Category Archives: us education system

PROFESSIONALISING THE TEACHING PROFESSION-IS THE OLD MODEL OBSOLETE?

 

Time to move away from the Factory model of schooling, says Professor Mehta

Comment

Jal Mehta, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the author of the book “The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.”

He makes the familiar claims  in his book that the way schools are organized, and what happens in classrooms, hasn’t changed much in the century since the ‘Progressive Era’. His proposition is that the US still has the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, in the same schools, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support.(Professor Ken Robinson has said much the same thing, as has Anthony Seldon here)

He writes in the New York Times ‘Call it the industrial-factory model: power resides at the top, with state and district officials setting goals, providing money and holding teachers accountable for realizing predetermined ends. While rational on its face, in practice this system does not work well because teaching is a complex activity that is hard to direct and improve from afar. The factory model is appropriate to simple work that is easy to standardize; it is ill suited to disciplines like teaching that require considerable skill and discretion.’

This echos concerns, shared by other educators, that the teaching profession, rather than improving its status, is being de-professionalised. Unions have little influence in shaping policy and have failed to raise the status of the profession.

Mehta  continues ‘Teaching requires a professional model, like we have in medicine, law, engineering, accounting, architecture and many other fields. In these professions, consistency of quality is created less by holding individual practitioners accountable and more by building a body of knowledge, carefully training people in that knowledge, requiring them to show expertise before they become licensed, and then using their professions’ standards to guide their work.’ Some of these arguments are being used by those in the UK who advocate a new professional body for teachers (Royal College of Teaching etc).

By these criteria, his conclusion is   that American education is a failed profession. There is no widely agreed-upon knowledge base, training is brief or non-existent, the criteria for passing licensing exams are much lower than in other fields, and there is little continuous professional guidance (and development). It is not surprising, then, that researchers find wide variation in teaching skills across classrooms; in the absence of a system devoted to developing consistent expertise, we have teachers essentially winging it as they go along, with predictably uneven results.

The top systems recruit the top graduates (Investing in Human capital -see Professor Hargreaves and Fullan on this)). Training in these countries is more rigorous, more tied to classroom practice and more often financed by the government than elsewhere.

In America, both major teachers’ unions and the organization representing state education officials have, in the past year, called for raising the bar for entering teachers; one of the unions, the American Federation of Teachers, advocates a “bar exam.” Ideally the exam should not be a one-time paper-and-pencil test, like legal bar exams, but a phased set of milestones to be attained over the first few years of teaching. Akin to medical boards, they would require prospective teachers to demonstrate subject and pedagogical knowledge — as well as actual teaching skill.

He continues ‘Tenure would require demonstrated knowledge and skill, as at a university or a law firm. A rigorous board exam for teachers could significantly elevate the quality of candidates, raise and make more consistent teacher skill level, improve student outcomes, and strengthen the public’s regard for teachers and teaching.

We let doctors operate, pilots fly, and engineers build because their fields have developed effective ways of certifying that they can do these things. Teaching, on the whole, lacks this specialized knowledge base; teachers teach based mostly on what they have picked up from experience and from their colleagues.’

The ‘Allure of Order’, explores the power of ideas  in shaping politics. When a new paradigm arises “Newspapers, legislative debates, and other forums where issues are debated and decided take up issues different from those they did before. Existing actors’ identities are reshaped as the new problem definition changes the way people think about an issue. … New actors and groups are also created.”

But, unlike a number of current narratives on the problems of education, Mehta goes further by offering guidance for the route to universal good schools. He discusses four elements needed for a successful school system:

 practice-relevant knowledge,

 strong human capital, (Hargreaves and Fullan etc )

 school-level processes of improvement, and

 external support and accountability.

He ends by looking for new institutions to try new approaches and old institutions to reform themselves: “We can only hope that they have learned from the lessons of the past and seek not to control but to empower, creating the infrastructure upon which talented practitioner can create the good schools of the future.”

The changes needed to professionalize American education won’t be easy, he admits. They will require money, political will and the audacity to imagine that teaching could be a profession on a par with fields like law and medicine. But failure to change will be more costly — we could look up in another 30 years and find ourselves, once again, no better off than we are today. Several of today’s top performers, like South Korea, Finland and Singapore, moved to the top of the charts in one generation. Real change in America is possible, but only, he says, if they stop tinkering at the margins.

Its interesting how many of the perceptions about what needs to change in the United States are shared by educators here in the UK when championing the need  for reform. There is a consensus building here that a new professional body is required to elevate the status of the profession, independent of  both unions and government.

http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-allure-of-order-9780199942060;jsessionid=985C8A681F1ABEA4DBBE353E3C9D56FB?cc=gb&lang=en&

THE CRISIS IN EDUCATION-SO WHATS NEW?

