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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Turnover in Principalship Focus of Research

Published Online: October 26, 2009

Turnover in Principalship Focus of Research

Jamie Gillespie, second from left, the principal of John A. Holmes High School in Edenton, N.C., attends a daylong staff development meeting.
— Matt Eich/Luceo Images for Education Week
By Debra Viadero

On good days, Jamie Gillespie loves her job as a high school principal in Edenton, N.C. On bad days, she contemplates switching careers.
Ms. Gillespie has been a principal for six years: one year at Edenton’s John A. Holmes High School and five years previously in Evansville, Wis. New research suggests that she may be one of the survivors in her profession.
Data available from a handful of states suggest that only about half of beginning principals remain in the same job five years later, and that many leave the principalship altogether when they go.
“I talk to a lot of principals, and it’s becoming more and more rare that you’ll have a principal stay at a school for 15 or 20 years,” Ms. Gillespie said. “Now, you stay three to five years, and you either move to another school or go to the central office. I think it is a problem.”
Whether this apparent churn in the principal’s office signals a problem, progress, or business as usual seems to be a matter for debate, though.

Ms. Gillespie with her daughter, May.
—Matt Eich/Luceo Images for Education Week
Among those who see the turnover as worrisome is University of Texas researcher Ed J. Fuller, who with his colleague Michelle D. Young published new data this month on the retention rates of newly hired principals in Texas.
“We think the job has outgrown the ability of one person to handle it,” said Mr. Fuller, who is a special research associate for the University Council for Educational Administration, an international consortium of research institutions at the university’s main campus in Austin. “Nobody is staying long enough to make connections or shepherd a reform through,” he added.
But another researcher who has studied principals’ career patterns, Susan M. Gates, a senior economist for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based RAND Corp., is less bothered by the turnover she sees. If more principals are leaving schools now, she said, it could be because the nationwide movement to hold educators responsible for their students’ scores on tests is prompting districts and school boards to oust school leaders who are not producing results.
“If you put someone in the principalship and it just doesn’t work out, do you want to keep them there just because it’s good to have low turnover,” she said, “or do you want to get somebody in there who’s good at the job?”
‘Need to Know Why’
What’s clear is that studies of principals’ career trajectories are long overdue. While research has for years highlighted the large numbers of beginning teachers who leave the classroom in three or four years, no national study has documented the career moves that principals make, according to experts.
Instead, information has been trickling out of state-specific research conducted in Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. Many of those studies were funded by the Wallace Foundation, of New York City, which also underwrites coverage of leadership issues in Education Week. Whether the findings can be generalized more widely is an open question.
“If it is true, and principals are not just getting promoted to the district office but are leaving the profession, then we need to know why that is,” said Joseph F. Murphy, who holds the Frank W. Mayborn chair of education at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn.
Research shows that, next to teachers, principals may be the most important contributors to students’ learning in school. And there’s also evidence to suggest that principals with strong education backgrounds tend to attract and hire teachers with similar qualifications.
For the Texas study, Mr. Fuller and Ms. Young analyzed employment data from 1995 to 2008 for more than 16,500 public school principals. The average tenure over that time was 4.96 years for elementary school principals, 4.48 years for middle school principals, and 3.38 years for high school principals, according to the study.
That analysis and other research by the University Council for Educational Administration also found that many of those principals were not leaving their schools to head other schools, as might be expected.
A year after leaving, 45 percent of the Texas principals were no longer employed by their school districts, possibly because they had retired or switched careers. Another 32 percent had moved to central-office jobs, while nearly 15 percent were working as assistant principals, guidance counselors, or in some other professional capacity in schools. Another 8 percent were teaching.
Data from Ms. Gates for Illinois and North Carolina, which come from a pair of 2004 studies by RAND, put the number of first-time principals still working as principals in the same state after six years at 48 percent for North Carolina and 38 percent for Illinois.
The North Carolina finding, however, paints a somewhat less bleak picture of principals’ career paths. Only 14 percent of the exiting principals in that state had left the school system altogether.
In Missouri, the data show that half of principals are no longer principals in that state after about five years, while three-quarters of New York state’s beginning principals are no longer at the schools where they started their careers six years later.
Pushed Out or Quitting?
In some of those states, the principal pipeline seems to leak the most from schools with large concentrations of minority students and from low-performing schools. In Texas, the average tenure for principals at elementary, middle, and high schools that ranked in the top fifth in student achievement was a year or more longer at each level than it was for principals of schools in the bottom fifth.
Some experts say that pattern jibes with reports from the field that the testing-and-accountability movement is causing some of the turnover in the principal’s office.
“There are no hard and fast numbers but, from an anecdotal standpoint, you hear regularly of principals being reassigned, moved, or replaced because of displeasure around student performance in the schools they lead,” said Dick Flanary, the senior director for leadership programs and services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in Reston, Va. “There’s no question it has become a difficult job.”
Back at John A. Holmes High School in northeastern North Carolina, Ms. Gillespie agrees.
“People hire principals to come in and raise test scores,” she said, “and they expect change immediately. Anybody that works in organizational management knows that’s not reasonable. Change isn’t going to happen in one or two years, but principals are hired with contracts for one or two years.”
Ms. Gillespie said principals also burn out because of the constant public scrutiny, the 50- to 60-hour weeks, the harried nature of the workday, and a lack of preparation to deal with the day-to-day problems they face.
“Your preparation doesn’t prepare you for what to do about unhappy parents complaining about you at the school board meeting,” she added. “There’s never a course on how to handle difficult employees or teachers refusing to do something.”
Derailing Reforms
Pay may also be a factor in principals’ retention rates, experts say. Under some school district pay scales, new principals earn no more than the most experienced teachers, which can discourage potential candidates from taking the job.
Principals tend to stick around longer when their salaries are higher than those of principals in the surrounding area, said Bruce D. Baker, an associate professor of educational theory, policy, and administration at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., and one of the co-authors of the Missouri study.
Growing recognition of the importance of improving principals’ working conditions has been a major thrust of studies supported over the past decade by the Wallace Foundation. The aim of much of that work has been to find ways to restructure the job or better prepare principals so they can devote more time to improving instruction.
Some districts, for instance, are experimenting with strategies for delegating the job’s managerial duties to vice principals or assistant principals, or bringing in new leaders, called school administration managers, to take on those duties. The SAM program now includes nine states, 37 districts, and 180 principals.
According to Brenda J. Turnbull, a principal at Policy Studies Associates, a Washington-based firm that is tracking that effort, the strategy seems to be working: Principals who take part in the SAM program do end up devoting more time to instruction.
The instructional improvements that principals make, however, can be derailed if they leave their posts. Instituting new reforms also becomes more difficult, Ms. Gillespie said, as teachers get used to the constant turnover in the principal’s office.
“Teachers become very independent, and they’re making a lot of the decisions themselves,” she said. “It isn’t easy to wrestle some of that power back.”
Whether changes in the principal’s office are productive hinges on the quality of the departing administrators’ replacements, Mr. Baker said.
“There’s a built-in assumption that bad principals would be replaced with someone better,” he said. “But we also don’t know who’s on the labor market to assume that type of position.”
Vol. 29, Issue 09, Pages 1,14

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/10/28/09principal_ep.h29.html?tkn=QNPFB0uK6m8AwyTzgPTBq5QCnCdM9ysCq%2BXc

Author/Advocate Gerald W. Bracey Dies at 69

Yes, sad news. Jerry was a friend. He will be greatly missed.

-Angela



SAD NEWS: Gerald W. Bracey, one of the field's best known and most vocal authors, advocates, and researchers, died quietly in his sleep yesterday at his home in Port Townsend, Wash. Rumors of his death were all over the blogosphere today. His wife, Iris Bracey, confirmed the news for EdWeek this afternoon.

Bracey, 69, penned more than eight books over his long career, dozens of articles, and hundreds of letters to the editor. His specialty was railing against what he saw as misuse of data on education among policymakers, politicians, and the media. Fellow author Alfie Kohn, in a Tweet sent out late yesterday, describes him as a "spirited crusader for accuracy, integrity; denounced false claims, misuse of stats; made the right enemies."

As an education reporter, I'm well acquainted with the Stanford-educated researcher's frequent, and biting, critiques, a few of which were directed at Education Week. He was, to put it bluntly, a thorn in our side. Once in a while, though, he had a point and I was awed by his tireless persistence and his willingness to heap criticism on government leaders from both sides of the political aisle, from Margaret Spellings to Arne Duncan.

Here's his bio at "The Huffington Post," where he was a frequent contributor. One honor it doesn't mention: Bracey won the American Educational Research Association's "Relating Research to Practice" award in 2003 for his interpretive scholarship of education research.

Ms. Bracey said her husband showed no acute signs of illness prior to his death. He was active to the end, spending his last day, somewhat fittingly, writing his annual report on education and presumably deliberating over who would get one of his "rotten apple" awards this year.

Posted by Debra Viadero on October 21, 2009 10:10 AM

Teacher Contract Called Potential Model for Nation

Published Online: October 21, 2009
Published in Print: October 28, 2009, as Teacher Contract Called Potential Model for Nation
Updated: October 27, 2009
Teacher Contract Called Potential Model for Nation
New Haven accord paves way for changes to pay, evaluation, and support.
By Stephen Sawchuk


A teacher contract approved in New Haven that lays the groundwork for changes to the way teachers in the Connecticut city are paid, supported, and evaluated, has been hailed by union and district leaders alike—as well as federal education officials—as a potential model for the country.

“This is an incredibly progressive contract,” said Joan Devlin, a senior associate director in the American Federation of Teachers’ educational-issues department. “It addresses teacher voice, and it gives the district the flexibility it needs to make [these reforms] work.”

Ratified by teachers earlier this month, the contract awaits only the approval of the city’s Board of Aldermen. It is set to go into effect in July.

AFT President Randi Weingarten called the pact a template that could be replicated elsewhere. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, meanwhile, praised the union for agreeing to address changes to areas that have been traditionally sensitive for teachers.

Officials from both the union and district said an unusual bargaining model in which reform issues were discussed apart from bread-and-butter ones helped get the pact finalized before a tight deadline under the state’s collective bargaining law sent it into arbitration.

The contract outlines a number of areas that would be settled by two committees of union officials, district representatives, and parents. A reform committee would make recommendations on the best ways to measure student growth. It would consider growth in test scores, as well as other measures of achievement, said Ms. Devlin, who provided help to the New Haven Federation of Teachers during the bargaining process.

Those recommendations would be used by a separate teacher-evaluation committee charged with determining how to weight the student-growth data as part of an overall teacher-evaluation system capable of distinguishing among four levels of performance.

The committees’ work would also take place transparently, with progress reported to the board of education and the public, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in an interview.

