Eduimplications!

A couple of education implications from yesterday’s primaries.  In Baltimore Bill Ferguson (D) won, keep an eye on that.   In Delaware two outcomes from the Christine O’Donnell upset in Delaware.  First, Rep. Mike Castle (R) was a pretty consistent champion of education in the House of Representatives, especially education research.   His voice on that will be missed.   Second, the understory is that New Castle County executive Chris Coons, the Democratic nominee for Senate that O’Donnell will face in November, is a very solid public servant and thoughtful on education.  I’ve known him a while.  He’s a centrist and will be a voice for common-sense education reform in the Senate – where he seems pretty likely headed.

In D.C. where the incumbent mayor lost to the city council chair,  I’ll write more later but a couple of short points:

It’s Rhee!  It’s Rhee!  It’s a referendum on Rhee! As Sara Mead has noted, it’s useful to actually read the polls.  In fact, while Michelle Rhee was an issue in the election it was more as part of the overall criticism of Fenty and the zeitgeist of the election than a deciding factor.   When voters were specifically asked about Rhee only one in three said she was crucial to their vote – one way or the other – and parents of kids in the schools were actually more likely to support Mayor Adrian Fenty than now-Mayor-elect Vincent Gray.  In any event, much as people in education like to think so, elections rarely turn exclusively on education.

Vince Gray, leader for the ages? When the incoming mayor says, “Let me say this to those who say you can’t have both collaboration and reform, that they are mutually exclusive,” he said. “I say, ‘You are wrong!’ … Make no mistake, school reform will move forward in a Gray administration.”  As one of those, I’ll say that you surely and sincerely have to hope he’s right but on urban education reform he’s swimming against the tide of history (and in this case a teachers’ union wanting some payback for its support, too!).

Still, this will have some impact on reform in the city and reform nationally.   Probably not the gloom and doom stuff you’re hearing from some folks this morning, but (facts of the election aside) it’s going to matter.   More later.

*This post was slightly updated from the original for style about 20 mins after being posted, none of the points were changed.

18 Responses to “Eduimplications!”

  1. KN Says:

    “When voters were specifically asked about Rhee only one in three said she was crucial to their vote.”

    “Only” one in three? That’s an astonishing number given the plethora of issues in any election that might grab voter’s attention. And if you actually follow Andy’s link, an additional 20% who were polled said Rhee was “very important” to their voting decision. Doing the basic math, that’s 53% who said Rhee was either “crucial” or “very important” to their vote. Again, that’s an astonishing percentage.

    Please name another mayoral primary or election where a superintendent’s record mattered to that many voters. Heck, name me a city where one in three voters could name the superintendent.

    As for parents of kids currently in DCPS supporting Fenty over Gray, a) there’s most certainly a sample size problem when you look at cross-tabs like that, and b) voters without kids supported Fenty over Gray – what’s your interpretation of that finding?

    Please stop spinning and admit that Rhee was a lightning rod that influenced a lot of people’s votes in DC.

  2. Guy Says:

    You might make the effort to examine the survey’s sample of parents — which is easy to do online — before jumping to conclusions. First, it consists of only about 64 interviews (8% of respondents). More importantly, only 42% are Black, about half the true proportion of DCPS parents, while whites (43%) and Asians (6%) are both massively overrepresented. It’s also noteworthy that 85% of parents surveyed had attended college, including 74% with a 4-year college degree, much more highly-educated than the reality. This poll cannot provide an accurate assessment of DCPS parent attitudes. And given that Gray lead Fenty by 50 points among Blacks overall in the survey, it is exceedingly unlikely that a majority of DCPS parents in fact voted for Fenty.

  3. Gov Gal Says:

    Guy, where did you find that breakdown?

    The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, which surveyed 802 registered Democrats from Aug. 30–Sept. 1. The margin of error is plus/minus 3.5 percent. We called registered voters, because we wanted to capture more new D.C. residents; mayoral elections tend to have low turnout, so screening for likely voters could have narrowed the scope.

