It should be clear, on its face, that “miracles” have no place in education policy. Websters defines a miracle as “an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God.” No one seeking to improve education would rely on God or on “an unusual or wonderful event,” right? Wrong. High-profile policymakers not only have proclaimed to have produced or witnessed “miracles,” but have suggested that these other-worldly happenings ought to be the basis for widespread policy change. We have subsequently watched as each proved to be less than miraculous and, often, a disaster.
Both state governments and the federal government need to step up our investments in high-quality pre-K. As they do so, looking to Boston can help demonstrate the wisdom of investing in teacher training and curriculum support, and in ensuring access for all children. It can also demonstrate why the most effective pre-K programs will be part of a comprehensive strategy for America's children.
This year's release of District of Columbia Public Schools standardized test scores came with much less fanfare than in 2013 -- growth in "proficiency" is smaller, and district leaders were recently called out for lack of transparency ... using averages to hide growing gaps. Ironically, given NCLB's goal of illuminating race- and income-based gaps, districts like DCPS feel pushed to create the appearance that reforms have worked by hiding growing disparities....Transparency, paired with comprehensive, whole-child strategies that can help produce meaningful gains for all students, would represent the real reform we have long sought.
As we mark the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, we are glad to see renewed interest in the issue of segregation, but discouraged about our societal failure to tackle it. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this segregation is the waste of a precious American resource, one that could offer our children an important advantage over their peers in many other countries: diversity.
A group of education advocates is calling on the District to release more information about students’ performance on city tests, arguing that the limited data released in years past has overstated city schools’ progress. Elaine Weiss of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education — a group that has been critical of education policies that have taken root in the District, such as charter schools and test-based accountability — wrote in an analysis to be released Thursday that “lack of transparency, combined with cherry-picking specific numbers” has enabled the city to “paint a false picture of progress,” particularly among poor and African American students.
Too often, news on the education front is all gloom and doom. Achievement gaps are stubborn, and current education reforms don't seem to be making schools better. In communities across the country, however, teachers, parents, communities, and local leaders are doing great things in and with public schools. As we celebrate America's independence, and the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key's penning of the Star Spangled Banner, let's also celebrate examples of comprehensive approaches to education that are doing it right and seeing great results.
As low-income districts experience ever-greater struggles to meet their students’ needs on dwindling budgets, their schools are targets of “reforms” fundamentally different from those serving higher-income students. And, as my own teaching trajectory reflects, these attempted “fixes” can actually exacerbate inequities.
A new policy guide from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) and the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Campaign shows how to build high-quality early support systems for children that strengthen communities and families, promote and sustain early education, and enable children to thrive. It also covers ways to resolve one of our nation’s most intractable problems: the academic achievement gap.
After 30 years of standards-and-accountability “reforms,” we are beginning to question whether the pendulum has swung too far. Over those same decades, however, evidence continues to affirm the wisdom of investing early in children’s lives. If we could somehow apply lessons we have learned in the birth-to-five arena to K-12 policy, we might attain the breakthroughs we have sought. Spoiler alert: worms play an important role.
"No excuses” policies and demands that students be tougher or grittier ring false to me. My students are already tremendously tough, unbelievably gritty. The problem is not that they need to be tougher or that I need to make fewer excuses. The problem is that they already have too many reasons to be tough — lack of food, relatives in prison, threats of eviction or deportation, parents sick or addicted, caring for younger siblings — and that adults at school rarely see the full picture. I spend fifty hours a week at school and I still don’t always see the full picture. It’s hard to imagine how policymakers, who are so distant from my students’ day-to-day realities, can claim to see them better than I can.
Making test scores too high a priority can ultimately limit students' real potential. A recent report about the success of Alice Deal Middle School in Washington DC, where low-income students enjoy a variety of enrichment options, and a charter school that rejects such enrichment, where they score a bit higher on reading and math tests, highlights that ironic reality. But it doesn't have to be that way. Just across the city line, Maryland's Montgomery County demonstrates that taking a broader perspective enhances not only test scores, but more important predictors of life success.
I consider myself a reform-minded teacher. I’m an advocate for using data to inform instruction and to monitor my students’ progress. But I have learned in my years of teaching — and running a club for young men at Dunbar High School — that our obsession with testable elements of the high-school experience has taken focus away from making that content meaningful, so that students might do well in school despite the hardships they face. I can thank the students in our club, the Gentlemen of Dunbar, for this lesson.
Today, newly-formed education advocacy group TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence) hosted a presentation by Elaine Weiss of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Weiss discussed recent Tennessee education policy in the context of the drivers of educational inequality. She pointed to research suggesting that poverty is a significant contributor to student outcomes and noted other research that suggests as much as 2/3 of student outcomes are predicted by factors outside of school.
Much has been made of the emphasis that New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has put on the poverty and inequality that plague the city, and how that contrasts with the position of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Perhaps the biggest difference is that, although both list education as a top priority, de Blasio has made it clear that he recognizes the role that poverty and inequality play in achievement gaps.