The contract is expected to help move along Mr. DeStefano’s ambitious education reform agenda. A centerpiece of his campaign for this year’s election is closing the achievement gap in six years by addressing teacher effectiveness and overhauling low-performing schools. But those pending changes now bear the union’s fingerprints, too. For instance, as part of teacher evaluations, the parties plan to establish a peer-assistance and -review program for veteran teachers.
Such programs, in which struggling veterans receive assistance from other teachers before facing dismissal, have long been promoted by the AFT.

The New Haven reform committee would also work to create a schoolwide performance-pay program and a career ladder for teachers who take on extra responsibilities. Under the contract terms, the pay program would reward schools whose students made “substantial” progress, and it would charge a committee of teachers and principals in those schools with determining how to divvy up bonus funds.

‘Turnaround’ Schools

Student-growth information would also be used to rank schools, beginning in the 2010-11 school year, into three performance tiers. Tier I and II schools would be allowed to waive certain contract provisions with the approval of teachers and principals in those schools. Schools in Tier III would be subject to greater programmatic intervention by the board of education.

A subset of the Tier III schools, deemed “turnarounds,” would be reconstituted with new leadership and staff. Teachers would have to reapply, and principals would select those to be hired. These schools would also be freed up from most contract provisions and could be operated by third-party management organizations, including charter school operators. Issues such as the length of the day, working hours, and even additional compensation programs would be set by teachers and administrators.

The teachers in turnaround schools would be unionized and retain transfer and layoff rights, but they would be expected to commit to working in the turnaround schools for a minimum of two years.

Mr. DeStefano said that one or two Tier III schools would initially be designated turnarounds.

Much of the contract’s ultimate success appears to lie in the hands of the committees charged with fleshing out the contract language. “We’re really excited, but we know that this is just the beginning of the hard work,” Ms. Devlin said.
“Everyone’s got a lot at stake to find an agreement here,” Mr. DeStefano added. “We don’t want to have the board of education unilaterally implement something.”
Vol. 29, Issue 09, Page 6

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/10/21/09union.h29.html?tkn=XXRF9ALBaXczAsoj0CI1+VLujz1nukPEwoVq

Changing the World

Yes, we need to get off our behinds and change the world! -Angela

October 27, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
Changing the World

By BOB HERBERT <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/bobherbert/index.html?inline=nyt-per>

One of the most cherished items in my possession is a postcard that was sent from Mississippi to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in June 1964.

"Dear Mom and Dad," it says, "I have arrived safely in Meridian, Mississippi. This is a wonderful town and the weather is fine. I wish you were here. The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very good. All my love, Andy."
That was the last word sent to his family by Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old college student who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, along with fellow civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, on his first full day in Mississippi - June 21, the same date as the postmark on the card. The goal of the three young men had been to help register blacks to vote.
The postcard was given to me by Andrew's brother, David, who has become a good friend.
Andrew and that postcard came to mind over the weekend as I was thinking about the sense of helplessness so many ordinary Americans have been feeling as the nation is confronted with one enormous, seemingly intractable problem after another. The helplessness is beginning to border on paralysis. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly a decade long, are going badly, and there is no endgame in sight.
Monday morning's coffee was accompanied by stories about suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad that killed at least 150 people and wounded more than 500 and helicopter crashes in Afghanistan that killed 14 Americans.
Here at home, the terrible toll from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression continues, with no end to the joblessness in sight and no comprehensible plans for fashioning a healthy economy for the years ahead. The government's finances resemble a Ponzi scheme. If you want to see the epidemic that is really clobbering American families, look past the H1N1 virus to the home foreclosure crisis.
The Times ran a Page A1 article on Monday that said layoffs, foreclosures and other problems associated with the recession had resulted in big increases in the number of runaway children, many of whom were living in dangerous conditions in the streets.
Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable (I think frightening) degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent millions of lives into tailspins. Where people once might have deluged their elected representatives with complaints, joined unions, resisted mass firings, confronted their employers with serious demands, marched for social justice and created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them.
This is so wrong. It is the kind of thinking that would have stopped the civil rights movement in its tracks, that would have kept women in the kitchen or the steno pool, that would have prevented labor unions from forcing open the doors that led to the creation of a vast middle class.
This passivity and sense of helplessness most likely stems from the refusal of so many Americans over the past few decades to acknowledge any sense of personal responsibility for the policies and choices that have led the country into such a dismal state of affairs, and to turn their backs on any real obligation to help others who were struggling.

Those chickens have come home to roost. Being an American has become a spectator sport. Most Americans watch the news the way you'd watch a ballgame, or a long-running television series, believing that they have no more control over important real-life events than a viewer would have over a coach's strategy or a script for "Law & Order."
With that kind of attitude, Andrew Goodman would never have left the comfort of his family home in Manhattan. Rosa Parks would have gotten up and given her seat to a white person, and the Montgomery bus boycott would never have happened. Betty Friedan would never have written "The Feminine Mystique."
The nation's political leaders and their corporate puppet masters have fouled this nation up to a fare-thee-well. We will not be pulled from the morass without a big effort from an active citizenry, and that means a citizenry fired with a sense of mission and the belief that their actions, in concert with others, can make a profound difference.
It can start with just a few small steps. Mrs. Parks helped transform a nation by refusing to budge from her seat. Maybe you want to speak up publicly about an important issue, or host a house party, or perhaps arrange a meeting of soon-to-be dismissed employees, or parents at a troubled school.
It's a risk, sure. But the need is great, and that's how you change the world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Education Department Seeks Advice from Experts on Ways to Improve Assessments

Here's the DRAFT mentioned in this piece

-Patricia


FOR RELEASE:
October 20, 2009

Contact: Sandra Abrevaya
(202) 401-1576 or
sandra.abrevaya@ed.gov

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it will hold public meetings across the country to listen and learn from assessment experts and practitioners. The goals are two-fold: first to gather technical input to inform the development of a Race to the Top Assessment Competition; and second to enable states, who will be the competition applicants, and the public to participate in and learn from these events.

"The next generation of assessments will provide information that helps accelerate student learning and improve teachers' practice," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "At these meetings, experts will give us their best ideas so we can support states' efforts to build the new assessments our country needs to ensure that our students are prepared for success in college and careers."

Duncan has pledged to reserve up to $350 million to support consortia of states that are working to create new assessments tied to a common set of standards. The grants will be distributed next year through a competitive process. The assessment grants will come from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund and will be awarded under a separate program from the larger one designed to support states' comprehensive efforts to reform education.

Over six days of meetings in November and December in three cities, department officials will solicit a wide range of input from expert assessment practitioners and researchers about how innovative and effective approaches to the development of the next generation of assessments. The department is inviting states, in particular, to attend the meetings and will share on its website both the transcripts of the meetings as well as all written input received.

In each city, department officials and invited experts will spend a full day discussing general assessment issues and half-days concentrating on specific topics. The meetings will be held Nov. 12-13 in Boston; Nov. 17-18 in Atlanta; and Dec. 1-2 in Denver. The half-day sessions will focus on high school assessments and using technology and innovation to improve the quality of assessments (Boston); how to improve the assessment of students with disabilities (Atlanta); and how to accurately measure the content knowledge of English language learners (Denver).

Department officials will use the input gathered to design the application for the assessment competition; consortia of states, who are the applicants for the competition, will use the information to inform their proposed assessment designs. The department plans to publish the application early next year and will award grants by next fall.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund. The law requires the money to be distributed through four areas of reform:

* Adopting college- and career-ready standards and assessments;
* Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals;
* Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve their practices; and
* Turning around our lowest-performing schools.

"To succeed in comprehensive efforts to reform, states need to have plans to address each of these areas," Duncan said. "But high-quality standards and assessments are the foundation on which reforms are built. High-quality assessments are one of the most important ingredients of reform. We look forward to supporting states as they lead the way in this critical effort."

The department published an official notice about the assessment meetings in today’s Federal Register at http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/index.html.

More than 100,000 participants in Texas prepaid tuition plan offered refunds

More than 40 legislators question move attributed to tuition costs outpacing investment income.

By W. Gardner Selby
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Monday, October 26, 2009

To an outcry, the state's original prepaid college tuition plan has changed its deal with its 108,000 customers, who must decide by December whether to quit the plan in order to get back their initial investment plus accumulated earnings.

Under the change, contract holders who pull out of the plan after Nov. 30 will no longer receive earnings, though they'll get back the money they put in less expense fees. And those who don't pull out will still receive the full benefit of the tuition and fees they purchased.

Even so, more than 40 legislators, mostly Democrats, have questioned the refund-policy change. One has asked for Attorney General Greg Abbott's review.

Last week, former state Comptroller John Sharp, who oversaw the program's start after proposing it to legislators in 1995, said the change should be reversed. Sharp, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat that Kay Bailey Hutchison has said she'll give up, said: "You made an agreement with folks when they signed up for it. It's wrong" to back out.

The current state comptroller, Susan Combs, chairs the board that initiated the change May 12.

She's cast the change as a step toward shoring up the plan, which stopped accepting new enrollments when state lawmakers deregulated tuition in 2003.

Combs, a Republican, wasn't available for an interview, but aides defended the change, which occurred after Combs fielded advice that stated the plan would likely lack sufficient money to pay benefits as early as 2015. Until then, the plan, which had assets totaling $1.5 billion at the end of September, is projected to have enough money to cover benefits.

The forecast also states that unless investment circumstances improve, lawmakers will need to cover contracted tuition payments to universities totaling $65 million for 2015 and about $434 million in 2016-17 — an expectation that Combs shares.

A 2007 forecast had predicted the fund would be insolvent by 2020. The refund change, expected to save the plan $60 million during the next 10 to 15 years, "is not a scam at all," Combs' spokesman R. J. DeSilva said. "There's nothing fishy."

Rep. Jim McReynolds, who asked Abbott on Oct. 14 to weigh the legality of the refund change, noted that lawmakers were in session when the board acted, but board members didn't seek their guidance. "I promise you there would have been debate about this," McReynolds said.

Abbott usually answers letters seeking his legal opinion within 180 days, though McReynolds said last week he hopes to hear back before the Nov. 30 deadline for participants to request lump-sum refunds.

This summer, the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board, which oversees the fund, published notice of the policy change in the Texas Register, drawing no comments.

But Combs' office got thousands of phone calls after letters describing the change went to participants in August. An Oct. 30 deadline for decisions was then pushed back.

The plan's earnings have long trailed bumps in college costs. Since sign-ups began in 1996, tuition has increased by an average 8.9 percent a year, while the plan's return on investment has averaged 4.4 percent, "creating a future financial strain for Texas taxpayers," participants were told in a September letter.

Although lawmakers have drawn fire for voting to leave tuition rates up to university boards, tuition and fees were already surging when they acted.

Since 2003, in-state tuition and mandatory fees at public universities have increased an average of 86 percent, to about $6,300 a year. In the previous six years, tuition and fees increased 75 percent.

About 3,600 contract holders have already requested refunds.

