Study: Teacher Data Remain Untapped

A new study shows that, despite the increased use of value-added data and other forms of teacher evaluation such as student or teacher surveys, first-hand principal observation of teachers remains the most trusted and used means by which decisions are made about teacher improvement. In other words, data are available, but not being used.

The following infographic demonstrates this situation:

use of data

The study goes beyond simply pointing out the problem, however. It suggests that the major obstacles to principals making using of the various forms of data showing teacher proficiency are time, timing, technology, training, and a lack of trust.

Here is an excerpt from the article that discusses this in more detail:

Eighty-three percent of principals, for example, said timing was a minor to strong barrier in using teacher-effectiveness data. Student-achievement data, teacher value-added scores, and survey results, for example, arrived after decisions about renewals and placements had been made. And 75 percent of the principals listed a lack of time as a barrier to using the data.

Researchers also found that principals, in some cases, were already using teacher-effectiveness data to identify their teachers’ strengths and weaknesses and to target support and professional development. In those districts, the central office had acknowledged the importance of data use, communicated to staff the kind of data that should be used for specific decisions, and made it easier for staff members to access the data. Some provided professional support to help principals, Ms. Goldring said.

The study, “Principal Use of Teacher Effectiveness Measures for Talent Management Decisions,” was conducted by a team of Vanderbilt University researchers.

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Education First releases series of briefs on PD for Common Core

Education. First. - Education FirstThe Common Core is now front and center in classrooms across the country, and educators and policymakers are focused on getting implementation right. Education First has released a series of briefing papers and a short executive summary that offer guidance for how professional development needs to change to help educators succeed with the standards. The series:

  • Identifies the new essential elements of professional learning (brief #1);
  • Spotlights three different approaches to how districts have organized themselves to support teachers using these elements (brief #2); and
  • Recommends what policymakers can do to advance high quality Common Core-aligned professional development at scale (brief #3).

Common Core promises to help more students gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed after high school. But too few educators have received meaningful support to make the transitions needed in their practice. Professional development must change dramatically to reflect the standards’ clear focus on content and the instructional shifts that support delivery of that content.


Teacher Pay and Career Paths in an Opportunity Culture: A Practical Policy Guide

PublicImpact_CMYK-gray-trans_webA new guide from Public Impact shows how districts can design teacher career paths that will keep excellent teachers in the classroom and extend their reach to more students, for more pay, within budget.

When districts design career paths of this type, they create opportunities for excellent teachers to reach more students directly and by leading teaching teams, for solid teachers to contribute to excellence immediately, and for all teachers to receive the support and development they deserve.

These opportunities may be especially important in recruiting and retaining teachers in hard-to-staff schools and subjects, such as STEM–where excellent teachers have other, higher-paid career and advancement options.

The full guide walks a district through the organizing steps and details of designing Opportunity Culture pay and career paths that fit its needs and values. It includes an overview of key Opportunity Culture concepts, graphics and explanations detailing new school models and roles, and assistance for evaluating the impact of different compensation design choices. The steps guide districts to ensuring financial sustainability and designing a complete career lattice.

Typical “career advancement” possibilities push teachers out of the classroom into administration or into roles that rarely offer real authority, accountability for student outcomes, or permanent and substantial pay supplements. In contrast, this guide shows the possibilities when districts and schools design career paths and compensation structures to support an Opportunity Culture, in which all teachers have opportunities that build their professional competence and maximize their positive impact on student learning.

Teacher Pay and Career Paths in an Opportunity Culture: A Practical Policy Guide was written by Emily Ayscue Hassel, Christen Holly, and Gillian Locke.

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Achieve Posts 50th Common Core-Aligned Lesson through EQuIP Initiative

AchieveFor implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to be successful, all educators need access to high quality and aligned instructional materials. Achieve launched the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) initiative to build the capacity of educators to evaluate and improve the quality of instructional materials for use in their classrooms and schools. EQuIP builds on a collaborative effort of education leaders from Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island that Achieve facilitated, which resulted in a set of criterion-based rubrics designed for educators to use in evaluating the quality and alignment of lessons and units.

In June 2013, Achieve launched the EQuIP Peer Review Panel, a group of expert reviewers who have been trained to apply the EQuIP Rubrics and quality review process to lessons and units that have been submitted by states, districts, partners and educators. To date, this group has included 55 educators who collectively represent 875 years of classroom experience. The EQuIP Peer Review Panel has reviewed and provided constructive, criterion-based feedback on close to 200 lessons or units. Achieve announced recently that 50 lessons and units rated Exemplar or Exemplar if Improved are now publicly available to educators nation-wide. The Exemplar rating indicates that a lesson or unit is well-aligned with the Common Core and ready for immediate use in classrooms; lessons or units rated Exemplar if Improved are aligned and require some improvement in one or more dimensions of the rubric. These materials reflect all grade bands (K-5, 6-8, 9-12) in both mathematics and English language arts/literacy.

