Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teacher Ed Makes a Difference

I've been away for a month or so but I thought this item was a good one to come back with. It's from Education Week:

Study: Teaching Credentials Still Matter

If you listen to a lot of policy discussions on education, chances are that you've heard one scholar or another stand up to talk about how teacher credentials, such as holding a traditional license or having earned a master's degree, don't seem to matter much when it comes to improving student achievement.

Duke University researcher Helen F. Ladd says that there are two problems with those studies. The studies are: 1) old, and 2) focused mostly on elementary school children.

To gather newer data on the impact of teacher credentials and characteristics on high school students' achievement, Ladd and her research partners took a look at scores from the end-of-course exams that all high school students are required to take in North Carolina. They looked in particular at statewide data for four cohorts of 9th and 10th graders for whom they could find and match up data on their teachers. (The final sample included tens of thousands of students.)The bottom line, the researchers found, was that at the high school level, most measurable teacher credentials do indeed matter. And they have a large enough impact on student achievement, Ladd and her colleagues say, to suggest that they ought to figure into policymakers' decisions on how to raise the quality of instruction in schools.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

April in Auckland

As some of you know, the CEE Executive Committee has been working over the past couple of years to forge new and better connections to the International Federation for the Teaching of English. No doubt the best way to get involved with IFTE is to attend their upcoming conference in New Zealand. Here are the details:

Much Ado About English: IFTE Conference 2011

Please plan to attend the 2011 International Federation for the Teaching of English (IFTE) conference at the University of Auckland, April 18-21. The conference promises to deliver something special for all teachers and teacher educators who attend. The conference will have four key strands: Literacies and Literatures, Diversity and Voice, English Teachers @ Work, and New Technologies, New Practices.

For more information and details about how to register, please see (when you get there, click on OPEN).

Note that proposals are due September 1.

Monday, May 24, 2010

If Only Every School was a Charter School . . .

The cover article in the Sunday NY Times Magazine continues the media's fixation on charter schools as the solution to everything. Of course they're only following Secretary Duncan's lead. Good rejoinders here and here.

More enlightening is this exchange between Diane Ravitch and Mike Rose.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Here's an alarming piece from The Guardian about what the Texas textbook revisers want to put in and take out. Slavery, for example, is out.

Friday, May 07, 2010

That Old Detroit Perfume

Nancy Flanagan writes about Detroit, lay-offs, and Teach for America on her blog at Education Week.

Scene: Last fall, at the MI Association of Public School Academies conference. A panel featuring an array of high-profile leadership figures in Detroit is asked about the most effective strategies for fixing schools in Detroit. Surprisingly, nobody mentions more charters. One of the panelists suggests that Teach for America would make a big difference. A former corps member herself, she refers to TFA as the Peace Corps of Teaching.

Q from the audience: Wow, that sounds great! What special training do TFA members get before they come to Detroit? Special classes for working in tough urban districts? Do they student teach here first?

Panelist: Ummm. Well, there's this five-week summer seminar called Institute that's, like, intense. But mostly, they're graduates of top colleges who have to compete to get into the program. They're the best and the brightest!

Sitting at a table with several DPS NBCTs and a Milken winner, I hear one mutter something about also being the cheapest. And--in the end--it is about money, more or less.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, May 03, 2010

More on Charters

The big front-page story in the NY Times about charter schools gets more things right than most stories about charters, but they completely buy in to the idea that a "rigidly structured environment" is the difference between success and failure for inner city schools. However, a more important story may turn out to be the relatively opaque nature of charter school finances. There have been rumblings in various parts of the country this year about extravagantly-paid administrators, trips to resorts for "professional development," and outright fraud. There's good discussion of that problem here.

