What doesn’t work

John Hattie’s What Doesn’t Work In Educationpublished by Pearson Education, attacks “popular and oft-prescribed remedies,” such as small classes, high standards and more money, reports NPR.

A University of Melbourne professor, Hattie analyzed 1,200 meta-analyses “looking at all types of interventions, ranging from increased parental involvement to ADHD medications to longer school days to performance pay for teachers, as well as other factors affecting education, like socioeconomic status,” to see what makes a significant difference.

Here’s his chart of “visible effect sizes of different interventions and issues related to achievement.”

Support slips for Core, other reforms

The 2015 Education Next poll shows slipping support for a variety of reforms from Common Core standards to school choice, merit pay and tenure reform.

Public support for annual testing remains high, while teachers split on the issue.

Two-thirds of parents — and the public as a whole — support the federal requirement for annual testing, while teachers are split on continuing the policy.

Since 2012, there are more supporters and opponents of testing with fewer people choosing the neutral position.

Only a third of parents and teachers and a quarter of the public support letting parents opt their children out of testing. ednext_XVI_1_poll_fig07-small

The federal push for “no-disparate-impact” disciplinary policies — linking suspension and expulsion rates to race and ethnicity — is unpopular with the public and teachers, the poll found.

Among whites, only 14 percent favor the federal policies, while 57 percent oppose them. A plurality (41 percent) of blacks favor the policies with 23 percent opposed and 36 percent neutral. Forty-four percent of Hispanics support the policy and 31 percent oppose it.

In 21 states and the District of Columbia, teachers’ unions can charge an “agency fee” to non-members to cover collective bargaining costs.

Surprisingly, half of teachers — and a plurality of the public — “requiring teachers to pay a fee for collective bargaining services even if they do not join a union.”

Only 52 percent of union teachers and 25 percent of non-union teachers support the agency fee.

However, 57 percent of teachers surveyed say unions have had a positive effect on schools.

Do poor kids need less learning, more play?

Direct instruction denies low-income children a carefree childhood and harms their emotional development, argues Steve Nelson, headmaster of an elite private school in Manhattan, in the Huffington Post.

Low-income children in “direct instruction” pre-schools do less well in life than those in traditional nursery schools, according to The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40, he writes. (The study followed 68 children, only one third of whom were in a direct-instruction preschool.)

Early childhood education must be “play-based and focused on social development,” writes Calhoun. “Children should explore at their own pace, negotiate relationships with other children and with adults, daydream, be silly, try things out, and try things on.”

Education reformers have created no-excuses schools that turn children into little adults forced to meet ever-higher expectations, Calhoun writes.

Are there “no-excuses” preschools, joyless academic factories that parents nonetheless choose for their children?

Nelson, the half-million-dollar mouthpiece of a $45,000-per-year private school, has descended “from Olympus to admonish teachers of impoverished students against actually trying to teach them anything,” writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio.

“Play-based,” content-free learning might be fine for the children of hedge fund managers, who will have lots of opportunities to screw up before easing into careers as progressive school principals. But it’s not cutting it for kids from low-income families, who often arrive at school with huge skills deficits and consequently have to, you know, learn something.

Calhoun should “stick to finger painting in the Imagination Station, and quit lecturing those who are actually trying to help the poor,” concludes Pondiscio.

A few months ago, I visited pre-k and elementary classes at a local public school that’s focused on helping children from immigrant families catch up academically by third grade. Classes were loaded with academic content. Teachers mixed directed instruction, discussion, writing, singing, dance, exploration, etc.

I was amazed at how much science these kids were learning as they developed English proficiency. They seemed to be having a lot of fun. And they were learning the normal set of social skills.

Sir Ken’s well-meant twaddle

http://sirkenrobinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/skr_creative_schools_3d-cover.jpgSir Ken Robinson, known for a 2006 TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?,  has a new book out called Creative Schools about “transforming” education.

