LAEP NewsBlast 9.17.14

September 17, 2014 – In This Issue:

All about Eva (Moskowitz)

Bill de Blasio and Eva Moskowitz are liberal crusaders with profoundly divergent ideas, writes Daniel Bergner for The New York Times Magazine. De Blasio is a populist; Moskowitz’s board is “filled with Wall Street one-percenters.” Their clash, Bergner says, may determine the city’s educational future. Moskowitz has swiftly created the largest charter network in the city, its students mostly black or Latino and qualifying for subsidized lunch. Citywide, fewer than a fifth of black students can read or do math at grade level, yet Success Academy students far outscore not only the city’s traditional schools, but highly regarded charter groups like Achievement First, KIPP, and Uncommon Schools. One Success Academy in Harlem surpassed all public schools in the state in math for the fifth grade, even Scarsdale and Briarcliff Manor, “the whitest and richest of suburbs.” 2014 state results put the network in the top one percent of all public schools in math, and the top three percent in English. For opponents, Moskowitz’s charters and results pose a grave threat to liberalism. The mayor says all New York’s children must be saved; the city’s 170 charters take needed resources. Though Moskowitz bested de Blasio in their first skirmish, she still feels in a state of siege. “The experience,” she told Bergner, “is of having to wake up every day and beg” for space and support to carry out her mission. Her mission, Moskowitz feels, holds the answers. More

The marshmallow test, reconsidered

Deferred gratification underlies self-discipline and grit — putting off what you enjoy until you finish what you don’t, writes Alfie Kohn for Education Week. Proponents of grit often point to a study by Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel, in which preschool-aged children were left alone and told they could get a small treat (a marshmallow or pretzel) by ringing a bell at any time, but if they held out until the psychologist returned, they’d get a bigger treat (two marshmallows or pretzels). It’s usually represented that children able to wait for an extra treat scored better on measures of cognitive and social skills years later and had higher SAT scores. In fact, Mischel’s central question was how children go about trying to wait, not whether they waited at all. Kids generally waited longer when distracted by a toy. What worked best wasn’t (in Mischel’s words) “self-denial and grim determination,” but doing something enjoyable while waiting, so self-control wasn’t really needed. When participants were tracked down 10 years later, those who’d waited didn’t have more self-control or willpower, only greater ability to distract themselves, which correlated with higher scores on tests of intelligence. This flies in the face of the current contention that intelligence and self-discipline are different things, and we must cultivate the latter in children. More


Teachers and their debt

A new brief from the Third Way finds current federal programs to aid teachers with student debt are confusing, underutilized, conflicting, and sometimes detrimental to the long-term finances of teachers who apply for them. To recruit and retain the best teachers, the brief argues for consolidation of programs into a single offer: If you teach, the federal government will pay your student loans, up front, every single month, until you leave the classroom. Currently, teachers must meet an unwieldy set of criteria to qualify for federal loan assistance. A patchwork bureaucracy, compounded by narrow eligibility requirements and delayed systems of forgiveness, all contribute to the limited reach and effectiveness of loan assistance programs today. The federal government should streamline teacher-specific loan assistance options into one program that would begin monthly loan payments for teachers on day one. Such a program would be more potent for luring high-achieving Millennials into the profession, particularly since the average loan payment for someone with a master’s degree in education is $429 a month (a $40k average salary). Until state budgets free up money to pay teachers higher salaries on the front end, offering teachers a supplemental monthly loan payment from the outset would serve as an immediate way for districts to boost teacher compensation. More

Alt-cert: what alternative?

Alternative certification has grown as a means of addressing teacher shortages, especially in specific content areas, yet the programs are controversial, fueling debates over rigor, subject expertise, and the bypassing of traditional colleges of education, reports Anya Kamenetz for NPR. One in five new teachers becomes so by means other than a four-year undergraduate program or master’s degree. Many are uncertified the first time they stand in front of students. Programs also vary widely in design. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) reviews teacher preparation around the country, and for the first time has undertaken a study of “alt-cert” programs. Focused on 85 of the “most” alternative programs — those not affiliated with an institution of higher education — the study based evaluations on criteria such as applicants’ GPA and degree of support in internships. Results were poor. Sixty-three of the 85 programs — 74 percent — got a “D” or “F,” with for-profit programs faring worst; only 41 percent of traditional programs scored this low. Yet it’s worth noting the NCTQ has been critical of traditional certification programs, too. “If traditional programs knocked it out of the park,” observes Sandi Jacobs of NCTQ, “there would be less need for alternative programs.” More

Traditional PD: ‘totally useless’?

