"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fred Hiatt and the Horse's Orifices

Among the host of things that Fred Hiatt doesn't know, one of the more prominent would have to be which end of the horse to go to when trying to get the facts on education issues. To prove as much, the Editorial Board of WaPo invited Bill Gates for a private education summit last week, where Gates predictably delivered what we might expect from a, uh, horse's ass. Today Hiatt offers up some of the steaming remains of that private summit with the once-boyish oligarch--whose wife, by the way, sits on the Board of Directors for Fred's paper, the Washington Post. In so doing, the Post continues its unflagging advertising of the corporatist case for the new generation of education reform schools based on the KIPP punishment camps. A couple of clips:
The [Gates] foundation has spent about $4 billion seeking to improve high schools and promote college access since 2000, along the way gaining valuable experience on what does and doesn't work. Based on those lessons, Gates names two priorities: helping successful charter school organizations, such as KIPP, replicate as quickly as possible; and improving teacher effectiveness at every other school.
It remains entirely unclear what the connections may be between Gates's ambitious small high school project and the entirely unrelated phenomenon of KIPP or teacher effectiveness. If the connection has to do with size of the school, there is not much worth passing on in that regard, based on Gates's own research. The 25 million dollar small high school experiment in Portland is an example. From the Seattle Times last June:

. . . .Despite the smaller classes, key indicators of student success at Marshall and Roosevelt — test scores and attendance, for instance — haven't changed much since the campuses split into small schools.

At Marshall, students missed on average more than five weeks of school last year. At Roosevelt, the average was six weeks.

Students in two academies at Roosevelt and two at Marshall have shown improvement in reading since the change, but math performance declined. At Roosevelt, math performance remained flat.

Administrators say students at both schools pose special challenges to educate. Officials say many of these students enter high school less prepared than their counterparts at other high schools, and many work part time to help support their families.

Nevertheless, some students and parents say the small-school transformation overpromised and underdelivered for the class of 2008.

"The idea and the potential are great, but the actual execution has been less than great," said Cindy Adams, whose youngest son, Brandon, graduated this month from BizTech.

Gates Foundation leaders also have grown impatient at the uneven results when big schools break into small ones. This fall, Gates probably will switch the focus of its grants for fixing high schools to target teaching and raise teacher quality, says Vicki Phillips, who directs Gates' education initiatives.

But I am intruding on Fred's point, which is that public schools and teachers' unions stand in the way of the Gates vision of cheap chain gang charters, a never-ending stream of teacher temps, and pay-per-score schemes.
In both cases, institutions stand in the way. School boards resist the expansion of charter schools. Teachers unions resist measuring and rewarding effectiveness. In fact, Gates said, evidence shows no connection between teaching quality and most of the measures used in contracts to determine pay. Seniority, holding a master's degree or teacher's certification, and even, below 10th grade, having deep knowledge of a subject -- these all are mostly irrelevant. It follows that some of the money devoted to rewarding teachers who get higher degrees and to pensions accessible only to those who stay 10 or more years should go instead to keeping the best teachers from leaving in their fourth or fifth years.
Here Gates's unplumbed well of ignorance echoes the embarrassing lie that shills like Kate Walsh of NCTQ has been pushing into the media ever since she was busted for doing illegal propaganda during the Bush years. To suggest that teacher credentialing, certification, and subject area knowledge are irrelevant to teacher quality is an insult the intelligence of the American people--it's even an insult to Arne Duncan. It really shows the level of desperation for preserving the unsustainable and ridiculous lies upon which the education oligarchy and the Business Roundtable have chosen to base their assault on public education. And even though Fred Hiatt is eager to draw a straight line from Rhee to Gates to Duncan to Obama, it is hard to believe, even for a skeptic like myself, that Obama could be this disengaged or this stupid on an issue so important. So here, once more, is my digest of research to help freshen the air, one may hope:
Stronge, James H. (2007). Qualities of Effective Teachers (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Teacher Certification
  • Fully prepared and certified teachers have a greater impact on gains in student learning than do uncertified or provisionally certified teachers, especially with minority populations and in urban and rural settings (DarlingHammond, Berry, & Thoreson, 2001; Goe, 2002; Laczko-Kerr & Berliner, 2002; Qu & Becker, 2003).
  • Teacher certification status and teaching within one’s field are positively related to student outcomes (Hawk, Coble, & Swanson, 1985).
  • Teachers with certification of some kind (standard, alternative, or provisional) tend to have higher-achieving students than do teachers working without certification (Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000).

