Education Week - January 28, 2015 - (Page 25)

Dump Management 'Science,' And Change Learning Attitudes By Garrison Walters states to offer technical assistance to low-performing teacher-prep programs, including "providing programs with information on the specific indicators used to determine the program's rating" and "helping identify potential research and other resources to assist program improvement." But state agencies have little experience and few staff members in this area. Might the federal government offer meaningful incentives to states to design, test, and share approaches to strengthening weak education schools and support research to assess effective interventions? It seems deeply cynical to require states to institute fancy new measurement systems while knowing that most have no approach to improving weak education schools. Make no mistake: The evaluation of education schools in this country does indeed need fixing. Data about education schools often focus on input information, such as the qualifications of entrants into teacher education programs. An outcome approach is warranted. But new measures that make headlines are no substitute for policies and assistance designed to improve the teacher education programs themselves. n SUSAN H. FUHRMAN is the president of Teachers College, Columbia University, and a past president of the National Academy of Education. I I had taught my first-year teachers a literacy technique in which students come to the board and circle letters and sounds they recognize in a message written by the teacher. Then the students are told to put a square around a word they recognize and a triangle around a piece of punctuation, and to underline sight words from their classroom's "word wall." The interactive nature of the technique is what leads to its success. However, when Angela was implementing this technique one day, a school administrator walked in and informally observed her teaching. When Angela was finished, the administrator pulled her aside and told her she liked how the students identified the different parts of language, but that they were not allowed to come to the board to do so. Why? Because 1st graders make too much noise while at the board. Angela knew the suggestion was counterintuitive, and she knew that the noise her students made was from the joy of learning-a sound missing in turnaround schools. She came to me torn about what to do next. Many days, after supervising my first-year teachers, I drive less than five miles to pick up my own children from their schools in Oak Park, Ill.- a middle-class suburb known for its diversity. In the hallways of my daughter's elementary school, there is the cacophony of children laughing, running down the hallways, and slamming lockers. On the floors, winter wear is strewn all over the place along with forgotten worksheets. In the cafeteria, the noise of children eating and talking can at times become overwhelming; so, too, the sight of discarded food on the floor. Do we find this chaotic behavior tolerable and less threatening because the school is majority white? If these were mostly African-American and Latino children, would many administrators in the Chicago public schools and elsewhere not have tolerated it and perhaps even found it threatening? Finally, when will turnaround schools take school culture into consideration and produce a school that enriches the whole minority child? n SAMINA HADI-TABASSUM is an associate professor of education at Dominican University, in River Forest, Ill., where she directs the English-as-a-second-language/ bilingual program and works with cohorts of first-year teachers. She is writing a book addressing race relations in public schools. iStockphoto t's been more than three decades since 1983's A Nation at Risk report warned Americans about losing their educational advantage in the world. To prevent disaster, the authors said, the United States needed to fix its schools. So we rushed our management experts to the front lines. Surely, they could do the fixing. Not so. After a generation of tremendous effort and expense, we're in many respects worse off than when we started. The track record is so bad our experts are frantically rummaging at the bottom of the management toolbox to see what's left. All they can find is ranking teachers and firing the lowestscoring ones. This, plus endless testing, is the accountability agenda. The management guru W. Edwards Deming must be spinning in his grave. Deming, whose memory I revere because I'm old enough to recall how dysfunctional cars, appliances, and entire organizations were before he came along, taught us that the way to greater quality and productivity was to ensure that management and the workforce had mutual respect and a common purpose. Deming believed that data were important, but didn't worship numbers; rather, he emphasized that people's attitudes were the key. He had complete contempt for management strategies that gave high priority to things like pruning bad workers and only evaluating quality at the end of the line (think: high-stakes testing). Despite the Japanese conquest of the U.S. automobile market in the late 20th century (which he had a key role in making possible), Deming struggled to get American auto executives to adopt a new strategy. They saw themselves as management scientists and