Friday, May 29, 2009

Let someone else do the work

It is Friday - so it is time for someone else to do the work. So I refer you to Joanne Jacob's post on a Matt Welch post on a story in the LA Times about the California crisis. It is, as always, a great summary but I also love the comments after the posting. Worth a good Friday read so head that way. I will stop being lazy on Monday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Best Restaurants in State Capitals I have visited

Debuting at number 11 is The Oceanaire in Indianapolis which has amazing seafood flown in every day. Get the crab cake and the tower. Totally amazing!

Research that doesn't tell us anything

In education you hear “I believe” way too many times. I mock these people who think that there is no evidence required – as long as you believe it works in education it must be so. It is as if education is a religion with a prescribed set of beliefs and those of us heretics on the outside must be derided for upsetting their belief system.

On the outside we say there must be evidence – student achievement is the coin of the realm and without it you are one of the barriers to education improvement.

Lately, however, I am questioning my belief in student achievement. I am beginning to wonder if anything actually does get you student achievement that is really superior to something else.

I base this on a series of disappointing study results. First you had the New Teacher Center study. It seemed to indicate that an intense mentoring program didn’t yield significant results. Then you had a recent study on the TAP teacher career ladder program. Not to mention many studies on charter schools, National Board Certification, Vouchers and TFA - - none of which is a home run for opponents or supporters.

It is really beginning to appear to me that if the “gold standard” of random assignment doesn’t really seem to answer any of the real questions then why are paying researchers millions of dollars to conduct the study? Shouldn’t one of these programs have shown some really significant gains? Or is it the incredibly wide variation in student and teacher performance so far gone that we can’t really see small differences in results? Maybe the earth really isn't flat!

It is above my head – but those who are smarter than I need to come up with a better judge of results that actually tells us something and doesn’t use up millions of dollars to give us a vague answer.

Friday, May 22, 2009


If you are not annoyed you are not paying attention. This should be the new bumper sticker of all in education – especially all of us who work in teaching.

A report by ETS that is just stunning to me - - the percentage of 8th grade math students on free and reduced lunch whose teachers left before the end of the school is year is 67%.

Breaking it down by race the percentage of white students whose 8th grade math teacher left before the end of the year is 28%. But for black students it is 52% and for Hispanic students it is 44%.

We are not going to affect the achievement gap if we can't get teachers to even finish out the year.

Now how in the world can you be college ready if two thirds of our students can’t even get an 8th grade math teacher to finish the school year. I know that some people have problems with ABCTE teachers who are alternatively certified but 85% of our teachers are still teaching AFTER THREE YEARS!!

Come on!! Get annoyed out there – this is ridiculous

ABCTE Teachers Increase Student Achievement!

Alert the Journal of Anecdotal Evidence, we have proof that ABCTE Teachers dramatically increase student achievement. Our sample size of one, Kelly Bow, an ABCTE teacher who teaches math in an Idaho middle school was able to accomplish the following:

“For the above average and advanced category, my students beat every school in the area including the very small private schools, two charter schools and a very wealthy district,” she explains. Just recently, Bow got more good news, as her students increased their ISAT scores by 22.5% versus last year.

Huge news. People always ask us about student achievement and we will continue to build our database and get a large enough sample size to ensure we get actual results to publish. But for now, we will appreciated and celebrate the anecdotal.

Fluff no more

Multiple posts today because there is just so much going on in education. The first concerns a great blog post and subsequent comments by Joanne Jacobs on New York City’s teacher and student requirements. The blog post is definitely worth a read as are the comments that people have left about the post.

One of the things that absolutely drives me crazy in education is the fluff that gets passed off as critical elements of the teaching practice or learning process. Joanne’s article calling out New York for excessive fluff is dead on. For me, the two most annoying terms to me are ‘reflection’ and ‘portfolio’. Only in education can going home and thinking about what you did right and wrong during the day can have a fancy term and be held in such high esteem. And only in education could you submit a collection of your best work and have it be the determination as to your ability to perform on a daily basis.

Now – both of these have a place in helping teachers become better teachers so I will end the extremist rhetoric with that thought. Yes teachers should take a good hard look at what they are doing right and wrong. And yes we should look at a portfolio of their work to ensure that we see signs of solid performance. But we should not talk about it as if this brings teaching into the highest levels of achievement. We need real performance evaluations to truly judge our teachers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Friedman Foundation Study on Private vs Public School Teacher Satisfaction

One of the things we have noticed in recruiting people to teach is that there is a definite shift right now in the United States with people are taking a good hard look at their chosen profession. People want to do things that matter and have feel good about their work. People attending our "Become a Teacher" workshops are telling us that without job security, which no one has today, they want a job where they can make a difference and have real job satisfaction.

It appears that if you ask teachers, private schools give them the greatest opportunity to make that difference and enjoy their work. There is a new study out from The Friedman Foundation that looks at the data from the national survey of teachers and found some striking, yet not surprising, differences in private school and public school teacher opinions.

Some of the highlights –
• 62% of private school teachers want to remain teaching as long as they are able compared to 44% in public schools
• 60% of private school teachers have control of selecting content, topics and skills taught in the classroom compared to 36% in public schools
• 28% of public school teachers strongly agree that routine duties and paperwork interfere with their job compared to just 9% of private school teachers

One of the more interesting highlights is that “although salaries are higher in public schools, private schoolteachers are more likely to be satisfied with their salaries (51
percent v. 46 percent).”

