Spotlight

on the latest in education, curated by dot Ed

Back to School, and to Widening Inequality

Reblogged from robertreich

robertreich:

American kids are getting ready to head back to school. But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income.

Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children.

Thirty years ago, the average gap on SAT-type tests between children of families in the richest 10 percent and bottom 10 percent was about 90 points on an 800-point scale. Today it’s 125 points.

The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement.

On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia.

The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing.

It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.

According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of 2010 census tract and household income data, residential segregation by income has increased during the past three decades across the United States and in 27 of the nation’s 30 largest major metropolitan areas.

This matters, because a large portion of the money to support public schools comes from local property taxes. The federal government provides only about 14 percent of all funding, and the states provide 44 percent, on average. The rest, roughly 42 percent, is raised locally.

Most states do try to give more money to poor districts, but most states cut way back on their spending during the recession and haven’t nearly made up for the cutbacks.

Meanwhile, many of the nation’s local real estate markets remain weak, especially in lower-income communities. So local tax revenues are down.

As we segregate by income into different communities, schools in lower-income areas have fewer resources than ever.

The result is widening disparities in funding per pupil, to the direct disadvantage of poor kids.

The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one.

What are called a “public schools” in many of America’s wealthy communities aren’t really “public” at all. In effect, they’re private schools, whose tuition is hidden away in the purchase price of upscale homes there, and in the corresponding property taxes.

Even where courts have requiring richer school districts to subsidize poorer ones, large inequalities remain.

Rather than pay extra taxes that would go to poorer districts, many parents in upscale communities have quietly shifted their financial support to tax-deductible “parent’s foundations” designed to enhance their own schools.

About 12 percent of the more than 14,000 school districts across America are funded in part by such foundations. They’re paying for everything from a new school auditorium (Bowie, Maryland) to a high-tech weather station and language-arts program (Newton, MA).

“Parents’ foundations,” observed the Wall Street Journal, “are visible evidence of parents’ efforts to reconnect their money to their kids.” And not, it should have been noted, to kids in another community, who are likely to be poorer.

As a result of all this, the United States is one of only three, out of 34 advanced nations surveyed by the OECD, whose schools serving higher-income children have more funding per pupil and lower student-teacher ratios than do schools serving poor students (the two others are Turkey and Israel).

Other advanced nations do it differently. Their national governments provide 54 percent of funding, on average, and local taxes account for less than half the portion they do in America. And they target a disproportionate share of national funding to poorer communities.

As Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s international education assessments, told the New York Times, “the vast majority of OECD countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”

Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs.

Yet we seem to be doing everything except getting more money to the schools that most need it.

We’re requiring all schools meet high standards, requiring students to take more and more tests, and judging teachers by their students’ test scores.

But until we recognize we’re systematically hobbling schools serving disadvantaged kids, we’re unlikely to make much headway.

