Odds and Ends

Some reads if you’re not too consumed with the exciting conclusion to the NCLB naming contest:

Two on teacher quality.  Annenberg’s Robert Rothman walks through the value-added debate around teacher quality.  It’s not technical and a great overview.  Meanwhile, don’t forget the big NCTQ meeting in D.C., now Michelle Rhee is speaking, too.  Could be some news there.

School turnarounds.  Chicago Public Radio takes a look at a turnaround school there and a dimension that doesn’t always get a lot of attention.

Student turnarounds.  The Times reports on an interesting program for dropouts, MDRC has the early eval here.  I’ve worked with at-risk kids in alternative settings, there is a lot to be said for these approaches and they’re too often patchwork and resource starved.    Obviously creating the kind of schools that kids don’t want to dropout of is the most effective strategy but some safety net/second chance system will always be necessary.  

State finance.   Rockefeller Institute takes a look at fourth quarter revenue from 2008 (pdf).   Obvious eduimplications.

Animating. “How The Test Was Won,” The Simpsons do No Child Left Behind.

2 Replies to “Odds and Ends”

  1. Your “odds and ends” links are always extra valuable by providing more context. Taking you last link first, the effects on governments’ 4th quarter budgets of the recession are real. But the damage the downturn has done to poor families is even greater, and kids will bring the damage to school.

    The value added link discussed the effect of a divorce on a child’s value added outcomes. (As a part of an article that explained why value added models shouldn’t drive evaluations) Think of the effects on a class where the majority of the students endure traumas, and those traumas are made worse by the recession.

    The school turnaround link stressed the importance of removing 1/3rd of the previous years students, led by the 50 to 60 most disruptive gang-bangers. Is it fair to compare the value-added of teachers at the school that was allowed to remove the troublemakers with the value-added of the teachers who had to accept those students?

    Why wait until the school fails to the point of needing a turnaround before addressing chronic disorder? Real world, principals have to do what the report described, ask colleagues for occasional favors with the out-of-control kids. Sometimes just “a change in scenery” works. It works enough to keep the adults from feeling to guilty. As the students in the report said, typically the troubled kids drop out. In fact we can predict as early as 6th grade and with as much as 85% accuracy that some students will not make it. But there is a gag rule on the discussion of practical solutions.

    So, why not refer students, who bring their troubles to school in a way that robs the rest of a chance at an education, to a place where services could be provided? No alternative schools.

    Why don’t we invest in high quality alternative schools? After all, your link showed preliminary outcomes where the graduation rate of former dropouts was raised by 460%. Why aren’t we discussing high quality alternative services, accelerated middle schools, etc with Race to the Top funds?


    Political correctness preceded NCLB but the Klein/Rhee/Ed Trust power of positive thinking mentality has made the problem much worst. The Washington Post has another article about D.C. teachers being intimidated into not reporting assaults. (More on that in tomorrow’s this week in education)

    “Reformers” have made some tactical decisions to blame teachers for the behavioral problems created by poverty. Those tactics are bad for teachers and bad for schools, but above all they are bad for our most troubled kids.

  2. The debate over teacher quality is all rather hilarious, with so many intelligent people spinning their wheels. What you have here is a lot of statisticians, education researchers, administrators, and policymakers trying their hardest to find that treasured predictive value on which to base the merit of a teacher. One problem may be that, unlike medicine and measuring the success of a doctor, there is nothing in teaching that is as clear as whether or not a patient survives treatment. The second, and I think more significant problem, is that we simply do NOT trust our teachers. It is a low paid, low status profession that does not attract the most intelligent and intellectually curious people.

    Fine, we all know that. Yet, the funny thing about the teacher quality debate is that many education leaders use the struggle for measuring quality, almost like looking for the Holy Grail, as a way to get over their collective guilt that the quality of teachers is as completely out of their hands as much as student achievement is out of teachers’ hands. They lament that if we could only find what makes a successful, high quality teacher, then we could separate the wheat from the chaff. Even if we could gather the wheat and flush the chaff, we would all starve anyway because the teaching profession, or semi-profession, will not attract enough high quality people EVER until larger socio-cultural factors are mitigated. Unfortunately, these are way out of the hands of value-added approaches and other very creative techniques.

    These debates have been going on for a century and there’s little evidence things are going to change.

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