Virtual School Meanderings

February 22, 2017

News from the NEPC: Imbalanced Report Partially Explores Teacher Evaluation Reform

From yesterday’s inbox…

Report raises good questions about the future of teacher evaluation but uses faulty logic and incomplete analysis in drawing its conclusions.
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Imbalanced Report Partially Explores Teacher Evaluation Reform

Key Review Takeaway: Report raises good questions about the future of teacher evaluation but uses faulty logic and incomplete analysis in drawing its conclusions.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (February 21, 2017) – In response to pressure from the Obama administration, many states adopted policies linking teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests and other measured outcomes. However, the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) seems to mark a federal deprioritization of teacher evaluation reform.

A new report from Bellwether Education Partners seeks to influence states’ decisions about possible revisions to teacher evaluation policies, but its conclusions are often underdeveloped or unsubstantiated.

Amy Farley, an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati, reviewed For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The report argues for the maintenance of key elements of high-stakes teacher evaluation, including the heavy focus on accountability and the use of student outcomes to evaluate teachers. It also urges policymakers to invest in management, capacity, and strategies to capture lessons learned.

While the report raises several good questions with regard to the future of teacher evaluation, it has three key flaws: it overstates the likelihood that ESSA will result in widespread changes to evaluation systems, it ignores the literature regarding substantial technical challenges and unintended consequences of growth measures, and it dismisses the ideological and political debates surrounding teacher accountability.

Professor Farley concludes that the report offers “little fresh or worthwhile” guidance for policymakers. The unsubstantiated claims and dogged defense of student growth metrics poorly serve policymakers seeking a nuanced and research-based discussion of teacher evaluation reform in the ESSA era.

Find Amy Farley’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-evaluation

Find For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era, by Kaitlin Pennington and Sara Mead, published by Bellwether Education Partners, at:
http://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_ForGoodMeasure-GPLH_Final1216 (1).pdf

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

February 20, 2017

NEPC’s Schools of Opportunity Recognition Project

As a National Education Policy Center Fellow, I received the below message about promoting this exceptional project.  Please circulate this opportunity to your K-12 colleagues.

Hello again, Fellows.

We just launched the third year of NEPC’s Schools of Opportunity recognition project.

Please help us recruit strong high schools to apply for recognition. In particular, please use your networks, publications or other avenues (e.g., social media) to help share our press release and application. Please also share this with any superintendents or district administrators you know.

Our new website http://schoolsofopportunity.org lists the application criteria derived from the book Prudence and I edited, Closing the Opportunity Gap. As you know, the general idea is to recognize schools that are using evidence-based strategies to increase educational excellence and equity. Tuesday’s article in the Washington Post AnswerSheet provides more detailed information:https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/14/more-than-test-scores-schools-of-opportunity-to-recognize-high-schools-that-create-full-learning-experiences-for-every-student/

Ideally, we’d love your help in doing two things:

1. Forward this email along to any communities or listservs that you belong to that might get it into the hands of principals, teachers, and other representatives of high schools that may meet the criteria for recognition? For more information here is the full press release http://nepc.info/node/8450.

2. Post a link to either the article in the Washington Post Answer Sheet, or to our website on your social media accounts using the hashtag #schoolsofopportunity?

Here’s a sample Social Media post:
Amazing high schools: apply for the recognition you deserve! Help celebrate public education. #schoolsofopportunity http://schoolsofopportunity.org

We really appreciate everything you all have done (and will do) to help us with the project!

 

Kevin G. Welner
Professor and Director
National Education Policy Center

http://nepc.colorado.edu

School of Education

University of Colorado Boulder
(303) 492-8370

‘Like’ the NEPC on Facebook | Follow @NEPCtweet on Twitter

February 14, 2017

News from the NEPC: Limitations in Methodology Mar Report on School Turnarounds

From the inbox earlier this morning.

Report provides a profile of some state-initiated school turnarounds but falls short in providing substantive guidance for policymakers.
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Limitations in Methodology Mar Report on School Turnarounds

Key Review Takeaway: Report provides a profile of some state-initiated school turnarounds but falls short in providing substantive guidance for policymakers.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Betty Malen: (301) 405-3587, malen@umd.edu

BOULDER, CO (February 14, 2017) – A new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education states its goals as strengthening the evidence base on state-initiated turnarounds and providing guidance to help states use turnaround strategies more effectively. But given multiple methodological limitations, the report fails to elevate either the research base or the policy discourse.

Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice, professors at the University of Maryland, reviewed Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The report draws on multiple sources of information to accomplish three related goals: (a) to develop a conceptual framework and profile of state-initiated turnaround strategies, (b) to array the evidence on the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and (c) to identify key elements of a successful turnaround strategy. But the report suffers from methodological limitations that severely undermine its usefulness.

Specifically, the methods used to carry out the original research are neither well-described nor justified. This unexplained research involved analysis of state policies, interviews with stakeholders, and illustrative cases. Likewise, the methods employed in the eight evaluations selected to assess the effectiveness of turnaround approaches are not described, and the evidence base produced by these evaluations is insufficient to support the sweeping claims made in the report.

Equally important, explain Professors Malen and Rice, the report neglects to consider relevant research on the specific mechanisms (e.g., school reconstitution, intensive professional development, and private management systems) that states use when they employ the broad turnaround strategies discussed in the report. As a result of these problems, the report neither enhances the evidence base nor provides the substantive guidance state policymakers require to make informed decisions about the use of various school turnaround strategies.

