Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Improved Minority Teacher Recruitment Tied to Increasing Alternative Certification Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Center for American Progress panel discussion on Wednesday sought to elevate the discussion on the merits of making America’s teaching force more diverse, but it sometimes got snagged by questions about the need to make the case for diversity itself.

“If we are embracing diversity in all aspects, then we need to stop wondering why we need to have diverse teachers,” said Rachelle Rogers-Ard, program manager at Teach Tomorrow Oakland, an alternative teacher certification program, in response to an audience member who asked her and the other panelists to elaborate on the “why” behind the argument for greater teacher diversity.

 “That should no longer be a part of the conversation,”Rogers-Ard said during the discussion, held at the Washington-based Center for American Progress and titled “Diverse Schools Need Diverse Teachers: Strategies to Increase Diversity in the Teacher Workforce.”

 “We’re embracing diversity because this nation has children who are diverse, and we need to have people who are diverse in all aspects of all professions,” Rogers-Ard said.

Still, the reality is that Rogers-Ard finds herself having to defend diversity when she speaks of the alternative teacher certification program she runs in California. Even at Wednesday’s discussion, one of the most oft-repeated claims made to bolster the case for diversity was that students of color often “do better” on various academic outcomes when taught by students of color—almost as if the absence of better results would undermine the case for diversity.

When a reporter asked Rogers-Ard why so often words such as“qualified,” “talented” and “effective” precede the word “minority” in discussions about minority teacher recruitment, Rogers-Ard said it’s because of a largely unspoken reality about how minority teachers are perceived by hiring managers as less able than their White counterparts.

“I have never been able to talk about recruiting diverse teachers without having to also justify the notion that the diverse teacher will be as effective, and then the ellipsis after that is ‘... as a White teacher,’” Rogers-Ard said in an interview with Diverse that followed the panel discussion.

Wednesday’s discussion provided a platform for the release of two Center for American progress publications on the topic of teacher diversity. They are “Increasing Teacher Diversity: Strategies to Improve the Teacher Workforce” and “Teacher Diversity Matters: A State-by-State Analysis of Teachers of Color.”

 The reports indicate that, while students of color make up more than 40 percent of the public school population, teachers of color are only 17 percent of the teaching force. The reports also note that, over the next decade or so, the nation’s public school student body will “have no one clear racial or ethnic majority.”

The report on strategies to increase diversity includes case studies for five programs—including Rogers-Ard’s program in Oakland—that have demonstrated “varied levels of success” in their efforts to recruit more diverse teachers. The others are: Teach for America, The New Teacher Project-Fellowship Programs, the Urban Teacher Enhancement Program (UTEP), and the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship Program.

The other publication includes a “State teacher diversity index”that lists the percentage point difference between the percentage of non-White teachers and non-White students.

Among the states with the biggest gaps were California and several other states in America’s southwest, such as Texas, Arizona and Nevada, which had point differences of 32 percent or higher. The states with the lowest and single-digit percentage gaps tended not to have many minority students, including Vermont, Maine, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

The vast majority of states had percentage gaps in the 20- to 30-percent range.

 Beyond sheer numbers of minority teachers, or lack thereof, were issues of satisfaction among minority teachers with salary and management.

 For instance, according to the state-by-state analysis, only 70 percent of African-American teachers were satisfied with the way their school was run, which is 8 percent less than White teachers, the report found.

 Only 37 percent of African-American teachers and 46 percent of Hispanic teachers were satisfied with their pay, compared to 53 percent of White teachers.

“Part of the issue here is teachers of color are more likely to teach in high poverty schools, which get less than their fair share of dollars,” said Ulrich Boser, author of the state-by-state analysis report and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

 He said the findings in his report show that one way to increase minority teacher numbers is to expand high-quality recruitment programs, including alternative teacher certification programs, such as those featured in the companion publication on strategies to increase diversity.

Boser said improving diversity will hinge on addressing issues of satisfaction among minority teachers with their salary and management.  "It’s going to take hard work, smart policy and, above all, the political will to address this issue,” Boser said.

Other panelists included Crystal McQueen, partner with The New Teacher Project, and Saba Bireda, deputy director of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council.

Although Bireda cited research that showed students of color “do better” on various academic outcomes when taught by teachers of color, she said there is a need for more data on the effectiveness of alternative teacher certification programs.

