Creating Superior Teachers
The skills of 3.1 million teachers in elementary and secondary school classrooms across the nation can make or break school reform, according to a recent report from The Brookings Institution.
"Without the right people standing in front of the classroom, school reform is a futile exercise," according to The Hamilton Project, Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance On the Job.
The project, named after the nation's first treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, seeks to advance America's promise of prosperity.
The 30-page paper released in April claims in part that the difference between stronger and weaker teachers is clear once they have been in the classroom for two years, the report notes.
The paper aims to improve average teacher effectiveness by increasing the inflow of new teachers and requiring minimum competency on the job, rather than relying solely on completed certification programs upon hire. It aims to shift high-performing teachers to more challenging schools and make it easier for professionals in other careers to become teachers, which is important as many teachers are nearing retirement, the report notes.
"We're excited by the recommendations," says Rene Islas, chief of staff in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. "It's very consistent with the policy that the Department of Education is pursuing and initiated in October of 2005."
Reduce the barriers to teaching for those without traditional teacher certification. For example, Islas says, the Adjunct Teacher Corps allows professionals in other fields, such as at IBM or Intel, to start teaching, bringing great knowledge to the classroom.
Make it harder to promote the least effective teachers to tenured positions.
Give bonuses to highly effective teachers willing to teach in high-poverty schools.
Evaluate teachers using various measures of teacher performance on the job, such as parent and principal evaluations and classroom observation.
Provide federal grants to help states link student performance with individual teacher effectiveness over time. Only a few states can measure this currently.
Making the Grade in New York
Like the students they educate, New York City public schools are expected to earn good grades on their report cards. If they don't, they will face "serious consequences," including possible principal changes, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. But the union representing the principals says that will happen only if they agree.
As part of a comprehensive accountability initiative, Klein says each of the city's 1,408 schools will receive a "Progress Report" with a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F beginning in 2007-08 school year.
"We hold our children accountable every day. Starting now, we are holding our schools and ourselves more accountable as well," Klein said in April.
Schools will be graded on average academic growth of individual students from year to year, average student achievement on annual state exams, attendance rates, safety data, and results of parent, teacher and student surveys..
The Progress Reports will be piloted during the 2006-07 school year in 200 schools that will receive letter grades starting next spring.
Schools also will receive a "Quality Score" based on how effectively they monitor student progress, set teaching and learning goals, and create environments conducive to teaching and learning, as well as principals' leadership skills and parent involvement. A pilot quality review program began this spring.
Klein says consequences for schools with chronically low grades and quality scores will include targeted improvement efforts, changes in principals, and restructuring or closure. High-scoring schools will get additional funding.
Any plan to remove or replace principals might require negotiation, says Jill Levy, president of the principals' union-the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators. "Working it out requires Joel to put his plan on the table so we can see whether or not it fits with our contractual agreement and with state law," Levy says. -Alan Dessoff
New High School Touts Math/Science/Tech
Not long after President Bush pushed for more math, science and technology in school, a new public high school emphasizing those very subjects will open this fall in Ohio.
Batelle, which develops technology and manages labs for customers, The Ohio State University and the Educational Council recently unveiled Metro High School that will open with about 100 ninth graders this fall, in the research park next to Ohio State's campus.
Metro is a small, public high school for grades 9-12 that will prepare students for college success. The unique school will have juniors and seniors participate in hands-on, self-directed learning outside the classroom with teachers and mentors from the community. The learning will include independent research projects; group projects with other students; and community internships at learning centers around the community such as museums, college campuses and art centers.
What If Schools Were Customized?
The Emerging Technology Committee of the Consortium for School Networking shows in its Digital Learning Spaces 2010 report how school in four years may be customized, something a few cutting edge schools are already pursuing.
"We wanted to do something that would give chief technology officers a vision of where technology could be in five years," says Ray Rose, the report's project leader. "Education is slow to change. It wasn't going to be anything radical. But in our ideal world, if schools are using technology the way we'd like to see them, where would they be in five years?"
The next question is: "What is the technology infrastructure that CTOs need to think about to enable the vision to happen in five years," Rose asks.
Preparing for this environment will warrant professional development for administrators and teachers; collaborative relationships with new partners, such as business and community organizations; and student empowerment. And to support the technologies for this, an Internet protocol, or IP, network that connects all the district's schools and allows infrastructure management across the district is fundamental.
Math and science learning-Outdoor learning and integrated learning could be the norm for high school.
Supporting such spaces for math and science requires a broadband Wide Area Network that can handle data, voice and video traffic; Local Area Networks with wired and wireless connectivity at every site; portable math and science probes; Webcams and GIS technology.
Learning in cyberspace-School could be supported by virtual learning games and virtual tutors.
Cyberschool also requires WAN; LANs; and a capacity for peer-to-peer networking; personal access devices; software for personal learning plans and the Virtual Guidance Counselor System.
The elementary school classroom-Online learning would be typical.
Fifth Grade 2010 would require a license to a distance learning service; a school messaging system; and an interactive whiteboard.
Boys Get Worse Grades
American boys are getting worse grades than girls in part because they have a different neurology and hard wiring than girls, two educational researchers note.
They base their results on homework, which some have criticized as something that should not be a big focus of school achievement.
The grading of homework is gender biased and does not represent what students have learned, says Julie Coates and William Draves of the Learning Resources Network. Coates and Draves say the difference in neurology and hard wiring in boys explains why many boys turn in homework late or incomplete.
Other research has shown that males have shorter attention spans, are more adept at learning spatially, need more physical movement and require more emotional reassurance than girls.
For many smart boys, once they have demonstrated they know the material, they turn their attention to new material, the educators say.
But girls struggle as well, especially when it comes to math or science.
According to a study released by the University of Michigan, data showed that girls in advanced mathematics classes said they thought they were worse at math than boys who were in basic math classes.
Michigan Gets Tough
Michigan's students-starting with the high school graduating class of 2011-will get the toughest test outside of school.
New legislation recently meant Michigan's high school graduation standards will be among the nation's most rigorous. The state calls for students to pass four credits of math and English, three credits of science and social studies, two credits of foreign language and a credit each of physical education and art, according to The Detroit News.
Maine seventh and eight graders and their teachers will use Apple iBook computers again for the next four years after the company recently submitted the winning bid.
The bid is worth $289 per unit, compared to $300 per unit in the original bid four years ago, according to Jeff Mao, educational technology coordinator for the Maine Department of Education.