Friday, June 11, 2004
All Teach For America
All Most of the Time...
On Monday (6/14) at 2 PM, PPI will hold a forum to discuss the new evaluation of Teach For America. A not-to-be-missed opportunity to grind your axe on this issue. Paul Decker of Mathematica will discuss the study itself and (a) David Imig, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (b) Abigail Smith of Teach For America and (c) Kevin Carey of the Education Trust will react and and discuss policy implications. This event is about at capacity (must be the awesome cookies that will be served, couldn't be the diversity of viewpoints represented...) but we'll find room for everyone. RSVP to education AT dlcppi.org ASAP. PPI's offices are at 600 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, by Eastern Market in Washington, DC.
The Southeast Center for Teaching Quality reviews the new TFA report. They don't like it. SCTQ rightly notes the overall teacher quality problem in urban communities but criticizes the lack of certification for many teachers in the study. They don't note, however, that certified teachers didn't come off as such great shakes in this study or many others.
Eduwonk Cliffs Notes on the TFA study and more information about it here.
Must read Karin Chenoweth column on reading instruction in The Washington Post.
New Mathematica study on free/reduced price school lunch eligibility. The punchline? Fraud not rampant. Incidentally, program integrity obviously matters but generally in practice, when in doubt, school officials give a poor kid a free lunch (often the best meal they see all day). Is that really so bad?
Still can't get enough Reagan? The Fordham Foundation has links to commentary on Reagan and education and links to speeches. More Gipper here.
Too late and too far away to help Rod Paige, but in Bolivia the teachers' union really are terrorists... (in Spanish only, sorry)
The Washington Post reports that fewer students than expected qualified for vouchers. Couple of implications. First, as the article shows, more headache inducing back and forth between voucher zealots and foes. Second, some students already attending private schools will be able to participate.* Third, voucher proponents are able to dodge the research bullet for at least another year because there are not enough students to do a proper experiment. Fourth, more evidence that the market doesn't work as cleanly and crisply in low-income communities as voucher proponents think. That will be ignored, of course, in future program design. *Eduwonk, though no fan of the program overall, is nonetheless not really troubled by this issue because almost anyone working professionally in Washington knows poor parents working multiple jobs or struggling to make ends meet to afford a private school. All program participants are poor, affluent parents are not being subsidized. In terms of making public education work for all children in Washington there are bigger fish to fry than that.
The New York Sun editorializes about a charter school that is being closed for low-performance but seems to have started to hit its stride (at the elementary level its 8th grade scores are still poor and the school apparently has some management/fiscal problems) and outpace other NYC schools with the latest round of test scores. Interesting debate, though The Sun goes way astray criticizing "political conservatives who mistakenly put "accountability" ahead of choice"...Eduwonk wishes there were more such conservatives. If New York officials reconsider, let's hope they'll be tough and extremely conditional in any action, recent action in NY, MI and elsewhere show that the charter strategy of governance works with resolute authorizers.
Amato looks to be coming out on top in New Orleans...
In Philly, a push to end seniority based teacher placements and move toward site-based hiring which the teachers’ union there says could lead to, "racism, anti-Semitism, nepotism... and discrimination"...oh my! Hyperbole anyone?
The CSM looks at teachers and free speech.
More USA Today on E-Rate here. Not so flattering. Still, mend it don't end it.
Irony Alert: Labor unrest among NEA employees. Via School News Monitor
Writing about MCAS gains in the Boston Phoenix David Bernstein says not so fast. And, patron saint of fiscal inequities Jonathan Kozol doesn't like neighborhood schools. Both via Educationnews.org
Reuters reports on a new study on international domestic labor.
Finally, watch this lawsuit.
Although he really was not very involved in education, Reagan fever is gripping conservative education types, too, this week. In the past few days both Chester Finn and Jeanne Allen both have written about Reagan’s educational impact. Both credit Reagan with launching the current wave of school reform, though Allen also argues that he was the first national education reformer. Hmmm...in the 20th Century alone Lyndon Johnson, Albert Shanker, Thurgood Marshall, John Dewey, and even Admiral Rickover immediately spring to mind ahead of Reagan. And, incidentally, school choice at the federal level, that perennial conservative favorite, actually got further under Nixon than Reagan...it was sort of a liberal favorite back then...