Every three years, American policymakers eagerly anticipate the release of PISA scores. The 2013 headline is basically that the United States continues to fall right in the middle of the pack, which ED calls "stagnating." However, average scores may obscure and confuse more than they inform. Luckily, this year, three states received individual PISA rankings -- as if they were independent countries. This can help us connect the dots between those disparities and scores.
In Ohio, as elsewhere, policymakers focus on symptoms, rather than underlying causes or solutions. Ohio’s new grading system, for example, casts a harsh light on many schools, but identifies neither reasons nor fixes. Schools statewide expect ratings to fall again with next year’s Common Core implementation. While advocates make a compelling case for these more coherent, rigorous standards, connecting them to high-stakes testing undermines their potential.
BBA intern and Grinnell University student Christian Castaign praises The New Public for taking on issues of poverty, diversity, and student voice and culture that are too often missing from education policy discussions.
Secretary Duncan's glib dismissal of opposition to the Common Core among "suburban white moms" has provided fodder for people on both sides of the education reform debate. Opponents see this incident as further proof that the secretary will notlisten to anyone who disagrees with him. Common Core supporters assert that low scores in higher-income schools serve as a much-needed wake-up call that not only urban, but many suburban schools, are failing. Both arguments obscure the more complex realities that should guide education policy.
The negative impact of poverty on a child’s educational achievement is indisputable. Whether the metric is school grades, state assessments, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the SAT—the scores of low-income children are far lower than those of their wealthier peers. The reasons for that gap—and how our nation should respond—is the subject of heated debate and is explored by filmmaker Jyllian Gunther in the award-winning documentary, The New Public.
What if we have actually been teaching the right skills in U.S. schools all along – math and reading, science and civics, along with creativity, perseverance, and team-building? ... What if, rather than raising standards, and testing students more, the biggest change we need to address is that of our student body? The October 2013 Southern Education Foundation study indicates clearly that poverty, which has long been the biggest obstacle to educational achievement, is more important than ever. It is our true 21st century problem.
On October 3, school districts across the country let the Race to the Top application deadline fly by, leaving unclaimed tens of millions of dollars in grants from the Obama administration’s signature education program. The Newark, N.J. district did not apply, nor did school districts in Portland, Ore. and Topeka, Kan., to name just a few. ... The waning application numbers seem in keeping with growing dislike of the existing reform programs among district education leaders, who make the decision about whether to apply for the district-level funding.
As Andrew Delbanco all but says in the New York Times Review of Books, the biggest difference between education scholar Diane Ravitch's new book, Reign of Error, and former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's book, Radical, is that the first is based on extensive facts, the second heavily on fiction. Rhee uses her book to promote herself and her agenda, which she fervently insists will close achievement gaps with no basis in either scholarly or historical fact. Ravitch, in contrast, offers a comprehensive, evidence-based critique of the education reforms advanced in Radical and proposals that scholars note will substantially improve education.
BBA National Coordinator spoke with New Orleans Imperative host Ray Sanders about BBA's two 2013 reports, Market-Oriented Reforms' Rhetoric Trumps Reality, and Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement.
In June, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced that, according to the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), more students are proficient in math and reading than ever before. Moreover, gains from last year extend to African-American and low-income students. That is wonderful news. D.C. students, especially minority and low-income students, have historically been left out of gains. They deserve better, and we all hope they have gotten it. At the same time, this should have been a moment for caution, rather than unfettered celebration.
Unfortunately, the degree to which the policy agenda advanced by Race to the Top has driven educators to take unprecedented actions against their own leaders is not unique in Tennessee. Indeed, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should have anticipated problems. Specifically, placing so much emphasis on student test scores in teacher, principal, and school evaluations, with potentially severe consequences, leads to problematic and even destructive state actions.
Three years in, Race to the Top hasn’t spurred states to address what really is behind students’ poor academic performance: poverty and the associated lack of opportunities that accompany it, said Elaine Weiss, national coordinator of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Her group advocates for a more targeted focus on poverty over the current slate of education reforms involving testing and accountability.
A problem that extends far beyond schools requires remedies that also reach much further. Districts that recognize this are partnering with a range of community institutions to provide opportunities and supports that meet schools' and students' specific needs. When the whole community focuses on supporting the whole child and the whole school, amazing things can happen.
Signs that standardized tests are overused and misused continue to emerge. Those on the front lines of the testing battles, however, have had a hard time being heard. Teachers who object to being judged on the basis of their students' test scores are labeled as weak or unwilling to be held accountable. A pattern has emerged recently, however, that makes it harder to dismiss them. Across the country, strong teachers are sacrificing their jobs -- their life's work -- to protect themselves and their students from reforms gone terribly wrong.
The Obama administration deserves praise for its recent strong support for greater investments in early childhood education. With reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind in its current incarnation) stalled in Congress, and the many valid concerns about narrow test-based initiatives that do nothing to address the challenges of children from disadvantaged families, this new direction is a welcome change. In addition, it has the potential be a winner because it should gain the support of both Republicans and Democrats.
