What works for high-need students

Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond talked about educational equity and what works for disadvantaged students with as part of Education Sector’s Redefining Equity Up series.

Education reform’s future

It’s not quite the lion lying down the lamb, but Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford ed professor who served on Obama’s transition team, have co-written a New York Times op-ed, How to Rescue Education Reform.  They disagree on some key issues, but agree that the federal government should stick to what it alone can do and avoid trying to micromanage schools.

The first federal role is transparency:  No Child Left Behind required states to measure and report achievement, so parents, voters and taxpayers could “hold schools and public officials accountable.” However, states were allowed to set their own, low standards.

Instead of the vague mandate of “adequate yearly progress,” federal financing should be conditioned on truth in advertising — on reliably describing achievement (or lack thereof) and spending. To track achievement, states should be required to link their assessments to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (or to adopt a similar multistate assessment). To shed light on equity and cost-effectiveness, states should be required to report school- and district-level spending; the resources students receive should be disclosed, not only their achievement.

The second federal role is “enforcing civil rights laws and ensuring that dollars intended for low-income students and students with disabilities are spent accordingly.”

Third is supporting basic research in fields such as “brain science, language acquisition or the impact of computer-assisted tutoring.”

Competitive federal grants can support innovation, they conclude. However, the “Obama administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition . . .  ended up demanding that winning states hire consultants to comply with a 19-point federal agenda, rather than truly innovate.”

The feds should stop trying to improve schools by order from above, write Hess and Darling-Hammond. “The federal government can make states, localities and schools do things — but not necessarily do them well.”

Schizophrenic, responds RiShawn Biddle.

The odd couple call adequate yearly progress a “vague mandate,” but elsewhere  complain it’s too prescriptive, writes Andrew Rotherham.  The left and right are uniting to kill education reform, he adds in Time.


Recession makes teaching a hot job

Career switchers are eager for teaching jobs, reports the Washington Post.

In many places, there are more converts to teaching than there are jobs, except in hard-to-fill posts in science, math and special education classes.

. . . Career-changers are considered desirable because they bring maturity and outside experiences into classrooms. They also help solve a perennial problem in public education, particularly in math and science: Too few teachers have a solid grasp of the subject they teach.

About one-third of new teachers come through alternative certification programs, which often include intensive summer training and sometimes extend to classroom mentoring. Quality varies.

If they’re thrown into tough teaching situations with little preparation, the new teachers may become overwhelmed and quit, warns Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford education professor.

However, The New Teacher Project estimates its retention rates are better than the average for urban districts, which often staff the toughest schools with the least experienced teachers.

Some districts have set up teaching “residencies” that let beginning teachers “learn under a great teacher in the same classroom for a year and take coursework to help analyze what they see,” reports the Post.

With a degree in Slavic linguistics, Betsy followed a traditional route to earn certification as a high school teacher.

In general, I found that my education courses were useless. The material that was useful on classroom management or lesson planning could have easily been delivered over a summer. . . . After that, the only thing is to throw new teachers into the deep end of either student teaching or a fellowship year but provide them with strong mentor and administration support. It will be a rocky experience, but I fail to believe that sitting around college classrooms taking education theory and psychology courses will do any better at preparing a novice teacher.

Knowing math isn’t enough to make a good math teacher, she believes. But it’s easier to teach a knowledgeable person how to teach than to make a person who doesn’t know math into a good teacher.

. . . I’d prefer to hire someone who had a history background and took a summer course on teacher training than hire someone who had an education degree with a few college courses in the history department. Both applicants might have trouble their first year, but mentor teachers at the school might have the time to teach the new hire how to present a good lesson; we don’t have time to teach the newbie all the history he or she needs to know to teach a high school class.

Newbies should be prepared for a tough job market, Betsy warns. Even North Carolina’s Teaching Fellows, graduates of a prestigious program, are having trouble finding work.