Thursday, August 28, 2008

Carnival of Education is UP

The 186th edition of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by SharpBrains.) is open for your educational pleasure!

Go St. Louis!!

Great article today covering our start in Missouri. It has been such an amazing response from some amazing people. Our first certified teacher completed last week - - an electrical engineer who has been teaching in a private school for three years.

My favorite part of the article is where the cite the recent Mathematica study showing 85% of our new teachers are still in the classroom - an amazingly high number - and in the next paragraph the NEA rep says he doesn't think our teachers will stay in the classroom. Never let facts get in the way of your talking points.

Our new teacher discussion forums have launched giving our candidates an online community to work with and our next prepare to teach workshop will go up next week.

In the world of education reform - progress like this always feels good!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NCLB and Education Reform Leaders

Mike Petrilli over at Flypaper wonders if NCLB has created a new breed of education leaders and he is mainly looking at superintendents of large school districts.

It got me thinking about the other dramatic shift that seems to have been caused by NCLB through the highly qualified teacher requirement. Over the last 18 months 5 different state directors of teacher certification have suddenly retired. Kansas, DC, Louisiana, Colorado and Georgia.

This is no small shift. Thes directors were considered leaders in the teacher certification world and, more importantly from a reform perspective, were dead set against alternative teacher certification.

Twenty percent turnover is a pretty big deal. This sea change will open the doors in these states to new certification options and will provide more expanded markets for ABCTE.

Exciting times….

There is change in Denver

If you have not read The Slate’s coverage of the education reform rally in Denver before the Democratic National Convention then I strongly urge you to do so now. This is truly a watershed moment in American politics. Democrats are finally realizing that the teacher’s unions are doing their job – working hard to get better pay and working conditions for their members and that if that comes in conflict with improving schools, schools lose. As Senator Peter Groff stated – with much applause – “when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the adult agenda wins too often.”

This is a great day in education reform. To see inner city leaders taking a stand on what is right for students and not worrying about the political ramifications is truly amazing. It provides inspiration to teams like our staff at ABCTE who are battling to do what is right for students to know that others out there are working just as hard for our schools.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Textbook Insanity

This weekend I dropped my daughter off to begin her sophomore at James Madison University. I am a member of USAA and on their site, they recommend clearly establishing what the parent will pay for and what the college student will pay for. We have done this and I am paying for tuition, room/board and books.

I kind of threw in books, just being a generous parent. I sincerely wish I had not done so. The ridiculousness that is college text books is totally out of hand. We were able to buy used books for half of her requirement for this semester and it still cost over $550 for five classes.

I have no qualms about paying $550 if she were going to use the books, glean massive amounts of applicable knowledge, and see the value of this investment - but that is totally not the reality. Half the time the professors never even use the books.

From the Washington Post: “Estimates of how much students spend on textbooks range from $700 to $1,100 annually, and the market for new books is estimated at $3.6 billion this year. Between 1986 and 2004, the price of textbooks nearly tripled, rising an average of 6 percent a year while inflation rose 3 percent, according to a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office. In California, the state auditor reported last week that prices have skyrocketed 30 percent in four years.”

Congress and states are trying to legislate a solution which will never work. This problem needs to be solved at the university level. If the professor assigns readings that are online, there is no cost and the quality is probably the same and text book price gouging will end.

But it will all be too late for me. My daughters will have graduated long before a solution is found. Maybe with file sharing like Textbook Torrents, the text book industry will go the way of the record store and future parents wont have to deal with text book insanity.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Free markets in higher education

Free markets continue to infiltrate higher education. I am not talking about the proliferation of for-profit institutions, I am talking about ratemyprofessors.com. If you don’t have a kid in college, you may not be aware of the power this is bringing to college students everywhere.

My daughter is transferring to James Madison University for her second year. As a transfer student you don’t get first choice in scheduling. But for every class she schedules, she first checks ratemyprofessors.com to see if the professor is good or bad.

I have watched her become a very savvy consumer of higher education. She does not just believe the overall ratings but is now matching the professor’s characteristics to her own. She is the type that attends every class so she selects professors that give credit for that. She likes more work but does not do as well on big finals - so she will select professors who have graded work during the semester decreasing the impact the final exam will have on the overall grade. If she has a choice of two courses and doesn’t feel strongly about the content, she will take the better rated professor.

When I was going to school we just had rumors and horror stories to go by – not great information like this. Ratemyprofessors boasts over 7 million ratings in their database and we rarely find a professor that has not been rated by students.

This leads to some interesting questions such as – what happens to a tenured professor when no one takes their class because of the low ratings? Will good courses be dropped because of a perceived lack of interest when in reality it is just the professor? Will there be a Darwinian result for those ill-informed/lazy/tech adverse students who don’t bother to check the website before signing up for classes?

It is fascinating to watch. As a parent who is paying the bills, it is also comforting to know that my daughter will not be stuck in a class with a horrible professor who will wreak havoc on her GPA with unfair tests that don’t actually cover the material. And, hopefully she will take this finely honed consumer sense with her throughout her life.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time on Task

Apologies to the 10’s of loyal readers – summer hiatus to take care of family issues, get daughter 1 ready to transfer to James Madison University and relax.

But, there is no rest for education reformers – so a little recap of the ABCTE summer. We have been extremely busy looking at the data from Mathematica on our program and pretty pleased with the results so far – student achievement data will come in December. We have been taking a ton of enrollments from Missouri (325)– a lot of pent up demand for an affordable program to get into teaching in that state and we have been meeting with decision makers to look at the next set of states for ABCTE.

As for me, I have taken on the role of Board Chair for a small charter school here in DC. The Academia Biling├╝e de la Comunidad Public Charter School (ABC), which opened in the Fall of 2005, is a Bilingual English and Spanish total-immersion Public Charter School in Washington DC, serving grades 6-8. We have not made AYP yet and our test scores are pretty dismal.
When asking for advice from other education leaders, I hear one thing pretty clearly – it is time on task. There is no silver bullet special program or teaching technique that will get AYP – it is how much time you spend on math and reading that will get scores up. And when you look at the KIPP model, there is a ton of time on task and they get results. Now they also have great facilities, dedicated parents, energetic teachers willing to put in the time. But if they tried to get the same results in the normal school day/year, I doubt they would.

So I embark on a journey for AYP. It started with getting a great principal who was hired in June. Then the simple task of really cleaning the school to show the great facility and I can assure you that a man never walked so tall as when he stooped to clean a middle school bathroom. We are heavily recruiting students and working on teacher training. I will keep you posted on the results as we try to work on greater time on task.