Virtual School Meanderings

May 24, 2019

Review Identifies Flaws In High-Profile “Gold Standard” Study Used To Market TFA

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Review Identifies Flaws in High-Profile “Gold Standard” Study Used to Market TFA

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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Review Identifies Flaws in High-Profile “Gold Standard” Study Used to Market TFA

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Andrew Brantlinger is a former public school math teacher who is now an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership. Earlier in his academic career, he worked with data concerning the New York City Teaching Fellows alternative certification program. So Brantlinger was intrigued when, six years ago, the federal Institute of Education (IES) Sciences published a report entitled, The effectiveness of secondary math teachers from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows programs, finding that Teach for America corps members significantly out-performed other teachers at their high-poverty schools. This IES-funded high-profile study, which was authored by researchers at Mathematica, a non-partisan, research organization, is prominently featured in TFA promotional material.

TFA selects high-achieving college graduates and places them in these high-poverty schools after several weeks of preparation. Although the TFA corps members start off uncertified, the placement is followed by ongoing, on-the-job support, and many do eventually gain standard certification.

Brantlinger was eventually able to obtain the data used in the IES/Mathematica study and, along with co-author and University of Maryland doctoral candidate Matthew Griffin, he was able to perform a secondary analysis of the study data.

In a Review Worth Sharing published today by the National Education Policy Center, Brantlinger and Griffin explain that the original analysis was flawed in three primary ways:

  • First-year Teach for America teachers were under-represented in the study (while second-year corps members were over-represented). This matters because teachers typically make considerable professional growth in their initial years on the job.
  • Poorly qualified teachers were over-represented in the comparison group. For example, nationwide, 80 percent of 8thgrade math teachers at high-poverty schools are fully certified. Yet just 40 percent of the comparison group were fully certified, while 58 percent of the TFA teachers in the study were fully certified. Keep in mind that alternative-certification programs, by definition, generally place teachers in schools before they are certified—making the situation studied here difficult to generalize. This may limit the study’s applicability to other schools and also bias the results in TFA’s favor.
  • TFA teachers were likely trained to teach to the exams used as study outcomes, since such an approach is part of the program. The study did not account for this likely alignment between the outcome measure and the TFA focus.

Despite assertions to the contrary on TFA’s website and promotional materials and by the authors of the Mathematica report, the effect size identified by the study was small—certainly small enough to be explained by these three flaws in data and methods.

The Mathematica study was designed as an experiment, with students randomly assigned to matched pairs of TFA and comparison teachers. Randomization studies are sometimes described as the “gold standard” for research because they reduce the odds that treatment and control groups are not comparable. However, as Brantlinger and Griffin’s analysis highlights, the on-the-ground reality of experimental studies does not always translate into unbiased comparison groups in real-world schools. And in cases in which the participants may be anomalous (e.g., control group teachers who are less qualified than typical non-TFA teachers), the study results may not be generalizable to other TFA-employing schools.

Brantlinger said he conducted his analysis because, as a former Chicago Public Schools math teacher who has observed TFA math classrooms many times, he was concerned about the potential impact if the study did, indeed, turn out to have important flaws.

“I’m not against alternative certification,” he told us. He continued:

But it bothered me that TFA was parading this around. It bothered me because the organization gets so much federal and private money [and] in part because they say, ‘we’ve got proven evidence that our teachers are better.’ I think that the Mathematica study is not sufficient evidence.

He added, “I’ve been in a lot of these classrooms. Some TFA corps members are well meaning. Some become good math teachers. But a lot of them are really under-prepared, especially in mathematics.”

NEPC occasionally publishes reviews it has not commissioned because we believe they contribute to our goal of helping policymakers, reporters, and others assess the social science merit of reports and judge their value in guiding policy. These reviews have not gone through NEPC’s editorial process. The views, analyses, and conclusions expressed in them belong entirely to the authors. As is the case with NEPC Reviews, NEPC encourages the authors of the reviewed reports to engage with these additional reviews, consistent with our core belief that readers benefit from healthy, substantive exchanges of ideas and contentions.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 22, 2019

Seven New Schools Of Opportunity Recognized

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Seven New Schools of Opportunity Recognized

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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Seven New Schools of Opportunity Recognized

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It’s easy (and wise!) to dismiss ranking systems that use test scores to rate schools, but what’s the alternative? Can we instead learn from exemplary schools around the U.S. that have implemented research-based practices that close opportunity gaps? The mission of the National Education Policy Center’s Schools of Opportunity recognition program is to do just that, and the program just announced seven high schools to join the 45 past honorees.

In recognizing seven new “Schools of Opportunity,” NEPC is calling attention to the kinds of approaches that can and do increase learning opportunities. Below are brief descriptions of each honoree. More details are available at the project website, and future newsletters will provide expanded profiles of each of these remarkable schools.