“We found that some programs were prioritizing to help candidates finish, and that began to overshadow whether they were effective in the classroom,” Bireda said, adding: “Many programs have yet to track the success of their teachers after they graduate from the program.”

McQueen said that, when The New Teacher Project gets more data on outcomes among students taught by its program graduates, there will be a need to examine the sources from which the most effective teachers were recruited—or which characteristics they have in common—so those things can be considered more strongly in the recruitment of future teachers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Predictors of an Author's Success

Want to know how you can tell if an author is going to be successful? It's not their sales figures, or the number of Facebook friends, or Twitter followers, or the number of visits to their blog. Those things measure current success – but what it doesn't tell you is whether they can sustain it, whether they have a career as a writer, or whether they'll create a bestseller one day. The best indicator is to ask an author the following question:

“Where do you see yourself (as an author) in five years?”

If an author hesitates for an answer, or if they've never thought about it before, they probably won't be very successful. It's as simple as that.

It's an interesting phenomenon – because if you ask the same authors what their dreams as an author are, they might talk about making the NY Times Bestseller List, or being on talk shows, or selling a million copies. Yet if you ask them a concrete question about a specific time in the future, they've never thought about it. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. If you don't have a plan on how you're going to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be), you're never going to get there. You'll get frustrated and give up in a few months.

The good news is that it's easy to come up with a plan. Let's say in five years you want to be a NY Times Bestseller – now work backward and ask yourself what you need to do before you can get there:

·         How many books do bestsellers typically sell?

·         How many people on your social networks/email lists would you need to have to reach enough people to sell to that many people? Use your conversion rate right now, and that will give you a rough idea. If you don't know what your conversion rate is, calculate it by dividing the number of people you have by the number of sales you've made through that channel.

·         How can you gain the required number of people on your social media/email lists? How many people do you need to gain every month, every week, every day between now and then?

·         How can you gain enough fans each day to meet that quota?

·         Do you need to do any speaking engagements? How many do you need to do a year?

·         Once you hit a certain number of fans after the first year, how can you leverage those fans to gain more fans or to keep them interested? Contests? Videos? A new book? How about for the second year? The third year?

·         Etc...etc...

You can see that even with this lofty goal, you can begin to create concrete steps for each day, each month, and each year. Once you have it down to daily increments, you'll be surprised how do-able it seems. More importantly, you'll know what you have to do each day to get to your goal. You won't be spending your valuable time trying random marketing tactics and wondering why things aren't working. By the end of your five year plan (or even ten or twenty!), you'll be a lot closer to your dream than you ever thought possible.

Don't be afraid to constantly tweak the plan either – just remember to be honest with yourself, with your time commitments, and with your priorities. The great thing about having a plan is that you can genuinely celebrate small steps, because you can clearly see how it's connected to your ultimate dream. Embrace that, and you'll begin to feel successful today, right now!

Post Created by Tak Shiota, Social Media Consultant

Book Trailer!

Proof there is no proof for education reforms

This was written by Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State.

By Carol Corbett Burris

My three daughters loved Miss Levin. Each of them had Gail Levin in elementary school. Whenever she was their teacher, I knew I was taking the back seat from September to June. I did not mind. She made them feel very smart. That was because she challenged them to think deeply and critically about what they learned. She reminded me of the very best teachers that I have enjoyed at all levels of my own schooling — those who would not accept opinion as fact and challenged my thinking with the opposite point of view.

Teaching students to carefully consider evidence and distinguish opinion from fact is so important. It helps them become good citizens. We depend on our teachers and our leaders to clearly communicate what is fact from wishful thinking, modeling good decision making for us all. The importance of evidence should never be disregarded, even when — particularly when — it gets in the way of an agenda. This is true when we are bringing a new drug to market or bringing a medical procedure to scale, and it should be true as well of educational change.

Yet in 2009, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan was asked by an Education Week reporter about the evidence base for the policies of his department, he replied, “So I would argue the whole turnaround stuff is relatively new but I think there’s a lot of scientific evidence that the status quo doesn’t work and that’s the evidence that I’m looking at.” That is akin to saying, “I know my child is ill so I will give her any new medicine I happen to have in my cabinet.”