Finn's subtler point -- that Reagan wasn't much of an education reformer but paradoxically became the first "education president" because of the impact of Nation at Risk -- seems about right, though again LBJ looms large. Nation was pivotal, and the report framed education reform policywise and politically for years to come. This, of course, is ironic on a couple of levels, most notably because it makes education another example of a big government legacy for the ostensibly small government Gipper.
Tom Toch notes in In the Name of Excellence that Reagan was pretty disengaged on education, and Nation received (limited) presidential attention only after Michael Deaver saw some Nation reforms gaining traction and sensed political opportunity. Because it did not advocate tuition tax credits, vouchers, or school prayer most White House players like Ed Meese (who famously characterized the Department of Education as a "bureaucratic joke") wanted little to do with Nation. Reagan biographer Lou Cannon describes education as a "back-burner issue" in his seminal biography of the president.
Eduwonk thinks Reagan, a gifted politician who knew how to spin a tale, change with the times, and leave a crowd wanting more, would be happier with a causal revisionist version than the more ambiguous reality that he inadvertently set in motion something powerful that may end up as a major affront to his brand of conservatism. Though most liberals haven't caught on yet, there is a reason most conservatives hate No Child Left Behind...
Update: An alert reader notes that the list of 20th Century national education reformers left out some likely candidates. Sure it did, including a slew of early commissions. Said reader makes a plug for Eisenhower and Roosevelt (math and science education, desegregation, and the G.I. Bill), writing that the G.I. Bill,
Fundamentally reformed higher education and the expectation of Americans by opening up higher ed to all segments of Americans and not just the elite few. It has had a major lasting impact on the country. Majority of these students were first generation college students, and their experiences impacted their children and grandchildren as well as generations of citizens who served the country.
Just furthers the point.
Turns out that lefty darling and pseudo-public intellectual Michael Moore is basically a school choice supporter. Here's what he told The Observer (U.K.):
I ask him why he decided to send his daughter to a private school in Manhattan.
'Oh,' he says brightly, 'I went to private school. Just a genetic decision. My wife and I, we both went to Catholic schools, we're not public-school [which in the US means state school] people.
So it's not important.
'No, I think it's important and the first five years she went to public school, then we moved to New York and we went to see the local public school and we walked through a metal detector and we said, "We're not putting our child through a metal detector." We'll continue our fight to see to it that our society is such that you don't have to have a metal detector at the entrance to schools. But our daughter is not the one to be sacrificed to make things better. And so she went to a school two blocks away. She just went to the nearest other school.'
He makes it sound as if the other school was just a random choice, but private schools on the Upper West Side are all restrictively expensive, and mostly white, just as the state schools are disproportionately black.
'Is that a bad thing?' he asks rhetorically of his decision, 'I don't know. Every parent wants to do what's best for their child. Whatever I can afford, I'm going to get my kid the best education I can get.'
I suggest that, while that may be a natural instinct, it's hard to see why it's any different from the Republican philosophy of each man for himself and his family.
Via Brian's Education Blog.
The NYT editorial page weighs in on the school finance dispute there writing, "the old formula is doomed, and the only real question is whether the legislators will have the courage to change it themselves rather than letting the court do it."
Some ink on the new TFA study from Louisiana.
Say what you want about NCLB, articles like this mean the notion of looking out for disadvantaged kids is becoming internalized.
Looks like Washington State's charter law will be on hold pending a ballot referendum. This is very bad news for charter supporters because the referendum will not turn on educational issues but instead on misplaced concerns about where funding for charters will come from, a tough fight for charters to win...more here. The Seattle PI editorial board says, "Under the state constitution, citizens have every right to turn to direct democracy. But this referendum fits a growing pattern of excessive reliance on what should be a last resort against government inaction, inattention or favoritism for special interests."
In this case, the Legislature acted to offer the state a limited experiment with the potential to spread more creative methods of education. First, though, lawmakers listened to everyone (including the teachers union now fighting the law), learned from experiences in other states and put in limits on new charter schools.