Arendts concerns in 1950s America  are still being reflected in today’s debates on education reform 

Comment

It is sometimes thought that the idea that there is a crisis in education began when Tony Blair and New Labour said that the priorities  of the  government were  education, education education. Or was it Callaghan’s Ruskin speech? But the sense that our education system is in permanent crisis clearly  goes back many years, both here and in the States. Take a look at “The Crisis in Education” by  Hannah Arendt  (1954) which attacks various assumptions underpinning what she termed  progressive education.  She began her essay ‘The general crisis that has overtaken the modern world everywhere and in almost every sphere of life manifests itself differently in each country,  involving different areas and taking on different forms. In America, one of its most characteristic and suggestive aspects is the recurring crisis in education that, during the last decade at least, has become’ .Plus ca Change.  Arendt writes ‘Though the crisis in education may affect the whole world, it is characteristic  that we find its most extreme form in America, the reason being that perhaps  only in America could a crisis in education actually become a factor in politics.’  With the benefit of hindsight How wrong was she on that score ! Politics and education go hand in hand. Arendt  accepts that politicians  influenced by among others the thinking of  Rousseau, use education as an  instrument of politics, and political activity itself was conceived of as a form of  education.  Arendt claimed that  in the 1920s and 1930s  ‘The significant fact is that for the sake of certain  theories, good or bad, all the rules of sound human reason were thrust aside’. Common sense disappeared in the name of ‘ progressive education’. She wrote ‘nowhere have the education problems of a mass society become so acute, and nowhere else have the most modern theories in the realm of pedagogy been so uncritically and slavishly accepted. Thus the crisis in American education, on the one hand, announces  the bankruptcy of progressive education and, on the other, presents a  problem of immense difficulty because it has arisen under the conditions and  in response to the demands of a mass society’.

These ruinous measures in education can be schematically traced back to three basic assumptions, all of which are ‘only too familiar’, she posits . The first is that there exist a  child’s world and a society formed among children that are autonomous and  must insofar as possible be left to them to govern. Adults are only there to help with this government.  But Arendt says  ‘the  line drawn between  children and adults should signify that one can neither educate adults nor treat  children as though they were grown up; but this line should never be  permitted to grow into a wall separating children from the adult community  as though they were not living in the same world and as though childhood  were an autonomous human state, capable of living by its own laws.’

The second ‘ruinous’ assumption has to do with teaching. She  wrote ‘ Under the influence of modern psychology and  the tenets of pragmatism, pedagogy has developed into a science of teaching  in general in such a way as to be wholly emancipated from the actual material  to be taught. A teacher, so it was thought, is a man who can simply teach anything; his training is in teaching, not in the mastery of any particular subject.’ This ,he says, has resulted  in recent decades in’ a most serious neglect of the training of teachers in their  own subjects, especially in the public high schools. Since the teacher does not need to know his own subject, it not infrequently happens that he is just one  hour ahead of his class in knowledge. ( ie the antithesis of the teacher as a scholar). This in turn means not only that the  students are actually left to their own resources but that the most legitimate  source of the teacher’s authority as the person who, turn it whatever way one  will, still knows more and can do more than oneself is no longer effective.’ One can see these themes resonating through the recent arguments here about core knowledge and the curriculum reforms and Gove’s focus on  the reform of  ITT and the Blob dominating the education establishment.  We also see many of today’s arguments about what a child needs to know in the third assumption.  Arendt writes ‘the third basic assumption in our context, an assumption which the modern world has  held for centuries and which found its systematic conceptual expression in  pragmatism. This basic assumption is that you can know and understand only what you have done yourself, and its application to education is as primitive as it is obvious: to substitute, insofar as possible, doing for learning. The reason that no importance was attached to the teacher’s mastering his own subject was the wish to compel him to the exercise of the continuous activity of learning so that he would not, as they said, pass on “dead knowledge” but, instead, would constantly demonstrate how it is produced. The conscious intention was not to teach knowledge but to inculcate a skill, and the result was  a kind of transformation of institutes for learning into vocational institutions  which have been as successful in teaching how to drive a car or how to use a  typewriter or, even more important for the “art” of living, how to get along with  other people and to be popular, as they have been unable to make the children  acquire the normal prerequisites of a standard curriculum.’  Does this Ring any bells when one looks at today’s debates on education reforms ? I think so.

Arendt concludes that ‘The present crisis in America (ie in 1950s) results from the recognition of the destructiveness of these basic assumptions and a desperate attempt to reform the entire educational system, that is, to transform it completely. ‘

http://www.instituteofideas.com/documents/PGF_Arendt_Education.pdf

MASSACHUSETTS- INSPIRING GOVES CURRICULUM REFORMS

 Its Knowledge based curriculum -an inspiration for Goveian reforms

Comment

Massachusetts’ education system, and in particular its curriculum, which is heavily influenced by the thinking of ED Hirsch, was referenced in this week’s curriculum announcements.

Massachusetts prides itself on the amount of meaningful consultation it undertook before it settled on its new curriculum frameworks. The opening page to the MA Curriculum Frameworks website contains the following statement:

‘Since the enactment of the Education Reform Act of 1993, a great deal of work has gone into developing the Curriculum Frameworks.  What has made the process so effective is the grassroots involvement of thousands of people statewide. The task could not have been accomplished without the commitment, energy, and dedication of teachers, administrators, associations, parents, business, students, higher education faculty, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff, the Board of Education, and the public.’

Ironically, of course, the main charge levelled against the education secretary Michael  Gove over his curriculum reforms is that he has  done too little of the above, before making this weeks announcement on the new curriculum..

In Massachusetts teenagers in the state have performed strongly in the most recent global rankings for maths and science, published in December in the TIMSS (Trends in International Math and ­Science Study) report.

The performance of Massachusetts was much more successful than the US average – and was at a level that would put it among top performing science and maths countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.