On the other hand, as I said in a previous post, I know there are some teacher ed. programs that have built productive relationships with charters.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Everyone Agrees

Good blog post today from Deborah Meier on the current conventional wisdom about education:
It reminds me of anther ploy that I run into a lot in the print media. "Everyone agrees," "a consensus has developed"—sometimes followed by a quote from the head of the union as the sole dissenter. I don't recall there ever being a discussion, so where and when did this consensus form around getting rid of "traditional" public schooling that rests on local communities? When did we have a discussion about the larger moral issues that "seniority" represents in general, not just in schools? Or due process? Why do we presume guilt, not innocence, when someone is arbitrarily sent to the so-called "rubber room"? Or, who should decide what curriculum and pedagogy to adopt—or reject? Or, how we should judge schools or teachers...not to mention kids! Who decided that algebra would be a gateway skill to possessing a high school diploma (and thus entry to almost any job)? Who decided that private, for-profit managers should take over large portions of public education—including replacing entire former public school space? Who decided that the representatives of teachers don't represent them—but are just "labor bosses"? Who decided that Ivy League-educated students fresh out of college will be better teachers of our kids than experienced graduates of the non-elite universities?
I could be mistaken, but it seems as if the ideas behind the specific examples she lists have really put down roots in the mainstream media over the past two or three years: schools are bad, teachers are self-serving and cling relentlessly to the status quo, teacher education is a waste of time, any ideas coming from outside education are by definition better than any ideas coming from inside, etc. Has anyone read anything interesting that helps explain how perceptions of education are currently being shaped by the media and other forces?

A related post worth reading is this one at Public School Insights by Claus von Zastrow.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NRC Report on Teacher Ed Finally Appears

Back in 2004, Congress commissioned the National Research Council to do a study of teacher preparation. Given the impact of the NRC report on the teaching of reading, that seemed like an important (possibly even alarming) development. As the months and years went by, I would occasionally visit the NRC website to see if they were making any progress. Once in a while the minutes of a meeting would be posted but eventually it looked as though the project had disappeared into the bureaucratic ether. I thought perhaps it had lost its funding. (I realize that admitting I was following this so closely shows what a nerd I am.) But today the study finally appeared. You can read about it in Education Week or buy a copy here. Now, in 2010, it doesn't seem quite so important, but I'm not sure why.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On the Verge

Interesting article in the NY Times about how the State of NY is considering allowing entities other than schools or colleges of education to offer degrees in education. Key quote from Arthur Levine: “Education schools are on the verge of losing their franchise.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stanford Charter Closes

Stanford's experiment in running a charter school ends. This seems like the kind of story that can be read in a dozen different ways, depending on your point-of-view about test scores, charter schools, schools of education, high-prestige universities, etc. Take, for instance, this statement by the board president: “I would have expected that any school that is overseen by Stanford would have the best scores."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Friday, April 09, 2010

More on Florida

From the Associated Press, via Education Week:
Conservatives Hail Fla. Teacher Bill as Model

Business interests as well as most Republicans backed the bill that was opposed by teachers and their unions, local school officials and Democrats.

Read the rest here.

I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts from Florida CEE members about this.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


A professor at the University of Houston is outsourcing the grading of student essays (to Bangalore).

Twilight Zone

Another high school, this time in Savannah, Georgia, is firing its entire staff. Here's the Twilight Zone line, from "public information manager Karla Redditte": “The superintendent is very pleased with the staff – it’s not any fault of theirs . . ."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Grim Times

Two good columns today, one from Derek Jackson at the Boston Globe on "The Death of Public Education" and another from CEE's own Michael Moore at the Savannah Morning News on "Merit Pay for Parents."
And, on the same theme, more news from Florida.
(One thought about the moves to undermine teacher tenure occurring in Florida and elsewhere: I usually assume that attacks on the teaching profession are at least partly about union-busting. But isn't it likely that teachers who are deprived of the due process protections offered by tenure will turn elsewhere for such protections? Could this end up reinvigorating the unions in education?)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Lesson Planning?

I just got out of a Secondary Education program meeting where the topic under discussion was lesson planning, especially the question of how much various subject areas have in common when it comes to lesson planning. I always leave such discussions a little confused about the proper role of lesson planning in teacher education. Some faculty appear to see it as absolutely central while others seem to think it's over-emphasized, that it's a kind of red-herring, distracting us from more important matters. My sense is that there's a similar divide among K-12 teachers. For instance, I'm thinking of one very good teacher I know who's somewhat dismissive of the idea of lesson planning because she thinks creating efficient routines and managing student work make the idea of "the well-planned lesson" almost obsolete. So I'm curious about other teacher ed. programs--what's the status/role of lesson planning where you are? Is it under-emphasized? Over-emphasized? Under-theorized? Fetishized?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Common Core and Young Children

The Alliance for Childhood is calling for the withdrawal of the portion of the Common Core Standards dealing with young children. Their statement includes a good explanation of what they object to and why.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Standards, Etc.

