It’s getting better

Student achievement has improved significantly since the passage of No Child Left Behind, concludes a study by the Center for Education Policy. The Washington Post reports:

The report, which experts called the most comprehensive analysis of test data from all 50 states since 2002, concluded that the achievement gap between black and white students is shrinking in many states and that the pace of student gains increased after the law was enacted. The findings were particularly significant because of their source: the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy, which in recent years has issued several reports that have found fault with aspects of the law’s implementation.

Jack Jennings, president of the District-based center and a former Democratic congressional aide, said a decade of school improvement efforts at local, state and national levels has contributed to achievement gains.

Gains were strongest at the elementary level and in math.

This should be a big boost for reauthorization of NCLB. Nothing impresses like higher test scores.

Update: The rise in elementary math scores reported by CEP tracks the improvement reported by NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress), notes Kevin Carey on The Quick and the Ed. That undercuts the widespread belief that the education system is unreformable.

Early Reading First, aimed at low-income preschoolers, boosts letter and print knowledge but not phonemic awareness, a new Education Department study finds. The program also encourages training for preschool teachers and better teaching practices.

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Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    It *MIGHT* be getting better. The NYT correctly observes that:

    The study also acknowledged that the increases in achievement recorded by many state tests had not been matched by results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, nationwide reading and math tests administered by the federal Department of Education.

    Since the states are essentially testing themselves, there is
    the very real possibility that the numbers reported are less
    than accurate.

    I am reminded of John Cantrell’s discovery in the early
    1980s that *ALL* states were reporting that their students
    were above average. We weren’t serious about the test scores
    being valid then, and we aren’t today, either 🙁

    He has a 20-year retrospective article here:

    http://www.thirdeducationgroup.org/Review/Essays/v2n1.htm

    So … maybe things are getting better (but if they are, why
    don’t the NAEP results show this, too?). Or, once again,
    the system might be being gamed.

    -Mark Roulo

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Rubber ruler again?
    Testing and educating need to be separated, educators should not be given control over tests or testers. This is fundamental in book keeping and auditing.

  3. SuperSub says:

    Concerning testing and educating, there are two options-
    As Walter proposed, completely separate the test-making from the educating, as many other nations have done.
    OR
    Return control to individual schools and empower the schools to hire who they want to teach regardless of certification. There are more than enough principled and knowledgeable individuals who can teach, we just need to open the door and pay them enough to do so.

  4. slcannieb says:

    Correlation does not equal causation. The reported gains may or may not have anything to do with NCLB. I believe the Times noted this further down in the article.

    There is also the possibility that the gains are a result of the dumbing-down of the tests. You’d need to demonstrate equivalency of the test measures before you could reach any conclusions about “improvement.”

  5. mike from oregon says:

    Hey SuperSub – while I would like to see your proposal of being able to hire individuals regardless of certificates; like so many other good intentions it could be twisted no end. Like hiring your best friend or wife, neither of whom could teach a student how to use a pencil.

    The other thing that bothered me was the ‘Early Reading First’ program. If they aren’t teaching phonics when they teach kids to read then they really aren’t teaching them to read. We’ve had this argument time and time again but those that don’t want kids to memorize things just don’t understand that a child needs basics, basics that spring to mind literally without thinking about them if they are to learn. Otherwise, everytime it’s a new experience, everytime they have work hard to figure it out from the ground up. TEACH PHONICS!!!!!!

  6. Ragnarok says:

    If they can’t do the job, fire them.

  7. Widebody says:

    Do the higher test scores mean that students are learning the subject matter better or learning how to take standardized tests better?

  8. mike from oregon wrote:

    Hey SuperSub – while I would like to see your proposal of being able to hire individuals regardless of certificates; like so many other good intentions it could be twisted no end.

    As opposed to the current situation? 🙂

    Every solution has problems built into it, the question to ask is whether, on balance, the solution results in the situation improving or deteriorating. Removing hiring constraints will certainly result in a some number of incompetents being hired, the percentage being a function of how the hiring decisions effect those doing the hiring.

    You can see that factor at work right now.

    In the public education system hiring decisions are based less on demonstrated competence, where demonstrations of competence play any role at all, then on certification. So which choice is the right choice for the human resources department, the non-certified hot-shot or the certificated boob?

    Until the people doing the hiring, and the people they report to, have a vital interest in making sure every kid gets the best education possible opening up the hiring pool means more resumes to wade through, not better results.

  9. Allen writes: “In the public education system hiring decisions are based less on demonstrated competence, where demonstrations of competence play any role at all, then on certification.”

