Articles in the Center for Public Education category

Expanding School Choice: An Education Revolution or Diversion?

Patte Barth,  director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, penned  the following column for the Huffington Post:

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was speaking recently at the release of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on Education Choice and Competition. Calling these policies “an education revolution,” the House leader baldly stated, “school choice is the surest way to break [the] vicious cycle of poverty.”

Not “a solid education.”  School choice.

The Brookings’ report ranks 100 large districts on their school choice policies. Their report came out in advance of National School Choice Week whose organizers boast 5,500 scheduled events across the country beginning January 26, 2014. Both share a goal to drum up more support for funneling tax dollars into educational options — whether they be charters, magnets, private, or virtual schools.  The rationale is that a free marketplace will force schools to innovate in order to compete for students. Popular schools will equate with “good schools” and unpopular ones will close. And thus, in Brookings words, we will raise “the quality of the product.”

Unfortunately, that’s one mighty big assumption.

Most choice advocates defend their position by pointing to successful charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. Others extol the promise of virtual learning. What they all provide, for the most part, is anecdote, intuition and belief. When they do cite data, it basically shows that choice policies work in some places with some students some of the time.  Truth is, the evidence is much spottier than the champions for choice would have us believe.

Charter schools, for example, are the most studied “choice” reform.  Charter schools are public schools that have certain requirements waived so they can try out new ideas.  There is much to commend successful charters and what they are learning about effective practices. But according to a 2013 study from Stanford researchers, these are the exception. Only one in four charter schools outperforms its traditional public school counterpart in reading. About one in five performs significantly worse. In math, it’s nearly one in three.

The quality of research on voucher programs is notoriously uneven and often contradictory. Nonetheless, there seems to be general agreement that vouchers may have had a modest impact on some low-income and minority youth in some urban districts. But the findings are inconclusive as to their effect overall.  And the general efficacy of virtual schools is a big unknown, largely because districts lack the infrastructure to sufficiently track student performance in online environments.

Ironically, the Brookings report card itself illustrates the disconnect between choice policies on one hand and student performance on the other.  One does not necessarily follow the other.

Only three districts earned A’s on Brookings choice and competition rankings:  Louisiana’s Recovery District, Orleans Parish and New York City. Along with its Brookings “A,” Orleans Parish earned an “A” on Louisiana’s report card for district performance.  Yet the state gave the Recovery District an F. New York City’s A- from Brookings bears little relation to its math scores on NAEP, a national assessment. The city’s scores were at the average for large cities, and below average in terms of gains over the last decade.

Then there’s the low end of the rankings. Atlanta was given an “F” by Brookings. Yet the city boasts fourth-graders who perform above the national “large city” average in reading and posted more than twice the gains their peers made nationwide.  Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, are among the highest performing urban districts in both math and reading. Brookings gave them a C and D respectively.

see full data tables

 

So what does this tell us? That high-achieving, high-gaining districts can have “choice and competition” or not. Either way, it shows it’s a mistake to claim, as Rep. Cantor does, that choice is “the surest way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Contrary to popular perception, public schools have been steadily improving over the last twenty years. Math performance and graduation rates, in particular, are at all-time highs. Neither are public schools the monolithic creature some of the choice advocates make them out to be. Many districts across the country already offer alternatives in the form of charter and magnet schools, and continue to diversify instructional programs in traditional neighborhood schools, too. But parents and students need assurance that the choices they are offered are good ones, something choice for choice’s sake has not done, as the research shows.

In addition, it’s one thing to offer alternatives. It’s quite another to encourage public schools to compete with each other for students which could send the wrong messages. We need only look to our colleges and universities who, in their race to attract students, build football teams and state-of-the-art facilities at the expense of investments in teaching.  I really doubt that’s the kind of marketplace we want to create for public schools.

Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.  This means continuing to invest in those things that an abundance of evidence shows consistently work  – access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and individualized instruction for students. It also means learning from successful schools — including schools of choice — about what works with different students in which situations, and bringing those practices to scale.  When we get that right, districts will earn the grades that really matter.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2014|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Religion, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , , |

Common Core poses opportunities, challenges for English Language Learners

Imagine you’re a student being asked to demonstrate a level of knowledge and critical thinking never before demanded of the vast majority of students in the United States. That is what assessments for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative are asking — or will soon ask — students to do in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Now imagine you’re being asked to demonstrate this high level of learning and cognitive ability in a language different from the one you grew up with at home.  If you were, say, a native English speaker and were asked to do this in Europe or Latin America, would your high school French or Spanish suffice?