Thanks to a protective provision in plan contracts, 65,700 participants whose children are not yet 18 years old or high-school graduates are facing a one-time offer of a lump-sum payment equal to the present value of their investment, less administrative fees. Before the change in refund policy, such participants could recover only their initial investments, minus administrative fees.

A national expert said such beneficiaries might want to roll the offered refund into a 529 account, from which proceeds can be spent on college-related expenses.

Joe Hurley, a certified public accountant and CEO of the savingforcollege.com Web site, said the state's offer takes "certain participants from a very disadvantaged position into an incredibly generous opportunity ... that expires at the end of November to basically take ... winnings off the table."

Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, among objecting legislators, welcomed the delayed deadline but said he remains disturbed by the change.

"I still don't think this is fair," Howard said. The change "ought to be a legislative decision. ... When we sign a contract, when they sign a contract, we need to honor it."

McReynolds, D-Lufkin, wants Abbott to consider whether board members abused the law when they launched the fund.

The law states the board "shall determine the method by which the amount of the refund is calculated." But McReynolds, in his letter, says nothing in the law appears to permit the board to change how refunds are calculated for existing, as opposed to future, contracts.

In September, McReynolds joined Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston and 41 other House Democrats urging Combs to reconsider. "To change the terms at this late date is to break faith with parents who put their trust in the state," they wrote. Separately, Hochberg said the state has ample money in its so-called rainy day fund to cover any of the plan's unfunded liabilities.

Kevin Deiters, the comptroller's director of educational opportunities and investments, said the board didn't need to confer with legislators. He noted that Combs has repeatedly warned lawmakers about the plan's financial future.

In 1995, House members debating the legislation to launch what was then called the Texas Tomorrow Fund scratched out language specifying that refunds include interest earnings. Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, who offered the amendment leaving refund details up to the board, said last week that lawmakers wanted to ensure that neither contract holders nor the state would be unfairly burdened by refund requests.

Raymond, lately among legislators urging Combs to reconsider the refund policy change, suggested the real issue now is that tuition deregulation "messed things up — including how refunds are now addressed."

The advisory report sent to Combs before the May action states that neither the plan's board, advisers or staff members are to blame for the looming shortfall, though past assumptions — such as an over-commitment to stocks and a belief that tuition inflation wouldn't be as severe as it's been — were faulty.

But the report, which Combs forwarded to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus in June, after the legislative session, suggests the Texas plan offered participants more than it could reasonably deliver from its start.

In the report, Dallas financial consultant Mark Hurley, chairman of the comptroller's advisory board for the plan, states the "fundamental flaw is in its design. Simply put, the cost of participating in the plan was under-priced relative to the value of the benefits provided," a point echoed in Combs' letter to state leaders.

"This mispricing has created the plan's deficit," Hurley said. "And because the full faith and credit of the state of Texas backs the plans' obligations, it now falls upon the Legislature to appropriate the necessary funds to pay them."

Sharp countered that actuaries signed off on the plan's design and early health. "The only reason it became mispriced had nothing to do with the original deal," Sharp said.

"When they deregulated tuition, as everybody on the planet knows, that's what caused the (plan) to go out of kilter."

wgselby@statesman.com; 445-3644

Additional material from staff writer Ralph Haurwitz.

One family's situation

Like other investors in the state's original tuition plan, my wife and I must decide whether to take a refund — including investment income — or stay in the plan mindful that we'll be guaranteed future tuition and fees.

We purchased contracts for our daughters in April and May 1998. At the time, our eldest was 6, our youngest was a newborn and college seemed far in the future.

For Maddy, who this fall started applying to colleges, we paid $11,382 to lock in four years of tuition and fees at a four-year Texas public university. For Grace, now in sixth grade, we ponied up $10,904.

According to the tuition plan's recent advisories, we have until Nov. 30 to cancel Maddy's contract in return for a payment of $27,735—which my cousin, a certified public accountant, tells me reflects an annual return of 6.7 percent on our initial investment. For Grace, we're being offered $25,144, reflecting an annual return of 6.2 percent.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bill Gates makes big push on education reform

The concerns mentioned in this piece are pretty legitimate. There should be more questioning on the increased stakes that are placed on testing. Not good for children.

Check out the recent CNN discussion on this issue: click here

-Patricia


Gates Foundation tries to sway how government spends billions on schools

Associated Press
Sun., Oct . 25, 2009

WASHINGTON - The real secretary of education, the joke goes, is Bill Gates.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been the biggest player by far in the school reform movement, spending around $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education.

Now the foundation is taking unprecedented steps to influence education policy, spending millions to influence how the federal government distributes $5 billion in grants to overhaul public schools.

The federal dollars are unprecedented, too.

President Barack Obama persuaded Congress to give him the money as part of the economic stimulus so he could try new ideas to fix an education system that most agree is failing. The foundation is offering $250,000 apiece to help states apply, so long as they agree with the foundation's approach.

Some critical of partnership

Obama and the Gates Foundation share some goals that not everyone embraces: paying teachers based on student test scores, among other measures of achievement; charter schools that operate independently of local school boards; and a set of common academic standards adopted by every state.

Some argue that a private foundation like Gates shouldn't partner with the government.

"When you team up with the government, you compromise your ability to be critical of the government, and sometimes you compromise your ability to do controversial and maybe unpopular things with your money," said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. The institute, is among the many that have received money from the Gates Foundation.

Another concern is that as a private foundation, Gates doesn't have to disclose the details of its spending like the government does.

The big teachers' unions dispute some of the goals shared by Obama and the foundation. They say student achievement is much more than a score on a standardized test and that it's a mistake to rely so heavily on charter schools.

"Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America's public schools," the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union, said in comments about the grant competition submitted to the Education Department.

The NEA added: "We should not continue the unhealthy focus on standardized tests as the primary evidence of student success."

The American Federation of Teachers submitted similar comments. Together the unions have 4.6 million members.

Praise from the education secretary
Education Secretary Arne Duncan welcomes the foundation's involvement.

"The more all of us are in the game of reform, the more all of us are pushing for dramatic improvement, the better," Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Duncan's inner circle includes two former Gates employees. His chief of staff is Margot Rogers, who was special assistant to Gates' education director. James Shelton, assistant deputy secretary, was a program director for Gates' education division.

Rogers said she joined the administration because she was inspired by the its goals for helping kids graduate from high school and finish college.

The administration has waived ethics rules to allow Rogers and Shelton to deal more freely with the foundation, but Rogers said she talks infrequently with her former colleagues.

Turning Surveys Into Reforms

Inside Higher Ed
October 26, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- By most measures, the National Survey of Student Engagement has no shortage of numbers to demonstrate its success. Ten years after it started, with 140 colleges asking students a series of questions about everything from how much homework they get to how much they talk to members of racial groups different from their own, higher education has embraced the idea. This year 643 colleges participated, and because many colleges do the survey every two or three years, that figure understates the extent of the use of NSSE (pronounced "Nessie").

NSSE – based at Indiana University -- has spawned additional surveys of faculty members, of community college students (the original NSSE is focused on four-year institutions) and law students. A gathering here this weekend of the program's leaders, college presidents and assessment experts drew officials from as far away as South Africa, where six universities are about to start their own version of NSSE. College presidents now routinely cite NSSE to accreditors, politicians and others who ask about their commitment to accountability and to improving the student experience.

There was certainly celebration here about the progress of NSSE. But there were also serious questions raised, with many suggesting that colleges use NSSE to pay lip service to improving themselves, but don't necessarily do much beyond administering the survey. That worries those who gathered here because many see the demands for accountability for higher education only increasing in the years ahead.

But if there was some frustration here about the limited use of NSSE to actually improve the academic experience, there was also a sense that there is an emerging body of evidence that may just persuade skeptics that it's worth taking the time to act on the survey. And there is talk of additional reforms -- to NSSE and to higher ed -- that could make the survey more relevant.

The largest challenge facing NSSE is finding ways to be sure "that campuses actually use the results and not just administer the survey," said Stanley O. Ikenberry, former president of the American Council on Education and former (and soon to be interim) president of the University of Illinois, who is also among the leaders of a new research center on the state of assessment in higher education.

Ikenberry’s comment and similar remarks were heard again and again during the discussions here. There is a broad sense that NSSE is one way that colleges show accreditors that institutional self-study is taken seriously, even if just filing the report with an accreditor isn’t actually that serious an act.

Others mentioned the boost given to NSSE by Margaret Spellings, who as education secretary in the last Bush administration talked repeatedly of the need for colleges to use comparable measures to study themselves. NSSE is far less controversial than standardized tests of learning, and so was an easy answer to Spellings and those who agreed with her.

NSSE staff members and college presidents here who fully embrace the NSSE idea joked about how they would like to require colleges that participate to file reports on what they actually do with the data, and that they be required to do something. Generally, those involved in NSSE stressed that colleges should use it because it offers good insights, but those involved in the policy world stressed the risks of not taking accountability seriously.

The Dangers of Inaction

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, warned those gathered here that they would be foolish to think that accountability demands were a thing of the past. She noted that the push for colleges to be more accountable predated Spellings and outlasted her tenure at the Education Department. Given the significant investments the Obama administration is making in higher education, she said no one should be surprised that they are accompanied by demands for accountability.

She said that while she is “impressed” with the work of NSSE, she thinks higher education is “not moving fast enough” right now to have in place accountability systems that truly answer the questions being asked of higher education. The best bet for higher education, she said, is to more fully embrace various voluntary systems, and show that they are used to promote improvements.

The danger, she said, is that without such a shift, government entities will set their own standards. She said that right now she sees that potential coming less from the federal government than from states. Those with very high levels of unemployment, Broad warned, “may be tempted to tie their level of support [for higher education] to very specific outcomes tied to job creation.”

One reason NSSE data are not used more, some here said, was the decentralized nature of American higher education. David Paris, executive director of the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, said that “every faculty member is king or queen in his or her classroom.” As such, he said, “they can take the lessons of NSSE” about the kinds of activities that engage students, but they don’t have to. “There is no authority or dominant professional culture that could impel any faculty member to apply” what NSSE teaches about engaged learning, he said.

One effort Paris described that his group is considering to get more action on NSSE and other assessment systems is to set up a certification system that would indicate which colleges actually act on the results they get.

New Realities for Measuring Engagement

If everyone here seemed to agree that colleges need to focus more on how they use NSSE, there was much debate on what NSSE should actually measure. And some suggested that it is due for an overhaul to reflect changes in higher education.

Adrianna Kezar, associate professor of higher education at the University of Southern California, noted that NSSE’s questions were drafted based on the model of students attending a single residential college. Indeed many of the questions concern out-of-class experiences (both academic and otherwise) that suggest someone is living in a college community.

Kezar noted that this is no longer a valid assumption for many undergraduates. Nor is the assumption that they have time to interact with peers and professors out of class when many are holding down jobs. Nor is the assumption -- when students are “swirling” from college to college, or taking courses at multiple colleges at the same time -- that any single institution is responsible for their engagement.