“Think of it as a jukebox cranking out all of the anti-reform hits,” advises Robert Pondiscio on Education Gadfly. “Nod your head like, yeah, as Sir Ken critiques not just standards, but competition, corporatization, back-to-basics, ‘industrial model education,’ and, inevitably, the school-to-prison pipeline.” Or, perhaps, it’s a “greatest hits album.”

Naturally, there’s praise for a certain country:

a)      Finland.

b)      Obviously Finland.

c)      Of course it’s Finland! It’s a freakin’ Sir Ken Robinson book!

d)     All of the above.

“In terms of knowledge, the standards movement favors direct instruction of factual information and skills and whole class teaching rather than group activities,” Robinson writes.

No, it doesn’t, responds Pondiscio.  “Teachers are expected to ‘differentiate instruction’ at all times, and students sit in pods … because group work.”

Sir Ken’s oeuvre is well-intentioned, but it is almost entirely nonsense—a warmed-over Rousseauian fantasy suggesting all children are “natural born learners,” defying what cognitive science tells us about how knowledge and practice drive skill and competence.

It is also much easier to divine what Sir Ken dislikes about schools than what he proposes we should do about it.  At several points, he compares education to organic farming. “Plants grow themselves,” he writes. “The job of the gardener is to create the best conditions for that to happen. Good gardeners create those conditions, and poor ones don’t.”

Standards and curricula aren’t the problem with education, writes Pondiscio. “They are the point.”

From time immemorial, schools have existed to transmit—consciously and unconsciously—the language, knowledge, and values of their societies at any given time and place.

It worked for Sir Ken, freeing him to think creatively, he concludes. “For those on the outside looking in—whose very existence seems lost upon Sir Ken—it’s not quite the same.”

“Robinson rightly makes the case for the rigour of creative learning – ‘creativity in any field may involve deep factual knowledge and high levels of practical skill’ – but we always need to guard against the soft bigotry of low expectations,” writes Tristram Hunt in a more positive Guardian review.  Hunt fears “the worrying trend of play and expression being adequate for working-class pupils, while leaving the tough stuff, the physics and history, for their better-off peers.”

Race to the Top: Who won?

What Did Race to the Top Accomplish? Joanne Weiss and Rick Hess discuss the question in Education Next.

Race to the Top affected education policy, concludes William G. Howell, a University of Chicago politics professor. “By strategically deploying funds to cash-strapped states and massively increasing the public profile of a controversial set of education policies, the president managed to stimulate reforms that had stalled in state legislatures, stood no chance of enactment in Congress, and could not be accomplished via unilateral action.”

The article includes an interactive map showing the percentage of Race to the Top policies implemented from 2001 through 2014, state by state.

Campbell Brown launches ‘The 74’

Former NBC News and CNN anchor Campbell Brown has launched a new “online education newsroom” called The Seventy Four.

“Through our reporting we will advocate for a public school system that truly serves the 74 million children in this country,” she writes. “We will fiercely challenge those forces within the education establishment who impede innovation in our schools and who protect and defend inequality and institutional failure. And we will champion the principals, teachers and parents who are demanding the highest standards and best education possible for all of our kids.”

The Seventy Four will host live forums on education in New Hampshire and Iowa. They will gather “prominent elected officials, political influencers, and education thought leaders to discuss the greatest challenges facing America’s education system.”

The launch includes a story on The Great Miami Turnaround led by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who’s expanding magnets, charters and other schools of choice.

Roughly 62 percent of students—that’s more than 200,000 kids—will attend one of these programs in the 2015-16 school year, either in a separate, all-inclusive school like iPrep or a part-time program within a traditional neighborhood school. Some 30 new programs open each year, ranging in specialty from conservation biology to the performing arts to vocational training.

Carvalho came from Portugal at 17, without parents or documents. While working as a restaurant busboy, he met a legislator who helped him get a student visa and work permit and persuaded him to take community college classes.

Unions wasted $1.4 million in Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrates his re-election victory.  Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrates his re-election victory. Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP

Angered by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school reform agenda, the Chicago Teachers Union and its state and national allies spent $1.4 million on his challenger, reports Rishawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. They lost.

