Archive for the 'Policy' Category

Slavin on Shanker, professionalism, and evidence

Over on the Huffington Post blog, in a fine remembrance of the founder of the American Federation of Teachers, Bob Slavin reminded readers that Al Shanker championed both professionalism and evidence.

Back in the day, I knew Al Shanker, the founder of the American Federation of Teachers. No one has ever been more of an advocate for teachers’ rights – or for their professionalism. At the same time, no one was more of an advocate for evidence as a basis for teaching. He saw no conflict between evidence-based teaching and professionalism. In fact, he saw them as complementary.

Professor Slavin continues his remembrance with sage argument about the importance of teachers embracing evidence-based practices. Ultimately he cited the value of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence standards.

I applaud Professor Slavin’s argument and amplify it with an additional call for educators not only to embrace evidence-based practices, but to do even more. As professionals, we educators have a duty to

  • Identify evidence-based practices that have the strongest effects. Some evidence-based practices are more effective than others (in fact, Professor Slavin has been among the leaders in helping refine research methods to compare instructional practices). Professionals need to know how to find those practices.
  • Implement evidence-based practices with fidelity (see Cook & Odom, 2013). Having a great recipe for a soufflé is no guarantee that one will serve a gourmet dish; one has to use the right ingredients and execute the steps in preparing it, as well. That’s a big part of professionalism.
  • Monitor the effects of programs on individual students and groups of students so that, when needed, adjustments can be made. It is inevitable that evidence-based practices will move too slowly or rapidly for some learners. Professionals need to adjust instruction for them. These adjustments should, of course, employ evidence-based practices. See this post for an illustration.

There may be other important relationships between professionalism in education and evidence-based practices. Readers are welcome to suggest them in comments.

Cook, B. G., & Odom, S. L. (2013). Evidence-based practices and implementation science in special education. Exceptional Children, 79, 135-144. doi: 10.1177/001440291307900201

Barbash: Fix affirmative action by fixing k-12 instruction

In a clearly reasoned, researched, and written analysis, Shepard Barbash argued that the solution to racial disparity in higher education outcomes is not likely to come from affirmative action. Instead, he wrote, it will come from improving instruction in K-12 schooling. Yes, indeed! We need to teach effectively. His essay is worth the read.

Sample the “issues” book

As some loyal readers of TE know, in 2015 Routledge released a book I co-edited with Barbara Bateman and Melody Tankersley. It’s a text aimed at graduate education classes and is entitled, “Enduring Issues in Special Education: Personal Perspectives.”

While I was searching for something else, I found a link (posted by one of the publisher’s associates) to a free sample of the front matter (e.g., table of contents; foreword), the first couple of chapters, and part of the third chapter. If they’re providing a copy for the general public, I want to make sure folks know where to find it. Here is the reference, with the title linked to the downloadable PDF:

Bateman, B., Lloyd, J. W., & Tankersley, M. (Eds.). (2015). Enduring issues in special education: Personal perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Accommodations that don’t?

Many of us have probably heard anecdotes about accommodations that failed or even backfired. A summary of a state NEA survey of Washington state teachers indicated those teachers’ concern about students losing mandated IEP services because of administration of a Smarter Balanced Assessment, that state’s version of the Common Core.

A pair of two articles in the LA Times covers this topic, too. The lead one, “How new tools meant to help special education students take standardized tests actually made it harder” discussed one teacher’s experiences and some larger issues with references to Washington and Oregon. The second one summarized anecdotes from teachers about problems they encountered in administering California’s Common Core: “These are the problems some California teachers had when they tested students with disabilities.”

I encourage readers to be cautious about presuming that these stories and others like them indict the Common Core State Standards. There are many other players in the mix in these stories, too. Note how poorly designed or executed Universal Design for Learning might be at play in the representations of assessment materials, how the technologies themselves may be contributing to the difficulties, and of course, how these reports are only anecdotal. We have no idea how many other stories there are and how representative these may be of all the stories that could be told.

That does not mean educators should not try to address them, to fix them. Indeed, it’s important to examine problems carefully. Perhaps the National Center on Educational Outcomes, a respected US research and development group that provides technical assistance about the participation of students with disabilities and English language learners (and a collaborator with the Smarter Balanaced Assessment folks), is studying these issues.

One interesting way to study the problems might be to collect the anecdotes about problems in a systematic way…sort of crowd-source them into a data base: State test; student disability category; student age; testing area; accommodation…etc., problem encountered.