That good work may get boiled down to a simplistic yes or no question on the November ballot. Too bad.
Possibly good charter news from Orlando.
Adequacy talk in Michigan too. And in Arkansas Rick "Razorback" Hanushek is in the middle of the accountability debate down there. Via Educationnews.
NYT's Schemo writes up a new report from Achieve calling for raising standards in high school...critics says that Achieve's reports always say this...they do! But that's (a) not much of a substantive criticism and (b) basically the point of the organization! Amateur Kremlin watchers and Atkins fans take note, Lisa Graham Keegan offers some sensible cautions and no red meat! Is this a new, moderate, high-carb ELC?
Carl Cohn, an accomplished school superintendent says he wants the job in Washington, D.C. Easy cheap laugh: Isn't that a potentially disqualifying indication about judgment?
Sarah Jessica Parker is no Michael Moore...thankfully in a lot of ways but in this case meaning she supports the New York Public Schools...But Moore gets a boost from the Daily News where columnist Richard Schwartz says it's the smart rich kids getting screwed...yes it's downright Dickensian for affluent kids in NYC...
USA Today's Toppo looks at the E-Rate...His verdict? Troubled but good on balance.
Richard Slade says National Security Advisor Condi Rice hates music teachers...someone call these folks...
More on Alum Rock. The San Jose Mercury News editorial board credits the superintendent for much of the progress and though they don't come right out and say it, it looks like one of his key attributes is an inability to suffer fools gracefully...they don't teach that in ed school...in fact success there requires the opposite skill set, no?
On National Review Online Vincent Phillip Muñoz takes a look at the judicial box the Supreme Court is in on the Newdow case.
In Newsday Joe Dolan credits the UFT and AFT for moving on differential pay.
Eduwonk's Cliffs Notes to the New Teach For America Evaluation
Today Mathematica Policy Research is releasing a new study on the effectiveness of Teach For America (TFA). TFA places exceptional recent college graduates in teaching positions in underserved communities. This is the third such major study done.*
Here is the punchline: The study -- examining TFA teachers in six regions (Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Delta region) used random assignment to gather data from 17 schools, 100 classrooms, and about 2000 students -- found that TFA teachers were as effective as the general population of teachers in these districts in teaching reading and more effective in teaching math. Make no mistake, TFA teachers are not outpacing all other teachers by leaps and bounds, yet this study confirms that there is not a downside (and probably an upside) to hiring TFA teachers in the present context of these communities.
Paul Decker, the lead researcher, put it this way, "TFA teachers not only had more success than other novice teachers but they had more success than teachers with an average of six years of experience in the classroom"
You'll hear the following objections:
It was a weak control group because it included some uncertified teachers. Yes, but it was not an abstract control group, it was the actual pool of teachers teaching in these communities right now. Grumbling about the overall quality of the pool does not change the reality for kids there right now. And, TFA is offering as good, or better.
This just shows that we need to get serious about getting certified teachers into these communities. It shows we need to get serious about dealing with teacher equity because poor and minority students are getting shortchanged. But, because TFA teachers are as effective, or more so, than the average teacher in these communities right now, they are making a vital contribution to this effort right now, not down the road in some idealized environment. And remember, certified does not equal qualified. It's worth noting that the study did not find that certified teachers outperformed the TFA teachers. Actually, though the subgroup samples are too small, it indicates the opposite for math and no difference for reading.
Teach for America teachers just teach for two years and then leave. Yes, many do, but many stay on teaching as well and 60 percent stay involved in education professionally. Besides, turnover for all teachers in these communities is high, it's demanding work. It's worth noting also that organizations like New Leaders for New Schools, New Schools Venture Fund, the Broad Foundation, and KIPP (which was founded by two TFA alums) are populated with former TFA'ers, that's impact. In any event, no one castigates the Peace Corps because volunteers don't live abroad permanently or other service opportunities that involve a limited time commitment.