Yes, we can agree that there is a great deal about the status quo in schools that deserves reform, but that tells us absolutely nothing about whether any given reform is helpful, harmful or simply useless. (As an aside, my hunch is that we might not all agree with Secretary Duncan if we separately compiled our list of grievances with the status quo.)

This same minimizing of the importance of policy being guided by high-quality evidence is being played out at the state level, where misleading information is presented as fact. Allow me to present two troubling examples.

Take a look at slide number 20 contained in New York State Education Commissioner John King’s PowerPoint presentation. The graph purports to demonstrate that if we invest in technology, student achievement will accelerate at fantastic rates. In addition, we will get an outstanding return for our tax dollars if money is invested in “teacher effectiveness” programs. One is left to imagine what would happen if these two reform strategies were combined.

But where is the evidence in research to support these claims? As Bruce Baker of Rutgers University argues, there is no evidence at all. Baker did an outstanding job of debunking this bogus graph on his blog. His critique, which is a must read, can be found here.

The graph, labeled “illustrative” (which seems to be a new synonym for “fabricated”) in the PowerPoint, was also included in a presentation to the New York State School Board Association, along with an equally misleading slide, Teachers Matter Most, which followed it. See slide 18 here. This second slide makes two claims: (1) Research shows that an effective teacher is the most important contributor to student learning, and (2) Students with effective teachers three years in a row will bridge the achievement gap.

Let’s take these claims one at a time.

Research shows that of all of the IN-SCHOOL factors that affect learning, teachers contribute the most. In-school factors contribute about 20% of the variance of student scores — an equal amount is unexplained (error), which researchers often refer to as noise. Most of the variance is captured by out-of-school factors, generally linked to poverty and wealth.

Of those in-school factors, roughly half is attributable to teachers. If the slide were accurate it would say: Research shows that in-school factors contribute 20% to student learning. Of that 20%, at least half is attributable to teacher quality. Matt Di Carlo who writes for the Shankar blog provides an excellent explanation of the above breakdown between in- and out-of-school factors here. Similarly, the Educational Writers Association recently explained the limits of teacher contribution here.

The first claim would not be half as worrisome if it were not for the second claim — that three effective teachers in a row will bridge the achievement gap. As one who has worked relentlessly (and successfully) to bridge that gap in my high school, I know that this claim is more than an oversimplification — it is deceptive. It’s worth turning to Di Carlo again; he clearly explains the origins and problems with that claim. Moreover, he was disputing the claim that FIVE effective teachers in a row can close the gap, not three as presented by the New York State education commissioner and as posted on the State Education Department website.

When the state puts the entire burden of closing the gap on the backs of teachers, while ignoring such gap-producing factors as poverty and underfunded schooling, it hides the truth from the public regarding the complexity of the issues that must be addressed. Perhaps most importantly, it takes the burden off society to address issues such as poverty and inequitable school funding. It gives politicians permission to not address serious problems that affect learning such as teenage pregnancy, truancy, illegal drug use, gangs, and uneven access to health care. And it ignores the effects of racially and socio-economically isolated schooling and classrooms and pretends that separate and unequal are just fine — if only those teachers would do their jobs better.

Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University, who consults with the New York State Education Department on VAM (value-added modeling) scores and teacher evaluation, recently made a presentation at the Nassau Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. He included a slide, far more modest in its claims, regarding effective teaching and the achievement gap.

When I questioned him about it, he was quite honest and admitted that there exists no empirical proof that three effective teachers in a row would close the achievement gap. It is merely a hypothetical extension of results from a model. He also honestly admitted that there exists no study that demonstrates that evaluating teachers using student test scores results in gains in achievement.

Yet the New York State Race to the Top budget for implementing the new evaluation system is $14,500,000. As you look through the rest of the budget, (see pages 59 and 60), you will be staggered by the costs of unproven reform. Then look for a category called “offset local costs of education during a recession. You will not find it. The money that goes to districts will be quickly spent on mandated training for this unproven system and its troubling incentives and disincentives. Surely there will also be additional costs at both the state and local level.

During the past decade our school has worked hard to bring challenging learning and success to all students, and this year all of our 11th graders (with the exception of students who are developmentally delayed) are taking IB English. Anyone who knows the rigor of the IB knows that is quite an accomplishment.