  • Casco Bay High School in Portland, ME uses project-based learning, authentic assessments with real-world applications. Using the Expeditionary Learning model, students at Casco Bay join family style groups that allow them to explore their curriculum in an inquiry-focused school culture. At this school, the three Rs are rigor, relevance, and relationships.
  • Clark Street Community School in Middleton, WI offers thematic seminars developed around students’ interests, with multiple entry points and ways to demonstrate learning that ensures that all students fully participate, including a substantial number of students on Individual Education Plans.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Denver, CO connects students with an impressive array of post-secondary partnerships, while also creatively allocating resources in order to provide three full-time mental health professionals who work on site with counselors and therapists from Denver Health.
  • The Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, NM uses a holistic approach to education by integrating content that includes indigenous studies, storytelling, oral traditions, cultural history, Native languages, community presentations, service learning, and Native literature.
  • Pocomoke High School in Pocomoke, MD builds an extraordinary support network around each student, cultivating one-on-one relationships with students plus a team approach that brings families, home workers from social services, local agencies, and college representatives to the school.
  • The Salt Lake Center for Science Education in Salt Lake City, UT focuses on project-based learning grounded in real-world issues such as water treatment and wildlife, as well as rich arts electives and outdoor education.
  • Social Justice Humanitas in Los Angeles, CA is a school where social justice is the curriculum and the culture, infusing every part of the school. The school is designed around small learning communities that address broad, interdisciplinary themes and enfold the students’ learning within culturally sustaining learning opportunities.

A high school is great when it does all the right things. But if test scores are used to identify the nation’s schools, the results are predictable: Schools that serve affluent communities and/or use selective enrollment practices inevitably end up on top. In the meantime, important factors such as student well-being tend to get lost in the shuffle. Further, seldom is there is a serious attempt to account for the fact that societal ills like poverty and racism lead to unequal opportunities to learn inside and outside of our schools, leading to the achievement gaps that our policymakers continually lament.

For these reasons, the NEPC started the Schools of Opportunityrecognition program to honor public high schools in the United States. Test scores are not part of the rigorous application process, which includes in-depth narratives, supporting documentation of practices, and site visits. The designation’s criteria draw upon the principles of Closing the Opportunity Gap, a 2013 book jointly edited by Prudence Carter, who is the dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, along with NEPC’s director Kevin Welner. The book describes research-based policies and practices with the potential to increase students’ opportunities to learn and thrive in school.

Unless or until we seriously address the larger inequalities, we will have devastating achievement gaps. But these Schools of Opportunity are proof that educators’ hands aren’t tied. Schools can be islands of justice, safety, and rich learning—even if they can do little about the surrounding oceans of poverty and racism.

Do you know a school that deserves the School of Opportunity designation? Anyone can nominate a candidate. The 2019-2020 nomination form is quick, easy, and available HERE online.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 17, 2019

Backpedaling On Brown: The Re-Segregation Of Our Nation’s Schools

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Backpedaling on Brown: The Re-Segregation of Our Nation’s Schools

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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Backpedaling on Brown: The Re-Segregation of Our Nation’s Schools

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Tomorrow marks the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that our children’s books celebrate for ending segregation in our nation’s schools. But that version of history is sanitized. The anniversary is bittersweet. Brown itself faced immediate pushback that has never relented during those 65 years and has limited the case’s ability to compel integration.

For a while, beginning with the passage of the l964 Civil Rights Act and continuing with a series of Supreme Court decisions in the l960s and early 70s, there was reason for hope. And there was real process. Yet today even that progress has stalled, according to Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Browna report released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State University.

Desegregation for Black students peaked in 1988, according to the authors of the report, who include NEPC Fellows Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield. Since that time, segregation for Black students in the South has increased by 12 percentage points, while also rising in every region of the United States. Nationwide, the share of intensely segregated minority schools that are 90 to 100 percent non-White has more than tripled, to 16 percent. That’s despite the fact that Blacks comprise roughly the same percentage of the public student population today as they did in the 1950s.

By contrast, the percentage of Whites has been declining since that time, with Whites now comprising less than half (48 percent) of public school enrollment. In the meantime, the percentage of Hispanic students has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 26 percent since 1970. One might think that this would reduce racial isolation among Whites, since there are now more students of color who might help integrate schools. Yet Whites are the nation’s most segregated racial group. White public school students attend, on average, a school in which nearly 70 percent of their classmates are also White. Hispanic students are also highly segregated, attending schools in which 55 percent of their classmates are also Hispanic.

As our nation reaches new heights of racial diversity, why have our schools become increasingly segregated? The UCLA report explains that, starting in the 1990s, a series of Supreme Court decisions ended hundreds of desegregation orders. In addition, aside from the small Magnet School Assistance Program, the federal government today has no programs to support voluntary integration.

Our nation’s growing school segregation has many long-term consequences. Over half a century of research has demonstrated that, for students of color, segregation is associated with lower rates of achievement, college success, long-term employment and income—with no corresponding benefits for White students (as if any such benefits would provide a justification). Further, segregated schools leave students of all races and ethnicities unprepared to raise their families, work and participate in the civic life of in an increasingly diverse society.

The UCLA report concludes with recommendations to reverse the erosion of the legacy of Brown. These suggestions include opposing the breakup of school districts in racially identifiable enclaves, enforcing and implementing fair housing policies, incorporating equity-related goals into school choice plans, and recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching staff in universities and K-12 schools.