The pillars of current education reform are more likely to preserve rather than change the status quo. Further, there are alternative policies that are more likely to mediate educational inequity, creating real rather than illusory movement. None of the pillars of reform will address either of these conditions at scale. ... they are still essentially maintaining the status quo, creating the illusion of movement, without fundamental change.
Steve Glazerman recently suggested in a blog on Greater Greater Washington that using NAEP to expose reformers' exaggerated claims, as BBA recently did, constitutes "misnaepery." Check out BBA explanation of NAEP's superiority (and other reasons that Glazerman is wrong).
It has been a decade since reformers promised a swift solution to America's most challenging education problems. Instead of results, we have gotten rhetoric, and our children have fallen further behind. It is time we adopt policy solutions that match the depth and complexity of the problems and address them head on.
Recent coverage of the arrest of former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall misses a larger pattern. Cheating is just one of many responses to heightened pressure in recent years to deliver the impossible: substantially increased test scores, in short order. Yes, district-level cheating problems have risen in tandem with this pressure, but so have other forms of gaming the system, all of which pose similar detriments to students. A new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education documents the widespread nature of this problem.
Many people paying attention to corporate-based school reform in recent years will not be surprised by this, but a new study on the effects of this movement in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago concludes that little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged.
The Children's Literacy Initiative may make a real difference, especially if its enrichment can expand beyond the few CPS students whose teachers and classrooms currently receive its benefits. If schools just beginning to implement it are closed, however, CLI will have a hard time demonstrating its potential and expanding. Moreover, CLI and other promising initiatives cannot attain sustained district buy-in until "CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett gets past the current school closings issue and takes a closer look at curriculum and instruction."
Mayors and reformers would have us believe that school closures, like the 54 recently announced in Chicago, will save districts money while improving outcomes for students who are moved out of "failing" schools. The problem is, districts have been closing schools for many years -- in Chicago, for over a decade -- and it's clear that they won't accomplish these goals. In fact, the opposite has happened.
Two new documentaries coming out this month make chillingly clear the horrific impact the sequester will have on poor families, especially those with school children, who are already struggling to cope with the recession and the decades of wage stagnation and poverty that preceded it. Both films -- A Place at the Table and American Winter -- also make clear the direct, but perhaps not intuitive, connection between living in poverty and the odds of school, and thus life, success.
The level of controversy Michelle Rhee has engendered as a school reformer contrasts sharply with largely unskeptical reviews of her new book, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First. That holds true even in Washington, D.C.Indeed, Jennifer Howard's Washington Post review is technically neutral, but, in reality, credulous and fairly laudatory. Given Rhee's major impact not only on DCPS schools, but increasingly on schools and districts across the country, a more in-depth exploration is merited.
President Obama's first State of the Union address after his reelection established two important education policies as high priorities for his second term: incentives for high schools to incorporate real-world job training, and universal pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. Both address critical holes in current education policy, and both would improve the prospects for low-income and all students. His broader jobs and labor proposals, however, may represent even more important boosts to improved educational outcomes.
As Jim Kohlmoos of the National Association of State Boards of Education, noted at the release of Expanding Minds and Opportunities, the amount, longevity, and rigor of the data no longer permit doubt as the to the positive impact of high-quality afterschool and summer programs. The evidence from studies across a range of program models, participant ages, cities, and outcome goals is solid. And while it is clearer now than ever that such programs can narrow achievement gaps, particularly by improving academic achievement of high-needs students, their other benefits are even more significant and further-reaching.
Nation poverty reporter Greg Kaufmann and BBA coordinator Elaine Weiss write, "Researchers know a lot about how various factors associated with income level affect a child’s learning... but we rarely discuss the impact of concentrated poverty—and of racial and socioeconomic segregation—on student achievement. ... It's time that we stop ignoring it."
The weeks leading up to President Obama's second inauguration brought some good, if tentative, news on the education policy front. Early childhood education has received serious attention and pledges of substantial new investment. Skepticism is rising regarding the number and inappropriate use of standardized tests, and courts in several states are trying to make education more equitable. At the same time, the narrow "reforms" that have been front and center through Obama's first term may be fading a bit.
A lot of one's education -- arguably, most of it -- happens outside of school. Estimates suggest that 60 percent of educational achievement is driven by out-of-school factors, with in-school factors contributing only 20 percent, at most. Though teachers can't help but address this reality every day, most current policy discussion ignores it, to our collective detriment. This is parallel to discussions of health, where medicine gets much of the attention that public health deserves; we need to change both.
Schott Foundation senior VP Cassie Schwerner and Elaine Weiss write:
Dear President Obama,
The next four years present a host of both opportunities and challenges. As you set priorities for that second term, we hope that you will devote real effort to a small but critically important policy issue that would address several of our most pressing problems: early childhood care and education.