Educators are invited to submit lessons and units for review through the EQuIP website.

Susan Whelte, former Director of Literacy and Humanities at the Massachusetts Department of Education, found the EQuIP process to be a helpful and highly useful guide in her state’s efforts to create and refine model instructional units.

“Massachusetts is pleased that Achieve’s EQuIP project has selected six of our Model Curriculum Units as exemplars to be shared with educators throughout the world,” she says. “Massachusetts’ adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 2010 provided the impetus for engaging teachers in using the standards in coherent and intelligent ways. Aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment to standards takes skill and attention to detail: it’s not always easy at first, but it surely helped to have the EQuIP rubric as a guide. It is thrilling now to see the units in action in classrooms throughout the Commonwealth and to see the educators from our original design teams leading similar curriculum writing work in their districts.”

Educators have also found the peer review panel’s suggestions for improvement to be highly valuable. Angela Orr, K-12 Social Studies Coordinator for Washoe County School District in Nevada, incorporated feedback from the EQuIP peer review process as part of continual curricular improvement.

“When we received detailed and specific feedback from the EQuIP panel of reviewers, we were able to continue our learning and revisit some of our earlier work,” she says. “The process reminded me to include important information in core-aligned lessons and has facilitated my work as professional developer.”

Alissa Peltzman, Vice President of State Policy and Implementation Support at Achieve, says, “The EQuIP process is designed to elevate the expertise of educators and to foster a culture of continuous improvement grounded in high-quality feedback. We are honored to work with such a highly-skilled panel of educators to highlight exemplary work. We are thrilled to reach this milestone, but the work is far from over. Achieve is striving to raise awareness of these open source exemplary materials and encourages others to make them available or include them in repositories or other platforms. We hope to double the number of exemplars while also building the capacity of educators to integrate this process and the criteria embedded within the rubrics into their everyday work.”

To learn more about EQuIP or download exemplary lessons and units, please visit (Click the EQuIP Exemplars tab.)


What Do the Elections Mean for Education?

The Insider View of Education Reform - Whiteboard AdvisorsWhiteboard Advisors have gathered the predictions of Education Insiders related to what will happen with education policy in the wake of the  recent midterm elections.

Education Insiders express slight optimism that both K12 and higher education policies will become higher priorities with Republican control of the Senate, though agreement between the President and Congress is unlikely. Insiders see attention to gainful employment regulations as a possible area of focus.

Insiders repeatedly cite Senator Lamar Alexander, the presumptive chair of the HELP committee, as the key driving force behind both K12 and higher education legislation in the Senate. With the political winds in his favor, Alexander may have the support he needs to gain traction on key education policies. But Insiders do not see the newly elected senators as having a great impact on education policy.

Based on the general trend for governors’ races across the country, Insiders see school choice and teacher tenure reform efforts gaining more traction. Insiders believe the Common Core standards, conversely, face a significant setback.

In addition, they see Tom Torlakson’s victory in California as a significant win for teacher’s unions amidst an otherwise challenging election cycle.

Education Insiders include influential leaders who are shaping federal education reform, including individuals who have served or are currently serving in key policy and political positions, such as:

  • Current and former White House and U.S. Department of Education leaders;
  • Current and former Congressional staff;
  • State education leaders, including state school chiefs and former governors; and
  • Leaders of major education organizations and think tanks.

For more, see


Shifting Demographics in American Schools

For the first time in American history, a majority of students in public school this year are students of color. According to projections from the National Center for Education Statistics, 49.7 percent of students entering public schools this year are white, compared to 50.3 percent of students who identify as black, Hispanic, Asian or another nonwhite ethnicity. Just 10 years ago, in 2004, nearly 60 percent of public school students were white. By 2022, that figure is projected to fall to just 45 percent.

Following is a helpful infographic which demonstrates this change, which has been a steady trend since the late 1990s:


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Managing the law in education

AEIMelissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric of AEI Education have written an important report highlighting the need for education leaders to understand the complexity of education laws, and as a result, the need for lawyers to help bring about effective reform.

Following are some key points from the report:

— Given the myriad rules and regulations in K-12 education, successful implementation of education reform policies requires attention to the law.

— Unfortunately, many education leaders are uninformed about how to select, inform, and properly utilize lawyers, whereas lawyers often lack sufficient context on the problems that education leaders face.

— Education and legal groups should take concrete steps to train school leaders on how to use lawyers to identify reform options, understand their risks, and strategically implement decisions.

