From Key & Peele: If teaching was covered like sports . . .
No Child Left Behind “forced states to identify schools that were failing according to scores on standardized tests,” writes Libby Nelson on Vox. But we don’t know how to fix low-performing schools.
NCLB set in place restructuring options for schools that failed to show progress year after year.
Research in North Carolina by Thomas Ahn and Jacob Vigdor found that the most effective interventions were at opposite ends of the spectrum: Schools that had missed the progress goal for only one year and weren’t yet facing consequences improved. So did schools that faced the biggest consequence, a total restructuring.
But everything in between — transfers, tutoring, a new curriculum or hiring consultants, threatening to restructure — didn’t help much.
The next steps — the various “corrective actions” ranging from firing staff to hiring consultants — were equally ineffective, Ahn and Vigdor found. It wasn’t until schools had to hire new leadership that schools made meaningful change.
Research shows that “No Child Left Behind improved fourth-grade and eighth-grade math test scores, but didn’t do as much for reading abilities,” writes Nelson. Black and low-income students gained the most.
But achievement gaps remain large, according to Sean Reardon at Stanford. “Comparing the magnitude of these effects is akin to comparing the speed of different glaciers,” he wrote. “Some are retreating, some advancing, but none so fast that one would notice a meaningful difference except over a span of decades (or centuries).”
Two-thirds of the public — and two-thirds of parents — support federally required testing, concludes the annual Education Next survey. Teachers split evenly on the question, which asked, “Do you support or oppose the federal government continuing to require that all students be tested in math and reading each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school?”
Another question asked:
“Some people say that ALL students should take state tests in math and reading. Others say that parents should decide whether or not their children take these tests. Do you support or oppose letting parents decide whether to have their children take state math and reading tests?”
Only 25% of the public like the idea, while 59% oppose it, the remainder taking a neutral position. Among parents themselves, just 32% favored the opt-out approach, while 52% opposed it. Fifty-seven percent of the teachers also reacted negatively to the idea, with only 32% lending it support.
Asked “what level of government should play the biggest role in deciding whether or not a school is failing?,” 18 percent chose the federal government, 50 percent the state and 32 percent local government.
As autism diagnoses rose, intellectual disability diagnoses fell, reports a Penn State study on “diagnostic substitution.” Many of the “new” autism cases reflect changes in how children are labeled rather than a rise in kids with learning or communications problems, researchers concluded.
Autism prevalence rates rose from 1 in 150 children in 2000 to 1 in 68 children in 2010, according to a Centers for Disease Control report, reports Ed Week‘s Christina Samuels.
The fastest-growing group of children with autism spectrum disorder are those with normal to above-average intelligence, said the CDC’s Jon Baio. It’s not likely these children would have been identified as having an intellectual disability, he said. “What has changed to put children today at an increased risk of having autism? We really don’t know.”
The CDC’s figures, which aren’t based on examination of children, may be unreliable, says David Mandell, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Nearly all teachers receive high ratings in most districts. Teachers are in short supply in some parts of the country, writes Paul Bruno for the Brookings Institution.“The extent to which a principal is willing to dismiss (or give a poor evaluation to) a teacher will likely depend in part upon her beliefs about the probability of finding a superior replacement in a reasonable period of time.”
Teacher evaluation systems should be seen as a way to help teachers improve, not as a system to “dismiss teachers,” responds Bellwether’s Kaitlin Pennington.
New evaluation systems were meant to be a tool to reward excellent instruction, provide opportunities for targeted professional development, and create systems of support in schools in districts. Unfortunately, new teacher evaluation systems in many places were sold as ways to “get rid of bad teachers,” which greatly hurt implementation efforts.
Effective evaluation systems let a principal who’s hiring know “what effective teaching looks like and how it is measured,” writes Pennington.
Teacher evaluation isn’t included in either version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Pennington points out. “States will not have the political cover from federal policy to move forward with teacher evaluation.” And if it’s seen as just a way to fire teachers, it will not survive.
New York state will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for fast-food workers at chains with 30+ restaurants. That means the state’s burger flippers will earn more than child-care workers and preschool teachers in most parts of the country, writes Anya Kamenetz on NPR.
