Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

This is one of the best articles ever on how to end the teacher shortage.

Janice and Geoffrey Strauss write:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s irrational vendetta against teachers and public education, aided and abetted by the state legislature and former Commissioner John King’s inept handling of Common Core, charter schools and the public education system have all led to such a toxic atmosphere in education that few candidates want to even get near public school teaching…..

We must make public school teaching attractive again, and here is a short list of what should be done:

1. Eliminate the EdTPA. This system, promoted as increasing standards for teachers, is in reality so onerous and poorly thought out that it is discouraging qualified applicants to the profession. It costs both teacher candidates and the state millions, and has resulted in teacher candidates being less prepared for teaching rather than more so.

2. Eliminate standardized testing in the public schools and for teacher candidate preparation. Research shows the best indicator of a student’s success is their GPA, not standardized test scores. Standardized testing merely adds to the coffers of the private testing industry. Reinstitute teacher-created Regent’s exams. Teacher created exams are age appropriate, more accurately test the learning of students and cost much less than corporate prepared tests.

3. Let teachers mark their own students’ tests. It’s cheaper and better.

4. Eliminate corporate “canned” teaching modules created to meet Common Core Standards, and allow teachers to create their lesson plans. Teachers are the experts; release their creativity so that they can teach students properly.

5. Make the teaching profession attractive financially. Eliminate Tiers V and VI in the teacher retirement system. One of the tradeoffs teachers had accepted for the relatively low pay for the amount of education required was a decent pension. Tiers V and VI were created to punish teachers, not reward them for their service.

6. Create a “Teacher Bar Association” to establish educational requirements for teachers for public and charter schools, thus officially recognizing that teaching is a profession. Lawyers, doctors and CPAs are experts in their fields, as are teachers in theirs.

7. Establish a program to help raise the status of teaching in the public’s consciousness. Few want to enter a profession which is constantly derided by politicians and the press.

8. Common Core has been a disaster; eliminate it. While the intent was perhaps a good one, it was created by non-educators more for political and profit motives than educational ones.

If we want more teachers, we must make the profession attractive financially and creatively. Let teachers do what they do best — teach!

David Greene, experienced teacher of teachers, read an article in The Economist about teaching teachers, and he got steamed. Guess who is training the best teachers? The corporate-funded Relay “Graduate School of Education,” where none of the “professors” has a doctorate. Relay is a program where charter teachers teach future charter teachers how to raise test scores. To call it a “graduate school of education” is an insult to real graduate schools, where professors are scholars and masters of their field. “Raising test scores” is not a field. Which economists think that the Relay way is the best way? Tom Kane, Eric Hanushek, Roland Fryer.

The article cites the favorite myths of the economists:

Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford University, has estimated that during an academic year pupils taught by teachers at the 90th percentile for effectiveness learn 1.5 years’ worth of material. Those taught by teachers at the 10th percentile learn half a year’s worth. Similar results have been found in countries from Britain to Ecuador. “No other attribute of schools comes close to having this much influence on student achievement,” he says.

Rich families find it easier to compensate for bad teachers, so good teaching helps poor kids the most. Having a high-quality teacher in primary school could “substantially offset” the influence of poverty on school test scores, according to a paper co-authored by Mr Hanushek. Thomas Kane of Harvard University estimates that if African-American children were all taught by the top 25% of teachers, the gap between blacks and whites would close within eight years. He adds that if the average American teacher were as good as those at the top quartile the gap in test scores between America and Asian countries would be closed within four years.

The assumption behind these theories is that children who live in poverty, who are homeless, and who lack medical care get low test scores because of “bad teachers.” These economists stubbornly refuse to believe that the stressful conditions of these children’s lives depress their test scores. There is no evidence for the claim by Kane that the achievement gap between blacks and whites would close within eight years if all African American children were taught by teachers in the top 25%. Despite reformers’ total control of Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Denver, and (for nearly a decade under Mayor Bloomberg) New York City. None of these cities has closed the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots or between blacks and whites. The whole premise of this argument rests on the assumption that the “best teachers” produce the highest test scores. But other researchers and such esteemed organizations as the American Statistical Association dispute the validity of judging teachers by the test scores of their students. If a teacher is teaching children with cognitive disabilities, English language learners, or gifted children, he or she will have small or no test score gains as compared to a teacher in a well-resourced affluent community. Are the teachers in such circumstances “bad teachers”? No.

As David Greene points out, The Economist knows nothing about teaching:

ON TEACHING THE TEACHERS:

The Economist June 11, 2016

Whoever said this? “Great teaching has long been seen as an innate skill.

But reformers are showing that the best teachers are made, not born.”

How condescending can this be? This article implies that teachers don’t know that?

“Mr. Cavanagh is the product of a new way of training teachers. Rather than spending their time musing on the meaning of education, he and his peers have been drilled in the craft of the classroom.”

No. This is not new. He is actually the result of good training that has gone on for a long time. Hey guess what… reformers haven’t reinvented the wheel.

This has been true for decades: “Like doctors on the wards of teaching hospitals, its students often train at excellent institutions, learning from experienced high-caliber peers.”

It is how I learned from a cooperative master teacher when I student taught for a semester and how I received mentoring from my Principals, Assistant Principals, and department chairs for 38 years, not just the first.

This too has always been true: “teaching for what it is: not an innate gift, nor a refuge for those who, as the old saw has it, “can’t do”, but ‘an incredibly intricate, complex and beautiful craft’.”

“But a question has dogged policymakers: are great teachers born or made? Prejudices played out in popular culture suggest the former.”

