Imagine K12—Tim Brady, Alan Louie, and Geoff Ralston—made their fortunes working for some of Silicon Valley’s star companies, like Yahoo and Google. But they’re trying to change that dynamic by helping people who start education businesses understand what educators truly need and then create products to meet those needs. The article is in Education Week.
TWO VERSIONS OF COMMON CORE TEST
Instead of designing one test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is planning to offer its states a choice of a longer and a shorter version. The pivot came in response to some states' resistance to spending more time and money on common core standards testing. States are confronting what is politically and fiscally palatable and how that squares with an in-depth approach to testing students on the standards. The article is in Education Week.
STUDY FINDS NO RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ED SPENDING AND RESULTS
A new study from State Budget Solutions finds that the approach that many have long considered a panacea to academic ills – more spending and increased financial resources – doesn’t actually translate to improvements in student achievement as measured by standardized test scores. Analysis of spending by the states between the years of 2009 and 2011 showed that states that spend the most on education as a portion of their total budget didn’t graduate students at a higher rate, nor did their students score better on the ACT than their peers. The article is from EducationNews.org.
the authors write that the field can take advantage of promising education reforms with the input of practitioners who, when working together, can help scale successful changes that will generate dramatic change.
WHAT IS A WORLD-CLASS EDUCATION?
In an article in UNESCO's Prospects magazine, Henry Levin writes that restricting the meaning of "world-class" education to the narrow criterion of test scores relies on the idea that higher scores are closely linked with a capable labor force and competitive economy. In fact, Levin argues, the measured relationships between test scores and earnings or productivity are modest and explain a relatively small share of the larger link between educational attainment and economic outcomes. Missing from these assessments are the effects that education has on the development of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and capabilities -- non-cognitive skills -- that affect the quality and productivity of the labor force. Levin recommends that non-cognitive-skill areas and measures be incorporated into research on academic achievement, school graduation, post-secondary attainments, labor market outcomes, health status, and reduced involvement in the criminal justice system in conjunction with standard academic performance measures. At some point we will learn enough to incorporate specific non-cognitive measures into both small- and large-scale assessments, leading to a deeper understanding of school effects and school policy and a more inclusive framework for ascertaining what is, in fact, world-class education. This information is from the PEN NewsBlast.
TEACHER EVALUTION DISPUTE ECHOES BEYOND CHICAGO
One of the primary issues at the heart of the Chicago teachers' strike is whether student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers and determine their pay. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing that approach, as are other officials around the nation. But many teachers insist that it's inherently unfair to grade their teaching based on their students' learning. Just the fact that there's a growing discussion around teacher evaluations is a huge leap for the education industry. Historically, reviews have been haphazard, ranging from nonexistent to an annual classroom visit from the principal — often referred to as the "drive-by." The piece is from NPR’s All Things Considered.
THE STRIKE OVER STUDENT ‘GROWTH’: CHICAGO TEACHERS’ PROTEST REFLECTS NATIONAL TREND
Striking teachers in Chicago are fighting a contentious education reform that could overhaul how teachers are paid and evaluated, highlighting the difficulty of judging teachers by student performance. According to National Center for Teacher Quality data, new evaluation systems have been changed in at least 33 states since 2009 and more than two dozen states are relying on observations and student test scores. The article is from the Hechinger Report.
STRIKE TALKS IN CHICAGO MOVE TOWARD END GAME
More than 350,000 students remain out of their classrooms as bargaining to end Chicago's teachers strike dragged into Friday ahead of an afternoon union gathering where a vote could stamp needed approval on any deal. Rank-and-file teachers prepared to return to the streets for morning rallies to press the union's demands that laid-off instructors be given first shot at job openings and for implementation of a teacher evaluation system that is not too heavily weighted on student test results. The AP article is from NPR.
WHEN GREEN ISN’T GREAT
Recent findings by Richard Ingersoll at the University of Pennsylvania show that as teacher attrition rates have risen to 13 percent for first-year teachers, schools must hire increasing numbers of new teachers, USA Today reports. Between 40 to 50 percent of those entering the profession now leave within five years in what Ingersoll calls a "constant replenishment of beginners." The end result: a more than threefold increase in the sheer number of inexperienced teachers in U.S. schools. The 1987-88 school year, Ingersoll estimates, had about 65,000 first-year teachers; by 2007-08, the number was over 200,000. In 1987-88 the biggest group of teachers had 15 years of experience. By 2007-08, the most recent data available, the biggest group of teachers had one year of experience. Heather Peske of Teach Plus says the so-called greening of the profession doesn't necessarily mean families will find "fresh-faced 23-year-olds in every classroom." Many new teachers are career-changers with experience in functional workplaces. These teachers will expect adequate materials, and the chance to collaborate with co-workers. "I do think that's good for the profession," Peske says. But parents shouldn't be surprised if young teachers soon leave the classroom for better-paying jobs. With teachers moving around more, parents should also ask how the school keeps their replacements current on student progress. This information is from the PEN NewsBlast.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
GATES, MOOCS AND REMEDIATION
Early returns show that massive open online courses (MOOCs) work best for motivated and academically prepared students. But could high-quality MOOCs benefit a broader range of learners, like those who get tripped up by remedial classes? That’s the question the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wants to answer with a newly announced round of 10 grants for the creation of MOOCs for remedial coursework. “We’re trying to seed the conversation and seed the experimentation,” said Josh Jarrett, the foundation's deputy director for education and postsecondary education. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
COLLEGE COMPLETION OR COLLEGE ACCESS?
