Education Week - December 12, 2012 - (Page 26)

26 EDUCATION WEEK n DECEMBER 12, 2012 n COMMENTARY Confusing Achievement With Aptitude M By Dave Powell y wife and I read and reread the words several times, allowing them to sink in. “Being in an academic class would cause him harm,” the principal wrote about our son, “as the rigor would be too great.” The report continued, “He would be the lowest-ability student in the class and by a large margin.” It is a day you don’t soon forget when the principal of your son’s school tells you—in an email, no less—that your child simply is not capable of managing academic work. My wife and I used to be sanguine about the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act, the education reform law that everyone loves to hate. And we thought, as a colleague of mine once suggested, that we could “school proof ” our child, that the advantage of having two educators as parents would give him a leg up in life. We as- sumed that a kid who visited museums in the summer, spent hours on end outdoors, traveled widely, slept under a safe and comfortable roof each night, ate well, and had health insurance would surely find a way to be successful in school. Instead, by the end of 5th grade, our son had already been labeled a “basic” reader. His 3rd grade teacher had suggested that he do his career-day project on becoming a garbage man. She later told us not to get our hopes up. “Let’s face it,” she told my wife at a conference that year, “he’s not going to be the next John Steinbeck.” His 4th grade teacher, a veteran of almost 40 years in the classroom, churned out worksheet after worksheet with expiration dates from the Reagan era. In 5th grade, our son was placed in a remedialreading program with a name that would have made George Orwell proud: Soar to Success. Instead of soaring, his interest in reading hit rock bottom. And now this: Barely through one quarter of 6th grade, the die had been cast. Our son had reached his academic limits, and he was only 11. But his school record did not indicate that he lacked the ability to do “academic” work. He had consistently passed his end-of-year tests, and had even scored above grade level in reading before 3rd grade. What happened? Slowly, the problem came into focus: His school district had made the mistake of confusing achievement with aptitude and worsened it by using tests as an exclusive measure of both. His teachers and principals had presumed that the year-end state tests, which measure whether or not students have mastered the standards supposedly taught the previous year, could also be used to predict future performance, though the tests have no such predictive validity. And these year-end tests are only a small part of the problem. Our children have grown accustomed to taking tests throughout the year, tests with exotic and inscrutable names like “4sight,” “dra2,” and “dibels,” disseminated by enti- When people look back on this era decades from now, I suspect it will be seen as a time when school personnel, with the wool pulled tightly over their eyes, allowed schools to be invaded and occupied by an almost invisible enemy: their own insecurity.” “ Expanded Learning Time: An Avenue to Greater Change T By Barnett Berry & Frederick M. Hess wenty-first century teaching and learning pose stark challenges, as we seek both to educate all of our children and to do so to a level of unprecedented rigor. Meeting our audacious goals will require overhauling our outmoded system of public education. Whatever the merits of today’s familiar classrooms, schools, and systems, the feeble progress born of 40 years of varied reforms suggests that current arrangements are manifestly unsuited to the challenges ahead. The path forward requires rethinking everything about how schools are organized and funded, including who teaches and how they go about their work. Happily, this offers the opportunity to transcend some hackneyed and divisive debates, and to consider a fresh take on how we use talent, time, tools, and resources to best serve kids. Expanded learning time (often referred to as elt) is one useful mechanism for such rethinking. Proponents of elt hope that educators can tap the additional time needed to help drive student achievement while doing far more to inspire and engage students. They hold out the promise of doing so both within and outside brick-and-mortar school buildings and beyond the traditional 8:00 p.m. school day. A recent research report, commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, suggests that elt can make a difference for student achievement, but only if done thoughtfully and well. In this way, elt is no different from any number of hyped innovations, which showed promise in pilot sites only to disappoint at scale. More lasting impact will demand a more profound effort. We contend that one cannot deliver on the promise of elt, much less transform American schools, without revisiting familiar governance arrangements, management practices, teacher job descriptions, and licensure requirements. As one of us (Hess) writes in the soon-to-be-published book Cage-Busting Leadership: “Even the most heralded charter and district schools tend to rely on ‘more, better’ solutions: more school time, more talent, and staff work- ELT offers a window of opportunity to break the bonds of antiquated policies, calcified school organizations, and time-honored yet artless teaching roles.” ing more evenings and weekends. The problem is that the supply of talent, energy, and passion is limited. That’s why transformative improvement, in any sector, typically requires rethinking the way things are done.” On the other hand, one of us (Berry) writes in his upcoming book, Teacherpreneurs, that there is plenty of teaching talent that has not yet been utilized. Happily, elt offers a window of opportunity to break the bonds of antiquated policies, calcified school organizations, and time-honored yet artless teaching roles. Why? Two reasons: These expanded-learning models offer more time in the school day to think creatively about teaching and learning, and the aspects of elt that reside outside the traditional school day offer easier opportunities to side- “ step familiar contractual provisions, rules, and laws about who can teach, how classes should be organized, and how schools need to operate. Peter Wehner, a conservative commentator and former George W. Bush aide, noted in a 2009 New York Times article that “big policy changes don’t come along very often” in the United States, because Americans are “nonideological and pragmatic” and “tend to play within the 40-yard lines.” But we are talking about the prospects of big policy change here, including at least four key elements to acting on this promise: • Re-engineer the role of teacher. Teachers of various stripes will need much more room to move in and out of different roles, take on more or less responsibility, focus on more or fewer students, and serve in and out of cyberspace, as well as in and out of their school buildings. We envision a career lattice more than a “ladder.” Rather than reifying steeply sloped hierarchies, making fuller use of teacher talent will require work models that combine the skills of generalists and specialists, of technology and tutors, of seasoned staff and volunteers, in smarter and more flexible ways. Teacher education must extend beyond the familiar university-based, alternative certification, and urban-residency approaches—none of which has much to say about how to rethink teacher roles or cultivate bold forms of teacher leadership. And teacher pay will have to reflect both the new classroom roles experts must play and the performance that drives improvements in professional learning and student achievement. • Rethink K-12, higher education, and community-based-organization resources. Today’s K-12 finance system is decoupled from the higher education system that recruits and prepares teachers. And both precollegiate and higher education services are disconnected from the social and health-care services that provide vital services to students and families. Expanded learning time—and teacher leadership—would benefit mightily from fusing the resources that currently remain siloed within K-12, higher education, and communitybased organizations. Fused resources will not only be essential to making deeper investments in students, but