Just a reminder that you have until this Friday, April 2, to comment on the Common Core Standards.

And a couple of other items of interest:

Maybe you were aware that Larry Cuban has a blog, but it was news to me. Full of interesting observations about education reform, especially its historical antecedents.

Diane Ravitch comments on the recently passed law in Florida that will undermine teacher professionalism.

Monday, March 29, 2010

NCLB, the Sequel

Here are two thoughtful responses to the Obama administration's Blueprint for re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), from Renee Moore and Richard Rothstein. All of this can seem incredibly wonky but if there's one thing we should have learned from NCLB, it's that we ignore these issues at our peril.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coming to Your State Soon?

The Florida senate passed a bill yesterday that, if it's passed by the Florida house and signed into law, will pretty much guarantee that nobody who has any other options will choose to teach. Here are some of the key elements (from the Valerie's Strauss's "The Answer Sheet" blog in The Washington Post):

The bill would:

*Require that school systems evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. Testing experts say this is an invalid assessment tool.
*Require that experience, advanced degrees or professional certification not be considered when paying teachers.
*Require that new teachers be put on probation for five years and then work on one-year contracts, which would allow any principal to easily get rid of any teacher who bothered them in any way.
*Require the creation of new annual tests for every subject that is not measured already by state assessments or other tests, such as the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate end-of-course tests.

Due process? Valid and reliable research? Teachers as professionals? Apparently those are old-fashioned concepts. The whole column is worth reading. You can find it here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie, one of the most popular speakers to appear at the CEE luncheon in recent years, has won the Pen/Faulkner Award for his recent book War Dances.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More on Standards

I've been on the lookout for places where people are discussing the Common Core Standards draft. I'm surprised at how little seems to be going on (given the April 2 deadline for public comments), but maybe I'm not looking in the right places. Or maybe people think it's a done deal. Or that standards are standards and there isn't much to be said. In addition to the statement about media literacy posted here yesterday, I did find a couple of lively discussions over at Jim Burke's English Companion Ning (here and here). However, they tend to focus more on whether national standards are a good idea in general rather than on the particulars of the current draft. Is anything going on in your state organization or at your school or college?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Media Literacy and the Common Core

Rick Beach posted the following as a comment. It seemed worth re-posting here:

Time is running out. If you agree with our petition below, we ask you to go to the SUBMIT FEEDBACK section of the COMMON CORE STANDARDS documents (online) at this week.
Please share this message with your colleagues today.

Frank Baker (Media Literacy Clearinghouse), Richard Beach (University of Minnesota)

Whereas in 1996, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) passed a resolution urging language arts teachers to consider the importance of bringing visual texts into the classroom. The resolution said: "Viewing and visually representing (defined in the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts) are a part of our growing consciousness of how people gather and share information. Teachers and students need to expand their appreciation of the power of print and nonprint texts. Teachers should guide students in constructing meaning through creating and viewing nonprint texts."

Whereas in 2000, the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) defined
media literacy as: (empowering) “people to be both critical thinkers and creative producers of an increasingly wide range of messages using image, language, and sound. It is the skillful application of literacy skills to media and technology messages. As communication technologies transform society, they impact our understanding of ourselves, our communities, and our diverse cultures, making media literacy an essential life skill for the 21st century.”

Whereas the 2009 K-12 Horizon Report (, declared the number one critical challenge for schools in the 21st century is: "a growing need for formal instruction in key new skills, including information literacy, visual literacy, and technological literacy."