hacking-curriculum:
Everything You Need to Know About Giving Negative Feedbackby Sarah Green  
There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there on giving corrective feedback. If you really need to criticize someone’s work, how should you do it? I dug into our archives for our best, research- and experience-based advice on what to do, and what to avoid.
Never, ever, ever feed someone a “sandwich.” Don’t bookend your critique with compliments. It sounds insincere and risks diluting your message. Instead, separate your negative commentary from your praise, and don’t hedge.
Schedule regular check-ins with your direct reports, so that giving feedback — both negative and positive — becomes a normal part of the weekly routine.
Don’t lump your critical feedback together with discussions of pay and promotion — as in typical year-end evaluation. This creates a toxic cocktail of emotions even the most mellow employee will have trouble managing. Instead, make these separate conversations.
The adage “praise in public, criticize in private” is an old management mantra. But sometimes, you have to be critical in public. Holding people accountable sometimes means discussing performance issues with the group, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Ask permission. This may sound odd — especially if you’re the boss — but you can tip people off that a critique is coming (making them more receptive to hearing it) if you start the conversation with, “Can I give you some feedback?”
Avoid jumping to conclusions or seeming like a bully by sticking to the facts. For instance, if employees are leaving early and showing up late, they could be having a family emergency or a health issue. Simply state the behavior you’ve observed and let them explain what’s going on.
Try framing your critique in terms of the positive result you want to achieve, rather than as what’s wrong with the person. Make it about the impact the employee could achieve by working differently. Ask “What are your goals?”
Be specific about the new behavior you’d like to see.
If you’re delivering some particularly hard-to-hear news, consider giving the person the rest of the afternoon off. Studies have shown that top performers are especially vulnerable to major setbacks. Show compassion not by softening the blow with false praise, but by giving bad news straight and then offering some breathing room.
If the person you’re giving feedback to gets defensive or lashes out, keep your preferred outcome and preferred working relationship in mind. You can’t prepare for every possible thwarting mechanism someone might throw at you, but you can control your reactions.
Recognize that everyone wants corrective feedback — yes, even Millennials and even experienced, expert workers. Consulting firm Zenger Folkman found that while managers dislike giving critical feedback, all employees value hearing it — and often find it even more useful than praise.
There’s one important caveat here, however, and that’s the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio. While we may not be willing to admit it to ourselves, we do need to hear praise. And studies of both the most effective teams and the most happily married couples have shown that the ideal ratio is about five compliments to every criticism. So do shower your team with kudos — just don’t do it at the same time you’re critiquing them.
And when you do offer plaudits, praise effort — not ability. Carol Dweck’s well-known research has shown that’s the best way to keep people motivated and it makes criticism feel less threatening and personal. After all, if you’ve been told your whole life, “You’re so smart!” a rebuke might make you wonder, Am I dumb now? Focusing your praise on behaviors — “You guys really put a lot of attention to detail into this” or “I’m so impressed with how hard you worked to get this done on time and under budget” — means that when you have to deliver some corrective feedback, people are more likely to take it in the same vein rather than as a personal attack.
Sarah Green is a senior associate editor at Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter at @skgreen.

Reblogged from hacking-curriculum

hacking-curriculum:

Everything You Need to Know About Giving Negative Feedback
by Sarah Green  

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there on giving corrective feedback. If you really need to criticize someone’s work, how should you do it? I dug into our archives for our best, research- and experience-based advice on what to do, and what to avoid.

Never, ever, ever feed someone a “sandwich.” Don’t bookend your critique with compliments. It sounds insincere and risks diluting your message. Instead, separate your negative commentary from your praise, and don’t hedge.

Schedule regular check-ins with your direct reports, so that giving feedback — both negative and positive — becomes a normal part of the weekly routine.

Don’t lump your critical feedback together with discussions of pay and promotion — as in typical year-end evaluation. This creates a toxic cocktail of emotions even the most mellow employee will have trouble managing. Instead, make these separate conversations.

The adage “praise in public, criticize in private” is an old management mantra. But sometimes, you have to be critical in public. Holding people accountable sometimes means discussing performance issues with the group, even if it feels uncomfortable.

Ask permission. This may sound odd — especially if you’re the boss — but you can tip people off that a critique is coming (making them more receptive to hearing it) if you start the conversation with, “Can I give you some feedback?”

Avoid jumping to conclusions or seeming like a bully by sticking to the facts. For instance, if employees are leaving early and showing up late, they could be having a family emergency or a health issue. Simply state the behavior you’ve observed and let them explain what’s going on.

Try framing your critique in terms of the positive result you want to achieve, rather than as what’s wrong with the person. Make it about the impact the employee could achieve by working differently. Ask “What are your goals?”

Be specific about the new behavior you’d like to see.

If you’re delivering some particularly hard-to-hear news, consider giving the person the rest of the afternoon off. Studies have shown that top performers are especially vulnerable to major setbacks. Show compassion not by softening the blow with false praise, but by giving bad news straight and then offering some breathing room.

If the person you’re giving feedback to gets defensive or lashes out, keep your preferred outcome and preferred working relationship in mind. You can’t prepare for every possible thwarting mechanism someone might throw at you, but you can control your reactions.

Recognize that everyone wants corrective feedback — yes, even Millennials and even experienced, expert workers. Consulting firm Zenger Folkman found that while managers dislike giving critical feedback, all employees value hearing it — and often find it even more useful than praise.

There’s one important caveat here, however, and that’s the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio. While we may not be willing to admit it to ourselves, we do need to hear praise. And studies of both the most effective teams and the most happily married couples have shown that the ideal ratio is about five compliments to every criticism. So do shower your team with kudos — just don’t do it at the same time you’re critiquing them.