This blog, co-authored by Glen Harvey, CEO of WestEd and Ron Lally, Co-Director, WestEd Center for Child & Family Studies, is the third in a short series of pieces on early childhood education authored for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education. As our country looks toward Inauguration Day, it's worth noting that both Democratic and Republican national party platforms addressed early childhood education in the recent campaign. Why is that?
This blog is co-authored by Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, co-directors of the national Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA.
As more states move to implement the Common Core State Standards, we should applaud the movement's potential benefits, but also recognize its limitations. Like many other school improvement plans, the Common Core largely ignores barriers to learning and teaching, thus impeding teachers' capacity to effectively engage all students.
BBA and Nation poverty reporter Greg Kaufmann jointly offer ten wishes to improve low-income students' prospects for happy, healthy educations. They range from a roof over every student's head to well-resourced schools staffed with qualified teachers in appropriately-sized classrooms. Health clinics, enticing school breakfasts, enriching after-school activities, and high-quality early childhood care and education help round out the list, which calls, too, for societal-level supports so parents can provide their children with what they need to thrive.
At a time of fiscal uncertainty and the need to reexamine our public investment priorities, investments by government and public-private partnerships in the early childhood education workforce are a smart choice.
This blog, co-authored by Rob Grunewald of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, is the second in a series that explains the benefits of a comprehensive approach to early childhood.
In this note for BBA, Health policy consultant Evelyn Frankford reviews Paul Tough’s recent book, How Children Succeed, which has helped to elevate the importance of so-called “soft” or “non-cognitive” skills as critical to school and life success. While Frankford appreciates Tough’s acknowledgement of poverty’s role and importance, she worries that his emphasis on individual, rather than systemic, or societal drivers, may lead to limited policy solutions that fall short of the Broader Bolder Approach we need.
This blog is co-authored by Dana Friedman, founder and president of the Early Years Institute. The blog is the first in a series of BBA blogs on early childhood education that explain the benefits of a comprehensive approach to early childhood and highlight effective efforts in specific states.
We have got to make a commitment to equity in education a central component of whatever we they do. It is remarkable that despite all the rhetoric about education being the civil rights issue of the 21st century, our leaders make no mention of the need for equity in educational opportunities, or conversely, the need to address the profound inequity, that characterizes so much of American education today.
As we reflect on the election, and both presidential candidates’ commitments to enact policies that would narrow stubborn achievement gaps, this blog by John Spencer makes clear why a Broader Bolder Approach, rather than narrow “reform” strategies, represent the philosophy of the civil rights movement.
We have been increasingly occupied in recent years with giving grades to schools and those who work in them ... A recent report, however, suggests that this is misguided. We ought to be grading ourselves as a nation and as a society. First Focus and Save the Children have done so, and found us severely lacking.
In many large urban school districts, three in four students or more are poor. Cutting school nurses and social workers, substituting test-prep for afterschool enrichment, and making classes so large that teachers cannot have individual time with students, are the worst education policy choices we could make. If there was ever a moment in education policy that called for a Broader Bolder Approach to Education, hard science and social science have come together in agreement that it is now.
As Secretary Arne Duncan travels the country on his Back-to-School bus tour, he has refocused his attention on the community schools strategy as a vehicle for implementing a Broader Bolder Approach to Education.
"At schools across the city, 29,000 Chicago teachers and education professionals are on strike -- demanding both a fair union contract and a radically different vision of school reform than that propagated by nearly the entire nation's political class." The mainstream media has largely missed the import of teachers' reasons for their brave action, say BBA national coordinator Elaine Weiss and UIC professor Kevin Kumashiro in Huff Post blog, Teachers Go to Bat - and Take a Hit - for Their Students.
For some reason, too many budget-writers seem to see afterschool and summer learning programs as add-ons, something that's nice to have when we can afford them, but not something we can pay for when times are tight. They're exactly wrong.
The recent "bumps" in Tennessee on the teacher evaluation components of Race to the Top (RttT) efforts can either simply bruise education reform efforts or they can serve to inform it. RttT implementation provides lessons about reliability, capacity, and time, among others, which leaders must learn from as more states and districts implement RttT or similar reform measures.
Teacher and student advocate in the LA Unified School district, Brock Cohen presents a compelling and insightful call to better acknowledge and address the role of poverty in student learning: "Claiming that poverty is no excuse for student failure trivializes the damage caused by years of actions and inactions that have widened the gaps between rich and poor communities. Good schools aren’t molded through harsh sanctions, private takeovers, or even soaring rhetoric. They emerge from healthy, stable communities. That is, they emerge from a commitment to justice."
Two reports - one by the American Association of School Superintendents (AASA) and the second by First Focus, the Brookings Institution, and the Urban Institute - reveal clear evidence of a need to invest more in children -- especially low-income and minority children and younger children -- and Congress' insistence on ignoring it.
