For the past two years, Hawaii has been focused on establishing a statewide early learning system based on readying children for school. As part of the process, there has been a push for a so-called "public-private solution" where public funds will be routed to private programs in order to “ready” the children within the state. This commentary discusses the amendment, advocacy for the amendment, and the related consequences.
In this article, I review and provide comments on the six articles that comprise this special issue on research conducted using PISA data. The articles represent a variety of issues and methods related to contemporary educational assessments and education policies. They feature state-of-the-art statistical analyses and instructive exploration of complex issues related to international assessment of students’ math, reading, and science achievement. A common theme underlying the articles is improving the interpretations of the results of educational assessments. Some articles address this theme via post hoc analysis or discussion of results, while others conduct research that informs future test development efforts.
The controversy over the Common Core is the most recent diversion from addressing the basic problems that contribute to the achievement gap between low- and high-income students. In the past decade, the focus has been on charter schools and testing. An enormous amount of time has been spent on promoting, implementing, and debating these initiatives in the hope that they would somehow narrow the achievement gap, even while poverty persisted and income and wealth gaps increased. These policies, which began with high—perhaps, more accurately, unrealistic—expectations, turned out to be irrelevant to narrowing the gap and, in some cases, reduced rather than expanded opportunities for low-income students. This commentary describes the futility of continuing to rely on “solutions” that do not address the underlying problems, serve only to detract attention from the far more fundamental changes that are needed, and risk increasing current inequities.
“Rich classroom discourse” has long been valorized by education reformers who object to teacher domination of classroom discussions. Is the greater use of RCD key to intellectually inspiring and challenging classrooms? Perhaps instead of focusing on increased use it’s time to ask what specific role for RCD might be realistic and yield learning outcomes educators value? The best chance for progress is to link this question to another one: how to create rich learning opportunities for achieving more advanced competencies. Strategic deployment of RCD for well-defined instructional purposes seems a more realistic vision than advocating greater use without respect for why, when, and for whom. Finding RCD’ proper role requires at least three conditions. Sustained collaboration between teachers and researchers. An ongoing study of curriculum and practice to identify pivotal RLOs in each unit or project and which might benefit from RCD. Supporting teacher development of the professional judgment to skillfully manage complex decisions with each population and generation of students they teach, so they deploy the best instructional choices.
This introduction is a brief reflection on the import of the Gordon Commission’s work to future considerations of assessment and learning.
Since 1965, three precedents have had a powerful influence on the direction of public education—the promise to educate all children, the fluctuating nature of school funding, and mandated standardized tests. This commentary discusses the interplay of these three precedents for rich and poor.
In this commentary we suggest that reading comprehension strategy instruction does not actually improve general-purpose comprehension skills. Rather, this strategy represents a bag of tricks that are useful and worth teaching, but that that are quickly learned and require minimal practice.
An Illinois school board fired a tenured guidance counselor because he self-published a sexually explicit advice book on adult relationships. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school board's decision on the grounds that the board reasonably believed that the book could undermine the integrity of the school counseling program.
This essay provides a metaphorical reading of The LEGO Movie, suggesting that the movie itself can serve as an instruction manual, the kind for which LEGO is well known. In this reading, the movie offers step-by-step instructions about how Americans can win the fight against privatizing, corporatizing forces that are attacking our public education system. The author shares these instructions and urges readers to follow them – even though they are, ironically, from a kind of instruction manual – as a way to commit ourselves anew to building and continually re-creating schools that help American youth change the world, not serve corporations’ self-interest.
Recent debates about the demise of cursive instruction demonstrate the disconnect between the educational policy and the profession of teaching.
Recently, there have been signs that the bankruptcy courts are becoming more compassionate toward people who enter the bankruptcy process burdened by student loans. Perhaps the most dramatic of these recent cases is Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, involving a quadriplegic man who filed for bankruptcy seeking to discharge $14,000 in student loans.
Recently Nicole Kersting wrote a commentary suggesting that teacher evaluation design could benefit from being modeled after engineering design principles. She indicated that a systematic approach to design, coupled with continuous improvements, could make systems stronger and less political. This response addresses several of her assumptions and argues that an engineering approach to improving teacher evaluation systems may not produce desired or expected results.
This essay expresses appreciation for the work of the Gordon Commission by a long-time friend and admirer of Professor Gordon. Professor Kaestle, who also served as a consultant to the commission, attempts to locate the work of the commission in the history of educational assessment and assess its potential for future policy reform.
Taken together, the Gordon Commission’s papers call for a radical rethinking of the ways educational assessment is used to support teaching and learning. Classroom assessment must be improved, but in addition, fundamental tensions between assessment for accountability and assessment for learning must be resolved.
