More teachers are novices

More students are being taught by inexperienced, not-yet-effective teachers, warns a Carnegie report, Beginners in the Classroom

Novices are leading so many classrooms not only because of greater demand for teachers, but because so many teachers in existing jobs are leaving before they become accomplished educators. Although the recent recession slowed the exodus somewhat, teacher turnover rates are exceptionally high. In many urban districts, more than half of teachers leave within five years. And teachers abandon charter schools at especially high rates, a significant problem given the growing presence of charters in many metropolitan areas.

Pay isn’t the primary reason teachers quit, concludes the report. “Teachers leave because of a lack of administrative support — poor professional development, insufficient emotional backing, and scant feedback on performance.”

In Fast Start, The New Teachers Project describes how it changed its five-week teacher training program to teach fewer skills more intensely.

Fast Start focuses on four critical skills most closely linked to first-year success: delivering lessons clearly, maintaining high academic and behavioral standards, and maximizing instructional time.

. . . teachers spend 26 hours in intensive, hands-on practice.

Every Fast Start participant benefits from 32 hours of one-on-one and group coaching to help them constantly fine-tune their use of essential instructional techniques.

After two years, “we’ve found that teachers who performed better during Fast Start training earned higher ratings from their principals and did better on their district’s performance evaluation system.”

Attrition is lower at NYC charters

Attrition is relatively low at New York City’s charter elementary schools, concludes Staying or Going, a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. After three years, 70 percent of charter students remained at the same school compared to 61 percent of students at nearby district schools.

The city’s charter students are somewhat poorer than students in nearby district schools the study found. They’re much more likely to be black (61.1 percent vs. 33.3 percent) and less likely to be Latino (26.7 percent vs. 47.8 percent), white or Asian-American.

However, charters lose more special education students than district schools, notes the New York Times. Only 1 percent of charter kindergarteners are in special education compared to 7 percent in nearby schools. Eighty percent of special-ed charter kindergarteners have transferred after three years, compared to 50 percent in nearby schools.

Disability diagnoses are rare in kindergarten. By third grade, 13 percent of charter students — and 19 percent of district students — have received a special needs diagnosis.

Schools of choice may not be designed to serve every kind of student, writes Matt Di Carlo on Shanker Blog. If accountability measures can be adapted to control for high-need students, “you would expect to see the emergence of more and more schools that were tailored to meet the specific needs of students with low test scores and/or behavioral issues.”

Study: Top teachers perform well after transfer

Top elementary teachers who transferred to low-performing schools under a bonus program boosted their students’ learning significantly,” reports Ed Week’s Stephen Sawchuk.  Middle school teachers who transferred did not produce gains, according to a Mathematica study of the federally financed Talent Transfer Initiative.

Most highly effective teachers turned down the transfers, notes Sawchuck.

 The top 20 percent of teachers in each district were identified using each district’s own “value added” measure.  They were offered a $20,000 bonus to switch, paid out over a two-year period. (Effective teachers already in those schools got $10,000).

Of 1,500 eligible teachers, only 81 decided to transfer to qualify for bonuses.

Tranferring teachers were more likely than colleagues to stay at their new schools during the two years when bonuses were paid. After that, they left at the same rate as other teachers.

Students in high-poverty, low-performing schools are much less likely to be taught by experienced and highly effective teachers, say advocates. But it’s not clear whether a teacher who’s effective with easy-to-teach students will be effective with high-risk students.

A different study last year also found teacher effectiveness is transferable, writes Sawchuk.

Study: KIPP produces big gains

KIPP middle schoolers learn significantly more than comparison students, concludes a report  by Mathematica Policy Research on 43 schools in 13 states plus the District of Columbia. Three years after enrollment, the average KIPP student gained an extra 11 months in math, moving from the 44th to the 58th percentile, and eight months in reading, moving from the 46th to the 55th percentile. Science gains equalled an extra 14 months and social studies an extra 11 months.

In 13 schools, students in the control group had applied to KIPP, but lost the charter lottery. If there was no lottery, the study used “matched” students of similar achievement and demographics in nearby schools.

For KIPP students in the lottery sample, researchers administered the TerraNova test—a nationally norm-referenced test—which students had not prepared for, and which carried no consequences for students or schools. The impacts shown in the TerraNova test were consistent with those shown in state tests.