The influential Pisa test rankings, published by the OECD, put Massachusetts as the highest performing US state – though this is against the backdrop of the US as an educational underachiever. (with the strongest economy, and a reputation for innovation the US might be expected to top international  education league tables-its not even close). According to the OECD, the US has the unwanted distinction of being the only industrialised country where the next generation is not going to be better educated than the previous – in a form of educational downward mobility.

On the 2005 NAEP tests, Massachusetts ranked first in the US in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and fourth- and eighth-grade math. It then repeated the feat in 2007. No state had ever scored first in both grades and both subjects in a single year—let alone for two consecutive test cycles.  How has Massachusetts done it?

The short answer, that educators in Massachusetts give, is that it achieves so highly because 20 years ago they implemented Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum state-wide, a curriculum that now runs in over 1,000 US schools.

Its not, of course, just about the curriculum. Leadership, high quality teaching, collaboration, dissemination of best practice, competition  and  other elements are also essential for success, but Hirsch and his core knowledge win most of the plaudits.

We have covered his thinking and influence before. Here is a quote from Hirsch to give a flavour: ‘Higher-order thinking is knowledge-based: The almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject’.  (1996)

But there is another significant claim made that is particularly interesting.

The claim is that Core Knowledge Schools have raised the bar for all and closed the gap between more and less disadvantaged students. This is particularly interesting for Gove and his advisers as they are only too well  aware that the success of this governments education  reforms will be judged on the degree to which this  achievement gap is  seen to have narrowed in England. The stakes are high.

In an extensive study in 2000 Core Knowledge students were found to have outperformed their peers in almost all categories (reading, vocabulary, history, geography and maths). During the late 1990s researchers in Maryland found that the degree to which Core Knowledge was implemented in schools was a significant predictor of student achievement gain. Another study concluded that the carefully sequenced Core Knowledge curriculum also has the potential to help disadvantaged students overcome their disadvantages and achieve academic proficiency.

Then there is the so-called Matthew effect –’For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. ’. (Matthew 25;26) This is about    the effects of accumulative advantage referred to by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers and in Daniel Rigney’s book ‘The Matthew Effect’.(see also Professor Stanovich below)

Hirsch, of course, has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. Hirsch concluded in 2008  “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child, Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”

Note

 Professor Keith Stanovich, of the  Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, University of Toronto used the term Mathew Effect to describe a phenomenon that has been observed in research on how new readers acquire the skills to read. Reading has cognitive consequences that extend beyond its immediate task of lifting meaning from a particular word or passage.  These consequences are reciprocal and exponential in nature. Accumulated over time—spiralling either upward or downward—they carry profound implications for the development of a wide range of cognitive capabilities. Early success in acquiring reading skills usually leads to later successes in reading as the learner grows, while failing to learn to read before the third or fourth year of schooling may be indicative of lifelong problems in learning new skills. This is because children who fall behind in reading would read less, increasing the gap between them and their peers. The combination of deficient decoding skills, lack of practice, and difficult materials results in unrewarding early reading experiences that lead to less involvement overall  in reading-related activities. Later, when students need to “read to learn” (where before they were learning to read), their reading difficulty creates difficulties that are spread  over most other subjects. In this way they fall further and further behind in school, dropping out at a much higher rate than their peers.“Matthew effects” in academic achievement (Stanovich, 1986; Walberg & Tsai, 1983).

CHARTER SCHOOLS-NO LONGER A BOUTIQUE OPERATION-BUT QUALITY STILL TOO VARIABLE

Mainly good news on Charters but some bad too

Too much variation in performance

More collaboration required

Comment

Arne Duncan, the former head of Chicago schools, now US Education Secretary,  said in a speech last  week that “that high-performing charters have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels.” “ In rigorous, randomized studies, high-performing charters have shown that great schools close both opportunity and achievement gaps.” But he added  charters are no longer a boutique movement of outsiders to the educational establishment.

“America now has more than 6,000 charter schools, serving about 2.3 million students. Almost four percent of students nationwide attend charters—and in some cities, like here in Washington, DC—more than 40 percent of students are enrolled in charters.”  Duncan referred to the most recent Credo study from Stanford University released at the end of last month which had many positives on the effects of Charter schools on outcomes.  He said “CREDO’s new study, released just last week, shows a significant improvement in charter quality from 2009 to 2013. And charters have especially boosted learning for black students in poverty and Hispanic English language learners. Compared to similar peers in traditional public schools, low-income black students at charter schools gain an additional 29 days of learning in reading and 36 days in math per year.That is a meaningful impact. And Hispanic ELL students make even bigger gains—50 days of learning, or 10 weeks, in reading, and 43 days of learning in math.  The CREDO study also shows that charters in several cities and a number of states are far out-performing comparable traditional public schools.”

 

“Yet”, Duncan continued “like so many studies of charter schools, the CREDO analysis tells a good news-bad news story. It shows enormous variation in performance.  We know that state policy and authorizing policies matter—and they matter a great deal to charter quality for children. States that were not careful about authorizing charters and let weak operators remain open year after year have a lot of low-quality charters. There are too many charters where students actually learn less than their counterparts in traditional public schools.”  Duncan was also disappointed in charters performance  in innovation. He said they  are supposed to be “laboratories of innovation—they were to be the R&D wing of public education.” But “while charters have pioneered a number of critical innovations, too many charters still look like traditional public schools—instead of developing and adapting cutting-edge, science- and research-based innovations to accelerate learning.  The bottom line is that the charter school brand has to stand for quality, accountability, cost-efficiency, and transparency. As far as the public is concerned, charter schools all have the same last name.So to fully deliver on the dream, charters schools must do more to take innovation to scale and continue to tackle the very toughest educational challenges.”

