Why Philadelphia Schools Can’t Win


Meredith Broussard in The Atlantic:

Last June, the state-run School Reform Commission—which replaced Philadelphia’s school board in 2001—passed a “doomsday budget” that fell $300 million short of the district’s operating costs for the 2014 fiscal year. (The governor of Pennsylvania had already cut almost a billion dollars from public education funding in 2011.) Philadelphia schools were allotted $0 per student for textbooks. The 2015 budget likewise features no funding for books.

It may be many years until Philadelphia’s education budget matches its curriculum requirements. In the meantime, there are a few things the district—and other flailing school districts in America—can do. Stop giving standardized tests that are inextricably tied to specific sets of books. At the very least, stop using test scores to evaluate teacher performance without providing the items each teacher needs to do his or her job. Most of all, avoid basing an entire education system on materials so costly that big, urban districts can’t afford to buy them. Until these things change, it will be impossible to raise standardized test scores—despite the best efforts of the teachers and students who will return to school this fall and find no new books waiting for them.

It’s enough to make you weep. Read the entire article here.

:) TXT = 2G2BT


Nenagh Kemp:

“Parents and educators need not panic that exposure to abbreviated and unconventional spelling and writing styles in digital communication will lead to the ruin of young people’s conventional literacy skills.”

“Rather than texting detracting from the literacy abilities of young people, it seems to represent the addition of an extra literacy skill — the ability to represent, in writing, what they would have said if they were speaking.”

… it seems that kids are capable of distinguishing between this sort of experimentation and the formal, proper language that’s expected on tests. But it also seems that the experimentation increases general fluency, improving kids’ reading and writing skills.

Read more about the study here.

Let’s hear it for slow and steady …

NJ policymakers are finally noticing that the runaway train of teacher evaluations needs some brakes applied. After several intensive sessions last week, an agreement was reached on key issues related to standardized testing and its use in evaluating teachers. A commission has been established to take a look at the entire standardized testing environment. At the same time, student growth objectives have been reduced (to 20%) of a teacher’s evaluation rating.

More on the story here.

Will other states take notice?



Jessica and Tim Lahey:

“Education has entered the era of Big Data. The Internet is teeming with stories touting the latest groundbreaking studies on the science of learning and pedagogy. Education journalists are in a race to report these findings as they search for the magic formula that will save America’s schools. But while most of this research is methodologically solid, not all of it is ready for immediate deployment in the classroom.”

Read the rest of the article in The Atlantic here, which includes guiding questions to make more informed decisions based on data.

This reminds me of the site Spurious Correlations which provides dramatic visual evidence of #4: Is it the chicken, or the egg, or a rooster?

The teaching gap


Linda Darling-Hammond writes:

“…American teachers today work harder under much more challenging conditions than teachers elsewhere in the industrialized world.They also receive less useful feedback, less helpful professional development, and have less time to collaborate to improve their work …

…one in four American children lives below the poverty line and a growing number are homeless, without regular access to food or health care, and stressed by violence and drug abuse around them …

…U.S. teachers … spend many more hours than teachers in any other country directly instructing children each week … And they work more hours in total each week than their global counterparts … with much less time in their schedules for planning, collaboration, and professional development.

the Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence Act would make headway on the school resource issues that are essential for progress:

Value teaching and teacher learning …

Redesign schools to create time for collaboration …

Create meaningful teacher evaluations that foster improvement.”

Read the whole article here.




Children approach solving the problem differently than adults.

Problem Solving

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found that 4- and 5-year-olds are smarter than college students when it comes to figuring out how toys and gadgets work …

Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children …  Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working. That’s inflexible, narrow thinking.

Or, is it possible, that schools encourage kids to “unlearn” their natural problem-solving abilities? After all, it doesn’t take much flexibility or expanded thinking to color in bubbles on a standardized test.

Read the article here. Access the study here.

End of the year reflection: what’s next for teacher evaluations?

Many teachers are participating in a higher-than-usual number of end-of-year in-service days, thanks to the need to make up a higher-than-usual number of snow days. Overheard at a recent workshop in which teachers were considering their first year with a new evaluation system:

“Whew, I’m sure glad that’s over! I guess we survived the year.”

“Yeah, it was pretty rough … I wonder if it will ramp up even more next year?”

“I don’t know, but I guess we should get ready. Maybe we should focus a little more on instruction …”

You think?

This is the stage many teachers and districts find themselves confronting — we’ve survived the first implementation year, we’re now getting pretty familiar with the evaluation model. Where do we go from here?

Focusing on instruction is exactly the right move, both from a practical and philosophical standpoint. For practical reasons, putting some energy into intentional design and improved instruction benefits teachers in terms of their evaluation ratings. More important is the impact it will have on students’ learning experiences.

A superb instructional model that pushes instruction to highly effective levels is the FIT Teaching™ model of gradual release of responsibility from Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. Through an intentional process of focused instruction, guided instruction, collaborative learning and independent learning, teachers hand ownership of  learning  over to their students. In most evaluation models, this personalized and student-centered style of instruction results in effective and highly effective ratings.

So when reflecting on the school year, take a deep breath and think about getting FIT.*



*full disclosure: I am a member of the FIT Teaching expert cadre for ASCD.

Recently found … 06/18/2014

  • tags: higher education educational reform

    • Under the new plan, employees who complete their freshman and sophomore years at ASU Online would receive a major discount, and the remaining two years would be totally free.
    • Sounds great, right? Not according to Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said she found it “incredibly problematic” that Starbucks has decided to limit its tuition assistance to a single online university.
    • “ASU Online is a profit venture,” said Goldrick-Rab. “And basically, these two businesses have gotten together and created a monopoly on college ventures for Starbucks employees.”
  • tags: Teacher evaluation

    • “Are the majority of the teachers satisfactory and acceptable? I think the answer yes,” said William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado Boulder, which has been critical of test-based teacher evaluation. “Where I think it’s a waste of money is they’re trying to get a degree of precision that they cannot get with the measures they’ve got.”


      Proponents of the new evaluations have told Hechinger reporters that they were never meant to identify large numbers of bad teachers. Rather, the evaluations were intended to give teachers feedback and help them improve at their jobs.


      Pittsburgh School Superintendent Linda Lane told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that one of the goals of the evaluations was to “grow the practice of staff.”


      “In order for kids to grow, we have to grow,” she said.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.