The latest trend in public university financing is to give colleges funding based on performance, generally the graduation rate. While different states are proposing slightly different policies, the consensus seems to be that some performance measures are useful for encouraging colleges to educate students well. Some advocates recommend focusing the Pell Grant program, which provides grants to low-income students to attend college, on completion. According to a recent study by Mark Kantrowitz, founder of finaid.org and an expert in college finances, however, the focus on college “completion” will likely reduce access to college for many poor students. The article is in Washington Monthly.
STATE EFFORTS TO MAKE COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE
A Senate hearing on efforts by states to make college more affordable highlighted several initiatives that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he hopes can be replicated more broadly. These initiatives are likely to receive more attention next year, when Congress begins to work on reauthorizing the federal Higher Education Act. At Thursday's hearing, Harkin expressed urgency in addressing the soaring cost of higher education. When it comes to increasing affordability, “states still have a primary role to play,” he said. The article is in Community College Times.
LESSONS FROM CHICAGO: IT TAKES THE CAKE, AND THE TRULY DISADVANTAGED NEED EXTRA FROSTING
Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, blogs in Working Economics: As the Chicago public schools teachers strike continues, with no resolution of the conflict in sight, the mayor and CEO might do well to reflect on two key lessons imparted by a scholar whose research on Chicago school reforms is universally hailed as in-depth, groundbreaking, and unimpeachable. Anthony Bryk is the creator of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and current president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Bryk and his CCSR colleagues’ 2010 book, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, has become a bible for evidence-based education policymakers across the country.
CHICAGO STRIKE COULD INFLUENCE TEACHER EVALUATION DEBATE
The debate over teacher evaluations that's taken center stage in the Chicago schools strike could have major effects on the issue in the future, an education expert says. "Chicago absolutely matters," said Elena Silva, senior associate for public policy engagement at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. "I think what happens here will substantially matter for what we see happen with teacher evaluations nationwide," she said. In the last three years, 21 states have passed have legislation or implemented new regulations designed to highlight teacher accountability, according to a report by Bellwether Education Partners, a consulting firm. The article is from CNN.
Some of the News Fit to Print
CHICAGO STRIKE PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON TEACHER-EVALUATION REFORM
While wages and benefits have played important roles in the ongoing dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school district, the issue about which the two sides have remained most entrenched in their opposing views is teacher evaluation. In that respect, the flare up in Chicago is, in many ways, reflective of broader tensions about changes to evaluation policies being rolled out across the country. The article is in Education Week.
CAN NAEP PREDICT COLLEGE READINESS?
If you want to know which states are closing black-white achievement gaps in grades 4, 8, and 12, the National Assessment of Educational Progress can show you. If you want to find out how many 8th graders understand how to translate decimals to fractions, "the nation's report card" can help with that, too. But after nearly a decade of effort, educators and policymakers are still trying to figure out whether NAEP can predict how likely a state's students are to start college without needing to take remedial courses, not to mention whether they are prepared for careers. And researchers' struggles with the federally administered NAEP may highlight the uphill battle that awaits the developers of common state assessments or anyone else trying to tie school performance to the post-high-school world. The article is in Education Week.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
COLLEGES AREN’T GOOD AT REMEDIAL EDUCATION
More than 2 million U.S. college students this fall will be spending a good bit of their time reviewing what they were supposed to learn in high school or earlier. They are taking “remedial” education courses. A recent study issued by ACT Inc., a testing organization measuring “college readiness,” found that less than one-third of graduating high-school seniors met benchmark standards for science, and a majority failed to meet them for math. Even in English and reading, a large minority of students were below a level that would mostly earn a grade of C or better on college-level work. The results are depressing. In science, most students don’t come close (within three points) of meeting the ACT benchmark standards. The student at least partially unprepared for college is the rule, not the exception. The commentary, by Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, is in the Columbus Dispatch.
CALIFORNIA NEEDS A NEW MASTER PLAN
California State University Chancellor Charles Reed (who is retiring this year) writes in the L.A. Times: California's public higher education system, once the envy of the world, is struggling. To survive in a way that continues to fulfill its mission, we need to break the mold on how it operates. State budget cuts have stripped our universities to the bone. And the promise of nearly free, accessible higher education has all but disappeared as cuts have forced tuition increases. What was once a rite of passage for all qualified young people is increasingly becoming untenable for many prospective students. Some lucky people may have the option to simply choose another university, perhaps a private institution. But many more students, particularly those from low-income and traditionally underserved backgrounds, may have no choice but to forgo a university degree.
MOOCS, REPUTATION, AND CREDIT RATINGS
Recent developments in online higher education will likely benefit the credit ratings of brand-name and niche institutions while possibly threatening for-profit institutions and smaller, regional colleges and universities, according to a new report by Moody's Investor Service. In a report that elides the potential implications of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and the continued growth of conventional online programs, Moody's analysts predicted that well-reputed institutions will band together around online offerings to reduce operating costs. Meanwhile, there could "eventually be negative side effects on for-profit education companies and some smaller not-for-profit colleges that may be left out of emerging high reputation online networks," the report said. However, the analysts suggested that well-known institutions that rush too heedlessly into MOOCs could sacrifice their reputational footing. "[T]he rapid pace of the MOOC movement presents the possibility of brand dilution as universities rush to join the trend without controlling the quality of the product/content being posted," they wrote. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.