That’s a little what the growing population English language learners in this country is being ask to do.  And whether these students succeed or not is critical to our nation’s future.

“English language learners represent the future majority of our student population,” said Rose Aronson, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.  (TESOL).  “So whether you come from a district where English language learners are already in large numbers, or from a district where their numbers are growing rapidly, you are directly affected.”

Aronson and Patte Barth, director of NBA’s Center for Public Education, spoke last week at a webinar, now archived, called The Common Core State Standards and English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for Academic Success, which was sponsored by NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members.

On the “opportunities” side, the CCSS sets the expectation that all students — including English Language Learners — will meet rigorous performance standards. And, because of this, Aronson said, “it has the potential to raise academic achievement of ELLs and close the achievement gap.”

In addition, “CCSS and NGSS [the Next Generation Science Standards] give us an opportunity to reassess our assumptions, instructional approaches, and polices related to the education of ELLs” and to strengthen the role of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Among the biggest challenges is ensuring that ELLs “acquire and use the academic language necessary to access the rigorous content demanded by the CCSS,” Aronson said. And there is the challenge of ensuring that all teachers are prepared to teach in the academic language that CCSS requires.

School boards have a big role to play regarding CCSS, Barth said. They can help all students succeed in this initiative by setting clear and high expectations, creating the conditions for success, holding the system accountable, creating the public will to success, and learning as a board team about CCSS and what it requires.

Lawrence Hardy|January 14th, 2014|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Common Core State Standards, Curriculum, Diversity, Immigrants, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

Urban districts making gains on test scores

NSBA’s Center for Public Education’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull wrote this analysis on the National Center for Education Statistics’ Trial Urban District Assessment results released this week:

On Wednesday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the sixth installment of the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which reports on the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders on NAEP reading and mathematics in 21 participating urban districts. Results show that our nation’s urban districts have made gains that have outpaced the average public school— yet students in large urban districts still perform significantly below the average student nationwide.

It is important to point out that the gains being made are not shared by all urban districts. Some urban districts have made more dramatic gains than others. For example, Washington, DC made impressive gains both recently and in the long term. In three of the four grades and subjects that NEAP assessed, DC students acquired nearly an additional two years worth of learning than a decade ago. Large gains were also made in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego since 2003. However, out of these large gaining districts, only San Diego performed as well as the national average in at least one grade and subject area. Charlotte, on the other hand, has made moderate gains but still outperformed the national average on all assessments except for 8th grade reading. Austin outperformed the national average as well in 4th grade math and Hillsborough (FL) outperformed the national average in 4th grade reading.

Despite significant gains made by some districts, the report also indicates the gains made by urban districts may be subsiding. Fewer participating districts made significant gains between 2011 and 2013 than between 2009 and 2011. Taken together, schools in large cities continued to improve between 2011 and 2013, just not as strongly as in previous years. In order to meet or even beat the national average, students attending schools in large urban districts had to literally outdo themselves.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet on how to accelerate such gains. Some of the highest gaining districts were governed by elected school boards while others were under mayoral control. Some have charter schools while others do not. Some instituted high-stakes teacher evaluation systems while others have not. Some are in states that have implemented the Common Core State Standards while others are not. From this report alone it is not possible to determine what attributed to dramatic gains. What school boards need to do is examine what changes high gaining districts may have made and determine if such changes would be beneficial to their districts

The Findings

4th Grade Reading

  • Washington (5 points) and Los Angeles (4 points) were the only surveyed districts to make significant gains on their reading scores between 2011 and 2013. During this same time period there was no significant increase in scores nationally.
    • Houston was the only district to see a significant decrease in scores (-5 points) between 2011 and 2013.
  • Atlanta (18 points) and Washington (17 points) made the greatest gains from 2003 to 2013. Such increases are roughly equivalent to about a year and half worth of learning.
    • Cleveland was the only district to post a significant decline (-6 points) between 2003 and 2013.
  • Austin, Charlotte, Florida’s Hillsborough County, and San Diego scored higher than the average for large cities* (cities of populations of 250,000 or more).
  • The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of students scoring at or above proficient varied dramatically among urban districts from 40 percent in Hillsborough County and Charlotte to just 7 percent in Detroit.