This essay presents a dialogue between a new teacher and a former professor, generated when the teacher decided to leave the classroom after two years. Contextualized within the literature of teacher attrition and offering implications for teacher education, the essay explores what it means to be (a) a novice educator in the era of accountability and (b) a teacher educator tasked with preparing new teachers for this challenging climate. The authors share their perspectives in the hopes of starting a discussion about an important issue that remains relatively unexplored in the research literature: the stories of teachers who leave and their former professors who watch them go.
This commentary questions whether the implementation of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in American schools is a way of bridging or deepening the digital divide amongst students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds. It argues that that digital equity with mobile devices cannot be achieved without individual ownership of mobile technologies and concludes by posing a series of potential means of working toward the goal of ownership in schools.
Over the last decade, teacher evaluation based on value-added models (VAMs) has become central to the public debate over education policy. In this commentary, we critique and deconstruct the arguments proposed by the authors of a highly publicized study that linked teacher value-added models to students’ long-run outcomes, Chetty et al. (2014, forthcoming), in their response to the American Statistical Association statement on VAMs. We draw on recent academic literature to support our counter-arguments along main points of contention: causality of VAM estimates, transparency of VAMs, effect of non-random sorting of students on VAM estimates and sensitivity of VAMs to model specification.
In the stories of exorbitant costs and incompetence, teacher tenure laws have achieved mythic proportions. Judge Rolf Treu’s tentative decision in Vergara v. California may be the death knell for teacher tenure. But what will change as a result? A look to the past reveals that teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to. Using history as a lens, this commentary explores the origination of tenure policies and the debates that surrounded them. This commentary argues that embedded in the tenure debates is a much larger problem that should concern us all.
In this brief reflection I seek to propose an alternative way of thinking about international rankings for universities, decoupling them from the logic of the market and instead linking them to the university’s mission as a space concerned with educating the public and producing knowledge for the common good. For this purpose, I draw from the example of the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
New teacher evaluation systems are being designed, implemented and piloted in many states. The goal of these new systems is to provide more accurate and objective information on teacher performance than current systems do. Ideally, these new systems provide information for accountability purposes but also for helping teachers improve their performance. Achieving these goals is not likely unless we change our approach to designing such systems from a political process and adopt an engineering perspective. Taking an engineering design approach can lead to solid designs for teacher evaluation systems, provide opportunities for improvement through monitoring and feedback, and create accountability for the design process because the information on teacher performance these systems do provide can be evaluated against the goals and intended uses that were specified.
Policy makers have recently proposed to evaluate teacher preparation programs in order to hold them accountable for the quality of the teachers they prepare. Although definitions of teacher quality vary depending on the stakeholder’s perspective, there is a growing consensus among policy makers that high quality teaching should have a positive impact on student achievement, but other factors matter as well. This article argues that teacher preparation programs are only one of several critical factors that contribute to teacher quality. Because programs must conform to state accreditation mandates and must also cooperate with surrounding school districts to provide high quality field placement settings, accountability for teacher quality should be shared by the universities, the state board of education and the schools. To effectively strengthen teacher quality, all institutions involved must develop a shared vision of high quality teaching and work collaboratively to achieve that goal.
Despite the relative prevalence of teacher education positions in university Education departments, relatively few doctoral programs prepare graduate students for teacher education work, specifically. As a result, new teacher educators often expend significant energy ‘on the job’ learning how to do the complex work involved in educating teachers. Increasingly, the creation of teacher-education focused doctoral programs has been held up as a promising approach for helping to regenerate teacher education. This commentary aims to share some of that promise, while also highlighting various factors that make creating and sustaining such programs so challenging.
Online teacher education coursework provides many advantages; however, online coursework has limitations for certain courses, mainly pertaining to safe selection, use, and disposal of chemicals. For example, science methods and science methods-like courses that teach inquiry methods require the use of chemicals for middle and secondary certification levels. One limitation, the development of understanding of safe and ethical practice and disposal of chemicals during inquiry instruction crosses into the grey area of nonfeasance or misfeasance, if chemicals are omitted. Avoiding the use and discussion of safe and ethical practice for any reason, while lawful, is an inappropriate omission that may place a university and university instructors in legal risk. Further, K-12 schools that hire certified teachers fresh out of a certification program expect a certain level of understanding of professional standards which are consistent with state and national standards and guidelines. The question, How might instructors of online science methods courses implement safe and ethical practice using chemicals when many students connect asynchronously, or via videoconferencing software from remote locations, is a troubling question.
The purpose of this commentary is to argue that a better way of addressing the centuries old criticisms about the ivory toweresque model is to stop complaining and engage with knowledge mobilization strategies (KM). Scholars engaging in knowledge mobilization seek to understand and increase the impact and usability of research by means of multi-dimensional, interactive strategies that target a wide range of stakeholders as an approach to meet the ethical obligation scholars have to ensuring the research produced in education is more accessible and ultimately impactful. We recognize, as well, the evolving tensions that this process will likely evoke in the quest to improving scholarly impact by making research more accessible and usable for the public.