Education Week - January 14, 2015 - (Page 20)

LETTERS to the EDITOR Reducing Annual Testing Would Hurt At-Risk Students To the Editor: Doing the right thing and making tough decisions aren't easy. Politics, limited resources, and competing priorities make standing up for individuals or groups who don't have a loud or powerful constituency almost impossible. This has never been clearer than in the current debate unfolding in the just-convened 114th Congress around reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Education Week recently reported that the new Republican Senate leadership is willing to weaken and potentially abandon protections for America's low-income children, children of color, and students with special needs ("Gop Senate Aides Working on Draft esea Bill That Could Ditch Annual Testing," Politics K-12 blog,, Dec. 15, 2014). We cannot let Congress undermine decades of investment by the federal government and states that has driven significant progress. When it comes to trusting states and local agencies to ensure accountability and equity, our nation has a woeful history of maintaining segregation, hiding and ignoring achievement gaps, underfunding schools, and neglecting students with disabilities and those who are English-language learners. With a meaningful federal presence and oversight in the past two decades, each of these has been at least partially addressed. Even under the current esea, the No Child Left Behind Act, without federal pressure to keep standards high, states have shown a willingness to set the bar low, undercutting efforts to give families a true sense of how prepared all of our children are for college and careers. Nclb is not perfect, and overtesting is a legitimate problem today. We should test only as much as needed to inform instruction and hold ourselves accountable. But reducing annual testing to just a few grades or a sample of kids is a shameful attempt to avoid responsibility for educating children at risk. As the conversation heats up, and the prospect of a new bill gets closer to reality, I worry that people forget that ignorance is not bliss; it comes with a steep price, especially for our most vulnerable kids. Ann Whalen Director of Policy Education Post Chicago, Ill. The writer headed the U.S. Department of Education's implementation and support unit from 2011 to 2014 and served as a special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from 2009 until 2011. Accountability a Crucial Element For Teacher-Prep Programs To the Editor: I write in response to the recent article "Despite Monitoring, Ed. School Closures Are Rare" (Jan. 7, 2015). I'm the co-founder of a teacher-preparation program, and I believe in holding my program and its graduates accountable. We created the Urban Teacher Center to address the same deficiencies in teacher preparation highlighted in your article. Every such organization must take responsibility for the effectiveness of its graduates. We take this responsibility seriously. There is a pressing national need for an effective marketplace of high-quality teachers willing to be held accountable for their students' performance and rewarded for making a difference in their students' achievement. We contend that states and the federal government must create meaningful accountability structures to guarantee teacher-preparation programs graduate educators with the knowledge, skills, and ability to boost student achievement. We know it can be done, because we do it. Our program ensures effectiveness by linking teacher certification to student-achievement gains and classroom performance. Before taking charge of their own classrooms, our teachers spend nearly 1,500 clinical hours in a classroom, with support via side-by-side coaching from an experienced educator. The graduation, certification, and placement of our teachers is dependent upon candidate performance against a transparent, researchbased model and measurement tool. With the release of new teacher-preparation regulations, we have the opportunity to set more consistent expectations regarding accountability and the power to increase student learning gains. I applaud the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to move state and federal oversight from a collection of inputs to an analysis of outcomes, and I hope my fellow preparation programs will do the same. As entities responsible for producing one of our nation's most valuable resources- teachers-we must be held accountable for our results if we want to ensure our next generation of teachers are the best they can be. Jennifer Green Chief Executive Officer Urban Teacher Center Baltimore, Md. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit Engage in the K-12 Public Debate CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 ing through the nuances of translating research with integrity. The academy too often reduces engagement in its many forms to advocacy, devaluing efforts of faculty to genuinely enter public debate as scholars. Technology is forcefully eroding and reshaping this arms' length stance as faculty members' scholarly products appear in open access outlets, are disseminated in social media, and reproduced and distributed by secondary sources. As the print journal dissolves as the primary medium for the curation and transmission of scholarly activity, academics-and the academy itself-must come to grips with the intellectual value and impact of work conveyed in radically different forms. And at operational levels, there is movement in bridging the divide between the academy and the places where education happens. Funders of scholarship-foundations, federal agencies-now promote and target work that fosters and exploits partnerships between scholars and school districts. It is increasingly clear that the academy holds most of the capacity to exploit the use of states' longitudinal-data systems for actionable intelligence to address problems of practice or policy. Education schools are partnering with the private sector on a range of challenges related to commercialization and scale. These