8th Grade Reading

  • Five districts significantly increased their scores from 2011 to 2013, with Washington, DC posting the greatest gains with an 8 point improvement. During this same time period, students nationally increased their scores by just 2 points.
    • From 2003 to 2013, only Atlanta (15 points), Los Angeles (15 points) and San Diego (10 points) made significant gains in their performance.
    • Cleveland was the only district to post a significant decline in their scores (-2 points) between 2003 and 2013.
  • Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Hillsborough County, and Houston scored higher than the average for large cities. No district had a significant decrease in scores between 2011 and 2013.
  • Just as in the fourth grade, the percent of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2013.
  • The range of students scoring at or above proficient was nearly as wide as it was at the fourth-grade level. Charlotte had the highest percentage at 36 percent while Detroit once again had the lowest at just 9 percent.

4th Grade Math

  • Washington, DC (7 points), Chicago (7 points), Los Angeles (5 points), and Atlanta (5 points) were the only districts to significantly increase their scores from 2011 to 2013. During this same time period, the national average rose by 1 point.
  • Washington, D.C. made the greatest gains from 2003 to 2013 by increasing their score 24 points which equates to nearly two and half years of learning. Boston and Atlanta had the next highest gains with 17 points. Such increases are roughly equivalent to about a year and half worth of learning.
    • Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, and New York City made no significant improvements during this time period.
  • Six urban districts scored higher than the 2013 average for students attending schools in large cities. In 2011, eight districts outperformed the national average.
  • The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level increased from 20 percent in 2003 to 33 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of students scoring at or above Proficient varied dramatically among urban districts, from 50 percent in Charlotte to just 4 percent in Detroit.

8th Grade Math

  • Three districts (Washington, Fresno, and Charlotte significantly increased their scores from 2011 to 2013. On the other hand, Cleveland was the only district to see a significant decline in their scores (-6 points) during this time period.
  • From 2003 to 2013, 7 out of 10 districts made significant gains in their performance, with Atlanta (23 points) and Boston (22 points) all making gains roughly equivalent to two years’ worth of additional learning.
    • Charlotte, Cleveland, and New York City were the only districts that didn’t make significant progress during this time period.
  • Four urban districts (Austin, Charlotte, Hillsborough County, and Kentucky’s Jefferson County scored higher than the 2013 average for students attending schools in large cities.
  • The percentage of students in large cities scoring at or above the proficient achievement level increased from 16 percent in 2003 to 27 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of students scoring at or above proficient varied just as it did at the fourth grade level. Charlotte had the highest percentage at 40 percent, while Detroit once again had the lowest percentage at just 3 percent.

*All cities in the nation with populations of 250,000 or more.

2013TUDATable1

TUDA Table 2

For more information on NAEP check out: The Proficiency Debate: How NAEP Achievement Levels are Defined

Alexis Rice|December 20th, 2013|Categories: Assessment, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Student Achievement, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , , , |

U.S. students doing quite well compared to international peers, CPE director writes

Even though the United States does not rank number one—or even close—in subjects on international tests, that doesn’t mean that our schools are failing, Patte Barth, director of the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, writes in an online column for the Huffington Post.

In “The Kids are All Right-er,” Barth analyzes recent international test results to show that U.S. students, particularly in the early years, are doing quite well. It’s adults, actually, who really could use some improvement.

“In many ways, the popular storyline that U.S. students get crushed in international comparisons is a distortion of the actual record,” she writes. “Truth is, our fourth- and eighth-graders consistently score above average, and do especially well in reading and science. Even our high school students are slightly above average in those subjects, falling below in math only.”

She notes that the recent NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study also found that if Massachusetts and Vermont were their own countries, they would stand with the highest-achieving nations.

Read more of her analysis in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 12th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Diversity, Mathematics Education, Policy Formation, STEM Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

NCES report shows most states compare favorably to other countries in math and science

Results from a new study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education has found the vast majority of states score above the international average in 8th grade math and science. Although U.S. eighth-graders compared relatively well to their peers in other countries in math, the comparison was even more favorable in science, where just three states scored below the international average. However, the average 8th-grader in most states has obtained a basic knowledge and understanding of both math and science and can demonstrate it in a variety of practical situations.

But the study also highlights the fact that there is a huge variation in student performance across states. While there are a number of states that compare more favorably to the highest performing countries in the world, there are other states whose performance matches the performance of developing countries. For students in all states to have a chance to compete in the ever growing global labor market they, at the very least, must possess basic math and science skills.

