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New York

Kopp vows that TFA's "unstoppable force" will steer next mayor

New York

Comments of the week: On technology, retention, and dentistry

GothamSchools commenters didn't take much of a vacation this year. This week, they were already back in action, releasing some steam and sparking a few debates worth highlighting in our regular weekly roundup. (As a reminder, each Friday we highlight a sampling of our favorite comments from the week. Review our commenting policy to find out more about what we like.) Our story describing the report out this week from Governor Cuomo's education reform commission sparked a discussion of education technology. Digging into the report, readers picked up on one of the recommendations we'd given less attention — the suggestion to create "innovation zones" to spark novel uses of technology in the classroom. A technology teacher named Steve Kinney who said he works at a school involved in city's iLearn pilot applauded the recommendation. "I can only imagine," he wrote, that the "innovation zone" idea "is based on the similarly named program in New York City," which he applauded for improving on itself each year. The program has allowed us to offer courses to our juniors and seniors that we would not have been able to offer otherwise (most notably: AP courses). It allows us to be more flexible with our scheduling and use the time students spend with their teachers having rich discussions about the content they were introduced to outside of the classroom. Additionally, as part of the program, we now have access to a wide number of instructional media like NBC Learn and Discovery—not to mention the equipment we've received as part of the program, which has been a tremendous blessing. Basically, it's saved us money and allowed us to do a better job serving our students and I'd like to see something similar at the state level and based on what's happening in New York City. "I noticed that..." replied skeptically, pointing Steve to a dispatch by Diane Ravitch about the Rocketship program's blended-learning model, which Ravitch described as a way to cut costs by replacing teachers with computers. The commenter wrote:
New York

Why we won't publish individual teachers' value-added scores

Tomorrow's planned release of 12,000 New York City teacher ratings raises questions for the courts, parents, principals, bureaucrats, teachers — and one other party: news organizations. The journalists who requested the release of the data in the first place now must decide what to do with it all. At GothamSchools, we joined other reporters in requesting to see the Teacher Data Reports back in 2010. But you will not see the database here, tomorrow or ever, as long as it is attached to individual teachers' names. The fact is that we feel a strong responsibility to report on the quality of the work the 80,000 New York City public school teachers do every day. This is a core part of our job and our mission. But before we publish any piece of information, we always have to ask a question. Does the information we have do a fair job of describing the subject we want to write about? If it doesn't, is there any additional information — context, anecdotes, quantitative data — that we can provide to paint a fuller picture? In the case of the Teacher Data Reports, "value-added" assessments of teachers' effectiveness that were produced in 2009 and 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8, the answer to both those questions was no. We determined that the data were flawed, that the public might easily be misled by the ratings, and that no amount of context could justify attaching teachers’ names to the statistics. When the city released the reports, we decided, we would write about them, and maybe even release Excel files with names wiped out. But we would not enable our readers to generate lists of the city’s “best” and “worst” teachers or to search for individual teachers at all. It's true that the ratings the city is releasing might turn out to be powerful measures of a teacher's success at helping students learn. The problem lies in that word: might.
New York

Gates Foundation study paints bleak picture of teaching quality

The study measured teachers against the criteria in Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Effective Teaching rubric, which is used in New York as a tool for observing teachers. Teachers scored better at classroom management than they did on measures of higher-order instructional challenges, such as asking productive questions. A historic look inside the nation's classrooms, including some in New York City, painted a bleak picture, according to a report released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today. The second installment of the foundation's ambitious Measures of Effective Teaching study, the report focuses on the picture of teaching yielded by five different classroom observation tools. It also scrutinizes those tools themselves, concluding that they are valuable as a way to help teachers improve but only useful as evaluation tools when combined with measures of student learning known as value-added scores. The conclusion is a strong endorsement of the Obama administration's approach to improving teaching by implementing new evaluations of teachers that draw on both observations and value-added measures. New York State took this approach to overhauling its evaluation system when it applied for federal Race to the Top funding. Among the group of five observation tools the foundation studied is the rubric now being piloted in New York City classrooms as part of stalled efforts to implement the changes to teacher evaluation, Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Effective Teaching. Through all five lenses, instruction looked mediocre in an overwhelming majority of more than 1,000 classrooms studied, the report concludes. There were some bright spots. Many teachers were scored relatively well for the aspect of teaching known as "classroom management" — keeping students well-behaved, making sure they are engaged. But teachers often fell short when it came to other elements of teaching, such as facilitating discussions, speaking precisely about concepts, and carefully modeling skills that students need to master. These higher-order skill sets, the report notes, are crucial in order for students to meet the raised standards outlined in the Common Core.
New York