Further, Kezar noted that there is an implicit assumption in NSSE of faculty being part of a stable college community. Questions about seeing faculty members outside of class, she said, don’t necessarily work when adjunct faculty members may lack offices or the ability to interact with students from one semester to the next. Kezar said that she thinks full-time adjunct faculty members may actually encourage more engagement than tenured professors because the adjuncts are focused on teaching and generally not on research. And she emphasized that concerns about the impact of part-time adjuncts on student engagement arise not out of criticism of those individuals, but of the system that assigns them teaching duties without much support.

She stressed that NSSE averages may no longer reflect any single reality of one type of faculty member. She challenged Paris’s description of powerful faculty members by noting that many adjuncts have relatively little control over their pedagogy, and must follow syllabuses and rules set by others. So the power to execute NSSE ideas, she said, may not rest with those doing most of the teaching.

And of course there is technology. When there are students today who view real engagement as a professor who answers his or her Facebook messages at midnight (as opposed to, say, one with many office hours), is it time for a new set of questions, she asked.

Finally, Kezar noted that there is a relationship between many of the factors she outlined and economic class. The students who are more likely to have to work long hours outside of college, not to experience residential life, to attend colleges with relatively few tenure-track faculty members, and so forth are less wealthy, on average, than other students. Does NSSE, she asked, draw enough attention to these issues?

Similarly, Shaun Harper, an assistant professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, said that he sees a need for more “race conscious study of student engagement.” In his work, he finds wide variation among members of different racial and ethnic groups in how they perceive such questions as the interest of faculty members in doing research with them. Institutional averages mask these issues, he said.

Validating NSSE

While some sessions here featured critiques of NSSE, others provided key evidence that the surveys relate directly to student learning. One criticism of NSSE over the years is that it measures student behaviors, rather than actual student learning. While NSSE supporters have said that there is lots of evidence that students who do more rigorous work and interact with faculty members more do learn more than other students, the fact remains that NSSE has measured those activities, not whether students learned more biology or history.

Research presented here, however, by the Wabash College National Study of Liberal Arts Education offered concrete evidence of direct correlations between NSSE attributes and specific skills, such as critical thinking skills. The Wabash study, which involves 49 colleges of all types, features cohorts of students being analyzed on various NSSE benchmarks (for academic challenge, for instance, or supportive campus environment or faculty-student interaction) and various measures of learning, such as tests to show critical thinking skills or cognitive skills or the development of leadership skills.

The Wabash study includes a “pre-test” in which students are tested for both their knowledge and attitudes before arriving at college so that the test can focus on what is actually added during college. While there are only preliminary results available, Wabash researchers said that their evidence shows that even in the freshman year, there is a correlation between what NSSE considers positive attributes (such as measures of academic challenge) and learning outcomes (such as gains in critical thinking skills).

Charles Blaich, director of the Wabash project, said that this is a significant finding as it shows that “you have your next move” when you get NSSE results back. Blaich said that Wabash team members have been using the data they collect on NSSE and their other measures to help colleges make specific changes in policies.

For example, he said that one college was getting lower scores than would be desirable for NSSE’s measures of academic challenge, and that those lower scores also resulted in smaller gains in critical thinking skills. Wabash followed up with in-depth interviews with faculty members, many of whom said that they were holding back on homework out of the fear that their students were working too long hours in jobs to handle the homework. Using answers to other NSSE questions, Blaich said he was able to show the faculty members that they were overestimating the hours students at this college were working, and so could add assignments. They did so, and appear to be getting the desired gains, he said.

The irony of the Wabash work with NSSE data and other data, Blaich said, was that it demonstrates the failure of colleges to act on information they get -- unless someone (in this case Wabash) drives home the ideas.

“In every case, after collecting loads of information, we have yet to find a single thing that institutions didn’t already know. Everyone at the institution didn’t know -- it may have been filed away,” he said, but someone had the data. “It just wasn’t followed. There wasn’t sufficient organizational energy to use that data to improve student learning.”

Alexander McCormick, director of NSSE, said he was excited about all of the ideas shared at the meeting, and he said the NSSE team was committed to finding ways to update the test, although that will happen at a slow pace to allow those doing longitudinal studies to adjust. McCormick also said he was pleased to hear so many people committed to getting NSSE used more -- in the sense of acting on its results.

“I want to try to make the point that there is a distinction between participating in NSSE and using NSSE," he said. "In the end, what good is it if all you get is a report?"

Assessment vs. Action

Inside Higher Ed
October 26, 2009

The assessment movement has firmly taken hold in American higher education, if you judge it by how many colleges are engaged in measuring what undergraduates learn. But if you judge by how many of them use that information to do something, the picture is different.

Those findings come from a report being released today by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, a new research organization that is trying to promote better use of assessment tools, and to provide information about what colleges are actually doing. The report is based on survey responses from a national sample of colleges and universities -- public, private and for-profit, two year and four year, large and small. Answers were provided by provosts at 1,518 institutions, 53 percent of those surveyed.



The results indicate that -- for all the talk by some higher education critics about the lack of assessment in higher education -- a lot is going on. Among all institutions, 92 percent are using at least one assessment tool with institutionally valid samples and two-thirds use three or more measures at the same time. Ninety percent use at least one institutional-level tool while also having another approach to program assessment.

The most common approach used for institutional assessment is a nationally normed survey of students. Seventy-six percent of colleges are using surveys of that sort. The percentage of colleges using standardized tests of knowledge and skills (exams such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment, for example) is much smaller, but still significant, at 39 percent. (But the survey found more attention to learning outcomes at the program level, especially by community colleges.)

Much smaller percentages of colleges report that assessment is based on external evaluations of student work (9 percent), student portfolios (8 percent) and employer interviews (8 percent).

The top uses of whatever assessment systems are in place appear to be related to another form of assessment: accreditation. Asked to describe how they use assessment results (using a four-point scale from 1 as “not at all” to 4 as “very much”), only two items topped three 3 (“quite a bit”): institutional self-study for accreditation and program self-study for accreditation.

While such uses as “revising learning goals” and “informing strategic planning” got past 2 (meaning “some” use), issues such as evaluating professors, reconsidering admissions standards, and redefining readiness for upper-level course work were all far behind.

Clear sector differences emerged in the questions on use of assessment. On every question about whether assessment is used in various ways, for-profit colleges reported the most frequent use. Among nonprofit institutions, community colleges were more likely to use assessment data for aligning curricular expectations, improving instructional quality and measuring student readiness for certain levels of courses. Baccalaureate institutions were more likely than other sectors to use results to inform faculty promotion and tenure decisions.

When factoring in selectivity measures, another pattern emerges. The most academically selective colleges and universities are as likely as others to collect assessment data, but they don’t appear to do as much with the findings. Competitive institutions are much less likely than others to look at assessment results when considering learning goals, strategic planning and allocating resources, for example.

The report on the results suggests that while institutional culture may explain why competitive colleges are less engaged with assessment, that inaction may be too focused on questions of prestige, as opposed to student learning.

“Some faculty and staff at prestigious, highly selective campuses wonder why documenting something already understood to be superior is warranted. They have little to gain and perhaps a lot to lose,” the report says. “On the other hand, many colleagues at lower-status campuses often feel pressed to demonstrate their worth; some worry that they may not fare well in comparison with their better-resourced, more selective counterparts. Here too, anxiety may morph into a perceived threat if the results disappoint.”

The report urges faculty and presidents at all kinds of institutions to take assessment seriously, and to move beyond simply using it as a way of demonstrating accountability but to make it a part of a system for improvement.

The provosts in the survey said what they most needed to more effectively use assessment was more faculty involvement, with 66 percent citing this need. The percentage was even greater (80 percent) at doctoral institutions.

George Kuh, director of the institute, said that he viewed the results as "cause for cautious optimism," and that the reality of so much assessment activity makes it possible to work on making better use of it.

The institute is a joint effort of Indiana University, the University of Illinois and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

Tougher rules on policing illegal immigrants

Here's another story on 287(g), which gives local law enforcement the authority to identify and detain undocumented immigrants. This is a terrible decision!

-Patricia

Local agencies helping with deportations must keep their focus on major crimes.

By Anna Gorman | LA Times
October 14, 2009

Reporting from Raleigh, N.C. - Luz Maria Diaz knew what happened to illegal immigrants at the Wake County jail. But her teenage daughters didn't.

So when the girls were arrested after fighting on their high school campus in September, they freely admitted that they were born in Mexico. Detention officers at the jail checked their immigration status and promptly handed them over to federal authorities.

Now Diana, 16, and her sister, Yolanda, 18, are battling to stay in the country.

"I never thought this could happen . . . for a simple fight," their mother said. "I was in shock."

The Wake County Sheriff's Department is one of eight local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and 66 across the nation authorized by the federal government to identify illegal immigrants and process them for possible deportation under a program known as 287(g). Virginia is the only other state with more participating agencies. There are four such agreements in California, including one with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Immigrant advocates and some lawmakers have been highly critical of the program because of reports of racial profiling and civil rights violations. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called for an end to the program.

Responding to concerns, the Obama administration announced in July that participating agencies would be subject to federal supervision and required to focus their efforts primarily on serious and violent criminals. Police agencies must sign new agreements by today. Los Angeles County sheriff's officials are still in negotiations but expect to continue immigration screening in the jails.

If police agencies fail to follow the new rules, they risk losing their enforcement authority, said Alonzo Pena, deputy assistant secretary at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

One high-profile participant, Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, who is being investigated by the Department of Justice, said last week that federal authorities are stripping him of his authority to make immigration arrests on the streets.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, who joined the federal program in June 2008 and signed a new agreement Tuesday, said his deputies would continue arresting people in minor crimes, including traffic violations, if they fail to provide valid identification, and would continue checking the immigration status of foreign-born people taken to his jail. As of Oct. 1, the sheriff's staff had interviewed about 3,760 foreign-born inmates and processed about 2,650 for possible removal.

Whether immigration authorities move forward with deportation is up to them, Harrison said.

"That's an ICE problem," he said. "We're going to continue to do our job."

Wanting a better life

Diaz led her daughters across the border more than 10 years ago to seek a better life for them. If her daughters are ordered deported to Mexico, Diaz, 35, said, the whole family -- including her U.S.-born son -- will go too. She can't imagine sending her daughters alone to Mexico, a country they don't really know.

Yolanda Diaz, who was arrested on a charge of simple assault, said the arrest has dashed her plans of going to college in the United States. Her sister, Diana, arrested on a disorderly conduct charge, said she just wants to graduate from her high school.

"It's not fair," she said. "Other people have done much worse things than this."

Their attorney, Marty Rosenbluth with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the government's 287(g) program wasn't designed to pick up illegal immigrants like the Diaz sisters. "I appreciate that they are saying they are prioritizing dangerous criminal aliens," he said. "That is not what we are seeing."