  • Students of teachers who hold standard certification in their subjects score 7 to 10 points higher on 12th grade math tests than do students of teachers with probationary, emergency, or no certification (Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000).
  • Some studies have demonstrated relationships between standard certification and teacher practices (e.g., hands-on learning, connections to student experiences) (Darling-Hammond, 2000). These teacher practices have been found to be effective in supporting student achievement, thus illustrating a possible indirect relationship between traditional certification and student achievement.
  • Teachers assigned to the area in which they are certified have been found to have more influence on student learning than uncertified teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2000b; Darling-Hammond, Berry, & Thoreson, 2001; Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000; Hawk, Coble, & Swanson, 1985; Laczko-Kerr & Berliner, 2002). For example, in a study comparing certified teachers who were licensed to teach mathematics with those licensed in another area, students taught by teachers instructing in their licensed field had higher levels of achievement (Hawk et al., 1985).
Related Resources: Cavalluzzo, 2004; Darling-Hammond, 1996, 2000, 2001; DarlingHammond et al., 2001; Darling-Hammond et al., 2005; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003; Dozier & Bertotti, 2000; Ferguson & Womack, 1993; Fetler, 1999; Fidler, 2002; Goe, 2002; Goldhaber & Anthony, 2004; Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000; Hawk et al., 1985; Ingersoll, 2001; Laczko-Kerr & Berliner, 2002; Lilly, 1992; Mathews, 1999; Miller et al., 1998; Qu & Becker, 2003; Scherer, 2001; Stronge et al., 2005; Vandevoort et al., 2004; Wise, 2000.

Content Area Knowledge
  • Teachers with a major or minor in their content area are associated with higher student achievement, especially in the areas of secondary science and mathematics (Wenglinsky, 2000).
  • Students, teachers, principals, and school board members have all emphasized the importance of subject-matter knowledge in describing effective teaching (Covino & Iwanicki, 1996; Johnson, 1997; National Association of Secondary School Principals [NASSP], 1997; Peart & Campbell, 1999).
  • The ability to convey content to students in a way that they can grasp, use, and remember is important, but it is not necessarily related to additional teacher knowledge or coursework in the content area (Begle, 1979; Monk, 1994; Monk & King, 1994).
  • Content-area preparation is positively related to student achievement within specific subjects, especially in mathematics (Hawk et al., 1985; Wenglinsky, 2002) and science (Druva & Anderson, 1983).
  • Several studies have illustrated that teachers with greater subject-matter knowledge tend to ask higher-level questions, involve students in the lessons, and allow more student-directed activities (Wenglinsky, 2000, 2002).
Related Resources: Berliner, 1986; Blair, 2000; Brookhart & Loadman, 1992; Carlsen, 1987; Carlsen & Wilson, 1988; Covino & Iwanicki, 1996; Darling-Hammond, 1996, 2000; Darling-Hammond et al., 2001; Druva & Anderson, 1983; Ferguson & Womack, 1993; Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000; Hill et al., 2005; Holt-Reynolds, 1999; Johnson, 1997; Mitchell, 1998; Monk & King, 1994; NASSP, 1997; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, n.d.; Peart & Campbell, 1999; Rowan et al., 1997; Shellard & Protheroe, 2000; Shulman, 1987; Traina, 1999; Wenglinsky, 2000, 2002.