In a guest post on the Answer Sheet blog in The Washington Post, Alvin Crawford of Knowledge Delivery Systems, which offers online professional development, writes that few can argue teachers today are getting the support and training they need to be effective and efficient, whether they stay in the classroom or not. In a 2009 report from the Center for Public Education, for instance, asked about experiences with professional development, “most teachers… reported it was totally useless.” Yet federal, state and district spending on professional development is an estimated $6 billion a year. Teacher development studies going back 30 years have shown repeatedly that merely exposing a teacher to a new concept or skill has little classroom impact; most professional development is still lecture-style: telling, showing, and explaining, then sending the teacher back to class alone. Crawford feels transformative professional development requires 50 hours or more, plus informal and ongoing interaction and peer engagement to refine skills and model successes. Meeting these time demands would take a district with 5,000 teachers nearly 300 qualified trainers and five years to complete. Crawford therefore advocates technology and social-engagement tools for initial teacher training “on virtually any subject to be done in 12 weeks and continue indefinitely.”More

What a ‘balanced’ tenure system might look like

A new brief from The New Teacher Project envisions what it is casting as a “balanced” teacher-tenure system. Under this system, teachers would be eligible for tenure after five years. Tenure would be awarded for sustained strong performance, and could be revoked for ineffective performance. Appeals could contest process and bad faith, but not judgments about performance. Hearings would be limited to a single day, and appeals processes limited to 90 days. Arbitrators would be independent and salaried, such as administrative law judges. There would be zero tolerance for abuse or sexual misconduct. Teachers who were replaced could apply to other schools, except in cases of egregious misconduct. Currently in teaching, a formal dismissal of a tenured teacher for performance reasons could mean the revocation of the teacher’s license or, at a minimum, an employment record that renders the teacher unemployable. Instead, districts should reset their perspective on due process so it aligns with virtually every other profession: protections against egregious actions, such as dismissal based on political beliefs or legal conduct outside of work. Due process should no longer be a means for second-guessing school leaders’ professional judgment about a teacher’s job performance, which is its primary function now. More

Principals and teacher data

New research from Vanderbilt University evaluates how principals use teacher-effectiveness data in decisions around hiring, placement, evaluation support, and leadership. The report finds principals generally believe rubric-based observations generate the most valid data and provide specific, transparent, actionable information. Value-added measures, on the other hand, are perceived as having shortcomings, and principals are less likely to use these despite their ready availability. The timing of teacher-effectiveness data is also problematic: Spring observation scores, state standardized test scores, student survey results, teacher value-added estimates, and overall evaluation scores are released after assignment and renewal decisions are made. The report recommends that districts: clarify expectations for data use, such as specifying data sources and years of data to be used for each talent-management decision; hold principals accountable for using multiple forms of data; train principals on understanding and using value-added estimates; institute opportunities for teacher evaluation, teacher peer calibration, co-observation, teacher training on rubrics, and assistance from the central/home office; open discussions about how to reconcile and use multiple sources of data, especially when they do not agree; and clarify the roles of value-added estimates and observation scores and the extent to which, and under what circumstance, they may be inconsistent. More

A running tally for the CCSS

A new brief from the Education Commission of the States profiles state legislative activity and executive branch action around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) through September 1, 2014. State legislatures are responsible for establishing academic standards in nearly all states; most legislatures then task state boards or departments of education with adopting and implementing them. A number of legislatures have recently added steps, such as waiting periods for public comment, that state education leaders must follow. At this point, 46 state legislatures have convened in 2014 and 38 have adjourned for the year. Indiana and Oklahoma have exited the CCSS; Louisiana is attempting to do so; Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina are considering replacing the CCSS with other standards; and Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, and Tennessee affirmed the CCSS as a matter of local control. Connecticut, Iowa, and Wisconsin reviewed implementation; Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, and Nevada have committed to CCSS implementation; and South Dakota affirmed the CCSS but limited future multi-state standards. Arizona and 25 other states have affirmed the CCSS but are renaming them; Florida affirmed the CCSS but is modifying and renaming them. Arkansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia either did not adopt the CCSS or only partially adopted them. More

 Title IX time

Beginning in 2015-16, all California elementary and secondary public schools — including charters — must report annually the number of students who participate in competitive athletics, as well as the number of school-sponsored sports teams, broken down by gender. More

