Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Framing Dropouts

There were stories in newspapers across the country yesterday about an Associated Press/Johns Hopkins University analysis of Department of Education data about high school completion rates. The term the Johns Hopkins researcher uses for schools that graduate fewer than sixty percent of their freshman class is "dropout factory," which newspaper headline writers love. You can read the AP story here and see an interactive map that shows where the schools are located here. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a problem with the metaphor.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NCATE and Social Justice

NCATE published some new material about the "social justice" controversy on its website yesterday (NCATE Defines Professional Dispositions as used in Teacher Education; Issues Call for Action). Maybe I haven't been following this closely enough, but I don't understand what just happened. Can someone explain it?

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Licensure Test in California

Does anybody know any of the inside story about this? Is it a positive development? Are there implications related to accreditation? From Teacher Magazine:

Calif. Approves Teacher Test

California has given the nod to a rigorous assessment created by teacher colleges that requires aspiring educators to show students are learning before they earn their preliminary licenses.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing this month approved the Performance Assessment for California Teachers, or PACT, developed by a consortium of 30 teacher education programs in the state. Led by Stanford University, the group includes colleges in the University of California and California State University systems, and other private and independent schools.

Starting next school year, all teacher-candidates will have to pass a performance assessment before they can get their teaching credentials. A state law passed in 1998 requires such evaluations take place, but a lack of state funding delayed implementation.


PACT . . . occurs mainly during student-teaching, when candidates are expected to put together extensive, subject-specific portfolios, similar to those that teachers seeking national-board certification create, though on a smaller scale.

“In their [lesson] plans, they have to describe how to take the needs of special education students and English-language-learners into account,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and one of the founders of the consortium.

Every day, candidates reflect and write about the day’s teaching experience, analyze what students learned, what they didn’t, and consider changes to help students who didn’t master the materials.

“It is a much more holistic assessment, a deeper assessment of teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, a deeper assessment of student learning and teacher response to student learning,” said Ms. Darling-Hammond.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Scientifically-Based Research" Reconsidered

Here's an interesting story about how the use of the term "scientifically-based research" in NCLB is being debated behind the scenes. From Education Week:

Scientific’ Label in Law Stirs Debate

Proposals could reduce focus on randomized experiments

By Debra Viadero

While other ideas for revamping the No Child Left Behind Act are taking center stage, a quiet debate is unfolding over proposals to tinker with the law’s definition of what constitutes “scientifically based research” in education.

The phrase is one of the most oft-repeated in the lengthy text of the nearly 6-year-old law. Sprinkled through the federal education statute more than 100 times, the references to “scientifically based research” require educators to rely on such studies in choosing everything from approaches to reading instruction to anti-drug programs for students. And that’s not to mention the law’s use of such related terms as “evidence-based” research.

But the legislative definition of “scientifically based research,” which favors randomized or experimental studies over other kinds of research in determining what works in schools, has also been criticized for promoting a narrow view of educational scholarship.

Leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee, in a draft proposal for reauthorizing the NCLB law circulating since late summer, would tone down that emphasis on scientific experiments by stipulating that studies aimed at determining whether an educational program or practice works may include—but are not limited to—random-assignment experiments.

More here (registration required):

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Study on Public Schools, Private Schools

There's a new public schools vs. private schools study out today from the Center on Education Policy.
Public High School Students Do As Well As Private School
Students, Report Finds

No Difference Found Between the Academic Performance or
College-Going Rates of Public and Private School Students

WASHINGTON—October 10, 2007—Contradicting decades of research, a new report finds that, once family background characteristics are taken into account, low-income students attending public urban high schools generally performed as well academically as students attending private high schools. The report, issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy (CEP), also found that the students at public high schools are as likely to attend college as those attending private high schools.

According to the report, students attending independent private high schools, most
types of parochial high schools, and public high schools of choice performed no better
on achievement tests in math, reading, science, and history than students attending
traditional public high schools. In addition, students attending any type of private high school were no more likely to attend college than those attending traditional public high schools.

The report also finds that young adults who had attended any type of private high
school were no more likely to enjoy job satisfaction or to be engaged in civic activities at age 26 than those who had attended traditional public high schoo

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fundamentally Flawed

Diane Ravitch, who was a pretty energetic cheerleader for NCLB during its first few years, has changed her mind. From the NY Times:
October 3, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Get Congress Out of the Classroom

DESPITE the rosy claims of the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is fundamentally flawed. The latest national tests, released last week, show that academic gains since 2003 have been modest, less even than those posted in the years before the law was put in place. In eighth-grade reading, there have been no gains at all since 1998.

The main goal of the law — that all children in the United States will be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 — is simply unattainable. The primary strategy — to test all children in those subjects in grades three through eight every year — has unleashed an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing that has reduced the time available for teaching other important subjects. Furthermore, the law completely fractures the traditional limits on federal interference in the operation of local schools.

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

New Report Questions Current Definitions of Rigor

W. Norton Grubb and Jeannie Oakes have published an analysis of recent reports that attack American high schools. They argue that proposals for stiffer graduation requirements are simplistic and almost certain to fail.

From a press release announcing the publication of the report:
Grubb and Oakes conclude that this current push for “rigor” fails on several levels. The reports [proposing that high school be "reinvented"] don’t adequately consider the likely consequences of the policies intended to enforce higher standards. They also “have little to say about how [the] imposition [of these standards] will enhance student performance.” And most discussions in these reports focus on narrow definitions of rigor--higher test scores, more demanding courses, or both--while ignoring other conceptions of rigor that may be as valid, if not more so, to discussions of how high schools should better fill society’s needs.

Rigor, the authors explain, can also be advanced as depth rather than breadth, as more sophisticated levels of understanding including “higher-order skills,” and as the ability to apply learning in unfamiliar settings. These goals are largely neglected in the new “high standards” commission reports.

You can find it here.

TFA in the NYT

There's a long, fairly even-handed article about Teach for America in this week's New York Times Magazine. I don't have intimate knowledge about their work in urban communities, but in rural New Mexico, especially in Native American communities, my impression is that TFA has done more harm than good (mostly because of their teachers' failure to stick around and their lack of knowledge about the culture and history of where they're teaching).