More ‘reach’ for excellent teachers

One in four U.S. classrooms has an “excellent teacher,” asserts Public Impact. “Bold efforts to recruit more top teachers and remove the least effective teachers” won’t be enough to put an excellent teacher in every classroom. So let’s expand the reach of highly effective teachers by redesigning teaching roles and using technology. The education policy group plans to identify five sites to pilot expand-the-reach models.

OpportunityCulture describes possible models:

(The) teacher can work in person, teaching face to face in a school and/or leading other teachers. Or, when not enough excellent teachers are available in person, excellent teachers can work remotely, with on-site monitors’ help. Remote, excellent teachers can reach students via webcam, online whiteboard, email, and other methods that let the teacher communicate personally—live, but not in person—and at times convenient for all.

Willing, excellent teachers can have larger classes (within reason!), or they can specialize in the most crucial subjects and most difficult teaching roles, while other team members take on the rest. Or they can swap technology—online digital instruction—for some of their teaching time, enough time that the teacher can teach more students. Or they can lead other teachers, and co-teach with them, with authority to: select, assign roles, develop, and evaluate the team.

If we pursue reach extension, retaining high-performing teachers, recruiting talented new teachers and dismissing the least effective, “87 percent of classes could be taught by gap-closing, bar-raising teachers—in a mere half-decade,” Public Impact believes.

That seems very ambitious. Or perhaps I mean unrealistic.


The crucial first semester

The first semester is make-or-break time for many community college students. “Freshmen academies” try to get new students on track.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  More firefighters are getting college degrees to get a job or advance in their career. Is it credentialism or professionalization?

CCs need middle-class students

Community colleges should recruit white, middle-class students to build political capital and financial support, argues Richard Kahlenberg, a Century Foundation fellow.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Looking for ways to get students to stay in college.

Subway of (false) hope

“Start here, go anywhere,” say the college ads in the subway.  “But more likely nowhere,” adds a professor.

Also on Community College SpotlightFirst Year Experience programs try to keep students enrolled for a second year.

OECD: Retention doesn’t work

Countries in which schools frequently hold back or transfer low-performing students “tend to have weaker, more expensive, and more socially inequitable education systems,”according to a new analysis (pdf) by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, reports Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

Differences in grade-retention rates explain as much as 15 percent of differences in scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 65 member and partner countries, OECD researchers concluded.

Retention rates vary significantly. U.S. schools retain more than one in 10 students.  That compares to fewer than 3 percent in Japan, Norway and Britain but 35 percent and up in Belgium, Portugal, Spain and France. Top-scoring Finland and Korea never retain students in the same grade, though both separate high school students into academic or vocational schools.

Researchers also found lower PISA scores for countries in which more schools reported they would transfer a student out of the school for low grades, special needs, or behavior problems. Ten of the countries studied reported about two of every five students attended a school “very likely” to transfer based on academics, while another 10 reported fewer than 3 percent of students attend schools that transfer for those reasons.

Retaining or transferring students can “reinforce socioeconomic inequities,” OECD researchers concluded.

Teachers in these systems may have fewer incentives to work with struggling students if they know there is an option of transferring those students to other schools. These school systems need to consider how to create appropriate incentives to ensure that some students are not “discarded” by the system.

In the U.S., Chicago and North Carolina recently ended bans on social promotion, notes Inside School Research. But Arizona and Florida now require retention for students who don’t meet third-grade reading benchmarks.



You may already be a graduate

Over the last five years, 1,000 San Jose community college students completed requirements for certificates and associate degrees, but never claimed the credential, an audit has found. Many thought they’d earn a bachelor’s degree but didn’t. Now the district is trying to find the students to retroactively award the credentials they’ve earned.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  More Long Beach, California students are going to college — and staying in college — thanks to a partnership between the K-12 district, the local community college and Cal State Long Beach.

Sex and the professor

A psychology professor fired for performing in a burlesque show has filed suit in federal court on grounds of sex discrimination, charging a male professor performed partially nude in a one-man show without incurring discipline. Click the link for video of “Professor Shimmy” performing social commentary at the Hubba Hubba Revue.

Also on Community College Spotlight: A weekly “nudge” from a coach –via phone, e-mail or text — improves retention and graduation rates, according to a new study.

Chicago schools sued for flunking minorities

Chicago’s policy of flunking third-, sixth- and eighth-grade students who do poorly on state exams disproportionately harms black and Latino students, charges Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) which has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Students who are held back get discouraged and drop out, said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of PURE.

The threat of retention has pushed low-achieving students to work harder to raise achievement, said Elaine Allensworth, chief research officer at the University of Chicago‘s Consortium on Chicago School Research. But there is a down side.

“We saw and still see students held back two or three years and entering high school really old,” she said. “They have no chance of graduating by 18, and so there’s no way they are going to stay in school.”

Students may be required to attend summer school for scoring below the 24th percentile in reading and math, earning D’s or F’s in reading and math or having more than nine unexcused absences. Those who fail summer school must repeat the grade.

Retaining students cost up to $100 million in 2008, PURE estimates. The group wants students who are falling behind to get help before third grade. Nobody objects to that, but it leaves the problem of what to do about students who aren’t prepared to move on to the next level.

Study: Bonuses boost retention, scores

More teachers stayed on the job and students’ scores improved modestly at Texas schools that offered performance pay, reports a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Missouri and Rand Corp. Bigger bonuses — $3,000 and up — produced better results, “although a majority of districts chose to spread the money around to more teachers and give smaller payments,” notes the Dallas News.

The study cautioned, though, that achievement gains shown by merit pay schools were small and could have resulted in part from other initiatives at those schools. Student test scores are a primary factor in determining bonuses, a criterion that many teachers oppose.

The merit-pay plan strongly affected teacher retention:  “The probability of turnover surged among teachers who did not receive a DATE award, while it fell sharply among teachers who did receive such an award,” the researchers said.

Repeat performance

Social promotion is less common at high-performing charter schools, writes Sarah Garland in The American Prospect.

In keeping with their focus on rigorous academics and accountability, many charter schools have adopted strict “retention” policies requiring struggling students to repeat a grade when they don’t meet expectations, sometimes even if they’re just a point shy of passing.

. . . Charter-school advocates say this allows them to help students who are far below grade level to catch up. It may also give charters an edge over regular public schools on test scores.

Students who are held back rarely catch up, according to education research.  Often they repeat the classroom experience that didn’t work the first time. Charter leaders say they provide extra help to enable students to succeed.

Charter students facing retention sometimes return to district-run schools that will place them in the next grade.

Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University researcher who studies charter schools, says the retention policies of charter schools may sound good, but they “could be a mechanism to have the weaker kids go back to traditional public schools.”

But (Stanford researcher Margaret) Raymond says her studies have found that students who leave a school rather than be retained are less likely to be minorities or on free or reduced-price lunch, suggesting that it’s the more affluent parents who worry about the stigma of repeating a grade.

In my book, Our School, I write about a San Jose charter high school’s struggle to prepare students — most from low-income and working-class Mexican immigrant families — for college success. Because of social promotion in their K-8 years, Downtown College Prep students start ninth grade with fifth- or sixth-grade reading, writing and math skills, on average. They need time to learn the skills and work habits that will let them do college-prep work and go on to earn a college degree. Pushing everyone through in four years is a guarantee of failure.

Via HechingerEd.