Rather than face NCLB punishments, the state of Mississippi has chosen to apply for waivers, which essentially leads to little to no change in educational policy. By continuing the state's focus exclusively on outcomes without addressing the problems and growing inequities of inputs, teacher effectiveness can only be harmed and reforms undermined. Instead, what is needed is "comprehensive, system-wide improvements".
When good teachers are getting pushed out under the reforms designed to let go of ineffective teachers, one has to question the design. Under overly simplistic evaluation processes, some terrific teachers are being laid off, undermining reform and harming students even further.
Each year in May, educators celebrate the anniversary of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education and reflect on the current status of integration in schools, an important matter as research shows the negative impact of segregated schools on students. Socioeconomic integration serves as a tool for raising performance rates of low-income and minority students as research suggests that low-income students attending socioeconomically integrated schools perform better than low-income students attending high-poverty schools even when the latter receive more per-pupil school spending.
Millions are invested into professional development, yet we know very little about how reliable the benefits from on-the-job training for teachers truly are. With so many provider options, more research should be done on assessing the quality of these programs and their actual effects on student learning.
States need to reconsider their reductions in early education funding, programs which have been proven effective in reducing the income-based achievement gap. Preschool ought to be universal.
So long as “no excuses” reformers stubbornly refuse to employ effective, evidence-based strategies to alleviate impediments posed by unequal out-of-school conditions such as access to health care, early learning and afterschool opportunities, the serious impediments posed by hunger, poor health, and lack of enrichment will continue to be excused, and income-based achievement gaps will inevitably persist.
Where housing integration policies mix low-income and higher-income students in schools, thereby deconcentrating poverty, achievement gaps are lower.
Elaine Weiss agrees with Pedro Noguera that more evidence and less rhetoric would better serve at-risk children’s interests and educational needs.
Data shows NCLB has failed to bring equality in academic achievement. It has focused too much on testing and not enough of development and intervention for struggling students.
The recently launched For Our Babies campaign advocates for essential resources for expectant mothers and infants in order to improve developmental, educational, and ultimately societal outcomes. Health care and support for pregnant mothers, paid parental leave, infant health screenings, and access to quality infant and toddler care are investments which can prove to be cost effective in the long term.
Washington Post senior contributing writer Paul Farhi sets out how good a job American public schools are actually doing, contrasting that reality with the "failure" picture painted by the majority of journalists who lack on-the-ground understanding of what goes on in schools.
Excel By 5 in Hernando, Mississippi is a preschool program which seeks to reduce academic disparities before kindergarten through a collaboration with local businesses, charities, libraries, and health centers. It provides resources for parents as well as children by community collaboration.
The latest research on value-added assesment and evaluation based on test scores suggests Chicago should reconsider its current plan to jusge effectiveness from standardized tests.
Considered a transfer school for students with little high school credit and poor achievement, Bushwick Community High School faces closure for low graduation rates despite praise by students. This is another case of the limitations of data.
Despite Paul Peterson's attack on the Broader, Bolder Approach, the organization and its partners advocate for both effective teachers and out of school support for low-income children. These goals are achieveable through a community schools approach to education reform.
A recent MetLife survey finds increasing job dissatisfaction for teachers as growing bureaucratic hurdles, layoffs and school cuts, and the challenges of overcoming child poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity stifle people's passion for education. There is a need to professionalize the occupation, grant teachers greater say in school improvement, and foster community partnerships that bring services to children and ensure school readiness.
As homelessness around the country including Worcester, MA increases, communities and public schools need to take action to provide resources to students struggling with the effects of displacement.
Valerie Strauss parries another attack against those groups trying to underline the impact of poverty on educational outcomes. Groups such as the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education believe that reforms to in-school structures are necessary to boost student achievement, but addressing the effects of poverty on student achievement is crucial and often ignored by education reformers.
Education reform policies should not choose just one strategy to improve academic outcomes of low-income children such as improving teacher effectiveness, expanding early education opportunities, or creating new after-school and summer enrichment programs. Policymakers and communities should invest in all of the above initiatives.
Income inequality affects the educational outcomes of young students from a variety of angles. Wealthier parents have more time and money to invest in their child's development out of school. Several groups have organized to redirect the focus of education reform policies towards poverty and out-of-school factors driving the achievement gap.
An influx of low-income families in Richland public schools has led to an increase in the achievement gap but inspired community-wide efforts to bring resources to these children. These students, facing such challenges as homelessness and food insecurity, are disadvantaged academically before they even start class.
A child's health plays a crucial role in his or her readiness to learn. School-based health clinics can help address the poor health outcomes which afflict low-income students so as to improve their educational achievements. Yet, policy has not appropriated sufficient funding to bring health services to schools and available funding is often unaccessible.
In New York City recently released teacher evaluations reveal how poorly test scores work to assess teacher effectiveness.
Widening ncome-based achievement gaps in the US cannot be addressed by reforming teacher accountability systems. But it's not too late; policymakers can improve educational outcomes by addressing out-of-school factors such as food insecurity, insufficient afterschool and sumer programming, and poor early educational opportunities.