Here’s what the study found:

     Mathematics

  • Over two-thirds (36) of states’ average score were significantly above the international average of 500.
    •  Six states (West Virginia (492), Oklahoma (491), Tennessee (490), DC (481), Mississippi (476), and Alabama (466) scored significantly below the international average.  These scores are similar to those of New Zealand (488), Kazakhstan (487), Sweden (484) and Armenia (467) among others.
  • Massachusetts was the highest scoring U.S. state (561 points) and outperformed all but five of 47 countries as well.
    • Massachusetts was outperformed by Korea (613), Singapore (611), Hong Kong (586), and Japan (570).
  • Nearly a two-third of U.S. states performed as well as or better than the traditionally high performing country of Finland (514).
  • Alabama was the only state whose average score (466) fell within the TIMSS Low benchmark (400-474), an indicator of whether a student possesses knowledge of whole numbers and decimals, operations, and basic graphs.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, Massachusetts was the only state to score above the TIMSS High benchmark (550) which indicates that students can apply their understanding and knowledge in variety of relatively complex situations.
    • The remaining 50 states’ average score fell within the Intermediate benchmark (475-549) which indicates a student can apply basic mathematical knowledge in a variety of situations.

Science

  • Nearly every state (47) performed above the international average of 500 while two states (Arizona and California) did not perform significantly different than the international average.
    • Mississippi (486), Alabama (485) and DC (453) scored significantly below the international average. These scores are similar to those of Kazakhstan (490), Turkey (483) and Iran (474), among others.
  • Massachusetts (567) and Vermont (561) were the highest scoring U.S. states and performed as well or better than every country except Singapore (590).
    • Massachusetts and Vermont performed as well as Chinese Taipei (564), Korea (560), and Japan (558) and outperformed such countries as Finland (552), Hong Kong (535) and England (533).
  • The District of Columbia was the only place where students’ average scores did feell within the TIMSS Low benchmark (400-474) which indicates whether a student has a grasp of elementary knowledge of life, physical, and earth sciences.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, eight states (Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) scored above the TIMSS High benchmark (550), which indicates whether students can apply their knowledge and understanding of the sciences to explain phenomena in everyday and abstract context.
    • The remaining 43 states’ average score fell within in the Intermediate benchmark (475-549), indicating students have basic knowledge and understanding of practical situations in the sciences.
Jim Hull|October 24th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Center for Public Education, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Research, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , |

Teacher evaluation is broader than test scores, NSBA’s Center for Public Education finds

K-12 teacher evaluation systems today are more refined and useful for improving teachers’ skills and connecting teachers to student achievement than past models, a new national report that examines states’ teacher evaluation policies by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance,” offers an overview of changes in teacher evaluation systems by state. The report also describes states’ use of evaluation data for personnel decisions and continuous improvement.

Though more states are using student test scores to evaluate teachers, state standardized test scores make up only a small part of a teacher’s evaluation, the report finds.

Similarly, while many lawmakers and educators still question the use of student performance as a measure of instructional effectiveness, misconceptions abound that student performance receives more weight than report findings show—currently, no state uses individual student achievement data as more than 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Nearly all states that do rely on scores from state standardized tests do so as just one of multiple measures of student achievement.

“In the past five years, 38 states have altered their teacher evaluation systems to include some measure of student performance,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “With variations across teaching and learning models, school boards and district officials need state support and the ability to adapt teacher evaluation models to meet the needs of local schools.”

Highlights of newer systems in place across states include: the use of multiple stakeholders to design and implement evaluation tools; multiple measures to show teacher effectiveness; and data that link teacher and student achievement.

“New models of teacher evaluation can help improve instructional quality and provide teachers with added support and additional resources,” said CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull, author of the report. “Most states have done a good job of vastly improving teacher evaluation systems by listening to the experts and relying on a wider range of criteria, such as classroom observation and student performance data. Interestingly, these evaluations are often used to help all teachers improve their skills, not just as a tool to identify and replace ineffective teachers.”

The report follows CPE’s 2011 report, “Building A Better Evaluation System,” that examines best practices in teacher evaluations. Federal programs, including the No Child Left Behind law and Race to the Top grants, have recently provided incentives to states to revamp their evaluation systems. Historically, teacher evaluations have simply labeled teachers as satisfactory or not, giving no feedback on how to improve their skills.

