What we already know

Get Real in the new American Educator describes what we already know about how to improve high-poverty schools.

Much trustworthy research has already identified five essential steps we should take: 1) Focus on teaching quality, and in particular, create the conditions and incentives that would stem the exodus of teachers from high-poverty schools and attract qualified teachers to them; 2) Improve student behavior by using effective approaches in the earliest grades to establish a positive, respectful school culture; 3) Diagnose reading problems early and intervene right away; 4) Provide a knowledge-rich, grade-by-grade core curriculum; and 5) Make sure that the schools that serve the neediest students get the extra attention, expertise, staff, time, and resources they need to meet the greater challenges they face.

As Antonia Cortese writes, low-income children start out behind.

If we truly want to close the achievement gap, we have to find ways to make sure these children get a better-than-average education. They will need more, and they will need better: time, teachers, effective methods — the best we have to offer.

It makes sense to me. And these are not really big-budget items, especially steps 2, 3 and 4.

This Week in Education says the spring 2007 American Educator is filled with goodies.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    And i suspect most teachers knew this years ago.

  2. 2, 3, and 4 might not be big budget items, but they are dependent on 1 — which could be expensive.

    I’m not sure what it would take — what kind of incentive pay — it would take to get quality teachers to come to failing schools or to not leave them.

    For some teachers, it is geographic. They don’t live near the struggling school and want to reduce their commute. For others it is the stress or the administration. What would it cost to ensure that only the best administrators — solid managers who know how to access and properly spend money and work with teachers — to stay at or go to these schools.

    Or does it take money? Do administrators get to make such choices?
    Perhaps in some districts, perhaps not in others.

    Romer, when he was head of LAUSD, wanted to be able to assign teachers to whatever school best served the district. UTLA, of course, opposed it.

    SOme observers might think that teachers who are truly committed to children ought to want to go work in the most challenging and needy schools. This is an understandable position.

    I considered doing this when the innercity school at which I teach — which used to be a very challenging school but has become a great place to work — nearly closed. I thought about applying at the school in my own neighborhood or taking one of the many unfilled positions at the rather perilous and failing HS at which many of my students were going to be send — if our school closed.

    One disincentive to wanting to go to the latter school was that I would immediately become part of a dysfunctional institution and even if I managed to transform the students in my classroom and chip away, in whatever way I could, at the culture of failure, I would have to put up with the scrutiny and mistrust and contempt of those who would simply see me as a sailor on a sinking ship….

    (My school managed to survive and I never had to make that choice — or haven’t, yet….)

  3. wayne martin says:

    > One disincentive to wanting to go to the latter school was
    > that I would immediately become part of a dysfunctional
    > institution and even if I managed to transform the students
    > in my classroom and chip away, in whatever way I could,
    > at the culture of failure, I would have to put up with the
    > scrutiny and mistrust and contempt of those who would
    > simply see me as a sailor on a sinking ship….

    Teachers should be expected to accept assignments where the District needs them. The point about not wanting to be a part of a culture of failure is very important to consider. If a teacher were to be able to go for a year, and then rotate the year after if he/she didn’t want to stay, would provide the District with access to its best talent to apply where needed, without having to fear retention issues based on teacher dissatisfaction with “high challenge” assignments.

    > Romer, when he was head of LAUSD, wanted to be able
    > to assign teachers to whatever school best served the district.
    > UTLA, of course, opposed it.

    Another reason to outlaw labor unions.

  4. One thing that is rarely discussed, but is on topic, is seniority and teaching assignments. The teachers with the most experience tend to get the easiest teaching assignments (senior classes, AP courses, etc) and the newest teachers tend to get the most challenging classes, (remedial, Freshman)

  5. Hunter McDaniel says:

    IMHO, #2 cannot be achieved without a willingness to separate out children who, for whatever reason, habitually cannot or will not behave at minimal levels.

  6. Trouble is, every last item on the list that isn’t eye-wash also isn’t too tough to figure out.

    1) Focus on teaching quality, and in particular, create the conditions and incentives that would stem the exodus of teachers from high-poverty schools and attract qualified teachers to them;

    How do you stem the exodus of teachers from high-poverty schools and attract qualified teachers to them? How do you focus on teaching quality? Would it be worth giving some thought to the reason these seemingly obvious problems require special attention?

    Why isn’t there a focus on teaching quality now? There must not be if focusing on teaching quality will improve the situation. What’s the reason? Any putative solution had better take into account the underlying problem or it isn’t likely to succeed.

    If you want to stem an exodus then the proper “conditions and incentives” are certainly necessary.

