October 31, 2019

Latest Edu-Reads

Interested in autonomous district schools that enjoy the flexibility and innovation of charters, while remaining in their local district? My Bellwether colleagues Mary Wells and Tresha Francis Ward created a toolkit for that.

Of the 11 million children with working moms, more than half spend more time in family childcare than any other setting. Sara Mead profiles a new report from All Our Kin looking at the conditions needed to help family childcare providers (and the kids they serve) thrive.

Cara Jackson on the conditions in which it makes sense to conduct an experimental study on students.

Daniel DiSalvo cites some of our work at TeacherPensions.org to note that most teachers in the Chicago strike will never benefit from the pension system that’s wreaking havoc on the district’s finances.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

October 30, 2019

Overall Education Spending Is Up, but It’s Not Going Toward Instruction

With regards to the new NAEP scores out this week, I see a lot of commentators saying things like, “NAEP scores went down even as school spending went up.” As I wrote back in June, it is true that education spending is up nationally over the last decade in real, per pupil terms. Based on the most recent data, national education spending rose by 5.4 percent over this time period. (The spending data is a bit behind the NAEP data, so the most recent “decade” in either data set don’t match up perfectly.)

But wait. While overall education spending is up, spending on instructional costs like salaries and wages for teachers went down by 0.3 percent. Again, these are in real, inflation adjusted dollars spent per pupil.

What’s the main reason for the discrepancy? Benefit costs. Over the same time period, benefit costs for things like employee pension and health care benefits rose by 23.5 percent, in real terms. As I wrote in June, “Most of these cost increases are due to paying down pension debts or changes in accounting rules on retiree health benefits.”

In other words, not all school spending is equal, and spending on under-funded employee benefit plans may not translate into the same student achievement gains as spending in other areas.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

Posted on Oct 30, 2019 @ 8:30pm

Our Schools Have Lost Focus on the Lowest-Performers

The new NAEP results are out. Here’s your overall summary: They’re mostly bad, with noticeable declines in reading over the last two years.

What stood out to me was the fact that we’ve lost our focus on the lowest-performing students. Zooming out to look at the last 10 years by performance level, here are the changes in 4th grade reading scores:

10th percentile: -7

25th percentile: -2

50th percentile: +2

75th percentile: +3

90th percentile: +2

And here’s the same thing for 8th grade reading:

10th percentile: -6

25th percentile: -3

50th percentile: -1

75th percentile: +1

90th percentile: +4

Here’s the same trend for 4th grade math:

10th percentile: -3

25th percentile: -1

50th percentile: +1

75th percentile: +2

90th percentile: +5

And for 8th grade math:

10th percentile: -5

25th percentile: -4

50th percentile: -2

75th percentile: +1

90th percentile: +4

This didn’t use to be true. In the 1990s and 2000s, we saw some signs of gap-closing or at least broad and shared gains. The 2010s are the opposite; it was a pretty flat decade in terms of overall achievement, with higher-performing students making some gains and pulling further away from their peers.

Back to work.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

October 29, 2019

What Causes Teachers to Leave?

A new meta-analysis synthesizes the findings from 120 research papers on the causes of teacher attrition and retention. Contrary to popular opinion, perhaps, they find that measuring and acting on differences in teacher quality does not lead to decreased morale or higher attrition rates:

Being evaluated, even for accountability purposes, does not necessarily increase teacher attrition; in fact, the odds of attrition for teachers who are assessed are somewhat smaller than those who are not. In terms of teacher effectiveness, higher quality teachers are less likely to exit than lower quality teachers, and there is evidence that teachers in the lowest quartile or quintile of value-added scores are more likely to leave teaching. Relatedly, teachers in merit pay programs are less likely to leave teaching than those who are not.

Specifically on the question of evaluations and merit pay, they write:

Moreover, contrary to some concerns about the negative effects of teacher evaluations and accountability (Darling-Hammond, 2013; Darling-Hammond, Amrein-Beardsley, Haertel, & Rothstein, 2012), we do not find that performance evaluations necessarily increase teacher attrition. The extant empirical evidence suggests that when teachers are evaluated and their measures of effectiveness are available to them, this does not increase attrition, but in fact, it may provide teachers with some sense of empowerment and the possibility of growth and improvement since they can observe where they are effective and where they are not, leading to a decrease in attrition (Boyd et al., 2008; Feng, 2010). Furthermore, even when teacher evaluations are being used for accountability, bonuses, or pay raises, we observe that teachers are less, not more, likely to leave teaching. Relatedly, we also have evidence that evaluation and accountability may improve the teacher workforce by keeping the most effective teachers and removing the most ineffective teachers. In short, evaluation and accountability may be perceived more positively by teachers and can have positive effects for teachers than have been recognized. We note this does not mean that there are not any negative consequences or warranted concerns about teacher evaluation and accountability, but rather as a policy tool, there may indeed be merit to evaluation and accountability.

Read the whole meta-analysis here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

October 28, 2019

Latest Edu-Reads

Phillip Burgoyne-Allen on the intersection of public school choice and public transportation.

Yesterday I wrote about how states set their college attainment goals without looking at historical data on their recent progress. That’s not unique to higher ed. Andrew Ujifusa follows up on a few states starting to realize they are not close to achieving the “ambitious” goals they set under ESSA.

