Education News for 04-03-2013

State Education News

  • Educators line up to tour Reynoldsburg (Columbus Dispatch)
  • If you’re an educator who wants to tour Reynoldsburg schools, you’re going to have to wait until fall. The district leads about two tours a week for educators from around the country and across the world, and they’re booked for months…Read more...

  • Ohio’s bookkeeping improved, 2012 audit finds (Columbus Dispatch)
  • If not for the state’s massive Medicaid health-care program, there would be little to talk about in this year’s annual audit of Ohio’s financial records…Read more...

  • Area schools named Schools of Promise (Lima News)
  • Many pieces go into determining whether a pupil finds academic success, and Superintendent Dale Lewellen believes it’s why both Bath's elementary and high schools landed on the state’s…Read more...

  • 21 Mahoning Valley schools designated Schools of Promise (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Twenty-one Mahoning Valley schools have earned the designation “School of Promise” for the 2011-12 school year from the Ohio Department of Education…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Ashtabula City Council tweaks curfew laws (Ashtabula Star-Beacon)
  • The children spoke and City Council heard them…

  • Huron school board upholds firing former Superintendent Fox (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • A majority of Huron School Board members voted last night to uphold their firing of former Superintendent Fred Fox, despite a mediator’s report last month that said Fox should be reinstated with back pay…Read more...


  • Out of Akron (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • For the past several years, Akron Public Schools administrators have been engaged in an exercise they refer to as “right-sizing” the district. They have closed several school buildings and laid off staff members, including principals, teachers…Read more...

  • Clarity on school funding urgently needed (Canton Repository)
  • Nothing about Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget is simple. It’s filled with fundamental changes in the way state government operates, and he faces opposition…Read more...

Is firing bad instructors the only way to improve schools?

The conversation about how to improve American education has taken on an increasingly confrontational tone. The caricature often presented in the press depicts hard-driving, data-obsessed reformers—who believe the solution is getting rid of low-performing teachers—standing off against unions—who don’t trust any teaching metric and care more about their jobs than the children they’re supposed to be educating.

But in some ways the focus on jobs misses the point. As New York State Education Commissioner John King has pointed out, with the exception of urban hubs like New York and L.A., few school districts have the luxury of firing low-performing teachers with the knowledge that new recruits will line up to take their places.

If we take firing off the table, what else can be done to resolve America’s education crisis? The findings of several recent studies by psychologists, economists, and educators show that—despite many reformers’ claims to the contrary—it may be possible to make low-performing teachers better, instead of firing them. If these studies can be replicated throughout entire school systems and across the country, we may be at the beginning of a revolution that will build a better educational system for America.
Yet there is growing evidence that you may not need to hand out stacks of pink slips—or have a very tall stack of greenbacks—to improve teacher quality. When I asked education scholar Doug Staiger where the most promising evidence lay, he referred me to an assessment of the Teacher Evaluation System that was implemented in Cincinnati public schools in 2000-01.

Cincinnati’s approach combines evaluation by expert teachers—who observe classroom performance and also critique lesson plans and other written materials—with feedback based on those evaluations, to help teachers figure out how to improve. The study that professor Staiger described, by Eric Taylor of Stanford and John Tyler of Brown, focused on teachers in grades 4-8 who were already in the school system in 2000, which allowed the researchers to examine, for a given teacher, the test scores of their pupils before, during, and after evaluation was performed and feedback received. And because the TES was phased in gradually, the researchers could compare the performance of teachers who had already been evaluated and received feedback to those who were still awaiting their TES treatment. This ensured that any change in test scores wasn’t just the result of a general improvement in Cincinnati’s schools concurrent with the implementation of TES.

The results of the study suggest that TES-style feedback and coaching holds promise—Taylor and Tyler estimate that participating in TES has an effect on students’ standardized math test scores that is equivalent to taking a teacher that is worse than three-quarters of his peers and making him about average. The effects of participation only get stronger with time: If teachers were simply performing better because they saw their evaluator sitting at the back of the classroom, you’d expect only a onetime improvement in student outcomes during the evaluation year. Instead, TES participants’ performance is even greater in subsequent years. And the expense of creating, if not a great teacher, at least a decent one, is fairly modest—the cost of TES was about $7,000 per teacher. (Unfortunately, Cincinnati’s approach to evaluation and feedback has yet to catch on—a 2009 survey by the New Teacher Project found that school districts rarely use evaluation for any purpose other than remediation and dismissal.)

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Straight Talk on Teaching Quality

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University recently published a paper titled "Straight Talk on Teaching Quality: Six Game-Changing Ideas and What to Do About Them" , described this guide as being "about game-changing strategies for improving teacher effectiveness".

The six headlines (organized around "The problem, what needs to happen, who is doing something good, and what can I do) are:

  • Follow Your Bliss: Career Pathways for Teachers
  • Evaluation Nation: Multiple Ways of Measuring Performance
  • Support for Teachers, Not Just Rewards and Sanctions: Why Firing Teachers Won't Lead to Large-Scale Improvement
  • Environmentally Friendly: Why School Culture and Working Conditions Matter
  • No Teacher is an Island: the Importance of In-School Partnerships and Teacher Collaboration
  • No School Is an Island: Partnerships with Parents and Community

It's a short read, and worth the time.

Straight Talk on Teaching Quality: Six Game-Changing Ideas and What to Do About Them

Super Who?

Michele Rhee is famous, or in a growing number of eyes, infamous, for implementing a corporate education reform agenda in Washington DC's schools. A significant part of her plan, as it is with corporate education reformers, was to fire teachers. Lots and lots of teachers.

NEWSWEEK did a cover story a few months ago asking why we can't fire bad teachers. Today Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee proved that you can, announcing plans to fire 300 of the district’s 4,000 teachers based on poor performance or licensing issues.

Another 729 teachers will be notified that they have been identified as "minimally effective," according to a new evaluation system Rhee put into effect, meaning that they will not get their scheduled step raise and will have only one year to take advantage of professional-development resources to pull up their performance score or face firing next year. If most of those teachers fail to significantly bump up their performance, the D.C. system could see as many as a quarter of its teachers fired within two years, a prospect Rhee described as "daunting."

We'll sidestep the observation that many have that it's "difficult to fire teachers", when this story demonstrates it was pretty easy to fire 6% of the DC schools teachers in one fell swoops and put another 20% on the chopping block. Instead, let's see what all this firing brought the district. In an Op-Ed this weekend, in the Washington Post, Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, and former Rhee booster, mentioned the newly release NAEP scores for the district

The bad news, however, is that graduation rates are still low, and achievement gaps between the rich and poor sections of town remain vast. Despite the NAEP achievement gains, scores are still among the lowest in the nation’s major city school systems. An analysis by my organization also indicates that the D.C. public schools score well below what one would expect statistically, compared with other cities with similar poverty, language, race, disability and family characteristics. Students show unusual difficulty reading and interpreting texts, evaluating and critiquing information, identifying appropriate measurement instruments, and solving problems involving geometric shapes. There is much more work to be done.

Yes. Rhee fired a lot of teachers, ending their careers - for literally nothing.