TODAY'S TESTS SEEN AS BAR TO BETTER ASSESSMENT
The use of testing in school accountability systems may hamstring the development of tests that can actually transform teaching and learning, experts from a national assessment commission warn. Members of the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education, speaking at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Education here Nov. 1-3, said that technological innovations may soon allow much more in-depth data collection on students, but that current testing policy calls for the same test to fill too many different and often contradictory roles. The nation's drive to develop standards-based accountability for schools has led to tests that, "with only few exceptions, systematically overrepresent basic skills and knowledge and omit the complex knowledge and reasoning we are seeking for college and career readiness," the commission writes in one of several interim reports discussed at the Academy of Education meeting. The article is in Education Week.
TEACHERS WORRY ABOUT MORE TESTING UNDER NEW LOUISIANA EVALUATIONS
For educators who teach subjects outside the state’s longstanding testing system, like foreign language, music, and art, the adjustment to the new teacher evaluation system has been particularly jarring. They are unaccustomed to worrying about high-stakes testing, much less having the results determine whether they can keep their jobs. In English, math, science, and social studies, teachers will be measured on their students’ progress on existing state tests. But Louisiana school districts have broad latitude when selecting the exams that will be used in subjects without standard state tests. In some cases, district officials are letting teachers choose or design the assessments on which they will be judged. In other cases, school boards, superintendents, or principals are picking the exams without consulting or even notifying teachers. The article is in The Hechinger Report.
JUDGING TEACHERS BY STUDENT PERFORMANCE
Since New Jersey first started talking about revamping teacher evaluations, the biggest point of contention has always been the use of student performance in the equation. The argument goes that so many factors go into a student’s grade on a test or other assessment that it is an unreliable gauge of a teacher’s effectiveness. Conversely, those pushing for the greater use of student data maintain that ultimately the goal of every teacher must be improved student learning and that schools have been remiss in not counting it enough. That debate came to the fore in NJ Spotlight’s Roundtable on Saturday during discussion of New Jersey’s new teacher-tenure law and the development of a statewide teacher-evaluation system. In a panel discussion held at Rutgers-Newark, state policy-makers, district administrators and school staff weighed in balancing student performance and teacher performance. Several of the panelists work in districts that are now piloting the new evaluations, the testing ground for when the systems will go into effect statewide in 2013-14. The article is in the NJ Spotlight.
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STRENGTHENING THE PATHWAY TO HIGHER EDUCATION
Brian C. Mitchell, Director of the Edvance Foundation, writes this commentary in The Huffington Post: College access is a national imperative. Once first in the world, the United States now ranks 12th among 36 developed nations in the percentage of the population with a college degree. Projections indicate that by 2018, as many as sixty million Americans will lack the skills and credentials to join the knowledge economy. Meanwhile the pool of applicants to four-year colleges and universities in America continues to shrink, largely because of rising tuition costs. The cost barrier, combined with shifting demographic needs, has increased the attractiveness of community colleges -two-year public and private institutions - for students wishing to continue their education beyond high school. Enrollment at these schools as of 2009 represented 44 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. As enrollment at two-year colleges is on the rise - and often becoming over-subscribed -there is a pool of talent from these institutions yet to be fully utilized. The vast majority of community college students enter with the intention of transferring to a four-year school. Despite that intention, just 29 percent ultimately transfer - and only 16 percent of students who began their education at two-year colleges go on to earn a bachelor's degree or higher. Compare that with the average 60 percent graduation rate among students who originally matriculate at four-year institutions. We can quickly see how the dream of advancement through higher education remains elusive for many.
MOOCS AND HYPE AGAIN
Educator Larry Cuban writes in his blog, Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice: MOOCs have soared in popularity as the “disruptive innovation” that will revolutionize higher education. Called the “Most Important Educational Technology in 200 Years” by the head of a new consortium of Harvard and MIT offering MOOCs, forecasts of fundamental changes in higher education are as common as iPads in a Starbucks. Stanford University President John Hennessey says “there’s a tsunami coming.” Right before our eyes we are experiencing the very beginning of the hype cycle. For many academic entrepreneurs deeply dissatisfied with the cost of higher education and the traditional teaching that occurs, the onset of MOOCs is exhilarating. It is an unexplored frontier where plunging into the unknown and taking risks could lead to exciting returns. The promise of a college education taught by stellar teachers delivered free to anyone in the world who has the smarts and grit drives higher education reformers. In 2012. MOOCs are at the very beginning of the Hype Cycle.
