Archives for category: National Education Policy Center

 

At last! The leaders of 350 teacher education programs have issued a bold statement in collaboration with the National Education Policy Center denouncing attacks on teacher education and market-based “remedies.”

The group calls itself Education Deans for Justice and Equity.

Their efforts contrast with those of a group called “Deans for Impact,” funded in 2015 by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which supports charter schools (such as KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools), Teach for America, Educators for Excellence, New Leaders, TNTP, Conservative Leaders for Education, Teach Plus, Stand for Children, and a long list of other Corporate Reform ventures. Deans for Impact has 24 members. The founder and executive director of Deans for Impact is Benjamin Riley, former director of policy and advocacy at the NewSchools Venture Fund, which is heavily endowed by billionaire foundations to launch charter schools and promote education technology.

The statement of Education Deans for Justice and Equity criticizes such disruption agents as Teach for America (which places inexperienced, unprepared college graduates into challenging urban and rural classrooms), the National Council on Teacher Quality (which pretends to evaluate teacher education programs without having the knowledge or experience to do so and without ever setting foot in the institutions they grade), the Relay “Graduate School of Education” (a program intended to grant master’s degrees to charter teachers that lacks the necessary elements of a graduate institution, such as scholars and research), and Pearson’s EdTPA (which seeks to replace human judgement of prospective teachers with a standardized tool).

Their statement begins:

Teachers are important, as is their preparation. We, Education Deans for Justice and Equity, support efforts to improve both. But improving teaching and teacher education must be part of larger efforts to advance equity in society.

Whether crediting teachers as the single most important factor in student success or blaming and scapegoating them for failing schools that only widen social and economic dispari- ties, many of the stories that circulate about education presume that it’s all about the teacher. Concerned less with the system of education and more with the individual actor, this rhetoric tends to reduce the problem of education to the shortcomings of individuals. The solution correspondingly focuses on incentives and other market-based changes.

Without a doubt, teacher-education programs cannot and should not operate as if all is well, because it is not. Several current efforts to reform teacher education in the United States, however, are making things worse. Although stemming from a wide range of actors (includ- ing the federal government, state governments, and advocacy organizations), these trends share a fundamental flaw: They focus on “thin” equity.

In their recently published book, Reclaiming Accountability in Teacher Education,1 Marilyn Cochran-Smith and colleagues contrast two understandings of equity. “Thin” equity defines the problem as the curtailing of individual rights and liberties, and the resulting solutions focus on equal access and market-based changes. In contrast, “strong” equity defines the problem as the legacies of systemic injustices, and the resulting solutions focus on increas- ing participatory democracy. Because thin-equi ty reforms obscure the legacies of systemic injustices, and instead focus narrowly on student achievement, teacher accountability, re- wards, and punishments, improving teacher education requires moving away from these and toward strong-equity reforms.

Below, we identify seven current trends impacting teacher education (including at many of our institutions) that are grounded in thin-equity understandings. In a number of ways, these approaches lack a sound research basis, and in some instances, they have already proven to widen disparities. Following a discussion of these trends, we present our alternative vision for teacher-education reform.

First, marketizing teacher education. Most teacher education in the United States happens at universities, and with much variability. Nonetheless, the long-touted claim that higher education’s “monopoly” over teacher education results in mediocrity and complacency has resulted in increased competition by way of “alternative” routes—some that meet state stan- dards (and some that do not), and some that involve little to no formal preparation via fast- track programs. These include non-university-based programs like the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence; programs that partner with universities, like Teach For America; and programs that identify as institutions of higher education, like the Relay Grad- uate School of Education. Such faith in the market to drive improvement frames Congress’s recent rewrite of Title II of ESSA, which allows for public funds to support both non-profit and for-profit alternative certification programs and routes. The problem? Merely expand- ing competition without building the capacity of all programs to prepare teachers has led not to improvement, but to widened disparities among students and increased corporate profiteering off of education.

Second, shaming teacher education. The assumption that shaming will spur effort to com- pete is another way to place faith in the market to drive improvement. Such is the approach of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) in its annual Teacher Prep Review, which scores (and, for the most part, gives failing grades to) teacher-education programs using an eight-dimension framework. Since its inception, the vast majority of programs nationwide have opted not to participate and share materials for review, citing NCTQ’s faulty methods of review and the lack of research basis for its framework.

