Virtual School Meanderings

June 19, 2018

Review: Hard Work And Soft Skills: The Attitudes, Abilities, And Character Of Students In Career And Technical Education

Another press release on this National Education Policy Center review.

June 14, 2018

Contacts:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
James Rosenbaum: (847) 491-3795, j-rosenbaum@northwestern.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Review: Hard Work and Soft Skills: The Attitudes, Abilities, and Character of Students in Career and Technical Education

EAST LANSING, Mich. (June 14, 2018) — Research has shown that, after controlling for the lower test scores on average of students who take Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses, high school CTE programs are associated with higher high school graduation rates, and overall educational attainment and earnings than students in academic programs whose previous test scores were similar. But the reasons for this relationship are not clear. A new report from the American Enterprise Institute hypothesizes that noncognitive skills, such as work habits and effort, affect this relationship, and the report provides a sound test of this hypothesis.

The report suggests that CTE may improve attainments by improving noncognitive skills. The key implication is that, instead of a narrow focus on academic skills, schools need to consider how to improve students’ other skills to improve attainment and job outcomes. While the reviewer agrees that this implication is reasonably drawn from the report, he cautions that educators need a clearer interpretation of these “noncognitive skills” and whether they are persistent attributes or highly changeable behaviors.

Professor James Rosenbaum of Northwestern University reviewed Work and Soft Skills: The Attitudes, Abilities, and Character of Students in Career and Technical Education, and found it to be a strong, careful, and thoughtful empirical analysis of a strong dataset.  The report is part of Think Twice Review, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Rosenbaum’s key finding is that the report presents a strong empirical analysis illuminating how students in CTE programs demonstrate better outcomes than students with similar test scores in traditional academic programs.

The review notes that the most remarkable feature of this report is the broad array of indicators it compiles, including how much effort students exhibit on a routine task (e.g., a long and boring survey in school), and teacher reports of student effort. Professor Rosenbaum concludes that, despite a few limitations, the report has constructed “innovative and impressive new indicators of noncognitive behaviors.”

More clarity is needed, however, in defining the differences between “noncognitive skills” and “noncognitive behaviors.” Is “effort,” for example, a function of human behavior, or is it a learned skill?

In conclusion, the reviewer holds that this report was successful in constructing “innovative and impressive new indicators of noncognitive behaviors,” which should inform policy decisions about how nonacademic skills can help overall student achievement.

Find the Think Twice Review on the web:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Hard Work and Soft Skills: The Attitudes, Abilities, and Character of Students in Career and Technical Education, written by Albert Cheng and Collin Hitt and published by American Enterprise Institute, at:
http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Hard-Work-and-Soft-Skills.pdf

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the review on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

June 14, 2018

Review: 2018 Teacher Prep Review, National Council On Teacher Quality

Another press release on that National Education Policy Center review.

June 12, 2018

Contacts:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Marilyn Cochran-Smith: (617) 552-4591, cochrans@bc.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Review: 2018 Teacher Prep Review, National Council on Teacher Quality

EAST LANSING, Mich. (June 12, 2018) — The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released its 2018 Teacher Prep Review. The report examines whether U.S. teacher preparation programs are aligned with NCTQ’s standards. This alignment, the report insists, will produce teachers “not only ready to achieve individual successes, but also [ready] to start a broader movement toward increased student learning and proficiency.”

Aimed at prospective “consumers” of teacher preparation programs, the report reviews 714 post-baccalaureate teacher preparation programs. These are labeled: “graduate” or “traditional” (n=567 programs); “alternative-route” or “internship” (n=129 programs); and, “residency” (n=18 programs).  The report rated teacher preparation programs using internally developed input-based standards that were applied to syllabi and course documents.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith of Boston College, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe of Lesley University, Wen-Chia Chang of Boston College, and Molly Cummings Carney of Boston College assessed the report for Think Twice Review, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Their key finding is that the NCTQ report does not distinguish differences between university programs and alternative routes by failing to account for broad shifts in the field of teacher education that are nuanced, hybridized, and dynamic.

In addition, the reviewers found the report to have multiple logical, conceptual, and methodological flaws.

  • The report ignores accumulating evidence that there is little relationship between the NCTQ’s ratings of a program and its graduates’ later classroom performance.
  • Its methodology, which employs a highly questionable documents-only evaluation system to judge and rate preparation programs, is a maze of inconsistencies, ambiguities, and contradictions.
  • The report perpetuates a simplistic dichotomy between university programs and alternative routes, ignoring that researchers have suggested for years there is as much or more variation within each of these categories as there is between them.

In their conclusion, the authors contend that the latest NCTQ report on teacher prep programs provides another example of misleading, confusing analysis which “Ultimately . . . offers little guidance for consumers, policymakers, or practitioners.”

Find the Think Twice Review on the web:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find the 2018 Teacher Prep Review, National Council on Teacher Quality here:
https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/2018_Teacher_Prep_Review_733174

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the review on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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June 7, 2018

Policy Brief: After Passage Of The Every Student Succeeds Act, States Have Taken Some Steps In The Right Direction

Another release about this National Education Policy Center report.

