Education Week - August 29, 2012 - (Page 20)

20 EDUCATION WEEK n AUGUST 29, 2012 n LETTERS to the EDITOR Standards Adoption Creates An ‘Urgent Demand’ To the Editor: Beverlee Jobrack’s recent Commentary “Solving the Textbook-Common Core Conundrum” (Aug. 8, 2012) underscores the importance of instructional materials in the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In fact, K-12 publishers in the United States recognize they have a critical role to play in this historic transformation and are making huge investments in the development of instructional materials and digital learning systems coherent with the common core. The adoption of the new standards is creating an urgent demand for a new generation of instructional materials and comprehensive support programs for students and teachers. This effort requires great amounts of knowledge, expertise, creation of new instructional materials. Publishers are actively working with school districts to develop and introduce new professional-development programs that will help teachers embed commoncore standards in instructional practice. Finally, Ms. Jobrack is correct in her view that educators must make “careful, intelligent, well-considered selection of content necessary to meet the standards.” Schools should seek and select materials that are effective. Publishers welcome the opportunity to share with educators their knowledge and accountability to the publishers’ criteria for development of common-core materials. Jay Diskey Executive Director, School Division Association of American Publishers Washington, D.C. achievement and serve to raise teacher salaries by paying them for their extra time. It also reduces the need for substitutes. Patrick Durow Assistant Professor of Education Creighton University Omaha, Neb. quantified. Perhaps it’s time to heed Milton Chen’s advice and learn from the success of education models in countries that have come to understand that “if you want elephants to grow, you don’t weigh the elephants. You feed the elephants.” Joe Greenberg Principal Lehman Alternative Community School Ithaca City School District Ithaca, N.Y. Children Are Being Left Behind To the Editor: A major goal of Washington’s Race to the Top initiative, which is essentially a repackaging of the No Child Left Behind Act, is to narrow the achievement gap. It extends a decade-old law that remains “in need of improvement” because it is failing. The stated aim of nclb/rtt is to raise educational quality and equity. Yet, when looking past the guise of “standards and accountability,” the results aren’t there. Actually, it appears instead that we are “racing” in the wrong direction, as we continue to leave children behind more than ever before. When the New York Times columnist Michael Winerip spoke at a forum a few years ago, he proposed that what we really need is a No Family Left Behind law. This would measure economic growth and hold politicians accountable for not ensuring economic prosperity for all families. According to “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics,” the Pew Research Center’s report from July 2011, the median wealth of white households was 20 times higher than that of African-American households, and 18 times higher than that of Hispanic households in 2009. Under nflb, states would be expected to close the “affluence” gap. If counties and states failed to make adequate yearly progress in ensuring economic growth for all families, those elected officials would be judged failing and removed from office. This would hold them to the same standard as our public school educators. Despite what may be the current conventional wisdom, there’s more to reality, and also our children’s education, than that which can be measured or Education Is the Key to Success To the Editor: Many people go to college and complete degrees in fields that they continue to have a great passion for throughout their lives. While some of those people are lucky enough to get a job in that field, others must sit and wait for their opportunity. Most of those waiting will look for smalltime jobs or go on for more schooling. Failing to find a job often makes these graduates feel unwanted or causes them to say, “My degree was a waste of time.” To them I say: First and foremost, your college degree is never a waste. Education is one thing no one can ever take away from you. Stay in your field, but expand your options. I went to college to become a high school history teacher, but right now, I’m an academic adviser and recruiter at the college level, and I absolutely love it. Had you told me that I’d be doing this when I was younger, I’d have called you a fool. Now, I’ll never look back and hope to remain here until I retire. Parents and educators, encourage your children and students to expand their reach and to never give up looking. Have them search in places and look for jobs that they’d never expect to get, or wouldn’t have applied for beforehand. Because at the end of the day, if you’re educated, someone somewhere will call your name. And just