Tag Archives: edreform

No one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms

Apparently there’s yet another fear-mongering publicist named Alyssa (yes, a different one!). So once more into the breach…

Here’s the email I received:

On the heels of the recent Vergara ruling in California, which eliminates teacher tenure, the outcome has peeled back the Band-Aid on the appalling lack of adequate teacher training.

Whether the judge was right or wrong on tenure, no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms. The challenges are too great and the support is so weak, it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all.

And while the California challenges may be acute and the consequences deep, deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast.

EXPERT SOURCE: To speak with one of the industry’s top PD expert’s on what’s next to come – Alvin Crawford, CEO of Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) – the leading provider of professional development solutions K-12 – is available via phone or will also be at ISTE in Atlanta from June 29 – July 1 and available for in-person interviews.

Crawford comments, “Before we can debate whether teachers should have legal protections to stay in classrooms, we should create effective and meaningful support systems for ongoing growth and development of certified teachers so that they are adequately prepared to support all students.”

He believes that only then can we perhaps all agree that we want them to keep teaching as long as possible.

Crawford, formerly of SchoolNet and responsible for its explosive growth and purchase by Pearsons for $230 million in 2011, is an industry leader in the K-12 educational system and available to discuss PD trends, transformational classroom practices, and how to solve the lagging student achievement gap.

For more information or interviews, please contact me at and thanks!

And here’s my reply:

Alyssa, with due respect to you and Alvin, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck (‘here’s a fake problem and, oh look!, we just happen to have a paid service that can help you solve it!’), there is no real evidence that we have a large, systemic problem with inadequate teacher training. In fact, peer-reviewed research studies from the highly-respected Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and many others show that graduates of traditional teachers colleges outperform alternative teacher preparation programs.

I’m sure that Alvin probably has some value to lend to the conversation about teacher quality and professional development, but your willingness to exploit the myth of ‘bad teachers’ and/or colleges of education is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering. Your overeager use of phrases like no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms and it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all and deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators and also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes.

What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you and Alvin had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Do you think that they’d agree with you and be proud of your messaging that their training was deficient?

It’s not that we don’t believe in bad teachers, it’s that we don’t believe in you

Peter Greene said:

I think there are faux tin hat physicists who are closer to building a cold fusion generator and a perpetual motion machine than reformsters are to building a reliable and accurate system for identifying bad teachers.

Do I think there’s a valuable conversation to be had about less effective teachers and how to best deal with them in a school system? Oh, boy, do I. But we aren’t ready for that conversation, because you aren’t ready to admit that you don’t have a clue how to tell a great teacher having a bad day from a good teacher with a tough class from a bad teacher who probably should be a shoe salesman from a great teacher who just got randomly swept up by whatever mangled metric you loosed upon the teaching world.

You keep saying you want to raise the bar when mostly you’re just swinging the bar wildly around with closed eyes and every time you randomly clobber something you cry out, “There– it’s another bad teacher!” As long as you are swinging bad metrics around like so many long-dead cats on a ten-foot pole, no teacher is going to be comfortable getting anywhere near you and your super-secret method for weeding out the riff from the raff.

It really is not that we don’t believe in bad teachers, or that we think they should be enshrined and preserved. What we don’t believe in is you, and your cockamamie untested unvalidated unproven evaluation systems.

via http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/06/yes-virginia-there-are-bad-teachers.html

Teacher tenure policies are not the problem

Dana Goldstein said:

[Teacher tenure policies] aren’t the only, or even the primary, driver of the teacher-quality gap between … middle-class and low-income schools. The larger problem is that too few of the best teachers are willing to work long-term in the country’s most racially isolated and poorest neighborhoods. There are lots of reasons why, ranging from plain old racism and classism to the higher principal turnover that turns poor schools into chaotic workplaces that mature teachers avoid. The schools with the most poverty are also more likely to focus on standardized test prep, which teachers dislike. Plus, teachers tend to live in middle-class neighborhoods and may not want a long commute.

Educational equality is about more than teacher-seniority rules: It is about making the schools that serve poor children more attractive places for the smartest, most ambitious people to spend their careers. To do that, those schools need excellent, stable principals who inspire confidence in great teachers. They need rich curricula that stimulate both adults and children. And ideally, their student bodies should be more socioeconomically integrated so schools are less overwhelmed by the social challenges of poverty. Of course, all that is a tall policy order; much more difficult, it turns out, than overturning tenure laws.

via http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/california-rules-teacher-tenure-laws-unconstitutional/372536

Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?

Here’s an email I just received. Think about the messages contained in this PR pitch…

Hi Scott,

As the Vergara case continues to steal headlines and spark debate, I wanted to offer up an alternative angle. Although it’s a complicated issue, the tenure controversy seems to boil down to one real problem: that “grossly ineffective teachers” are entrenched and protected. But that raises the question: Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers in the first place – and how do we change that?