Another one of his clients, Luis Cruz Millan, 30, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was ordered to report to an immigration officer after being arrested last month for allegedly listening to music too loudly in a car outside the Raleigh house where he was living.

He and his fiancee, Belinda Masterman, a U.S. citizen, had gotten into an argument, so Cruz went to the car to calm down. A neighbor called police, who arrested Cruz. Masterman said she begged them not to take Cruz to jail. Cruz said he believes that illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes should be deported. But, he said, "I never imagined I would be deported for listening to music."

One night last month, immigration attorney Jim Melo stood in front of a class of about 20 immigrants in Durham and explained how 287(g) worked and advised them what to do if stopped by police. "Outside of showing your identification, it's not necessary to answer their questions," he said.

He also warned them that different areas in North Carolina apply the law differently.

"In Wake County, if they arrest you for whatever reason -- speeding, driving without a license -- boom. There's immigration," he said.

When he was finished speaking, the audience peppered him with questions: When do you ask to see an immigration judge? Is it a crime to drive without a license? If you are arrested for driving without a license, are you in danger of deportation?

Demographic shifts


Drawn by jobs in agriculture, the textile industry and more recently construction, Latino immigrants began settling in large numbers throughout North Carolina in the 1990s, dramatically changing the demographics of the state.

Between 2005 and 2007, the state's Latino population was estimated at 596,000, up from 77,000 in 1990, according to U.S. Census data. In some areas, including Alamance County, the large influx of immigrants created tension with longtime residents.

Many new Latino residents moved into the towns of Burlington and Graham, finding jobs, starting families and opening businesses. But along with those immigrants looking for work, Sheriff Terry Johnson said, other new arrivals began committing crimes. And because the federal government wasn't enforcing immigration law, Johnson said, he had to.

Since the county joined the 287(g) program in 2007 and many illegal-immigrant drug traffickers and gang members have been arrested and deported, Johnson said, violent crime has dropped. "Immigrants know if you come to Alamance County for the purpose of committing crime, we are going to get you," he said.

One day last month, occupants of the Alamance County Jail -- which also holds ICE detainees from other counties awaiting deportation -- included a man who had been deported three times and another illegal immigrant who said he had served time for killing a person in a car accident.

Johnson acknowledged that not all illegal immigrants taken to the jail are suspected of violent crimes. Many are arrested on minor charges, such as driving without a license. If the traffic or criminal case is dismissed, illegal immigrants are turned over to ICE for possible deportation.

The sheriff's decision to sign up for the federal program earned him respect from longtime residents but created a sense of fear among immigrants.

Galvanized by several high-profile arrests and deportations, several activists formed a group called Fairness Alamance to challenge the sheriff and county officials over 287(g). They accused the sheriff of racial profiling and using the law to get illegal immigrants accused of committing minor crimes out of the country.

"The law became a weapon in the hands of law enforcement," said Blanca Zendejas Nienhaus, a teacher and member of the group. Now, Zendejas Nienhaus said she and others are pushing for the county to abide by the federal government's new rules and target only violent criminals.

"Time and goodwill will tell if they are going to make any change," she said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ELLs in 8th Grade Lose Ground on Math NAEP

Check out the full report here

-Patricia

English-language learners in 8th grade performed a tad worse in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2009 than they did in 2007, according to the scale scores on the test.

The scale score for 8th graders who are ELLs dropped 2 points, from 245 to 243, in two years, which is statistically significant, Jonathan Beard, an associate research scientist for the National Center for Education Statistics, said in an e-mail message. The scores for 4th graders who are ELLs stayed statistically the same over that time. The scores increased by 1 point, from 217 to 218, but that isn't considered significant.

The proportion of English-language learners both in 4th grade and 8th grade scoring "at or above proficient" dropped 1 percentage point from 2007 to 2009, according to a quick comparison of the scores released this week with those from two years ago. (See Tables A-16 and A-24 in the 2009 report for information on ELLs. See Tables A-13 and A-20 in the 2007 report.) This year's NAEP report on math says that 12 percent of ELLs in 4th grade scored proficient or above, while 13 percent did in 2007. Five percent of ELLs in 8th grade scored proficient or above in 2009, down from 6 percent two years before.

Read on

U.S. Alters Disputed Immigration Rules for Police

This is terrible news!

-Patricia


By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD | NY Times
Published: October 16, 2009

PHOENIX — Addressing one of the most contentious immigration policies in recent years, the Obama administration unveiled changes Friday in a program that allows state and local police officers enforce federal immigration law.

As promised in July, the Department of Homeland Security said it had revamped the program to focus on rooting out illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes. The changes also require law enforcement officers enrolled in the program to abide by federal anti-discrimination law. In addition, federal officials pledged to supervise the program more closely, flag problems and field complaints from the public.

Civil libertarians and immigration advocacy groups had complained that participating police agencies had unduly made targets of immigrants who commit relatively minor offenses, like traffic violators. There have also been widespread accusations that police officers have engaged in racial profiling. Much of the criticism has been focused here in metropolitan Phoenix, where the Maricopa County sheriff has made a national name for himself with his immigration crackdown.

Some critics, including most recently several Latino members of Congress, had urged the Obama administration to drop the program because of the problems, and those opponents were little mollified by the revisions announced Friday.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, suggesting that the changes would address the troubles, said they intended to expand the program, known as 287(g) for the section of the 1996 law that authorized it.

Officials said ICE had renewed agreements with 55 state and local law enforcement agencies. An additional 12, officials said, have reached tentative agreements that, if confirmed by their local governing bodies, will increase participation in the program to 67 agencies, from the current 66. ICE also remains in negotiations with six other agencies, including one of the largest, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Six previously participating agencies, however, have withdrawn, including the Houston Police Department. Houston officials said they were wary of police officers’ acting as immigration agents and planned to enroll soon in a separate federal program that would allow all jail inmates, not just those suspected of being in the country illegally, to be screened for federal offenses, including immigration violations.

Nowhere has the 287(g) program been more controversial than in Maricopa County, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose department has the largest number of personnel trained in the program, faces a Justice Department investigation over complaints of civil rights violations. Lawsuits accuse deputies of singling out Latinos for stops that include a check of their immigration status.

ICE announced Friday that it had withdrawn its authorization for the sheriff’s street enforcement of immigration law, in which 100 federally trained deputies had been engaged. But, to the ire of immigrant advocates, the federal agency will continue to allow 60 deputies to screen jail inmates, who have accounted for a vast majority of the immigration arrests.

Mr. Arpaio has denounced federal officials for the changes and conducted a crime sweep Friday in Surprise, a Phoenix suburb, as a retort, saying he could pursue illegal immigrants under state laws that bar activity like human smuggling.

“The sheriff is prone to rhetoric on occasion, and some of that is about ICE,” said John T. Morton, the agency’s director. “But I call things on the merits.”

The new agreements are the latest evolution of the program, which got under way in 1996 but did not begin to grow in earnest until after the Sept. 11 attacks. The immigration agency is requesting $68.1 million to run the program in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

More than 133,000 illegal immigrants have been arrested through the program since January 2006, though ICE officials said they could not readily provide information on how many had been deported.

While opponents denounce the program as ineffective and prone to abuse, its defenders say there is no reason why illegal immigrants who have committed a crime, even if not of the most serious nature, should be allowed to remain in the United States.

“Claims that the program was supposed to focus only on serious crimes are false,” said a joint statement by Representatives Trent Franks, a Republican whose district includes Maricopa County, and Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who was an author of the 287(g) legislation. “In fact, the program was created to let state and local law enforcement officials help enforce all immigration laws, not a select few.”

The debate continued to boil here on Friday, when protesters marched on Mr. Arpaio’s downtown office, as they regularly do, around the time his crime sweep got under way 20 miles away in Surprise.

Later, at an outdoor news conference in Surprise, Mr. Arpaio said eight people suspected of being illegal immigrants had been arrested under a state statute that forbids human smuggling.

“We will continue to do what we have been doing,” he said, fighting to speak over the din of shouting protesters.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Arts Education and Graduation Rates

Here's another study showing the positive influences that the arts has on schooling experiences. We need to make sure that the arts doesn't get left behind.

-Patricia


RACHEL LEE HARRIS | NY Times
Published: October 18, 2009

In a report to be released on Monday the nonprofit Center for Arts Education found that New York City high schools with the highest graduation rates also offered students the most access to arts education. The report, which analyzed data collected by the city’s Education Department from more than 200 schools over two years, reported that schools ranked in the top third by graduation rates offered students the most access to arts education and resources, while schools in the bottom third offered the least access and fewest resources. Among other findings, schools in the top third typically hired 40 percent more certified arts teachers and offered 40 percent more classrooms dedicated to coursework in the arts than bottom-ranked schools. They were also more likely to offer students a chance to participate in or attend arts activities and performances. The full report is at caenyc.org.

CNN Discussion on Teachers

Check out last night's CNN panel discussion on Teachers:


Embedded video from CNN Video

Hispanic Immigrants’ Children Fall Behind Peers Early, Study Finds

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: October 21, 2009

HOUSTON — The children of Hispanic immigrants tend to be born healthy and start life on an intellectual par with other American children, but by the age of 2 they begin to lag in linguistic and cognitive skills, a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, shows.

The study highlights a paradox that has bedeviled educators and Hispanic families for some time. By and large, mothers from Latin American countries take care of their health during their pregnancies and give birth to robust children, but those children fall behind their peers in mental development by the time they reach grade school, and the gap tends to widen as they get older.

The new Berkeley study suggests the shortfall may start even before the children enter preschool, supporting calls in Washington to spend more on programs that coach parents to stimulate their children with books, drills and games earlier in their lives.

“Our results show a very significant gap even at age 3,” said Bruce Fuller, one of the study’s authors and a professor of education at Berkeley. “If we don’t attack this disparity early on, these kids are headed quickly for a pretty dismal future in elementary school.”

Professor Fuller said blacks and poor whites also lagged behind the curve, suggesting that poverty remained a factor in predicting how well a young mind develops. But the drop-off in the cognitive scores of Hispanic toddlers, especially those from Mexican backgrounds, was steeper than for other groups and could not be explained by economic status alone, he said.

One possible explanation is that a high percentage of Mexican and Latin American immigrant mothers have less formal schooling than the average American mother, white or black, the study’s authors said. These mothers also tend to have more children than middle-class American families, which means the toddlers get less one-on-one attention from their parents.

“The reading activities, educational games and performing the ABCs for Grandma — so often witnessed in middle-class homes — are less consistently seen in poor Latino households,” Professor Fuller said.

The study is based on data collected on 8,114 infants born in 2001 and tracked through the first two years of life by the National Center for Education Statistics. The findings will be published this week in Maternal and Child Health Journal, and a companion report will appear this fall in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The analysis showed that at 9 to 15 months, Hispanic and white children performed equally on tests of basic cognitive skills, like understanding their mother’s speech and using words and gestures. But from 24 to 36 months, the Hispanic children fell about six months behind their white peers on measures like word comprehension, more complex speech and working with their mothers on simple tasks.