    But why all the suspense? Let’s have some idea what those conditions and incentives are and then an explanation of why they aren’t in place already, just so some reasonable determination can be made about the likelihood of those conditions and incentives being implemented and implementable.

    What’s a qualified teacher? Not, certainly, someone in possession of a teaching certificate. The unserious nature and idealogical fashionability that plagues schools of education undermines the credibility of the certificate. Besides, no one’s made much of an effort to determine which schools of ed do a good job educating teachers and which one’s do a bad job and then followed up the graduates to see how they fared. The problem is that qualified and quality are assumed to be interchangeable and that’s obviously not true.

    2)Improve student behavior by using effective approaches in the earliest grades to establish a positive, respectful school culture;

    As opposed to the ineffective approaches that help establish a negative, disrespectful school culture in effect now? Yeah, I’d say that would be a step in the right direction. Perhaps the author is implying that belaboring the obvious is one of those “effective approaches”?

    3)Diagnose reading problems early and intervene right away;

    What boldness! One trembles at the intellectual daring necessary to write those words!

    4)Provide a knowledge-rich, grade-by-grade core curriculum; and

    That would certainly be better then the knowledge-deficiant, grade-by-grade core curriculum in use now.

    5)Make sure that the schools that serve the neediest students get the extra attention, expertise, staff, time, and resources they need to meet the greater challenges they face.

    Make sure? How? Stick a gun in the ribs of the members of the school board? See if Harry Potter will loan out his wand for a minute or two? Get the assistant superintendent in charge of safe, clean and healthy schools or the chief pedagogical officer to issue a report detailing the funding requirements that will ensure the neediest students get the extra attention, expertise, staff, time and resources they need?

    These aren’t solutions to the problems or even good descriptions of the problems. This is a vaguely-worded pean to all the square miles of effectless prose that have come before, hemmed in on all sides by the unspoken, unmentionable taboos of public education.

  7. mathaholica says:

    gahrie,

    If you think teaching an AP class is “easy” you really need to get out more. AP done right is not less work it is much, much, more. And yes I teach AP classes and remedial classes.

  8. wayne martin says:

    > no one’s made much of an effort to determine which
    > schools of ed do a good job educating teachers and
    > which one’s do a bad job and then followed up the
    > graduates to see how they fared.

    In the mid-90s, when the problems of poor preparedness and the need for remediation classes in CSU schools began to make the news, I found a memo on the CSU Chancellor’s WEB-site from the CSU Board that admitted that CSU practices and policies in its Education School resulted in a generation of “bad teachers” who were now teaching in the California Public School System. The memo indicated that CSU would attempt to “clean up its act” and raise the bar on its Ed School output so that higher quality teachers would be available to California in the future. The remediation classes were a part of their “mea culpa”.

    The media is not capable of providing in-depth analysis of “education”, the State Legislatures are in the pocket of the Education Industry, leaving this matter to the Education Industry to police itself at the moment.

  9. Not entirely:

    Best Colleges
    Rankings & Guides

    Best Graduate Schools

    And of course, the entry in this blog entitled Rank Riches

    The media seems capable of putting together a useful ranking system for higher education even if there are experts who’ll disdain it. I don’t see that intrastate ranking systems, where the state does the kind of testing that allows for ranking, should be all that much more difficult to produce.

    Heck, if you’ve got the right expertise on tap you ought to be able to set up a defensible weighting system so that schools in different states can be compared not to mention the states themselves.

    We already know that parents consider school quality using the only universal metric, per student spending, when deciding where to live.

    When Texas instituted its Robin Hood “educational equity” system property values in wealthy areas lagged the national trends in part because of Robin Hood: parents didn’t want to move to a district wherein X number of their district’s dollars were going to fund education in other districts.

    The US News college ratings are dismissed by college trustees and administrations that scheme to raise the schools rating, evidence the action taken by the Arizona Board of Regents. A third of the bonus package is explicitly contingent on raising the school’s US News rating and US News and World Report is certainly part of the media.

    If there are technical grounds on which to criticize the report then the report can be improved or a more worthwhile competitor will arise incorporating those criticisms.

  10. Wayne Martin says:

    > Heck, if you’ve got the right expertise on tap you
    > ought to be able to set up a defensible weighting
    > system so that schools in different states can be
    > compared not to mention the states themselves.

    Yes .. this is possible, more-or-less. The following USA Today article from 2004 lists state standards scores against the NAEP scores:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2004-12-15-reading-usat_x.htm

    No reason these scores couldn’t be normalized and then compared.