Alexis Rice|October 9th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Teachers|Tags: , , , , |

SAT results show minorities better prepared for college

Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association, recently analyzed the latest batch of SAT scores for CPE’s blog, The Edifier:

While the overall flat nature of the scores are nothing to celebrate, a closer look at the latest SAT data shows public schools are doing a better job preparing poor and minority students for college according to the 2013 SAT Report on College Readiness released today.

Although scores for minority students have increased, it is important to point out that huge gaps remain between minority students and their white classmates. The results show that minority students are not completing the rigorous courses they need not only to score higher on the SAT but to prepare them to get into and succeed in college.

Just as the ACT showed last month, these results show schools need to double and even triple their efforts in making sure all students are adequately prepared for college-level work. To do so, high schools need to ensure that all students are taking the courses they need to succeed in college. Unfortunately, as CPE’s latest report Out of Sync found, most states do not require the courses students need to succeed in college as a high school graduation requirement. As more graduates plan on enrolling in college, it is more important than ever that a high school diploma represent a student who is ready for higher education, whether at a two or four-year institution. – Jim Hull

The Findings

National Scores

  • The nation’s graduating Class of 2013 had an average composite score of 1498, which is unchanged from 2012 (1500) but significantly lower than 2009 (1505).
    • At a score of 1498, an average high school graduate has about a 75 percent chance of getting admitted into a competitive four-year college.*
  • Scores remained unchanged in all three sections over the past year. Just as in 2012, scores were 496 in Critical Reading, 514 in Math, and 488 in Writing for 2013.
  • Scores improved for most racial/ethnic groups.
    • The average combined Hispanic student score was 1354 in 2013, which is three points higher than in 2012 and nine points lower than in 2008.
    • The average black student score was 1278 in 2013, which is five points higher than in 2012 and two points lower than in 2008.
    • The average white student score was 1576 in 2013, which is two points lower than in 2012 and three points lower than in 2008.

College Readiness

  • Nearly half (43 percent) of the test-takers met the SAT College-Ready Benchmark in 2013, which is unchanged from the year prior and slightly lower than in 2009 (44 percent).
    • The SAT College Ready Benchmarks represent a student who scores a combined 1550 or higher. Students hitting this benchmark have a 65 percent chance of earning a B-minus grade point average in their freshman year courses.
  • Minority students are less likely to be college ready.
    • Just 15.6 of black students and 23.5 percent of Hispanic students were college ready according to the SAT’s Benchmark.
    • However, both black and Hispanic students saw increases in reaching the SAT Benchmark from 2012 to 2013.

Core Course Rigor

  • Seventy-five percent of SAT test-takers completed the recommended “core” college-preparatory curriculum, which is an increase from 70 percent in 2001.
    • Just 66 percent of black students and 70 percent of Hispanic students completed the core curriculum, compared to 80 percent of white students.
    • However, both black and Hispanic students saw a one percentage point increase in core curriculum completion rates since 2012.
  • High school graduates who took math or English AP or Honors courses scored significantly higher than students who complete four or more year’s worth in each subject, not only in the relevant subject area, but in all three SAT sections.

Test Takers

  • Just over 1.66 million students from the Class of 2013 took the SAT sometime during their high school which was a slight dip from 2012.
  • Slightly more minority students are taking the SAT.
    • In 2013, 17 percent of SAT test-takers were Hispanic which was the same as in 2012, but greater than the 12 percent in 2008.
    • Thirteen percent of SAT test-takers were black in 2013 which was the same as in 2012, but greater than the 11 percent in 2008.
    • The percent of test-takers who were white continues to drop from 57 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2012 to just 50 percent in 2013.
  • A greater number of students whose first language isn’t English are taking the SAT.
    • In 2013 13 percent of SAT test-takers’ first language was not English compared to 9 percent in 2008.
  • The vast majority (82 percent) of SAT test-takers want to earn at least a Bachelor’s degree, up from 75 percent a decade ago.

For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Data First Website.

Alexis Rice|September 26th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA President: Effective school boards will improve students’ success

David A. Pickler, the 2013-14 president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and a member of Tennessee’s Shelby County School Board, wrote this column for the October 2013 issue of American School Board Journal.

How can school boards become more effective?

Through our work at NSBA and the state associations, we’ve seen many good examples of school boards that function well and show results through student achievement. We’ve learned through NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) that school boards in districts with high student achievement are different than school boards in low-achieving districts.

So this would seem to be a fairly straightforward matter of identifying what makes school boards work effectively. But teasing out the tangible areas where school boards can make a difference is still an emerging area of research, and the question is more complex than it initially appears.

