Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ties between high stakes assessment and dropouts

One of the concerns about high stakes for high schools - in particular - is that there is increasing pressure for schools to focus resources on the students close to proficiency to "shove them over the bar". The message that this sends to other students who are farther from proficiency is that they are on the periphery and do not matter. This is very likely to rise their likelihood of dropping out. At worst, these students are encourage to move to other schools or drop out.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Challenges in addressing attainment and growth goals

This debate summarizes much of the concern about growth or value-added models and the risk that they will dilute the push for high expectations for under-performing kids and schools. There are at least two ways that these concerns can be addressed. One thing that value-added measures can be used for is to identify schools that are "beating the odds" and delivering higher than average growth in student learning. This both provides an "existence proof" to show what is possible as well as a target for evaluation to figure out the mechanisms of success.

The other important contribution of value-added analysis to an high-stakes, high attainment system is to provide insights into what kind of growth exists in current systems. There is some concern that there many be very few schools in the nation capable of delivering the rates of growth needed to achieve NCLB standards by 2014. This is vital policy information. If nothing we are currently doing - in terms of teacher education, professional development, curriculum, etc. - can deliver the growth needed, then more radical interventions in these areas are necessary.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Producing high quality teachers

In an opinion piece, William Graves - Dean of Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education - supports changes in teacher education programs. Old Dominion offers a warranty for its teachers. Graves points out that Old Dominion already implements many of the suggestions recently put forward in a report by a former Columbia Dean Arthur Levine. One of the most interesting things about the Levine report is that vast differences in quality between education programs. One of the things that I like about this discussion is the focus on what constitutes a quality program. The recommendations address the "how would you know?" question.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lovaglia's Law - Bad news for Evidence-Based Decisionmaking

Bob Sutton quotes Michael Lovaglia as follows:
Lovaglia’s Law: The more important the outcome of a decision, the more people will resist using evidence to make it.
As someone who works to help bring better data to bear on low- and high-stakes decision making in educational systems, this is troubling (but not that surprising) as a working hypothesis.


Monday, November 06, 2006

TIF Awards and growth at the district level

The first Teacher Incentive Fund grantee has recently been announced. This will start a round of federally-supported experiments in generating and using school-, grade-, and classroom-level growth or value-added performance models. There is no telling how well thought out these models will be, but their very existence will drive forward the discussion of equitable treatment of teachers, leaders, and students. It will require districts to focus on both growth and attainment. While some of the discussion will inevitably be contentious, the ability to tie growth outcomes to educational practices is welcome shift.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

DOE preparing to announce additional states allowed to test growth-model

While there is a short list of possible candidates who will be considered for growth model permission for next year, that is only a foretaste of what might be on the horizon. Eric Hanushek - the Hoover Institute scholar who chaired the first review panel - notes that with the creation of student id systems and grade level testing in almost all states, the number of possible candidate will quickly climb to all states. So, despite the fact that the DoEd is taking the slow road to growth models (laying aside the issue that none these models actually study growth), it will be possible for states and districts to experiment outside of official program participation. Many groups, both national and at the state level, are asking questions about school productivity and attainment. As it becomes possible for states to explore growth models, we may start to see states driving policy experiments and the Feds playing catchup.