The Manifesto got it all wrong
Sent to the Washington Post, October 8, 2010
The Manifesto ("How to fix our schools," October 8) presents proposals that have no support from the research: Studies indicate that performance-based teacher evaluation based on test scores is inaccurate, that financial incentives and restructuring do not work, that charters are no more effective than non-charters, and that technological innovations, despite the hype, typically do not live up to their promise.
The Manifesto ignores the real problem: Poverty. The best teaching cannot overcome the enormous negative influence of malnutrition and hunger, lack of health care, environmental toxins, and lack of access to books. Clear evidence that poverty is the problem is the finding that American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. Our overall scores are unspectacular because the US has a very high percentage of children in poverty (over 20%, compared to Denmark's 3%).
The first step in "reform" is to protect children from the effects of poverty: Improved health care, good food, and improved libraries and library services for children in high-poverty areas. When all American children have the advantages that middle-class children have, our international test scores will be at the top of the world.
Performance-based teacher evaluation:
Not stable: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.)
Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;
Different tests result in different value-added scores: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
Incentives: Springer, M. et. al. 2010. Teacher Pay for Performance: Experimental Evidence from the Project on Incentives in Teaching. National Center on Performance Incentives.
Restructuring, Charter Schools: Mathis, W. 2009. NCLB's Ultimate Restructuring Alternatives: Do They Improve the Quality of Education? National Education Policy Center, Van Lier, P. 2010, Public Good versus Private Profit. Policy Matters.
Malnutrition, hunger: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit; Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23 (2).
Health care: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.
Environmental toxins: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit; Martin, M. 2004. A strange ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in “failing schools.” http://www.azsba.org/lead.htm.
Access to books: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited; Neuman, S.B. & Celano, D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26; Di Loreto, C., and Tse, L. 1999. Seeing is believing: Disparity in books in two Los Angeles area public libraries. School Library Quarterly 17(3): 31-36.
Poverty and international test scores: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.