 

In short “the hopes of early charter advocates that successful charter schools would quickly create a tipping point in public education have clearly not materialized. As the Harvard economist Roland Fryer has pointed out, even with today’s rapid rate of charter growth, “it will take more than a hundred years for high-performing charter schools to educate every student in the country.”  What is needed is a change of mind set. Duncan says that “To make success the norm, I believe the charter sector will undergo a slow but profound shift of mindset. Charters will still be incubators of innovation. But they will no longer just be outsiders knocking at the door of the traditional school system.  To deliver on the dream, charters will become less like combatants in the battles over education and more like co-conspirators for change with traditional public schools. A new report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education discusses the real challenges to collaboration but also the progress that some cities are making in working together.”

 

“This shift toward collaboration is already under way in the charter sector. I see it in the partnerships that YES College Prep has formed with the Houston and Aldine school districts, and in KIPP’s partnerships in Houston. I see it in the new book from three Uncommon Schools leaders, Great Habits, Great Readers, which helps codify their schools’ K-4 reading taxonomy in the hope that it can help all elementary schools address the Common Core.And I see it in the groundbreaking collaboration of Roland Fryer with the Houston and Denver school districts.”

 

It is true that the charter schools brand has suffered from  inconsistencies in the quality of provision. There are some very good innovative chains  but there are others which have failed to open clear  blue water between themselves and other local schools. Its also  true that they tend to operate in the most challenging environment often with less per capita funding than other schools. But they still  need to keep raising their game if they seek to sustain the momentum. And States should ensure that their initial vetting procedures and regulatory regime are robust . Evidence shows  that autonomous schools only work effectively if they operate within a robust accountability framework

 

The Charter Mindset Shift: From Conflict to Co-Conspirators Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 2013 “Delivering On the Dream” conference JULY 2, 2013

http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/charter-mindset-shift-conflict-co-conspirators

Note:  The 2009 Credo study (Stanford University) issued the first comprehensive research into the performance of charter schools. The study, which considered 16 states, showed that just 17 per cent of charter schools outperformed mainstream schools, whereas 37 per cent performed “significantly worse”. The next (2013 )Credo study finds that charters in the original 16 states have made modest progress in raising student performance in both reading and mathematics, caused in part by the closure of 8 per cent of the charters in those states in the intervening years since the 2009 report as well as declining performance in the comparison traditional public schools over the same period. States have also tightened up their vetting procedures and  due diligence  for potential Charter providers . 

 

GREEN DOT SCHOOLS-THE CHARTER CHAIN ADMIRED BY LABOURS EDUCATION SPOKESMAN

GREEN DOT SCHOOLS

Twigg warms to Charter chain in USA because of its collaborative approach

Comment

The Green Dot  Charter schools  network operates 18 schools in some of the toughest areas of Los Angeles. Green Dot operates a mix of independent charter and turnaround schools, serving more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles County’s highest need areas. Its student body is statistically identical to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s, mirroring the amount of students that are English language learners, who receive free or reduced lunches, and are students with special needs.

The network has caught the eye of Stephen Twigg MP, the shadow education secretary, (speech to ACSL-16 March). It is unusual for a Labour spokesmen to highlight the performance of charter schools in the USA, as they are private operators, both for profit and not for profit, running municipal schools under a contract (or charter). That said ,  some Democrats in the States , including the President, much admire charters  for the leg up they can give to the most disadvantaged pupils,  in the poorest areas.   What  resonates with Twigg is the fact that  Green Dot’s teachers and management worked  closely with the California Teachers Association (ie a Union) to develop a contract for its teaching staff that is  at one with the mission of Green Dot and  also supports a sympathetic  professional environment for teachers. This is all about collaboration, a theme Twigg explored in his  ACSL  speech . He contends that only through collaboration ,within and between schools, can schools and the system  improve. He criticises the current government for creating   what he sees as an  ‘atomised ‘system, although, arguably, he helped lay the foundations of this system , when he was  in the last government.  Green Dot also worked with Randi Weingarten, now president of AFT, and the United Federation of Teachers to create the employment contract for Green Dot New York Charter School.  So here is evidence of collaboration in this case  not just between schools, but  between teachers, students and  parents, including on curriculum innovation. And, unlike some Charter schools, unions are recognised. Research conducted by UCLA showed students significantly increased their test scores and took more challenging subjects. Green Dot Public Schools averaged a 20-point increase on the Academic Performance Index scores released by the California Department of Education, with two of its schools exceeding the state’s API goal of 800 for the first time. The performance marked the fourth straight year of gains across Green Dot’s 18 schools.

http://www.greendot.org/page.cfm?p=1646

Note

In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. In 2013- 41 states and the District of Columbia had charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600  charter schools.

