Thursday Reading List: Teacher Preparation, Common Core, and Consistent, Measurable Progress

There's all kinds of different stuff to share this this morning, so forgive me if I bounce from topic to topic. In Commonwealth Magazine, Meredith Segal, a former Bernie Sanders operative and founder of "Students for Obama," makes the progressive case for raising the charter schools cap in Massachusetts:

For me, being a progressive Democrat and a charter school supporter are not antithetical. In fact, the values that inspired me to support Obama, Sanders, and now Hillary Clinton also drive my support for charters. Every child, regardless of her zip code, deserves to read on grade level by third grade, earn a high school diploma, enroll in college, and ultimately live a life better than that of her parents. Regardless of whether they exist within district schools, charter schools, or schools of some yet-to-be discovered type, we need more classrooms in which students succeed.

The debate over public charter schools has become so polarized, and devoid of truth, that it's kind of ridiculous that she has to even make this argument. Perhaps that's because it's unclear what anyone stands for vis-a-vis education anymore. Alyson Klein is at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and even Trump supporters can't tell you his education platform:

Are you mystified as to where Donald Trump stands on education policy? So are some of the people attending the convention here, where Donald Trump officially received the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday."I don't know what his views are on education," said Sue Sharkey, a member of the board of regents for the University of Colorado and a delegate from the Centennial State who supported Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the Republican primary. "I don't think he's really put a lot of thought into it. And I think his understanding of issues is probably pretty shallow."

Speaking of Cleveland, Sarah Butrymowicz at the Hechinger Report looks at that city's school transformation initiatives:

In 2012, Cleveland embarked on a plan to improve education by making high-quality early education available and affordable for all families; creating a selection of high-performing schools in each neighborhood; and developing systems to help high school graduates succeed in college or careers. That year, voters passed a levy that raised school taxes by nearly 40 percent to pay for this plan, ultimately adding about $60 million a year to the school district’s budget of about $725 million. Officials gave themselves till 2016 to show progress. There have been some improvements, such as new schools and higher graduation rates, but there is still a long way to go. Now, officials are hoping that the gains they’ve made will persuade voters to renew the levy and buy them four more years of increased funding and time to fix the schools.

In the interest of full disclosure, in a previous life I was an advisor to the city in their early days of developing the plan. Cleveland is one of a small number of cities attempting massive improvement outside of any particular education policy orthodoxy, so it's worth watching whether they can sustain the energy and attention through consistent, measurable progress. Gosh, how boring would THAT be?


 District Administrator magazine looked at the implementation of the Common Core in early adopting states:

In Kentucky, the first state to adopt the standards in 2010, student achievement has improved overall. In Tennessee, another 2010 adopter, fewer students need remediation, [Adam] Ezring says. However, the number of states that have left the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing consortia does not bode well for the future of the standards, says Tom Loveless, senior fellow of governance studies at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute.

This is frustrating news, because the states that have been implementing the standards the longest are improving, but participants keep dropping like flies. It will be interesting to see how states like Indiana, South Carolina, and New Jersey, who adopted similar standards but under a different name, perform. Teacher preparation standards also are important to improve, and this new report from the National Center on Education and the Economy looks at international comparisons in teacher preparation. Spoiler alert: the United States is lagging:

Teacher education programs are relatively unselective, meaning that the preexisting math, science, and literacy expertise of entrants is generally not strong ... There are many exceptions to this narrative, and there are many exemplary U.S. teacher preparation programs. However, it is clear that, overall, the preparation of elementary teachers in the United States in key subject areas has been inadequate. Given the importance of quality teaching to student learning, it is not hard to draw a line between these issues and poor performance in student outcomes.

I found this report via Amanda Ripley, who knows a thing or two about international education comparisons. First, this report confirms what we already knew, which is that the world's best performing education systems elevate the teaching profession in a way that we do not in the United States, and that respect starts with making the profession harder to enter. Second, the report zooms in on the importance of content knowledge for teaching; pedagogy is critical, but not at the expense of being an expert in the knowledge and skills that students must master.

Finally, Joel Anderson at Buzzfeed wants the media, and law enforcement, to draw more concrete distinctions between peaceful protestors and lone assassins:

“There’s a difference there that needs to be drawn and publicized,” said Michael “A.V.” Mitchell, who helped organize a recent demonstration for local children. “Protesters are after peace and equality,” he continued. “People who are going to protest don’t go out with a sign and then decide to pick up assault rifle and become expert marksmen.If you’re going to go shoot people, why protest?” Some activists even said that by not stressing the difference between demonstrators and the police shooters, authorities could be placing protesters in danger from those who might see them as a lethal threat to officers.

It's telling that this distinction requires such forceful clarification. When Dylan Roof killed nine people at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, it went without saying that he represented neither his entire race, nor a broader set of plausible political objectives. Have a great day, and resist easy answers!