First, policy makers have never known the truth about the hard work in developing good teachers. And, why listen to pop culture and not experienced teachers?

The “myth of the naturally born teacher” is, of course, a myth. Again this is not startling or new news. Why is it to the author, or to policy makers? As for any other successful professional, quality is a combination of nature and nurture. My cardio-thoracic surgeons who saved my life were gifted because they both had natural talent and developed skills.

It is mostly the others who think this: “A fair chunk of what teachers (and others) believe about teaching is wrong.” Most teachers KNOW how hard it is to develop the necessary skills.

Let’s also not lump these all together. “Unearned praise, grouping by ability and accepting or encouraging children’s different “learning styles” are widely espoused but bad ideas. So too is the notion that pupils can discover complex ideas all by themselves.”

Unearned praise is not a teacher thing…. It is a parenting thing. We know the truth. Good teachers and administrators always have known that heterogeneous grouping works best. Again, try selling that to often biased helicopter parents. We also know that students do learn differently.

Again… We always have done this as well: “Teachers must impart knowledge and critical thinking.”

These 6 aspects of great teaching have also been passed down from professional to professional: motivation, collaboration time management, proper behavior and high, yet reachable, expectations, high-quality instruction and so-called “pedagogical content knowledge”—a blend of subject knowledge and teaching craft.”

Any principal master teacher worth her or his salt already knows: “I don’t teach physics; I teach my pupils how to learn physics.”

He left one thing out. “ I teach kids to learn to love learning.”

To infer that these are new ideas and not the common best practices of generations of teachers before Relay and its ilk showed up is a pure and unadulterated insult.

“Too often teachers are told what to improve, but not given clear guidance on how to make that change.” Yet more often they are.

I will agree that many schools of education must change. I have been saying that since I was relatively well trained back in the late 60s. Many besides myself have been hounding US schools of education to do more craft work and less theoretical. Absolutely, they should incorporate a longer student teaching or residency program.

Does this reporter look into the large and growing number of school districts in the USA who have mandated veteran teacher mentors to new teachers?

Apparently not. These districts already knew what Roland Fryer of Harvard University found: “managed professional development”, where teachers receive precise instruction together with specific, regular feedback under the mentorship of a lead teacher, had large positive effects.”

“Such environments are present in schools such as Match and North Star—and in areas such as Shanghai and Singapore”…AND IN DISTRICTS ALL ACROSS THE USA!

And of course good teachers here have always known and complained about this: “Mr. Fryer says that American school districts “pay people in inverse proportion to the value they add”. District superintendents make more money than teachers although their impact on pupils’ lives is less.”

The article warps the image of teachers in the USA. This reporter needs to get a fuller picture of the good work that has been done in teacher preparation as well as what reformers say only they can do. Shame!

Russ Walsh notes that at least five states have decided to allow anyone with a BA to teach–Utah, Alabama, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Kansas, with no professional preparation for the classroom. This is their answer to teacher shortages.

Russ asks: Where’s the outrage?

He wonders, Is this “the business model” to hire unqualified people to fill a position of great responsibility?

What does this development say about the people who call themselves “education reformers”?

The move to get unqualified people into the classroom gives the lie to the real goal of education reformers. On the one hand we hear that “the teacher is the the most important single in-school factor in student achievement.” This is generally followed with breathless treatises on how teachers suck and how we need to improve teacher performance in the classroom, get rid of bad teachers and measure that performance with standardized tests. On the other hand we hear, “Well everybody has been to school, so everybody should be able teach. Let’s pass legislation that makes it easier to get warm bodies in the classroom.”

All of this “who needs qualified teachers” baloney, of course, began with Teach for America, an organization that started out with a laudable goal of filling hard to fill teaching positions with temp teachers and morphed into the employment recruiting arm of the the charter school industry. Placing unqualified temp teachers in front of children, especially poor children, has been a practice of the reform movement from the beginning.

What I would like to know is this: Where is the outrage from education reformers when states continually lower the bar for what it takes to be a teacher? If good teachers are so important, why is there no hue and cry about this most obvious lowering of standards? If education of the poor is the “civil rights issue of our time”, why are reformers comfortable with having poor kids exposed to unqualified temp workers? Why isn’t Campbell Brown tweeting about states allowing people off the street to teach?

Ever wonder what it is like to teach at a Success Academy charter school in New York City? I have been contacted by several teachers who quit and told me their stories, but they were never willing to allow their name to be published. They were afraid that their future job prospects would be damaged. Here is a statement by a former SA teacher, Sasha Guiridongo, posted on her own blog and then shared with Mercedes Schneider.

What is unusual, of course, is that Sasha is not afraid to tell her story and give her name.

She didn’t last long at Success Academy. She explains why in her post. SA is known for teacher churn and burn out. That explains why Eva Moskowitz’s supporters in the Legislature were pushing hard to get a special exemption for charter teachers in the law, relieving them of the necessity of being certified to teach for three years. Since so many teachers don’t last three years, this creates a large pool of prospective “teachers,” wannabes without certification.

Sasha complains about the competition among teachers to produce the highest test scores; I had earlier heard from a leaker at SA that the charters post the names of teachers in public and rank them by their students’ scores. This is an inherently humiliating practice. They also post student test scores in public. It must be humiliating for all but those at the top.

Here is an excerpt from Sasha’s post:

I was set to join “the team” for T-School, a brainwashing series of seminars aimed to mold you into a “Success teacher” because it’s somehow different than a regular teacher. Success teachers are notregular teachers, no sir, they are above that. The seminars retaught me how to teach and fed my newfound Success ego while stealing an entire month of my well deserved summer vacation. The outcome? I was thoroughly convinced that it took a “special” kind of teacher to teach at Success and I was part of the chosen few. This mentality is what kept me there as long as I did despite looming depression due to my sudden loss of identity and free time to pursue personal passions.