Huh - job satisfaction trumps money. You can read the whole study here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Conference Shut out

Tonight I head to the New Schools Venture Fund conference in Los Angeles where I will hear about great education entrepreneurs and how they can impact today’s students. I do look forward to the networking that will be involved but get tired of hearing about the same few entrepreneurs at every conference – KIPP, TFA, TNTP and New Leaders. Many of these conferences lament the fact that there are not more entrepreneurs in education and yet they can only bring these same people on stage to talk about why. They never seem to realize that they are creating the classic self-fulfilling prophecy. Funders only fund what they hear about and they only hear about the few education entrepreneurs out there because they are the only ones allowed to present.

Unless you somehow missed my subtle rant – I am whining that ABCTE is still left behind in the education space. We have never been deemed worthy enough to make it to the dais of the education world in spite of solid data, the most cost effective and scaleable teacher recruitment model and incredible progress. I guess it is not entrepreneurial enough to take a program to self-sufficiency in the non-profit world.

So we will continue to attend the conferences in the audience and participate as a “funding stalker” at the breaks and use every opportunity to let people know there are other education groups out here making a difference.

You just wouldn’t know it from the conference presenter list.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oklahoma will be a great ABCTE state

spent the day in Oklahoma City visiting with their teacher licensing and recruitment team and it was a great meeting. Oklahoma is getting hit hard for a couple of reasons. First they have many teacher retirements coming up with, according to NCTAF, 46% of their teachers over the age of 50. Second, by 2011 they will have Pre-K in public schools – meaning they need a lot more teachers to cover more grades. So an alternative route has the full support of the state department of education. This is phenomenal for us and we could see Missouri like numbers (over 1,200 enrolled in the first year).

Especially if the press is kind to us in getting the word out…..,0,6634389.story

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Appreciate some great teachers!

One of the best ways to illustrate the inspiring work ABCTE teachers are doing is by letting them tell the stories themselves. We’ve been doing this in the Meet Our Teachers section of our website with written profiles and we recently launched an ABCTE YouTube channel where we’ve started posting video profiles of our teachers.

The first set of videos went online last week to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week and we’ll have more going up in the next few weeks.

Leah Dow shares a story about taking her special education class to prom.

First-year biology teacher Nick Gastelecutto talks about making an impact and talking a student out of dropping out of school.

Reading teacher Chuck Foster speaks about helping a student deal with test anxiety and then seeing her scores jump 50 points.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Randi is Right

keep wondering what is going on when I keep agreeing with the teacher’s unions. Randi Weingarten, who I have not quite figured out, had this to say about National Standards at a hearing on the Hill. From the Alliance for Excellent Education newsletter –

"She stressed that simply “getting standards right” would not be enough and called on Congress to fix the “fundamentally flawed accountability system” in the No Child Left Behind Act. “If we are not testing the right information, or the accountability system is flawed, or the tests are inadequate, or teachers are not supported, we will not reap the rewards a standards-based reform system offers,” she said. “As we look ahead to NCLB reauthorization, we need to address these issues in order to fulfill the promise of offering all students a high-quality education.”

She nailed it on this one. My hope is that people get the whole quote right and not just say that AFT thinks NCLB is a fundamentally flawed accountability system – or worse boil it down to AFT hates tests.

I think the unions have a messaging problem. They headlines say that they hate “teaching to the test” and many in the unions are anti-test. But when you really listen and read the quote above, they are really concerned with the tests and the standards we are using – which actually is a viable concern.

The test is supposed to be aligned to the standards. And (this is the real key here) the standards are supposed embody everything someone should learn during that particular year in school. So if the standards are correct and the test is aligned to the standards then, by default, teaching to the test is actually teaching what someone should learn during that year.

What Randi clearly communicates is that our standards aren’t all that great and the tests aren’t all that well aligned. So teaching to the test is not the most productive use of teaching time. Fixing that is critical – but time consuming and costly – if we are ever to truly improve education as a nation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Common goals in Wisconsin

When a local paper writes that ABCTE can be “the best and most practical option to fill important math and science teaching positions” it is extremely gratifying (more press here). At the same time, the state teacher’s union, WEAC, is neutral on the bill. ABCTE has worked long and hard to get to this point and some of our previously vocal opponents have noticed.

Wisconsin demonstrates what can happen when parties with seemingly disparate interests actually listen to each other and find common interests. Rob Weil from AFT told me early on that he could work with us because we are a “learning organization”. After listening to ABCTE opponents, we have thoughtfully implemented new programs to assuage their fears against our program operating in their state. We have shown a willingness to customize the program to the unique needs of each state including the addition of over 180 hours of online content to enhance the teacher preparation experience, greater transparency and additional research.

The result in Wisconsin is that our bill has a Democrat sponsoring in the Assembly and the Senate. We have had productive discussions (and will be adding an amendment to the bill) on changes that the teacher’s union would like to see that strengthen the program. The press support has subsequently been excellent (and fair).

We have focused on creating one solution to a problem in education rather than making a political statement. In Wisconsin, AB 235 and SB 175 limit our program to 200 teachers per year in math and science. Wisconsin is short by approximately 200 teachers so it makes for a great pilot program. There is also a sunset clause in the bill to ensure that we report back on the progress of the program.

Not exactly disruptive innovation, but the bill does tackle a problem facing schools and helps build support for that solution. A strategy of cooperation certainly results in less pain then a strategy of frontal assault.