Posts from Elizabeth Green
February 23, 2012
Tomorrow’s planned release of 12,000 New York City teacher ratings raises questions for the courts, parents, principals, bureaucrats, teachers — and one other party: news organizations. The journalists who requested the release of the data in the first place now must decide what to do with it all.
At GothamSchools, we joined other reporters in requesting to see the Teacher Data Reports back in 2010. But you will not see the database here, tomorrow or ever, as long as it is attached to individual teachers’ names.
The fact is that we feel a strong responsibility to report on the quality of the work the 80,000 New York City public school teachers do every day. This is a core part of our job and our mission.
But before we publish any piece of information, we always have to ask a question. Does the information we have do a fair job of describing the subject we want to write about? If it doesn’t, is there any additional information — context, anecdotes, quantitative data — that we can provide to paint a fuller picture?
In the case of the Teacher Data Reports, “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced in 2009 and 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8, the answer to both those questions was no.
We determined that the data were flawed, that the public might easily be misled by the ratings, and that no amount of context could justify attaching teachers’ names to the statistics. When the city released the reports, we decided, we would write about them, and maybe even release Excel files with names wiped out. But we would not enable our readers to generate lists of the city’s “best” and “worst” teachers or to search for individual teachers at all.
It’s true that the ratings the city is releasing might turn out to be powerful measures of a teacher’s success at helping students learn. The problem lies in that word: might. (more…)
January 20, 2012
We may have postponed our annual party until the spring, but that will not stop us from sharing drinks and conversation with our readers. Especially not when our readers organize the event!
That is exactly what happened a few months ago, when dedicated teacher-readers approached us about how they could help support GothamSchools. Please join us and them for conversation and drinks Friday, Feb. 10, from 4 to 6, at Professor Thom’s bar in Manhattan.
We want to know what you think of what’s going on, what you think of our coverage, and what you think we should cover more. We also want to know you! Oh and: first 20 drinks are on us.
January 10, 2012
- UFT: The city must never have intended to broker a teacher evaluation deal at all. (Leo Casey)
- The mayor will deliver his State of the City at Morris High School in the Bronx. (SchoolBook)
- Last time the mayor gave his big speech at a school, he didn’t mention schools much at all. (GS)
- A report says the U.S. should take a page from Her Majesty’s school Inspectorate. (Ed Sector)
- Investigators charged a teacher with faking jury duty to miss 15 days over nine months. (GS Scribd)
- Chicago teachers are experimenting with Japanese “lesson study.” (Hechinger, WBEZ)
- A new book argues that textbooks undermine efforts to improve education. (Curriculum Matters)
- StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s advocacy organization, has many parent members. (Russo)
- RTTT implementation is moving more steadily in Ohio, but challenges remain. (Ohio Gadfly)
- Alternative teacher prep attracts more male candidates and people of color. (Ed Money Watch)
- A paper on the costs of “blended learning” models leaves questions. (Fordham PDF, Flypaper)
January 6, 2012
A historic look inside the nation’s classrooms, including some in New York City, painted a bleak picture, according to a report released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today.
The second installment of the foundation’s ambitious Measures of Effective Teaching study, the report focuses on the picture of teaching yielded by five different classroom observation tools. It also scrutinizes those tools themselves, concluding that they are valuable as a way to help teachers improve but only useful as evaluation tools when combined with measures of student learning known as value-added scores.
The conclusion is a strong endorsement of the Obama administration’s approach to improving teaching by implementing new evaluations of teachers that draw on both observations and value-added measures. New York State took this approach to overhauling its evaluation system when it applied for federal Race to the Top funding.
Among the group of five observation tools the foundation studied is the rubric now being piloted in New York City classrooms as part of stalled efforts to implement the changes to teacher evaluation, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Effective Teaching.
Through all five lenses, instruction looked mediocre in an overwhelming majority of more than 1,000 classrooms studied, the report concludes. There were some bright spots. Many teachers were scored relatively well for the aspect of teaching known as “classroom management” — keeping students well-behaved, making sure they are engaged.
But teachers often fell short when it came to other elements of teaching, such as facilitating discussions, speaking precisely about concepts, and carefully modeling skills that students need to master. These higher-order skill sets, the report notes, are crucial in order for students to meet the raised standards outlined in the Common Core. (more…)
January 6, 2012
Just before the new year, I spent 20 days visiting schools in Japan. The Abe Fellowship for journalists, supported by the Japan Foundation and administered by the Social Science Research Council, paid my way.
I visited under the influence of two powerful works: “Big Bird Goes to Japan” and “The Teaching Gap,” the 1999 book by James Hiebert and James Stigler. “The Teaching Gap” elevates a relatively obscure professional development practice native to Japan — “lesson study” — as a major solution to the American educational dilemma.