  4. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Yes, I agree that the election in DC will have an impact on the educational reform movement in the city and nationally. For one thing, people have been reminded that nothing can be done by bashing the electorate. This is still the United States. Secondly, there is a growing awareness that we must heed research in determining the type of improvements that will best help all children. This is what I predict we’ll see in DC and other cities across the nation:

    More of a recognition of the critical importance of parents, with an increased emphasis on parent education;

    An acknowledgement of the importance of the first five years of life with an emphasis on high-quality preschools;

    Careful scrutiny of tax dollars, especially after so much fraud has been detected in for-profit colleges. Hopefully, K-12 fraud will be prevented by careful oversight of money in charter schools managed by “corporate interests.” (Lord help us.)

    Recognition that teachers provide direct services to schoolchildren and so nothing can be accomplished without their cooperation. This will lead to collaboration with educators.

    An immediate cessation of the shameful practice of placing the least prepared teachers in the most challenging schools.

    The development of a fully professional teaching force. In my opinion, this is the only way to attract and retain talented people to the profession.

    Recognition that bashing and scapegoating teachers will not help people get elected or reelected.

    And so forth. It’s time for authentic educational reform in the USA. Let’s say good-bye to the status quo! Teachers and parents can make it happen!

  5. john thompson Says:

    You can’t have real reform without collaboration.

  6. Guy Says:

    GovGal: Just follow link to survey site, and crosstabulate relationship to DCPS with education, race, etc. It’s all right there.

  7. da professor Says:

    i’d focus more on the Washington Post’s ongoing survey of DC residents for a couple of reasons 1) the N is higher (1000), and 2) the survey is a time series that asks the same questions over time so we can look at how the Rhee/Fenty education issues have played out over the past two years. What places like WaPo and Public Policy Polling need to do is RELEASE THE DATA – the micro data that is so that academics can run some meaningful analysis that controls for confounding variables. So if anyone is reading this – GovGal do you have any power? How can we get this micro-data out into the hands of the research community. Case studies of a single election or a single political event in a city are usually not that illuminating for building broader theory, but I think this DC case is an exception. It would be great to be able to analyze voters’ feelings toward the respective candidates and toward Rhee by looking at the individual level factors (e.g. having kids, where in DC the person lives, etc. etc)… to develop some sort of understanding regarding how the public digests education reform as an issue.

    For example, does the conventional wisdom hold that Black voters turned on Rhee because she took away jobs from Middle class Blacks? Or do Black voters really dislike the actual policies she has implemented? We can’t know this from cross tabs!

  8. Jason P Says:

    Reform and collaboration can work hand-in-hand — but certainly have not so far. Whether perfect or not, Rhee did a good job of advancing the conversation and getting the status quo to think in more solution oriented ways.

    I’d like to hear more from classroom teachers directly about what policies can make an impact. One place for teachers to give straight-from-the-classroom ideas for policymakers is http://www.vivateachers.org. They’ve got a 3 week forum collecting ideas that wil be presented to policymakers. We need more unvarnished teacher ideas to reach legislators.

  9. Joan Devlin Says:

    New Haven is an excellent example of working together to reach agreement on sound education reforms. Neogitated last summer, the contract contains committees that worked over a period of months to develop a teacher evaluation system that uses a metric that includes student learning-not just on the state test, though in tested grades that is ONE component-but on multiple measure for all staff. IMPACT, as complicated as it is, simply uses one test that affects 17% of the teachers in the system.
    Pay for performance, creating in-district charter schools and providing easier ways for schools to modify learining conditions to meet the needs of the students. Not a broom was wielded and the mayor was obverwhelmingly reelected. Now that is a lesson.

  10. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Jason P.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll be happy to share my ideas. Once teachers are involved in reform, we’ll begin to see some changes for the benefit of all children.

  11. Chris Smyr Says:

    KN:

    I think you’re missing the point. If 1 in 3 residents found Rhee’s performance crucial in their vote, that of course means a third of the votes cast were related to her performance, whereas two-thirds were not as related. This vote wasn’t a referendum on Rhee, as I think was Andy’s point; it was a referendum on Fenty.

