Tag Archives: edreform

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!

Best,

Alyssa

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?

UPDATE 1

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.

Best,
Alyssa

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.

UPDATE 2

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!

Punishments

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?

Blindfold

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

Flipflop

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

Less submissiveness. More voice.

Shout out loud

George Couros says:

As a teacher, would you prefer to work in an environment where [your] principal (who is [your] boss) wants feedback on the things that are happening in the school and actively listens? This doesn’t mean [she] always agree[s], but that you know [she] genuinely takes feedback in the workplace and figures out a way to implement some suggestions.

Or would you simply want to do what you were told, because that’s what you should do?

And in a comment to George’s post, Jim Cordery says:

We want people to act/think outside of the box, until those students end up sitting in our rooms. Then, the questioning of things is seen as defiance.

We need less submissiveness. We need more questions. We need more voice. From students. From educators. From citizens. From you.

I’m ready to kick my blog up a notch or two this year. Consider yourself forewarned…

Image credit: Shout Out Loud, Gary Denness

Three central problems plague public education in the United States

Arthur Camins says:

The biggest problem with education is the U.S. is not test scores. Rather, three central problems plague public education in the United States. The most dramatic is inequity. There are vast inequities in educational resources and in the conditions of students’ lives, resulting in persistent race- and class-based disparities in educational outcomes.

Second, we are far too focused on a narrow range of outcomes – reading and math test scores – and not enough on a broader range of subject matter or essential domains, such as critical thinking, creativity and collaborative skills. Third, we gravitate toward partial quick solutions, rather than thinking systemically and having the patience to allow strategies time to develop, take hold, and be refined.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/04/arthur-camins-on-international-test-scores

What does the PISA report tell us about U.S. education? [VIDEO]

An excellent video from AFT about PISA and education reform lessons to be learned. Watch it. Share it. #reclaimit

Happy viewing!

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