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August 14, 2014
Memphis Teacher Residency program expands, gets statewide recognition
It’s just past 8 a.m. in the basement of Union Avenue Baptist Church in the middle of the summer. A room full of 67 young…
Shelby County Schools
June 17, 2014
Shelby County board considers teacher and leader, nursing contracts
Board members wondered whether some of the programs, including Tripod surveys provided by Cambridge Education and an online professional development video library provided through Teachscape, Inc., are actually useful and being used by teachers and district staff.
November 27, 2013
Teach For America contract in Memphis area approved, despite concerns
Shelby County's merged school board voted 5-2 to keep its contract with Teach For America at last night's board meeting, despite concerns about the program's recruitment fee.
November 20, 2013
Shelby County board members debate role of Teach For America in Memphis schools
At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Shelby County board members and superintendent Dorsey Hopson debated the role of Teach For America in Memphis schools. The…
October 30, 2013
City preparing to open a high school with no walls of its own
New York is quietly preparing to open another "Silicon Alley" high school — this time inside some of the informal offices that are turning the city into a haven for technology entrepreneurs. The Department of Education is currently planning a six-year high school called iZone Academy that would open in 2014 without a space of its own. The school would operate out of multiple sites in “co-working space” with start-ups, according to internal flyers and Next Generation Learning, which has given the Department of Education's private fundraising arm $100,000 to plan iZone Academy. According to the grant announcement, a goal is to "disrupt the systemic structures of age-based cohorts, scheduling, space, grading policies, and more” with an emphasis on blended learning, which combines online and face-to-face teaching. The proposal indicates that the school would focus on outside work experience and business partnerships, like P-TECH's with IBM. “Removing the barrier of a single building and the standard use of time will open opportunities for authentic learning,” one document says. Much about the model remains unclear, though. How would hundreds of students share space and projects with professionals? Who would the shared space belong to? What would happen to non-academic experiences high schools typically provide, such as sports or lunch periods? And, how (and how much) would students interact with teachers?
October 29, 2013
Nashville asks to drop student surveys from evals — for now
Nashville's schools chief has asked the state to exclude this fall's student survey results from teachers' evaluations this year, citing a "problematic" rollout. Jesse Register said the measure should be excluded from evaluations for the moment because teachers had not gotten to see the first round of survey results until this week. But he told teachers and principals in an email this afternoon that he stands by the survey, called TRIPOD, as "one of the most valid and reliable measures" that the district uses in its teacher evaluations. Under Tennessee's new teacher evaluation system, survey results factor into some teachers' annual ratings. (Memphis has used the survey in its teacher evaluation system for years.) The Gates Foundation-funded Measures of Effective Teaching study found that student feedback and teacher observations combined were more closely correlated with teacher effectiveness than observations alone, or any number of other attributes of teachers. But teachers in Tennessee and beyond have criticized the measure, arguing that it could give teachers an incentive to put student approval ahead of student learning.
September 20, 2013
NYC sitting out national move to tie charter, district admissions
Superintendent Seth Andrew at a 2012 Democracy Prep admissions lottery event. When the city announced last week that a kindergarten admissions website would link to the charter school application, it took a small first step toward unifying charter and district school applications. But there appears to be little local enthusiasm for a fully unified enrollment process—something that many of the nation's other large school districts are working toward with urgency. In Denver, parents can apply to every charter and district school through one form and a single process. In New Orleans, the same is possible, with the exception of some of the city's highest-performing charter schools. Newark is well on its way, as is Chicago, and similar discussions are taking place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But while there hasn't been any significant movement on that front yet in New York, city officials have indicated it's a long term goal. "Eventually, we plan to streamline the application process to allow parents to apply to many types of public school programs in one place – be they district, charter, gifted and talented, or otherwise," department spokesman Devon Puglia said. Pushing for an integrated enrollment system could help cement charter schools' place in the city's school system at a time of political uncertainty for the charter sector. But city charter school advocates have indicated that they are focused on other issues.
January 8, 2013
Timely advice from Gates Foundation as evaluation talks resume
The Gates Foundation's latest report from its teacher-effectiveness study concludes that many evaluation models can be useful as long as they include multiple measures. Now that the city and teachers union are back at the negotiating table to work on teacher evaluations, the Gates Foundation has some tips. The foundation today released the third and final report about the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an ambitious three-year study that included 3,000 teachers in seven districts, including New York City. The study concludes that teacher effectiveness can indeed be measured and identifies strategies for grading teachers. Having multiple people observe the same teacher is more effective than having one person observe the teacher multiple times, the study found. Student surveys are stronger predictors of teachers' ability to raise test scores than observations. And counting state test scores for a third to half of a teacher's rating is better than weighting the scores less or more. With the report, the foundation takes a bold stance on a policy issue that remains hotly contested, even as states and school districts across the country have adopted new evaluation systems. But foundation officials are confident because the latest report reflects a change in the study's design that they say proves that teacher evaluation systems really do measure teachers.
October 15, 2012
State releases agreement for data system that raised concerns
The ink was barely dry on New York's agreement with an organization that is building an interstate student data project when parents and advocates raised concerns about it this weekend. The parents and advocates held a press conference Sunday about a letter that they sent Friday to the state's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. The letter asked the officials to halt New York's participation in the Shared Learning Collaborative until the state assures them that student information will be secure. But the state only finalized its agreement with the SLC, a nonprofit group that aims to help state avoid building duplicative data systems, on Thursday, according to a signed agreement that state officials provided to reporters this weekend. The officials said the terms of the agreement should quell privacy concerns about the system, which each state will use and augment independently. Some of the parents' and advocates' allegations — they suggest in their letter that the state might be preparing to sell student data to for-profit companies — are simply incorrect, according to Ken Wagner, a State Education Department associate commissioner. But he said today that other concerns raised in the letter reflected important questions about privacy and security that the department had previously not answered publicly. "They were right to raise those issues, but we believe those issues have been addressed in our agreement," Wagner said.
