NCTQ Letter Grades and the Reformer Agenda– Part V
The MKS Review of Advisory Board Quality continues, and it ain’t looking good for the Board, folks. This group ought to just adopt the slogan, “We want to wipe out traditional education” and be done with it.
I give you yet another four: Pattie Davis, Michael Feinberg, Michael Goldstein, and Erik Hanushek. Keep in mind that the bio info immediately following each name is not the work of MKS, Inc.
Pattie Davis has been a middle school science teacher with Memphis City Schools for ten years. She voluntarily left one of the most successful schools in the district to teach at one of the lowest performing schools because she wanted to go where there was the greatest need. It is her belief that the potentiality of urban students has been greatly underestimated. As the Department and Grade Level Chair at Fairview Middle school, Ms. Davis has displayed a great and consistent desire to become a more reflective and thus, a more effective educator. She has always been willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that all students are propelled to optimal academic and character excellence. As a teacher leader, her experiences include: Leader of School-wide Discipline Committee, Teacher Mentor, Grade Level Chair, Science Chair, Curator for the Memphis City Schools Exhibitions, Science Textbook Adoption Committee Member, Chair of SACS Committee, Co-Investigation Participant, Real-Time Coaching Participant, Teacher Effectiveness Initiative Ambassador, and Memphis Teaching Policy Fellow. Additionally, she has lead many professional development sessions for the district.
Ms. Davis has a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, a Masters in Adult Education and Distance Learning, a Masters in Education and Administration and she is currently enrolled in a PhD program with a focus on Educational Psychology. She also was among the inaugural cohort of Memphis City Schools Urban Leadership Academy. However, she elected to remain in the classroom where she can truly affect positive social change. She is a member of the National Education Association, National Science Teachers Association and the American Psychological Association.
Pattie Davis’ bio reads much like one would expect the bio of a truly qualified advisory board member to read: Davis lists the actual school where she taught and the number of years taught; she holds degrees in education (real ones that take years and not weeks to earn). Also, she is a member of recognized professional and educational associations whose titles are clear and do not sound like advertising slogans.
Having said that, it is clear that Davis is buying into the current reformer mindset. She completed the Policy Fellows Program at Teach Plus. (Remember from my previous post that association that endorses and follows TFA principles?) As for the Urban Leadership Academy, the executive summary includes the now-obvious reformer language of “developing… leaders committed to eliminating the achievement gap“; its mission statement is, “To develop transformational urban leaders with a sense of urgency and innovation to ensure overall student success” (Emphasis added.) The Gates Foundation is connected to the memphis Urban Leadership effort.
Here is the topper when it comes to Davis: She is teaching at a TFA-initiated school, Strive Prep. The school’s “principal” and founder, Ken Greenbaum, has three years of teaching experience and a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering. Out of the school’s 13 faculty, only Davis has made a career of education and of the classroom. Based upon the faculty bios, this school is heavy on inexperience and high on ideology.
I wonder how long a teacher with Davis’ credentials can stand this charade.
Mike Feinberg, Co-Founder of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Foundation, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a Teach For America alumnus. Feinberg and Dave Levin launched KIPP in 1994 for 50 5th graders in Houston and established KIPP Academy Houston a year later. Through Feinberg’s leadership, KIPP has grown into a network of 38 high-performing public schools serving 6,000 students in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Feinberg has been awarded the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service from the City of Houston; the Crystal Award; the Seed of Freedom Award by the Gulfton Area Neighborhood Organization (GANO); and the Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship. KIPP has been featured on CBS Sixty Minutes and ABC World News Tonight, and in The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, and more.
Michael Feinberg is selling a product, a replacement for the public school, his brand of charters. However, Feinberg has not been honest about the performance of his charters. He skews the facts in order to sensationalize his product. In November, former TFAer friend Gary Rubinstein confronted KIPP cofounders Feinberg and Levin about their misleading reporting of KIPP outcomes:
KIPP publishes an annual report which gives the attrition rate for each of their schools. They say that the rate is around 10%, which doesn’t sound that bad until you realize that this is 10% per year so nearly 40% of students who start as 5th graders don’t graduate as 8th graders. This doesn’t mean that KIPP is not a good thing. It just means that it is not good enough to justify the school closings across the country and the witch hunts for the ineffective teachers who are managing to get good principal evaluations despite their low value-added scores.
