Wallace Foundation aims to help school leaders get better, donates $30 million

logo-WallaceFdnFourteen school systems around the country, including the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County (MD), will receive grants totaling $30 million to improve the effectiveness of unsung middle managers in large urban districts – those who supervise principals.

The five-year program, funded by the Wallace Foundation, is designed to help improve management in sprawling school bureaucracies.

The grants will allow school districts to restructure workloads so that supervisors have fewer principals to manage, more time to spend in schools and more ability to focus on mentoring and solving problems with their principals, said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at Wallace.

The average supervisor – sometimes called assistant superintendents, instructional coaches or zone supervisors – oversees 24 principals, Spiro said.  What’s more, most of their work is making sure that schools are complying with district, state or federal policies, bureaucratic accounting that leaves little time for meaningful interaction with principals, she said.

The grants are designed to encourage school districts to rearrange responsibilities so that others in the central office assume some of the compliance duties and supervisors have more time to spend with fewer principals.

A core group of six school districts – Long Beach (Calif.), Des Moines (Iowa), Broward County (Fla.), Minneapolis, Cleveland and DeKalb County (Ga.) – will receive four-year grants averaging about $3 million each. The foundation will spend $2.5 million on an independent evaluation of whether the grants result in more effective principals.

Wallace also is giving $700,000 to the District and $800,000 to Tulsa (Okla.) to reorganize workloads for principal supervisors and to cultivate new talent.

And it is awarding grants to six districts that are already part of an ongoing 2011 project to develop a “pipeline” of talented school principals. The six districts are Prince George’s County – which will get $700,000 – and Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina), Denver, Gwinnett County (Georgia), Hillsborough County (Fla.) and New York City. The six will receive Wallace grants ranging from $430,000 to $1 million, for a total of $4 million.

For more information, please visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/wallace-foundation-aims-to-help-school-leaders-get-better-donates-30-million/2014/06/23/a79fb222-fb08-11e3-8176-f2c941cf35f1_story.html?wprss=rss_education


States Forge Ahead on Principal Evaluation

principal.ashxSince 2010, at least 36 states have adopted laws requiring principals to undergo regular assessments and increasing the rigor of those reviews, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This change is in large part due to demands set on school systems by No Child Left Behind and the later waivers granted by the Obama Administration.

So while principal evaluations are a rarely questioned growing trend, not nearly as much research has been performed about them, meaning that there is a multiplicity of models for principal evaluation in operation across states and districts.

According to Ellen Goldring, a department chairperson at Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee., the widely varying models demand some serious reform. Dr. Goldring did her own review of principal-evaluation legislation passed between 2009 and 2013. She said there was limited information about how the policies are used; a lack of clarity on the consequences for principals and how feedback is to be presented; and a lack of alignment with principals’ evolving roles, in talent management, data analytics, and building-level autonomy.

Following are the most prevalent models currently in use:

  • “50-50″ Percentage Model: 50 percent of the evaluation score is derived from student-outcome measures, usually student achievement or academic growth. This can include indicators such as graduation and attendance rates. The other 50 percent of the score often comes from a performance rubric, aligned with standards developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Example: Georgia
  • Matrix Model: In most cases, 50 percent of the evaluation is based on student outcome or growth measures; the other 50 percent of the score comes from a performance rubric. However, the overall score is derived from a matrix table, rather than a percentage formula. Example: Ohio
  • Student ‘Data Trump’ Model: Student growth/performance may account for less than half of the principal’s overall score; however, a principal cannot earn the highest rating or be deemed “highly effective” with low student performance/outcome data. In other words, student data “trumps” everything else. Example: Delaware

Goldring, as well as others who have focused on principal evaluations in their research, speculate that one of the most effective ways to improve principal effectiveness is to focus more on a mentoring/collaboration model in which principals are graded more by peers and less by test scores.

For more information, please visit: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/21/32principals_ep.h33.html?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mrss


New Issue Brief from the ACT on College and Career Readiness

logo-blueThe ACT doesn’t only make tests; they also write policy reports. Their newest one, “Communicating College and Career Readiness through Proficiency Standards,” has several policy recommendations for states adopting new educational standards.

The brief describes how Kentucky, New York, Florida, and the District of Columbia transitioned their state assessments to reflect college and career readiness but made different decisions about whether or how to determine performance and proficiency standards to match.

Lessons learned from these examples may help other states currently negotiating their own transitions. The report offers the following policy recommendations:

  • Reinforce why college and career readiness is the right goal for all students
  • Set proficiency standards using empirical data that indicate whether a student is on target for college and career readiness
  • Develop and carry out a communications plan to prepare the public for a short-term decline in average state scores as a new baseline is being established.