What this study should do is shift the burden off of Teach for America to prove why TFA'ers should teach and onto critics of TFA to show, because they're as good or better, why they shouldn't. It should also spark a renewed debate about how we train and license teachers because it's frankly not a ringing endorsement of the status quo that kids just out of college with a five week crash course turn in results like this. Just think about the results from a system that gave schools more flexibility about hiring, encouraged mentoring and support for new teachers, and included rigorous preparation...
Straw Man Alert: It's also worth pointing out that TFA has never claimed to be a replacement for larger efforts to improve teacher preparation, that's a mantle foisted on it by critics. Instead, it's an effort to get disadvantaged kids good teachers now.
Turn the Knife Alert: Hopefully, some reporter will point out that while education schools fight accountability and reporting tooth and nail, TFA invites evaluation and is refreshingly transparent about their results. That, along with what's proving to be a pretty good model for evaluating candidate potential and their emphasis on cohort support for new teachers are a few things that could be extrapolated to the larger policy debate...
*The other two studies...this one, (PDF) by CREDO, has the same limitations as this one in terms of the control group. But it found pretty similar results. The other, by researchers at Arizona State castigated TFA but be sure to read this quick, concise, and independent (PDF) review of it too, it's got some pretty serious methodological flaws (read it's a hack attack).
In the too often missing spirit of balance and debate, there was a critical review of the CREDO study on the National Commission for Teaching and America's Future website that Eduwonk would post, but in a Kremlin-like airbrushing it seems to be gone. If any readers or comrades have a link, please send it along. Без перевода
Event: The 21st Century Schools Project had planned to host a forum on this study Friday featuring its lead author, Mathematica's Paul Decker, Gary Galluzzo the former Dean of the Ed School at George Mason University, and Wendy Kopp, the founder of TFA. Because of President Reagan's funeral on Friday the forum has been moved to Monday at 2PM at PPI's offices.
Monday's event will feature a presentation by Paul Decker of Mathematica about the study itself and reaction and discussion about policy implications from (a) David Imig, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (b) Abigail Smith of Teach For America and (c) Kevin Carey of the Education Trust. It's filling up fast so RSVP now to education AT dlcppi.org.
Update: They like 'em in LA...
In Education Week, Alfred A. Lindseth, a school finance attorney, writes about adequacy litigation. He gives away the game early when he qualifies his criticism of finance litigation by saying:
This is not to say that money well spent in the future could not have a more positive effect. However, it seems painfully obvious that fundamental changes will have to be made in the way education dollars are spent if we are to expect significant improvement in student achievement.
That's very true, as are Lindseth's cautions about finance litigation (except the local control bit, that ship sailed a while ago) but none of those concerns nor the plainly self-evident statement above obviates the fact that some states have finance systems that chronically shortchange poor communities. One can agree that we need changes in how money is spent but still argue that, even with those changes, some communities would be hamstrung by finance systems dependent on localized property wealth for school funding.
By the way, Lindseth is concerned about judges making education policy decisions, not a groundless concern. But the same reason that state legislatures generally must be forced by the courts to address school finance problems is the same reason they're reluctant to pass school improvements with bite -- they dislike and avoid tough decisions.
Don't miss this must-read Education Week article on No Child Left Behind by Jeff Archer. Billed as a "Postcard From Independence, MO.," it's really more of a letter. Still, one well worth reading. Archer takes a sober look at the good and bad of NCLB. He notes that:
"What is clear is that the law has focused new attention on those students most at risk of academic failure. It also has added urgency to the district’s efforts to better align instruction with Missouri’s standards."
But also that, "At the same time, there’s a sense among many here that the law is unfair. Its high expectations came just as the district swallowed state budget cuts that reduced staff planning time and increased student-teacher ratios."
Also worth reading is this provocative guest-written Jay Mathews column.
If you don't subscribe, the newest issue of PPI's 21st Century Schools Project Bulletin is here or you can subscribe here.
Back and forth about the MCAS in Massachusetts. The state is making real progress but now there are calls to raise the standards more...just because 96 percent of the kids pass, some after multiple tries, doesn't mean the standards are weak.
In the New York Post Diane Ravitch takes Klein - Bloomberg to task over test scores in the city and instruction. Her punchline: New Yorkers have learned an important lesson about the Department of Education this past week: Don't believe its press releases. Ouch.