Third, externally regulating teacher education at the federal level. The twice-proposed, Obama-era Teacher Preparation Regulations were never implemented, but their “value-add- ed” logic reverberates in other reforms, including NCTQ’s review and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accreditation. Measurement experts warn that the use of value-added modeling to determine the effectiveness of teachers to raise test scores, and in turn, the effectiveness of programs to prepare teachers to do so, are neither reliable nor statistically valid.

These are three of the seven malign trends they discuss. Open the link to read the statement in full. It is short and won’t take more than five minutes of reading time.

It is very encouraging to see the leaders of teacher education stand up for professionalism and research-based practice, and to take a stand against quackery.

Latest research review from NEPC:

Simple comparisons reveal very little about the relative effectiveness of charter schools.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Publication Announcement

Florida Report Offers Meager Insight into Charter School Performance

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Simple comparisons reveal very little about the relative effectiveness of charter schools.

CONTACT:

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BOULDER, CO (June 18, 2019) – The Florida Department of Education recently published a report consisting almost entirely of simple graphs comparing achievement levels, achievement gaps, and achievement gains on statewide tests among charter school students to those among traditional public school students. The Department’s press release touted the report as showing that the state’s “charter school students consistently outperform their peers in traditional public schools.”

The release also quotes Florida’s Education Commissioner, asserting that the “report provides further evidence that [school choice policies] are right for Florida” and that there’s “no denying that choice works.” The press release’s spin was then echoed in pieces published/broadcast by several television stationsnewspapers, and online outlets.

Yet simple comparisons such as those in this report reveal very little about the relative effectiveness of charter schools. Robert Bifulco of Syracuse University, reviewed Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students, and found it to be of extremely limited use.

Beyond the odd exercise of counting the number of comparisons that appear favorable to charter schools, the report offers no discussion. The comparisons are not even explained. The fact that the report merely presents comparisons required by law without putting any policy “spin” on them might be considered a virtue. But the danger is that such reports can (and do) encourage erroneous conclusions.

At the very least, Professor Bifulco believes, the report should have clarified the purposes of its comparisons and cautioned the reader against drawing unwarranted and potentially harmful conclusions.

Find the review, by Robert Bifulco, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/fl-charters

Find Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students, published by the Florida Department of Education, at:

http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7778/urlt/SAR1819.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

 

Today the National Education Policy Center released its annual review of research on virtual charter schools. The bottom line was not good.

The title of the report is “Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019.” It was double blind peer-reviewed.

The authors write:

The number of virtual schools in the

U.S. continues to grow.

In 2017-18, 501 full-time virtual schools enrolled 297,712 students, and 300 blended schools

enrolled 132,960. Enrollments in virtual schools increased by more than 2,000 students between

2016-17 and 2017-18, and enrollments in blended learning schools increased by over

16,000 during this same time period. Virtual schools enrolled substantially fewer minority

students and fewer low-income students compared to national public school enrollment.

Virtual schools operated by for-profit EMOs were more than four times as large as other virtual

schools, enrolling an average of 1,345 students. In contrast, those operated by nonprofit

EMOs enrolled an average of 344 students, and independent virtual schools (not affiliated

with an EMO) enrolled an average of 320 students.

Among virtual schools, far more district-operated schools achieved acceptable state school

performance ratings (56.7% acceptable) than charter-operated schools (40.8%). More

schools without EMO involvement (i.e., independent) performed well (59.3% acceptable ratings),

compared with 50% acceptable ratings for schools operated by nonprofit EMOs, and

only 29.8% acceptable ratings for schools operated by for-profit EMOs. The pattern among

blended learning schools was similar with highest performance by district schools and lowest

performance by the subgroup of schools operated by for-profit EMOs.

Given the overwhelming evidence of poor performance by full-time virtual and blended

learning schools it is recommended that policymakers:

• Slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools and the size of

their enrollments until the reasons for their relatively poor performance have been

identified and addressed.

• Implement measures that require virtual and blended schools to reduce their student-

to-teacher ratios.

• Enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that perform inadequately.

• Sponsor research on virtual and blended learning “programs” and classroom innovations

within traditional public schools and districts.