balked at the messy, ill-defined process of engaging with their workers, preferring to use more robots instead. Only when that failed did they come around. So what haven't our school management experts considered? How about asking whether the main issue in educational achievement is actually about fixing the schools? If we look at education in the larger context, we'll see that the attitudes of individuals about education are what matter most. Schools are certainly very important, and the deprivations caused by poverty remain an important challenge, but it's the surrounding culture, not how schools are managed, that is the principal driver of educational success. Studies of international education, as well as those contrasting different ethnic groups, demonstrate that an educationally positive surrounding culture gives young students the conviction that learning is essential for success in life, as well as the belief that, with appropriate effort, everyone can succeed. No example from another nation can provide a template, but information from the culturally similar United Kingdom provides some compelling evidence for the United States. The U.K.'s standardized test, the Graduate Certificate of Secondary Education, or gcse, is one that is important not just for those planning to go on to higher education, but also for those directly seeking jobs, since employers typically care about the results. The gcse data show serious problems for one large subgroup of students: low-income whites, primarily those from the United Kingdom's relatively isolated postindustrial regions. For example, in school year 2011-12, 69.1 percent of low-income whites failed to meet the basic standard of five or more gcse grades of A* through C, including mathematics and English. (An A* indicates a top grade higher than an A.) Other low-income groups had lower failure rates: Chinese, 31.8 percent; other Asian, 48.2 percent; black, 54.4 percent; and mixed race, 58.7 percent. " An educationally positive surrounding culture gives young students the conviction that learning is essential." By contrast, whites not in the low-income category scored at the average. Especially in the past decade, British politicians and social scientists have focused on the factors that influence educational achievement in the low-income white group. As part of an effort called "Inspiring Communities, Changing Behaviour," researchers eschewed simple polling on educational aspirations (which usually produces very positive results across the board) and instead undertook in-depth interviews with typical middle school students. Researchers supplemented this work with similar interviews with high-achieving students and with community stakeholders. The list of 10 major barriers to greater educational achievement from the Inspiring Communities study is striking. Three of the factors that stood out are: * Parental passivity or active discouraging: "Mum says it's not worth it." * People precedent, or failing to identify with others who are high educational achievers: "I'm not like that, and I don't know anyone like that [focused on success through education]." * Perceived geography and perceived time/cost to cover distance: "But that's five miles away!" Interestingly, people saw distance as a barrier differently when it was for everyday activities like shopping, in contrast to something that made them uncomfortable, such as participating in further education. Eight of the top 10 barriers were psychological. The only exceptions were low-ranking: economic deprivation ("We can't afford it") and actual geography ("It costs time and money to ever leave"). We have many communities in the United States where "active discouraging" and lack of "people precedent" are deep and persistent factors. These include our own postindustrial regions and populations that have suffered PAGE 27 > GARRISON WALTERS is the executive director of the South Carolina Higher Education Foundation, based in Columbia, S.C. He retired in 2012 as the executive director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Before that, as the vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Ohio board of regents, he had responsibility for linkages to K-12 education. He has written extensively about information technology. EDUCATION WEEK | January 28, 2015 | | 25

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 28, 2015

Education Week - January 28, 2015
Activists Learn Art of ‘Test Refusal’
Ed. School Deans Join Forces To Bolster Teacher Preparation
N.C. District Rebounds From Ed-Tech Meltdown
Poverty Data Signal Urgency for Schools
Report Roundup
News in Brief
Chicago’s Closures Drove Most to Higher-Rated Schools
More Districts Expected to Follow Boston on Longer Days
International Study Ranks Schools on Social Stress, Equity
Blogs of the Week
No Firm Direction on Testing Set At Senate Panel’s ESEA Hearing
As Job Description Grows, So Does Churn for State Chiefs
K-12 Issues Given Short Shrift in State of the Union Address
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
SUSAN H. FUHRMAN: Measurement Alone Cannot Propel Improvement
SAMINA HADI-TABASSUM: Too Much Discipline Hurts Majority-Minority Schools
GARRISON WALTERS: Dump Management ‘Science,’ And Change Learning Attitudes
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment

Education Week - January 28, 2015