like me, you might never look back. Henry Laboranti Adviser Lackawanna College Towanda Towanda, Pa. Minimizing the Need for Substitute Teachers To the Editors: I read with interest “Educators Take Another Look at Substitutes” (July 18, 2012). Three facts from the story stand out to me: Students almost always learn less when the regular teacher is not present; the rate of teacher absenteeism correlates to the culture of the school (and the absence rate is rising in many systems); and the total expenditure for substitutes is staggering. I agree that employing permanent substitutes and using only “in-house, regular teacher subs” narrows the learning deficit somewhat. Beyond this analysis, however, is the fact that much of our substitute expense is self-inflicted. Yes, there are illnesses and family emergencies that necessitate teacher absence. It seems to me, however, that we could do a better job of providing professional development for educators outside of student instructional time. Professional development should be scheduled on noninstructional days and during the summer. Such practices both decrease impediments to student Bob Dahm investment, and persistence to ensure new programs are built to align with the new standards and reflect their rigor and focus. Many of the latest programs consist of innovative digital and online learning resources that allow for personalized learning for every student. The challenge does not stop at the The Next Education Fad CONTINUED FROM PAGE 24 Complex Teacher Evaluations That Don’t Work • Multiple short segments of instruction; immediately followed by ... • Opportunities for students to process or practice what was just taught, while the teacher checks and monitors to see how well the class has learned; followed by ... • Adjustments to the lesson and the pace of the lesson to ensure that all students, or as close to that as possible, can succeed on each phase of instruction, until they can achieve the objective of that day’s lesson or group project. These elements, which guarantee improvement, can actually be found in some of the evaluation frameworks. But they are not written clearly or prominently enough to be seen as indispensable priorities. Instead, they are obscured by the dozens of other specious, confusing evaluation criteria that surround them. teams, with their same-course colleagues. Finally, we should observe and evaluate teachers on the basis of (mostly) short, frequent, unannounced classroom visits, using the same, few, age-old criteria. The noted researcher Robert Marzano, among others, exhorts us to regard these as “routine components” of any and every effective lesson: • Attention and engagement (i.e., steps are taken to ensure that all students are attentive and on task throughout the lesson); • A clear, well-defined purpose and objective to the lesson; followed by ... To reiterate: The observations that are the basis of an evaluation must occur largely unannounced. We can’t afford to repeat the feckless protocols refuted decades ago—those built around pre-announced visits, followed by lengthy preand post-conferences. Until this changes, as the author and teacher-evaluation expert Kim Marshall and others have made so clear, teacher evaluation will continue to be nothing more than what teachers and administrators have aptly called a dog-andpony show, with one difference: It will be even more confusing and time-consuming. It is high time that the reform community grows up and learns that schools won’t improve until we put the brakes on untested, overblown initiatives. These prevent us from focusing on the most effective practices long enough for them to take hold. Clear, minimalist, priority-driven teacher evaluation could play a central role in ensuring that such practices become the norm. If they do, we will beyond any doubt hasten the improvement of schools in virtually any setting. n Steve Braden

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 29, 2012

Education Week - August 29, 2012
FOCUS ON: AGE: Districts Adjust To Growth in Older Population
Catholic Ed., K-12 Charters Squaring Off
Advocacy Tactics Found To Differ by Families’ Class
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Educator Cadres Formed to Support Common Tests
Ala. Blocked From Asking About Students’ Citizenship Status
Most Students Still Not College-Ready, ACT Report Finds
Study: Vouchers Linked to College-Going For Black Students
NSF Awards Grants for Climate-Change Education
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. Gears Up to Manage NCLB Waiver Oversight
Poll Hints Tight Presidential Race on K-12
Policy Brief
PETER GOW: Let the Dialogue Begin: It’s Time for Independent Schools to Start Sharing What They Know
PATRICK J. MURPHY & ELLIOT M. REGENSTEIN: Trimming the Cost Of Common-Core Implementation
MALCOLM GAULD: Sowing Parents’ Role In Character Development
Top School Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
MIKE SCHMOKER: The Next Education Fad: Complex Teacher Evaluations That Don’t Work

Education Week - August 29, 2012