There is much more in the report that deserves your attention, especially regarding the current infatuation with blended learning.

I suggest you read it for yourself.

 

Here is the citation:

 Molnar, A. (Ed.), Miron, G., Elgeberi, N., Barbour, M.K., Huerta, L., Shafer,

S.R., Rice, J.K. (2019). Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019.  Boulder, CO: National Education Policy

Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-schools-annual-2019 .

 

The National Education Policy Center published a review of a recent report about school finance, written by Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, an expert in school finance. In the upside-down report, the states that spend the least and have the most charter schools get high rankings.

BOULDER, CO (November 27, 2018) –The Reason Foundation recently published a policy brief that offers an alternative ranking of states’ education systems. The brief, which was based on a working paper from the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, purports to offer needed adjustments and nuance, but makes its own serious mistakes, according to a new review.

Rutgers professor Bruce D. Baker reviewed Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong and the underlying working paper, Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings. He found the analyses provided did little or nothing to advance the conversation about the effectiveness of state education systems.

The twin reports begin with the presumption that high average test scores combined with lower school spending should be the basis for state rankings, which are reasonable premises, depending upon how the analyses are approached. But the reports then head off the rails, Professor Baker explains.

Offering a ‘corrected’ representation of student outcomes and a crude analysis asserting that spending has no relation to those outcomes, the reports declare states such as New Jersey and Vermont to be poor-performing, highly inefficient systems by comparison to many states. The reports then estimate a regression model and assert that the higher performing states are those with (a) weaker teachers’ unions and (b) more children in charter schools.

However, Baker’s review details how the reports’ so-called corrections involved unreasonable and illogical assumptions and adjustments. For example, the reports re-weight racial and ethnic subgroups so that they inappropriately place equal weight in states like Vermont or Wyoming on students comprising 1 to 2% of the population as the other 98 to 99%. Other problems concern a decision to ignore economic status entirely and a poorly executed adjustment for cost of living.

Regressing multiple, highly related, interdependent measures against a specious outcome measure leads to even more suspect findings and, Baker concludes, would only mislead policymakers.
Find the review, by Bruce D. Baker, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-rankings

Find Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong, written by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly and published by the Reason Foundation, at:
https://reason.com/archives/2018/10/07/everything-you-know-about-stat

Find Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings, written by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly and published by the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas at:
https://ssrn.com/abstract=3185152

This is a useful summary by the National Education Policy Center that demonstrates the connections among poverty, race, and college preparatory courses.

It shows the proportion of students from different racial and ethnic groups enrolled in high-poverty and low-poverty schools, and how the poverty of the students is related to college-prep course offerings.

The National Education Policy Center interviewed Bruce Baker about his review of a much-ballyhooed study of the impact of market forces in the New Orleans schools.

The Education Research Alliance at Tulane University released a study last July declaring that the privatization of almost every school in New Orleans was a great success. That very day, Betsy DeVos gave $10 Million to ERA to become a federally-funded National Center on School Choice. The report was written by Douglas Harris and Matthew Larsen.

Bruce Baker, a researcher at Rutgers University, has studied charter schools, school funding and equity for years. He was commissioned by NPE to review the ERA study.

His conclusion: Harris and Larsen had minimized the importance of demographic changes following the hurricane and the enormous influx of new funding. These changes alone, he said, could have accounted for the effects in New Orleans documented by the ERA.

The National Education Policy Center reported on the success of a high school in Seattle that adopted the principles of “schools of opportunity.” Open the link for sources and other links. Valerie Strauss posted an article about the school here.


These Comeback Kids Don’t Bake Cookies: The Community-Based Transformation of an Urban School

You could call it the comeback kid.

In 2010, Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School was on the edge of closure. Just 320 students occupied a building constructed to serve nearly four times that number. Its on-time graduation rate of 48 percent was among the lowest in the state of Washington.

Fast forward to today and the picture has completely changed. Enrollment exceeds 700. The graduation rate is 89 percent. And, unlike many other school turnarounds that superficially look successful, the school has continued to serve the same families and community. At Rainier Beach, nearly three-quarters of the students hail from low-income families, and 40 percent come from immigrant or refugee backgrounds. The school’s diverse population is 49 percent Black, 26 percent Asian, 14 percent Hispanic, six percent multi-racial, three percent White, and two percent Pacific Islander/Native American/Alaskan.