Child care workers average $8.63 in West Virginia to $12.47 in Massachusetts, according to a 2014 Berkeley study. Wages have fallen slightly since 1989.
“Preschool workers, who are more likely to work with older children in licensed centers and in publicly funded, school-based programs, earn more — from $11.57 an hour in Delaware to $20.99 in New York City, writes Kamenetz.
“We desperately need educated young people to be working with young children, but they look at this job and say, ‘It’s a pathway to poverty. I can’t pay my student loans if I do this’, ” says Deborah Phillips, a Georgetown professor who’s studied the issue. When wages are low, turnover is high, affecting the quality of care.
If the New York law stands, restaurant owners will be able to replace low-skilled workers with automated order taking and cooking. It’s a lot harder to automate child care.
A six-man U.S. team won the International Mathematical Olympiad for the first time since 1994, edging out China. There will not be a parade.
Over three decades, China has won the math Olympiad 19 times, notes the Los Angeles Times.
Team members must solve six problems that require algebra, geometry, number theory and combinators in 4 1/2-hour sessions over two days.
Here’s an example from last year:
Let n ? 2 be an integer. Consider an n x n chessboard consisting of n2 unit squares. A configuration of n rooks on this board is peaceful if every row and every column contains exactly one rook. Find the greatest positive integer k such that, for each peaceful configuration of n rooks, there is a k x k square which does not contain a rook on any of its k2 unit squares.
Although there were no girls on the U.S. squad, two girls ranked among the top 12 competitors in the United States, said Po-Shen Loh, the Carnegie Mellon professor who coached the team. (Nine of the 12 U.S. finalists were Asian-American.)
Ukraine, with three girls on the team, was the only gender-balanced squad in the Olympiad.
Few girls compete in the international competition, notes the FiveThirtyEight blog. In recent years, the average number of girls per team has risen from 0.2 in the 1970s to 0.5 in the 2010s (so far).
Hold on to your hats! When teachers teach math directly — with time for practice and drill — students learn more math. That’s especially true for those with math difficulties.
However, first-grade teachers with lots of students with math difficulties use more ineffective teaching practices, such as movement, music, manipulatives and calculators, concludes a new study.
“Only teacher-directed instruction was significantly associated” with math achievement, researchers concluded.
What worked best for struggling students was “routine practice and drills (that’s right, drill and kill!),” writes Fordham’s Amber Northern. “Similarly, lots of chalkboard instruction, traditional textbook practice problems, and worksheets that went over math skills and concepts were also effective with them.”
Youngsters who struggle with math simply need their teachers to show them how to do the math and then practice themselves how to do it—a lot! Why is such instruction so hard for them to come by?
Teacher-directed instruction helped students who weren’t struggling, but they also benefited from “working on problems with several solutions, peer tutoring, and activities involving ‘real-life’ math problems,” writes Northern.
“Drill and kill” has persuaded a lot of teachers to cut down on practice time, writes Robert Pondiscio He suggests “train and gain” or possibly “try and fly.” There’s always “practice makes perfect,” but that doesn’t rhyme.
Most high school graduates aren’t prepared for college or work, according to a survey of professors and employers by Achieve. Three-quarters of graduates say their high school did not set high academic expectations.
Among faculty members who teach at four-year colleges, 88 percent reported at least some gaps in their students’ preparation, including 34 percent who reported large gaps in preparation. At two-year colleges, instructors felt 96 percent of students had some gaps (including 34 percent with large gaps), according to the Achieve poll results released July 22.
Employers, too, believe students leave high school without the skills needed for typical jobs at their companies (82 percent believe there are some gaps and 48 percent report large gaps in readiness), the Achieve survey showed.
More than three-quarters of college instructors were dissatisfied with students’ abilities in critical thinking, comprehension of complicated materials, work and study habits, writing, written communication, and problem-solving.
Sixty-one percent of employers “request or require new hires to get more training in math, reading or writing — nearly a 20 percentage point increase from what employers surveyed said 10 years ago,” reports Caralee Adams for Ed Week.
Employers used to do more on-the-job training. Now they require more years of schooling, expect workers to be ready to be productive, get disappointed and blame colleges.
Students need early counseling about the need to take challenging courses in high school, said survey respondents.