In The New York Times Samuel G. Freedman offers a poignant tale, you just have to read it. Also in The Times, Stephen Kinzer looks at a theater-based history lesson.
From Michigan, more evidence that charter schooling works. A charter authorizer there is shutting down a troubled school. But bad news for charter schools in Buffalo.
The Washington Times continues to follow the residency verification effort in Montgomery County where officials are trying to assure parents that they will not be reported to the authorities if they're undocumented (only put out of the schools if they don't actually live in Montgomery County...how reassuring that must be).
In San Jose, Mayor Ron Gonzales recognized several schools in Alum Rock for improvements under California's accountability system. History buffs and voucher fanatics take note, Alum Rock was home to the first ever federal school voucher experiment in the early 1970s.
AP reports new education spending figures out from the Census Bureau and kabuki back and forth about NCLB and also takes a look at the situation in New Orleans. AP also writes about President Bush's teacher proposal for the Middle East which is facing a little rough sledding. Bush's instincts are right, but it sure would be nice to see a teacher plan for right here in the states too.
A new study on race and special education from Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute is out. He's right about the problem -- minorities are not currently well-served by special education programs -- but his solution, special education vouchers, has some problems too.
Even More Charter School Ridiculousness
The Ohio Education Association is holding a press event tomorrow to announce a lawsuit against charter schools there claiming they get more funding than traditional public schools. As this study by Public Impact's Bryan Hassel and Michelle Godard Terrell (of Arizona charter report fame) shows, this is manifestly not the case.
Subpoena Hassel and Terrell...please.
The Seattle Times says public charter school networks like KIPP want to come to Washington State. Someone smarter than Eduwonk will have to explain why it's important (or even a good idea) for Democrats to fight this tooth and nail.
Just a thought, but if Democrats need any other incentive to recapture the school choice issue by vigorously championing public school choice and charter schools, consider the coming demographic war for public resources. As the baby boomers enter retirement placing increasing demands on the public purse, other priorities will be pressured. Shouldn't supporters of public education be busy bolstering support for public schools instead of antagonizing minority parents who understandably are demanding something better for their children?
Update: More from WA, where the teachers' unions plan to force a referendum on charter schools. Again, someone smarter than Eduwonk will have to explain where the payoff in this is, for kids or politically...
It's a hassle to register and get this Hartford Courant article but try to do it anyway. UConn is having notable successes increasing the graduation rate for minorities, something most colleges and universities are struggling with. Officials attribute their success to three factors:
Attracting better students, providing advisory and other services to help students succeed, and making minority students feel comfortable through the university's multicultural centers.
The Education Trust has a new report by analyst Kevin Carey on this same issue and will be releasing an interactive data tool for higher education graduation rates in a few months.
A major new evaluation of Teach For America will be released tomorrow, and the cognoscenti are buzzing about it. More on that later, but useful background is this Education Week article that discusses younger teachers. The teaching profession is just beginning to wrestle with major demographic changes in terms of what younger people seek in jobs. (You have to register to get this one too.)
In The Washington Post Jay Mathews writes about MATHCOUNTS. Also in The Post, D.C. Mayor Williams is busy horse trading to bolster his effort to change governance in the D.C. Public Schools.
The Washington Times takes a look at a residency crackdown in Montgomery County Public Schools.
The Los Angeles Times reports and opines that the school system there is getting rolled by the teachers' union.
They're trying to fire the superintendent in New Orleans but he's fighting back. Quite a mess and too bad, he's pretty good.
The Kansas City Star editorializes in favor of efforts to expand access to college for undocumented immigrants. Bravo.
The New York Post describes sexual abuse allegations at Groton. Probably not a clip you'll see in the recruiting brochure...
Important new study on kindergarten out from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. A lot of useful information here but also a seriously buried lede. Full day kindergarten appears to produce better cognitive gains than half-day. Yet you wouldn't know this from the bland release on the report. Why would the Education Department not highlight this? Perhaps because the administration does not have much of an early childhood agenda.
If you still haven't read the new PPI study on charter schooling in Arizona by Bryan Hassel and Michelle Godard Terrell, you might as well do it today.