And when you do offer plaudits, praise effort — not ability. Carol Dweck’s well-known research has shown that’s the best way to keep people motivated and it makes criticism feel less threatening and personal. After all, if you’ve been told your whole life, “You’re so smart!” a rebuke might make you wonder, Am I dumb now? Focusing your praise on behaviors — “You guys really put a lot of attention to detail into this” or “I’m so impressed with how hard you worked to get this done on time and under budget” — means that when you have to deliver some corrective feedback, people are more likely to take it in the same vein rather than as a personal attack.

Sarah Green is a senior associate editor at Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter at @skgreen.

Crazy new maths. What are they teaching these days?

I think this curriculum focus too much on concepts and not enough on mastery. There needs to be a balance. The standard algorithms may be boring, but they’re efficient.

Reblogged from bobbycaputo

bobbycaputo:

PORTRAITS OF NEW YORK CITY EDUCATORS AFTER SCHOOL

After the bell has rung and students vanish in a blaze of noise, Brooklyn-based Aliza Eliazarovcaptures New York City educators in the quiet after the chaos. A former teacher of eight years, Eliazarov describes this time as a poignant moment in each day, the silence flooded with a range of emotions. Posing a series of simple questions, Eliazarov allows these teachers for once to turn the attention to their own personal musings and burdens. Whether the response is pensive or anxious, content or exhausted, each teacher endures with an unceremonious bravery and resolve. Honoring those seldom thanked, See Me After School is a glimpse into the everyday triumphs and trials of today’s resilient educators.

(Continue Reading)

Reblogged from gjmueller

gjmueller:

The National Council on Teacher Quality has released its 2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook National Summary. This year’s average was a C-, up from D+ in 2011 and D in 2009.
Over the past five years, 37 states have improved their overall grades by at least one full grade level because of significant reform, particularly in the areas of teacher evaluation and related teacher effectiveness policies.

Click on a state for detailed information about that state’s teacher policies or explore the results of the 2013 Yearbook further in the State Yearbook Dashboard.

The coming Common Core meltdown

Reblogged from hithertokt

It’s less about the standards themselves than the context in which they were introduced and implemented.

hithertokt:

Not much I didn’t already know, but framed in a very approachable and interesting way. It’s worth your time to read, I think.

Education in Vietnam: Very good on paper

ON SATURDAY morning, December 14th, America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, will travel to Vietnam. One of his talking points, according to the State Department, will be the “empowering role of education”. But it seems like Vietnam has already taken the message.

On December 3rd, the OECD released the results from its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam administered every three years to 15- and 16-year-olds in dozens of countries. Vietnam recently joined the test for the first time, and it scored remarkably well—higher in maths than America and Britain, though not as high as Shanghai or Singapore. Nguyen Vinh Hien, a deputy minister for education, characterised Vietnam’s overall 17th-place ranking out of 65 countries and economies as a pleasant “surprise.”

The PISA scores, as they are known, measured how a half-million students from randomly selected schools answered written and multiple-choice questions in a two-hour test. Mathematics was the primary focus, but students were also evaluated on reading, science and problem-solving. Coverage of the scores by the Western news media suggested that the impressive maths performance by Vietnam, where per-capita GDP is only about $1,600, was perhaps a bit humbling for education officials in Washington, London and other self-regarding world capitals. 

What explains Vietnam’s good score? Christian Bodewig of the World Bank says it reflects, among other positive things, years of investment in education by the government and a “high degree of professionalism and discipline in classrooms across the country”. But Mr Bodewig adds that the score may be impressive in part because so many poor and disadvantaged Vietnamese students drop out of school. The World Bank reports that in 2010 the gross enrolment rate at upper-secondary schools in Vietnam was just 65%, compared with 89% and 98% in America and Britain, respectively. South Korea’s rate was 95%. 

A chorus of Vietnamese education specialists say that Vietnam’s PISA score does not fully reflect the reality of its education system, which is hamstrung by a national curriculum that encourages rote memorisation over critical thinking and creative problem-solving. “Every child in this country learns the same thing,” and nationwide tests merely reinforce the intellectual homogeneity that results, in the lament of To Kim Lien, the director of the Centre for Education and Development, a Vietnamese non-profit in Hanoi. Ms Lien reckons that instead of catalysing educational reform, the score might provide a convenient excuse for complacency in matters of policy. And the old-fashioned, inward-looking Ministry of Education and Training, she adds, is a past master at complacency.

