Education Week - March 4, 2015 - (Page 24)

LETTERS to the EDITOR Common Core: 'A Triumph Of Spin Over Substance' To the Editor: Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights defends the Common Core State Standards in his Commentary "Low Standards Do a Disservice to All" (Feb 4, 2015). He says critics are mounting a political "assault" on the common core. Of course, Henderson's defense of the common core is strictly political. He is angry at Republicans who shun the common core, including state superintendents in Arizona and Georgia, as well as Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. He praises "Republican partisans" who support the common core, notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. However, Henderson ignores bipartisan criticism of the common core. The standards are a product of relentless and deceptive marketing. They address only two subjects. They allow little, if any, flexibility in their use.. They distract attention from high expectations for learning in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Henderson speaks of "low-income black, Latino, and American Indian kids" who are "taught in substandard facilities by underqualified teachers using old textbooks and outdated technology." He imagines that policymakers can fix these conditions by making financial and pedagogical investments in the common core. Wishful thinking will not overcome hard facts. This year, 51 percent of public K-12 students live in poverty. In 2014-15, at least 30 states provided less funding per student than they did before the 2008 recession. The price tag of K-12 education has increased since 2008, due to rising costs of supplies and tests, the need for more wraparound social services, dubious investments in technology, and more-but not teacher pay. On average within the United States, the salary for teachers decreased by 1.3 percent between 1999-2000 and 2012-13, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The common core will not fix communities where entrenched poverty and segregated schools are accepted as inevitable. The common core will not fix state budgets for education. The common core is deeply flawed; it is a triumph of spin over substance, and a pathetic expression of educational aims for a great nation. Laura H. Chapman Cincinnati, Ohio The author is an independent scholar and consultant. Reliance on Carnegie Unit Limits Student Learning To the Editor: The study referenced in the article "Credit Hours Are Still Useful Measures for Schools, Study Concludes" (Feb. 4, 2015) is misleading and counterproductive to the search for a new model for education that does not rely on the century-old Carnegie unit, or credit hour, especially regarding competency-based learning. This study is tantamount to giving the foxes cover to continue to raid the chicken coops. To be fair, the article clearly cites other views in addition to the study referenced in the headline. But the headline suggests that continuing in a system based on time has merit. This is a dangerous take-away that would be laughable if not for the reality of the harm the archaic devotion to an out-of-date measure for education does to the progress and success of the country's students. The article quotes Noelle Ellerson of aasa, the School Superintendents Association, as saying that "the system continues to rely on [the Carnegie unit] because, in large part, the Carnegie unit is the system." But, as most people already know, the Carnegie unit was not initially intended to measure student learning and did not gain widespread adoption until it was tied to retirement pensions for university professors. One of the study's authors is quoted in the article as saying that the Carnegie unit is "a strong administrative tool for the system," and that "it's one of the few guarantees, if not the only one we have in American education, that all students have the most basic resource: time to learn." Hogwash! Making time the constant and learning the variable cheats our students by putting them on a steadily moving conveyer belt that ensures widely varying results in student performance and learning. The time-based Carnegie unit is the problem with our education system. It is an outdated measure that is structured to provide conveniences to adults, not to ensure student learning. Fred Bramante President National Center for Competency-Based Learning Durham, N.H. 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 Teacher Tenure: An Innocent Victim of Vergara v. California CONTINUED FROM PAGE 32 classrooms, he could not have been in her room more than 15 minutes. He had no knowledge of how she had been evaluated formally or the results of her students' standardized tests. Yet, based on this brief observation, he was able to identify her as a virtuoso in the classroom. Had she been the novice, practicing her piano lesson, it would have been obvious, as well. If a superintendent was able to determine the quality of this teacher in 15 minutes, why would a principal need two years? I am not asserting that a teacher can be evaluated effectively in 15 minutes. But based on my four decades in public education-more than three of them as a school principal-and conducting several hundred formal teacher evaluations, I am asserting that indicators of teacher competence reveal themselves very quickly. Signs of incompetence, much less gross incompetence, do not suddenly materialize. Individuals who struggle so profoundly in the classroom are generally unable to improve enough to suddenly take command of instruction. Two years is more than ample time for a principal to reach this conclusion. This matters for the Vergara case when you consider the following: In his ruling, Judge Treu said, "All sides of this litigation agree that competent teachers are a critical, if not the most important component of Jonathan Bouw for Education Week 24 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 4, 2015 | success of a child's in-school experience." Under oath, then-Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy testified that having highly effective teachers was the most important factor in accomplishing the mission of his school district: improving student learning. The critical importance of teacher effectiveness was established at the trial, with both sides in agreement. Therefore, I would argue, the evaluation of teachers in an effective and timely manner-in other words, ensuring that only effective teachers gain tenure-is the single most important factor in the evaluation of principal effectiveness. If all principals performed effectively, there would be no grossly ineffective teachers in California classrooms, or anywhere else, for that matter. Alas, this is not the case. It was determined at trial that between 1 percent and 3 percent-roughly 8,200-of California's 275,000 teachers are grossly ineffective. Yet, only 2.2 teachers, on the average, are dismissed for unsatisfactory performance per year. Although intended to support the case against tenure laws, these statistics are actually an indictment against those responsible for evaluating teachers effectively. If it is true that more than 8,200 grossly ineffective teachers occupy California classrooms, it is also true that during their probationary periods, they each had a grossly ineffective principal. So where does the buck stop? Is it not true that district-level administrators are responsible for ensuring that every school has a highly effective principal? If accountability is the battle cry of education reform, should the term not apply to education professionals at all levels? Why is it that the body politic and the media are so intent on vilifying classroom teachers while totally ignoring education administrators? Is it not the responsibility of those who hold the keys to power within the profession to ensure that every student, in every school, in every classroom is taught by a quality teacher? There seems to be a conspiracy among politicians and the media whereby teachers are thrown under the bus, while administrators are given a free ride. Vergara served an important purpose by bringing public attention to the damage inflicted upon children by incompetent teachers. Unfortunately, incompetent administrators, who are equally culpable, escaped the scrutiny of the court. Instead, teacher tenure became the innocent victim of this high-profile case. Judge Treu hoped to solve the problem of incompetent teachers by striking down the state's tenure codes. In reality, the root cause is an intrinsic one, found within the structure of our K-12 school systems. Eliminating tenure laws to solve the problem is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a bad headache. n

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 4, 2015

Study: Twitter Fanned Debate On Standards
Police Body Cameras Surfacing in Schools
Tracing Hillary Clinton’s K-12 Record
Boys-Only Programs Raise Legal Concerns
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Simulation Game on Slave Experience Provokes Questions
Education Week - March 4, 2015
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Rewrite of Framework for AP U.S. History Raises More Hackles
Blogs of the Week
Chicago’s Emanuel Forced Into Runoff
N.Y. Study Finds More Top Students Hired as Teachers
Deeper Look at Suspension Data Pinpoints Big Disparities
House Wrestles With Bill to Rewrite No Child Left Behind Act
Partisan Winds Loom For Some GOP Governors
Blogs of the Week
State of the States
PAUL T. HILL & ASHLEY JOCHIM: Beyond Chartering
MATTHEW MUENCH: Making ‘Innovation’ Live Up to Its Hype
JOHN MANNES: The Fault in Our School Boards
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
DAVID FINLEY: Teacher Tenure: An Innocent Victim of Vergara v. California

Education Week - March 4, 2015