I had heard horrors about SA prior to accepting the job: the long hours and pressure to perform, but coming from another charter school I had confidence that I could accept and overcome any difficulties; Besides I was coming from teaching in East New York and nothing toughens you up more than working in a school where someone is shot dead at the end of the school block during Parent-Teacher Night. So was I intimidated by SA? No. But once I began teaching as a newly baptized SA teacher I quickly realized the toxic environment SA strived to create and force feed educators who had real passion for teaching. SA had managed to create an educational environment that disregarded the well-being of the teacher. It promoted a cut-throat, monetarily incentivized corporate environment in which you prayed for the demise of your peers for an opportunity to inadvertently glorify yourself. Is this what teaching is about?

My 6 months at Success forced me to evaluate who I was as an educator and revise my motivation, a minute personal gain. Success mostly made me doubt my personal success every day. I became doubtful of the importance of teaching; if we could all be trained to be the same, think the same, and act the same then as educators we were inevitably relaying this same message to our students. Every day I relayed the message that just as all teachers had to think and act and be the same, consistency among classrooms, the same was expected of students. SA didn’t celebrate originality or praise the individual, no, SA thrived on doubt, on the inevitable fear of not doing enough, being there enough, talking enough, thinking enough, preparing enough, or absorbing enough information. The underlying message was that this doubt and fear somehow made you better because it encouraged you to take immediate action as you strived to BE THE BEST at the expense of your mental stability, of course. If I couldn’t survive here, I often thought, I had failed and I was not “one of a kind,” I was weak and had no business teaching.

Deborah Meier, founder of Central Park East in New York City and the Mission Hill school in Boston, explains the rationale for tenure and seniority from her perspective as a principal:

 

 

“Tenure and seniority are often attacked by people of good will. As a former principal of several schools, I embrace it. The culture of Central Park East and Mission Hill depended on both, even if there were occasions when I wished otherwise. I’m not alone, as a principal, in this view.

 

 

The kind of noncompetitive shared “ownership” over the school that the staff and faculty displayed over and over and over again rested in large measure on their not having to balance their personal self-interest and their devotion to the school. There is nothing evil in our desire to have a steady paycheck, to feel secure even if you irritate those in charge, and to want to be able to plan one’s life ahead. These are healthy qualities that human beings should not be ashamed of. As FDR once noted, “freedom from fear” is one of the basics that democracy rests on—–fear makes for bad practice of teaching and democracy.

 

 

My capacity to provide leadership where needed, and build a strong staff rested on the fact that there were some rules of the game we couldn’t change, and were not available to our temporary biases. I could be strong and as persuasive as I could be without fear of intimidating others to follow my lead, or silence even young and inexperienced staff from venturing forth with their opinions—as long as I did not have the power to wreak havoc on their lives—and cut off the lively ideas that might otherwise inconvenience me. Experience close to home reminds me that even tenured teachers can lose their jobs if they annoy the principal too much in settings where staff cohesion is weak. Only such “irritation” is sufficient to get many principals to take the trouble to “get rid” of a staff member—-and cause can always be dug up when the desire is strong enough.

 

 

Finally, it’s hard to believe that some wouldn’t be influenced by having to pay senior teachers so much more than first year teachers, thus creating a tendency to punish experienced teachers who have to constantly outperform newer and younger colleagues. If we want people to stay we need to offer them a good shot at making decent pay as they get older. Given that most newbies leave within the first 5 years—perhaps inevitable—it makes sense to pay them less as they learn the craft, and while they have fewer adult responsibilities. But once again, as with tenure, if decisions about pay are made by one’s principal there is a never-ending tendency to “please the boss”. When someone should not be teaching there should be peer reviews, with the principal being a part of the process, for weeding out those who, at the present time, do not seem ready to be teachers.

Denis Ian is a reader of the blog.

 

He writes:

 

 

“There are simple reasons why teachers are fleeing the profession, college prep programs are drying up, and master teachers are rushing to retirement. This reform has gutted any attraction the profession ever held. But, as a master teacher, I see the destruction in different terms than just stark numbers.

 

“Teachers know how schools change over time. Serve a few decades and you’re not much bothered by the continuous, subtle adjustments from year to year. Schools are ever in a state of reform. They have to be.

 

“Way back when, the drug stuff had us all alarmed … and the beer stuff, too. That was everyday teen stuff leaking into our narrow world. We had run-ins with hygiene and sex and cigarettes. And, of course, drunk driving. Daring schools talked about daring stuff beyond classrooms … like alcohol and divorce … and physical abuse.

 

“Then there was AIDS. That was extra-delicate and owned a frantic immediacy. The right words were so hard to find. Lots of times, I felt like I was killing innocence. 

Other moments were colored by usual stuff. Usual for adults, trauma for kids. Big difference.

 

“Not many of us got much help from teacher-prep programs or post-grad classes. Not about those issues. There weren’t many best-sellers on the issues that seeped into our classrooms. No sexy titles like you might find today … like “ Beer and the Back Seat” … which would kill two sins at once. Or “I’ll Love You for All of Next Week” … which might seem cute, but is likely to be an overly graphic how-to manual for very young teens in this age of sexual over-kill. That’s the sad trend.

 

 

“Sexting is now a middle school sport. And cell phones are sex toys. Hazing never really goes away … it just morphs into some new ugliness. 