“As we mark its 65th anniversary, the promise of Brown appears a distant vision in our dangerously polarized society,” Orfield said upon release of the report.

Segregation is expanding in almost all regions of the country. Little has been done for a generation. There has been no meaningful federal government effort devoted to foster the voluntary integration of the schools, and it has been decades since federal agencies funded research about effective strategies for school integration. We have to do more.

Find Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown, authored by Erica Frankenberg, Jongyeon Ee, Jennifer B. Ayscue, & Gary Orfield, at https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/harming-our-common-future-americas-segregated-schools-65-years-after-brown/Brown-65-050919v4-final.pdf

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 15, 2019

NEPC’s May Education Interview Of The Month Features A Discussion On Personalized Learning And The Digital Privatization Of Curriculum And Teaching

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Publication Announcement

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Faith Boninger:

(480) 390-6736

fboninger@gmail.com

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BOULDER, CO (May 14, 2019) – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education Gregory A. Smith speaks with Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar,of the University of Colorado Boulder, about personalized learning and digital privatization.

Boninger, Molnar, and Christopher Saldaña’s recent brief, Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching, explores the growing popularity of this technology-driven approach to teaching and learning. They point to the need for rigorous oversight of personalized learning programs.

Personalized learning programs relying on digital platforms collect student data and shift control away from local communities and teachers, putting curriculum and other educational decision-making into the hands of opaque algorithms created by unknown and unaccountable programmers. Boninger and Molnar explain that this shift also places student assessment “behind a veil that nobody can see or understand.”

To prevent personalized learning programs from harming students, Boninger and Molnar call for the external review and approval of curriculum materials by independent third-party education experts. States, they say, must establish an impartial government entity to review digital products intended for use in personalized learning programs. This entity would establish processes of review and approval, by third-party education experts, of all aspects of the programs used in schools.

The language used to promote personalized learning conjures up a misleading image that would have teachers believe that new digital technologies have transformed learning, but Boninger and Molnar point out that this is untrue.

The rationale for data being collected is to provide teachers with all the information necessary to help students follow “personalized learning paths.” Examination of products’ privacy policies, however, reveals little explanation of which data are collected, or with whom those data are shared. Boninger and Molnar recommend that states require all companies that produce products for personalized learning to be held to a detailed, transparent, and easy-to-read privacy policy.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

This concludes our NEPC Education Interview of the Month series for the academic year. Please tune in next September for more smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

May 13, 2019

Three NEPC Fellows Elected To The National Academy Of Education

See this announcement from the National Education Policy Center.

Three NEPC Fellows Elected to the National Academy of Education

Tuesday, May 9, 2019

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Three NEPC Fellows Elected to the National Academy of Education

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Our apologies to Dr. Artiles, whose name was mistakenly autocorrected in the original version of this email.

Three National Education Policy Center Fellows are among the newest members of the National Academy of Education.

Alfredo Artiles, Bill Penuel, and Diane Schanzenbach were elected this year to the 54-year-old honorific society, which supports the use of high-quality education research in policy and practice. A total of 16 scholars were elected in 2019. The Academy’s 226 active members serve on expert panels for NAEd’s studies and contribute to the organization’s professional development programs for early-career education scholars.

Artiles is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and the Ryan C. Harris Professor of Special Education at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He focuses on educational inequities related to disabilities and sociocultural differences.

Penuel is a Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is known for his work on research-practice partnerships, and he studies teacher learning and organizational processes that shape the implementation of educational policies, school curricula, and afterschool programs.

Schanzenbach is a Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, Director of the Institute for Policy Research, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is also a research consultant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Her areas of expertise include policies aimed at improving the education, health, and income supports for children living in poverty.

The election of Penuel, Artiles, and Schanzenbach brings to 21 the total number of NEPC Fellows who are NAEd members. The others are:

W. Steven Barnett, Professor of Education Economics and Public Policy and Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University

David Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University.

Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy (Lumbee), Borderlands Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.

Martin Carnoy, Professor of Education and Economics at Stanford University, where he chairs the International and Comparative Education program in the School of Education.

Prudence Carter, Dean of the Graduate School of Education at University of California, Berkeley.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools and Director of the Doctoral Program in Curriculum and Instruction at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College.

Margaret Eisenhart, Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Patricia Gándara, Research Professor and Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Gene Glass, Senior Researcher at the National Education Policy Center and a Regents’ Professor Emeritus from Arizona State University.

Kris Gutiérrez, Professor of Language, Literacy and Culture at the University of California, Berkeley.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, President of the NAEd. She is Professor Emerita and the former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Elizabeth Moje, George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan.

Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor Emeritus in Educational Equity at UCLA, where she founded UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access; the University of California’s All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity; and Center X, UCLA’s urban teacher preparation program.

Gary Orfield, Distinguished Research Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Lorrie Shepard, Distinguished Professor and Dean Emerita in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder.

William Tate IV, Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Ken Zeichner, Boeing Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington-Seattle and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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