June 5, 2018

Contacts: 
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley: (602) 561-4731, audrey.beardsley@asu.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Policy Brief: After passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have taken some steps in the right direction

EAST LANSING, Mich. (June 5, 2018) — A policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) found minor but positive changes in state assessment and teacher evaluation practices after enactment of the ESSA on January 1, 2016. The new law reduced federal oversight and gave states more control over their state assessment and accountability systems. The authors analyzed plans for 50 states and the District of Columbia, and report findings from a survey of department of education personnel.

The NEPC’s release is a “state of the states” analysis of changes to student and teacher evaluation systems since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The policy brief: State-Level Assessments and Teacher Evaluation Systems after the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Some Steps in the Right Direction, by Kevin Close, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, and Clarin Collins, is one in an annual series of policy briefs by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The authors found that:
Most states continue to use the same large-scale student assessments that were in place before ESSA and they continue to give those test results a role in evaluating teacher effectiveness. However, greater local control under ESSA has led to some encouraging signs of change.  These include:

  • Efforts to redefine student growth as something other than growth in just test scores;
  • Movement toward more varied multiple measurement tools, including student learning objectives and student surveys (although the efficacy of these instruments for accountability purposes still warrants research);
  • Fewer states emphasizing value-added assessments in teacher evaluations; and
  • A move away from high-stakes consequences and toward formative rather than summative assessments. 

In their conclusion, the authors recommended that state policymakers: include the viewpoints of many stakeholders before revising assessment policies; ensure that teacher evaluation systems rely on a balanced system of multiple measures; emphasize the collection of data for formative feedback leading to professional development; and set goals for reducing proficiency gaps, plans for which many states were lacking.

Find the policy brief on the web:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Policy briefs are a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). They provide the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of important topics in education. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the brief on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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May 28, 2018

Report Offering Recommendations For Improving Teacher Quality Has Little Basis In Research, Review Finds

Another press release about that NEPC review from this past week.

May 24, 2018

Contact: 
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Marilyn Cochran-Smith: (617) 552-4591, cochrans@bc.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Report offering recommendations for improving teacher quality has little basis in research, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 24, 2018) – A report published by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) examines nine teacher policy “goals” and 37 “best practices” related to teacher quality, and makes recommendations for policy based on these goals and best practices. The intent of the report is for these best practices to be replicated by state policymakers. The review found multiple flaws that undermine the report’s validity, including little research evidence to back up the report’s claims.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith, a professor at Boston College, along with three other members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform), reviewed the report. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The NCTQ report, 2018 State Teacher Policy Best Practices Guide, makes sweeping claims about “best practices” in teacher policy. According to Cochran-Smith, a key problem with the report is that it offers no explanation about how the 37 best practices were selected and provides no justification for its selection of “leading” policy work. It fails to describe the original development of its nine fundamental goals and does not cite any supportive research evidence. Additionally, it makes no use of (or even reference to) the nuanced and complex research literature in this area.

The report focuses primarily on policies targeting the qualifications and evaluation of the teacher workforce. This ignores the growing consensus that many other factors matter in creating high-quality teaching that enhances students’ learning, including supports that help teachers succeed, school contexts and cultures, state and regional labor markets, teachers’ relationship-building capacities, and the social organization of teachers’ work.

In the end, the reviewers conclude the report “lacks both the nuance and the detail required to be useful.”

Find the review on the web:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find the NCTQ report here:
https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NCTQ_BestPractices_FINAL_(2)

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the review on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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 Friend on Facebook

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

May 14, 2018

Review: Lack Of Clarity And Validity Plague Charter School Productivity Report

Another press release from the NEPC review of this think tank report.

May 10, 2018

Contact:
Julian Vasquez Heilig, (916) 278-2282, heilig@csus.edu
Great Lakes Center, (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Review: Lack of clarity and validity plague charter school productivity report

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 10, 2018) — A report published by the Department of Education Reform (EDRE) at the University of Arkansas contended that charter schools were more productive than public schools. The report focused on eight U.S. cities and used cost effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) ratios. However, an academic review released today identifies flaws that threaten the validity of the results.

Julian Vasquez Heilig, Sacramento State University, reviewed Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks?: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

In his review, Heilig identifies several weaknesses of the report that make it insufficient for causal claims, including:

  1. The report fails to account for the non-comparability of student populations;
  2. It uses revenues instead of actual expenditures;
  3. There is a lack of specificity that threatens the accuracy and validity of its calculations; and
  4. The authors of the report fail to reconcile their report with the extensive literature of contrary findings.

In his conclusion, Heilig writes: “Unfortunately, the evidence in this report is so flawed that it provides no valid guidance to educators or policymakers who aim to evaluate cost effectiveness or return on investment for either charter or traditional schools.”

Find the review on the web:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks? here:
http://www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2018/02/bigger-bang-fewer-bucks-the-productivity-of-public-charter-schools-in-eight-u-s-cities.pdf

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the review on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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