In the introduction of the Dept of Ed document to reauthorize elementary and secondary education, President Obama says,
We know that from the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents – it is the teacher standing at the front of the classroom.
Perhaps, this is the largest factor that Obama feels he can impact, but research indicates that the largest factor in the success or failure of students is not the teacher, it is the family and parents. If the parents are educated, strive for the education of their children, read and communicate with the children, the children will do substantially better than children without these advantages.
It's not that teachers are not important. Studies show that an outstanding teacher can teach 50% more in a year than an average teacher, and a poor teacher can teach 50% less. But parents are the most important determinant in the educational success of their children.
Obama's introduction lays out the following goals:
- A great teacher in every classroom
- Provide teachers time to collaborate
- Support innovation
- Improve the lowest performing schools
- Determine what works and what doesn't work
- Accelerate the achievement of all students
- Close achievement gaps
- Inspire students to want to learn and excel
The blueprint itself starts with four goals
- Ensure that there is a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school
- Provide information to families so they can evaluate schools, and educators so they can improve practices
- Implement college and career ready standards (CCR standards) and assessments.
- Improve results in low performing schools by support and other interventions
The document then elaborates on each of these four, although not in that order.
States and districts need to evaluate teachers and identify highly effective ones. The document asks the schools to support, reward, and train the effective educators, and deploy them to the schools that most need improvement.
College and Career Readiness will set the bar. Race to the Top is a main mechanism to measure, report, and reward excellence. School choice will be the method for parents to affect the education of their children. Investing in Innovation (I3) will provide rewards to top performing implementations. Competitive funding instead of formulaic funding will reward high performing districts and schools. Required interventions will deter educators from accepting poor performance, punish educators in schools not meeting the standards while also improving outcomes for students.
The CCR standards singled out in the document only list Math and English Language Arts. But the document then calls for a well-rounded education.
The CCR standards are supposed to be worked out with state education and four-year public universities, including standards for each grade level on what students must know in order to reach the final CCR standards. No mention is made of including teachers or local administrators in this process.
To improve results in low performing schools, the plan calls for accountability for states and districts that are not successful. Districts will be recognized for improvements in student performance, not just hitting standards. One factor for judging states is whether there is an even distribution of resources within the state between high- and low-poverty schools.
States will be responsible for accumulating and publishing the following data:
- Graduation rates
- College enrollment rates
- College enrollment without need for remediation
- Disaggregation by race, gender, ethnicity, disability status, English Learner status, and family income.
- Student, teacher, and school leader attendance
- Disciplinary incidents
So what does this mean? Is this a new direction, or just sugar coating a continuation of testing, heightened accountability for teachers, and more emphasis on charter schools with fewer resources for public ones?
Please let us know what you think.