UPDATED 5/4/11 (Based on feedback from a local researcher, we’ve updated this post)
There have been a number of different studies that explored the impact of educators on student achievement. Now many researchers have turned to the question of measuring effective teaching. How do you know it when you see it? What can we learn from highly effective educators?
A recent study by Tom Kane, Eric Taylor, John Tyler, and Amy Wooten set out to answer the question: Is there a correlation between teacher gain in classroom observation scores and gains in student achievement?
Using data from Cincinnati’s teacher evaluation system from 2000 through the end of the 2009 school year, the researchers found, in short, the answer is yes.
The Cincinnati evaluation system entails four separate classroom observations per school year during a teacher’s evaluation cycle. Teachers are graded on 1-to-4 scale on a number of different standards. With teachers that achieved an improved rank at least one point up on the scale, researchers also saw some gains in the reading and math achievement of their students.
The research seems to indicate, then, that there is a correlation between improved teacher evaluation scores and improved learning. The conclusion suggests that classroom observations and evaluations may actually be a good measure of teaching as it relates to student achievement.
Jennifer Singleton is an elementary school music teacher with seven years of teaching experience in Portland metro area schools. She was born, raised, and educated in Oregon, and loves nothing more than connecting with kids through music. We’re excited to have her joining the conversation about teaching and education reform as the newest member of the ChalkBlogger team.
My seven-year teaching career has taken me to five different schools in the Portland metro area. Most of them, including my current school, have had low socio-economic status (SES), which refers to the income, education and occupation of the students’ parents. While there were definitely some advantages to teaching in a high SES school, I choose to teach in a difficult school because for me, the rewards outweigh the challenges.
Obviously, there were a lot of great things about working in a high SES school. For the most part our students were well cared for physically and emotionally. Classroom management mostly meant controlling chatty kids. My program was adequately funded, and our school had a supportive community with plenty of volunteers for classrooms and school events. In many ways, teaching in a high SES school was a breeze.
The learning environment I’ve just described sounds ideal, but there were also some frustrating problems. I have a few colleagues who, like me, have taught in both kinds of schools. And like me, they prefer to teach in a low SES school. When asked about it, one of my colleagues even exclaimed, “You couldn’t pay me to go back!” The question is: Why? With all of the advantages, why choose a school with so many struggles? The answer for us boils down to a lack of appreciation.
It’s Chalkboard’s core belief that the best way to improve Oregon schools is to strengthen and support our teachers. So we’re thrilled to see this goal put into practice with the Oregon Educator Professional Development Commission’s new teacher resource website, which officially launched on Monday.
The site, www.OregonTeacherQuality.com, serves as a one-stop-shop for educator professional development tools and resources, including links to State and Federal standards, educator preparation programs, and a searchable database and calendar of over 100 useful articles, publications, websites, and events. It looks to be a great first step for anyone interested in becoming a teacher, and will also serve to reinvigorate and engage veteran teachers, keeping everyone up-to-date on the latest research, ideas, and available supports. Read the full press release here.
We’re especially excited about this development as an example of the public sector, private sector, non-profits, and the government coming together for the united purpose of improving educator effectiveness – and therefore, Oregon schools. The Oregon Educator Professional Development Commission was established in 2009 through Senate Bill 443, a joint effort of Chalkboard, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon Department of Education (which, since then, has been responsible for coordinating the Commission’s work), and others. Two years later, we are now seeing their work reach teachers in a very real, meaningful way.
What do you think of the site? While the it is set to grow, check it out now and offer your own feedback to shape this valuable resource. We can’t wait to see where it goes.
I was left to ponder that thought after reading a “Politifact” article about state senator Mark Hass’ claim that an Educational Service District (ESD) superintendent’s salary could pay for three teacher’s salaries. The article, written by Ryan Kost, sought to establish whether Hass’ claim was true. In reading on, through what seemed like multiple machinations about salary, Kost concluded, somewhat harshly, that Hass’ claim was “false.”
I could craft a separate article about the issues with the methodology that Kost utilized, but I wanted to discuss what the spirit of this article told me.
One the one hand, Mark Hass certainly didn’t do us any favors by trying to make a great sound bite that the Oregonian could take a crack at. But at the same time, I was disappointed at the approach of the Oregonian to undermine what Hass is after: a way to streamline costs for education. The Oregonian runs multiple articles about how schools are using money inappropriately. But when Mark Hass is trying to challenge the status quo of ESD offerings, the Oregonian, instead of remaining consistent and exploring what cost savings there may be, goes on the attack against him.
Reading articles like this one make me question if the Oregonian is going to be an ally in helping our educational system. It would seem to me that the Oregonian’s role in the education debate is not to “stir the pot” in order to fill up the blogosphere on Oregonlive.com. As essentially the only major publication in the state, they have a sacred responsibility to present information to the population that no other media outlet can.
One of the questions I posed last week to my fourth graders was, “If I’m a carnivore, do I need plants?” Some said yes and some no.
I spend a good deal of time teaching kids how to convince with facts and polite discussion. They sit in teams, put heads together and work out their issues. The yes people proved their point to the no people. We don’t always have smooth discussions and feelings sometimes get hurt. We work on it—a lot. Kids learn that they can stand down from an initial idea when faced with proof and not lose face. Some of the phrases we use are “That’s a good idea, but have you thought about…”
Yes, civility and debate need to be explicitly taught as does critical thinking.
When one kid declared that, “We are all in this together,” after our food web discussion, it made me think of the remarks that I often hear about educational issues. One argument in particular strikes me time and again: the one about how public education generates no money so it should bear the brunt of the economic crisis while corporations should have a lesser tax burden because they drive the economy. Obviously, these people have not reflected on the interdependence of the public and private sector, just as some of my students at first didn’t see the connection between individual members of a food web.
