Some of the News Fit to Print
Some of the News Fit to Print
SHOULD STUDENTS GRADE THEIR TEACHERS?
With all the debate in New Jersey and elsewhere about evaluating teachers on how well their students perform, another idea is starting to surface that could prove equally provocative: judging teachers by what their students think of them. One of the options available to New Jersey school districts as they build teacher evaluation systems is including student surveys among the “multiple measures” of student achievement. The idea is gaining popularity, at least among policy-makers. Several districts that have been part of the pilot program testing evaluation models have included or plan to include student surveys, although not necessarily as part of a teacher’s grade. Still, those surveys are not part of the evaluations themselves, and one principal said that’s where it could get problematic. “I’m not sure that children have enough knowledge about pedagogy to evaluate teachers,” said David Pawlowski, principal of the Alexandria Middle School. “That gets into a tricky area.” The article is in The Hechinger Report.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL NEEDS ENTWINED WITH STUDENTS' LEARNING, SECURITY
Students' ability to learn depends not just on the quality of their textbooks and teachers, but also on the comfort and safety they feel at school and the strength of their relationships with adults and peers there. Mounting evidence from fields like neuroscience and cognitive psychology, as well as studies on such topics as school turnaround implementation, shows that an academically challenging yet supportive environment boosts both children's learning and coping abilities. By contrast, high-stress environments in which students feel chronically unsafe and uncared for make it physically and emotionally harder for them to learn and more likely for them to act out or drop out. As that research builds, more education officials at every level are taking notice. For example, the federal government has prioritized school climate programs in its $38.8 million grants for safe and supportive school environments, and two states—Ohio and Wisconsin—have developed guidelines for districts on improving school life, according to the National School Climate Center, located in New York City. The article is in Education Week.
RIGOROUS TEACHER EVALUATIONS (WITH VIDEOTAPE)
Fawn Johnson writes in the Education Experts Blog: Two years ago, I sat in the 8th floor of the Watergate building at a National Journal dinner on education. The main attractions of the event were researchers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who were about a year into a three-year intensive study on teacher evaluations. As they described their research, the diners were incredulous. "Teachers let you videotape them?" Yes. They analyzed 13,000 digital video lessons. "Weren't they upset at you reviewing them?" Actually, the teachers in the study were thrilled to have the feedback. They were happy to go over their videotapes with an observer. The final report on the project was released last week. It found that teacher effectiveness can, in fact, be measured in a scientific manner. The process is highly labor intensive, and some evaluative factors can't be measured with raw numbers. If you do it right, it requires time, narrative, and observation. The report says the results are the most stable when they rely on a combination of classroom observations (ideally by multiple evaluators), student surveys, and student achievement measures. The report is sprinkled with cautionary notes: Make sure to include prior test scores of students when looking at achievement or their gains will be overstated. Don't weight a single measure too heavily or teachers will lean towards it and neglect others. Make sure to use observers from outside the school.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
MOOCS ASSESSED, MODESTLY
You probably won't be surprised to learn that amid all the high-profile speakers (such as the former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers and ex-New York City schools chief Joel Klein) and the many topics discussed (the rise of "big data," the transformation of the textbook industry) at last week's HigherEdTech Summit here, MOOCs reigned. Given that most of the several hundred people in the room were technology enthusiasts of one stripe or another, there was quite a bit of MOOC hype (especially, it must be said, from those who knew the least about higher education, such as Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal, whose significant expertise is elsewhere). And as is often the case at technology-related conferences, predictions of fast and "sweeping" change in higher education were rampant. But so, too, was there a good bit of nuance, and some thoughtfulness about what won't (and shouldn't) change. And there was fairly broad-scale agreement that MOOCs and other technology-enabled education will be truly transformative in higher education only at the point that they give educators the tools to do two things: (1) expand access to the low-income students who are disproportionately excluded from today's higher education system, and (2) provide instruction that is more targeted to an individual's educational needs -- a goal, several argued, that might ironically be achieved sooner precisely because technology enables education to be delivered to so many students at one time. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
HIGHER EDUCATION: THE REVOLUTION THAT REALLY MATTERS
Robert E. Johnson, President of Becker College, writes this commentary in the Huffington Post: Amid all the talk about online learning and a revolution in higher education, we risk losing sight of a much more important revolution, one that depends on the traditional college experience. That is the revolution that will once again place the American Dream of individual achievement back in the hands of every citizen. Our society is increasingly becoming divided into the haves and the have-nots. Among developed countries, the United States has the largest share of workers earning low wages; about one out of every four workers, according to research from John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research. That inequity is sapping the very life out of our economy and the promise out of the American Dream. The most effective remedy is to preserve higher education, the only means our society has to level the playing field and lead individuals out of the cycle of poverty. The problem is that higher education is becoming less accessible just when more people need it. It must be made more affordable, to be sure; but also, colleges and universities must shake off the shackles of tradition -- in an industry built on tradition -- so that higher education better prepares graduates to compete in an increasingly global society.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
BRINGING DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION TO SCALE
The Developmental Education Initiative (DEI), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by Lumina Foundation, released a study that shows that colleges were able to expand the reach of their interventions in remedial education to keep students from dropping out of college — although, in most cases, not to the extent that they had hoped. The study notes that there is reason to think that some of the interventions improved student outcomes. The report singles out a number of factors that led to successful scale-up.
MINORITY APPLICANTS TO COLLEGE WILL RISE
Over the next decade, more students of color than ever before will pass through the gates of the nation's colleges and join the ranks of its work force, according to new projections by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. By the year 2020, minority students will account for 45 percent of the nation's public high-school graduates, up from 38 percent in 2009. In short, the number of white and black graduates will decline, and the number of Hispanic and Asian-American/Pacific Islander graduates will rise significantly. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
PROPOSED BUDGET INCREASES IN CALIFORNIA
Gov. Jerry Brown of California on Thursday released a proposed budget that includes substantial increases for higher education, which were made possible by a tax hike voters passed in November. Both the University of California and California State University Systems received an additional $250 million in funding, while the state's community college system received an increase of $197 million as well as $179 million for previously deferred commitments. Overall, the budget would increase funding for higher education by $1.3 billion, or 5.3 percent, compared to last year's allocation. At a news conference Thursday, Governor Brown also vowed to attend board meetings of the two university systems, in part to pressure other board members to keep tuition from going up. This information is from Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes.
TESTING GROUP PICKS ‘COLLEGE READINESS’ EXAM
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, or PARCC, has decided that students' college readiness in math in 22 states and the District of Columbia will be determined by an end-of-course test in the last of a three-course sequence. College readiness will be determined by students' scores on the Algebra 2 or Math 3 exam, depending on their course sequence. The article is in Education Week.
TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM PUTS MARYLAND FUNDS IN JEOPARDY
A letter from the Education Department to Maryland placed several major conditions on $37.9 million of the state's $250 million Race to the Top grant. If the state doesn't make good on those conditions, it risks losing that part of its grant. Maryland, like most other Race to the Top states, is struggling to implement its teacher- and principal-evaluation system exactly as it promised. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.