January 26, 2012
Report finds lasting graduation rate gains at city's small schools
The Bloomberg administration has long touted the small high schools it created as outperforming large schools closed to make way for them. But a new report finds, for the second time, that the schools also post higher graduation rates than other city schools that stayed open. Being randomly selected to attend small high schools opened under the Bloomberg administration made students significantly more likely to graduate, even as the schools got older, according to the report, conducted by researchers at the nonprofit firm MDRC. The researchers updated a 2010 study that examined "small schools of choice" that opened between 2002 and 2008 and did not select students based on their academic performance. Of the 123 schools that fit that bill, 105 had so many applicants that the schools selected among them randomly, through a lottery. The lottery process enabled the researchers to compare what happened to two groups of students that started out statistically identical: those who were admitted to the small schools and those who lost the lotteries and wound up in older, larger schools. That type of comparison is considered the "gold standard" in education research. The original study found that the small high schools had positive effects on their students — but it looked only at the schools' very first enrollees. The new report looks at those students in the fifth year after they enrolled and also at the second set of students who enrolled at the schools. It finds that the higher graduation rate — 67.9 percent, compared to 59.3 percent for students who were not admitted — continued for the second group of students who enrolled and cut across all groups of students, regardless of their race, gender, family income, or academic skills upon enrollment. Students at the small schools were also more likely to meet the state's college readiness standards in English, though not in math. "Small schools for a variety of reasons, I always felt, were going to succeed in certain ways," said Richard Kahan, the head of Urban Assembly, a nonprofit that started a handful of schools included in the study. "But I would not have predicted the impact."
January 6, 2012
Gates Foundation study paints bleak picture of teaching quality
The study measured teachers against the criteria in Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Effective Teaching rubric, which is used in New York as a tool for observing teachers. Teachers scored better at classroom management than they did on measures of higher-order instructional challenges, such as asking productive questions. A historic look inside the nation's classrooms, including some in New York City, painted a bleak picture, according to a report released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today. The second installment of the foundation's ambitious Measures of Effective Teaching study, the report focuses on the picture of teaching yielded by five different classroom observation tools. It also scrutinizes those tools themselves, concluding that they are valuable as a way to help teachers improve but only useful as evaluation tools when combined with measures of student learning known as value-added scores. The conclusion is a strong endorsement of the Obama administration's approach to improving teaching by implementing new evaluations of teachers that draw on both observations and value-added measures. New York State took this approach to overhauling its evaluation system when it applied for federal Race to the Top funding. Among the group of five observation tools the foundation studied is the rubric now being piloted in New York City classrooms as part of stalled efforts to implement the changes to teacher evaluation, Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Effective Teaching. Through all five lenses, instruction looked mediocre in an overwhelming majority of more than 1,000 classrooms studied, the report concludes. There were some bright spots. Many teachers were scored relatively well for the aspect of teaching known as "classroom management" — keeping students well-behaved, making sure they are engaged. But teachers often fell short when it came to other elements of teaching, such as facilitating discussions, speaking precisely about concepts, and carefully modeling skills that students need to master. These higher-order skill sets, the report notes, are crucial in order for students to meet the raised standards outlined in the Common Core.
July 6, 2011
New hire a first step in effort to bridge district, charter divide
An initiative designed to ease tension between district and charter schools in the city has moved slowly and largely under the radar this spring. In December, then-Chancellor Joel Klein joined 88 of the city’s charter schools in signing on to a District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which mandates that charter schools “fulfill their role as laboratories of innovation” and requires the Department of Education to support city charter schools. The compact, which the Gates Foundation urged and is funding, emphasizes collaboration around issues of enrollment, space allocation, and instruction. But after more than six months — which were bookended by Klein’s sudden departure and a contentious lawsuit over charter school co-location — little progress has been made toward fulfilling the compact’s requirements. In June, the New York City Charter School Center took a first step by hiring Cara Volpe, a former Teach for America employee, to be the city’s first district-charter collaboration manager. Later, a not-yet-formed advisory council of district and charter school employees will help Volpe set priorities, according to city and charter school officials. Volpe “will be expected to implement the council’s vision for identifying, establishing and implementing the partnerships, policies and programs that will help tear down the boundaries between great district and charter schools,” according to advertisement for the position, which the charter center posted online at GothamSchools’ jobs board, Idealist, and elsewhere. Volpe’s work will come at a time when tensions around charter schools are at an all-time high.
January 6, 2011
Advocates and foundations set to rate education journalism
As journalists, we try to scrutinize education advocacy funding. But soon, the foundations and advocates may be turning the microscope back on us. The Center…
September 27, 2010
City wins $3 million Gates grant to increase college grad rates
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded New York City $3 million today to more than double the percentage of city college students who earn associate's degrees. Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said the city's goal is to have 25 percent of City University of New York students earn an associate's degree after three years of college. The city is giving itself until 2010 to reach that objective, and it's got a long way to go. Currently, only 10 percent of the students who enter CUNY complete enough coursework for an associate's degree in three years. Well-prepared students can typically earn this degree in two years. Walcott said the city would also use the grant money to align public high schools' curriculum with what's being taught at CUNY to prevent students from entering college unable to do the work. "One of the things we've been trying to do for a number of years in New York City and what this grant does for us, is make sure our K-12 and our CUNY system are constantly talking together and planning together," he said in a conference call with reporters today.
June 16, 2010
Grantees tell Gates Foundation it's not easy to work with
The Gates Foundation’s thousands of grantees told the foundation it’s not easy to work with in a survey, the foundation’s CEO, Jeff Raikes, reported in a…
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