GOP-only No Child rewrite passes House

House Republicans have passed a No Child Left Behind revision called the Student Success Act — with no Democratic support, reports Education Week.  Schools would have to test students and report scores by subgroups, such as English Learners, special education students and low-income students. However, “states and school districts would get a lot more say on how they hold schools accountable” for students’ progress.

That has advocates for some school districts (including the American Association of School Administrators) pretty happy. But civil rights organizations, the business community, and urban districts are not on board. More on what’s in the bill and who likes and hates the bill here.

The Student Success Act no longer requires school districts to use student outcomes to measure teacher effectiveness. Now it’s optional.

The bill “walks away from low-income students and students of color and threatens to wipe away 40 years of educational progress,” charges Education Trust.

Bipartisan compromise is very unlikely. The likelihood of reauthorization before 2015 is roughly 2 to 3 percent, estimates Rick Hess.

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s “completely partisan and very different” NCLB rewrite passed the Senate Education Committee with no Republican support, notes Ed Week.  Furthermore, “it’s unclear if the Obama administration, which has its own waiver plan, even wants a reauthorization.”

Judge teachers on performance, not ‘bar exam’

Teacher Bar Exams Would Be a Huge Mistake, argue Jason Richwine and Lindsey M. Burke in The Atlantic. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) called for a rigorous exam for would-be teachers — like those for fledgling lawyers or doctors — in Raising the Bar.

Barriers to entry will discourage smart people from entering teaching as a first or second career, they write.

 High-ability college students must sacrifice time spent studying math and science in order to take required education courses and bone up on the latest trends in pedagogy.

Furthermore, test scores don’t predict teacher effectiveness. Neither does level of education, licensure or experience beyond the first few years of teaching.

Even raw intellectual ability as measured by IQ tests has only a small positive effect on how much knowledge teachers are able to impart to their students.

Clearly teachers need to be intelligent and knowledgeable, but effective teaching requires a rare blend of patience, empathy, articulation, and motivation — qualities that cannot be easily measured on a bar exam or other standardized test.

. . . a bar exam is not any more likely to put effective teachers in the classroom than existing certification tests are. This is especially true if the bar exam covers faddish pedagogical theories that often lack a scholarly foundation.

Richwine and Burke suggest the opposite approach: Let any plausible candidate try teaching, but be much, much pickier about who stays in the classroom.  ”Teachers who show strong performance — as measured by student tests and principal evaluations — should quickly move up the pay scale,” they write. Poor performers should be let go.

Economists Douglas O. Staiger and Jonah Rockoff simulated this system, they write. “In their view, only the top 20 percent or so who performed best during their tryout period should be kept on.”

I wonder who gets the try-out teachers?

Alfie Kohn’s message: Half-crazy, half-true

Alfie Kohn’s arguments are “half-crazy and half-true,” argues Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

Like most demagogues, Kohn knows how to tap into his audience’s raw emotions—anger, feelings of powerlessness, and resentment of a ruling elite. In his case, he puts voice to what many educators already believe: That school reform is a corporate plot to turn young people into docile employees; that an obsession with standardized testing is crowding out any real intellectual engagement in our schools; and that teachers have no say over what happens inside their own classrooms.

Kohn is right about “mindless, soul-killing” schools, writes Petrilli, who concedes test-based accountability has narrowed the curriculum at many inner-city schools. But Kohn is wrong in calling for Dewey-style progressivism, Petrilli writes.

What Kohn refuses to wrestle with is the argument—made by Core Knowledge creator E.D. Hirsch Jr., among others—that progressive education might work well for children of the affluent but tends to be disastrous for children of the poor.

Democratic decision-making, self-directed studies, internal motivation, and the like are wonderful aspirations. But when it comes to lifting children out of poverty, heavy doses of basic skills, rich content, and clear expectations have been proven time and again to be more effective.

The modern school reform movement is is fueled by “outrage at the nation’s lack of social mobility,” Petrilli writes. “Backing away from accountability, teacher effectiveness, and academic ‘rigor’ would likely create an even bleaker future for children growing up in poverty—children for whom school matters most.”

 

 

It’s no surprise high- and low-rated teachers are all around

Top-rated teachers can be found in all sorts of schools from “the poorest corners of the Bronx” to “wealthy swaths of Manhattan,”  reported the New York Times when value-added data reports were released.

The teacher effectiveness gap is a myth, concluded Mike Petrilli.

It’s no surprise, responds Gotham Schools. Value-added measurements . . . control for differences in neighborhood, student makeup, and students’ past performance.

The adjustments mean that teachers are effectively ranked relative to other teachers of similar students. Teachers who teach similar students, then, are guaranteed to have a full range of scores, from high to low. And, unsurprisingly, teachers in the same school or neighborhood often teach similar students.

“I chuckled when I saw the first [Times story], since the headline pretty much has to be true: Effective and ineffective teachers will be found in all types of schools, given the way these measures are constructed,” said Sean Corcoran, a New York University economist who has studied the city’s Teacher Data Reports.

The ratings “cannot compare” teachers who work with different kinds of students in different kinds of schools, concludes Gotham Schools, citing Douglas Staiger, a Dartmouth College economist.

Gotham’s story makes his post “basically moot,” Petrilli writes. However, he also linked to a working paper showing value-added differences between teachers in high-poverty and low-poverty schools aren’t large.

High-poverty, high-minority schools usually employ more new teachers, who are learning on the job, and fewer math, physics and chemistry teachers who studied their subject in college.  And these schools’ students don’t have parents who can teach them at home or hire tutors if they fall behind.  They rely heavily on their classroom teachers.