It required hard work on the part of our teachers and students to get where we are today, but we have made it work for students — those from million dollar homes and those (now nearly 16% of our students) who receive free or reduced price lunch. It required time, study, professional development, curriculum development, ample community support and dedication. It happened in an integrated community willing to devote resources to level the playing field for all kids. It required the leadership of a strong superintendent who let his principals and teachers try new ideas without the fear of being fired over test scores. Yes, it was not the exciting “turnaround stuff” that sorts and selects teachers into four groups while having instruction driven by the results of state tests. Instead, it was based on evidence and hard work.

Because I am in the final years of my career, I will never personally be harmed by this new evaluation system. But I, like my fellow Long Island principals understand how this new system will slowly undermine true reforms like the one at my school. That is why we care so deeply and speak with one voice.

When my daughters and I found out that Gail Levin retired and was very ill, four grown women cried. So many years later, we still felt a warm bond with this wonderful teacher. Teachers like Miss Levin will become rare birds in the test prep schools to come. They will fly to other professions or flock to the private schools rather than parrot the drill needed for students to correctly answer the multiple choice questions on the state exam. But to honor her and all the great teachers who have graced our own learning, I hope and believe that educators, parents and others will not give up the fight to fend off unproven “turnaround stuff.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Excerpt (parent accountability)

Next, I wish to speak about the relationship between parents and teachers.  In my humble opinion, in order for student achievement to function at the optimal level, parental involvement must take place!  Students across America perform at their highest level when parents offer their encouragement, love and support for any and all educational activities that students of the modern world will encounter.  Let me be clear:  all parents must be involved in the educational careers of their children.  I will state specific ways in which parents must be involved in order to ensure success:

A)    Parents should know how to support their children’s learning.  In order to learn their children’s learning styles, parents must make school personnel partners instead of adversaries.

B)    Parents must ensure that the skills learned in a classroom setting are practiced and mastered in the home.

C)    Parents must ensure that all assignments and projects are completed.

D)    Parents must provide any and all educational materials that are necessary for the success of a child.

Skills that are a requirement of the modern world aren’t going to just magically materialize.  If parents do not take a personal stake in what is occurring educationally, how can parents expect to achieve results?
            The various publications that I have read in my career as an educator, have reiterated the belief that parent teacher communication is of the highest importance if children are going to succeed in the classroom.  According to Moore, Kenneth D. (1995) (Classroom Teaching Skills) effective parent communication is essential to teaching and learning.  Teachers often make parental contact at the beginning of the school year.  I feel that parents in urban situations sabotage their child’s educational experience out of jealousy or just plain apathy.   However, most parents are often too busy with daily responsibilities of work in addition to managing the needs of multiple siblings.   Furthermore, some parents have a negative attitude toward education in general that interferes with the learning process.  I admit that it is a burden for parents to consistently call teachers and inquire about the progress of their child when they have numerous priorities that require their attention.  However, I must make this statement and place it in high emphasis:  parents have had sexual intercourse which resulted in the creation of a life. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is how you fix Congress (send to friends)

My friend Allan Trimble sent me this post!  I think it is a good one!  Enjoy!

Subject: A non-partisan request

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Teacher Pay Study Asks the Wrong Question, Ignores Facts, Insults Teachers

As millions of Americans search for work, and millions more scrape by to make ends meet, researchers affiliated with two Washington think tanks — the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation — have recently announced a “finding” that defies common-sense: America’s teachers are overpaid by more than 50 percent.
The new paper from Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs fails on several levels. First, it asks the wrong question. Second, it ignores facts that conflict with its conclusions. Lastly, it insults teachers and demeans the profession.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Parent Trigger...

The Parent Trigger is an innovation in education reform recently passed into law in California. 
Briefly put, if half the parents whose children attend a failing public school sign a petition requesting reform of the school, the school must either shut down, become a charter school, or undergo one of two other types of reform.  According to the Web site of the Los Angeles Parents Union (, five schools currently have petition drives underway to transform their schools. These parents are moving forward on the Parent Trigger absent legal clarity, an indication of the demand for reform. At least one other state – Connecticut is considering similar legislation. (Connecticut passed a wide-ranging education reform bill in May, but the final compromise legislation did not include a Parent Trigger provision.)