Reposted from the Brown Center Chalkboard:
The fix, then, for schools performing poorly is straightforward but not practical: gauge effectiveness for all teachers in a district, and move high performers to low-performing schools. The Institute of Education Sciences tested something like this approach on a small scale. As part of its study, high-performing teachers were offered financial incentives to move to low-performing schools. Only one or two teachers were moved to any one school. The study found that high performers resulted in an improvement of an entire grade level’s test scores. If the high performer were a fifth grade teacher, for example, the entire fifth grade improved its test scores from fourth to fifth grade. The high performer’s class generally improved the most, but that improvement was so large it was enough to move the whole grade level up.
This fix is about as low-risk as one can get to improve performance of a whole school, like ensuring the U.S. wins an Olympic gold medal in basketball by putting ten NBA all-stars on its team. It’s hard to imagine doing this fix on a large scale, however. A practical though possibly less effective approach would be for low-performing schools to increase skills of their teachers. Upskilling quickly means bringing in skilled teachers as overseers or mentors, possibly transferring weak teachers out of schools and bringing in high performers, as noted already, or providing materials or technologies that improve teacher skills directly or indirectly. This is not “teacher professional development” as it’s usually understood. But a school facing consequences right now has little time for its teachers to attend classes, in-service workshops, or summer institutes. A manufacturing company facing bankruptcy because it is producing defective products does not send its employees to the local community college to take courses. It locates the cause of the defects and fixes them as soon as it can.
Suppose a school continues to perform poorly despite upskilling its teachers. What next? The focus would turn to the principal. (These approaches could also happen at the same time.) Another finding emerging from recent research is that, like teachers, principals differ widely in their effectiveness. Principals of low-performing schools can be assigned a mentor or coach, given added support, or replaced by a known effective principal.
Reposted from the Shanker Blog:
Making the test the curriculum harms all students, but it does the most harm to those with the lowest skills. When I taught seniors in the Bronx, I worked with the highest-performing students who had already passed all their exams to help prepare them for the rigorous reading and writing they would face in college. We read philosophical and theoretical works ranging from Kant to Rawls to Nozick, and wrote and revised college-level argumentative essays. Though the Common Core was a far-off whisper at that point, my course far exceeded its demands, even if all my students could not yet meet them.
At the same time, I worked with the lowest-performing students who had yet to pass the New York State Regents. With them, I focused on mindless repetition of the facts that make up most of the Regents, and combined it with writing formulaic, timed essays that bore little resemblance to any real academic, civic, or career-based writing. I was really good at it, getting 100 percent to pass their exams in my final year leading Regents prep.
But I was doing my students no favors. I think to this day about T., a second-semester senior who could hardly write and struggled to read. In “Regents Prep Class” I worked with her on rote memorization rather than improving the reading, writing and thinking skills she would need for the rest of her life. The incentives were all wrong; sure, she passed the test, but she was still not ready for the community college work she encountered that fall. When we focus our efforts only on helping struggling students jump over the hurdle of mandated exams, the learning and opportunity gap widens.
Reposted from Janine’s Blog:
The testing of every child every year began as a bold experiment in 2001 as part of No Child Left Behind. The theory of action was that if we could expose the truth about student achievement and provide appropriate “carrots and sticks” for success and failure, we could improve education for all children. The goal was for all children to reach proficiency within 12 years. That has not happened. Our bold experiment has failed. We are now in the midst of a new bold experiment as we begin using new standardized testing aligned with the Common Core State Standards. This time, for the first time, states are making these test results integral to teacher evaluation. But there are some huge problems with our new experiment.
Student assessment is an important part of the educational process. Teachers need to understand how students are progressing toward their educational goals so they can adjust instruction accordingly. What if we were to only allow assessment that would provide teachers with actionable information regarding student progress? Forget the high stakes. Let’s build systems with more frequent assessments, that are part of the instructional process, and give teachers the information they need to move students forward. Teacher evaluation would focus on HOW teachers understand their students’ needs and HOW they use this information. Students would advance in grade levels and programs based on this information. If we are interested in understanding the performance of a school or district as a whole, we can look at what students are doing in terms of advancing from one level to another.
Reposted from the Washington Post:
Even as the Obama administration keeps extending its support for using standardized test scores for high-stakes decisions — see its new draft proposals to rate colleges of education based on the test scores of the graduates’ students — a national principals group is taking a stand against it.
The Board of Directors of the National Association of Secondary School Principals has given preliminary approval to a statement that rejects linking educators’ jobs and pay to standardized test scores that are plopped into a formula that can supposedly determine exactly how much “value” an individual educator has added to students’ academic growth.
Last April, the Statistical Association, the largest organization in the United States representing statisticians and related professionals, said in a report that value-added scores “do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes” and that they “typically measure correlation, not causation,” noting that “effects — positive or negative — attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.” After the report’s release, I asked the Education Department if Education Secretary Arne Duncan was reconsidering his support for value-added measures, and the answer was no.
Reposted from Wired Innovation Insights:
One thing you can always rely on technology to do is speed things up. Everything, from processors to phones to networks gets faster. Heck, there are actual laws that define this phenomenon. So when at a recent Akamai analyst event a speaker made the offhand comment that the Web is getting slower, it pretty much made me sit up in my seat and say “what?”
My first gut instinct was to say “No way, this is technology, things don’t get slower. I used to have a modem, now I have fibre. I used to use a WAP browser for mobile web, now I have fast 4G and LTE connections.” But once that initial instinct passed, I had to admit, it sure did seem that many of my recent web browsing experiences were less than satisfactory from a performance standpoint.
So what’s causing this slowdown? Is it the result of problems in the core of the Internet’s infrastructure? Well, while there have been cases of hardware problems causing Web slowdowns, as well as performance issues caused by political fights between major carriers and streaming video providers, the cause of the Web’s slowdown is actually coming from the other side of the infrastructure.