Tuesday Reading List: If You Don't See What's Happening, You're Not Paying Attention

Meredith Kolodner of The Hechinger Report looks at a new study examining the intersection of teacher behaviors and student outcomes:

[Matthew] Kraft and [David] Blazar (who work at Brown and Harvard Universities, respectively) used student surveys and test score results and pored through hours of video of teachers at work in four urban school districts. They examined four measures of students’ skill that have been demonstrated individually to predict future academic success and job prospects – high math scores, good behavior, happiness in class and perseverance in the face of difficulty. Their research looked at whether “good teachers” were indeed successful at improving all four of these outcomes. It turns out they’re not. “What we find is that teachers who are successful at raising test scores are not [not necessarily] the teachers best at improving behaviors,” said Blazar.

Kraft and Blazar argue that dissecting these behaviors makes them easier to build, examine, and reinforce for educators. This research also is an important contribution, given the growing sense that student tests - while critical tools - are most effective in assessing the effectiveness of educators when coupled with additional instruments.

Tunju Adebayo talks about managing this reality as an educator:

While my students come to school facing obstacles I never experienced as a student, I know what we do in class can change their trajectory. School isn’t just about mastering academic content. Teachers also have a prime opportunity to teach the power of hard work and perseverance. I systematically organize my class so that the person who works the hardest, not necessarily the “smartest” person in the class, will earn the best grade. Too often, classroom policies dictate that a student must display mastery of a subject by a certain time, and if they don’t, the opportunity is over, never to be revisited. By using a single test to set the parameters of learning, we limit student achievement.

There is going to be a significant burden on policymakers to redefine accountability in the coming years. Stephanie Saul of The New York Times has a good rundown of the president-elect's perspectives on that issue, and other education policy concerns:

Mr. Trump’s signature education proposal — to provide $20 billion in federal money to allow low-income students to select private or charter schools — is one area where he seems to be borrowing policy from Vice President-elect Mike Pence. As governor of Indiana, Mr. Pence championed school choice and favored a smaller federal role in education. While arguing that Mr. Trump should be taken seriously on education because he wants to cut college costs and improve schools, Mr. Hess said Mr. Trump’s pronouncements so far were not based on fully formed policy. “The $20 billion figure for school choice came out of nowhere,” [Rick] Hess said. “You know that Mr. Trump has been all over the place on student loans.”

Trumps has been "all over the place" on just about every issue, so whoever Trump chooses to be secretary of education will have an impact on education policy. Molly Hensley-Clancy at BuzzFeed says the race is down to two people:

President-elect Donald Trump’s search for a secretary of education has narrowed to two candidates, the school reformer Michelle Rhee and Republican megadonor Betsy DeVos, according to two people familiar with the search process. DeVos is in most ways a conventional choice for the position: a longtime advocate of alternatives to the public school system, with close ties to many on Capitol Hill, she is closely aligned to Republican education officials like Sen. Lamar Alexander and serves on the board of Jeb Bush’s education foundation. She’s also a staunch opponent of the Common Core education initiative, which Trump often denounced at his rallies with promises of a “repeal" ... The former chancellor of Washington, DC, public schools, Rhee is an unconventional pick. She’s a former Democrat and a polarizing firebrand who made a name for herself by fighting teachers unions and advocating fiercely for the expansion of charter schools.

At the risk of being glib, no matter who Trump picks, the education reform sector is going to suffer politically, and that community should avoid self-inflicting more damage than necessary. Reformers purport to care about vulnerable communities, but the president-elect has evinced a stunning, and overt, disdain for the interests of communities of color. Aligning the reform agenda with bigotry is a devastatingly bad idea, no matter who sits in the secretary's seat.

Just look at the president-elect's other friends:

Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Appelbaum explain in The Atlantic:

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of  people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads. Spencer has said his dream is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”

If I've said it once, I've said it 1000 times: if you don't see what's happening, you're not paying attention.