Teaching Experience
Experienced teachers have increased depth of understanding of the content and how to teach and apply it (Covino & Iwanicki, 1996). Additionally, experienced teachers are more effective with students due to their use of a wider variety of strategies (Glass, 2001). One study found that “schools with more experienced and more highly educated mathematics teachers tended to have higher achieving students” (Fetler, 1999, p. 9). This quality indicator does not necessarily mean that more years are better. Based on data from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, Sanders and Rivers (1996) found that teachers’ effectiveness increased through the first seven years of teaching and became flat by around year 10. (Note: The minimal teaching experience in Sanders’ original work was three years.)

If students are to learn, they need to feel comfortable in their instructional environment. In that respect, the personal connection that an educator makes with students assists in creating a trusting and respectful relationship (Marzano, Pickering, & McTighe, 1993; McBer, 2000). The ability to relate to students and convey a sense that they are valued and that the teacher wants them to be there is vital (Haberman, 1995a). Effective teachers have been described as caring, enthusiastic, motivated, fair, respectful, reflective, and dedicated individuals with a sense of humor who interact well with students and colleagues (Black & Howard-Jones, 2000; Delaney, 1954; National Association of Secondary School Principals [NASSP], 1997; Peart & Campbell, 1999). In brief, teachers’ effect on student learning is increased when students are taught by well-prepared professionals who integrate their knowledge of instruction with a deep sense of caring about the individual students they teach. As Sizer (1999) puts it, “We cannot teach students well if we do not know them well” (p. 6).

From Stronge, James H. (2006) Teacher Quality Index : A Protocol for Teacher Selection.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development, 2006.
Research supports the following findings related to teacher experience:
  • Teachers with more experience tend to show better planning skills, including a more hierarchical and organized structure in the presentation of their material (Borko & Livingston, 1989; Covino & Iwanicki, 1996; Jay, 2002; Yildirim, 2001).

  • Effective experienced teachers are better able to apply a range of teaching strategies, and they demonstrate more depth and differentiation in learning activities (Covino & Iwanicki, 1996).
  • Experienced teachers tend to know and understand their students’ learning needs, learning styles, prerequisite skills, and interests better than beginners do (Borko & Livingston, 1989; Covino & Iwanicki, 1996; Jay, 2002).
  • The classrooms of more experienced teachers are better organized around routines and plans for handling problems than are those of novices (Covino & Iwanicki, 1996; Cruickshank & Haefele, 2001).
  • Teachers with more than three years of experience are more effective than those with three years or fewer (Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004), but these differences seem to level off after five to eight years (DarlingHammond, 2000; Scherer, 2001).
  • Teacher expertise as defined by experience (as well as education and scores on licensing exams) accounts for as much as 40 percent of the variation in student achievement, which is more than race and socioeconomic status (Ferguson, 1991; Virshup, 1997).
  • Schools with more beginning teachers tend to have lower student achievement (Betts, Rueben, & Danenberg, 2000; Fetler, 1999; Goe, 2002), and schools with student performance in the lowest quartile have more inexperienced teachers than those schools with student performance in the highest quartile (Esch et al., 2005). Related Resources: Betts, Rueben, & Danenberg, 2000; Borko & Livingston, 1989; Covino & Iwanicki, 1996; Cruickshank & Haefele, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Education Review Office, 1998; Esch et al., 2005; Fetler, 1999; Goe, 2002; Haycock, 2000, 2003; Jay, 2002; Kerrins & Cushing, 1998; Neilsen, 1999; Nye et al., 2004; Scherer, 2001; Tell, 2001; Virshup, 1997; Yildirim, 2001.
Stronge, James H. (2007). Qualities of Effective Teachers (2nd Edition).
Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

1 comment:

  1. Kenneth Libby10:04 AM

    Of note: Vicki Phillips, now in charge of the Gates' education initiatives, was the Portland Public Schools superintendent during the time of the $25 million experiment in small schools. Phillips' assistant, Carole Smith, is currently in charge of PPS. The Gates foundation also pays for an entire office in the PPS, the Office of High Schools.