Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 20)
To Expand Pool of Good Teachers,
Tie Loan Breaks to New Standards
To the Editor:
We have been reading about the new
admissions standards-higher SAT scores
and high school grade point averages-
recently adopted by the Council for the
Accreditation of Educator Preparation,
or CAEP ("Teacher-Prep Accreditor Adopts
Outcomes Standards," Sept. 11, 2013),
but very little about their consequences.
Specifically, by the year 2020, there will
be a serious teacher shortage, especially
in the more demanding subject areas of
mathematics and science.
Fortunately, there is time to take the
necessary steps to turn this shortage into
a meaningful education reform that will
improve the quality and broaden the racial
demographics of the individuals who enter
the teaching profession.
There is little doubt that the pool of
future "qualified" applicants will shrink
significantly unless the federal and state
governments step in with incentives to
encourage the entrance of high school
graduates who previously shunned teaching
because of the cost of four to six years of
college and graduate school and the prospect
of low career earnings.
But here is where government can do
something: It can implement a policy to
forgive student loans for those college
students who attend programs that meet all
of CAEP's more rigorous admission standards,
graduate in no more than five years, pass
state certification examinations, and are
employed by schools that agree to meet
another of the council's new standards,
namely showing the "value added" in student
It is generally accepted that the teacher
is the key (controllable) element in a
student's success, as compared with the role
of parents and a student's poverty level.
Since few disagree that education is the
best vehicle for reducing income inequality
and promoting opportunity-factors which
contribute mightily to our country's future-
forgiving student loans for the most-qualified
Americans to encourage them to enter
the field of education seems a very small
national investment, especially since loan
forgiveness is contingent upon individuals'
fulfillment of their responsibilities.
Marc F. Bernstein
New York, N.Y.
The writer is an adjunct faculty member at Fordham
University's graduate school of education in New
York City. He is also a retired district superintendent.
Principals' Leadership Is Critical
In Fostering Effective Teaching
To the Editor:
We want to add an important dimension
to the points Mary Amato raised in her
Commentary "What Are We Doing to
Support Great Teachers?" (Sept. 25, 2013)-
specifically, the critical role that school
leadership plays in school reform. There
has been much recent dialogue and debate
about teachers and student learning. No
one in the education system has a greater
impact. But what is often overlooked is that
teachers do not work in a vacuum.
A teacher's most important educational
partner is her or his principal. It is
the principal who creates the climate
that values effective teaching, supports
teacher collaboration, and uses data
and instructional systems to enable
cohesion throughout the building. It is the
principal who hires, trains, supports, and
retains teachers. It is the principal who is
ultimately responsible for implementing
Twenty-five percent of student success
depends on principal quality. Principals'
impact is second only to that of teachers.
We at NYC Leadership Academy, or
NYCLA, support the idea of a Great Teacher
Initiative, like the one Ms. Amato writes
about. But we also believe that an initiative
of this kind will succeed only if we develop
a tandem effort to provide principals with
The good news is that we know how to
do this. Schools with NYCLA-trained leaders
have shown extraordinary results: a 35
percent rise in math scores; an 18 percent
rise in English/language arts scores; parent
engagement up by 18 percent; teacher
engagement up by 13 percent; and student
perception of safety up by 8 percent.
Too often, efforts at school reform have failed
because we make changes in one area without
making changes in others. We cannot afford
to repeat this mistake. If our students are to
learn, teachers must receive more support. A
Great Teacher Initiative is desperately needed,
but it will be doomed to fail without similar
programs for school leaders.
Chief Executive Officer
NYC Leadership Academy
Long Island City, N.Y.
Just Another Testing Boondoggle?
'Fewer, Better' Strategy Has Flaws
To the Editor:
Three scholars have recommended testing
students only every few years and using
"higher-quality assessments that encourage
more productive teaching" rather than
current multiple-choice tests ("Note to
Congress: Fewer, Better Tests Can Boost
Student Achievement," Oct. 9, 2013). In their
Commentary, Marc Tucker, Linda DarlingHammond,
and John Jackson note that these
tests can be used without spending more
money than we are spending now on testing.
Phrased another way, they are saying that
the new tests will cost just as much as we are
spending now, which is a lot, and that the cost
will continue to grow.
We will still be spending millions on
tests, and billions more to administer them
online, with costs increasing as equipment is
replaced and technology "advances."
The bottom line is that the situation will
remain the same: a huge bleeding of funds, all
going to the testing and computer companies.
But this time it will be more appealing to the
public because the tests are supposedly better
and students don't have to take them as often.
Before doing any of this, it has to be shown
that it is necessary to test every student.