In his open letter to KIPP founders Dave Levin and Michael Feinberg, Rubinstein notes,
The reason KIPP is under such a microscope, recently, is that the results that you claim to get with the ‘same kids’ and the ‘same funding’ as nearby ‘failing’ schools has led politicians to shut down schools and fire teachers who are not measuring up to the KIPP standard. This concerns me a lot.
As far as the ‘same funding’ goes, there was some recent report that KIPP schools had a lot more funding per pupil and then there was a KIPP response that the report was misleading. They then said that it wasn’t. Now I do think that a lot of schools, district and charters alike do not make the best use of their money so ‘throwing money at the problem’ does not always work. But if you are really spending more per student and you are doing it wisely, why not just say that being efficient with money AND having more money is something that would help all schools.
But what I consider to be the biggest issue is that KIPP, like all schools, surely is somewhat limited in the percent of students that they are able to make, as TFA likes to say, ‘transformative change.’ When a politician gushes about KIPP they seem to imply that KIPP is the, so-called, silver-bullet. That you have figured out how to reach even the most difficult to teach students. Now the attrition rate of KIPP (around 10%) is no secret. You publish it yourself in your annual report. And though you are not obligated to put a spotlight on what you haven’t been able to accomplish, it is important that when you have a group of 5th graders and you lose 10% each year, you end up with nearly 40% of the original cohort leaving. In a speech that Mike made which I saw on YouTube he said that this was a better attrition rate than the neighborhood schools. I think this is misleading. The neighborhood schools take the kids who leave the charters, though charters generally don’t get the kids who leave the neighborhood schools. I’m going to write something very obvious here, yet something that is not often said: Not every school is a good fit for every kid. And this is true for KIPP also. There are some kids who, for various reasons, aren’t able — or willing — to do what it takes to get through KIPP. Now this isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it is a reality that the politicians and other ed ‘reformers’ who seem to love nothing more than shutting down schools to make space for more charters are not willing to admit.
I actually visited my first KIPP recently, a high school in NYC. I did not see all the teachers, but from what I saw I’d say the school was ‘fine.’ I didn’t see much that was particularly innovative. In one English class I saw kids on laptops practicing reading short passages and answering multiple choice questions. I know you don’t micro-manage your schools to conform to a particular KIPP philosophy, and trust them to do what they think they need to do for their kids, but I still can’t get too excited about those kinds of activities.
Though I think KIPP stays out of the larger ‘ed reform’ debate, many KIPP supporters are very enthusiastic about the use of data to sort, rank, and, if necessary, punish schools and teachers. I’m interested on what you think about the various different types of measurements and whether or not you think they are accurate enough to comprise a large percent of a school or teachers rating.
As of this writing, neither Levin nor Feinberg has responded to Rubenstein’s post.
Feinberg is a businessman. His business is in charter schools, and he is apparently willing to polish the KIPP image by– to use a reformer term– “shaping” the statistical success of his product.
As a businessman, Feinberg is not well served when traditional public schools succeed. By extension, he is not well served when traditional training programs succeed. Yet he is on the advisory board of a group that purports to fairly rate traditional teacher training programs.
Conflict of interest, no?
Michael A. Goldstein is the founder and CEO of the Media and Technology Charter High (MATCH) School in Boston. The school prepares students, mostly from low-income black and Hispanic families, to go on to succeed in 4-year colleges. MATCH has a teacher induction program called the MATCH Corps. A variant of Teach For America, 45 top recent college graduates from across the nation spend 50 hours per week for one year *tutoring* inner-city students 1-on-1, rather than trying to “teach” (i.e., lead groups of 15 to 30). The MATCH Corps idea is to allow young professionals to experience getting individual kids to make huge achievement gains, rather than the typical frustrating first year of trying to master basic classroom management. Goldstein is a former journalist, having written for Business Week, New York Magazine, and the LA Times Magazine.
A jounralist turned education businessman. Again with the charter schools.