If you’d like to dive into this overlooked aspect of the issue for a blog post, I’d be happy to set up a call with Joel Sackett of Paragon K12. Paragon is a teacher selection tool that uses decades of research and large quantities of historical data to actually correlate individual teacher attributes (both quantitative and qualitative ones) to student achievement. Joel would be happy to engage in a high-level discussion about the hiring process, including current challenges many districts face – whether a lack of funding, efficiency or effectiveness – and also explain some skepticism and strategies surrounding next-gen hiring technology.

To round out the story, you could also talk to Katie Shortsleeve for an actual use case. She works in Human Resources at Douglas County School District – a district that actually using Paragon K12.

Would you be interested in chatting with Joel and/or Katie sometime next week? Let me know. Happy to set something up and I look forward to hearing from you! Have a nice weekend, Scott!



Here’s my response:

Alyssa, with due respect to you, Joel, and Katie, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Numerous peer-reviewed research studies and our best statisticians tell us that teachers only account for about 1% to 14% of the overall variability in student test scores. Nor is there any real evidence – other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck – that we have a large, systemic problem with ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers.

I’m sure that Paragon K12 probably has some value it can lend to the educator hiring process. But I believe that this marketing message is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering that not only contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators but also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes. What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you, Joel, and Katie had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Or the hardworking educators in Douglas County, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Chula Vista, and other districts that are Paragon K12 clients? Do you think that they’d agree with and be proud of you?


Here’s Alyssa’s response:

Hi Scott,

My point was simply that everyone seems to be focusing on the protection of the “ineffective teachers” being cited in the Vergara case, but not asking about how they may have gotten hired in the first place. And while no one factor obviously determines learnings outcomes, similarly respected research has shown time and time again that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor when it comes to improving student achievement – so it is far from insignificant.

Anyways, thank you for the feedback.


And here’s mine:

Actually, it might be better to say school-controlled. And, at 1% to 14%, it’s less significant than many other, more important factors such as peer-to-peer effects (which could be considered ‘school-based’) or non-school factors…

The subject of your message was ‘Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?’ My point is simply that your messaging is untrue. With very rare exceptions, schools are NOT hiring ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers. Should school districts care about and try to improve whom they hire? Absolutely. Can companies try to create systems that will help schools with this task? Sure. Should companies and their publicists engage in fear-mongering scare tactics and grossly inaccurate overgeneralizations in order to try and capitalize (literally) on the latest education story du jour? I don’t think so, but apparently that’s ‘marketing’ in the eyes of your firm and your client, regardless of the harm and disrespect to our school systems and the dedicated people who work in them.


Another message from Alyssa:

I am sorry you found the subject line so offensive. I agree – it is over-the-top, but that is unfortunately par for the course. The double-edged sword of a “clicky” subject line that may be fear-mongering but will result in getting someone to open an email and then consider a nuanced conversation on said topic vs. a muted one that no one reads. Again, appreciate the feedback.

And my response:

You admit to over-the-top fear-mongering, yet somehow are so easily able to disclaim culpability… As an educator, why wouldn’t I be offended by intentional, inaccurate insults to and acts against the profession?

Just read, you third grade slackers!


Peter Greene said:

Florida’s program is called “Just Read, Florida!” and that name really captures the cluelessness of the whole approach. Like many Reformster programs, this one starts with the assumption that these little eight-year-old slackers just aren’t being sufficiently threatened and browbeaten. They could read, dammit– they’re just holding out on us! Don’t tell me about your problems or your challenges or your background or your use of English as a second language or your cognitive impairments or how your life gets in the way of your school– Just Read, Dammit! Just do it! Because there is no better pedagogical technique than Insisting Strongly.


Because children should grow as they are told to grow, and they should all grow exactly the same way at exactly the same time. And if they won’t behave and conform and obey, they must be punished until they will.

Read the rest at http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/05/rigorizing-eight-year-olds.html

Image credits: Punishments, Philip Howard

Which vision are you selling?


Are you selling a vision of student empowerment? Of kids as autonomous, self-directed learners who are thinking deeply, collaborating to make societal contributions, and using digital technologies to do powerful, meaningful, and authentic work?

Or are you selling a vision of recall and regurgitation? Of kids as passive listeners, masters of basic skills, and completers of worksheets, end-of-chapter review questions, and bubble tests?

Or maybe you’re selling a vision of fear? Of students as untrustworthy, of the Internet as dangerous, and of technology as a nuisance, a distraction, and the cause of numerous social evils?

Or perhaps you’re selling a vision of compliance? Of policy mandates and directives, of educators and schools as helpless victims, of students as voiceless, powerless recipients of “do what we tell you or else” educational systems?

Which vision is more in line with the realities of today and tomorrow? Which vision – future-oriented or nostalgic, progressive or replicative, brave or fearful, innovative or compliant – better meets the needs of kids and society?

Which vision are you selling? (and which one do your kids and community deserve?)