In 2016, NEPC recognized Rainier Beach as a School of Opportunity, making particular note of the school’s rigorous but supported classes and its thoughtful and powerful community outreach.
Too often, transformations like Rainier Beach’s are attributed to external forces such as state accountability measures or the introduction of a new and charismatic leader.

But in a recent article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Educational Administration, Ann M. Ishimaru, an associate professor of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy at the University of Washington’s College of Education, uses interviews, document analyses, and observations to tell a very different tale about Rainier Beach.

Truth be told, some aspects of the Rainier Beach story are not out of the ordinary. It brought in new leadership. It struggled with and benefitted from the implications and resources associated with accountability-based reforms.

But another part of the school’s story is indeed unusual—and offers important lessons for other schools now struggling to improve. Professor Ishimaru traces the school’s transformation to a groundswell of activism led by local families, students, and community members. Working together with educators, these activists were able to benefit from structures of conventional schooling by transforming those structures to better suit their needs. As Ishimaru notes, these were practices and institutions often imposed on low-income, “majority-minority” communities—structures that often do little to engage those communities or respond to their voiced needs.

For example, activists leveraged the power of the PTA, using it to spark change. As one parent leader explained:

We don’t make cookies. We’re not here to fund raise for your school. We’re here to be transformative change agents for the school. We need you to deploy us to spaces that you can’t get to, like School Board meetings and the Superintendent […] No, we don’t make cookies. […] We infiltrate, that’s right.
Other community-based strategies Ishimaru identified included:

Participating in the accountability-based school turnaround/school improvement grant process;

Holding community “cafes” to build support for the school’s new International Baccalaureate program; and

Supporting academic and behavioral interventions (such as introducing Freedom Schools and hiring a restorative justice coordinator) that empower youth.

“This study is a testament to the changes that can unfold when parents and communities drive priorities and action in school change efforts,” Ishimaru concludes.

Still, she cautions that work remains to be done at Rainier Beach: Key community leaders have moved on. Parents worry that African American students are still under-represented in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. And there’s no guarantee that the program itself will continue to attract the resources it needs to operate.

The National Education Policy Center reviews Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record on education issues.

Based on his past decisions, he can be expected to oppose affirmative action policies, to oppose the wall of separation between church and state, to favor public support for religious schools, to endorse religious prayers in public schools, and to oppose any limits of the sale of assault weapons or any other kinds of guns.

Elections have consequences.

For those who said there was no difference between Clinton and Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are examples of the difference.

I have posted two critiques of the North Carolina voucher study that claimed great gains for students who took vouchers to learn that dinosaurs and humans co-existed.

Here is another, which is probably definitive and all you need to know. It was posted by the National Education Policy Center.


An evaluation of an education program typically gives some information about whether or not a program is working. But a recent evaluation of North Carolina’s school voucher program is so flawed methodologically that it fails to explain whether the state’s Opportunity Scholarships help or harm a student’s education, according to a review by Kris Nordstrom, an education policy consultant on the Education and Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, a social justice-focused research and advocacy organization.

Nordstrom’s review is part of a new NEPC feature called Reviews Worth Sharing, which are not commissioned or edited by NEPC but that we believe contribute to our goal of helping policymakers, reporters, and others assess the social science merit of reports and judge their value in guiding policy. The views and conclusions addressed belong entirely to the author.

The evaluation reviewed, An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement, is a working paper by North Carolina State researchers Anna J. Egalite, D.T. Stallings, and Stephen R. Porter.

The review finds that methodological flaws in the evaluation make it impossible to accurately compare North Carolina private school students who receive the vouchers with their public school counterparts who do not. It is also possible that the private school students who participated in the analysis were not representative of the average voucher student. That’s because the working paper only examined a small, non-random handful of voucher students (89 individuals, or 1.6 percent of all voucher recipients) who volunteered to be tested for the evaluation. In addition, just over half of the private schools attended by these 89 recipients were Catholic. Yet only 10 percent of all North Carolina voucher schools are Catholic.