GETTING GRITTY WITH PAUL TOUGH
In How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough argues that “non-cognitive” skills are just as—if not more—important than IQ in determining a child’s success. Armed with a litany of academic research from fields as diverse as economics and psychology along with vivid storytelling, Tough makes a convincing case that before we invest in Baby Einstein products, we might want to focus on teaching our kids how to cope with stress, how to secure healthy relationships, and how to persevere past failure. It’s a message that should be fascinating to parents, educators, and students alike. In the following interview with The Santa Barbara Independent, Tough discusses his new book.
THE NEW FLAVOR OF MATH INSTRUCTION
In a presentation filmed at a locally organized TEDx conference in Costa Mesa, Calif., last month, former Los Angeles teacher Nigel Nisbet explains how he turned chocolate bars into geometry problems to get kids hooked on math. Nisbet says he spent his first few years as a teacher struggling to engage students who "had switched off to math." While standing in a supermarket checkout line, it hit him that he might be able to capture students' interest by creating problems based on more relatable (and even universally loved) topics—such as chocolate. He then picked up several chocolate bars in the Toblerone-style packaging and devised a lesson around a single question: "Why make a chocolate bar in the shape of a triangular prism?" Forced to think critically, the kids eventually joined forces to investigate the shape, and discovered that manufacturers used it to get a package that looked large but contained little chocolate. "The kids realized they were paying more but getting less—and that got their attention. I hadn't told them how to find the answer," Nisbet says. The article is in Education Week Teacher’s Teaching Now blog.
PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS WRESTLING WITH HOW TO CARRY OUT NEW TEACHER EVALUATION RULES
Louisiana’s plan to intensify teacher job reviews to focus on better identifying top-notch instructors and ushering out nonstarters is causing a lot of heartache, particularly for those who teach subjects, such as drama, in which student achievement is difficult to quantify. The change has three main prongs: principals making more frequent and rigorous classroom observations; teachers in core subjects like math and English receiving ratings based on how their students perform on standardized tests; and teachers in grades and subjects where those tests don't apply devising other ways to chart student growth. The formula is a half-and-half mix of principals' evaluations and student progress, each meant to balance the other. So if testing data fail to reflect a teacher's energy and dedication, for example, the principal's review is a chance to give the teacher more credit. And if a principal's assessment is too rosy or harsh, the data could counter it. The article is in The Times-Picayune.
TEACHER EVALUATION ARCHITECT WARNS OF LAWSUITS AGAINST LOUISIANA’S NEW SYSTEM
The new teacher evaluation system Louisiana launched this fall may be too simplistic, according to the architect of one of the most widely used evaluation systems in the country – and the one on which Louisiana’s new system is based. Charlotte Danielson is the creator of a method of observing and rating teachers based on their performance in the classroom known as the Framework for Teaching. Louisiana has adopted part, but not all, of her framework for use in classroom observations, which will factor into a teacher’s annual score and which will ultimately determine whether educators can keep their jobs. Although Danielson helped the state create a shortened version of her system at its request, she’s worried her truncated observation checklist could create problems for teachers and evaluators. The article is in The Hechinger Report.
NEW ISSUE BRIEF: HIGH PERFORMING SCHOOL SYSTEMS
Today, several prescriptions exist for enabling schools and districts to effectively fulfill their missions to systemically improve outcomes for students. Systems thinking helps organizations identify the inter-relationship of the factors that impinge most directly on success and failure, and learning organization structures and processes help organizations to adapt in the face of evolving influences or exigencies. Our newest Issue Brief, "High Performing School Systems to Close Achievement Gaps in NEA Foundation-Funded Communities," highlights several of these processes in two NEA Foundation-funded sites—Columbus, OH and Seattle, WA. The report is available from the NEA Foundation.