Philanthropist Bill Gates sides against NYC's recent decision to make the names on value-added teacher evaluations public saying it will not improve student outcomes. Moreover, he believes evaluations require more than value-added measures to be accurate and useful.
Teacher bonus programs have fallen short in improving educational outcomes and NCLB testing has threatened both broader curricula and teacher effectiveness. Community schools can address the deficiencies in current education reforms, helping teachers improve student outcomes through comprehensive health, nutritional, and out of school programs.
The NCLB waiver policy adopted by the Obama adminstration is an inadequate response to the program's failures. What is needed instead is for Congress to reauthorize the law with an emphasis on supporting the most troubled public schools with adequate resources to guarantee all children an opportunity.
While racial achievement gaps have narrowed over the years, class-based disparities have grown by 40% since the 1960s.
Just as a multitude of factors affect a patient's health beyond a doctor's control from living conditions to lifestyle choices, teacher's face the same issues regarding a child's educational outcomes. Teacher evaluations need to take into account the difficulties or advantages of educating children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, varying parental involvement, and disparate access to early education and out-of-school enrichment programs.
Poverty is not an excuse for poor educational outcomes, it is a cause. Labeling poverty as such is excusing inequality. Current policies do little to nothing to address disparities in school funding and out-of-school resources.
Poverty is the primary issue facing education. Poor academic performance can be addressed by providing resources such as health services, early childhood education, out-of-school programing, and family engagement.
The dominant school accountability systems fail to improve student outcomes and endanger our education system by encouraging narrowing curriculum to tested materials, cheating, and the glossing over of other subjects important to a child's development. These assessments demand improvements without guiding or nurturing important synergy amongst those involved in a child's education from parent to superintendent.
Unequal access to school funding draws another battle line in the fight over education reform as schools in low-income Texas neighborhoods receive less resources per student in their efforts to achieve the same goals as better-funded schools in wealtheir neighborhoods.
Afterschool programs serve to complement a child's knowledge base beyond school subject matter as well as improve academic outcomes such as attendance, study habits, behavior, and grades. Such programs need to be expanded to the millions of children without any available afterschool initiatives.
With research suggesting that 85% of a child's core mental development occurs before age three, even businesses see the benefits of investing in early childhood education.
Amongst all the rhetoric on maintaining international competetiveness few discussions go beyond improving accountability and school choice, ignoring the policies of top-performing countries which focus little or not at all on these issues.
In terms of education reform, most communities find themselves either ignoring the existence of achievement gaps or trying to topple the system with ineffective policies such as test-based accountability.
The McDowell Initiative in West Virginia promises to address a lack of resources and other out of school obstacles to educational success through community partnerships.
Education reformers in Australia point to the same issues as back home; high-stakes accountability ignores the complexities underlying inequality.
A Texas superintendent calls into question the motives of reforms advocating for high-stakes accountability rather than addressing the societal issue of poverty. Education reform should focus on social inequality and on developing a system which ensures equality for children.
The correlation between poverty and poor educational outcomes is proven; yet policy ignores the issues to focus on in-school factors. It is time for policymakers to stop ignoring inequality by expanding early education, nutrition, and summer programs to low-income children.
The issue of education reform comes down to poverty and inadequate policies not unions.
Across the country, the narrowing of achievement gaps that NCLB promised have failed to materialize, and with the laregst black-white achievement gap, Washington, DC is perhaps among the starkest examples of why treating poverty as an "excuse" is a mistake.
A Washington D.C. mother and author describes how reform policies aimed at school choice such as closing struggling schools and offering vouchers and charter school options have crippled community-based education while providing more resources to schools in wealthier neighborhoods. Despite the evident failures of these polciies, they continue to grow in popularity with policymakers.
Conversations with students from Skokie, IL reveal how the struggle for educational success goes beyond school walls such as balancing helping support one's family and schoolwork, dealing the with issues of homelessness, learning English, and hunger.
Newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues the same policies of closing struggling schools and "turning around" others without discussion on poverty and other factors which need to be addressed
BBA co-chair Pedro Noguera highlights the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education's efforts to correct school reform in New Jersey with a focus on early education, project-based learning, and stronger school relationships with the community.
BBA co-chair Pedro Noguera explains why NCLB waivers do not go far enough to address the issues with education reform legislation and advocates a more holistic approach which does not ignore the effects of poverty.
658 principals from New York are protesting the current use of test scores to evaluate teachers and principals citing their unreliability, limited scope, and lack of adequate trials. The existing system of accountability "degrades" professionals in the field of education.
The poor outcomes of Mexican Americans in New York highlight the problems facing disadvantaged and English language learning students across the country, but also those unique to illegal immigrants.
Houston schools try out a new peer-review teacher evaluation system with success providing a more comprehensive and informative accountability structure.
Early Childhood education addresses many issues related to poverty, especially language gaps.
Maryland's former state superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick reports that early childhood education initiatives have led to 81% of Maryland's five-year olds entering school prepared.
