Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Resistance Strikes Back: Major Hits Undermine Ed Deform Platform

...there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade. 
So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.  
- Paul Krugman, NY Times, March 8, 2011

Despite their billionaire supporters and massive control of the media, the ed deformers are starting to take a number of hits. Last week with Ravitch on Jon Stewart and Cavanagh debating ME$ME on NY1 and principals standing up to Tweed and Matt Damon speaking out against high-stakes testing was a good week. Leonie Haimson catalogued some of the victories at the NYC Parent blog: This week, the real reformers finally broke through!

This week is also starting out well. First, let's review some of the major planks of ed deform, all of which will be debunked in this post (and I won't even touch on the testing/charter/choice crap- for now).
  • Going to college is necessary to get a good job (the centerpiece of ed deform)
  • Merit pay will improve results
  • Experience and class size don't matter  
  • All we need is harder working teachers to overcome poverty and turn failing schools into wildly successful ones 
  • Teacher effectiveness can be determined by value-added formulas
Where shall we start? At the beginning

Going to college is necessary to get a good job

Whenever I hear people yapping about how we have to remain competetive in the tech age - yada, yada, yada - my response is "Tell 'em to become a plumber - if you try to outsource plumbing it takes days for the guy to get to your house from India." John Lawhead 8 years ago was pointing out that less than 30% of the new jobs expected to be created would require a college degree - the bulk of jobs would be McDonald's and Walmart.

Paul Krugman is finally delving into the ed deform bullshit. His Monday's (March 8) NY Times piece Degrees and Dollars: The hollow promise of good jobs for highly educated workers, Krugman corroborates my "be a plumber" line and lays waste to the central tenet being pushed by Obama and translated into charter schools calling their kids "scholars" and having teachers post the name of the college they graduated from (don't look for CUNY colleges) on their classroom doors. Here are a few excerpts in addition to the quotes above- but read it all.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. That’s why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that “If we want more good news on the jobs front then we’ve got to make more investments in education.” But what everyone knows is wrong. ....that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.
The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.
Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands.... Most of the manual labor still being done in our economy seems to be of the kind that’s hard to automate.
...there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade. 

Merit pay will improve results

Roland Fryer at http://www.nber.org/papers/w16850.    If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. Third paper showing no gains in NYC; at least fifth or sixth study overall. And yet the US Govt. under Duncan seems intent on throwing away millions in our tax payer funds on this nonsense.  

Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement.
I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.

Experience doesn't matter
Even as New York Mayor Michael BloombergMichelle Rhee and others around the nation are arguing for experienced teachers to be laid off regardless of seniority, every single study shows teaching experience matters.
In fact, the only two observable factors that have been found consistently to lead to higher student achievement are class size and teacher experience, so that it’s ironic that these same individuals are trying to undermine both.
Generally speaking the corporate reformers argue that only the first few years of experience matter, though you can see from these charts from a study by Thomas J. Kane, now at the Gates foundation, Jonah E. Rockoff and Douglas O. Staiger  that at year five, effectiveness is still going up for all categories other than uncertified teachers.
MORE at How Teaching Experience Makes a Difference


Class size doesn't matter 

NY Times: Class Size Rising 

Leonie Haimson debating class size on MSNBC

All we need is harder working teachers to overcome poverty and turn failing schools into wildly successful ones 
One of the highlights of the TFA 20th anniversary summit was certainly when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a rousing speech at the closing ceremony. The most impressive part of his speech was when he described the transformation of Englewood High School in Chicago while he was heading that school district. He said that they shut it down because 60% of the students were not graduating. They replaced it with three charter schools. One of those charters, the all boys Urban Prep, just graduated their first class and 107 out of 107 graduated and got accepted to college. He says then “Same children, same community, same poverty, same violence, same building, different adults, different expectations, different sense of what’s possible and that made all the difference”
it was not the ‘same children’ attending Urban Prep as would have attended Englewood High School.  They had the typical lottery which excludes certain families.  It also had a mandatory three week program for students who got accepted, which eliminated even more students.  And then, they did the typical ‘weeding out’ of kids who weren’t performing.

Teacher effectiveness can be determined by value-added formulas

Michael Winerip has a powerful story about Ms. Isaacson, who looks to be a good teacher by all counts but will probably be denied tenure. Ms. Eyre writes about it at NYC Educator: A Note to Ms. Isaacson
Here are some excerpts from Winerip, who has always been a champion of true reform - if he keeps this up look for him to once again be move from the ed beat to something like covering real estate.

Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie- NYTimes
You would think the Department of Education would want to replicate Ms. Isaacson — who has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia — and sprinkle Ms. Isaacsons all over town. Instead, the department’s accountability experts have developed a complex formula to calculate how much academic progress a teacher’s students make in a year — the teacher’s value-added score — and that formula indicates that Ms. Isaacson is one of the city’s worst teachers.
According to the formula, Ms. Isaacson ranks in the 7th percentile among her teaching peers — meaning 93 per cent are better.
This may seem disconnected from reality, but it has real ramifications. Because of her 7th percentile, Ms. Isaacson was told in February that it was virtually certain that she would not be getting tenure this year. “My principal said that given the opportunity, she would advocate for me,” Ms. Isaacson said. “But she said don’t get your hopes up, with a 7th percentile, there wasn’t much she could do.”
That’s not the only problem Ms. Isaacson’s 7th percentile has caused. If the mayor and governor have their way, and layoffs are no longer based on seniority but instead are based on the city’s formulas that scientifically identify good teachers, Ms. Isaacson is pretty sure she’d be cooked.
She may leave anyway. She is 33 and had a successful career in advertising and finance before taking the teaching job, at half the pay.
“I love teaching,” she said. “I love my principal, I feel so lucky to work for her. But the people at the Department of Education — you feel demoralized.”
How could this happen to Ms. Isaacson? It took a lot of hard work by the accountability experts.
Now look at this idiot response from the DOE
In an e-mail, Matthew Mittenthal, a department spokesman said: “We are saying that a teacher’s tenure decision should simply be delayed (not denied) until that teacher has demonstrated effective practice for consecutive years in all three categories. The alternative is what we’ve had in the past — 90-plus percent of teachers who are up for tenure receive it. Do you think journalists deserve lifetime jobs after their third year in the business?”
Hey Matt, guess what?  Stacey Isaacson is OUTAHERE! and much better off for it. The second the economy improves she will be joined by a mass exodus. See: REPORT CARD: “Who Wants to be a Teacher Now?” from the Brooklyn Rail. Also see Stephen Lazar at Gotham: Turnover ideas from a teacher whose colleagues keep leaving.


There's even a piece from the venerable Sol Stern: Bloomy's bubble bursts:
Nothing illuminates the vacancy of Bloomberg’s mayoralty more than the false narrative that depicted him as America’s “education mayor.”

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

1 comment:

  1. As for the full court press insisting that everyone go to college: student loan debt, which is securitized by Wall Street just as mortgages are, now exceeds credit card debt in the US. In other words, there are immense financial interests involved in maintaining and expanding a college debt pipeline.

    Add in the fact that an ever-growing amount of post-secondary education is provided by for-profit diploma mills (some of which, for example, are controlled by the Washington Post Corporation and private equity players such as Jeffrey Leeds of Green Dot, NY), and you have a situation where millions of young people are being funneled into beginning adulthood in debt for diplomas of continually decreasing value.

    And the way things are going, they certainly won't be able to "fall back" on teaching as a secure livelihood.


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