Today, schools are nimble emergency responders … making mighty efforts to cushion kids for any and all eventualities. Lots of schools have figured out how to deal with very different students with very different issues who weren’t part of the landscape even a few years ago. Not an easy feat when the student body itself is lost in the weeds of immaturity. Lots of adults become stumble-bumblers in such situations … and it’s often these kids who sort of tutor us big dopes.

 

 

“My point? Where does generation after generation of teachers get their wisdom for things like this? … and for other topics that seem invisible to outsiders?

 

“Who whispers to them?

 
Who makes the greenhorns less green and the naive less naive? Who gives the next generations their reality booster shot? … and gets them to understand the nuances of their craft? Who oracles them?

 

 

“Know who? The folks walking out that back door. And they’re leaving in droves. 

They’re walking away from the New Nonsense and the New Idiocy. They’re leaving because they have something the New Intruders have never possessed … integrity. And they won’t ever compromise that. And they won’t betray kids. Not ever.

 

 

“This sudden exodus isn’t just the usual changing of the guard. Nope. When this brigade of Old Souls … these Gray Heads … gather up their experiences and box their lives and leave for good … they’ll be packing up decades of wisdom that will no longer be at the ready for the newbies who are never, ever as ready as they think.

 

 

“The most important things learned about teaching happen in whispers, asides, or in simple observations. 

It happens in fable form and in funny-sincere recollections of long disappeared characters. And it could happen anywhere … at any time. In hallways. At a copy machine. Or the parking lot. In a stairwell or in an empty classroom … very late in the day … when the school goes silent save for the sounds of sloshy mops and things on squeaky wheels. 

And now those splendid souls …the Wisdomers … they’re leaving. Vanishing.

 

 

“And in their moving vans are the moving stories young teachers need to know … because those stories are informal survival guides. They’re reference material for soothing young souls and spackling torn hearts. What’s in those boxes are manuals for curing failure and repairing kids who’ve had a bottom-bounce. Those are medicine boxes with un-named elixirs for hurts of all sorts. And all of this magic is flying out the back door of schools.

 

 

“Those master teachers are the antidote for this sick reform. But they’ll be gone when their wisdom is most needed.

 

 

“Someday … not sure when, but someday … we’ll come to our senses. We’ll have a national mea culpa. And we’ll get our educational priorities back in common sense rhythms. But it’s not going to be easy at all. It’s gonna be hard stuff.

 

 

“All of the wisdom whispers will have disappeared. And “starting from scratch” won’t be a cliche any more. It’ll be a reality. A bad reality.

 

 

“Wish us luck. We’re gonna need it.

 

 

“Denis Ian”

Joanne Yatvin is a former teacher, principal, and superintendent who is now retired.

Having complained long and loud about the misguided school reform schemes that have dominated public education over the past several years, I think it’s time for me to step up and offer my own ideas for making schools work. Be warned that my proposals are not only unorthodox, but also teacher-biased, and cheap. Well, at least cheaper than the test-drenched practices now in place.

My version of school reform is based on two premises: (1) poverty and its accoutrements are the major causes of students’ poor academic performance (2) the principals and teachers who live their professional lives in schools are the ones best qualified to make decisions for schools and to implement them.

Convert schools in high poverty areas to full-time community centers.

By moving as many community services as possible into school buildings and making them available in the evenings and on weekends, schools could provide social supports to poor families more efficiently and economically and also add recreational and self-improvement activities now in short supply.

In restructuring school building use, the only adjustment to the daytime programs would be the addition of basic health and dental care for students. During evening and weekend hours, however, libraries, gyms, meeting rooms and computer labs would be open, offering a variety of activities for adults and young people. In addition, inexpensive and nutritious evening meals could be offered in the school lunchroom.

Turn over the management of high-poverty schools to professional educators.

We need to lure the best principals and teachers into low performing schools by offering them incentives of autonomy, professional advancement, and higher salaries. Under the leadership of a dynamic principal, chosen by the school staff and parents, schools would be empowered to create their own structures, including a principal’s cabinet and grade level instructional teams. Within each team, roles and salaries would be differentiated according to teachers’ expertise, and willingness to take on additional responsibilities.

Evaluate teachers on their own performance, not those of students

Although principals’ views of teachers’ competence are not perfect, having a wise and alert administrator observing what teachers do to help students learn is the only rational way to evaluate them. Not only formal observations should count, but also classroom drop-ins, finding a teacher in the library helping some kids with research, noticing how often a teacher volunteers to do something extra for the school, seeing a teacher eating lunch at her desk while she reads student essays, an teacher leadership among colleagues.

Offer early retirement to burned-out teachers and incentives for ineffective younger teachers to resign or transfer to non-teaching positions.

At present, removing an unsuccessful teacher in any school district is a long, unpleasant and expensive process. But the problem is not teacher tenure. It is the lack of evidence of failure that makes attempting to remove a teacher look arbitrary or vengeful. The first step to improve the situation is to insure systematic evaluations of teachers with prompt feedback and offers of assistance. Ultimately, all teachers marked for dismissal should be provided with counseling, a dignified resignation process, and some incentives.

Cut reliance on commercial educational materials for students while increasing teachers’ professional development opportunities

Rather than depending on slick commercial programs and their disposable materials (i.e. workbooks), schools would do better to invest in high quality literature, technology, and reference books for students and professional books and university courses for teachers.

Increase the size and power of the school library and make the librarian a key figure in the education of students

Every school needs a full-time professional librarian/technologyst along with an aide so that the library is open full time during the school day and perhaps for a while after school closes. Not only should every class have a regular weekly library time, but also times when teachers can sign up to send small groups for specific assistance in finding and using library materials. School librarians should also meet with teacher teams to plan units to be taught and make sure that the materials students need are available. To make these things happen fully funding a school library should be a high priority for the principal and the school district.