We already have the National Assessment
of Educational Progress, or NAEP, given to
samples of students and considered the
assessment gold standard. And if the case is
made that we need to test every student, it
must be shown that the new tests are indeed
higher-quality, through careful testing on
small groups. They must be shown to have
predictive validity, that they lead to greater
and longer-lasting academic achievement.
This is hard to do when your goal is to make
a quick buck.
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this letter appeared in the online
comments section on edweek.org.
Self-Interest of Board Members
Undermines District Governance
To the Editor:
The recent article "Superintendents
Wary of Boards, Poll Finds" (Oct. 2, 2013)
reports just 2 percent of the nation's
superintendents said they strongly agree
that America's school systems are effectively
governed at the board level. As a veteran
educator and educational leader, my
personal experiences echo these results.
The findings raise the question of why such
ineffective governance exists in our nation's
School boards are expected to provide
effective governance as the foundation upon
which a high-quality education for students
In public service, there is a line which
separates the opposing perspectives of
service of the community and service of self.
Many individuals seek election to the board
out of a desire to work with fellow citizens
and education professionals to provide
outstanding educational opportunities
for children. Unfortunately, many do not.
They cross the line and seek to exploit
their position for personal benefit. Some
desire to exploit slightly. Others seek total
domination over the school system.
The prevalence of exploitative board
members must be understood. A flaw in the
governance structure of public education
in America must be addressed in order to
prevent a high-quality education from being
stolen from our children.
Workplace Bullying in Schools Project
Workplace Bullying Institute
The writer is the author of Exploiting Children:
School Board Members Who Cross The Line
(Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013).
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
Common Core's Power for Disadvantaged Students
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 24
educators define their expectations in terms of students' race
More recently, the federal No Child Left Behind Act demanded
that states create "world class" standards, test students'
mastery, and hold educators accountable for the results-an
attempt to pressure educators to help underserved
groups of students. But the well-intentioned law's hair-trigger
penalties prompted many states to lower their expectations
of students rather than have large swaths of their schools declared
The same pressure is mounting against the common core in
the wake of discouraging (but hardly surprising) results on new
tests based on the standards. The common-core expectations are
"way too high," the historian and reform critic Diane Ravitch told
The New York Times recently after New York education officials
announced that more than two-thirds of the state's students had
flunked common-core-linked tests. "Maybe [many students] don't
need to go to college," she added.
But who decides which students are tracked toward college,
and at what point are those decisions made? Third grade? Ninth
grade? Supporting lower standards today amounts to capitulating
to the race- and class-based stereotypes of the past, half a century
after the passage of federal civil rights laws and just as the
nation is transitioning to a minority-majority school population.
Given public education's history, commentators' claims that we
need to "go back to the days when we trusted teachers" to ensure
their students are achieving high standards ring hollow. They're a
ticket back to second-class educational status for many students.
Yet it's a common refrain among libertarians and public education
defenders alike, who want to put power back in the hands of
local educators and school boards.
Nor should we lose sight of students' views about standards.
Majorities of them say that their courses aren't challenging
enough. They want more rigor, not less. And it's also true that
nearly every country in the world with a high-performing education
system has common standards, even as they give educators
lots of instructional latitude in meeting them (exactly the sort of
"local control" we should embrace in this country). Importantly,
most of the international high-fliers are built on the conviction
that hard work is more important to student success than in-
20 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 23, 2013 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
nate ability, that there should be high common standards because
they're within most students' grasp and thus all students should
have access to them. "In top-performing countries, rigor is synonymous
with educational equity," writes Amanda Ripley in her
new book The Smartest Kids in the World. That's not a widely
shared view in American education.
As a result, we're not going to get the nation's disadvantaged
students where they need to be without explicit expectations. If
we want students to perform at high levels, we have to set the bar
higher, and that's what the common core does in most places. At
this point, we need to focus on the hard work of implementing the
new standards, not on whether we should have them. n
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 23, 2013
Education Week - October 23, 2013
Colorado Tax Boosting K-12 Up to Voters
Paddling Persists in U.S. Schools
Health-Care Law Raises Questions For Districts
K12 Inc. Learning Difficult Lessons This School Year
News in Brief
New Student Majority in South and West: Poor Children
School Poverty Said to Hurt College Access
Media Group Calls on Companies To Protect Students’ Personal Data
D.C. Teachers Improved After Overhaul Of Evaluations, Pay
Blogs of the Week
K-12 Advocates Remain Braced For Fiscal Fight
Illinois Among Outliers With No NCLB Waiver
Appeal Argued on Affirmative-Action Ban
The Public School Ownership Gap
We Need a National Monument to Teachers
Changing the World, One Student at a Time
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Common Core’s Power for Disadvantaged Students
Education Week - October 23, 2013