Find Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-turnarounds

Find Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds, by Ashley Jochim, published by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, at:
https://crpe.org/sites/default/files/crpe-measures-last-resort.pdf

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

February 1, 2017

News from the NEPC: NEPC Launches Third Year of Schools of Opportunity Recognition Project: Public High Schools Encouraged to Apply

From Monday’s inbox…

2017 Schools of Opportunity Application NOW OPEN. Applications due May 1, 2017.
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NEPC Launches Third Year of Schools of Opportunity Recognition Project: Public High Schools Encouraged to Apply

Key Takeaway: 2017 Schools of Opportunity Application NOW OPEN. Applications due May 1, 2017.

BOULDER, CO (January 30, 2017) – The 2017 Schools of Opportunity application cycle launched today at www.SchoolsofOpportunity.org. Building on the success of the past two years, the National Education Policy Center at CU Boulder will again recognize public high schools that are creating remarkable opportunities to learn for all their students. The application deadline is May 1, 2017.

Schools that apply are asked to demonstrate how they work to close opportunity gaps across a range of key areas. The NEPC derived this set of opportunity measures from the expertise shared by top researchers in Closing the Opportunity Gap, the 2013 book published by Oxford University Press.

Two criteria are required of all applying schools: (1) broadening and enriching learning opportunities and (2) creating and maintaining a healthy school culture. Applicants also select, from a menu of eight additional criteria, four that best represent how their school is responding to its unique local needs. All ten criteria are described on the Schools of Opportunity website, along with the scoring rubric used by the evaluation teams.

NEPC designed the Schools of Opportunity project as a way to highlight the nation’s best schools and practices, shifting away from the nation’s imbalanced focus on standardized test scores. “Even in the face of stark inequities across our social and economic systems, as well as our education system, every school can adopt research-based best practices,” says Project Co-Director, Dr. Linda Molner Kelley. “The 37 Schools of Opportunity recognized over the first two years of the project illustrate how all schools can work to provide great opportunities for their students.”

Along with Dr. Kelley, who is the former Assistant Dean of Teacher Education and Partnerships at CU Boulder, the project is led by Dr. Adam York, the Project Manager, and by NEPC director and CU-Boulder School of Education Professor Kevin Welner. The Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation both provide funding to support the project.

Each school’s application will be reviewed by a team of evaluators from across the nation, including educational researchers and current and former school leaders. Finalists are selected based on narrative responses as well as data and other evidence submitted. Site visits to top schools are also a vital part of the project. Educators have found that the application process provides a rich opportunity for high school teams to work together to reflect on their strengths, assets and areas of potential improvement.

Recognized Gold and Silver schools will be announced in winter 2017 in the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog and other media outlets. Applications are welcomed until May 1, 2017, with all nomination information and forms available online at: www.SchoolsofOpportunity.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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

January 27, 2017

News from the NEPC: Focusing State Accountability Systems More on High Achievers May Backfire

From yesterday’s inbox…

Problematic assumptions and a lack of research mar two reports advocating for high-achieving students.
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Focusing State Accountability Systems More on High Achievers May Backfire

Key Review Takeaway: Problematic assumptions and a lack of research mar two reports advocating for high-achieving students.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (January 26, 2017) – Two recent reports from the Fordham Institute address the question of the impact of state accountability systems on “high achievers,” referred to in the reports as “students who have already crossed the proficiency threshold.” Both reports assert that states are not adequately attending to the needs of these students and that state accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) should be redesigned in order to incentivize districts to address those needs.

Beth Rubin, associate professor of education at Rutgers University, reviewed High Stakes for High Achievers and High Stakes for High Schoolers for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The education of high-achieving students is an important concern, but the reports uncritically turn to standardized test scores as the lever to create favorable policy and practice. High-achieving students (like all students) need engaging challenges and supports, and there is good reason to fear that more intense test-score accountability focused on these students would divert instruction toward test-prep lessons.

The reports, in calling for leveraging of assessment measures to overcome complex social and economic problems, also deflect attention from the structural economic inequalities that are the major source of educational disparities. In doing so, the reports repeat old, disproven arguments about the lack of impact resources have on educational opportunity.

Professor Rubin concludes with four critiques of the reports: (a) their central assumptions about high-achieving students are not supported by evidence; (b) accountability pressures attached to growth measures are not an effective means for gaining better instruction for high-achieving students; (c) narrow, high-stakes forms of assessment may negatively impact the education provided to these students; and (d) further stratifying educational settings and reallocating resources toward “high-achieving” students has troublesome implications for the democratic goals of education.

Implementation of the reports’ recommendations, she explains, “may in fact result in a furthering of the inequitable educational opportunities that ESSA was designed to reduce.”

Find Professor Rubin’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-tracking-high-stakes

Find High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA by Michael J. Petrilli, David Griffith, Brandon L. Wright, & Audrey Kim, and High Stakes for High Schoolers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA, by Michael J. Petrilli, David Griffith, & Brandon L. Wright, both published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, at:
https://edexcellence.net/publications/high-stakes-for-high-achievers and https://edexcellence.net/publications/high-stakes-for-high-schoolers

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.
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