Education leaders have often taken the flawed viewpoint that they can handle the legal aspects of education reform themselves. But according to Junge and Krvaric, other fields recognize the need to use lawyers who are informed about goals and needs in the contextual situation, and education should too.

To read the publication:


Taking Stock of Personalized Learning

personalized learningTaking Stock of Personalized Learning is part of a series of special reports by Education Week that identifies high-priority topics in the K-12 world and examines them in significant depth. This report tackles the issue of personalized learning, one of the hottest topics in education, and a concept that raises all kinds of questions and concerns about how students should learn in the digital age. This report examines attempts to clarify the definition of personalized learning, looks at where this educational movement is heading, and provides evaluations of how personalized learning efforts are currently playing out in schools.


What Is ‘Personalized Learning’? Educators Seek Clarity

Education technology advocates, philanthropies, and others are trying to create a clearer definition of what qualifies as “personalized learning,” one of the most popular terms in education today.

Personalized Learning: A Working Definition

A group of philanthropies and school and technology advocacy groups, with contributions from educators, compiled a four-part “working definition” of the attributes of personalized learning.

Push for ‘Learner Profiles’ Stymied by Barriers

The goal is to generate comprehensive digital portraits of each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences to provide them with customized academic content.

Personalized Learning Pits Data Innovators Against Privacy Advocates

One of the biggest tensions emerging around the growth of personalized learning centers on questions about how to use and protect sensitive student information.

District’s Ambitious Personalized Learning Effort Shows Progress

A South Carolina school district hopes to replicate the initial success at a middle school, where test scores, student engagement, and teacher attendance have improved.

Adaptive Testing Shaping Instruction

In some districts, the uses of adaptive testing extend beyond assessment, as teachers use test results to modify lessons and stage interventions for students of different abilities.

Educators Evaluate Array of Formative Testing Products

Many schools’ personalized learning efforts hinge on the use of formative assessment tools, including embedded online curriculum, adaptive-learning platforms, and stand-alone tests.

Read even more about personalized learning from a teacher’s perspective in the June reporting series, “Getting Personal: Teachers, Technology, and Tailored Instruction.”


Steep Drops Seen in Teacher-Prep Enrollment Numbers

TeachersIt has been no secret in education policy over the last decade or so that more STEM and Special Education teachers are needed. Nor has it been a secret that budget crunches and political wrangling have led to highly-publicized teacher evaluations systems and even teacher layoffs. But the new numbers out from the U.S. Department of Education show a darker picture of teacher-preparation enrollment numbers than most would have anticipated.

Here are some of the key data:

  • Separate state-by-state enrollment data collected under Title II of the Higher Education Act suggest that the decline in teacher-preparation enrollments has accelerated in recent years, particularly since 2010. Under that collection, California, New York, and Texas, among the largest producers of teachers, have seen steep drops.
  • Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit. The Golden State lost some 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, according to a report its credentialing body issued earlier this month.
  • Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education’s postsecondary data collection.

Following is a figure which shows how the poor enrollment numbers vary by state:

teacher enrollment

Turbulence in the teaching field or simply an already clogged job market may be scaring candidates away. No one really knows whether this is a temporary or more long-term trend, nor do they know the definite reasons for the decline in enrollment. In the short term, the result of the decline in enrollment would seem to be schools and districts being forced to hire more provisional teachers in the coming years.

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John Merrow: What do schools produce?

21st-century-learningTwo classic questions in education have been, “what do schools produce?” and “who are the workers in schools?” Education policy veteran John Merrow has some interesting answers to those questions:

The familiar answers to those old questions are:

1) “Teachers are the workers,” and 2) “Their job is to turn out capable graduates.”

Both answers are wrong for the 21st Century. In 21st Century schools, students must be the workers, and their work product must be knowledge. Teachers play a vital role, of course, but as docents/conductors/managers/coaches/guides….and learners.

In 21st Century schools, students do work that matters to them and engages them in the moment. They are not assigned tasks that ‘will help them later in life’ or that supposedly ‘will be important when they are in college.’ No hollow assurances or deferred gratification, but genuinely valuable work instead.

In the course of doing work that matters, they also acquire skills they will need to navigate life successfully, such as writing and speaking clearly and persuasively, manipulating numbers, formulating questions, and working with others.

Most of our schools haven’t gotten the memo, unfortunately. They practice ‘regurgitation education’ where students memorize the state capitals, the elements, the great rivers of the world and how Congress enacts legislation.

Choosing the work in a 21st Century school is a collaborative process led by adults. In other words, kids don’t get to do whatever they feel like doing (or not doing). The work has to be directed toward serious learning goals, and it has to be challenging.

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