At Japan's Harvard, an attached high school with a special focus

Just before the new year, I spent 20 days visiting schools in Japan. The Abe Fellowship for journalists, supported by the Japan Foundation and administered by the Social Science Research Council, paid my way.  I visited under the influence of two powerful works: “Big Bird Goes to Japan” and “The Teaching Gap,” the 1999 book by James Hiebert and James Stigler. "The Teaching Gap" elevates a relatively obscure professional development practice native to Japan — “lesson study” — as a major solution to the American educational dilemma. I wanted to see if Stigler and Hiebert were right. The following is the first in a series of posts describing what I found. One slide in a presentation by the vice principal of the University of Tokyo's Attached Secondary School. TOKYO — Before I visited Japan, another journalist I know who had just traveled there urged me to be skeptical. The Japanese make a lot of promises, he said, but dig just a little bit, and you’ll find that most claims don’t hold up. I had this in mind on my first school visit, to the University of Tokyo’s attached secondary school. I had heard about attached schools, fuzokukou in Japanese. They were like the old “practice” or “laboratory” schools in the U.S., I was told, where those studying to become teachers learned from master teachers who used their classrooms, in turn, to hone ever-better teaching practice. (I described one such school in this article; search for “Cook County Normal School.”) Fuzok teachers were supposed to be true masters, so talented that some became famous, attracting hundreds of admiring teachers to the public lessons that are common in Japan. Maybe most intriguing, fuzokukou schools’ close ties to university teacher training programs suggested an interest in teaching that persisted even in the ivory tower.
New York

Court dismisses union's effort to force city to lower class sizes

The city teachers union will have to go to the State Education Department to protest rising class sizes in New York City, rather than skip straight to the courts, after an appeals court today dismissed a 2010 suit by the union. The suit aimed at forcing New York City to dedicate a certain pot of state funds toward making class sizes smaller. The union charged that the city misused the funds, sending them to offset budget cuts rather than using them as they were intended — as a means of reducing class sizes. The NAACP also signed onto the suit. But in a decision handed down today, an appeals court unanimously dismissed the union's suit, saying that the union must take its complaints to the State Education Department before going to court. (Read the full decision below.) The union president, Michael Mulgrew, vowed to continue protesting rising class sizes. "Lowering class size is a key issue for the parents and teachers of New York City and we intend to pursue it vigorously," Mulgrew said in a statement this afternoon. The appeals court did not address the heart of the disagreement: whether the city actually did, as the union charges, improperly fail to lower class sizes — and use Contracts for Excellence funds instead to stave off budget cuts. At issue is the state Contracts for Excellence funding stream, and in particular, a specific clause forcing New York City to write a plan to reduce class sizes. What's not disputed is that class sizes have creeped up for the last two years even as funds aimed at bringing them down have flooded into schools. Class sizes for the coming school year aren't yet available, but all signs point to likely increases, which principals are preparing for. It's not clear, however, that the Department of Education deliberately sought to prevent schools from lowering class sizes by sending funds elsewhere.
New York

When the story is education, Rupert Murdoch gets involved

Rupert Murdoch takes a strong interest in his newspapers' education coverage. (Photo by WorldEconomicForum on Flickr) How involved is Rupert Murdoch at the newspapers he owns? When the subject is education, Murdoch's views directly influence the coverage in the New York Post and, at the least, the sorts of meetings taken at the Wall Street Journal. Azi Paybarah at the Observer reports today that at the New York Post, education stories are ordered up according to Murdoch's visits: One former reporter said his own editor requested a week’s worth of stories about the New York City public schools because “Rupert was going to be in town.” It was coveted real estate in the paper, and the reporter reluctantly obliged. We have previously chronicled the Post's open campaigning on behalf of the Bloomberg administration's education policies and its effort to renew mayoral control. The coverage prompted Education Secretary Arne Duncan to praise the newspaper for its "leadership" in covering mayoral control. There are some exceptions — New York City education beat reporter Yoav Gonen is even-handed and columnist Michael Goodwin takes no prisoners. But on and off the editorial page, the newspaper often matches Murdoch's education views: aggressively dismissive of the teachers union and ridiculing of critics of the mayor. At the Wall Street Journal, the line between news and opinion and newspaper boss seems to be thicker. But it has some holes. Last week, the New York Times reported on a meeting arranged between Joel Klein, then still the schools chancellor, and reporters: When Mr. Klein visited The Journal last year to discuss education issues with news and opinion writers, Mr. Murdoch interrupted to lavish praise on the chancellor, much to the surprise of the writers. “Just listen to everything that Joel is saying,” Mr. Murdoch insisted, according to one person who attended the meeting.