Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 20)

LETTERS to the EDITOR 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 learning. 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 changes. 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 similar supports. 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. Irma Zardoya 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. Stephen Krashen Professor Emeritus of Education University of Southern California Los Angeles, Calif. A version of this letter appeared in the online comments section on 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 schools. School boards are expected to provide effective governance as the foundation upon which a high-quality education for students is built. 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. Matt Spencer Senior Consultant Workplace Bullying in Schools Project Workplace Bullying Institute Bellingham, Wash. The writer is the author of Exploiting Children: School Board Members Who Cross The Line (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013). 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 Common Core's Power for Disadvantaged Students CONTINUED FROM PAGE 24 educators define their expectations in terms of students' race and class. 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 failures. 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 | 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 Chris Whetzel

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
Report Roundup
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