Provide poor children with the background knowledge and support they may have missed at home and in their community.

What makes school difficult for most poor children is not their lack of ability but their meagerness of social, cultural and literary experiences. What many have missed out on is being read to, having substantive conversations with adults, visiting museums, parks, forests, and beaches, and being members of an educated community. To learn academic content and skills successfully, poor children need a school environment that is not only welcoming and supportive, but also rich in books, hands-on activities, cooperative learning, and exposure to the world outside their home community. Every high poverty school should receive additional funding for student field trips and in-school music and drama performances.

Reduce the number of standardized tests and the time devoted to test preparation

Not only do standardized tests now dominate schools’ curricula and classroom teaching time, they are extremely expensive and of little value beyond informing local districts and state officials about schools’ average test scores. Within our schools today tested subjects crowd out other subjects, and test preparation becomes almost a subject in itself. In addition, tests influence teaching style in general making it shallow and formulaic to fit the limitations of a multiple choice testing format. Both students and schools would be better served if standardized tests were given only every four years and classroom teachers were allowed to use their own methods and judgment to determine the extent and quality of each student’s learning.

Make every school a place where students want to be

In the recent studies of test scores from school to school and district to district, researchers cite student absenteeism and indifference to learning as some of the causes of low scores and stagnation in student progress. If instead of advocating for better teaching and more rigorous students expectations, schools concentrated on providing classes and assignments that appealed to students’ interests and also gave all students opportunities to make decisions and play important roles in school operations we would see better performance from everyone.
Although I could add a few more change proposals to my list, I believe that those above are the basics. Through my experience as a teacher and a principal I learned a lot about what helps teachers to teach well, children to learn, and schools to be the healthy, happy places I have known and the even better ones I still dream of.

Linda Darling-Hammond recently created a new institute to study teaching and learning, called the Learning Policy Institute. Given her scholarly background, you can be sure that anything LPI produces will be rigorously researched.

In one of its first research summaries, the LPI concluded that “Teachers Improve As They Gain Experience.”

This would seem to be common-sense, but the corporate reform movement has repeated again and again that teachers improve in the first three years, but then plateau and improve no more after the first three-five years. They use this claim to advocate for Teach for America and other fast-track programs and to ignore the exodus of highly experienced teachers. As a result of this counterintuitive and actually false belief, so-called “reformers” have advocated for and enacted state laws that encourage veteran teachers to leave the profession. For example, North Carolina raised entry salaries for teachers to $35,000 but capped salaries for experienced teachers at $50,000. Florida offers bonuses for new teachers who had high SAT scores in high school (!), but no bonuses to encourage the most experienced teachers to stay in the profession.

Thus, it is of the utmost importance that respected researchers have refuted the claim that teachers do not improve as they gain experience. This is one of the worst canards of the corporate reform movement, and one that is harming the teaching profession and the nation’s children.

Here is a summary of the research report.

Here is the report.

Here is the press release:


Teachers Improve as They Gain Experience

Comprehensive LPI review analyzes 30 studies on the effect of teaching experience on student achievement

Do teachers plateau early in their career or do they continue to grow and improve as they gain experience? It’s a critical question that has implications for local, state, and federal education leaders and policymakers. And it’s the subject of the latest report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research.

Based on their analysis of 30 recent, methodologically rigorous studies on the impact of teaching experience on student outcomes, authors Tara Kini and Anne Podolsky find that as teachers gain experience, they are more likely to positively impact student achievement and improve critical behaviors, including attendance. The steepest gains are in the first few years of teaching, but teachers gain in effectiveness throughout their careers, especially when they are in collegial work environments. Experienced teachers also have a positive impact on the performance of their peers.

“This report shows that what is widely accepted as true in the business world—that individuals improve their performance with experience—is also true in teaching,” says LPI Senior Policy Advisor Kini, who co-authored the report.

These findings come at an important time. Nationwide, we’re seeing a “greening” of the teacher workforce. But inexperienced teachers aren’t evenly distributed throughout schools. Black, Latino, American Indian, and Native-Alaskan students are three to four times more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers than White students. New teachers are also more likely to be concentrated in high-poverty schools.

In addition to a detailed analysis of the research, the report includes recommendations to address these inequities—a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act—and offers program and investment strategies to attract, retain, and develop talented teachers who have opportunities to learn and grow throughout their careers.

Read the full report and the research brief, Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research, both of which are available on our website.


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About The Learning Policy Institute

The Learning Policy Institute conducts and communicates independent high-quality research to improve education. Working with policymakers, researchers, community groups, and others, we seek to advance evidence-based policies that support empowering and equitable learning for each and every child. For more information, please visit http://www.learningpolicyinstitute.org.

Learning Policy Institute
1530 Page Mill Road, Suite 200
Palo Alto, CA 94304

info@learningpolicyinstitute.org

Some months ago, I received an email from a teacher in India. He asked for permission to translate my book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” I granted his request. He sent this post to describe what is happening in India, which may sound familiar to readers of this blog.

Grassroot experiences of global phenomena

Nexus of State-Corporates-NGOs damaging and degrading the public school education in India

Lok Shikshak Manch is a collective of school teachers, students, research scholars and others who attempt to see education in its larger socio-economic-political context. The group was formed in 2011 in Delhi, India. It has since been involved in various struggles against attacks on the public education system in India.

