February 13, 2020

Edujob: Digital Marketing Associate for Bellwether Education Partners

Bellwether is seeking a Digital Marketing Associate to support Bellwether’s external relations efforts in a broad array of marketing, communications, and fundraising activities.

We are committed to building a team that reflects the varied backgrounds and experiences of the students we seek to serve. If you know someone who might be interested, please send them our way!

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

February 12, 2020

Want a Teaching Job? Get a Special Education Endorsement!

A new working paper on the labor market for special education teachers includes a remarkable graph. The orange bars in the graph below represent the hiring rates for Washington state teacher candidates with a special education endorsement (click on the graph to see a bigger version). Earning a special education education endorsement appears to be a way to combat the effects of recessions: Even in the depths of the Great Recession, more than 75 percent of newly trained teachers with a special education endorsement secured a teaching job in Washington within three years of graduation.

The green bars, in contrast, represent teacher candidates with only an elementary education endorsement. While the green and orange bars look similar in recent years–when teacher hiring has been strong–the hiring rates look very different during economic downturns. For elementary education graduates in 2010, they had only about a 45 percent chance of securing a teaching job in Washington within three years.

The paper is titled “The Special Education Teacher Pipeline: Teacher Preparation, Workforce Entry, and Retention” by Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Natsumi Naito, and Marcy Stein. Find it on the CALDER website here.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

Latest Edu-Reads

My Bellwether colleagues are launching an early childhood newsletter. You should sign up!

Here’s Nisha Smales on the complex pathways early childhood educators take into the classroom.

Rising teacher pension costs are eating into expenditures on teacher salaries. Primarily, this seems to be about reductions in staffing rather than outright cuts to individual salaries.

The 13th annual CALDER conference has some interesting new research papers. I’m especially partial to this Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, and Mavzuna Turaeva study on between- and within-school segregation in North Carolina.

EdSource on dual enrollment gaps in California.

I’m (very!) late to it, but this Nat Malkus report on the evolution of career and technical education is fascinating. For example, check out Table 6 on the changes in CTE concentrators by gender.

“In Mississippi, nearly 33,000 students — almost all of them African American — attend a school district rated as failing, like Holmes. White students account for less than 5 percent of enrollment in these districts, according to a Hechinger Report analysis of state data.” That’s Bracey Harris taking a deep dive on academic segregation in Mississippi.

USA Today takes a look at private placements for public school students with a disability. They find, “In California, Massachusetts and New York, for instance, the share of white students in private placement exceeds the share in public special education by about 10 percentage points. And in both California and Massachusetts, low-income students with disabilities were only half as likely to receive a private placement as their wealthier special education peers.”

John Arnold has a reminder on the long-term trends in childhood poverty rates:

“Hand-washing is one of the most important tools in public health. It can keep kids from getting the flu, prevent the spread of disease and keep infections at bay.” That’s from this old NPR story about a doctor who championed hand-washing before his time.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

February 11, 2020

The Rush Back Toward Career Pathways

I missed this Liz Bowie story on Maryland’s effort to scale up career and technical education. Bowie does a nice job balancing the tensions and trade-offs, and lots of people I respect are behind the Maryland plan, but this still makes me nervous:

At the end of the 10th grade, students would have to qualify for the career or academic paths by passing a test or some other measure that showed they were prepared for basic, entry-level college classes. The Kirwan plan estimates about 65% of students in the state would meet that bar by 2030, boosted by other parts of the education package, such as more pre-kindergarten and intensive support for students at schools with high poverty rates.

Is this just another form of tracking? Even assuming everything goes as planned, what happens to the 35 percent who don’t meet the bar for either pathway?

I’m working on a paper on this very topic right now, and we’re finding that states aren’t paying close enough attention to determine whether their college and career pathways are equally rigorous and accessible for all students. We’ll have more to say on this soon!

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

Posted on Feb 11, 2020 @ 2:03pm

February 9, 2020

High School Rankings Are Incomplete

The Urban Institute has a new paper seeking better ways to identify high schools that are producing positive outcomes for historically underserved students. Using data from Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia, they find that, “…school quality is not a monolith. Schools that see gains on one metric do not necessarily see gains across other metrics.”

They find that test score gains and college enrollment rates have a correlation of just 0.13. They conclude, “schools that are good at raising test scores are not necessarily the same schools that are good at preparing students to enroll in college.”

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. Back in 2015, I published a similar paper looking at the overlap of high school metrics in Tennessee. The traditional metrics that states use to assess high school quality–test scores and graduation rates–are insufficient to answer the harder questions of whether high schools are preparing students to be successful in college or careers.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

February 7, 2020

Indiana Wants to Weaken Teacher Evaluations. But Why?