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MAKING THE MOST OF MOOCS
William H. Weitzer writes this commentary for Inside Higher Ed’s Higher Ed Mash Up blog: Today more than ever, Inside Higher Ed and other daily higher education reports are replete with new ways of using technology that purportedly will transform colleges and universities. Truth be told, many are not so new, others are not really scalable, and most are not transformative. As Alexandra Logue argues in her recent essay in Inside Higher Ed, “it is not the existence of the latest technology or its potential uses that will help us to maximize student learning, but using what we know and have.” To be sure, there will be major technological innovations that contribute to the shape of higher education. The expanded use of MOOCs (massive open online courses) may rise to the top of the new ideas and have a very significant impact on higher education.This rapid rise of MOOCs and their endorsement by the most prestigious institutions in the country suggest that all institutions of higher education need to examine whether and how this innovation will change the way they operate. The question for Mash Up is: what impact does the growth and broad institutional acceptance of MOOCs have on institutions which blend the liberal arts with professional training?
COLLEGE OF FUTURE COULD BE COME ONE, COME ALL
Teaching Introduction to Sociology is almost second nature to Mitchell Duneier, a professor at Princeton: he has taught it 30 times, and a textbook he co-wrote is in its eighth edition. But last summer, as he transformed the class into a free online course, he had to grapple with some brand-new questions: Where should he focus his gaze while a camera recorded the lectures? How could the 40,000 students who enrolled online share their ideas? And how would he know what they were learning? In many ways, the arc of Professor Duneier’s evolution, from professor in a lecture hall to online instructor of tens of thousands, reflects a larger movement, one with the potential to transform higher education. Already, a handful of companies are offering elite college-level instruction — once available to only a select few, on campus, at great cost — free, to anyone with an Internet connection. The article is in The New York Times.
TEACHER QUALITY: INVESTING IN WHAT MATTERS
Arthur L. Costa, Robert J. Garmston, and Diane P. Zimmerman write this commentary for Education Week: Spurred by awards of federal funding under the Race to the Top competition, many states are adopting teacher-evaluation systems with student achievement as the ultimate goal. This drive to create robust evaluation systems places far too much emphasis on inspecting and testing. A system of quality control founded on the belief that inspection and multiple-choice tests are valid measures of effectiveness is flawed. The investment in external measures hides our most valuable assets—the cognitive resources of teachers. Too often, standards are the basis for inspection, with minimal dialogue and little attention to teachers' intellect, wisdom, intuition, and creativity. Quality matters. How we assess it is important. However, the idea that the complex processes of teaching can be easily inspected or measured by answers on a bubble test is erroneous. As educators, we are puzzled that more people are not voicing concerns about this trend toward an oversimplified system of quality control. A few in the field have become outspoken and urge a more thoughtful approach. Policymakers ought to heed the collective wisdom of these thought leaders.
LOUISIANA'S EDUCATORS ENTER A NEW WORLD WITH EVALUATIONS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
Teachers in Louisiana have all but lost the tenure rules that once protected their jobs. Beginning this year, all 50,000 of them will be evaluated and ranked on an annual basis, often with test scores factoring in heavily. Soon, consistently "ineffective" teachers will no longer be welcome in the classroom. This, depending on one's point of view, is either the latest assault on Louisiana's educators or an urgent step toward modernizing the teaching profession and lifting the state out of academic mediocrity. Either way, the new evaluation system and its consequences are redefining the roles of teacher and principal in school buildings across Louisiana this year, as have similar efforts in school systems across the country. The article is in The Times-Picayune.
STATES AT A LOSS ON HOW TO USE EDUCATION DATA THEY COLLECT
In the past several years, many states have extensively invested in building up systems to collect and analyze substantial amounts of education-related data. Everything from student performance to teacher assessment is collected, sifted and stored, yet while states have made impressive strides in using the collected data to inform education policy, according to the Data Quality Campaign, they have yet to make serious progress in training teachers and parents in how to use the information effectively to help students learn. In their annual state-by-state analysis of data gathering efforts – Data for Action 2012 – the DQC provides several suggestions on how the rich datasets collected by states could be used to improve the quality of their education systems. One recommendation points out that while legislatures provide the state with the authority to collect information, they frequently fail to provide them with permission to share this information with those who need access to it most. People in the best position to assure that students remain on track to graduate and prepare to enter colleges and universities are denied tools to determine that it is so. The article is in EducationNews.