Bad science reigns

Despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, the rate of California parents opting out of vaccines for their children has doubled since 2007. More

According to his math…

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl says newly released LAUSD budget figures for the fiscal year that ended June 30 prove the district can afford a 17.6 percent pay raise for teachers. More

He may have a point

As union leaders discuss shutting down Los Angeles’ public schools with a strike for better wages and teaching conditions, records show that LAUSD educators averaged $2,148 less in pay than peers at a majority of California schools last year. More

For shame

Affluent Santa Barbara was surpassed only by Trinity as having the highest countywide percentage of public school students identified as homeless sometime during 2012-13. More

Back at ya

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy has filed a public records request seeking emails and other documents involving school board members and nearly two dozen companies, including those at the center of the controversial iPad project. More


 What’s not to love?

A new Gallup Poll shows more than two-thirds of those surveyed favor federal funding of expanded preschool access. More

Better together

After frequently hitting roadblocks when trying to track students who moved out of state — whether as youngsters moving with their families or to attend college or take jobs elsewhere — several states recently participated in a pilot project to share data on student outcomes. More

Cui bono?

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu is calling on legislators to repeal the state’s third-grade reading law because it does not serve the individual needs of children. More

Get your act together… soon

The Washington State Supreme Court is holding the state legislature in contempt over its lack of progress in fixing how the state pays for public education, though it withheld punishment until after the 2015 session if lawmakers did not make plans to solve the problem by then. More

The toilet may have provoked her

A Utah elementary school teacher who was carrying a concealed firearm at school was struck by fragments from a bullet and a porcelain toilet when her gun fired in a faculty bathroom. More

Barely progress

A report from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute shows the state is still shortchanging districts an average of $439 per student compared to $633 per student last year. More

From bad, some good

Administrators at the Ferguson-Florissant School District in suburban St. Louis doubled the number of counselors during the first week of school in late August to help students cope with their emotions during the time of instability following Michael Brown’s death. More


 Google: RISE Awards

Google RISE Awards support organizations that promote access to Computer Science (CS) education and give students aged 7-18 the opportunity to become creators — not just consumers — of tomorrow’s technological innovations. Google awards funding to, and partners with, organizations running programs that inspire, engage, and retain students on a long-term path in the field of computing. Maximum award: $50,000. Eligibility: organizations running a successful program in CS that they want to expand in terms of reach and depth of impact or that currently run a successful wide-reaching program in STEM that they want to grow to include CS. At a minimum, programs should have regional reach (city, county, or state) with the potential to scale nationally and collaborate internationally with similar organizations. Programs must target girls and/or underrepresented minority students up to the age of 18. Deadline: September 30, 2014. More

Toshiba America Foundation: Education Grants

Toshiba America Foundation Education Grants contribute to the quality of science and mathematics education in U.S. communities by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers to improve science and mathematics education. Maximum award: $1,000. Eligibility: teachers K-5. Deadline: October 1, 2014. More

Knowles Science Teaching Foundation: Fellowships

The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation awards fellowships in the areas of biological sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences to support high school math and science teachers from the onset of the credentialing process through the early years of their careers. Maximum award: professional workshops, materials grants, and access to a teacher-to-teacher mentoring network, valued at $150,000. Eligibility: individuals who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in an area relevant to the subjects they plan to teach before the fellowship begins in June. Candidates for Physical Science, Mathematics, or Biological Science Teaching Fellowships must enroll in a secondary teacher credential program before the fellowship is awarded. Individuals who have completed the fourth year of a five-year combined bachelor’s and credential program by the start of the fellowship are also eligible to apply, as well as those currently enrolled in a teacher education program who will be first-year teachers in the fall of 2015. More

Deadline: October 29, 2014.

NGA/Mantis: 2015 Mantis Tiller Award

The National Gardening Association/ Mantis Tiller Awards offer tiller/cultivators to educational gardens that enhance quality of life in their host communities. Maximum award: Mantis Tiller/Cultivator with border/edger and kickstand, and choice of gas-powered 2-cycle engine or electric motor. Eligibility: not-for-profit charitable or educational garden programs in the United States. More Deadline: March 6, 2015.


Quote of the Week:

“That’s just absolutely a dishonest excuse and they need to get past their dysfunction.” – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, rejecting the claim that NCLB waivers kept Congress from updating the ESEA. More