The study comes as the Obama administration has been pushing for more money to help prepare infants and toddlers for school. In September, the House passed an initiative that would channel $8 billion over eight years to states with plans to improve programs serving young children.

In addition, the economic stimulus package included $3 billion for Head Start preschools and for the Early Head Start program, which helps young parents stimulate their children’s mental development.

Eugene Garcia, an education professor at Arizona State University, said the Berkeley-led study confirmed findings by others that the children of Hispanic immigrants, for reasons that remain unclear, tend to fall behind white students by as much as a grade level by the third grade.

“It seems like what might be the most helpful with Latino kids is early intervention,” Dr. Garcia said.

Carmen Rodriguez, the director of the Columbia University Head Start in New York City, said there was a waiting list of parents, most of them Hispanic, who want to take Early Head Start classes with their children.

Dr. Rodriguez said the study’s findings might reflect a surge in interest in early childhood education on the part of middle-class Americans, rather than any deficiency in the immigrant homes.

“Any low-income toddler is disadvantaged if they don’t get this kind of stimulation,” she said.

The Quiet Revolution

Interesting Ed-Op piece. Please check out The Forum for Education and Democracy's overviews of issues mentioned in this piece. They add some absent dimensions to this discussion.

-Patricia


By DAVID BROOKS | NY Times Ed-Op
October 22, 2009

A few weeks ago, “Saturday Night Live” teased President Obama for delivering great speeches but not actually bringing change. There’s at least one area where that jibe is unfair: education.

When Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to office, they created a $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund. The idea was to use money to leverage change. The administration would put a pile of federal money on the table and award it to a few states that most aggressively embraced reform.

Their ideas were good, and their speeches were beautiful. But that was never the problem. The real challenge was going to be standing up to the teachers’ unions and the other groups that have undermined nearly every other reform effort.

The real questions were these: Would the administration water down their reform criteria in the face of political pressure? Would the Race to the Top money end up getting doled out like any other federal spending program, and thus end up subsidizing the status quo? Would the administration hold the line and demand real reform in exchange for the money?

There were many reasons to be skeptical. At the behest of the teachers’ unions, the Democrats had just shut down a successful District of Columbia voucher program. Moreover, state legislatures around the country were moving backward. They were passing laws prohibiting schools from using student performance as a criterion in setting teacher pay.

But, so far, those fears are unjustified. The news is good. In fact, it’s very good. Over the past few days I’ve spoken to people ranging from Bill Gates to Jeb Bush and various education reformers. They are all impressed by how gritty and effective the Obama administration has been in holding the line and inciting real education reform.

Over the summer, the Department of Education indicated that most states would not qualify for Race to the Top money. Now states across the country are changing their laws: California, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Tennessee, among others.

It’s not only the promise of money that is motivating change. There seems to be some sort of status contest as states compete to prove they, too, can meet the criteria. Governors who have been bragging about how great their schools are don’t want to be left off the list.

These changes mean that states are raising their caps on the number of charter schools. When charters got going, there was a “let a thousand flowers bloom” mentality that sometimes led to bad schools. Now reformers know more about how to build charters and the research is showing solid results. Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University recently concluded a rigorous study of New York’s charter schools and found that they substantially narrowed the achievement gap between suburban and inner-city students.

The changes also will mean student performance will increasingly be a factor in how much teachers get paid and whether they keep their jobs. There is no consensus on exactly how to do this, but there is clear evidence that good teachers produce consistently better student test scores, and that teachers who do not need to be identified and counseled. Cracking the barrier that has been erected between student outcomes and teacher pay would be a huge gain.

Duncan even seems to have made some progress in persuading the unions that they can’t just stonewall, they have to get involved in the reform process. The American Federation of Teachers recently announced innovation grants for performance pay ideas. The New Haven school district has just completed a new teacher contract, with union support, that includes many of the best reform ideas.

There are still many places, like Washington, where the unions are dogmatically trying to keep bad teachers in the classrooms. But if implemented well, the New Haven contract could be a sign of perestroika even within the education establishment.

“I’ve been deeply disturbed by a lot that’s going on in Washington,” Jeb Bush said on Thursday, “but this is not one of them. President Obama has been supporting a reform secretary, and this is deserving of Republican support.” Bush’s sentiment is echoed across the spectrum, from Newt Gingrich to Al Sharpton.

Over the next months, there will be more efforts to water down reform. Some groups are offering to get behind health care reform in exchange for gutting education reform. Politicians from both parties are going to lobby fiercely to ensure that their state gets money, regardless of the merits. So will governors who figure they’re going to lose out in the award process.

But President Obama understood from the start that this would only work if the awards remain fiercely competitive. He has not wavered. We’re not close to reaching the educational Promised Land, but we may be at the start of what Rahm Emanuel calls The Quiet Revolution.

Area districts tighten standards for substitutes

With influx of applicants, some districts now require teaching certifications.

By Melissa B. Taboada
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Central Texas school districts are raising standards for substitute teachers. With the sour economy and a glut of job seekers, those districts say they now have the option to be choosier and some are requiring new substitutes to possess teacher certifications.

"With the economy, the depth of our pool has increased, and along with that, certified (teachers) as well," said Troy Galow , the Leander district's director of employee relations, which oversees substitutes. "In different years, we don't have this luxury or opportunity to have this many certified people."

The Leander school district began requiring teaching certification for new substitutes last school year but kept many of its previous substitutes who don't have certificates. At least half of this year's substitute pool of 900 are certified teachers or have indicated that they are, pending verification. Previously, the district only required a high-school diploma or equivalency certificate and at least six months of verifiable related work experience, such as private school teaching, child care or working as a teaching assistant.

Lake Travis currently requires substitutes to have a high-school diploma or equivalency certificate, but trustees might approve new rules today requiring 60 college hours.

The Pflugerville school district is accepting substitute applications only from certified teachers and those who have skills in high-need areas, such as bilingual education or upper-level math. The economic downturn allowed the district to raise the bar, said Lori Einfalt , Pflugerville's executive director of human resources. She said the district has more than 460 substitutes.

"We have many more certified applicants making inquiry at this time, so we are building our base from there," Einfalt said. "Of course, we have many successful substitutes who have served us over the years who comprise the foundation of our substitute pool."

Districts benefit from having a supply of stand-ins with experience running a classroom, education experts say.

"Historically, one of the problems that substitute teachers have is classroom management," said Debbie Graves Ratcliffe , spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. "People who have been through traditional teacher certification programs get trained in that area, and it can be critical to their effectiveness."

Rand Schuetzeberg , a retired teacher who taught for 37 years and recently returned to school as a substitute teacher in the Leander district, agrees. "No. 1 is controlling discipline in the classroom and knowledge of the material," she said.

A friend, who was a middle-school teacher, needed a long-term substitute and asked Schuetzeberg to fill in for the 15-week assignment. "When I took that 15-week job, I just walked in and started teaching," she said. Certified teachers "are not scrambling around looking for plans and that sort of thing.

"I love teaching, that's why I went back to subbing," Schuetzeberg said. "I couldn't stay away."

When the economy goes south, school districts typically get a flock of good applicants, Ratcliffe said. Some trained teachers who had been staying at home with children now have to get back into the workforce to help the family financially. Teachers who went into other careers but got laid off are returning to teaching. Some substitutes are teachers who have been laid off in other districts, Ratcliffe said.

The Round Rock school district isn't taking any substitute teaching applications to start this school year because they simply have too many.

Other districts, including Austin, have cut back on new hires, making it difficult for recent education graduates to land a job. Austin, which has more than 2,100 substitutes, and is not taking applications and requires candidates to have at least 60 hours of college courses.

And while the Eanes and Hays school districts generally do not require substitutes to have college experience, once the substitute pool gets saturated, district officials there say they will only allow certified teachers to apply for the remainder of the year.

"Last year, we saw an increase in the amount of interested substitutes in our district, and that trend seems to be continuing this fall," said Lester Wolff , Eanes' assistant superintendent for human resources. "We would prefer certified teachers because of their background and training, as well as their knowledge of instructional strategies."

mtaboada@statesman.com; 445-3620

Minimum substitute requirements for new applicants

Austin 60 college hours; is not accepting applications

Eanes high-school diploma or GED for now; teaching certification when substitute pool gets saturated

Hays high-school diploma or GED for now; teaching certification when pool gets saturated

Lake Travis high-school diploma or GED; trustees might approve new rules today requiring 60 college hours

Leander teaching certificate

Pflugerville teaching certificate or special skills, such as in upper-level math or being bilingual

Round Rock minimum of high-school diploma or GED, substitute pool already saturated; not accepting new applicants

San Marcos 30 college hours

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PRESS RELEASES: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Says Colleges of Education Must Improve for Reforms to Succeed

FOR RELEASE:
October 22, 2009
Contact: Justin Hamilton (202) 591- 6734 or
Jane Glickman (202) 401-1307

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today called for America’s colleges of education to dramatically change how they prepare the next generation of teachers so that they are ready to prepare their future students for success in college and careers.

Noting that America’s schools will need to hire up to 200,000 first-time teachers annually for the next five years, Duncan said that those new teachers need the knowledge and skill to prepare students for success in the global economy.

“By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” Duncan said in a major speech at Teachers College, Columbia University. “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change--not evolutionary tinkering.”

More than half of the nation’s teachers graduate from a school of education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 220,000 students graduate from a teacher college every year. In recent years, several alternative certification programs such as High Tech High, The New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and teacher residency programs have emerged. But those programs produce fewer than 10,000 new teachers annually.

“To keep America competitive, and to make the American dream of equal educational opportunity a reality, we need to recruit, reward, train, learn from, and honor a new generation of talented teachers,” Duncan said. “But the bar must be raised for successful teacher preparation programs because we ask much more of teachers today than even a decade ago.”

Colleges of education need to make dramatic changes to prepare today’s children to compete in the global economy. Teacher-preparation programs should ensure that new teachers will master the content of the subjects they’ll teach and they will have well-supported field-based experiences embedded throughout their preparation programs. Their ultimate goal should be to create a generation of teachers who are focused on improving student achievement and ready to deliver on that goal.

Duncan highlighted emerging efforts to improve teacher education that are being led by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, as well as individual colleges of education.

The Teachers College speech was Duncan’s second major address on the subject of teaching. On Oct. 9, he spoke to students at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, telling them that America needs to recruit an army of new teachers to ensure its long-term economic prosperity.

Earlier this week, Secretary Duncan discussed the importance of teaching with close to 100 teachers and fielded questions from additional teachers across the country in a televised town hall meeting.

Teacher Preparation: Reforming the Uncertain Profession—Remarks of Secretary Arne Duncan at Teachers College, Columbia University

Here is a speech delivered by Sec. Duncan today at Teachers College.