Following these recommendations will help states navigate the transition to a culture in which student readiness for college and career becomes the “gold standard” by which educational progress is measured.

– View or download Communicating College and Career Readiness through Proficiency Standards.


– View or download Communicating Assessment Results, which summarizes the policy recommendations.



State Sen. Mike Johnston: An Up and Comer in Education Reform

bigstock-education-reform-school-refo-48690005Why should Americans concerned about education know the name of a state senator from Colorado? Because he, and others like him who are willing to work across the aisle, are likely to be the face of American education reform of the future.

State Senator Mike Johnston has quite the pedigree: Ivy League undergrad (Yale), Teach for America English teacher for 2 years in the impoverished Mississippi delta and a book about the experience to boot, work for President Obama’s 2008 campaign on education, then Master’s degrees in education and law, followed by becoming principal of a new model school in Denver, finally followed by his entrance into politics in Colorado. At only age 39, Johnston should, in many ways, be the darling of corporate model education reform and the enemy of traditional public school advocates, yet the reality is different. Johnston has developed a reputation as someone who is willing to sit down and talk with anyone in hopes of helping American students. As such, he is a model for anyone concerned with American education reform.

As one example, when he was selected to give the commencement address at Harvard (one of his Master’s degrees is from there), some students spoke out aggressively against the choice. Rather than fight back or back out, he volunteered to meet those opposed to him the day before his commencement address. The session lasted two hours, and laid the groundwork for a commencement address that garnered a standing ovation.

The fact that he is diplomatic and a good listener does not, however, mean that he is not ideological. Here is a brief segment from a recently published article:

Johnston really got teachers’ backs up in 2010 when he spearheaded a law that mandated a new teacher evaluation regime, using tests to measure student improvement. It also remade the state’s teacher tenure law — a controversial form of job protection that a California court just struck down — making it easier to fire veteran teachers and changing how teachers are reassigned to new positions, prompting a lawsuit from the Colorado Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union.

While this might seem like an ideologue out to punish teachers unions, don’t pigeonhole him so quickly:

The CEA is, however, working with Johnston and other supporters of the bill to implement the new evaluation system, which is still in the process of being rolled out. They also teamed up to try and pass legislation that would have fundamentally remade the school funding system in Colorado, directing more money to high-needs districts and students and raising taxes to bring in more cash for schools. The effort was rejected handily in a public referendum last fall.

Obviously more work and time are needed before united efforts at reform will have a chance to succeed, but efforts like this in which both parties discuss options and work together certainly offer promise for the future.

For more information, please click on the following link: http://www.ozy.com/rising-stars-and-provocateurs/colorado-legislator-mike-johnston-education-reform-evangelist/32128.article


Who Uses Student Data?

dqcMost personal student information stays local. Districts, states, and the federal government all collect data about students for important purposes like informing instruction and providing information to the public. But the type of data collected, and who can access them, is different at each point. Explore how student data—from schools to the US Department of Education—are and are not accessed and used through a useful infographic and video.



For more information on this topic, see http://dataqualitycampaign.org/blog/2014/06/who-uses-student-data

For an animated video on this topic, see http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/find-resources/who-uses-student-data-video


Are Multiplayer Games the Future of Education?

gamification_wordle1Melanie Plenda at The Atlantic Education recently described a new trend in American education that shows promise to attract strong student attention and help engage long term memory: Gamification.

The idea of turning learning into games that students play is not new, but some of the research surrounding it is, as is the idea of completely integrating the game model into the entire makeup of the class. One of the biggest proponents of gamification is Lee Sheldon, an associate professor at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute’ Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences Program. When he began as a professor at RPI, he taught in the traditional lecture fashion.

“I got bored very quickly with myself,” he says. “If I was getting bored, you can imagine how the students were feeling. I thought, ‘Well, you dummy, you’re a game designer. Why don’t you make the entire class into a game?’ So I did that and things went really well.”

Another proponent of the gamification model is Joey Lee, a research assistant professor of Technology and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He says, “The goal is to change the student’s mindset to a mastery orientation­—to promote motivation, engagement, active learning­—and to cultivate 21st century skills like collaboration, problem solving, creativity and systems thinking. Learning looks very different today, so we need to move away from the Industrial Revolution one-size-fits-all model that still plagues much of education.”

Most gamified classrooms, although at this point there is much diversity within gamification, function under a system where students gain experience points (xp), which translate into grades but are more favorable at showing student progress. Another common feature is group problem solving.

Overall, one of the great benefits of the gamification model, if it is done well, is that the “incentives” or “rewards” are built into the system. In other words, what students get for success on one element of the game or one project is the chance to move forward into a new, more challenging aspect of the game, which is also of course the academic content of the class. This way, the real reward is learning, not just badges for completing tasks.