“Many juvenile-justice schools do not even offer the courses that a student needs to complete his or her freshman year of high school, and Native American youth are among the most poorly served in these facilities.” That’s Max Marchitello and Diana Cournoyer in a Hechinger Report op-ed.

This Kate Walsh essay is worth your time. It looks at the noticeable drop in attention to teacher quality issues–indeed, she found a search on the terms “teacher quality” and “teacher evaluation” revealed about a 75 percent drop in press coverage in the last five years. Still, Walsh ends with an optimistic tone, noting, “No matter how daunting change can be, when something’s founded on unassailable evidence and speaks to shared values of justice, fairness, and equity, it generally finds a way.”

Kevin Carey sees a lot of smoke but no fire from Elizabeth Warren’s education plan, at least on accountability. I think he’s right on the policy specifics–although I might be more alarmed than Carey is about the smoke Warren is creating, and why exactly she’s sounding the alarm. (And, unlike Warren’s words on accountability, her charter school proposals could do real harm if enacted.)

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman  

Edu-Job: Director of Talent Operations at Bellwether Education Partners

Bellwether is hiring! Specifically, we’re looking for someone to become our Director of Talent Operations. From the job description:

The Director of Talent Operations will lead Bellwether’s talent recruitment processes and priorities, providing support for talent development and implementation of new talent processes. This instrumental new role will be a part of our small internal Human Capital team and offers candidates a tremendous opportunity to develop strategic talent management skills as Bellwether grows….

In that context, the Director of Talent Operations’ primary responsibilities and duties will be to support the expansion of current hiring practices while driving the development and implementation of new systems and practices aligned with Bellwether’s talent priorities — most especially, supporting Bellwether’s goal to attract, retain, and develop a diverse, joyful, and inclusive team.

We are committed to building a diverse team and strongly encourage individuals from all backgrounds to apply. If you know someone who might be interested, please share the job description and encourage them to apply or reach out for more info.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman  

October 27, 2019

College Attainment Gains By State

Last month, I wrote about how college attainment rates are climbing nationally. But what about individual states?

In fact, every state has rising college attainment rates. A report over the summer by Ithaka S+R found that every state increased its college attainment rate from 2005-2017, led by especially strong gains in Maine, Iowa, and Indiana. The graph below shows the gains by state. (Click on the graph to see the larger image, or, better yet, go read the original report.)

Many states have set goals for future attainment rates, but, to put it mildly, those goals have been set without consulting historical trends. The state attainment goals–say, 60 percent of adults with a college degree by the year 2025–have tended to cluster right around the 60 or 70 percent mark, regardless of how close the state is to reaching those targets already. If states wanted to be smarter about how they set their targets going forward, they should be looking backward at their own recent progress and adjusting accordingly.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman  

Posted on Oct 27, 2019 @ 9:19pm

October 25, 2019

October 24, 2019

Latest Edu-Reads

Max Marchitello finds that pension spending in Maryland is regressive. Accounting for pension spending amplifies the total spending gap between high- and low-poverty school districts by 34 percent.

“Chicago has the most pension debt of any major U.S. city, a shrinking population and an $838 million budget gap—and the city’s teachers have been striking since Thursday.” That sentence pretty well sums up this WSJ article on the many challenges facing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Here’s a longer deep dive into the structural issues and the tough trade-offs pensions are forcing on state and local budgets.

In her 2003 book, Elizabeth Warren proposed an open enrollment system for schools. After reading her recent education platform, Andrew Ujifusa is asking, “why didn’t Warren propose open enrollment for public schools in her platform? Does she no longer support such a system? If not, why?”

Why do we assign new teachers to the hardest jobs? Although they can’t answer that question, a new study by Paul Bruno, Sarah Rabovsky, and Katharine Strunk documents the extent of the problem.

Speaking of new teachers, this is a great new ECS resource on what states are doing to support teacher recruitment and retention.

This is a cool piece from EdNavigator on how they think about building a language-inclusive culture and how it relates to their work with parents.

Mike Goldstein, the founder of Match Education in Boston (and a frequent Eduwonk commenter!), has a great entry in Fordham’s Wonkathon about why struggling students remain below grade level, and how to help them.

And here’s an update on the school that LeBron James supported in Akron.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman  

October 23, 2019

Latest Edu-Reads

I have a new column up at The74 today arguing that the threat of tough school accountability has always been much worse than the reality. Unfortunately, the false veneer of accountability can still come with all the media and political backlash as if it were the real thing.

Why do so few kids walk or bike to school in some states? Alex Spurrier looks at the data.

There’s been a lot of attention in our world to the decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs, but did you know it was part of a larger trend? The Washington Post dives into the numbers:

A great migration is happening on U.S. college campuses. Ever since the fall of 2008, a lot of students have walked out of English and humanities lectures and into STEM classes, especially computer science and engineering.

English majors are down more than a quarter (25.5 percent) since the Great Recession, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s the biggest drop for any major tracked by the center in its annual data and is quite startling, given that college enrollment has jumped in the past decade.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman  


Posted on Oct 23, 2019 @ 9:36am