-Patricia


Teacher Preparation: Reforming the Uncertain Profession—Remarks of Secretary Arne Duncan at Teachers College, Columbia University


FOR RELEASE:
October 22, 2009

It's an honor and pleasure to be here at Columbia Teachers College—the oldest, largest, and most storied graduate school of education in the United States. Here in this citadel of teacher preparation, where giants like John Dewey played such a formative role, I've come to speak to you today about the need for a sea-change in our schools of education.

Like the Teachers College, many schools of education have provided high-quality preparation programs for aspiring teachers for years. In the last decade, a slew of education schools have also upgraded their programs or launched rigorous practice-based initiatives to adapt to the realities of preparing instructors to teach diverse students in the information age.

I am going to talk about some of those shining examples in just a moment. Yet, by almost any standard, many if not most of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom. America's university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change—not evolutionary tinkering. But I am optimistic that, despite the obstacles to reform, the seeds of real change have been planted.

America faces three great educational challenges that make the need to improve teacher preparation programs all the more urgent. First, the education that millions of Americans got in the past simply won't do anymore. In the information age, it is impossible to drop out of school and land a good job. Even workers with high school diplomas but without college degrees are going to find they have limited opportunities in a competitive global economy. As President Obama has said, "education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success—it's a prerequisite to success."

Second, education, as Horace Mann said nearly two centuries ago, has long been the great equalizer in America. No matter what your race, national origin, disability, or zip code, every child is entitled to a quality public education. Today, more than ever, we acknowledge America's need—and a public school's obligation—to teach all students to their full potential. And yet today we are still way too far from achieving that dream of equal educational opportunity.

Nearly 30 percent of our students today drop out or fail to complete high school on time—that is 1.2 million kids a year. Barely 60 percent of African-American and Latino students graduate on time—and in many cities, half or more of low-income teens drop out of school.

I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. And if you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality, about promoting civic knowledge and participation, the classroom is the place to start. Children today in our neediest schools are more likely to have the least qualified teachers. And that is why great teaching is about more than education—it is a daily fight for social justice.

Now the nation's rising educational demands are only half the picture. The third force propelling the nation's need for more and better teachers is the massive exodus of Baby Boomers from the teaching force in the next decade.

We currently have about 3.2 million teachers who work in some 95,000 schools. But more than half of those teachers and principals are Baby Boomers. And during the next four years we could lose a third of our veteran teachers and school leaders to retirement and attrition. By 2014, just five short years from now, the U.S. Department of Education projects that up to one million new teaching positions will be filled by new teachers.

These major demographic shifts mean that teaching is going to be a booming profession in the years ahead—with school districts nationwide making up to 200,000 new, first-time hires annually. Our ability to attract, and more importantly retain, great talent over the next five years will shape public education for the next 30 years—it is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

It is important to emphasize that the challenge to our schools is not just a looming teacher shortage, but rather a shortage of great teachers in the schools and communities where they are needed most. As Lyndon Johnson foresaw in 1965, "tomorrow's teachers must not merely be plentiful enough, they must be good enough. They must possess the old virtues of energy and dedication, but they must possess new knowledge and new skill." In our new era of accountability, it is not enough for a teacher to say, "I taught it—but the students didn't learn it." As Linda Darling-Hammond has pointed out, that is akin to saying "the operation was a success but the patient died."

More than 40 years later after Johnson spoke, high-poverty, high-needs schools still struggle to attract and retain good teachers. Teacher openings in science and math—subjects that are vitally important to the future—are often hard to fill with effective instructors. And students with disabilities and English language learners are still underserved. Rural classrooms are facing shortages and we have far too few teachers of color. Nationwide, more than 35 percent of public school students are Hispanic or black, but less than 15 percent of our teachers are black or Latino. That's a problem that is not self-correcting—we must proactively work on it. It is especially troubling that less than two percent of our nation's teachers are African American males.

To keep America competitive, and to make the American dream of equal educational opportunity a reality, we need to recruit, reward, train, learn from, and honor a new generation of talented teachers. But the bar must be raised for successful teacher preparation programs because we ask much more of teachers today than even a decade ago. Today teachers are asked to achieve significant academic growth for all students at the same time that they instruct students with ever-more diverse needs. Teaching has never been more difficult, it has never been more important, and the desperate need for more student success has never been so urgent. Are we adequately preparing future teachers to win this critical battle?

I am urging every teacher education program today to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels all their efforts. America's great educational challenges require that this new generation of well-prepared teachers significantly boost student learning and increase college-readiness. President Obama has set an ambitious goal of having America regain its position as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. But to reach that goal, both our K-12 system and our teacher preparation programs have to get dramatically better. The stakes are huge—and the time to cling to the status quo has passed.

Now there is a reason why so many of us remember a favorite teacher forever. A great teacher can literally change the course of a student's life. They light a lifelong curiosity, a desire to participate in democracy, and instill a thirst for knowledge. It's no surprise that studies repeatedly document that the single biggest influence on student academic growth is the quality of the teacher standing in front of the classroom—not socioeconomic status, not family background, but the quality of the teacher at the head of the class.

Earlier this month at Thomas Jefferson's fabled Rotunda at the University of Virginia, I issued a call to teaching as an essential national mission of our time. But the fact is that recruiting and preparing this army of great, new teachers depends heavily on our nation's colleges of education.

More than half of tomorrow's teachers will be trained at colleges of education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that schools and departments of education produce about 220,000 certified teachers a year. Now I am all in favor of expanding high-quality alternative certificate routes, like High Tech High, the New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and teacher residency programs. But these promising alternative programs produce fewer than 10,000 teachers per year.

The predominance of education schools in preparing teachers is not the only reason this is a national priority and a critical concern for higher education. My good friend, Congressman George Miller, the chair of the House Committee on Education and a great reform advocate, points out that America's taxpayers already generously support teacher preparation programs. And it is only right that this investment should be well spent.

In the 2007-08 school year, nearly 30 percent of undergraduate education majors received Pell Grants totaling close to a billion dollars. That same year, about 40 percent of undergraduate education majors received $3 billion in Federal Loans. All told, the federal government now provides about $4 billion a year in Pell Grants and Federal Loans to support students and our university-based teacher preparation programs.

At the same time, graduate schools of education have a huge impact on post-baccalaureate enrollment—they award nearly 30 percent of all master's degrees, more than any other branch of graduate studies. And unlike independent alternative certification programs, university-based teacher preparation programs have unique advantages—they are financially self-sustaining, have math and science departments on campus to assist in specialized training, they can provide rich content knowledge in the liberal arts, and they are in a position to research and test what works to improve student learning.

Now it is not possible to talk honestly about radical improvements to teacher preparation programs without acknowledging the troubled history of education schools and stubborn barriers to reform. To echo a sentiment voiced by deans of education schools, almost since colleges of education came into being they have frequently been treated like the Rodney Dangerfield of higher education. Historically, education schools were the institution that got no respect—from the Oval Office to the Provost's Office, from university presidents to Secretaries of Education.

From the onset of education schools a century ago they have been beset by skeptics who believed that teachers are born, not made. In William James' popular lectures, Talks to Teachers on Psychology, published in 1899, James warned that educators made "a very great mistake" in assuming that child psychology could help provide "methods of instruction for immediate school-room use."

James thought that teaching was an instinctual art—and many of his colleagues in academia agreed that teaching was more a craft than a profession. In his book The Uncertain Profession, former ed school administrator Arthur Powell argued that "none of the social sciences spawned by the American university at the end of the nineteenth century has had a more volatile and troublesome history than the field of education."

The dismissal of teacher preparation programs by the liberal arts faculty on many campuses was so complete that in the 1930s the president of Harvard described Harvard's Graduate School of Education as a "kitten that ought to be drowned." Columbia itself was not exempt from soul-searching about the effectiveness of colleges of education. In 1944, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Teachers College, Harvard president James Bryant Conant gave a speech here calling for a "Truce Among Educators"—a plea, he acknowledged, that fell on deaf ears. Nearly 20 years later, Conant authored a two-year study of education schools that acknowledged many students believed their required courses at ed school were "Mickey Mouse" courses.

Jacques Barzun, who wrote the classic bestseller Teacher in America—and later went on to be Columbia's provost—was equally unsparing in his critique of education schools. In his essay "The Art of Making Teachers," Barzun wrote that "teacher training is based on a strong anti-intellectual bias, enhanced by a total lack of imagination."

Jump forward to 1963 and you find that President Kennedy was voicing many of the same concerns about the quality of educational research that continue to resound today. "Research in education," President Kennedy declared, "has been astonishingly meager and frequently ignored . . . It is appalling that so little is known about the level of performance, comparative value of alternative investments and specialized problems of our educational system."

More than three decades later, not much—or at least not enough—had changed. In 1995, the Holmes Group, a coalition of ed school deans, issued a pointed report warning that "The education school should cease to act as a silent agent in the preservation of the status quo." In 1999, Richard Riley, one of my predecessors as Secretary of Education, told the National Press Club that "we can no longer fiddle around the edges of how we recruit, prepare, retain, and reward America's teachers.... Our colleges of education can no longer be the sleepy backwaters."

Now, as you know, the most recent comprehensive study of education schools was carried out by Arthur Levine, the former president of Teachers College. Levine's 2006 study found numerous examples of exemplary programs. But he also documented the persistence of problems that had afflicted ed schools for decades. "At the moment," he wrote, "teacher education is the Dodge City of the education world... unruly and disordered." "The bottom line," he concluded, "is that we lack empirical evidence of what works in preparing teachers for an outcome-based education system. We don't know what, where, how, or when teacher education is most effective."

Ed school deans and faculty interviewed for Levine's study painted an unflattering picture of teacher education, which they complained was "subjective, obscure, faddish . . . out-of-touch, politically correct . . . and failed to address the burning problems in the nation's schools." English professor E.D Hirsch, the father of the acclaimed, content-rich Core Knowledge Program, got his own taste of the ideological blinders at colleges of education when he chose to teach an ed school course on the causes and cure of the achievement gap. Having authored the 1987 bestseller, Cultural Literacy, Hirsch anticipated that his course would be oversubscribed. But three years in a row, only 10 or so students enrolled. Finally, one of Hirsch's students informed him that other professors in the ed school were encouraging students to shun the course because it ran counter to their pedagogical beliefs.

More than three out of five ed school alum surveyed for the Levine report said their training did not prepare them adequately for their work in the classroom. In my seven years as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools and in my current job as I've travelled the country, I've had hundreds of conversations with great young teachers. And they echo many of the same concerns about ed schools voiced in the Levine report and in earlier decades. In particular they say two things about their training in ed school. First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on practical teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students. And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to differentiate and improve instruction and boost student learning. On Tuesday night, at a national town hall meeting with teachers, I asked the studio audience of about 100 teachers how they felt about their schools of ed. An uneasy laughter filled the room—not the kind of response that engenders confidence.