Our 20% child poverty rate explains how the achievement gap begins before children enter the classroom.
Researcher provides more evidence against the usefulness of value-added measurements by analyzing the biases underlying Ohio's VAM system.
Bill Gates has missed the data on how poverty affects educational outcomes.
Making bold assertions that all children can achieve while doing nothing to address the challenges they face is neither fair nor sound public policy.
Persistent high school drop-out rates suggest reform efforts should focus on more comprehensive strategies such as developing a curriculum which extends beyond narrow college-preparatory models, adopting incentives to educate all students rather than encouraging transfers, building long-run school capacity, desegregating schools, and strengthening the role of families and communities.
Despite one of the highest levels of education spending, America lags behind other countries. The key to improving these outcomes includes moving beyond standardized tests, greater professionalization of teachers, and investing more in the "hardest-to-educate" students, not carrot and stick policies.
Delaware invests in early education to reduce the achievement gap for low-income children who might not otherwise have the opportunity before kindergarten.
In meting out punishment for teachers involved in the Atlanta cheating scandal, the district joins others in missing the mark: high-stakes testing is the problem.
In this article targeted to school administrators, BBA National Coordinator Elaine Weiss discusses technical practical issues with value-added measures (VAM) of teacher performance. These include conflating the impact of both in-school and out-of-school factors, a bias against teachers in high-poverty schools, narrowing of curriculum, and incentives to game the system or cheat.
Education reformers focused solely on in-school accountability based on standardized tests see the problems of education as limited within school walls. However, poverty, abuse, absenteeism, and high mobility form real barriers to a student's achievement and cannot be addressed by placing the entire blame on teachers.
Dallas, perhaps the birthplace of modern school reform, has seen failure in closing the achievement gap using merit pay based on test scores. Improvements must be made in both Dallas' schools AND society where 85% of students live in poverty to improve educational outcomes.
New York City abandons value-added measures when evaluating teacher performance. Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's chief academic officer, reports efforts to include factors such as poverty and race in the new evaluations.
Parental unemployment endangers the health, developmental, and educational outcomes of children. With 10.6% of children living with at least one unemployed parent, reducing unemployment is crucial issue for more than just our economy.
As another school is found guilty of cheating on standardized tests, policymakers stand by the defunct strategy of test-based accountability, claiming the solution is better policing. Meanwhile, the evidence is building that high-stake testing is toxic in itself and compromises the education of untested skills.
While bad teachers exist and they are an important in-school factor on student outcomes, the effects of poverty on aspects of a student's life such as mental and physical health, remain most significant barriers to improving educational achievement and should be addressed as such.
Concerns with international test scores have overlooked the effects of family poverty and concentrations of poverty in schools on educational achievement. PISA has found that socioeconomic status accounts for nearly 60% of the achievement gap in reading across OECD countries, and 80% in the U.S.
Investment in education is key to getting the U.S. economy back on track. However, like other critical issues, Congress has avoided serious debates around ESEA and Race to the Top. Duncan's waivers only allow poliicians to further dodge the issue.
AEI's Rick Hess is "increasingly nervous at how casually reading and math value-added calculations are being treated as de facto determinants of 'good teaching.'" While stopping short of condemning so-called "VAMs," Hess lays out multiple reasons to avoid their use.
Brett Rosenthal, vice president at New York's South Side High School, illustrates five ways in which high- and low-performing schools differ, none of which teachers control.
Former Teach for America member Sara Mosle explains why she finds Brill's support for schools-only, anti-union "reform" policies unpersuasive, noting solid evidence that out-of-school factors matter more than teacher quality in student outcomes.
Comparing 1998 and 2008 Time cover stories on education, Myers says both "had the same four problems... (1) easy answers, (2) villains, (3) quick fixes and (4) and all of it done on the cheap." He praises Richard Rothstein for rejecting such fads and promoting evidence-based responses to student needs.
In this article for Pathways, Diane Ravitch explains how federal education policies spearheaded by Arne Duncan, in particular Race to the Top, impede the capacity of low-performing schools to improve and of low-income students to obtain an enriching education.
Johh Merrow succinctly articulates both the harsh reality that NCLB waivers offered by the Department of Education simply force states to do more of the same and "what strikes me as the root of the problem: NCLB’s demands for more and more testing in reading and math."
Huge achievement gaps in both reading and math remain nearly five years into Rhee-Fenty "reforms" of DC public schools, with poverty dividing high-scoring Wards 3 and 4 from low-performing Wards 7 and 8 East of the Anacostia.
Guest writer Lisa Guisbond, a FairTest policy analyst, writes that widespread cheating scandals are not isolated incidents, but the logical response to a system focused too narrowly on testing and irrationally demanding impossible (yet not meaningful) results
Taylor addresses the misguided reform efforts of Bill Gates and Arne Duncan, criticizing their dismissal of poverty on educational outcomes. Poverty, Taylor says, is not an excuse, but an explanation; one we need to recognize if we are to get reform on the right track.