    Certification is obviously a legal pre-requisite, but demonstrable competence of course factors in to the hiring process. This is a growing subset of educators who understand this, who own student achievement as a primary function of the educator and defining characteristic of his value. This group tends to positively correlate to being under 40, which suggests its more trend then anomaly. Here is one example where the charter school movement has advanced the profession.

    I understand the rhetorical device here, as well as the narrow view of the educational landscape vis-a-vis a layman’s understanding of closed-door practices, but I wonder if you’ve got anything else to back this up? How extensive is your experience hiring teachers at a school or district level? I’ve participated in hiring for my school site, as well as a large Bay Area district, and yes, you need a credential to get in the door, but after that, it’s all about competence. Show me the profession where things are otherwise.

    “So which choice is the right choice for the human resources department, the non-certified hot-shot or the certificated boob?”

    Four people apply for a teaching position: the non-certified hot-shot, the certified boob, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.

    Q: Who gets the job?
    A: The certified boob, because the rest are figments of your imagination.

    Perhaps you have on-the-ground experience with this that you aren’t sharing. For the last three years, I’ve worked for an organization that recruits, trains, and employs those non-certified hot-shots, streamlining the process to get them into classrooms. I worked with hundreds of them, and to think that these folks, who possess tremendous knowledge in their field, would do anything other than crash and burn at a fantastic rate, absent basic training in classroom management and instructional design and delivery, is, in my experience, absurd. These are fantastically accomplished folks — advanced degress, published, awarded, recognized — but those accomplishments do not automatically confer an ability to teach, and to teach well.

    No one’s defending the credentialing process. It’s a slow, aging dinosaur that needs to evolve, and quickly. But to suggest that elminating entry requirements for teachers is the lever to move the educational world seems pretty far-fetched, especially if you’re relying on hordes of non-credentialed hot shots to save the day.

    “Until the people doing the hiring, and the people they report to, have a vital interest in making sure every kid gets the best education possible opening up the hiring pool means more resumes to wade through, not better results.”

    Of course, and if you don’t see that the tide has already turned in this direction, I suggest taking a closer look.

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    “If they can’t do the job, fire them.”
    Alas. Very early in the affirmative action game [1963] I was in a bosses meeting at a cement plant. An obviously incompetent minority had been hired and was mucking up even the simplest chore, but no one wanted to be the one to fire the first of his race. Ultimetely the guy injured himself.
    The ability to fire a probationary employee for no reason is a vehicle of bias, but it is also a bar against taking a chance.

  11. Richard Cook says:

    SuperSub has not seen Chicago’s Local School Council’s in action yet.

  12. Ragnarok says:

    TMAO said:

    “But to suggest that elminating entry requirements for teachers is the lever to move the educational world seems pretty far-fetched, especially if you’re relying on hordes of non-credentialed hot shots to save the day.”

    Just curious, does KIPP require their teachers to be credentialed?

  13. It seems that way, given the comments here:

    http://www.kipp.org/04/teach_faq.cfm

    Other leading charter school corporations in California, including Aspire, require credentialing. Of the half-dozen charter school teachers I am personally aquainted with in the Bay Area, including four who work for KIPP, all have their credentials, some earned prior to beginning work with charters, others as a requirement to continued employment.

  14. I teach at DCP, a charter high school in San Jose, and all of our teachers must be credentialed.

    I completely agree that there should be entry requirements to be able to enter the teaching profession. To say that requirements are not needed is to say that teaching is not actually a discipline. I knew plenty of math when I started to teach, but I sure didn’t know how to build a successful classroom culture, or how to get students to learn what they needed to. Knowing what a fraction is, and knowing how to get a 9th grader who hates math to know what a fraction is are not really the same thing.

    I think the big problem here is the fact that current entry requirements are a bit of a joke. I don’t think there is any way I could have failed to get my credential once I entered the program, short, perhaps, of my untimely death. The courses were simplistic and essentially content-free. I know there are programs out there that are supposed to be much better (such as Stanford’s STEP), but there are plenty of entry points to teaching that don’t have the needed quality control.

    In my opinion, what we need are good apprenticeship programs, where new teachers can learn theory and practice at the same time, working with quality, committed teachers in a successful school. This is the kind of thing that should yield a credential, not yawning through 3 hour snooze-fests night after night and passing by turning in reflections and quick-writes.

  15. Ragnarok says:

    Bit redundant, but I think Dan Greene has hit the nail on its head.

    Except that to say that current credentialing programs are “a bit of a joke” is being overly kind.

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