Now the obvious question arises, why have teacher preparation programs historically been difficult to reform? And how is it that, in the face of this history, I am actually optimistic that important changes are already underway in teacher preparation programs?

Let me start by answering that first question, about the obstacles to reform. It is far too simple to blame colleges of education for the slow pace of reform. In fact, universities, states, and the federal government have all impeded reform in a variety of ways.

For decades, schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities. The large enrollment in education schools and their relatively low overhead have made them profit-centers. But many universities have diverted those profits to more prestigious but under-enrolled graduate departments like physics—while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical training.

This robbing Peter to pay Paul is shortsighted. If teaching is—and should be—one of our most revered professions, teacher preparation programs should be among a university's most important responsibilities. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule.

It takes a university to prepare a teacher. The arts and sciences faculty play an absolutely essential role in strengthening the content knowledge of aspiring teachers. I do not understand when college presidents and deans of the arts and science faculty ignore their teacher preparation programs—and yet complain about the cost of providing remedial classes to freshmen. Simply put, incoming freshmen don't know the content because too often they have been taught by teachers who don't know the content well. In my view, Donald Kennedy, the former president of Stanford University, got it right when he said that "Only if the best institutions care about [public] schools and their own schools of education will the public think they are worth caring about; and nothing could be more clearly the business of America's academic leaders."

Now the fact is that states, districts, and the federal government are also culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs. Most states routinely approve teacher education programs, and licensing exams typically measure basic skills and subject matter knowledge with paper-and-pencil tests without any real-world assessment of classroom readiness. Local mentoring programs for new teachers are poorly funded and often poorly organized at the district level.

Less than a handful of states and districts carefully track the performance of teachers to their teacher preparation programs to identify which programs are producing well-prepared teachers—and which programs are not turning out effective teachers. We should be studying and copying the practices of effective teacher preparation programs—and encouraging the lowest-performers to shape up or shut down.

Even the failure of some education schools to develop a rigorous, research-based curriculum cannot solely be laid at their door step. We all know that the reading and math wars have gone on for decades—but that doesn't mean they are destined to last forever. Thanks to the national reading panel and other national expert assessments, educators know much more about the science of teaching reading and math today than a decade ago. Yet, as your president, Susan Fuhrman recently pointed out, countries like Singapore, South Korea, and the Czech Republic that outperform us in science and math provide teachers with much clearer guidance on key ideas and content to be mastered in each grade.

Now, each of these barriers to reform that I've just cited is beginning to slowly recede—and that is one reason why I remain optimistic that real improvements and change in teacher preparation programs are underway.

For the first time, 48 states have banded together to develop common college and career-ready standards for high school students—and the federal government is providing generous incentives through the Race to the Top Fund to encourage rigorous standards, including setting aside $350 million to fund the competitive development of better assessments for the standards. Just a year ago, many education experts doubted states would ever agree on common college-ready standards.

The draft Race to the Top criteria would also reward states that publicly report and link student achievement data to the programs where teachers and principals were credentialed. And the federal government is funding a large expansion of teacher residency programs in high-need districts and schools, including one to be run out of Teachers College.

As you know, teacher residency programs follow a medical model of training, with residents placed in schools with extensive induction and support during a year-long apprenticeship. In Chicago, I was lucky to work with the Academy for Urban School Leadership program, one of the nation's top residency programs. The U.S. Department of Education recently announced $43 million in grants for 28 Teacher Quality Partnership programs that went to colleges of education and high-need school districts, with more than half of the five-year grants supporting residency programs. An additional $100 million in grants included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be awarded early next year.

At the state and district level, states like Louisiana are leading the way in building the longitudinal data systems that enable states to track and compare the impact of new teachers from teacher preparation programs on student achievement over a period of years. Louisiana's system is already up and running, linking teacher education programs in the state back to student performance and growth in math, English, reading, science, and social studies.

All students in Louisiana in grades four through nine who took one of the state assessments are eligible for inclusion in Louisiana's evaluation of teacher impact—and the state uses three years of data involving hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of teachers. Louisiana is using that information to identify effective and ineffective programs for the first time—and university-based teacher education programs are using the outcomes data to revamp and strengthen their programs. Officials at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette opted to increase admission requirements, added a career counseling program to better prepare teachers for the transition to the classroom, and boosted coursework requirements in English language arts. Real change, based upon the real outcomes of children—revolutionary, isn't it?

Right now, Louisiana is the only state in the nation that tracks the effectiveness of its teacher preparation programs. Every state in the nation should be doing the same—and, as I said, we are going to provide incentives for states to do so in the $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition. It's a simple but obvious idea—college of educations and district officials ought to know which teacher preparation programs are effective and which need fixing. Transparency, longitudinal data, and competition can be powerful tonics for programs stuck in the past.

Several districts are moving to track the impact of teacher preparation programs on outcomes. Here in New York, the Teacher Policy Research Project, sponsored by the University of Albany and Stanford University, recently assessed the impact that 31 elementary teacher preparation programs have had on math and English achievement in New York City. They found that the difference between the average impact of the 31 teacher preparation programs and the top value-added institution for first-year teachers was about the same as the difference in average learning for a classroom of low-income students and those who are not poor. The New York study is yet another example of how we are finally beginning to get the comparative data on education investments that President Kennedy sought so long ago.

Now, just as states and districts are beginning to link teacher education programs to student outcomes, universities are also taking their responsibility to improve teacher preparation more seriously. I have been involved in a Listening and Learning tour during the last nine months that has taken me to more than 30 states. Everywhere I go I see universities partnering with school districts, opening up lab schools, magnet schools, and charter schools, and creating professional development schools for ed school students to gain clinical experience. In droves, universities have opened their doors to alternative certification programs—and are paying greater attention to the quality and supervision of student teachers during their clinical training.

As you know, the accreditation of schools of education is a voluntary process, and historically coursework had been given greater priority than clinical training for students in accreditation. But there also are encouraging signs that colleges of education want to make self-policing more meaningful, with clinical experience driving coursework. Both NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and AACTE, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, are firmly behind the new drive to link teacher preparation programs to better student outcomes.

In June, NCATE and its president, Jim Cibulka, announced the first major revision of teacher education requirements in 10 years. It includes new accreditation requirements that will oblige institutions to strengthen the clinical focus of their programs and foster demonstrable increases in student learning. NCATE's new accreditation system will be modeled in part on Tennessee's evolving experiment, where the Board of Regents has decided that all undergraduate teacher candidates will spend their senior year in year-long residencies in P-12 schools. I hope other states and schools of education shift more to the residency-model of training.

Under the leadership of Sharon Robinson, the AACTE and its 800 colleges and universities have made it a core mission to have pre-service education lead to substantial increases in student achievement. AACTE has also recently launched a series of new programs and initiatives designed to improve teacher effectiveness. One of their most promising initiatives to date is the development of the first nationally accessible assessment of teacher candidate readiness. Under this performance-based assessment, supervising teachers and faculty would evaluate student teachers in the classroom. And student teachers and interns would be required to plan and teach a week-long stint of instruction mapped to state standards and provide commentaries on videotapes of their instruction and classroom management.

AACTE's project is based on PACT, California's Performance Assessment for Teachers, which Linda Darling-Hammond and a wide-ranging consortium of teacher preparation programs in California have done so much to pioneer. Already 14 states have signed up to pilot the performance assessment.

In the end, I don't think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation are much of a mystery anymore. Our best programs are coherent, up-to-date, research-based, and provide students with subject mastery. They have a strong and substantial field-based program in local public schools that drives much of the course work in classroom management and student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils in high-needs settings. And these programs have a shared vision of what constitutes good teaching and best practices—including a single-minded focus on improving student learning and using data to inform instruction.

The program here at Teachers College, which turns out about 700 teachers a year, explicitly trains students to use data to continuously improve their own instruction and target student learning gaps. Every student teacher in the elementary education program at TC completes at least two semesters of student teaching, and unlike some education schools, every student teacher works under the careful supervision of a well-qualified mentor teacher. About half of TC's graduating teachers in 2007-08 ended up in high-needs schools in New York City. Your commitment to research what really works to advance student learning is impressive.

Earlier this month, I spoke to students at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and found a similarly top-notch program where fifth-year students teach full-time during their first semester. I see David Steiner, your great new commissioner in New York in the audience, and David created an extraordinary teacher preparation program at Hunter College. Like Virginia's program, it has a carefully-run clinical program that videotapes student teachers and helps them learn from their experience.

In contrast to some colleges of education, David also encouraged the incorporation of best practices from a new generation of high-performing charter schools. He even established an alternative certification program for teachers of record—Teacher You—for KIPP, Achievement First, and the Uncommon Schools.

There are many other first-rate teacher preparation programs—Stanford, the University of Washington, and Michigan, just to name a few. But I want to be clear that it doesn't take an elite university and a big endowment to create a good teacher education program.

At Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, home of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, the Teachers College is the crown jewel of the school. Roughly 80 percent of students are supervised by full-time education faculty instead of adjuncts—and all elementary education professors are in the public schools every day. Senior year is a 100 percent field-based program in Emporia's public schools, where student teachers do everything from assisting with grading to sitting in on parent-teacher conferences.

Alverno College, a Catholic women's college in Milwaukee, also requires a rigorous field experience in the public schools and has faculty and local principals assess videotapes of student teachers. Eighty-five percent of Alverno graduates are still in the classroom five years after graduation, an extremely high retention rate. At Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, Project Prime, a partnership with the Rapid City Schools uses school-based math coaches and graduate level courses for teachers to successfully boost math achievement among Native American students.

I cite all these examples to point out that, with courage and commitment, our teacher preparation programs absolutely can provide dynamic and effective teacher preparation for the 21st century—leaving the sleepy backwaters that Secretary Riley spoke of behind. In place of the uncertain profession, I want to see teacher preparation programs one day rival those of other professions.

When the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized, we will be reinvesting in teacher education programs. We will encourage partnerships with states and districts that address teacher shortages in high-needs areas. And we will encourage programs committed to results: Programs that use data, including student achievement data, to foster an ethic of continuous improvement for students and teachers.

Our best teacher preparation programs see the smart use of data as a boon that can help them improve, not as a burden. They see competition from alternative providers not as a threat but as a force from which they can learn, benefit, and share ideas.

It's often said that great teachers are unsung heroes, but for me that truism has real meaning. Teaching is one of the few professions that is not just a job or even an adventure—it's a calling. Great teachers strive to help every student unlock their potential and develop the habits of mind that will serve them for a lifetime. They believe that every student has a gift—even when students doubt themselves.

Henry Adams said that "a teacher affects eternity—he can never tell where his influence stops." That is a weighty responsibility and a unique privilege. I thank you for all that you have done and will do to train the next generation of great teachers. The challenges facing our nation's schools of education are great. But so is the opportunity to better serve our children and the common good.

Thank you.