Another systemic problem is a general lack of “integrity” in Vietnam’s education sector, in the words of Nguyen Thi Kieu Vien of the Global Transparency Education Network, a new initiative of Transparency International, a watchdog based in Berlin. In a recent survey the organisation found that 49% of Vietnamese respondents perceived their education sector to be “corrupt” or “highly corrupt”. The percentage was higher than that found in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia. Corruption is plainly evident at elite Vietnamese schools, where slots for pupils are routinely sold for $3,000 each. Yet it also exists on a smaller scale, in subtler forms. Many Vietnamese teachers hold extra tuitions, outside of regular school hours, for a small fee of between $2.50 and $5 per lesson. Not all parents can afford to pay these fees, and so the practice tends to exacerbate inequality. 

In November some top-ranking national officials passed a resolution calling for reform in the education sector. Kim Ngoc Minh, an education researcher in Hanoi, says the resolution is the most comprehensive and ambitious in a generation. Other education specialists however wonder whether the resolution, which calls for reform in broad stokes, will translate into actual policy changes.

Actual changes are badly needed. In 2008, researchers from Harvard reported that Vietnam’s higher-education system was in “crisis”, and that it lagged far behind the systems of Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, to say nothing of those in China, Taiwan and South Korea. As a warning, they pointed to the comparative lack of articles published by Vietnamese researchers in peer-reviewed international journals. The Harvard memo also said the government was awarding research funding “uncompetitively”, and that there was a vast difference between what graduates had learned and what prospective employers wanted them to know.

These shortcomings can be linked to others in primary and secondary schools. Ms Lien of the Centre for Education and Development says that a basic reform package might begin with the younger age group, by including parents in a decision-making process that has long been dominated by the education ministry. Nearly two years ago, she was among a dozen senior educators who submitted paperwork to the ministry requesting permission to establish a national parent-teacher association. Their group still has not received an official response. Perhaps the ministry is afraid of what Vietnamese parents might say, if they had a platform. 

(Picture credit: AFP)

Top Talkers: Teenagers are making no progress on international achievement exams, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment results show. Jon Meacham, Julie Pace and Mike Barnicle discuss.

Newly released data suggests American students haven’t improved over time when it comes to education. Randi Weingarten discusses.

After about half a million students took the PISA exams, US performance remained flat. America has a child poverty rate nearly double that of some countries that outperform the United States, which is thought to be a factor. Experts say the test results will likely intensify the debate over education reform. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

Can the Common Core State Standards transform teaching and raise student achievement? The Hechinger Report and the Education Writers Association looked at seven states in depth.

Can the Common Core State Standards transform teaching and raise student achievement? The Hechinger Report and the Education Writers Association looked at seven states in depth.

gjmueller:
"Good Job" Alternatives
Parents and teachers often say “good job” as an automatic response to a child’s action.“You ate all of your peas. Good job!” “You did a good job putting away the toys.”
A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Preschoolers need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following suggestions to give preschoolers specific, detailed information that recognizes their achievements and encourages their learning.
Print/share PDF

Reblogged from gjmueller

gjmueller:

"Good Job" Alternatives

Parents and teachers often say “good job” as an automatic response to a child’s action.“You ate all of your peas. Good job!” “You did a good job putting away the toys.”

A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Preschoolers need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following suggestions to give preschoolers specific, detailed information that recognizes their achievements and encourages their learning.

Print/share PDF

theatlantic:
Should High Schools Offer More Job Training?
Just seven years ago, the Texas Legislature mandated that all high schoolers pass two algebra courses and geometry to graduate. This summer, the state reversed course, easing its strict math, science, and social-studies requirements to free up class time for job training.
Texas legislators want to create a more flexible system that helps students who aren’t headed to four-year colleges enter the workforce. And it’s not just Texas. State legislatures nationwide are enacting laws to promote career and technical education and workforce training in high school.
But that approach carries risks. While it’s true that not all students will go on to college, pulling back on college preparatory coursework has to be handled carefully in a state like Texas, with its hundreds of thousands of low-income and minority students. They’re the students who would benefit from college the most—and who need the most help getting there.
Read more. [World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr]

Reblogged from theatlantic

theatlantic:

Should High Schools Offer More Job Training?

