Education Week - October 16, 2013 - (Page 28)

LETTERS to the EDITOR At Education Sciences Institute, History Is Repeating Itself To the Editor: I found the statement attributed to Bridget Terry Long in “House Panelists Question Relevancy of Education Dept. Research” (Sept. 18, 2013) deliciously ironic. Faced with congressional concerns regarding the lack of translation of research, Ms. Long, who chairs the National Board for Education Sciences, said the Institute of Education Sciences—which her board advises—will launch a center to evaluate how well research is being translated into usable knowledge. As the philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Here the ies is revealing a woeful lack of knowledge regarding the system of RD&D (research, development, and dissemination) established when the U.S. Department of Education was founded in 1979. Those core components included national research centers, focused on priorities deemed critical for improving education, and regional educational laboratories (rels), tasked with taking research results, developing appropriate materials reflecting those results, and disseminating those materials to educators and policymakers at the state and local levels. The rels carried out this mission of translation in response to priorities set by their regional governing boards. Rels conducted regular evaluations of the relevance and quality of their work in the eyes of their customers, that is, the individuals responsible for educational policy and practice. The work of the rels changed in the mid-2000s; new contracts required them to emphasize the conduct of research more than its translation and dissemination. And now the ies wants a center to evaluate how well research is being translated? What the ies should do instead is restore the rel program to its original function. By my estimates, that work, funded annually at approximately $50 million, could drive improvements in practices supported by the Education Department at more than $21 billion annually. Carol Chelemer Rockville, Md. The writer is a former division director for the regional-education-lab program. Plato Would Have Agreed That Play Is Schools’ Missing Standard To the Editor: “Do not, then, my friend, keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” Plato wrote this in The Republic. Who would have thought Plato would have come up with a statement as bold as this? In our society—with its testing, scope and sequence, and standards—play is the one standard missing from schools. As an educator, I never realized how important this was until I became a mom. What happened to a great man’s philosophy? I believe many teachers need to be able to incorporate play into their day just a little more. It may make their classrooms a happier place. Terri Crowley Pennsauken, N.J. The writer taught and coached literacy in public schools for 13 years and is now a substitute teacher in several districts. Community Schools Give a Boost To Children and Their Families To the Editor: Cheryl D. Hayes and Richard R. Buery Jr.’s Commentary “Community Schools: Turning Costs Into Investments” (Aug. 21, 2013) offers both information and hope. As a former principal of a community school in Berkeley, Calif., I knew that services were greatly helping children and families. I always suspected that there were real savings in social-service costs, but could never actually prove it. We had an array of services, including dental, psychological, and food-shortage programs. I was amazed at the number of children who needed dental services. We helped many children and families with counseling and often were able to keep small problems small. Families and children became stronger because of the food programs. The parents learned how to navigate services in the community and became advocates for their children. Many programs come and go in education; however, community schools should expand and continue. These are programs that pay off in multiple ways for children and families. between the reader and the text. There is no mention in the common core of the importance of personal connections and response. Second, reading is conceptualized as a test-based process. There is no mention of the importance of bringing prior knowledge to reading to support comprehension. Third, common-core instruction in many schools is dominated by scripted programs that focus on preparing students for tests. What about teaching thoughtful literacy? Fourth, the common core has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum that has eliminated, or greatly reduced, arts education in some schools. Fifth, the common core has created unfunded mandates. As a result, districts are laying off teachers and making drastic cutbacks in special programs. I also do not agree with Ms. Yatvin’s pessimism regarding the ability of critics to make the standards “go away.” At the same time that I oppose the common core, as a teacher-educator I am committed to preparing my students to use research-based, effective practices to teach thoughtful literacy beyond the scripts that will lead to student success on the common-core tests. Michael L. Shaw Rebecca Wheat Berkeley, Calif. Commentary Missed Five Flaws In the Common-Core Standards To the Editor: Joanne Yatvin (“How to Improve the Common Core,” Sept. 25, 2013) identifies three important problems with the Common Core State Standards and offers thoughtful solutions. But she does not address five essential problems that I believe the commoncore standards have. First, reading is conceptualized as textual analysis rather than a personal transaction Professor of Literacy Education St. Thomas Aquinas College Sparkill, N.Y. 