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

How money buys education "research"

The Center for American Progress (CAP), which bills itself as a being dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action, recently produced a report titled "Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around The Nation’s Dropout Factories"

The report argues for a more prominent role for charter operators in turning around perennially low-performing high schools. Among its recommendations

the report posits that five steps might improve the likelihood of successful CMO-district partnerships (all of which strengthen the CMO’s position in the district):
1) maximizing theCMO’s autonomy over staffing, budget, curricula, operations, and pedagogy;
2) staffing turnaround schools through creative agreements among education entrepreneurs, unions, charter operators, districts, and states, such as developing thin union contracts;
3) ensuring district financial support for turnaround schools;
4) relaxing state and district administrative regulations around staffing, funding, and school operations; and
5) cultivating public will for such partnerships.

At this point, you might be wondering why a progressive think tank is advocating such right wing policies that have been proven to be unsuccessful. The answer is actually quite simple to descern, and can be found on the very first page of this CAP report.

Paid for by the conservative corporate education reform outfit - the Eli Broad Foundation.

The National Education Policy Center has just released their analysis of this report, and they don't have kind things to say about this Broad funded report.

The report bases the majority of its findings and conclusions on conversations with charter school operators—including those that have not yet engaged in turnaround work—and with school district staff, researchers, and education reformers or consultants. Interview respondents included one professor of educational policy, one researcher from the Center on ReinventingPublic Education, five reformers or consultants from reform organizations or think tanks that advocate for market-based education policies, and three district administrators who were associated with their districts’ charter school partnerships.

Secondarily, the report cites evidence from the popular media, blogs, foundation reports, non-peer reviewed literature, charter operators’ external relations materials, and ideologically identifiable think tanks.

Beyond these citations, the report routinely offers a range of unsubstantiated claims that are not supported by any evidence or that ignore existing evidence to the contrary.

At the same time, no theoretical or substantive rationale behind the report’s sources of evidence is provided to justify why the particular interview respondents or literature sources were selected or how their data were evaluated. The result is a collection of weakly supported claims based on an unsystematic, unsophisticated interpretation of the knowledge base on school turnarounds, charter schools, and charter management organizations.

This is what millions of dollars can buy you. Research and recommendations that lack intellectual rigor. Designed to further corporate education reform agendas at the expense of public education, and the possibility of real reforms and changes that would make a difference to the quality of education students receive.


Union-Management Collaboration Can Help Public Schools

For most of the past decade the policy debate over improving U.S. public education has centered on teacher quality. In this debate, teachers and their unions have often been seen as the problem, not part of the solution. Further, current discourse often assumes that conflicting interests between teacher unions and administration is inevitable. What is missing in the discussion, however, is a systems perspective on the problem of public school reform that looks at the way schools are organized, and the way decisions are made. Most public schools today continue to follow an organizational design better suited for 20th century mass production than educating students in the 21st century.

"Reforming Public School Systems Through Sustained Union-Management Collaboration," a paper by Saul A. Rubinstein and John E. McCarthy, offers an alternate path in this debate—a counterstory that looks at schools as systems. It focuses on examples of collaboration among stakeholders through the creation of labor-management partnerships among teachers’ unions, school administrators, and school boards. These partnerships improve and restructure public schools from the inside to enhance planning, decision-making, problem solving, and the ways teachers interact and schools are organized.

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