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Education

  • Failure To Communicate

    Written on August 5, 2010

    Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews recently sparked some interesting online chatter about why students aren’t better prepared for college-level writing, and what can be done about it.

    In a first article, Mathews introduces us to high school history teacher Doris Burton, who asserts that state and district course requirements leave “no room” for the assignment of serious research papers of 3000 words (10-12 pages) or more. According to Mathews, “We are beginning to see, in the howls of exasperation from college introductory course professors and their students, how high a price we are paying for this."

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  • Performance Pay On (Randomized) Trial

    Written on August 3, 2010

    This is an exciting time for those of us who are strange enough to find research on teacher performance pay exciting. It is also, most likely, an anxious time for those with unyielding faith in its effectiveness. From all the chatter on performance incentives, and all the money we are putting into encouraging them, one might think they are a sure bet to work. But there's actually very little good evidence on their effects in the U.S. As with a lot of education policy in fashion today, investing in performance pay is a leap of faith.

    But now, just in time to be way too late, there are currently four high-quality evaluations of teacher performance pay programs in progress, and they are the first large-scale experimental studies of how these bonuses affect performance in the U.S.
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  • Value-Added And Collateral Damage

    Written on July 29, 2010

    The idea that we should "fire bad teachers" has become the mantra of the day, as though anyone was seriously arguing that bad teachers should be kept. No one is. Instead, the real issue is, and has always been, identification.

    Those of us who follow the literature about value-added models (VAM) - the statistical models designed to isolate the unique effect of teachers on their students' test scores - hear a lot about their imprecision. But anyone listening to the public discourse on these methods, or, more frighteningly, making decisions on how to use them, might be completely unaware of the magnitude of that error.

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  • Curriculum: The Missing Link

    Written on July 27, 2010

    In a July 21 New York Times cover story, reporter Tamar Lewin rightfully noted "the surprise of many in education circles..." that 27 states had already committed to adopting the new Common Core academic standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

    Lewin goes on to attribute this surprise to "states' long tradition of insisting on retaining local control over curriculum" (emphasis added). With this simple statement - the equating of standards with curriculum - the author perpetuates an egregious error in the understanding of education policy. Though the politics of local control touches both standards and curriculum, educators and the public will never get policy right as long as too many conflate the two.

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  • A Below Basic Understanding Of Proficiency

    Written on July 23, 2010

    Given our extreme reliance on test scores as measures of educational success and failure, I'm sorry I have to make this point: proficiency rates are not test scores, and changes in proficiency rates do not necessarily tell us much about changes in test scores.

    Yet, for example, in the Washington Post editorial about the latest test results from the District of Columbia Public Schools, at no fewer than seven different points (in a 450 word piece) do they refer to proficiency rates (and changes in these rates) as "scores." This is only one example of many.

    So, what's the problem?

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  • The Time Factor: It's Not Just KIPP

    Written on July 20, 2010

    In this post, I argue that it is important to understand why a few charters (like KIPP) perform better than others. An editorial in today's Washington Post points out that KIPP’s results suggest the achievement-improving potential of more school time for lower-income students – i.e., longer days and years.

    Through longer days, mandatory Saturdays, and summer school, KIPP students spend about 60 percent more time in school than typical regular public school students. That's the equivalent of over 100 regular public school days of additional time. This is an astounding difference.

    But it's not just KIPP.

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  • Teachers Matter, But So Do Words

    Written on July 14, 2010

    The following quote comes from the Obama Administration’s education "blueprint," which is its plan for reauthorizing ESEA, placing a heavy emphasis, among many other things, on overhauling teacher human capital policies:

    Of all the work that occurs at every level of our education system, the interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success.
    Specific wordings vary, but if you follow education even casually, you hear some version of this argument with incredible frequency. In fact, most Americans are hearing it – I’d be surprised if many days pass when some approximation of it isn’t made in a newspaper, magazine, or high-traffic blog. It is the shorthand justification – the talking point, if you will – for the current efforts to base teachers’ hiring, firing, evaluation, and compensation on students’ test scores and other "performance” measures.
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  • What Is "Charterness," Exactly?

    Written on July 14, 2010

    ** Also posted here on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet in the Washington Post.

    Two weeks ago, researchers from Mathematica dropped a bomb on the education policy community. It didn’t go off.

    The report (prepared for the Institute for Education Sciences, a division of the USDOE) includes students in 36 charter schools throughout 15 states. The central conclusion: the vast majority of charter students does no better or worse than their regular public counterparts in math and reading scores (or on most of the other 35 outcomes examined). On the other hand, charter parents and students are more satisfied with their schools, and charters are more effective boosting scores of lower-income students.

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  • WELCOME TO SHANKER BLOG

    Written on July 14, 2010

    The purpose of this blog is to provide commentary on the issues that we deal with at the Shanker Institute: education, labor, and international democracy.

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  • One Person, 2.5 Votes

    Written on July 14, 2010

    According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the U.S. is ranked 139th in voter turnout out of the roughly 170 democracies in the world. To whatever degree participation is a measure of how well a democracy functions, the United States' is among the worst.

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