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 Using Accountability to Promote Motivation, Not Undermine It CONTINUED FROM PAGE 32 Jori Bolton rather than motivate teachers. Describing teacher assessment as a strategy for identifying teachers’ needs for improvement is less likely to alienate teachers and thus to motivate their productive efforts to improve their practices. Policies that create competition among teachers within a district or school, such as merit pay for a predetermined percentage of teachers, weaken the sense of community; more desirable than competition are teacher-accountability policies that promote collaboration and cohesion. Strong professional learning communities in schools are associated with better student outcomes in part because they create a sense of belonging and respect among teachers. Feeling competent. There are two parts to promoting feelings of competence. The first part involves the expectation that efforts have some likelihood of achieving success, however success is defined in the accountability policy. Research on the effect of expectations as well as research based on selfdetermination theory finds that incentive systems motivate individuals to change their behavior only if they believe the goals are realistic and attainable. To make sure teachers believe that success is achievable, an accountability policy needs to include efforts to provide the tools teachers need to be successful. Tools might come in the form of technology, a research-based curriculum that is linked to the standards their students are expected to achieve, support for the psychological and physical challenges that can interfere with students’ ability to benefit from even the best instruction, and meaningful opportunities for teachers to develop their skills. We have seen what happens when accountability measures fail to provide these supports: Studies show that incentives do not lead to improved instruction and student learning unless 28 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 16, 2013 | teachers have high expectations for their ability to influence learning. The negative effects of increased stress and lowered commitment to teaching found when expectations are low can outweigh any positive effects of the incentives. The second part of feeling competent is the emotional experience of pride and mastery that comes with developing new skills and seeing improvement in students’ learning. Teachers’ intrinsic motivation is grossly underestimated in the public dialogue on school reform, especially related to teacher assessment. Most teachers take great pleasure in a lesson that goes particularly well and in seeing students engaged and learning. Experiencing their own skills developing and seeing the effects of their more effective practices on student learning are powerful motivators for teachers. In contrast, when teachers do not experience improvement despite their increased efforts or changes in practice, they become discouraged and their expectations for success decline. Again, motivation theory and research point to the importance of teacher professional development as a core ingredient of a successful accountability policy. Accountability is as important in education as it is in any field of work. But accountability will fail when it is not a piece of a larger set of policies that support teachers’ feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence. The same argument can be made for school administrators and students—actually for anyone in any performance context. If we want to motivate educators to work harder and smarter, we need to consider the context in which accountability is introduced. So far, we are learning these lessons through trial and error. Why pursue such a hit-or-miss strategy for developing accountability policies when we have decades of motivation theory and research to serve as a guide? n

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 16, 2013

Sequester May Linger, Some Fear
Parent-Sparked Charter Faces Challenge to Deliver
Pa. Texting Furor Shows Difficulties Facing IT Leaders
Educators Launch Startups; See Steep Learning Curve
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Teachers Use Social-Emotional Programs to Manage Classes
Ind. Districts, AG File Suit Over Federal Health-Care Law
Hospital Partnership Provides Trainers for School Sports
Mass. Enterprise Targets Inadequate Preschool Facilities
Blogs of the Week
Tablet-Computing Initiatives Suffer Major Setbacks
Charter-Campaign Aftershocks Continue
Texas Race Flags Education Issues On 2014 Electoral Horizon
School-Related Cases Factor in Supreme Court’s First Week Back
Lights On, Nobody There As Ed. Dept. Weathers Shutdown
Blogs of the Week
KEVIN MEUWISSEN: Teachers as Political Actors
ANDRE BENITO MOUNTAIN: Easing Social Studies Through Turbulent Times
JUDY WALLIS: A Call to Teachers: Don’t Forget the Joy
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
DEBORAH STIPEK: Using Accountability to Promote Motivation, Not Undermine It

Education Week - October 16, 2013