MATHEMATICA STUDY OF KIPP CHARTERS-KIPP GIVES SIGNIFICANT LEARNING BOOST TO MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS

Strong statistically significant results for KIPP students that are better than their peers

Comment  

As of the 2012–2013 school year, 125 KIPP schools are in operation in 20 different states and the District of Columbia (DC). Ultimately, KIPP’s goal is to prepare students to enrol and succeed in college.

KIPPs approach is different. It is particularly keen on  structured,  ‘meaningful’  approaches to character development in its schools This is rooted in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman (Universityof Pennsylvania) and  Dr. Chris Peterson (University of Michigan) that identifies 24 character strengths as leading to engaged, meaningful, and purposeful lives. Its not just about academic attainment. Resilience  and character matter even more, if students are to succeed in education and life.

There is a research partnership between KIPP NYC and Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), KIPP which informs the focus on seven highly predictive strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. They have integrated their own experiences as teachers with the research of Seligman, Peterson, and Duckworth to create a road map for the development of each strength.  So KIPP schools seek to see how they  can integrate a more structured and measurable approach to character development.

Prior research has suggested that KIPP schools have positive impacts on student achievement, but most of the studies have included only a few KIPP schools or have had methodological limitations.

This is the second report of a national evaluation of KIPP middle schools being conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The evaluation uses ‘experimental and quasi-experimental methods to  produce rigorous and comprehensive evidence on the effects of KIPP middle schools across the  country. The study’s first report, released in 2010, described strong positive achievement impacts in maths and reading for the 22 KIPP middle schools for which data were available at the time.  This most recent  study, conducted by Mathematica,  is  the most rigorous research yet on KIPP schools  and  shows that the Knowledge Is Power Program, provides a significant learning boost to middle school students in multiple subjects. It also found that while KIPP serves more low-income students than public school peers, it serves fewer special education students and English language learners. The report states ‘The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial. KIPP impact estimates are consistently positive across the four academic subjects examined, in each of the first four years after enrolment in a KIPP school, and  for all measurable student subgroups’.   Three years after students enroll in KIPP schools, they had 11 more months of maths knowledge than their peers, according to the study. The research showed KIPP students had eight more months of reading knowledge, 14 more months of science knowledge, and 11 more months of social studies knowledge.  Charter schools are publicly funded, but can be privately run. KIPP is one of the best known chains. KIPP schools often feature a longer school day, carefully selected teachers, a strict discipline code, parental contract, and teachers available to parents after school hours.  The Mathematica study accounted for the common critique that KIPP’s results are skewed because the school attracts the kids of highly-motivated parents, said Philip Gleason, who directed the research. In 13 of the 43 schools Mathematica investigated, the firm compared KIPP students with children who entered the KIPP lottery, but did not receive slots in KIPP schools. The researchers said the positive results held steady for the KIPP students. The study did find though that KIPP’s ‘behavioural’ modifications contributed to academic performance. KIPP schools that reported a “comprehensive” approach toward behaviour saw greater positive effects than schools that did not.  But ‘KIPP has no statistically significant effect on a variety of measures of student attitudes  that may be related to long-run academic success. The estimated KIPP impacts on  indices of student-reported self-control, academic self-concept, school engagement,  effort/persistence in school, and educational aspirations are not statistically significant.’  KIPP schools that had a longer than average school day had smaller positive effects on student performance. The report says this might be because the KIPP schools with longer days than others often focused their extended hours on non-academic areas.  KIPP students do from 35 minutes to 53 minutes more nightly homework than their peers, yet reported they were more satisfied with school than peers, according to the study.

KIPP Middle Schools:  Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes  Final Report- February 27, 2013- Christina Clark Tuttle Brian Gill Philip Gleason Virginia Knechtel Ira Nichols-Barrer Alexandra Resch

http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/KIPP_middle.pdf

Note

Charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of public education, taking root in most U.S. states, thanks to a big push by the education reform lobby and the federal government’s  ‘Race to the Top’ competition.  One of the defining features of  Charter schools is that they operate on the basis of a  ‘charter’, i.e. a performance contract granted for three to five years, defining the school’s mission and goals,  as well as the type of students it aims to attract. Charter schools are then held accountable to their  sponsor (for example a local school board), which assesses whether these stated aims have been  achieved and – if not – eventually revokes the charter.

PERFORMANCE RELATED PAY-CONCEPT STRAIGHTFORWARD -PRACTICE PROBLEMATIC

 Performance pay-be careful what you wish for

Comment

From September 2013, the set “spine points” on teachers main pay scale are to be scrapped, with schools free to set teachers’ pay anywhere between minimum and maximum levels depending on performance.

While academies are already free to deviate from national pay structures, (very few have, to date) the plans drawn up by the STRB – and accepted in full by the Department for Education – will now give other schools greater power to link teachers’ pay to performance.

It is clear that the issue of performance related   pay is high on this governments agenda.  Ministers are trying to raise the quality of teaching to compare with the best in the world. The OECD (2009) concluded that “the effective monitoring and evaluation of teaching is central to the continuous improvement of the effectiveness of  teaching in a school”. It is less clear that this issue  is high on teachers and governors agendas.

The last Labour government introduced a PRP system in the late 1990’s and just about every teacher who was eligible met the criteria for a pay rise ,(96%) so it didn’t really work . In short, it failed effectively to link extra rewards to higher performance. Heads and governors dont much like dealing with this sensitive issue  head on as inevitably it causes some conflicts and ill feeling within staff rooms, which may go some way to explaining why the last system failed.