KIPP students resembles other students in their neighborhoods, but with lower reading and math achievement than their elementary school classmates, the study found. Ninety-six percent are black or Hispanic and 83 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. However, KIPP entrants are less likely to have received special education services or to have limited English proficiency.  (Since many more KIPP students are black, it makes sense that fewer speak English as a second language.)

Critics charge KIPP “counsels out” low achievers to inflate scores, notes Education Week. To account for attrition, the study included all students who started KIPP, even if they left for another school.

For example, a student could leave KIPP for another school in 6th grade, but their performance at the new school is counted towards the academic achievement of KIPP students overall regardless. The report also found that KIPP schools have similar attrition rates as traditional district schools (37 percent over three years for both sets of students).

KIPP students spend much more time in school than traditional public school students: nine hours per day, for 192 days each year, in KIPP, compared to 6.6 hours per day, for 180 days. In addition, KIPP students spend an extra 35 to 53 minutes on homework each night.

However, a longer school day didn’t raise test scores, possibly because the extra time was spent on non-academic activities, researchers found. KIPP schools that spent more time on core academic subjects and enforced a comprehensive discipline policy had the strongest results.

In schools where school-wide behavior standards and discipline policies are consistently communicated and enforced, the school rewards students for positive behavior, and the school punishes students who violate the rules, reading and math scores went up, researchers found.

While KIPP students are more satisfied with their school, the study did not find an increase in “attitudes associated with success,” such as persistence and self-control. Students were more likely to admit to losing their temper, arguing with or lying to their parents, or giving their teachers a hard time. Researchers weren’t sure if they were more ornery or more honest about it. Students may have raised their standards about acceptable behavior, said Mathematica researcher Brian Gill.

In comparing higher-performing to lower-performing KIPP schools, researchers found “class size, teacher experience and professional development opportunities” were not associated with higher scores, adds Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.

The latest CREDO study of charter school effectiveness found New York City charter students gain an extra five months in math — seven months in Harlem — and one month in reading, compared to similar students in traditional public schools. Charters enroll many more blacks. One in three Harlem kindergartners attends a charter school.

The high cost of college dropouts

Nineteen percent of higher education spending goes for students who fail to earn a certificate or degree, according to a new report.

Irreplaceable — and underappreciated

Principals don’t try to retain excellent teachers, concludes The Irreplaceables. TNTP analyzed teacher retention in four urban school districts: The top 20 percent of teachers, based on value-added scores, were nearly as likely to leave as the bottom 20 percent.

. . . their principals and district officials treated them basically the same. Two-thirds of the districts’ best teachers weren’t even encouraged to return another year.

Three-quarters of low-performing teachers told TNTP that they plan to stay at the current school; half said they intend to teach for another decade.  The average brand-new teacher would be more effective than these low performers, the report concludes.

Even without merit pay, districts could do much more to retain the best teachers, the report adds.

If principals simply gave their best teachers regular feedback, identified leadership opportunities for them, publicly recognized their accomplishments, and employed other, basic HR tactics, they could significantly reduce the attrition rate.

“The nation’s 50 largest districts lose approximately 10,000 Irreplaceables each year, according to TNTP. Yet the culture of teaching insists that all teachers are the same.

New York City’s master teacher program paid Lori Wheal more “in exchange for spending extra time mentoring my peers, writing curricula and running professional development.” She felt her work was respected. When her middle school lost the funding, she quit teaching, she writes in the New York Post.

. . .  the city needs to hold principals accountable for fixing school cultures that drive top teachers away. This means improving working conditions and creating environments of mutual respect and trust. (And give principals credit on their own performance reviews for retaining great teachers.)

But it also means refusing to turn a blind eye to poor teaching. Struggling teachers deserve support and a reasonable chance to improve. But if they can’t, they shouldn’t stay in the classroom.

Wheal will pursue a career in education policy.

Prioritizing ‘success’ comes under fire

California’s community colleges should focus on educating students who are making progress toward a certificate or degree, giving lower priority to “permanent students” and people seeking enrichment courses, recommends a state task force. College newspapers are campaigning against the changes, saying students should be able to explore without committing to completing a “program of study.”