Diane’s book ‘The death and the life of the great American school system’ has helped us to make greater sense of our observations and experience over the last few years – particularly, since we came together as a collective some five years back. It has also allowed us to understand the import of the policy shifts we are witnessing as teachers in the public school system (in India in general but more particularly in the context of Delhi where we are based). We also totally agree with her understanding that there are limits to what education can do to remove inequality etc, so long as wider socio-economic disparities continue to exist around us. We too believe that it is the responsibility of the state to address all kinds of inequities, including in education, and this warrants a strong support to our public institutions.

India is increasingly seeing a proliferation of Non Government Organisations (NGOs), often funded by big corporations, other private businesses and individual donors, working in the field of education. Many of these are being actively encouraged by the government’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy to play a role in the public school system, whether at the level of providing ‘academic support’ to students or distributing those very materials as charity which the state is anyway constitutionally required to provide to all children in schools. For instance present Delhi government has come to depend upon NGOs for a range of things including testing children (Pratham), training Principals (Central Square Foundation), classroom teaching (Teach for India), improving libraries (Room to Read), activating School-Parents’ interactions (Saajha Manch) etc.

Education has caught the attention of Indian Corporates in terms of investment under CSR i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility. Chinese Magazine, Hurun reported that Indian Corporates invested 80% of their CSR in education in 2014-15.

In some parts of India, governments have been trying to fully hand over the management of public schools to corporate bodies. Some such examples exist in Delhi too. Municipal Corporation of another city, Mumbai, had handed over management of 1,174 of its schools into the hands of private players by 2013. While such outsourcing of public schools has not gone unchallenged, it has to be said that in spite of the Right to Information Act, a central legislation guaranteeing access to almost all the decisions of the government, it has proven difficult to gauge the exact conditions and parameters of these transfers.

It is noteworthy that most of these organisations lack robust academic credentials and promote a very corporatised culture in schools. For example, teachers in a government school in Delhi, which is part of 54 schools where a pilot project is being run with the intervention of some NGOs, are being asked to mark their entry to and exits from classes by registering their thumb impressions on a bio-metric instrument. They have also been told to carry a recording device on their collars and their classes have been put under CCTV monitoring. CCTVs have come to represent the era of devising technological solutions to sociological problems.

The vocabulary being used to push these interventions is perhaps quite uniform the world over – ‘improving learning outcomes’, ‘accountability and performance of teachers’, (an apparent concern for) ‘children from poor backgrounds’, ‘quality’, ‘efficiency’ etc. Anyway, the arguments advanced in support of private interventions in public schools in India seem to be very similar to those described and identified by Diane in her book on the USA.

We will like to share an example of one particular private project which was introduced in 15 Municipal schools in Delhi some six years ago. This is a program called Nanhi Kali which is run by the K. C. Mahindra Education Trust and Naandi Foundation. (Nanhi Kali, literally ‘Little Buds’, is a literary phrase in Hindi/Urdu used for young girls to signify their vulnerability and prettiness.) The program claims to support the schooling (till grade 10) of girls from impoverished families – which gets translated in action as all girls enrolled in public funded schools! – by giving them a ‘kit’ (stationery items, uniforms, bag, shoes etc.) and providing tuition. The tutors engaged by the organisers of the program are, in almost all cases, girls who are either enrolled in senior grades in schools or pursuing graduation courses through open learning/distant education institutions.

The advertisement of the program portrays a false and demeaning picture of the ‘girls in need’, claiming that they have been abandoned or that their parents are unable to send them to schools etc. Donors are then invited to ‘adopt’ a girl who would then be his/her ‘foster daughter’. In return, they get to receive regular photographs and reports on these girls. Not only are the students and parents completely uninformed of the basic idea and finances of the program they are encouraged to enroll in, the education department itself did not care to do a background check to protect the privacy and data-confidentiality, not to say the dignity, of these students. The insulting idea seems to be that now that these people are receiving aid, their other and finer human rights do not matter. The tutors who are working for the program at extremely pitiful wages – conveniently defended as ‘honorarium’ – seem to be under the impression that the students’ photographs are taken to prepare their school I-cards! Most of them have no idea of the details of the program. (And this seems to be true of almost all energetic or financially desperate volunteers working for philanthro-capitalist organisations.) Obviously, the tuition-support which these students were getting was not academically sound, and it could not have been otherwise, given the lack of academic and professional qualification of the tutors and the program’s emphases on primitive literacy and numeracy standards and pedagogy. We found that if students wanted to opt out of the tuition – which meant going back home after the regular school got over instead of staying back for another couple of hours – they were often not just disallowed but even humiliated, being told that having once accepted the ‘kit’ they could not now refuse to attend the tuition! On the one hand, the program claimed grossly inflated figures of girls enrolled under it – for example, in one school, while around 250 students stayed back for its tuitions, their report showed all the nearly 1500 students as participants! On the other hand, we had cases of parents whose daughters had been enrolled in the program without their knowledge and who would then come to school looking for them since they had not reached home by their usual time after the closure of the regular school.

We were able to engage with the parents of these students, fellow teachers and campaigned successfully with the department to get the program’s permission refused after a couple of years. In this process, some teachers have faced subtle threats and even been falsely and maliciously complained against by the organisers of the program. Moreover, the program continues to run in some neighborhoods, having once gained currency through a public institution, and there have been reports of the organisers trying to once again gain official permission to work in schools.