Central to PRP or ‘merit ‘pay is the ability to accurately measure and evaluate individual teachers performance. The system you develop should be fair, efficient and not have a large bureaucracy attached to it. And that is why,frankly, it is problematic.

The three most common ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness, according to research, are  gains in test scores, classroom observations and pupil surveys. Each method though has its known weaknesses. Teacher observation apparently   is the least predictive method of assessing teacher effectiveness. Nonetheless, despite this, those  involved with teacher evaluation say that each element   has its place within a  comprehensive and fair  teacher evaluation system. The key they claim  is to get the right balance between these different elements, which is easier said than done.

Of these elements, gains in pupil test scores are seen by most as the best available metric to measure teacher performance. However, as they are finding in the USA, it doesn’t come without its problems. (around forty states have introduced some form of merit pay, incentivised to do so  by the Federal government) .  Although schools can have a substantial impact on performance,  student test scores can  also increase, decrease or remain flat for reasons that have little or nothing to do with schools. Measurement errors can occur, while  parental education levels, family’s economic circumstances,  and parental involvement, can also play a role. There is self-evidently a strong incentive for playing the numbers to look successful on “quality” measures since the numbers carry substantial consequences for the teacher. This is a very high stakes game. Working out how to look good, through test results, becomes an end in itself, with the numbers becoming  more important than the primary task of teaching students. Given that many politicians now worry about teachers being pre-occupied with teaching to the test,  and children’s education suffering as a consequence, introducing test scores as  the primary metric to evaluate teachers is going to encourage more (indeed all) teachers to teach to the test ,not less.

It would seem that Value-added or progress measures, rather than absolute test or exam results, should be the primary data used in evaluating performance, certainly this is what many experts recommend. But, and its quite a big but,  measuring value added is itself  not free from controversy and there are different models available, with their own strengths and weaknesses, and  with no clear consensus identifiable.

There are ways, though, of using pay to encourage groups of teachers to work better together to improve outcomes. And, if one is honest about this issue, it sticks in the craw that outstanding teachers are not rewarded as they should be, while poor teachers can stay in the profession for life having a  hugely negative effect on students life opportunities, and education outcomes, while acting as a drag on improving the system  more generally (quite apart from irritating their better performing peers).

To recap-to make progress in this area you need to develop a system that is fair, balanced, transparent and not too bureaucratic. They are still struggling with this challenge in the States, where they are well ahead of us in both thinking and practice on this issue.

One recent study  titled ‘The Use and Misuse of Teacher Appraisal’ (Laura Figazzolo- Education International Research Institute Consultant- January 2013) found: ‘ The evidence is that many dimensions need to be taken into account when evaluating teachers.  Student achievements are but one dimension – especially when these are standardized tests. Where  teacher appraisal is based on professional standards, classroom observations, curriculum  development, and a wide range of associated factors which are associated with teaching and teacher  perspectives, comprehensive methods seem to be able to provide more valuable information. When  teacher appraisal arrangements and policies are conceived with the participation of teachers and  their unions, comprehensive methods seem to be able to gain teachers’ trust and provide valuable  information. As such, they are gaining growing recognition in the debate on teacher appraisal’

It is  frustratingly  true that schools here  seeking expert advice and guidance on this  issue will be confronted with much  conflicting evidence and the issue is neither simple nor straightforward..

COULD SAT APTITUDE TESTS- DESIGNED IN THE US- HELP UK HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS DEVELOP A FAIRER SYSTEM TO MEASURE POTENTIAL?

Could   they help UK Universities select students more fairly?

Comment

Universities are keen to ensure that they have a clear idea of a students potential in deciding admissions and not simply to rely on exam results.  Measuring potential is not easy and cant really be done by looking at a students application (UCAS) form, contrary to the claims made by some admissions tutors.

They have looked across the Atlantic for inspiration  looking in particular at the SAT  aptitude test (the SAT Reasoning TestTM) as a tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE) either as a standalone tool or one used in conjunction with GCSEs and AS/A2 levels  to determine admissions.

SAT are multiple-choice tests required for admission by several top US universities (although they are not the only test available). It is sometime assumed  that SATs are similar to GCSEs or A levels . They are not. They are basically  IQ tests designed to measure potential rather than to measure what you have learned  at school.

So if SAT tests are supposed to measure potential, do they do this effectively? There is much debate about this.  However, given that a cottage industry  has developed in tutoring students to help them pass  the SAT there  are grounds for doubting  that the tests truly measure potential.  SAT questions are quite particular and the skills to answer them are not often taught in schools. Hence the  cottage industry ,selling textbooks and extra tuition Students wanting to take SATs must usually register independently, pay for the test and travel to an SAT test centre. For rural students, the nearest location may be  some distance And then there is the problem of revising. Poorer students inevitably are disadvantaged.

In the UK, back in 2005, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) was commissioned to evaluate the potential value of using an the SAT Reasoning TestTM as an additional tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE). This five-year study was co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS), the NFER, the Sutton Trust and the College Board. The primary aim of the study was to examine whether the addition of the SAT® alongside A levels is better able to predict HE participation and outcomes than A levels alone. And  whether it  might help identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.