I wonder if across our nation, we are reaping the harvest of a generation that wasn’t asked to dig deeply to find connections. The inability to debate civilly quite possibly stems from inadequate training in school, the result of sitting in rows and competitively trying to get the highest score on tests that have no gray areas. Our curricula have always tended to stress superficial knowledge of lots of subjects at the expense of in-depth collaborative analysis.
The good news is that there is a move to develop an American public that is more thoughtful. Educators at all levels currently use “larger questions” to teach higher level thinking through content. Just last week we debated whether Capt. Meriwether Lewis was a good leader, which prompted a search for direct evidence. And it’s not just me—it’s happening in many classrooms. A current national push for high school graduation requirements to include community service will develop a generation that also looks beyond themselves.
In Oregon, we have developed testing that now necessitates that kids think critically. In fourth grade, students are asked to write a multi-paragraph paper in order to pass the writing test. Writing takes considerable logical thinking to organize and stamina to produce. New this year in elementary school math, we now have three tested areas where kids need to show a truly deep understanding of the topic. Gone are the days when success on standardized tests solely involved memorizing the algorithm to answer a computation problem.
While today people may look exclusively at test scores and think that public schools are failing, many of us are thinking more deeply about what defines success in our schools. We are aiming for higher standards. We work to develop a generation of superior thinkers who will debate logically and civilly, and who will in turn respect the contributions of all individuals in our society.
Spring has sprung at Chalkboard and with it has come lots of wonderful news for us.
First and foremost, the seven CLASS school districts involved with our TIF grant are making tremendous progress in designing new career models for their districts and in building innovative tools to advance student achievement. We are incredibly proud of the work they are doing, the conversations they are starting, and the deep sharing and learning that is going on within and across these districts. Our hats are off to the education leaders who are making this happen during an incredibly difficult budget time.
We are delighted that the federal government has given some extra momentum to this work by increasing our grant award from the Teacher Incentive Fund from $13.2 million to $24.4 million in recent weeks. (Read the full press release.) These additional funds will go directly to the seven school districts to be used for additional compensation in their newly designed TIF models. We are encouraged by this vote of confidence in the work that has been developing in Oregon.
Along with the good news on the national front and steady progress in Salem with the legislature, we’ve been honored this month with our inclusion in a new book about catalytic philanthropy called Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World, by Leslie Crutchfield, John Kania and Mark Kramer. The book provides a blueprint for individuals, philanthropists, and foundation leaders to increase their impact, and Chalkboard is one of 25 organizations featured as high-impact nonprofits who are working to advance social causes.
In this modern Golden Age of philanthropy, it is now more important than ever that donors maximize impact. More than $300 billion is donated annually in the U.S. alone, while the number of private foundations has doubled and community foundations have tripled in the last two decades. In good economic times or bad, understanding how givers can leverage their philanthropic resources and do more than give is critical, and we are pleased that our model was lifted up for inclusion in this prestigious publication.
Let me be the first to admit that this may be a weird post for a blog mostly about larger policy issues. But there’s something I’ve been noticing lately that strikes me as odd, something I’m not sure what to think about: students outside of school.
I live near two different high schools, and during the course of a school day, I often see people who seem to be students but curiously don’t seem to be engaged in school activities or on school property. Today it might be two teens flipping skateboard tricks down the street from school; yesterday it might have been a group of kids hanging out at the mini-market a few blocks away; tomorrow it might be two lovebirds holding hands in the park.
I can’t pretend to know school schedules—if students have mornings or afternoons off, or if they’re legitimately on a break for lunch. And I certainly don’t mean to imply that students should be locked away in school buildings for six or seven hours at a time. But I often find myself wondering who’s looking after these children. Is there someone making sure that they are where they’re supposed to be? And as a citizen, what is my responsibility in helping to care for the children and teens in my community?
Some initial research led me to the Portland Police Bureau’s Truancy Reduction Ordinance. Though dealing with truancy starts with the schools and the parents, not the police bureau, this ordinance essentially gives members of the police license to stop and question kids who, like the ones I sometimes see in my neighborhood, don’t seem to be in school when they should be. It’s basically an ordinance that allows police a legislated way to get involved in cases where it seems schools or parents might be failing. And with some exceptions—check the website for details—it says that kids who have not yet graduated 12th grade are not allowed on “any street, highway, park, alley, or other public property during regular school hours.”
So knowing that, I come back to one of my first questions: If I see a kid during school hours skateboarding down my street, do I have any responsibility? I don’t mean that I may be liable for that kid—clearly I’m not. But in the larger sense of responsibility, in the sense that we’re all part of the same community and that kid is becoming the person who will build the world I am part of, do I have an obligation to ask what’s going on?
On the one hand, it’s none of my business what someone I don’t know is up to. I don’t want to assume that some teenager is breaking the law or doing something stupid just because I have some predetermined idea (just for the sake of argument) that kids want to skip school. But on the other hand, schools, parents, and police don’t have eyes everywhere. If it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m part of that village, shouldn’t I step up when I see something that might be amiss? Especially when I know that students who do not attend school on a regular basis are unlikely to graduate from high school, that truancy is often correlated to low achievement and even in extreme cases crime or gang involvement?
I skipped out on school as much as the next person in high school, for things that seemed important at the time: boyfriends, sunny weather, test avoidance. I wonder how things would have been different if people I’d run into had asked me why I wasn’t in school? I don’t want the world to just be a surrogate police force, always looking for other people doing something wrong, but sometimes I worry about these kids. Should I? What do you think a citizen’s role in helping kids through school is?