Image credit: Blindfold game 1, Lee Carson

Responsible educational journalism

Leslie and David Rutkowski say:

simply reporting results, in daring headline fashion, without caution, without caveat, is a dangerous practice. Although cautious reporting isn’t nearly as sensational as crying “Sputnik!” every time the next cycle of PISA results are reported, it is the responsible thing to do.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/20/so-how-overblown-were-no-1-shanghais-pisa-results

This holds true, of course, for all other assessment results as well. I am continually amazed at how many press releases become ‘news stories,’ sometimes nearly verbatim. Too many educational journalists have abdicated their responsibility to ask questions, to investigate claims and evidence, to cast a skeptical eye on puffery, and to try and get to the truth…

Education reformers want double standards for THEIR schools


In what is likely to be my favorite post of the week (and, yes, it’s Monday!), Shaun Johnson says:

in case you’re confused, let me summarize Jay P. Greene’s innovative arguments: Standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are wonderful ways to hold public schools accountable, up to and including shutting down public schools, because public schools are funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer has a right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes. On the other hand, standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are terrible ways to hold voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs accountable, even though voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs provide the exact same service and are also funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer would normally be right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes but is (for some reason) not right in expecting those things of voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs.

Look, you can have public funding with public accountability, or you can have an absence of public accountability and an absence of public funding. You can’t have the public funding and sidestep the public accountability. Sorry, that isn’t how it works.

And if choice advocates don’t like the public accountability system as it snarls at their weaker choice schools, someone should remind them that they all cheered as it tore “failing” public schools limb from limb. Oh, and they also insisted for years that choice schools would leave public schools in the dust, performance-wise. That was one of the reasons for promoting a choice system, wasn’t it?

Jay P. Greene can’t have it both ways. Either public funding should come with test-and-punish accountability, or it shouldn’t.

Being adamantly pro-testing while the tests are used to undermine traditional public schools and then flipping a switch and becoming thoughtfully anti-testing when the same tests threaten to gauge the quality (or publicize the lack thereof) of private schools that are funded with public money doesn’t “feel like” a bait-and-switch.

It *is* the height of cynicism.

Let’s not soften what Jay P. Greene has done here. . . . He has switched his opinion to its polar opposite when the same logic he long applied to the schools he wants to kill was applied (entirely fairly) to the schools he wants to save and replicate. Jay P. Greene even tossed out this gem to bolster his point: “score increases may well be just an artifact of … schools deciding to start prepping students for that high-stakes test… Fordham is confusing real learning increases with test manipulation.”

What? Standardized test scores don’t accurately reflect quality of education? Didn’t Jay P. Greene’s blog once call people who think that way about testing “nihilists?”

Where was all this refreshing nuance when Jay P. Greene was pro-standardized test? Oh, I know where it was: Diane Ravitch was using it, and Jay P. Greene was blasting her for it.

via http://atthechalkface.com/2014/01/20/fordham-and-hess-temporarily-acknowledge-that-reformers-cant-have-it-both-ways

As the supposed achievement benefits of many education reformers’ initiatives fail to materialize, we are seeing this about-face more and more. Stay alert for further hypocrisy…

Image credit: Flip-flop in the morning, Melissa Segal

Data resisters aren’t Chicken Littles

Chicken in a pot

John Kuhn says:

The vocal opposition we see to data collection efforts like inBloom, to curriculum standards (which define the data to be collected) like the Common Core, and to tests (the data source) like the MAP can all be traced back, largely, to two things: (1) dismay over how much class time is sacrificed for the all-encompassing data hunt, and (2) a foundational mistrust regarding the aims of those who gather and control the data. If your dad brings home a new baseball bat, it’s a pretty happy time in the family – unless your dad has been in the habit of beating the family with blunt objects. Data is that baseball bat. A better analogy might be a doctor who causes his patients pain unnecessarily with his medical equipment. Patients are naturally going to resist going in for procedures that the doctor says are “good for them” if they know it will come with excessive pain. There is a vigorous campaign online and in the papers and political buildings to discredit opponents of school reform as just so many Chicken Littles “defending the status quo” and sticking their heads in the sand. A salient question, though, is this: has the sector-controlling school reform movement, going back to the dawn of No Child Left Behind, wielded data honestly, ethically, and constructively? If not, then yeah, there will be resistance. These people aren’t Chicken Littles. They’re Chickens Who Won’t Get in the Pot.

via http://atthechalkface.com/2014/01/03/johnkuhntx-the-tyranny-of-the-datum

Educators don’t trust the powers that be, and the powers that be don’t trust educators. And thus our dysfunctional systems and dialogues…

Image credit: 11.20.11 Every Sunday, Peas

Moving toward something better than corporate ed reform

Anthony Cody says:

We want to move away from seeing student growth in terms of test scores, and towards authentic assessments of learning. We want to move away from the disruption and destruction of neighborhood public schools, and towards their preservation and support. Away from teacher turnover and towards stability and growth. Away from mayoral control and towards democracy. Away from segregation and economic isolation, and towards the sort of community-based integration that has yielded tremendous results in the past. Away from pursuing personalization through computerized devices, and towards personalization through smaller class sizes and teacher support.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/12/2013_in_review_part_3_gatesian.html

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