moves reflect mutual interests in relevance and impact. Like it or not, the work of education school faculties is situated in the public square. The faculty at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education has spent the past year wrestling with what it means to produce work that matters. By no means have we resolved that question. But our annual reporting system this year includes activities that are all about engagement with the public. We recognize junior faculty need support when establishing research partnerships with states or districts. And we are sorting out what it means to partner with the private sector. Our work in the academy should engage the public square. To back away would be to cede influence in an even larger effort: to advance the understanding of the American public to make informed decisions about the education of its citizenry. The relevance of education schools may even hang in the balance. And as higher education struggles generally to redefine its role in society, the capacity of education school faculty to engage with stakeholders outside of our institutional walls may set an example for other institutions to follow. n Address Problems of Practice CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 propriate audience, translating research-based evidence into the language of the public square, where policymakers and practitioners can implement that evidence for real impact in real-world situations. University-based scholars need to engage in discourse that can influence practice and policy whether through public statements in newspapers or on blogs or testimony before elected officials. Senior academic leaders, including university presidents, provosts, and deans, can set a strong example for their universities when they speak out publicly on subjects that could shift society's thinking toward problem-solving. At the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, faculty members have studied current hot-button issues, including the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, technology and online innovations, and college access and affordability. They have disseminated their research results in print newspaper and online editorials, in blogs and on social media, as well as in highimpact, peer-reviewed journals and books. We have tenured, promoted, and given merit awards to these scholars. In a recent example of the impact of evidence-based research, Rossier associate professor Julie Marsh earned media atMake Research Accessible CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 should be expected to solve. Instead, commentators-both pundits and journalists-as well as academic institutions can and should play a role. Pundits could pay more attention to existing research and evidence, bringing informed ideas and knowledge into the conversation and distinguishing between strong and specious studies. Too often, education commentary is devoid of evidence, and education reporting, in an effort to appear balanced, presents evidence on both sides of an issue as if the research is in equipoise when, in reality, it is quite lopsided. This fuels the false impression that collectively we know little about education, gives perverse incentives to researchers, and cheapens all education research by treating weak studies with the same respect as rigorous ones. tention when, as a result of her research findings, the New York department of education ended a teacher-bonus program. Professor Marsh's study, "A Big Apple for Educators: New York City's Experiment With Schoolwide Performance Bonuses," found that the New York City schoolwide performance bonus program had no effect on students' test scores, grades, or the way teachers reported doing their jobs. The New York Times, certainly one of our most prominent "public squares," was among the news outlets to feature the report. I would hope that such examples of translational research could serve as a model for other research universities and as an incentive to support scholars who are striving to improve our K-12 schools. n Institutions of higher education can and should help by disseminating ideas and research produced by their faculties in a way that is accessible to nonacademics. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, for example, we have created the Usable Knowledge website. It offers brief summaries of the key findings of faculty research, faculty Q&As, and relevant video demonstrations. Rather than place the responsibility for disseminating the work on the shoulders of our researchers, we have created a small team that helps our faculty translate its research for players in the K-12 field-teachers, principals, policymakers, and pundits-who may lack the time and expertise to wade through a long article in an academic journal. The hope, of course, is that the good work produced by our faculty will not only enter the public debate, but also influence it positively. That should be the goal of our role in the public square: to ensure that the work of researchers is included in the K-12 conversation. n 20 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 14, 2015 |

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 14, 2015

Education Week - January 14, 2015
Mandatory State Testing on Thin Ice
Feds Confront Doubts in Plan To Fix Tribal Schools
TFA-Like Corps Places Advisers In High Schools
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Pittsburgh Collaboration Seen as Model
News in Brief
Report Roundup
With Common Core, More States Sharing Test Questions
New Study Plan Set on Down Syndrome
Blogs of the Week
Growth of Md. Advising Program Runs Into Familiar Controversy
N.Y. Governor Aims to Flex Muscles On Education Policy
Head Start Partnerships to Provide New Resources, Standards for Day Care
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
FREDERICK M. HESS: The 2015 Edu-Scholar Rankings
How Does an Edu-Scholar Influence K-12 Policy?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
WILLIAMSON M. EVERS: Exit, Voice, Loyalty—and the Common Core

Education Week - January 14, 2015