A ‘bar exam’ for new teachers?

Evaluating prospective teachers on classroom performance, including videos of student teaching, will increase teaching quality, say advocates of Stanford’s edTPA. Some want to make it a “bar exam” equivalent for entry into teaching.

Credit: John Berry

Credit: John Berry

“But critics have worried the test could create another stumbling block for minority teachers, who are underrepresented in the profession,” reports Hechinger’s Sarah Garland. African-American teachers scored somewhat lower on edTPA, a new analysis shows.

About 70 percent of candidates scored a 42, the recommended cut score. Blacks averaged a 41, “compared to roughly 45 for white, Hispanic and Asians,” writes Garland.

Those who did their student teaching in the suburbs tended to score slightly better than those who trained in urban or rural areas. In addition, women had an edge on men.

Some believe performance tests will create a “roadblock to diversifying the profession,” writes Peggy Barmore.

At least a dozen states and more than 600 teacher preparation programs use performance tests such as edTPA, she writes. “They cost more money, take more time, and require the teacher aspirants to do more work — all of which could deter low-income and minority teacher candidates who were already faring worse, on average, on the less rigorous state-administered certification tests.

Education in the Trump era: What now?

Donald Trump won the presidency by mobilizing the frustration of non-college educated whites who feel left out and left behind. (Donald Trump will be president of the United States of America. Oy vey.) What now?

On the campaign trail, Trump called for cutting “the power and reach” of the Education Department.

Donald Trump spoke in New York in June. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Donald Trump campaigning in New York. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

“Education has to be run locally,” he said. “Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top are all programs that take decisions away from parents and local school boards. These programs allow the progressives in the Department of Education to indoctrinate, not educate, our kids.”

He backed school choice, including charters, vouchers and magnet schools.

Trump said he’d make colleges cut tuition. “If the federal government is going to subsidize student loans, it has a right to expect that colleges work hard to control costs and invest their resources in their students,” Trump said. “If colleges refuse to take this responsibility seriously, they will be held accountable.”

He also threatened to end the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities with large endowments and high tuition rates, notes Inside Higher Ed. Colleges need “to spend endowments on their students, not themselves,” Trump said. “They need to use that money to cut the college debt and cut tuition, and they have to do it quickly.”

Trump’s education platform includes making it easier for people to afford vocational and technical training.

Here are education quotes.

What’s he really going to do? Would Congress go along? I have no idea. Still in shock.

Trump’s victory “leaves widespread uncertainty about what’s in store for public schools,” writes Ed Week.

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli predicts “quick changes” at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, including an end to applying “disparate impact theory” to school discipline.

Massachusetts voters rejected lifting the cap on charter schools.

California voters repealed limits on bilingual education.

PISA: Attitude doesn’t predict achievement

Image result for iceland children enthusiasticChildren in Iceland run to celebrate World Harmony Day.

Around the world, students who like school don’t necessarily do better in reading and math, according to a new PISA study.

Sixty-four countries participated in the 2012 PISA survey. No direct relationship was found between attitude and achievement in all but Qatar, Iceland and Australia.

Controlling for students’ ability, family socioeconomic status and gender made little difference, though attitude did correlate with achievement for well-to-do students.

Does self-efficacy really matter? asks Peter DeWitt. Yes, it does, he concludes.

Self-efficacy is the belief that what I do can make a difference. Without it why bother?

Pension costs crowd out ed spending

Image result for teacher pensions

“Per-student spending on K-12 education has risen steadily over the last two decades, but student test scores, and teacher salaries, are stagnant,” editorializes American Interest. Where’s the money gone? “The cash infusion to K-12 has been used largely to pay for irresponsible pension promises politicians made to teachers’ unions and justified to the public with shoddy accounting.”

The editorial cites Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending, a new Manhattan Institute report by Josh McGee:

Per-pupil spending on equipment, facilities, and property fell by 26% between 2000 and 2013, likely resulting in a growing backlog of expensive repairs and  replacements that will need to be made sometime down the road. Spending on instructional supplies (e.g., textbooks) declined by 10% per pupil. More than half of states (29) spent less per pupil on instructional supplies in 2013 than in 2000. […]

The vast majority of taxpayer contributions into teachers’ pension plans are now used to pay down pension debt owed for past service rather than to pay for new benefits earned by today’s teachers. As the value of this debt has increased, most current teachers have experienced stagnant salaries and reduced retirement benefits, while spending on classroom supplies, equipment, and building upkeep has declined relatively or even absolutely.

“Education ought to be a great equalizing force in our society and, in theory, an efficient way to invest in the future,” concludes American Interest. But, in many states, new education spending is really “a transfer payment to retired employees of the public schools who have been promised untenable lifetime pension benefits.”

Feds on teacher ed: Don’t be horrible

Excellence is not the goal of new federal regulations of teacher preparation programs, writes Melissa Tooley of New America’s Education Policy Program.

Programs will have to report on their graduates’ outcomes, including “job placement and retention, preparedness perceptions of graduates and employers, and student learning outcomes.”

Image result for teacher preparation programs cartoon

States are told to “assure that teacher preparation programs produce candidates with content and pedagogical knowledge, quality clinical preparation, and who meet rigorous exit qualifications.”

Programs will be rated in at least three categories, effective, at-risk or low-performing.

Most states have been reluctant “to label poorly performing programs as such,” writes Tooley. That won’t change.

The regulations “are not really encouraging a push for excellence, only a push away from deficiency,” she writes. “If teacher preparation programs’ primary focus is on not being bad, instead of trying to be great, then the culture of ongoing improvement that we know we desperately need in our PreK-12 schools, and the programs that prepare educators to serve in them, is unlikely to materialize.”