    (Granted, it’s hard to see much of a difference between soft terms like “crucial” and “very important” in the poll, but the latter group likely voted with other factors on their mind to impact their choice, as well.)

    Linda/RetiredTeacher:

    “For one thing, people have been reminded that nothing can be done by bashing the electorate.”

    What are you referring to here? What does “bashing the electorate”
    look like?

    “Recognition that teachers provide direct services to schoolchildren and so nothing can be accomplished without their cooperation. This will lead to collaboration with educators.”

    Rhee reached an agreement with unions related to teacher contracts. What further collaboration would you like? And I don’t think it’s research-proven that “nothing can be accomplished without [teacher] cooperation”, unless you’re defining cooperation in a different way than you’re implying. This just sounds like your bias, again.

    “An immediate cessation of the shameful practice of placing the least prepared teachers in the most challenging schools.”

    Since preparation isn’t necessarily correlated with student achievement, I think placing the teachers most likely to get the best results in student achievement would be the better, more research-proven thing to do.

    “The development of a fully professional teaching force. In my opinion, this is the only way to attract and retain talented people to the profession.”

    Under Rhee, teachers received a pay increase if they did their job well, or got terminated if they didn’t. Hard to see what’s not professional about that.

  12. Billy Bob Says:

    “Since preparation isn’t necessarily correlated with student achievement, I think placing the teachers most likely to get the best results in student achievement would be the better, more research-proven thing to do.”

    Actually, there is pretty good evidence at the secondary level that teachers from more selective undergraduate institutions elicit greater gains in achievement. More experienced teachers tend to do so as well. Further, fully certified teachers assigned to teach a class that matches their certificate are more effective as well. Most research also finds teacher verbal ability to be correlated with student achievement.

    Unfortunately, most of the sorting of teachers occurs in the initial placement of teachers–not through mobility of teachers between schools. And research is extremely clear on this point–poor/minority and low-performing schools tend to get the bottom of the barrel from preparation programs. If the problem is initial distribution, then value-added scores won;t help you at all because the newly hired teachers have no value-added scores. They haven;t taught yet. We could try more TFA teachers, but the overall effect on achievement is a wash because the attrition rate is so high for TFA teachers(see Loeb, Lankford, Wyckoff study of NYC teachers).

    “Under Rhee, teachers received a pay increase if they did their job well, or got terminated if they didn’t. Hard to see what’s not professional about that.” Thats because you assume the Rhee evaluation system is fair and accurate. But, as usual, you would be mistaken. Because the determination of whether or not they did their job well was not understood by teachers and teachers intuitively knew that such value-added assessments are inherently inaccurate. And, in fact, teachers were correct. Even under the best of circumstances value-added assessments are incorrect 1out of every 6 times. Do you really think Rhee, Fenty, Rotherham, Haycock, Walsh, et al would subject themselves to an evaluation system that had that high of an error rate? Not a chance.

  13. Billy Bob Says:

    “What are you referring to here? What does ‘bashing the electorate’
    look like?”

    It looks like this:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/dc-schools/a-chilling-premiere-of.html#more

    Evidently Rhee and her crowd believe that they know better than parents about how to best educate their kids. This type of hubris is what ended Fenty’s and Rhee’s reign. Ayone who has read the history of education reform–from Ravitch to Tyack and to Cuban–knows, its that you can’t do reform TO other people, you have to do it WITH other people. This is the problem of having people running around doing education reform who have not made themselves knowledgeable about the filed and the history of the field.

  14. Chris Smyr Says:

    Billy Bob:

    Are you entering another discussion that you will later not want to finish?

    1) Linda proposed the rule, ‘only the best prepared teachers should be placed into the most challenging schools’. She is inferring that evidence of teacher preparation is the key factor to finding the best teachers, but there are many exceptions to that rule. TFA (and related alternative credentialing programs) is one. Graduates from more selective universities is another. I’m suggesting that she not narrow her focus on one sometimes misleading attribute in the edu-world that she envisions.