A survey of Michigan educators find that 30% feel pressure to cheat on standardized tests, and half of teachers in schools failing to meet federal standards say they feel pressure to cheat. 8% of teachers admitted to cheating themselves. Educators agree that high-stakes testing is at the root of this nationwide problem.
Gary Ravani highlights various studies which point to the impact of socioeconomic factors on student outcomes, factors which teachers cannot be responsible for. A "no excuses" approach to reform that emphasizes only in-school changes falls short of what is needed to help underperforming children.
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains how the shortcomings of test-based accountability are analogous to those in corporate incentives programs.
New York City discontinues merit-pay program in light of recent research showing no impact on student achievement.
Cities and school districts make summer learning programs a priority despite budget contraints through a blending of funding and community partnerships. The successes of several programs in improving educational outcomes are outlined.
Paul Tough calls out high-profile education “reformers” on both their criticisms of those like BBA who insist that the consequences of poverty be addressed in education policy, and the lackluster results of those reformers’ efforts to close the achievement gap without doing so.
School closure decisions are preordained when officials “stack the deck” by concentrating high-needs students, then bemoan low test scores. Labels of “failure” overlook the many success stories – student, teacher, and principal – inside walls like Jamaica High’s.
Current education “reforms” dominated by high-stakes testing and market-based policies are detrimental to school improvement, and their claims of success are misleading. True reformers view both children and education holistically.
The National Academies of Science found no positive effects on achievement from ten years of NCLB-driven test-based accountability structures, and safeguards against gaming the system have been found to be inadequate, thereby undermining learning.
Out-of-school factors, such as job loss, have an impact on educational outcomes that is largely overlooked by reformers. Reform policies and accountability systems that ignore these factors unfairly scapegoat teachers.
Michael Winerip spotlights Montgomery County Maryland's Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) system as a model for teacher support and evaluation that is praised, yet not promoted, by DOE.
Data from Massachusetts find that two decades of reform focused on school solutions such as accountability and instructional improvement have failed to maximize student proficiency. Recognizing that, ithout addressing the educational barriers posed by poverty, the achievement gap cannot be closed, Governor Deval Patrick has enacted several policies to address these out-of-school factors.
New York Times education columnist Joe Nocera makes clear the limits of Joel Klein’s school-only reform policies and promotes a Broader Bolder Approach.
The article suggests with respect to the large body of evidence against test-based teacher evaluations that, if similar experts in other fields – medicine, engineering, or law – had expressed such grave concerns about a system, relevant stakeholders would have changed course.
The past seven New York State Teachers of the Year penned a letter “expressing ‘sadness, pain and frustration” at the new teacher evaluation regulations tailored by Governor Cuomo and approved by the Board of Regents, presenting seven real-life scenarios in which they would create perverse incentives and damage student outcomes.
Suggesting that although there is a refusal “in polite education reform circles” to acknowledge the impact of poverty and community factors, a combination of logic and evidence will soon change the conversation, and “a broader, less conventional conception of education will emerge as the common-sense framing for school and social reform.”
The dominant "reform" rhetoric of failing schools, malignant unions, pay-for-performance programs, charter schools, and effective teaching have spread many misunderstandings about our public school systems.
University of Texas physicist Michael Marder emphasizes the critical impact of poverty on student achievement, pointing out that “not one” Texas school serving high concentrations of poor children graduates students who are ready for college.
Current school reforms, which also ignore the impacts of socioeconomic conditions, promote a “pedagogy of poverty,” with poor children and children of color subjected to “overly directive, mind-numbing… anti-intellectual acts that pass for teaching [and] have become the gold standard.”
This urban school in a highly distressed neighborhood used a broader, bolder community schools approach to address a range of student and family needs related to poverty, with a resulting dramatic increase in high school graduations and first-in-the-family college attendees.
BBA National Coordinator Elaine Weiss discusses education policy and the need for a broader, bolder approach with Dan Fink of YorkCounts Communications.
Multiple health issues, from vision, hearing, and dental problems to the detrimental effects of lead exposure, fetal alcohol syndrome, and asthma, disproportionately affect the poor and contribute to the achievement gap. Expanding health care to students who might not otherwise have access to these reources, such as through school-based centers, can narrow this gap.
The in-school and out-of-school dichotomy is out of date; education encompasses both environments. Poverty plays a major role in educational outcomes and must be addressed to narrow the achievement gap. Comprehensive, community-based strategies are necessary for success.
Randi Weingarten criticizes NCLB, in favor of a community-schools approach to school improvement. Schools alone cannot address the achievement gap.
Contrary to conventional discussion on school improvement, there are some factors of underachievement that schools alone cannot address. David Brooks outlines a broader, bolder approach to education.
10:1 That's Nobel economist James Heckman's estimated return to society from high-quality pre-k programs' help in boosting low-income children's cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social readiness for school and life. View the full BBA infographic to learn more.