Just seven years ago, the Texas Legislature mandated that all high schoolers pass two algebra courses and geometry to graduate. This summer, the state reversed course, easing its strict math, science, and social-studies requirements to free up class time for job training.

Texas legislators want to create a more flexible system that helps students who aren’t headed to four-year colleges enter the workforce. And it’s not just Texas. State legislatures nationwide are enacting laws to promote career and technical education and workforce training in high school.

But that approach carries risks. While it’s true that not all students will go on to college, pulling back on college preparatory coursework has to be handled carefully in a state like Texas, with its hundreds of thousands of low-income and minority students. They’re the students who would benefit from college the most—and who need the most help getting there.

Read more. [World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr]

theatlantic:
Why Are Private-School Teachers Being Paid Less Than Public-School Teachers?
Private school teachers make way less than public school teachers. Average salaries are nearly $50,000 for public, and barely $36,000 for private. That’s not just a gap. It’s a chasm.
Teacher compensation has become a key part of the public debate over American schools. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has sounded the war-horns for higher salaries. New Jersey governor Chris Christie wrestles with unions over benefits. When she was chancellor of the D.C. public school system, Michelle Rhee fought to remake teacher pay scales, en route to becoming the most divisive figure in American education. And whatever your agenda, the salary gap between public and private threatens to rewrite the storyline. If public schools pay too little, why do privates pay even less? On the other hand, with better-paying public-school jobs available, why do so many teachers accept lower salaries in order to go private?
Read more. [Image: Warner Brothers]

Reblogged from theatlantic

theatlantic:

Why Are Private-School Teachers Being Paid Less Than Public-School Teachers?

Private school teachers make way less than public school teachers. Average salaries are nearly $50,000 for public, and barely $36,000 for private. That’s not just a gap. It’s a chasm.

Teacher compensation has become a key part of the public debate over American schools. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has sounded the war-horns for higher salaries. New Jersey governor Chris Christie wrestles with unions over benefits. When she was chancellor of the D.C. public school system, Michelle Rhee fought to remake teacher pay scales, en route to becoming the most divisive figure in American education. And whatever your agenda, the salary gap between public and private threatens to rewrite the storyline. If public schools pay too little, why do privates pay even less? On the other hand, with better-paying public-school jobs available, why do so many teachers accept lower salaries in order to go private?

Read more. [Image: Warner Brothers]

theatlantic:
Why Are Reading Textbooks So Out-of-Date? Blame America’s Copyright Laws
There are endless schemes for improving education, from testing to vouchers to charter schools to standards and back to testing again. There’s one simple step, though, that isn’t on the list of de rigeur reforms that would decrease education costs and increase the relevance and breadth of the curriculum. That step is letting copyrights lapse.
As Timothy B. Lee wrote last week at the Washington Post, we’ve just passed the 15 year anniversary of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. That law retroactively put another 20 years onto all works due to enter the public domain. It ensured that iconic songs by Gershwin and, iconic properties like Mickey Mouse would remain private property for another two decades. Extending copyright provided an enormous windfall to those owners. The money and incentives being what they are, it seems likely that Disney and others who stand to profit will lobby Congress to extend copyright even further the Sonny Bono Act lapses five years from now.
Read more. [Image: Ryan Stanton/Flickr]

Reblogged from theatlantic

theatlantic:

Why Are Reading Textbooks So Out-of-Date? Blame America’s Copyright Laws

There are endless schemes for improving education, from testing to vouchers to charter schools to standards and back to testing again. There’s one simple step, though, that isn’t on the list of de rigeur reforms that would decrease education costs and increase the relevance and breadth of the curriculum. That step is letting copyrights lapse.

As Timothy B. Lee wrote last week at the Washington Post, we’ve just passed the 15 year anniversary of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. That law retroactively put another 20 years onto all works due to enter the public domain. It ensured that iconic songs by Gershwin and, iconic properties like Mickey Mouse would remain private property for another two decades. Extending copyright provided an enormous windfall to those owners. The money and incentives being what they are, it seems likely that Disney and others who stand to profit will lobby Congress to extend copyright even further the Sonny Bono Act lapses five years from now.

Read more. [Image: Ryan Stanton/Flickr]