Education News for 10-31-2012

Local Education News

  • Parents sue school district over alleged bullying (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • A Hamilton family has filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton City School Board of Education, alleging “intentional infliction of emotional distress” as a result…Read more...

  • Teachers bringing inside views to Marion boards of education (Marion Star)
  • The county’s largest school district has mostly former teachers on its board of education, while two other districts now have retired teachers on their boards…Read more...


  • Good challenge for higher-ed leaders (Canton Repository)
  • Gov. John Kasich sure gives a lot of homework. His latest challenge to leaders of the state universities and community colleges should get a host of issues on the table for public discussion…Read more...

  • Lima, Elida school levies deserve support (Lima News)
  • Over the last several years, we’ve asked many public servants to pinch their pennies and eliminate unneeded overhead. We’ve begged them to consider…Read more...

Assessing Ourselves To Death

I have two points to make. The first is something that I think everyone knows: Educational outcomes, such as graduation and test scores, are signals of or proxies for the traits that lead to success in life, not the cause of that success.

For example, it is well-documented that high school graduates earn more, on average, than non-graduates. Thus, one often hears arguments that increasing graduation rates will drastically improve students’ future prospects, and the performance of the economy overall. Well, not exactly.

The piece of paper, of course, only goes so far. Rather, the benefits of graduation arise because graduates are more likely to possess the skills – including the critical non-cognitive sort – that make people good employees (and, on a highly related note, because employers know that, and use credentials to screen applicants).

We could very easily increase the graduation rate by easing requirements, but this wouldn’t do much to help kids advance in the labor market. They might get a few more calls for interviews, but over the long haul, they’d still be at a tremendous disadvantage if they lacked the required skills and work habits.

Moreover, employers would quickly catch on, and adjust course accordingly. They’d stop relying as much on high school graduation to screen potential workers. This would not only deflate the economic value of a diploma, but high school completion would also become a less useful measure for policymakers and researchers.

This is, of course, one of the well-known risks of a high-stakes focus on metrics such as test scores. Test-based accountability presumes that tests can account for ability. We all know about what is sometimes called “Campbell’s Law,” and we’ve all heard the warnings and complaints about so-called “teaching to the test.” Some people take these arguments too far, while others are too casually dismissive. In general, though, the public (if not all policymakers) have a sense that test-based accountability can be a good thing so long as it is done correctly and doesn’t go too far.

Now, here’s my second point: I’m afraid we’ve gone too far.

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Stop Tying Pay to Performance

The evidence is overwhelming: It doesn’t work.

That's the headline from a Harvard Business Review article. If the HBR can conclude that pay for performance doesn't work for big business executives, it's not a giant leap to understand it won't work for the teaching profession where there is no profit motive, but instead relies on collaboration and teamwork.

Time frame: next week | Degree of difficulty: operationally easy, psychologically hard | Barrier: greed, economic theory

We’ve talked about this since the financial meltdown. Now it’s time to do it: Unlink pay from performance. The evidence keeps growing that pay for performance is ineffective. It also may induce executives to take company-killing risks. There are other ways to motivate employees that yield better results at lower cost.

It may take a while before actual evidence and research finally convinces corporate education reformers they have it wrong, but month after month the moiuntain of evidence grows.

SB5 Legislates the Onion

When we read this PolitiFact article discussing the true claims that SB5 would allow students and parents to evaluate teachers based on a survey

The law requires the State Board of Education to establish a framework for the evaluations. Local school districts then will adopt their own specific evaluations based on the state’s framework.

The evaluations will include whether parents and students are satisfied with a teacher, "which may be measured by surveys, questionnaires, or other forms of soliciting feedback," the law reads.

We were reminded of this parody article from EdTweak - an Onion type publication for educators

Beginning next month, any child in a failing classroom will be able to remove her teacher, simply by collecting signatures from 50% of the class’s students. The law is the brainchild of “Student Revolution,” a new group funded by millionaires but which we are reporting as hav- ing arisen from a popular movement.

“For the first time anywhere in America, students have been empowered and entrusted with the legal right to force dramatic change in their failing classrooms,” said Ben Starr, the group’s leader. “Our opponents issued dire warnings of unintended consequences. But we’ve already tried out the approach in two small districts and we’ve seen an enormous increase in teacher effectiveness. Students’ grades have skyrocketed, so the teachers must be trying harder.”

You do have to wonder where these Republican legislators get their policy ideas from, don't you?