Finally, AP says look for more schools to be named after Ronald Reagan in the coming years.
The Washington State Democratic Party has made opposition to public charter schools a part of the party's platform. And, in Buffalo, a Buffalo Federation of Teachers boycott of an annual school fundraising event because charter schools were participating this year cost all schools there some much needed funding.
Insert your own comment about how ridiculous all this is here ____________.
Self-inflicted Afterthought: Despite external troubles, charter supporters managed to make a mess in South Carolina where the charter proposal there failed to pass in the closing days of the legislative session.
Today’s papers, linked below, provide a refreshingly insightful look at No Child Left Behind and may signal yet another change in the popular debate about the law. Yet although No Child's vocal opponents get most of the ink, a second quieter and possibly more debilitating campaign against the law is going on, let's call it "Literal and Passive Aggressive NCLB Implementation."
What's happening is that rather than think creatively about how to make the law work, some states and school districts are implementing it with an eye toward making it fall under its own weight. For example, while a few states designed accountability systems avoiding obvious Catch-22s with English language learners who are ultimately reclassified once they learn English, many states simply designed systems guaranteed to ensure a perpetually failing subgroup.
Why? Well in some cases it might be the capacity issues raised by Marc Tucker and Tom Toch in this article or the concerns raised by Rick Hess in this book. But, more likely it is seen in many cases as a good way to poke at the feds. In this William Raspberry column the principal of Langley High School in Fairfax County says as much.
What are other examples of passive aggressive resistance? An obvious one is failure to clearly delineate the reasons why schools are identified as "needing improvement." States release a list of schools needing improvement that includes the most dreadful schools and overall good schools with small problems all on the same list. [In fairness, some state leaders that have made an effort to delineate, like Michigan’s Tom Watkins, were thwarted by press accounts that still reported the list as monolithic.] Or, rather than make a serious effort to address disparities in teacher quality or attract highly qualified teachers to challenging schools states and school districts just stir the pot decrying the unfairness of the requirement that teachers know something about the subject they teach.
Similarly, rather than think creatively about how to make the public school choice provisions work by expanding the number of available seats through charter schools or by using interdistrict arrangements, often the response is purely literal resulting in many frustrated parents and accounts in the press of the law’s futility. [Eduwonk thinks this last tactic is particularly boneheaded because it's less likely to provoke a backlash against NCLB than feed support for vouchers.]
Likewise, when states start making interventions in low-performing schools (something they were required to do under the 1994 law preceding NCLB although few did) many may do little to tailor these interventions to the specifics of each case, for instance whether one or two subgroups or an entire school is having problems. Instead, they'll wield blunt force in an effort to gin up resistance to the law. "What! They're going to fire all the teachers at Lilly White High because of No Child Left Behind? Damn the feds!"
Though the NEA's disinformation campaign has succeeded in moving public opinion numbers about NCLB, particularly because there is no serious counter-campaign to get the facts out, the public still remains largely supportive. But the passive aggressive implementation strategy could change all that in coming years particularly if, when faced with lame efforts to make the law work, the media does not vigorously ask "why not?" instead of taking things at face value.
In a must-read NYT article Diana Jean Schemo takes a look at proposed changes to state accountability plans and notes that advocates for disabled students are becoming concerned that these students might be overlooked. National Council of La Raza's Raul Gonzalez also signals disappointment.
In The Washington Post William Raspberry hits a similar theme. He notes that when Langley High School in tony McLean Virginia was identified as needing improvement under No Child Left Behind it led many to ridicule the law. In fact, Langley redoubled their efforts with special education students (the group that led to the identification in the first place) and took care of the problem...
The Post's Michael Dobb's also has a must-read article about school finance litigation where he lays out the reason liberals should love NCLB (and though he doesn't say it, the reason that many state legislators don't love it...).
Over the weekend The New York Times took a look at commencement speeches, worth reading, plenty of excerpts. NYT also examined the school finance debate in New York.
Joanne Jacobs discusses "friends with benefits" here. And Ms. Frizzle reviews the new Harry Potter movie here.