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - December 12, 2012

Education Week - December 12, 2012
Test Designers Tap Students for Feedback
Race to Top Draws Out New Suitors
Common Core Taught Through the Arts
Federal Attention on ELL Needs Seen to Wane
News in Brief
Report Roundup
NAEP Seeks to Test New Measure Of Student Poverty
In Rural Areas, After-School Efforts Must Stretch to Provide Services
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: McGraw-Hill Education Sale Highlights Publishing Trends
K-12, Higher Ed. Unite to Align Learning In Minnesota
States Pledge to Expand School Hours, Days
Absenteeism Linked to Low Achievement In NAEP Time Study
Union Pushes Higher Standards For New Teachers
Brand-New NAEP Report on Vocabulary Shows Same Old Gaps
Psychiatrists Revising Manual On Mental Disorders
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.C. Law Protects Educators From Online Harassment
Blogs of the Week
Education May Not Benefit From Brighter Financial Outlook
K-12 Education Advocates Lobby To Avert Fiscal Cliff
Policy Brief
Louisiana’s Ambitious Voucher Effort Unclear Following Judge’s Ruling
BARNETT BERRY & FREDERICK M. HESS: Expanded Learning Time: An Avenue to Greater Change
DAVE POWELL: Confusing Achievement With Aptitude
ANITA N. VOELKER: Smokeless Santa? Sanitizing a Child’s World
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES S. LIEBMAN: Ending the Great School Wars

Education Week - December 12, 2012