The study found that of  the prior attainment measures, average A level points score is the best predictor of HE participation and degree class, followed by average GCSE points score. The inclusion of GCSE information adds usefully to the predictive power of A levels. In the absence of other data, the SAT® has some predictive power but it does not add any additional information, over and above that of GCSEs and A levels (or GCSEs alone), at a significantly useful level. But  could the SAT® identify economically or educationally disadvantaged students with the potential to benefit from HE whose ability is not adequately reflected in their A level results; and  could the SAT®  distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get straight A grades at A level.

The study  also found ‘no evidence that the SAT® provides sufficient information to identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.’

In addition  ‘the SAT® does not distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get three or more A grades at A level. The SAT® Reading and Writing components do add some predictive power for some classes of degree at highly selective universities, but add very little beyond the information provided by prior attainment, in particular prior attainment at GCSE.’

So it is pretty safe to conclude that the SAT is no panacea for measuring student potential and would have limited utility for Higher Education Institutions in this country to help them design a fairer admissions process that fully takes into account an applicants potential.

Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study Final Report-3 December 2010- NFER-Sutton Trust

http://www.suttontrust.com/research/use-of-an-aptitude-test-in-university-entrance/

THE MASSACHUSETTS MODEL-INSPIRING GOVE?

THE MASSACHUSETTS MODEL

Successful and influenced by Hirsch

Hence Gove referencing Massachusetts

Comment

At his recent speech at the SMF, the Education Secretary ,Micheal Gove, praised the Massachusetts curriculum in which their “history curriculum requires students to be taught in rich factual detail about their heritage”. ED Hirsch the American academic who articulates the need for a core curriculum of knowledge and the importance of memorisation had a significant influence on Goves thinking behind the new curriculum. But Gove has been criticised for rushing through the proposals, of not properly consulting the experts or listening to them. Historians, for example, have written to the Observer this week complaining about the content of the new history curriculum and the need to identify consensus, through proper consultation.

Massachusetts prides itself on the amount of meaningful consultation it undertook before it settled on its curriculum frameworks:

The opening page to the MA Curriculum Frameworks website contains the following statement:

‘Since the enactment of the Education Reform Act of 1993, a great deal of work has gone into developing the Curriculum Frameworks.  What has made the process so effective is the grassroots involvement of thousands of people statewide. The task could not have been accomplished without the commitment, energy, and dedication of teachers, administrators, associations, parents, business, students, higher education faculty, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff, the Board of Education, and the public.’

Of course there is a consultation now underway (see link below) but the charge is that Governments generally   tend to have made up their mind before public consultations   take place and that the subsequent  process is little more than  an exercise in window dressing and / or cherry picking . We shall see.(I would suggest that it is worth looking in detail at the proposals and contributing to the consultation because the Secretary of State and DFE  will be less willing to ignore such contributions now  than they were a week ago, before the U turn on the EBC )

But why is Gove referencing Massachussetts?

Because its educational achievement outcompetes every other US state .For instance, the state leads the USA in reading and mathematics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It routinely excels even when you control for income and parental income level. On the 2005 NAEP tests, Massachusetts ranked first in the US in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and fourth- and eighth-grade math. It then repeated the feat in 2007. No state had ever scored first in both grades and both subjects in a single year—let alone for two consecutive test cycles.  How has Massachusetts done it?

The short answer that educators in Massachusetts give is that it  achieves so highly because 20 years ago they implemented Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum state-wide in 1993, a curriculum that now runs in over 1,000 US schools.

Its not ,of course, just about the curriculum. Leadership, high quality teaching, collaboration, dissemination of best practice  and  other elements are also essential for success, but Hirsch and his core knowledge win most of the plaudits

We have covered his thinking and influence before. Here is a quote from Hirsch to give a flavour:

‘Higher-order thinking is knowledge-based: The almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject’.  (1996)

But there is another significant claim made that is particularly interesting.

The claim is that Core Knowledge Schools have raised the bar for all and closed the gap between more and less disadvantaged students.

In an extensive study in 2000, for example, Core Knowledge students were found to have outperformed their peers in almost all categories (reading, vocabulary, history, geography and maths). During the late 1990s researchers in Maryland found that the degree to which Core Knowledge was implemented in schools was a significant predictor of student achievement gain. Another study concluded that the carefully sequenced Core Knowledge curriculum also has the potential to help disadvantaged students overcome their disadvantages and achieve academic proficiency.

Then there is the so-called Matthew effect – ‘to those who have, more shall be given, but from those who have not, even what they have shall be taken away’. This is about    the effects of accumulative advantage referred to by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers and in Daniel Rigney’s book  ‘The Matthew Effect’.

Hirsch points out that ‘unless an early knowledge deficit is quickly overcome, the deficit grows ever larger’; for him, ‘the cumulative principle explains the phenomenon of the widening gap’ in achievement across and within countries. Therefore, Hirsch concluded, ‘we can greatly accelerate the achievements of all students if we adopt knowledge-oriented modes of schooling.’ (2006 xii)

Massachusetts uses Hirschs ideas   and is successful. Hence, Goves enthusiasm for his ideas.

In summary, Hirsch’s ideas can be distilled as follows: at the core of academic achievement lies a  body  of essential knowledge and the more you accumulate this knowledge the more you will accelerate your academic achievement .