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THE BENEFIT OF OPEN ONLINE CLASSES
Joshua Kim, director of learning and technology for the Master of Health Care Delivery Science program at Dartmouth College, writes this commentary for the U.S.News & World Report’s blog, Economic Intelligence: Clay Christensen's theory of disruptive innovation has captured the imagination of educational technology higher circles in which I travel. For example, at the recent EDUCAUSE conference, the largest gathering of academic technology professionals, the emergence of massively open online courses, or MOOCs, was largely framed as a disruptive innovation. But is that true? Disruptive innovations challenge existing models by offering a service or product (education, credentials) that is not the result of linear or incremental improvements. This new service or product is often appealing to nonconsumers, as initially the service/product is both of lower quality and of much lower costs than that offered by the incumbent. Today's free MOOCs from Harvard/MIT's edX division cannot compete with a Harvard or MIT educational experience or degree, but edX allows the vast numbers of learners unable to access a Harvard or MIT education to do so for no cost (the classes) or very low cost (the future edX credential).
SCHOOL REFORM IN NEWARK
Newark and its teachers’ union deserve praise for the groundbreaking contract that the two sides have hammered out. The relatively calm negotiations that led up to the union’s ratification vote this week stood in sharp contrast to the vitriol that surrounded a similar agreement earlier this year in Chicago that led to a polarizing strike. The need to improve teacher performance has long been evident in Newark, whose perennially troubled schools do a particularly poor job of preparing its 37,000 students for higher education. According to the district, for example, the graduation rate is nearly 62 percent. But almost 90 percent of Newark Public School students who enter Essex County College, a community college, need remedial help in English and nearly all need remedial help in math. Despite this grim picture, school officials say, the current teacher evaluation system — based on haphazard observations by administrators — rates 95 percent of the district’s teachers as “effective.” The new contract, which raises starting and midlevel salaries, includes a rigorous evaluation process that takes student achievement into account. The editorial is inThe New York Times.
WHY DO SO MANY TEACHERS QUIT THEIR JOBS? BECAUSE THEY HATE THEIR BOSSES
What's the reason so many new teachers quit the profession or move to a different school? The heavy workload? Low salary? A paucity of classroom resources? An absence of autonomy? The "always-on," continually demanding nature of the work? None of the above. The main reason is their principals. To find out what factors influence novice teachers' decisions to leave the teaching profession, Peter Youngs, associate professor of educational policy at Michigan State University and Ben Pogodzinski of Wayne State University, working with two other colleagues at Michigan State, surveyed 184 beginning teachers of grades one through eight in eleven large school districts in Michigan and Indiana. Their study was recently published in Elementary School Journal. The researchers found that the most important factor influencing commitment was the beginning teacher's perception of how well the school principal worked with the teaching staff as a whole. This was a stronger factor than the adequacy of resources, the extent of a teacher's administrative duties, the manageability of his or her workload, or the frequency of professional-development opportunities. The article is in The Atlantic.
PROMOTING QUALITY TEACHING: NEW POLICY REPORT FROM ACCOMPLISHED CALIFORNIA TEACHERS
Approximately one-third of all new teachers in the United States leave the profession within five years, and veteran teachers are leaving at ever higher rates. Teacher attrition, which has grown by 50 percent in the past 15 years, costs the nation roughly $7 billion a year for recruiting, hiring, and inducting new teachers. With this revolving door of teachers and the resulting hemorrhage of resources, schools suffer from instability and students lose out on the opportunity to learn from high-quality teachers. Among the factors behind this high turnover are outdated teacher compensation systems and narrow career options for professional growth, according to a new report by Accomplished California Teachers (ACT), a teacher-leadership network based at Stanford. The report, Promoting Quality Teaching: New Approaches to Compensation and Career Pathways, is written by a group of master California teachers and draws from current research and best practices in the field to make recommendations on how to improve teaching quality by improving the systems that compensate them. The report is from the Accomplished California Teachers blog, InterACT.
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ELITE ONLINE COURSES FOR CASH AND CREDIT
A consortium of 10 top-tier universities will soon offer fully online, credit-bearing undergraduate courses through a partnership with 2U, a company that facilitates online learning. Any students enrolled at an “undergraduate experience anywhere in the world” will be eligible to take the courses, according to Chip Paucek, the CEO of 2U, which until recently was called 2tor. The first courses are slated to make their debut in the fall. After a year in which the top universities in the world have clambered to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) for no credit, this new project marks yet another turning point in online education. It is the first known example of top universities offering fully online, credit-bearing courses to undergraduates who are not actually enrolled at the institutions that are offering them. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
Learn from students. Embrace technology. Adapt as needed. Love what you do.