If there were a few 1000 examples, maybe some consistent patterns would be clear.

ECF: Misdirected Teacher Training has Crippled Education Reform

In the summary for a recently released policy analysis, John Stone of the Education Consumers Foundation argued that developmentally appropriate practice (DAP), the widely promoted approach to early childhood education, has effectively prevented struggling students from achieving what educational policy makers have sought since 1983: The chance to close the gap. In the statement, Misdirected Teacher Training, Mr. Stone details the ways that DAP has hindered young children’s progress.
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Who’s keeping the longitudinal data on schools’ outcomes?

I’m sorry to admit that a post on TE from just about 10 years ago has almost exclusively dead links. Now, link rot (as it’s called) is common on the Internet, but one still feels some responsibility for it.

Tonight I wanted to find data about how individual schools were doing historically and compare those data to how the schools are doing today. I remembered—good that I can still remember this—that I’d posted a note about sources for examining scores some time ago (actually 2005). So, I go and check it…all those organizations that were then so hot on the trail of tracking schools’ outcomes have fallen by the wayside. Bummer.

The good news is that Pal of TE Dave Malouf added a comment pointing us to the National Longitudinal School-Level State Assessment Score Database (NLSLSASD) and that source appears to be functional (at least for some years). Time to go mining!

Do you know of other sources? Please log them in the comments.

A few questions for Joel Klein

According to widespread reports, in your just-published book about your time as chancellor of the New York City Schools, Mr. Klein, you wrote that firing a teacher “took an average of almost two and a half years and cost the city over $300,000.”

I’d ask you to consider a little context, please…. The reasons we have teacher unions and tightly worded contracts in the first place is because teachers historically were mistreated and they lost confidence in their employers. And what of the “incompetent” administrators—you fail to mention them. It takes two to tango. One more thing—you hired these people. Instead of deflecting blame to Ed Schools (I’ll get to them in a second), why don’t school districts and boards take responsibility for those they hire? The union did not make you hire them. The union did not make you neglect proper induction, good supervision, mentoring, effective programs of professional development. And the union did not create the pool of low SAT/GRE applicants. You and your board did that by not paying a professional salary or offering professional working conditions for professional work. What’s that? Better compensation requires higher taxes? Well then, what exactly have you and the board done to educate the voters on this issue instead of playing the politics of union confrontation. And by the way, maybe the value-adding abilities you tell voters you want can not be had at the price voters are willing to pay. Have you told them that?

As for Ed Schools—hang on a moment—let’s talk about state licensing boards and commissions. Your state, with support of your legislature, issued licenses to these teachers. Have they met labor market demands at the expense of quality? Who told them to do that? Not the unions. With legislative consent, are they setting the licensing bar low because the salaries we pay will not draw better candidates into the field? Have you lobbied your legislature on this issue or are you just writing books about the problem and running for-profit companies to sell products to the same schools you once administered? By the way, do you really feel the problem is we have too few commercial products or that commercial products have a hope of solving the systemic problems you describe.

UOh, and Ed Schools…. Why do you persist in thinking that you are small colleges of letters and sciences? Why have experimental stations filled with scientists to solve agricultural problems produced increasing yields (anyone use a split plot ANOVA recently?). Does growing crops require science but growing children require philosophy? And about those SAT/GRE scores, Mr. Klein, have you considered that training standards are set by accreditation bodies that respond to market demand which are created by salaries that you, your board, and your voters are willing to pay.

Thank you, Mr. Klein, for listing these problems, although some serious solutions for the system in which teachers do their work would have been more edifying.

Mike Gerber

Michael M. Gerber, Ph.D.
Professor, Gewirtz School of Education
University of California, Santa Barbara

CEC standards for evidence-based practice

The Council for Exceptional Children released a document providing guidance for identifying evidence-based practices in special education on 23 January 2014. Developed by a work group composed of leaders from the Division for Research—Bryan Cook (chair), Viriginia Buysse, Janette Klingner, Tim Landrum, Robin McWilliam, Melody Tankersley, and Dave Test—and aimed at serving groups or individuals who understand educational research design and methods, the standards provide a means for categorizing practices as (a) evidence-based, (b) potentially evidence-based, (c) mixed evidence, (d) insufficient evidence, or (e) negative evidence. To make these determinations, groups or individuals will need to apply quality indicators, which the document also identifies to studies, to ascertain the extent to which individual studies are methodologically sound.
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