The other worrying trend which we are a witness to is the entry of Teach for India (TFI) volunteers in many Municipal schools. Most of these volunteers are said to be ‘bright’, young graduates freshly passed-out from colleges and other institutions of higher learning. While the wording of their permission-letter is careful enough to state that they will aid and assist the regular teachers of the English-medium sections in the teaching of English, Maths and Environmental Studies, there does come a situation when they sort of take-over the classes. (There is an increasing trend across states in India to have either ‘special’ schools which are English-medium or at least have one such section across grades in all other ‘normal’ schools. The trend is contrary to all the protestations of educationists and reports of various commissions and committees on the issue of the medium-language of education, and has to be seen in the light of a lack of serious commitment by the government to developing a system of education removed from colonial vestiges and free from the elitism of English, a tame response by the executive machinery to the ‘demands of the market’ and the peculiarly multi-lingual conditions in India.)

A teacher who used to teach, till some months back, in one such school where the TFI volunteers were working with the English-medium sections, shared his experience about a phenomenon which we term ‘student snatching’. Once, when he came back to school after a week’s leave, he was told by the TFI volunteer that she had tested the students while he was away and she wanted to exchange one ‘weak’ student under her charge with one ‘bright’ student from his class. The teacher was outraged by the suggestion, put his foot down and took the issue to the principal, who disallowed any such transfer of students but not before giving enough hints that she herself was under the impression that TFI had strong support from the bureaucracy in the department and thus their requests could not be easily negated.

Another example will perhaps make clear what the principal’s understanding of the situation meant. Sometime back, an NGO was granted written permission by the concerned authority (in the education department of the MCD) to work in five schools. When its representative came to the office which issues letters authorising such organisations to work in particular schools, he asked the official in charge of issuing the letter to mention ten schools in the letter instead of the approved figure of five. The official declared his inability to do so since their proposal had been cleared specifically for five schools. Thereupon the NGO representative made a telephonic call to a still higher official in the education department and let him speak to and pressurise this functionary in the office into releasing permission to the said NGO to work in ten schools. It is not rare to find even the education department officials, leave alone principals or teachers in the affected schools, to be kept in the dark about the details of the programs some of these NGOs seek to implement in schools. We have come across teachers, principals and even officials who did not know, for example, that the organisation working in their schools was not permitted to photograph students or bring un-authorised people to work with students in schools or to disturb the routine and functioning of the school (for days) in order to prepare the students for its promotional event in the school. No doubt, such impunity is helped not just by a culture of apathy and permissiveness in the corridors of the bureaucracy but also by the carefully worded ambiguity in the official letters which are issued to allow these NGOs to work in schools. Obviously, teachers and principals are bypassed when it comes to seeking their prior opinions and understanding of the proposed interventions by these private organisations.

It is clear that most of these organisations enjoy an undue and unaccountable reputation among the highest political and bureaucratic functionaries which makes it easy for them to influence the decision making process in their favour. Apart from the heft they gain merely due to their corporate background and bearing, they are also able to use the advantages of networking and insider-influence by recruiting education department officials who retire from senior positions in the bureaucracy. Such personnel come in handy to gain reputation, trust and access to much needed knowledge about the formal and informal functioning of the system.

Scholars in University departments of education who are working on some of these interventions have often made critical observations on the narrow focus of these programs. For example, TFI volunteers clearly emphasise the conversational aspect of English in their classroom interactions, thereby reducing the objective and pedagogy of the subject but in doing so they obviously gain some popularity with parents who see English speech as a marker of upward mobility.

Similarly, the exercise books recently introduced by the Delhi government to teach students of grades 6 to 9 for a couple of months this session are said to have been prepared under the direction of the NGO Pratham. These work-books, which are supposed to address the ‘learning deficits’ of students who have been negatively affected by the no-detention policy – in place till grade 8 under the Right to Education Act, 2009, but increasingly under attack and likely to be amended by the central government in near future – have not only been trashed by many teachers as too shallow, but have also been described by many students (in personal conversation) as demeaning to their intellect.

This intervention gels nicely with the annual report (ASER or Annual Status of Education Report) which Pratham brings out and which has been drawing a lot of negative attention to the ‘alarmingly low levels’ of achievement in Maths and Language among children enrolled in Public funded schools.

Diane consistently cautions against ignoring the socio-economic context of students while comparing their learning levels across schools. It was the public schools who catered to the education of children with special needs or children whose first language was not English in USA while Charter Schools tried to keep such students out in order to improve their results. We have similar problem with Indian think-tanks here. Reports like ASER remain silent on the question of caste and class context of children they test. They pass unqualified judgments with dangerous implications. What can’t be missed is how elected governments accept these conclusions as matter of faith. In a country where majority of households are not in a position to provide required nutrition to their children, any link between poverty and educational reality is being deliberately erased from public conscience and policy making.

Another matter of concern for us is the constant propaganda about the inefficiency and non-performance of the highly-paid government school teacher. Much like Diane describes in her book, these achievement reports and their statistics have become a part of the common but deadly arsenal of all those business leaders, management gurus and op-ed writers who, without having any credential or experience in education, passionately advocate vouchers for families and ‘performance-pay’, ‘temporary recruitment’ etc of school teachers. Not surprisingly, Pratham provides its untrained and unqualified volunteers to many public schools at the primary level to ostensibly improve upon these standards!

It is the same set of people who advocate the introduction of ‘vouchers’ and ‘choice’ in a system of schools left to the working of the market, if not the closure of public schools themselves. An experiment along the line of ‘voucher system’ was conducted in 90 villages of the southern province of Andhra Pradesh where parents were given ‘vouchers’ – called scholarships – for transferring their wards to a private school of their choice. A study released by J-PAL (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) in 2013 showed that only 60% of the parents applied for the vouchers in the first place and later 60% of the ‘benefitted’ parents rejected the option of changing the school. 20% of the remaining students who had used the vouchers returned back to their original schools within four years of the transfer. These figures imply that almost 80% of the students refused the benefits of the voucher program. The question is, can such short-term, isolated remedies take-over the State responsibility of providing equal and quality education to all children?