The evaluation did use a statistical method called propensity-score matching to create a public school comparison group that was designed to be similar to the pool of private school volunteers. However, Nordstrom identifies five main flaws with this comparison:

The private school students who volunteered to participate in the evaluation were recruited by a pro-voucher advocacy organization, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. The evaluation does not clarify to what extent, if any, the organization cherry-picked the volunteers or their schools.

The public school students likely came from lower-income families than the voucher recipients. Evaluation authors said that they accounted for this difference by incorporating prior year’s test results into the analysis. But that assumes that income differences did not impact performance in the ensuing school year.

The public school students likely attended schools with higher poverty rates than the private school students would have been attending, absent the vouchers. Again, evaluation authors said that they accounted for this difference by incorporating prior year’s test results into the analysis, but that (again) assumes that the differences did not impact performance in the ensuing school year.

It is possible that the public and private school students had different levels of motivation when taking the test. While voucher recipients might have perceived that their performance could impact their ability to remain in their private schools, the public school students likely viewed the exam as a meaningless exercise.

The test used in the evaluation was not aligned to North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study. If it was aligned more closely with the private schools’ curricula, that could give the voucher recipients an advantage.

North Carolina’s voucher program is scheduled to grow by $10 million per year, to $144.8 million in 2027-28.
Yet as Nordstrom concludes:

North Carolina General Assembly lawmakers are about to conclude yet another legislative session without implementing meaningful evaluation and accountability measures on state voucher programs. Despite the N.C. State report, unfettered expansion of vouchers continues, and policymakers, educators, and parents still don’t know whether the program is working or not.

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a conservative group created to make professional teacher education look bad. I was on the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation when it was started. It floundered a while, then got a $5 Million Grant from then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige to get its act together. It has done that. Now it is Gates-funded and is a darling of reformers, who yearn to replace the teaching profession with TFA temps and screen time.

Now the NCTQ has made itself the arbiter of “Standards” for teacher education, despite its lack of qualifications. It isssues an annual report for the media, informing them that very very few institutions meet their standards. Some major media take their ratings seriously, never asking who they are and how they have the chutzpah to rate every ed school in the nation, without bothering to visit any campuses. Linda Darling-Hammond described their first report stating that it was like a colllecyion of restaurant reviews based on menus, not on visits and tastings.

The National Education Policy Center reviewed the latest NCTQ report:

BOULDER, CO— The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released its 2018 Teacher Prep Review. The report examines whether U.S. teacher preparation programs are aligned with NCTQ’s standards. This alignment, the report insists, will produce teachers “not only ready to achieve individual successes, but also [ready] to start a broader movement toward increased student learning and proficiency.”

The NCTQ report regularly garners generally credulous coverage from media outlets, including this year from Education Week and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith of Boston College, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe of Lesley University, Wen-Chia Chang of Boston College, and Molly Cummings Carney of Boston College reviewed the report for NEPC. The reviewers are all members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform), a group of teacher education scholars and practitioners who have been studying U.S. teacher education in the context of larger reform movements since 2014. Their review found the report to have multiple logical, conceptual, and methodological flaws.

The report determines that most teacher preparation programs are not aligned with the NCTQ standards. Accordingly, it finds “severe structural problems with both graduate and alternative route programs that should make anyone considering them cautious.”

However, the report’s rationale includes widely critiqued assumptions about the nature of teaching, learning, and teacher credentials. Its methodology, which employs a highly questionable documents-only evaluation system, is a maze of inconsistencies, ambiguities, and contradictions. Further, the report ignores accumulating evidence that there is little relationship between the NCTQ’s ratings of a program and its graduates’ later classroom performance.
Finally, the report fails to substantively account for broad shifts in the field of teacher education that are nuanced, hybridized, and dynamic. It also exacerbates the dysfunctional dichotomy between university programs and alternative routes. For years now, researchers and analysts have pointed out that this distinction is not very useful, given that there is as much or more variation within these categories as between them. Ultimately, the report offers little guidance for policymakers, practitioners, or the general public.

Find the review, by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, Wen-Chia Chang, and Molly Cummings Carney, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-prep-2018

Find 2018 Teacher Prep Review, written by Robert Rickenbrode, Graham Drake, Laura Pomerance, and Kate Walsh and published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at:
https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/2018_Teacher_Prep_Review_733174