Why vote for new charters? Kids learn more

Massachusetts voters are split on whether to approve 12 new or expanded charter schools, according to a new poll. Some 30,000 children are now on charter waiting lists.

“Progressives” Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have come out against Question 2. The Boston Globe has editorialized in favor of more charters.

Alanna Clark at Match High School in Boston in October. Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

Alanna Clark at Match High School in Boston in October. Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

Boston’s charter schools, most of which follow a “high-expectations, high-support” model, are very, very effective at teaching disadvantaged students, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. Rigorous research shows these are schools that work — and you’d think we’d want more of them.

Alanna Clark fell behind in school, but got no help with her reading disability. Her mother entered her in a charter lottery.

Alanna today is 10th grader at Match High School, which provides intensive tutoring to help students prepare for college success.

Match and other high-expectations, high-support charters focus on classroom teaching, Principal Hannah Larkin tells Leonhardt.  Students spend more hours in class. Standards are high. Teachers get weekly feedback on how to improve their teaching.


Black students who enroll in a Boston charter in sixth grade have much lower math scores than their white counterparts, researchers have found. By the end of eighth grade, they’ve caught up.

“Relative to other things that social scientists and education policy people have tried to boost performance — class sizes, tracking, new buildings — these schools are producing spectacular gains,” said Joshua Angrist, an MIT professor.

Massachusetts’ urban charter students don’t just earn higher reading and math scores, compared to students who applied for a charter but lost in the lottery, conclude Brookings researchers. Charter students are much more likely to take and pass AP tests, earn much higher SAT scores and are much more likely to go to a four-year college or university.

“The gains to children in Massachusetts charters are enormous. They are larger than any I have seen in my career,” researcher Susan Dynarski wrote in a Facebook post. “To me, it is immoral to deny children a better education because charters don’t meet some voters’ ideal of what a public school should be. Children don’t live in the long term. They need us to deliver now.”

They all want to go to college, but . . . 

Students at Topeka High School. Photo: Christopher Smith/New York Times

In Senior Year at Topeka High in the New York Times, Anemona Hartocollis talks to 12th graders, their parents and their counselors at her old high school. Nearly all students want to go to college, but some never enroll and many who do never earn a degree, she writes. It’s called the “aspirations-attainment gap.”

“Applying to college requires a huge amount of social capital — the support of family, friends, mentors and teachers — as well as personal drive and initiative,” she writes.

Topeka High is in many ways an all-American school, the largest public high school in this sprawling low-rise city of about 127,000 people. The school has a strong racial, ethnic and economic mix among its 1,800 students.

. . . A handful of students, mainly affluent ones, will go to the Ivy League. But the graduation rate hovers in the low 70 percent range, the principal said; 45 percent of graduates go to a four-year college, and 17 percent go to a two-year college.

She talks to a boy who’s taking honors classes, but considering technical school as well as college. His farmer dad wants him to enlist in the military or work before starting college. His mother favors college, but doesn’t know how the application process works.

Another boy, a frequent truant from a “downwardly mobile” family, wants to be a musician. Can he do better than his dropout brother?

An ambitious black girl wants to be a doctor. She’s done everything right in high school, but can she get the counseling and financial aid she’ll need to make her dream a reality?

27% of teachers are ‘chronically absent’

Image result for missing teachers

Chronic absenteeism among teachers is on the rise, according to federal data, reports the Washington Post. Twenty-seven percent of teachers — more than 75 percent in some districts — missed more than 10 days of school in 2014.

Absenteeism is highest in poor, rural areas and inner cities.

In the Alamance-Burlington School System, located between Greensboro and Chapel Hill, N.C., 80 percent of its 1,500 teachers missed more than 10 days of school in the 2013-2014 school year. Cleveland reported that about 84 percent of its 2,700 teachers had excessive absences. Nevada’s Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas, reported that more than half of its 17,000 teachers were chronically absent.

Students learn significantly less if their teachers are absent for 10 or more days, concludes the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Fifty-eight percent of teachers were chronically absent at Washington, D.C.’s Stuart-Hobson Middle School in 2014, reports the Post. Several said it’s a stressful place to teach.

“I would wake up in a panic and feeling like there was a pit in my stomach,” Sean McGrath, a former social studies teacher. “It was a feeling of dread and despair.” After logging seven absences in September, McGrath quit his job.

Why LA’s teacher housing has no teachers

The Sage Park Apartments were built on vacant land near Gardena High School and opened in 2015.School employees — but not teachers — live in the Sage Park Apartments, which opened in 2015. Photo: Los Angeles Times

To retain teachers, Los Angeles Unified built two below-market apartment complexes on district land and is finishing a third. Not one teacher lives in the district’s affordable housing, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Teachers, who start at $50,300 a year, earn too much. Instead, the apartments are occupied by low-paid school employees such as cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers and aides.

Federal subsidies used to build the apartments “restricted the units to households that earned 30% to 60% of area median income,” the Times explains.  That’s less than $35,000 a year for a single person.

Diamond Jones, 24, a special education assistant who earns $15 an hour, pays $588 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, less than a third of the market rate.

Who’s blocking the door now?

It’s been 53 years since Gov. George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door” to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama.

Affluent white suburbanites want to limit urban charter schools, complain minority parents in Boston. “So far, 194 mainly non-urban school committees statewide have backed resolutions opposing Question 2,” which would lift the cap on charter schools, reports the Boston Herald.

“You are hurting our children — not yours. Do you actually care what happens to little black and brown children? No, you don’t” said Dawn Foye, a Roxbury mother who sends her son to KIPP Academy in Mattapan.

Boston has the highest-performing charter schools in the nation. Most students come from low-income and working-class Black and Latino families.