from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

new "Report" on teacher quality 

from the Progressive Policy Institute which for those who don't know is the 'think tank" for the DLC -- Al From is the head of the parent Third Way Foundation.  They combined DLC/PPI has sent out an email broadcast about their new report on teacher quality.  Not surprisingly, they find that quality lacking.

I will below the fold include the entire text of the email, which inlcudes a link so one can read the press release and get a link to the pdf of the entire 16 page "report."  Then I will explain why I keep writing "report."


here's the email:

New Policy Work on PPionline.org
Since the 1960s, the quality of the teaching profession has declined. It is clear that current approaches to improving teacher quality simply do not work, because they fail to focus on the problems driving declines: an outdated preparation and compensation scheme and too few growth opportunities to attract highly skilled individuals to the teaching profession. In "Lifting Teacher Performance," a new Progressive Policy Institute report released today, policymakers are offered better ways to reward and attract highly skilled educators, improving the quality and distribution of America's teachers.
In this new report, Andrew Leigh, an economist in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University, and Sara Mead, education policy analyst at PPI, demonstrate how policymakers can use the latest performance data to create a bottom-up reform plan, improving teacher preparation and quality. Leigh and Mead examine how to reform teacher preparation with a focus on teacher aptitude, especially the necessity of good verbal skills, intellectual ability, and content area knowledge. They also recommend a modernized compensation system designed to reward excellence and challenging placements; making teaching competitive with other professional careers and equalizing teacher quality between poor and affluent schools.
Lifting Teacher Performance


And now several comments from teacherken, who has taken the time to read through the entire pdf of the 'report" so you don't have to, unless you really want to.

1.  DLC has a history of what I consider hostility to public schools, and especially to teachers' unions.   Thus anyone who has paid attention to their previous bloviations will not be surprised to find that they find the decline of teacher quality has two main contributors, one the ability of talented women to obtain jobs other than teaching, but also the increased unionization of teachers during the 1960's and 1970's.  Given the fact that teachers' unions represent one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the total dominance of the DNC by the DLC, I do not find this surprising.  What I do find surprising is that the comment is offered with little evidence to back it up ... and yes, I have read through the myriad references, not all of which support the various assertation made in the "report."   BTW, DLC supported John  Kerry in his mid 1990's attacks on public schools, when Kerry argued for doing away with teacher tenure and turning all public schools into charter schools.

2.  Let me explain why I keep writing "report."  The paper purports to be a metanalysis  -- that is, it gathers a lot of previous studies and then tries to aggregate the findings.   But this "report" does no statistical analysis of its own.  It may be authored by people holding Ph. D's (onhe of whom is in Australia, which may or may not have relevance to his analyzing the quality or American teachers).  The various reports and research cited have little in common except that they seem to support the positions the DLC has previously taken on education.  I do not know all of the works, but I do know the work of many of the authors.  One author cited several times is Erik Hanushek, who has argued strenuously that the addition of money makes little difference in educational results.  I will note that his analyses have been thoroughly dissected by people such as Laine, Hedges and Greenwald, and also by Alan Krueger at Princeton, who took one data set on which Hanushek was relying, reanalyzied it, and showed how erroneous Hanushek's conclusions were.

3.  There are assertions made that determination of teacher quality can be done by value-added assessment such as that developed by William Sanders in Tennessee.  Here I know a good deal, and would point out that the independent analysis done under the request of the State Auditor's office in TN (and I have a copy of both reports in my study) make clear that some of the claims Sanders made for his analysis could not be supported.  And for what it is worth, his methodology is till a black box which, since it is proprietary, he will not open to outside analysis.  Given the problems we have had withy black box voting, you will understand why some of us in education are quite reluctant to have such a method used to evaluate teachers or students.

4.  One import of the 'report" is that their shold be diffferential salaries based on the greater positive effects some teachers have on their students, after things like prior knowledge and socio-economics  -- that is, things outside the control fo the teacher -- are controlled for.   In theory that is a good idea, except it presumes that each teacher operates in isolation.  Even in elementary school, where one teacher has responsibility for most of the 'academic"subjects of the students, usually the student encounters other adults -- art, music and phys ed teachers, for example.  And at the secondary level none of us teach in isolation.  I have my students for one of their 7 instructional periods each day.  What happens in the other 6 and during their lunch interacts with what goes on in my class.

Please note   --  by any emasure, including such as those proposed in this "report,"  In would be rated a superior teacher and in theory be entitled to a higher level of compensation.  And yet I never see the politicians who opt for imposing something like this on teachers be willing to impose it on themselves.  Nor have they asked us teachers what we think.  I will tell you that were teachers given more say in the training, support and evaluation of teachers, you would have far fewer problem teachers.  And having served as a shop steward for my large (at the time over 3,000 students) high school,  I know that most of the teachers in my building would oppose such a differential scale, even though msot of us in the building would probably qualify when compared either to other teachers across Maryland, or most assuredly to other teachers in our district  [the best teachedrs fight to come to our school].  That we who would benefit from such a program oppose it should tell the policymakers something, were they only to listen.

As I write now, the storm clouds gather over head at the end of a long, and somewhat hot (mid 80's) day in Washington.  The music to which I listen is the Adagietto from the Mahler 5th Symphony  --  if you saw the movie Death In Venice you will remember this music.  I have written, and am about to post, an entry that I know will quickly scroll into oblivion  -- we have the new Pope, we have Bolton, and education is so less important to so many people.

But I will continue to post these entries to provide information for those who care.  It is one thing i can do without feeling totally useless.

peace all.
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