Chalkbeat’s Emma Kate Fittes has a story about how Republican legislators in Indiana want to weaken the state’s teacher evaluation system:

In Indiana, districts were left to decide how to implement the vague requirement, so how teachers are evaluated currently depends on where they work. Most districts have made test scores account for around 10% of evaluations, [Tim McRoberts, associate director of the Indiana Association of School Principals] said. Teachers whose grade or subject isn’t directly tied to the state test are often evaluated based on their schools’ scores.

That doesn’t sound like student growth scores mattered very much in most Indiana districts. So how was it actually playing out for teachers? Well, here are the latest evaluation results across Indiana:

Now, you could look at these results and say the student growth scores don’t seem to matter that much anyway, so removing them from teacher evaluation results isn’t a big deal. That’s the optimistic view. The more cynical take is that Indiana is about to get rid of the only truly objective measure in its teacher evaluation systems, the only one that directly measures how much students are learning, and the one that has the strongest tie to future teacher and student performance.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman

February 6, 2020

Latest Edu-Reads

Kris Amundson on why you should never try a new hairstyle on your wedding day… and other thoughts from the Iowa caucus debacle.

Alex Spurrier on what to think about President’s Trump’s education proposals in his State of the Union.

Aaron Garth Smith takes a look at open enrollment policies. It strikes me that open enrollment might be the low-hanging fruit of the school choice debate.

Testing opt-ins? There’s been a 60 percent increase in Advanced Placement participation rates over the last decade, with especially strong growth for black and Hispanic students. Catherine Gewertz has 7 key takeways from the latest results.

“Students of all racial/ethnic groups learn more from teachers with high grading standards, and these standards tend to be higher in schools serving more advantaged students.” That’s the main conclusion from a new study by Seth Gershenson looking at the importance of teacher expectations.

Finally, Conor Williams has a balanced take about the recent RAND study on community schools in NYC:

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

Does Testing Cause Teacher Turnover?

No, finds this new study by Dillon Fuchsman, Tim Sass, and Gema Zemarro. Specifically, they conclude:

Exploiting the elimination of testing in grades one and two and for science and social
science teachers in grades six and seven in Georgia, we find that the removal of statewide achievement tests had no effect on the likelihood of leaving teaching in general, nor did it impact the probability of changing schools within a district or the probability of moving between districts for teachers as a whole. We did find that eliminating testing in the lower elementary grades reduced the likelihood of teachers switching grades, but the effect was small. Thus, overall, we find no support for the notion that testing alone is having a major impact on overall teacher attrition or, conversely, that reducing the amount of testing will reduce teacher shortages.

The authors did see some small effects for early-career teachers in particular, but overall the findings run almost exactly counter to the conventional wisdom.

Additionally, the authors note that, “Twelve and one-half percent of the observations in our sample represent moves to leave the teaching profession, 2.6 percent moves to change districts, 4.5 percent moves to different schools and 12.6 percent changes of grades taught within the same schools.”

That last figure is crazy, especially given what we know about the negative effects of grade-switching. As a field we worry a lot about teachers who leave the profession entirely. And yet here we have a source of teacher turnover that’s just as large that’s happening within school walls.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 

February 3, 2020

Latest Edu-News

I grew up in Iowa. I attended Iowa public schools. I’ve participated in the Iowa caucuses. And yet, I also think it’s time for Iowa to lose its privileged status as the first contest of the presidential primaries. Read why in my latest column for The 74.

Andy Rotherham on the toxic debate around charter schools, and how that obscures the hard challenges both sides should be tackling instead.

This is a good short primer on the status and results of performance-based funding initiatives in higher education.

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is donating $100 million to boost low-income student graduation rates at the University of Texas.

The Urban Institute has a set of policy briefs about what we can learn about postsecondary outcomes and success using state data systems in Connecticut and Virginia. Here’s their summary of the whole series.

Eric Hanushek has a new paper outlining the arguments for raising teacher compensation, especially for the most effective teachers. (Disc: I gave comments at an earlier stage of the project.)

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman 



February 1, 2020

In The Hill I take a look at what we know about charter schools and how the crazy rhetoric about them obscures the work both “sides” ought to be doing to better serve all kids.

The nation’s first charter school opened in 1992 and there are now more than 7,000 across 43 states and Washington, D.C. Listening to the political debate about charter schools, though, you’d think they are a new idea — or at least one with little grounding in research or practice.

In fact, thanks to a lot of research we know quite a bit about charter schools and charter policy, as well as the complicated issues these publicly-funded but independently-run schools raise…

Entire op-ed here.