    2) The “Rhee evaluation system”, commonly referred to by its actual name (IMPACT), uses value-added scores for 50% of its metric to evaluate teachers. The other 50% comprises teacher evaluations and school-level data. Going by your numbers, every 1 teacher out of 6 that receives a dampened value-added score through no fault of his own will also have his other evaluation data to fall back on. Feel free to again forget this by the time you post again.

    3) “Bashing the electorate” looks like this(??):

    “Let me not mince words, and say that yesterday’s election results were devastating – devastating. Not for me, because I’ll be fine. And not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, too. It was devastating for the children of Washington, D.C.”

    All the mud that gets flung on this blog about anything to do with reform or Rhee, and *this* is what’s getting your panties in a twist? Criticizing the votes that she disagrees with? Not once did she impugn any of the voters that voted for Gray, nor did she accuse anyone of villainy. She’s instead rightfully worried that this election will slow reform in DCPS. Here’s some added context to what she said that further clarifies:

    “I would say that the biggest tragedy that could come from yesterday’s [Tuesday's] election results is if the lesson people take from this is that we should pull back. That is not the lesson,” Rhee said. “That is not doing right by what Adrian Fenty has put into this effort for the last three and half years, that is not the right lesson for this reform movement. We cannot retreat now. If anything, what the reform community needs to take out of yesterday’s election is now is the time to lean forward and be more aggressive and more adamant.”

  15. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    I was not referring to “better prepared” teachers. I strongly believe that only fully qualified, experienced teachers with proven track records of success should be placed in the most challenging schools. If such a school is forced by necessity to hire an inexperienced teacher, that person should be paired with a successful veteran until he or she is able to demonstrate competency.

    Let’s stop the shameful practice of placing the least experienced teachers in the neediest schools. Nothing has hurt poor children more than this practice, which started in the early 1960s and continues to this day. BTW, this terribly harmful practice has been
    perpetuated by administration and not teacher unions.

  16. Chris Smyr Says:

    Linda/RetiredTeacher:

    You specifically referred to “better prepared” teachers, actually. Nevertheless, my point stands then as it still stands now after your clarification: experience isn’t always an attribute of a good teacher. Even a track record of good teaching in better-performing schools isn’t necessarily an indicator that such a teacher would be good in a low-performing school; I argued this in another thread a while back (http://www.eduwonk.com/2010/07/teach-for-america-and-the-problem-of-study-laundering.html#comment-208357 ).

    And I think what hurts students more is, after finding out which teachers are bad teachers (even those with experience can fall into this category), continually reassuring them that they are still heroes for trying and that they should be given chance after chance to improve. IMPACT and similar evaluation models are likely and ironically not a part of this “authentic reform” you are envisioning, as they would greatly help in doing this.

  17. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Well, I made a mistake if I said “better prepared” because I meant teachers with a PROVEN track record of success. By this I mean teachers who have been deemed effective through various means (objective and subjective). Districts should send representatives to observe these teachers in the classroom. I am NOT talking about mere experience or preparation. I am talking about performance. Let’s get these high-performing teachers into our neediest schools.

    IMPACT, in my opinion, is not rigorous enough. We can do better.

  18. Chris Smyr Says:

    Linda:

    Again, please reread and respond:

    “Even a track record of good teaching in better-performing schools isn’t necessarily an indicator that such a teacher would be good in a low-performing school; I argued this in another thread a while back (http://www.eduwonk.com/2010/07/teach-for-america-and-the-problem-of-study-laundering.html#comment-208357 ).”

    I know there’s a lot of ideals we can strive for, but if you’re going to make edu-wishes, at least make them good.

    “IMPACT, in my opinion, is not rigorous enough. We can do better.”

    This surprised me. How so? Wouldn’t you admit it’s the step in the right direction toward the professionalism you’re advocating?

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