Most of these interventions are well placed in the context of the government’s declared and much-hyped projects like Skill Development, Digital India etc. Thus, the former requires students to be tested, classified and labelled early in their schooling careers in order to then move them to different programs corresponding to their ‘academic’ or ‘vocational’ aptitudes. This is most likely to affect the higher-education chances of children studying in public funded schools and has already begun making its impact on schools and students. On the other hand, digitalisation is being used as a tool of an un-examined and mostly unethical intrusion into children’s privacy, their records, attendances etc, all in the name of ensuring e-governance. The compulsory enrolment of all people, including children not in a position to give (or withhold) consent, under a bio-metric (ten fingers and iris scan) identification register (now backed by a law, in spite of facing criticism and opposition from civil liberty groups and pending final judgment in the Supreme Court) is being proudly used by the central ministry of education (the Ministry of Human Resource and Development) to showcase a tracking of children and their test (and perhaps other) records not just by parents but accessible to all as a measure of transparency, accountability and convenience for the worried parents!

The document on school education released by the ministry as a framework for inviting public comments in the process of preparing a New Education Policy presents ‘learning outcomes’ as the first issue of discussion. It also includes questions on using technology to ensure teachers’ presence, has ‘school standard and management’ as another theme and asks states to identify areas in which they would like to seek international participation! Yet, there is some sliver of hope too. While we have found colleagues in general and our representative unions more unacceptably, oblivious to the dangers posed by many of these intrusions under the garb of NGOs, more recent exchanges with colleagues across schools tell us that even politically less active teachers are beginning to identify the vested interests behind these programs. This is surely in response to the direct assault they have come to face even in their classrooms, which has begun restricting their academic judgment and freedom as professionals.

Likewise, solidarity groups of organisations like the AIFRTE (All India Forum for Right to Education, a platform of national and state-level students’ and teachers’ organisations and other activists in the field of education, working for a fully state-funded common school system and resisting policies of commercialisation and communalisation in education) continue to engage in grassroots struggles and expose and oppose policies which are seen as harming the public character of education. An evidence of the power of these associational struggles can be had from the recent successfully-waged opposition to the decision of the Andhra Pradesh government to close or merge thousands of its schools in the name of ‘rationalisation’. Many such struggles are being waged across the country because many such anti-people decisions are being taken by state governments and the centre acting under the influence if not control of neo-liberal policies.

Thus, of course, while we appreciate and hope to make use of the remarkable public-spirited documentation of evidences by Diane in her book, there is one thing on which we would take a more political position than perhaps she allows herself as an academic. We would rather identify this whole swathe of often seductive changes, which are ultimately destructive of public education systems the world over, as the necessary machinations of the neo-liberal capitalist order. We in India trace the sharp turn in state’s policies from the beginning of the 1990s, when the government adopted, under the pressure of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, a structural adjustment program to reduce its welfare role. The policy is more (un)popularly referred to as LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation, Globalisation). Where they seem to halt their onslaughts and appear to negotiate compromises favourable to our schools, students, teachers and communities, even there the neo-liberal forces make all attempts to distort the character of education and the unity of the people.

A case in point being the Ambani-Birla Report on ‘Policy Framework for Reforms In Education’ (2000) which was framed by heads of two of the richest and most influential companies in India, Reliance and Aditya Birla Group, on the invitation of The Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry. The report intended to lay guidelines for re-shaping the national higher education system. It claimed that “education must shape adaptable, competitive workers who can readily acquire new skills and innovate” for market economy thus paving the way for vocationalisation of education. A decade later, University of Delhi came to witness what Diane has called ‘cafeteria curriculum’ in the form of half-baked courses under a Four Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP) 2013-14 which students rejected on a large scale and got rolled back.

We firmly believe that the proper role of education and the unity of the people are sustained by public funding and public character of our institutions.

We also see in Diane’s work the proof, if any was needed, that all those who cherish intellectual vigour in education, even if not persuaded to name capitalism itself as responsible, will find it unable to ignore the ill-effects of the growing power and influence of corporate capital on our schools and education system. As she rightly says in her book, we cannot hope to sustain democratic societies in the absence of a strong and common public school system. No matter which part of the world we may belong to.

As readers know, the Los Angeles a Times published a scathing indictment of Bill Gates and his ill-fated forays into education policymaking. The Times noted Gates’ serial failures, one of which was his naive belief that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. This idea appealed to his technocratic, data-driven mindset.

Some cheered the Times’ about-face, but Anthony Cody did not. He argues that Los Angeles Times was complicit in some of Gates’ worst ideas, despite the absence of evidence for their likely success. It gave full-throated support to John Deasey when he ran the city’s public schools with a heavy hand and spent profligately on ed technology. While wiser heads were skeptical about Gates’plan to evaluate teachers by test scores, the Times decided to create its own test-based rating system and published the results.

Cody calls for accountability. The line between advocacy and reporting is thin, and he believes the Times’ reporters crossed it. They should have investigated the Gates’ theory, but instead they acted on it, assuming its validity.

Cody writes:


“I have a question related to journalistic integrity. How can the LA Times chastise the Gates Foundation – and their disciple John Deasy, without acknowledging their own embrace of Gatesian reforms? The LA Times did not just report on the issue – they created their very own VAM system, and criticized Los Angeles Unified for not using such a system to weed out “bad teachers” and reward those identified as “effective.” They were active advocates, instrumental in the war on teachers that has been so devastating to morale over the past decade.”

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