That's the key advice from the national winners of this year's U.S. Professors of the Year awards, presented by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
The four winners will receive $5,000 each. The organizations are also recognizing winners from 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Read more from The Chronicle of Higher Education »
They come from fields as different as creative writing and mechanical engineering, and they teach in distinct settings, but the winners of this year’s Professors of the Year awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education have one thing in common: they care deeply about students and about transforming the learning experience.
CASE’s annual awards, sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, recognize exceptional professors for their ability to engage and influence students. This year’s winners, selected from a pool of more than 300 nominees, are:
- Autar Kaw (doctoral and research universities), professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida.
- Todd Pagano (master’s universities and colleges), associate professor of science and mathematics and director of the laboratory science program at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
- Christy Price (baccalaureate colleges), professor of psychology at Dalton State College.
- Lois Roma-Deeley (community colleges), professor of creative writing and poet-in-residence at Paradise Valley Community College.
Some of the News Fit to Print
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THE WORLD'S RICHEST COLLEGE DROPOUT URGES COLLEGES TO STOP DROPOUTS
For many months, there's been an active discussion in the press, on the campaign trail, and over plenty of dinner tables about the cost of education -- about the frightening growth of student loans, about jobless grads being crushed by their debts. And as Bill Gates noted in a talk about higher education today at the Washington Ideas Forum, hosted by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the Newseum, those are real, pressing issues, especially as the federal government considers deficit reduction measures that could cut education funding. We need to fix college financing and to make sure the system doesn't deteriorate further. But at most colleges, and for most students -- the ones who don't go to schools covered in ivy -- the real problem isn't necessarily cost; it's completion. It's our country's abysmal graduation rates -- less than sixty percent of undergraduates finish a bachelor's degree within six years; less than 30 percent finish two-year programs on time -- which have fallen well behind much of the industrialized world. We're on pace to produce millions fewer college graduates than our economy will need in the coming decades, Gates argued, and a big part of that is our inability to get students already enrolled in college to graduation day. The article is in The Atlantic.
DUKE, NORTHWESTERN TO OFFER ONLINE PROGRAM
Starting next fall, 10 prominent universities, including Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Northwestern, will form a consortium called Semester Online, offering about 30 online courses to both their students — for whom the classes will be covered by their regular tuition — and to students elsewhere who would have to apply and be accepted and pay tuition of more than $4,000 a course. Unlike the increasingly popular massive open online courses, or MOOCs, free classes offered by universities like Harvard, M.I.T. and Stanford, Semester Online classes will be small — and will offer credit. The article is in The New York Times.
ANALYSIS SHOWS DIFFERENCES IN TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS IN LAUSD
In Los Angeles Unified, novice teachers tend to be assigned students who are academically farther behind those assigned to experienced teachers. Before they depart, usually after only two years, Teach for America teachers have a bigger impact on students than that of other new teachers. And National Board Certified teachers significantly outperform other teachers in LAUSD. These are among the findings of an extensive seven-year study of about a third of teachers in LAUSD by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. Researchers have conducted similar analyses of teacher recruitment, development and retention patterns in three dozen school districts and charter organizations nationwide, under work funded by the Gates Foundation. LAUSD’s report, which was released Wednesday, could become a key resource as the district and United Teachers Los Angeles negotiate changes to teacher evaluations and other parts of the teachers’ contract. The article is from EdSource.
TEACHER-LEADERSHIP DEGREE PROGRAMS AIM TO FILL CAREER GAPS
Teacher-leadership programs generally differ from traditional educational-administration or -leadership master's programs in focusing more on instructional practice and less on organizational supervision and the business and management of schools. The course offerings in teacher-leadership programs vary from school to school, but tend to emphasize inquiry-based instruction, coaching and mentoring, cultural responsiveness, professional development design, curriculum development, and technological understanding. Most programs also require degree candidates to complete an internship or capstone project involving collaborative work with school leaders or a practice-based research project. School of education professors and administrators involved in teacher-leadership degree programs say such offerings fill an important need in K-12 education today by giving teachers the capacity to expand their roles and exert greater influence in schools. The article is in Education Week.