Also on Community College Spotlight:  One out of four students enrolled in community college in fall 2010 was not enrolled anywhere by the following semester, though that includes students who earned a certificate or degree.

Teachers are lazy, hard-working, stupid, brilliant …

Teachers Are Lazy, Hard-Working, Stupid, Brilliant, Indifferent, Caring, Rich, Poor, Should Probably Be Fired and Also Given a Raise, writes Atoms of Thought, adding Where Did All the Teachers Go?

Imagine you’re a high school teacher in a room with 180 teenagers sitting at desks.

Behind each student there stand two parents. Behind each parent stand grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of the family. Behind them, as far as the eye can see, swells an army of journalists, bloggers, educational policy experts, politicians, school administrators, superintendents, business owners, university professors, police officers, prison wardens and prison guards.

. . . About twenty of your students lean forward in their desks and look up at you with bright smiles. These students will delight in anything you might say to them. They love every one of your lessons and you can always count on them to raise their hands to answer and ask questions. Others, say about fifty or so, stare at you with blank expressions. They’re bored with your lesson, but they’re calm and polite. Still other students, perhaps ninety of them, are doing whatever they can think of to distract themselves from the learning task at hand. These students tap their pencils, pass notes, sneak peeks at their cell phones, whisper and chuckle at the boy who is launching spit wads at you when you aren’t looking. They may be apathetic and distracted, but for the most part these students remain under control. A group of perhaps twenty students bicker with each other, verbally spar, curse, wail about how much they hate school, hate your lesson, hate you. Some of them become physically violent with each other. A few may even threaten you with bodily harm.

It’s not surprising that half of teachers quit within five years, writes Atoms.

To quote Barbie: Engineering is hard

My daughter, an American Studies major, was talking with her lawyer friends. They all decided they’d raise their children to be engineers. “No sociology majors!” she says. “No English majors! No American Studies!”  Engineering graduates have it made, the lawyers decided. (They’re assuming their children will earn engineering degrees at top universities.)

But attrition is high for college students who plan on science, technology, engineering and math majors, writes the New York Times. In middle and high school, kids decide that science is fun. In college, “the excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg, an emeritus engineering professor, calls ‘the math-science death march.’ Freshmen in college wade through a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students. And then many wash out.”

Some 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors switch or quit. That rises to 60 percent when pre-meds are counted, twice the  attrition rate of all other majors.

While some students lack the math skills or the work ethic, the attrition rate is high at super-selective schools, says UCLA Education Professor Mitchell Chang.

“You’d like to think that since these institutions are getting the best students, the students who go there would have the best chances to succeed,” he says. “But if you take two students who have the same high school grade-point average and SAT scores, and you put one in a highly selective school like Berkeley and the other in a school with lower average scores like Cal State, that Berkeley student is at least 13 percent less likely than the one at Cal State to finish a STEM degree.”

Grading is tougher in science and math classes than in the humanities or social sciences, discouraging some students.

Others find the coursework abstract.

Some engineering programs are breaking up large lecture classes, giving students more design opportunities and pushing social engagement.

(Notre Dame) students now do four projects. They build Lego robots and design bridges capable of carrying heavy loads at minimal cost. They also create electronic circuit boards and dream up a project of their own.

“They learn how to work with their hands, how to program the robot and how to work with design constraints,” (Dean of Engineering Peter Kilpatrick) says. But he also says it’s inevitable that students will be lost. Some new students do not have a good feel for how deeply technical engineering is. Other bright students may have breezed through high school without developing disciplined habits. By contrast, students in China and India focus relentlessly on math and science from an early age.

In other words, it’s hard.

President Obama wants U.S. universities to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year. Not going to happen, say engineering professors.

 

With no mentor, 16% of new teachers quit

Mentoring a first-year teacher halves the attrition rate, according to a National Center for Education Statistics analysis. Overall, nearly 10 percent of new teachers quit after their first year, reports Teacher Beat.  However,  16 percent of first-year teachers who were not assigned a mentor were not teaching the following year, compared to 8 person of teachers with a mentor.

One quarter of new teachers moved to another school in their second year of teaching, NCES reports.