I recently spoke at a media event in Seattle, hosted by the Alliance for Education. This nonprofit group is working with the Seattle school board to improve academic achievement and guide student success in the district — and to sustain those actions over time. We talked about CPE’s recent report, “Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards,” as well as other research by the Iowa School Boards Foundation and NSBA’s Key Work of School Boards. Researcher Thomas L. Alsbury, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, also discussed the important role that a school board holds as “one of the few remaining vestiges of accessible democracy.”

So what do we know about effective school boards — those that are making progress in student achievement across all sectors of their student population? CPE’s research shows that some of those characteristics include:

  • An ability to set goals reflecting high expectations for students and monitoring progress toward goals, an understanding of student data and how it can be used
  • A relentless focus on student achievement and spending less time on operational issues
  • A comprehensive understanding of the needs of the school district, and strong relationships with the superintendent, other administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders, and
  • Perhaps most importantly, everyone in the district is committed to success.

More information about the eight characteristics can be found at CPE’s website.

Student success should be the core mission for any school board. We cannot focus on a single issue but must be committed to a comprehensive plan that will support all our students and their needs, Alsbury noted. Board conflict and turnover ultimately will harm student achievement. We must not get mired in micromanagement and organizational details.

As school board leaders, we must lead, and we must model these characteristics for the district staff, students, and the community. We must ensure that every child is prepared for the 21st century and beyond. We know that we are living in exponential times of change—in just the last few years technology has changed our work and our lives in ways we never imagined. The generation of students that we are now educating will be taking on jobs that don’t yet exist.

This work becomes even more important in light of the new landscape of education policy, where we as school boards are being forced to justify our existence more frequently.

Not every school board has an organized group like the Alliance for Education to monitor our work, so we must take it upon ourselves to learn from this research, taking a hard look at our inner workings and continuously striving for improvement. We also could look for community and business partnerships with like-minded groups such as the Alliance. If we use our ability to lay a foundation and set the culture for the school district, our students will benefit for years to come.

Our students need—and deserve—the best we can give.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|September 11th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

New report finds teachers need more effective professional development to meet higher standards

Despite decades of research, teacher professional development is not adequately helping teachers to develop their students’ critical thinking skills and subject matter knowledge so that they can be ready for college and the workplace, a new report by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” reports that ongoing, dedicated time for collaboration and coaching is the most effective way to help teachers develop needed classroom skills, but most professional development exercises are one-time workshops that research shows have no lasting effect. An estimated 90 percent of teachers participate in some form of professional development each year, but the vast majority receive it in workshops.

“Effective professional development is a key factor in improving student achievement and better preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century economy,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “We already see that public schools are facing greater accountability for their students’ learning, and now teachers in the states that implement the Common Core State Standards will be under intense pressure to teach their students critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

The report notes that professional development that is ongoing, collaborative and connected to the teacher’s subject area produces the largest student gains. The biggest challenge for teachers, research shows, is implementing the skills they have learned in their classrooms.

The report also looked at effective practices and found that:
• Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area;
• Working with a coach or mentor is shown to be highly effective;
• Although research on effective critical thinking strategies is lacking, teachers in some areas have established professional learning communities to create best practices and coach each other;
• Case studies show that some school districts may be able to reallocate spending to provide better professional development opportunities without spending significantly more.

Teachers’ time is the most significant cost consideration for effective professional development. Further, professional development is often one of the first areas cut in tight budget times.

“Teachers need embedded time for collaboration and support while they attempt to change their practices,” said CPE Director Patte Barth. “But time is money. When budgets are pinched, districts may be tempted to go with one-time workshops which cost fewer dollars. But a low price is still too high if there is no impact on student learning.”

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” was written by Allison Gulamhussein, a doctoral student at George Washington University and a former high school English teacher, who was a policy intern for the Center for Public Education.  View Gulamhussein’s analysis of this report in American School Board Journal.

Alexis Rice|September 10th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Reports, School Boards|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s Center for Public Education discusses professional development and teacher evaluation on Education Talk Radio

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE) was featured on Education Talk Radio today. CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull was a guest on the show discussing CPE’s research on professional development and teacher evaluation.

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CPE is a national resource for credible and practical information about public education and its importance to the well-being of our nation. CPE  provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current education issues and explores ways to improve student achievement and engage public support for public schools.

Alexis Rice|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Professional Development, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , , |
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