On the other hand:
Edushyster compiled information on teacher turnover in the Boston-area charter schools:
2012 Teacher Turnover
- Roxbury Preparatory Charter: 50%
- Edward Brook Charter: 49%
- Spirit of Knowledge Charter: 47%
- New Leadership Charter: 47%
- Boston Preparatory Charter: 35%
- KIPP Academy Charter Lynn: 35%
- Boston Renaissance: 35%
- Pioneer Charter School of Science: 35%
- City on a Hill: 33%
- Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence: 33%
- Smith Leadership Charter: 32% (down from 58% in 2011)
- Conservatory Lab Charter: 30% (down from 56% in 2011)
- MATCH: 25%
According to Goldstein, the 25% teacher turnover at MATCH is not due to the 14-hour days or the incessant classroom drilling. It’s just that education isn’t a permanent job for some people, that’s all. Not that they’re quitting. They just never planned to stay:
Many of the people we attract simply do not want to be lifetime teachers. This is true of many talented folks from many sectors: they do not want any one career. Instead, we welcome talented people who basically say “I’ll give the kids everything I have for perhaps 5 years. Then I’m gone. It’s not burnout. It’s that I simply don’t want to teach 9th grade algebra my whole life. Is that of interest to your school?” No Excuses schools say yes (in a million different ways). Traditional schools say “Whatever.”
Goldstein does offer his recruits the “fun” opportunity to participate in a 10-12-hour boot-camp-style obstacle course to see if they have the “grit” to handle the MATCH classroom. No kidding. But if they don’t stay, it’s not that they’re quitting from burnout or disillusionment. It’s that they’ve just decided to move on.
I know that when I entered the teaching profession, I expected to stay. I invested in an education career by obtaining real educational degrees that took years to earn. I earned these degrees at those “traditional training programs,” ones without the Goldstein-army-style, full-day obstacle course to see if I had the chutzpah to bear it. And in my first year, I did have to learn classroom management. There was no “urgency” to produce scores. Back then, we invested in people, not testing outcomes. Some of us still see human beings, not bubble papers and profit margins.
Eric A. Hanushek
Eric Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He is also chairman of the Executive Committee for the Texas Schools Project at the University of Texas at Dallas, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. He is a leading expert on educational policy, specializing in the economics and finance of schools. He is a member of both the National Academy of Education and the International Academy of Education and was awarded the Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in 2004.
If you’re collecting Fordham prizes, you’re a reformer.
When I see “project” as part of the name of an educational entity, I become suspicious. I think of the Manhattan Project, except now the after-effects are produced by ideological “educational leaders” who must sit on phone books in order to eat at the “big” table.
Hanushek’s Texas Schools Project (TSP) is associated with a university. Surely this helps to bolster its credibility. According to Source Watch, TSP is “an independent policy research center in the field of education and the economics of education. It is biased toward free-market and pro-business education reform policies” (Emphasis added.)
What does Hanushek advocate?
For one, Hanushek advocates the Broad Foundation plan for inserting noneducators in key leadership positions in education. (For more detail on this “plan,” read my Frederick Hess entry in Part VI.)
Next, Hanushek is a bottom-line man when it comes to class size.
In his paper on the subject, Hanushek concludes, “…falling pupil-teacher ratios (and commensurately increasing real spending per pupil) have not had a discernible effect on student achievement.”
Forget about the quality of the human interactions in the classroom. It’s all about the per-pupil expenditure and test scores. If the test scores ain’t increasing, put lots of kids in the room.
Hanushek is also a supporter of using value-added modeling (VAM) to assess teacher effectiveness. Sure, it has its problems, but release it to the public anyway. That’s what politicians-gone-reform, like New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, want. And Hanushek is there to say, in used-car-salesman fashion, “Let him have it”:
I’ve spent many years looking carefully at such data. I know it can be incendiary; I know it has flaws. Still, I strongly support its release.
Two principles lie behind this view. First, parents and taxpayers have a basic right to know about the effectiveness of the teachers and schools that they support. Second, it is impossible to think of improving our schools without focusing on the productivity of the teachers.
Let’s get this straight: VAM has its flaws, but let’s ignore the flaws and publicize the results as though VAM is not flawed? Let’s mislead the public and brand the teachers all in the misapplied-though-noble-sounding “right to know”?
I’ve seen and written about VAM data myself. VAM is erratic. Furthermore, VAM is not precise enough to isolate a teacher’s contribution to a student’s score. The public has a right to know that, Hanushek.
How many degrees of separation between grading teachers using a flawed model and grading teacher prep programs based on a flawed ideology?
Previous posts in this series:
Part I: NCTQ 2012 Letter Grades and Louisiana; reformer use of the op/ed
Part II: NCTQ Alternative Certification publication
Part III: NCTQ Adivisory Board members Steven Adamowski, Michael Barber, Roy Barnes, and McKinley Broome
Part IV: NCTQ Advisory Board members Cynthia Brown, David Chard, Andrew Chen, and Celine Coggins