See the article in The Atlantic:


Following is a link to a more scholarly article about gamification (simply click on where it says “view raw”): https://github.com/papers-we-love/papers-we-love/blob/master/gamification/gamification-in-education-what-how-why-bother.pdf


Writing about Research Concepts in Everyday Language

IES_NCESMaking complex research concepts easily accessible to policymakers and practitioners can be challenging for researchers who have been trained to write for an academic audience. This is especially an important issue for school and district leaders who want to keep their staff abreast of key new developments in the field without intimidating or losing the interest of those staff members.

This new brief, “Going Public: Writing About Research in Everyday Language”, describes three techniques for writing more plainly about study design, measurement, and data analysis. The brief calls for:

1.    Making concepts simpler. The brief shows how to use simple language to convey research concepts while ensuring they convey the same meaning.

2.    Writing for the general reader. The brief calls for attention to what the reader really needs to know. Clarity about key messages can lead to simpler and more direct writing.

3.    Writing to reduce misinterpretation. Writers can minimize the likelihood that readers will misinterpret research concepts by considering the possible areas of confusion and addressing them directly.

The brief includes a glossary that shows how to apply these approaches to writing about commonly used concepts in impact research, such as regression analysis and effect size.

For more information and the link to the full pdf of the report, please visit:


July Issue Brief: Teacher Preparation

In Case You Missed It!Politicians, pundits, and the American public are seeking evidence of the quality of teacher preparation. But how can we tell if a teacher preparation program is effective?

In this month’s issue brief, we have assembled perspectives on accountability for teacher preparation programs and the role of the federal government related to this issue.

What is the proper role of the federal government related to promoting excellence in teacher preparation? Which accountability methods for teacher preparation programs promote desired outcomes? Please respond to our call for commentary. We’d love to hear from you!

To check out this month’s newsletter and access resources on teacher preparation, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/1qfPXqq

To ensure you do not miss future issues, we encourage you to subscribe to the monthly newsletter by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/byje6b9


How Schools Work and How to Work with Schools

Screen-Shot-2014-04-14-at-5.11.36-PM-231x300Across the country, millions of children attend public school every year. Their parents likely went to public school too, as do the vast majority of Americans. But attending public school, or even working in education, isn’t the same as knowing how public schools—and our nation’s education system—actually work.

How Schools Work and How to Work with Schools (May 2014) demystifies public education for policymakers, government officials, community members, business leaders, and others interested in partnering with schools to improve the health, safety, and well-being of all students and ensure they are successful in their academic pursuits. Inside, you’ll find:

  • Explanation of public education governance at the federal, state, local, and school levels and how national organizations influence education policymaking.
  • Ways to meaningfully and positively engage with the education sector, including examples of successful school-community partnerships and best practices.
  • Guiding principles for working with schools and practical steps for more successful collaboration with them.
  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions about public education. For example: What is Title I and how does it support low-income students? And, how are public schools funded?
  • Reliable data sources and resources for additional information on crossover issues in education, from school crime and safety, to school nutrition and health policies and practices.
  • A glossary of common education terms, acronyms, and important federal education programs.

For more information, and to download the full report, please visit:



Teacher Prep Review 2014 Report from NCTQ

teacher prep report 2014Teacher Prep Review 2014 is the second edition of NCTQ‘s annual assessment of the nation’s 2,400 teacher prep programs. The Review uncovers early evidence that teacher prep programs are beginning to make changes. It arrives at a time of heightened, unprecedented activity across the nation to improve teacher preparation.

Here are a few of the positive highlights:


  • NCTQ’s top performers include Miami University of Ohio, Arizona State University, CUNY-Hunter and Western Governors University, an online program.
  • NCTQ apologizes in the report for not always acting “with sufficient sensitivity” as it pursued information on programs, and the new report attempts to ease some of the tension by pointing out areas of agreement between the NCTQ and most colleges of education, but it’s unclear whether that will placate critics.
  • Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut have boosted standards, making it tougher to get into training programs or get a license.
  • The release of the report is timely, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently resurrecting an effort to regulate teacher training programs across the country.

According to the findings, hundreds of universities have abysmal teacher training programs, and alternative certification programs are even worse. Too many programs are enrolling weak students and aren’t instructing them on the basics, like maintaining discipline or using research-based strategies to teach reading.

As in the past, not everyone, especially many of the programs ranked by NCTQ, is happy with the report. Most of the backlash surrounds the method by which NCTQ collects information; in other words, NCTQ does not always work with programs nor does it obtain complete information on syllabi and program standards before publishing its reports.

To read the full report, or see state by state breakdowns, please visit http://www.nctq.org/teacherPrep/review2014.do