But ,as Gove is finding out,what constitutes core knowledge  is  very much open to debate.

Notes

The National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, which is an exam administered to a sample of fourth, eighth and twelfth grade students every two years in reading and math. All states and DC have been included since 2003.The NAEP is called “the nation’s report card,” and Massachusetts students have long been dominant.

Hirsch has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”

https://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/departmentalinformation/consultations/a00221262/reform-national-curriculum

GOVE, HIRSCH AND THE CURRICULUM

GOVE, HIRSCH AND THE CURRICULUM

New curriculum will focus on core knowledge-influenced by Hirsch

Comment

E.D. Hirsch is an American professor whose radical ideas about what should be taught in schools are set to have a profound effect on English schools. A favoured intellectual of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, Hirsch advocates a curriculum strongly grounded in facts and knowledge. He also believes that there are certain specific ideas, works of literature and scientific concepts which everyone should know so that they can be active participants in society. This is aimed at counteracting what Gove describes as a prevailing left-wing or ‘progressive’ ideology among teachers.

In a speech to  the Social Market Foundation, on 5 February, Gove promised to rid the curriculum of “vapid happy talk” and ensure pupils had a structured “stock of knowledge”.

Hirsch promoted the idea of the importance of cultural literacy—the necessary information that students must have to understand what they read. After arguing, in Cultural Literacy (1988), that young people are not becoming good readers because they lack cultural literacy, Hirsch set out to remedy the problem by “spelling out, grade by grade, in detail, what students must know in a variety of fields if they are to be competent and understanding readers.”  In addition to this Core Knowledge curriculum, Hirsch launched a system of Core Knowledge schools to teach it along with a Core Knowledge Foundation to support them. Indeed his Core Knowledge curriculum, created in 1986, is now used in more than 1,000 schools and preschools in 47 States.  So teaching a core knowledge is essential. And this  must detail specific information for students to learn. It is a “lasting body of knowledge, which includes such topics as the basic principles of constitutional government, mathematics and language skills, important events in world history, and acknowledged masterpieces of art, music and literature”  Hirsch asserts that “the principal aim of schooling is to promote literacy as an enabling competence”. Crucially general knowledge should be a goal of education because it “makes people competent regardless of race, class or ethnicity while also making people more competent in the tasks of life.” This general knowledge includes knowing a range of objective facts. Hirsch says that highly skilled intellectual competence only comes after one knows a lot of facts.

Knowledge, according to Hirsch, is “intellectual capital” – that is “the knowledge and skill a person possesses at a given moment.”  He also  says that the more knowledge and skill a person has, the more they can acquire. “Learning builds on learning” he argues. So, the more a person knows, believes Hirsch, the more a person can learn in a multiplier effect. He calls existing knowledge “mental Velcro”, which allows for additional knowledge to become attached to  it , and so  a memory replete with facts learns better than one without.

In  his speech Gove criticised the widespread opposition to the English Baccalaureate, the performance measure introduced in 2010 which gauges secondary schools by the proportion of pupils who get a C or above in six GCSEs – English, maths, two of the sciences, history or geography and a language.

“The reaction from the Labour party, the teaching unions, teacher training institutions and all too many figures ostensibly dedicated to cultural excellence was visceral horror,” Gove said.

In the most scathing and personal section of the speech Gove argued that his Labour shadow, Stephen Twigg, along with the party’s leader, Ed Miliband, and Ed Balls, the children’s minister turned shadow chancellor, wanted to deny disadvantaged pupils the benefits of a liberal education of the sort they enjoyed in studying for degrees in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.

Dipping into popular TV culture  by referencing  the TV costume drama Downton Abbey,  Gove said: “The current leadership of the Labour party react to the idea that working-class students might study the subjects they studied with the same horror that the Earl of Grantham showed when a chauffeur wanted to marry his daughter.

“Labour, under their current leadership, want to be the Downton Abbey party when it comes to educational opportunity. They think working-class children should stick to the station in life they were born into – they should be happy to be recognised for being good with their hands and not presume to get above themselves.”

Note 1

London’s Pimlico Academy is one pioneering school that has introduced a   “Hirsch-style” curriculum in its new primary school. Two young women are  leading this experiment: Anneliese Briggs and Daisy Christodoulou. Pimlico Academy of course is supported by  venture capitalist Lord Nash, recently appointed  an  education minister to replace Lord Hill.

Note 2

Ed Hirsch’s thinking, which Gove  so admires (as does Nick Gibb the former schools Minister) is seen as antithetical to the progressive, child centred approach to education as articulated by thinkers such as John Dewey (active in early twentieth century).  To be fair , concerning  Dewey, his views are often caricatured by critics and taken out of context partly, one suspects, because they are not  so easily understood and he is a less easily accessible writer than Hirsch. And, of course, he isn’t around to clarify his ideas for us.   Dewey wanted a  better  balance between delivering knowledge and memorisation  while  fully taking into  account  the interests and experiences of the student. Dewey became one of the most famous proponents of hands-on learning or ‘experiential’ education. Hirsch  has had more influence on US schools. And, significantly, the best performing US state-Massachusetts-is heavily influenced by Hirsch, hence it is  frequently referenced by Gove. Hirsch has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”

http://www.smf.co.uk/media/news/michael-gove-speaks-smf/