CTU chief Karen Lewis must “choose between continuing the union’s hardcore traditionalist stance that merely empowers Emanuel” or take a softer stand that risks alienating supporters, writes Biddle.

He predicts AFT President Randi Weingarten will “go back to embracing watered-down versions of systemic reform efforts.”

Early childhood ed: Can we all play nicely?

To get beyond the education wars, reformers should focus on early childhood education, advises New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

He thinks the reform movement has “peaked,” leaving “bruised” zillionaires and “dispirited” idealists. “K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield,” Kristof writes. “It’s Agincourt, the day after.”

It’s possible to break the poverty cycle with high-quality preschool, reading and home visiting programs and coaching parents to stimulate their children, Kristof argues.

Furthermore, early education isn’t “politically polarized.”

New York City liberals have embraced preschool, but so have Oklahoma conservatives. . . . Republicans and Democrats just approved new funding for home visitation for low-income toddlers.

Can we all play together nicely?

I don’t think early education is a no-brainer. If everyone’s for “high-quality” preschool, that does that mean expensive, intensive, language-developing, parent-coaching programs for very disadvantaged kids? Or adult-supervised play time for everyone? “Universal” preschool is popular with voters, but it sucks up the money needed to fund the kind of programs that might make a lasting difference.

Reformers don’t feel stalemated, writes Alexander Russo. They’re taking a few hits, adapting and moving forward.

He’s also dubious about an early childhood consensus. “Previous Obama-led efforts to increase federal spending on ECE have fallen flat, and the merest hint that ECE is a strong issue for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign means that it won’t pass unchallenged by the Bush and Rubio campaigns.”

If kids can’t improve, bad schools are OK

Is intelligence fixed — or can kids get smarter? The importance of a “growth mindset” applies to educators as well as students, writes Robert Maranto, 21st Century Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

“If you think that intelligence is a constant, then there is no point reforming schools because schools don’t matter,” he writes in the Baltimore Sun.

“Good” schools and “good” teachers either cherry picked or lucked into smart students. It’s unfair to compare schools or teachers on academic results because student learning is determined by who teachers teach, not what or how they teach.

When right-wing social scientists argue that genetics determines low academic performance, their views are marginalized, Maranto writes. But many on the left also believe some groups of children can’t learn.

I know prominent education professors who have not read any of the eight high quality scientific evaluations of the high poverty/high achievement Knowledge Is Power Program schools, nor set foot in such schools, but know that KIPP must be cheating in some way. They have no more interest in the research on KIPP than a creationist has in paleontology.

Our unwillingness to learn from success goes beyond ignoring successful charter schools. I do fieldwork in a reasonably good school district that has depressingly little success teaching its Hispanic minority; yet no one there bothers to check out a similar school district 10 miles away that has nearly eliminated its Anglo-Hispanic achievement gap. These educators believe, on the basis of no evidence, that Hispanics in the other school district differ from their Hispanics. They cannot imagine different tactics including parental outreach and after school tutoring yielding better outcomes with the same kids.

Urban superintendents aren’t more likely to keep their jobs when achievement rises, Maranto’s research found.

Yesterday, I visited a San Jose elementary school whose students — more than 80 percent are English Learners from lower-income families — excel at reading and math. It’s called Rocketship Brilliant Minds.

Teachers and students dance each day at Morning Launch.

What if Core scores go down and stay down?

Test scores will drop in Common Core states this year, writes Eduwonk. It’s a harder and unfamiliar test. Reasonable people get that.

The risk for Common Core will come in a few years, if scores remain low, he writes.

A lot of places are “adopting” Common Core but without really doing the instructional shifts or big changes in classroom practice to up the bar for teaching and learning.

. . . in a few years when more ambitious standards collide with inadequate capacity and classroom practice and scores haven’t, overall, moved upwards a lot is when the political bill could come due. Common Core will be declared another “failed” reform idea and something else will come along.  In fact, what Common Core will have in common with a lot of prior reform efforts is a diluted implementation, inadequate support, and half-measures.

Something else is likely to be “a lot more choice,” predicts Eduwonk.