I wanted to see if Stigler and Hiebert were right. The following is the first in a series of posts describing what I found.
TOKYO — Before I visited Japan, another journalist I know who had just traveled there urged me to be skeptical. The Japanese make a lot of promises, he said, but dig just a little bit, and you’ll find that most claims don’t hold up.
I had this in mind on my first school visit, to the University of Tokyo’s attached secondary school. I had heard about attached schools, fuzokukou in Japanese. They were like the old “practice” or “laboratory” schools in the U.S., I was told, where those studying to become teachers learned from master teachers who used their classrooms, in turn, to hone ever-better teaching practice. (I described one such school in this article; search for “Cook County Normal School.”)
Fuzok teachers were supposed to be true masters, so talented that some became famous, attracting hundreds of admiring teachers to the public lessons that are common in Japan. Maybe most intriguing, fuzokukou schools’ close ties to university teacher training programs suggested an interest in teaching that persisted even in the ivory tower. (more…)
December 23, 2011
It’s been a good year for GothamSchools. (We’ll have more to say about how 2011 treated the New York City schools next week, in our annual end-of-year review.)
Thanks to your support, the scrappy site we started in 2008 is now an institution that thousands of New Yorkers depend on for smart, trustworthy information. We want to keep up the good work in 2012, and also to get even stronger. As always, that will require help from our readers.
And so we’re asking you to consider making a donation to ensure that our reporting only gets stronger in 2012.
Here’s a brief review some of what we were able to do in 2011:
October 28, 2011
- As school budgets were cut, the head of the state teachers union got a big raise. (Albany Times-Union)
- Responding to our story, charter school opponents called Hakeem Jeffries a “sellout.” (Politicker NY)
- A well-meaning teacher tries to share a working copier with peers but is blocked. (NYC Educator)
- A teacher describes two extremes of the teacher-evaluation spectrum, neither one pleasant. (Ed Week)
- “This American Life” takes on middle school (and has a GothamSchools shoutout!). (This American Life)
- A look at the new, post-PTA brand of parent advocacy around education. (Education Next)
- In L.A., a lawsuit on behalf of students aims to force more teacher evaluations. (PDF, via Eduwonk)
- Advice to city charter schools from Milwaukee, where many charters are teacher-led. (NY Teacher)
- Chicago Mayor Emanuel said the teachers union is “cheating kids” by opposing extended day. (Catalyst)
- A study by an organization pushing to change teacher prep says teachers support their efforts. (NCTQ)
October 20, 2011
- The UFT headquarters has become a home away from home for Occupy Wall Street. (Edwize)
- Pre-K registration for this school year ends in just eight days. Sign up! (Let’s Talk Schools)
- The Grassroots Education Movement met tonight to plot how to organize ATR’s. (EdNotes)
- How to use cognitive behavioral therapy to cure the malady of “teacher anxiety.” (Ed School)
- A school board member could face consequences for something he wrote on Facebook. (LA Now)
- An aide to Ed Towns said that the abortion rate in Bed Stuy “needs to be high.” (Politicker, Brooklyn Ink)
- Parents for Occupy Wall Street are holding a “Family Sleepover” this weekend. (Gotham Gazette)
October 20, 2011
- More than a third of teachers at Harlem Success Academy 3 have left since the end of last year. (Times)
- After a stabbing at Curtis High School, metal detectors are in place, to the principal’s chagrin. (NY1)
- A principal who was removed from his school later tried to use clout to benefit his friends. (Daily News)
- Some schools creatively fit in student exercise amid space, time, and budget constraints. (Times)
- Supermodel Tyra Banks visited students at the High School for Teaching and Professions. (Daily News)
- The UFT is launching a new bullying hotline as part of a multi-agency initiative. (GothamSchools, NY1)
- A popular teacher at an elite private school was fired for a mysterious offense. (Times)
- Enrollment in Detroit’s schools is down 10 percent from last year, beating expectations. (Detroit News)
October 14, 2011
- Mike Petrilli: Could the end of NCLB augur an end to the accountability movement? (Flypaper)
- Debate on Sen. Tom Harkin’s ESEA bill has been scheduled for next week. (Politics K-12)
- The bill would require the weakest schools to undergo one of six overhaul tactics. (Quick & Ed)
- Andy Rotherham: Schools are more like the Boston Red Sox than the Oakland A’s. (Time)
- Teachers in San Francisco protested outside Murdoch’s ed conference appearance. (HuffPo)
- A South Bronx area is among 80 communities to focus on third-grade reading. (Curriculum Matters)
- The principal of Telecommunications HS quotes poetry in support of the “we.” (Schoolbook)
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker is looking for an education policy assistant. (On Ramps)
- Chicago’s union is claiming a victory in its fight against the city’s extended day plan. (Catalyst)