Whereas the 2010 K-12 Horizon Report continues to include this critical challenge when it says:
“Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.;

Whereas media/digital literacy has become central to life and work in society;

Whereas, today’s educators recognize that the words “text” and “literacy” are not confined to the words on page;

Whereas the Common Core Standards only refer in general terms to media as “nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to research and to consume and produce media is embedded into every element of today’s curriculum;”

Whereas media/digital literacy are now well articulated in much more detail in most state standards, often under the category of “viewing” or “visually representing,” resulting in a strong media literacy curriculum focus;

Whereas if media/digital literacy is not explicitly articulated “in the standards,” many teachers many not focus on media/digital instruction;

We, the undersigned urge that more specific media/digital literacy standards related to critical analysis of media/digital consumption/use, production, representations, social/cultural analysis, ownership, and influence on society be explicitly stated in the Common Core Standards.

If you agree with our petition below, you need to go to the SUBMIT FEEDBACK section of the COMMON CORE STANDARDS documents (online) at this week.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Changing Charters

Two interesting pieces about charter schools: SUNY is closing one and questions are being asked about what's being taught in two others in California. Given Secretary Duncan's emphasis on charters, these stories are getting more important. Are you placing student teachers in charters? Is your institution operating a charter? What influence are charters having on your work?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clinical Prep

AACTE has a new policy brief out titled "The Clinical Preparation of Teachers." The main recommendations are below. Given the times we live in, I predict some policy maker will endorse these recommendations and, in the same breath, endorse alternative paths that include little or no clinical experience.

Specifically, the federal government should:

  • Revise the "Highly Qualified Teacher" definition within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require that teachers must establish not only their content expertise, but their ability to teach it effectively, as measured by their actual performance in classrooms, following extended clinical experience;
  • Invest in the development of a National Teacher Performance Assessment that would parallel the development and adoption of Common Core Standards;
  • Maintain the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, with a specific clinical preparation focus, in the Higher Education Opportunity Act while increasing funding for the program;

Specifically, state governments should:

  • Require a minimum of 450 hours, or one semester, of clinical experience during pre-service teacher preparation;
  • Ensure that all teacher preparation routes, regardless of pathway, include the same clinical preparation requirements;
  • Require a high-quality teacher performance assessment of all teacher candidates;
  • Collaborate to agree upon common clinical experience requirements;
  • Offer incentives to schools that act as clinical settings for teacher candidates; and
  • Support the expansion or replication of successful teacher residency programs.

Providers of teacher preparation should:

  • Ensure school districts and universities work jointly to design and supervise strong clinical practice collaborations;
  • Provide all teacher candidates substantial and appropriate clinical preparation prior to becoming "teacher of record" in their own classrooms;
  • Train clinical teachers and other teacher mentors to help and support novice teachers;
  • Require all clinical teachers to have at least three years of teaching experience; and
  • Assist our nation's public schools and teacher preparation programs to jointly adopt standards for newly redesigned clinically based teacher preparation programs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Ravitch

In the Education Week blog she writes with Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch responds to the recent Newsweek hatchet job on teaching and the teaching profession: "The article is a flamboyant example of outright hostility to teachers, to the organizations that represent them, and to public education itself." Read the rest here.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Diane Ravitch has been everywhere the last couple of weeks. Here's a new interview with her.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back in Business

Greetings to English educators and the CEE community. This blog has been silent for a while, but I recently spoke with CEE chair Janet Alsup and she agreed it might be useful to restart it, so expect regular postings again. Please comment, subscribe, and share the address with others.

Most of you have heard by now that the Common Core Standards project has released a draft for public comment. The window for public comments is open only until April 2. You can find the three responses to previous drafts from review panels appointed by NCTE here. In my opinion the April 2 deadline will make it difficult for many teachers and teacher educators to respond. If you do have time to read the standards, please feel free to share your thoughts. Are there particular parts that comments should be directed towards?

You may not have heard that NCATE head Jim Cibulka has made a statement "applauding" the Core Standards. Here's the key piece:
NCATE will ensure that educator preparation standards and assessments reflect the knowledge and skills educators need to help P-12 students meet the new common core standards. NCATE will examine the new standards through the lens of expectations for teachers’ content mastery, pedagogical content skills, ability to affect student learning, clinical preparation, professional development and other dimensions of teaching effectiveness, both for novice and experienced teachers, and related skills for other professional P-12 personnel.
This seems to be suggesting an accreditation process that's closely tied to national K-12 content standards. Thoughts? (Thanks to Lil Brannon for the heads-up about the NCATE stance.)