Urban Schoolteacher Sabotage: 2 of 2

No Excuses teachers (some in traditional schools, like Rafe Esquith and Mr. AB, some in No Excuses charter schools, like KIPP) directly tackle the Big Three: misbehavior, low skills, low effort.

An example: Both to deter misbehavior and to generate student effort, No Excuses teachers spend huge amounts of time each week building/sustaining 1-on-1 relationships with kids and their parents (via phone).

Another time implication: the teacher who succeeds in getting a ton of kids to, for the first time in their lives, actually do all the assignments….is “rewarded” with tons of papers that need correcting!

Two thoughts:

1. Small: Good urban teachers should get grading help. Our school provides each teacher with 5 to 10 hours per week of grading help, like college professors and their TAs.

2. Big: We worry about the fact that most K-12 research isn’t randomized. We should. But we don’t talk much about the problem that most randomized K-12 research that does exist isn’t practical for good teachers.

Not useful: another meta analysis of class size. Teachers don’t control that.

Potentially useful: what is the best use, say, of 4 hours a week of (warning: oxymoron) discretionary teacher time?

a. Phoning the parents of my 10 failing kids, try to enlist them, triangulate the kid
b. Redoing my lesson plans each night with those 10 kids in mind
c. Personally tutoring each one 24 minutes a week
d. Pre-teaching the day’s lesson to those 10 kids each day before school starts, so we can break the negative cycle of them always being the slowest in class to understand, and actually make them “feel ahead”?

Which one drives the biggest short-term gains (i.e., next week)? What about long-term (i.e., all year)?

We need a) randomized research, which b) exclusively examines good teachers, and measures which types of discrete, practical Teacher Time Investments generate the highest “return” (i.e., student gains over baseline).

Our current box is this.

One side wants 60+ hour-per-week teachers who “turn kids around,” with 15 hours a week not on classroom teaching, or lesson plans, or training, but in student and parent 1-on-1 communication.

The other side wants 45-hour-per-week teachers, and who believe the kid-changing work belongs to others: parents, kids themselves, or “society” writ large.

Why can’t we continue to argue that while working together on teacher efficiency? Thoughts welcome at MGoldstein /at* matchschool.org

Manana, Eduwonk fans, you return to the wisdom and bassmastery of your usual host. Thank you for reading.

-Guestblogger MG

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