Daily News Roundup, July 1, 2013

Perspectives: News You Can Use
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Some of the News Fit to Print


When former Gov. Mitch Daniels and then State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett pushed a massive overhaul of teacher evaluation through the legislature in 2011, the promise was a bold new system that would reward the best teachers, weed out the worst and for the first time tie pay raises to student test scores. Two years later, the teacher evaluation landscape is dramatically changing with Bennett’s successful challenger, Glenda Ritz, in office. Ritz is making big changes to systems Bennett put in place to help districts create new evaluation systems. She argues Bennett’s model was too centralized and prescriptive. Her approach, she said, will give school districts more latitude while maintaining teacher accountability. But to some school reformers, Ritz is subtly backing away from what was supposed to be a tough new system of accountability, possibly squandering a chance to greatly improve teaching in the state. The article is in The Hechinger Report.

Teaching is a lot like acting, a high-energy, performance profession that requires a person to act as a role model. But when teachers go through training and professional development, the performance aspect of the job is rarely emphasized or taught. Acknowledging this aspect could be a missed opportunity to restructure ways teachers learn new skills and tactics. Actors, musicians or acrobats spend hours perfecting their craft because that’s how they improve. Teachers on the other hand, are often asked to identify teaching tools and tactics they’d like to try and to reflect on how those new elements could be integrated into the classroom. “Knowing what you want to do is a long way from being able to do it,” said Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools, a non-profit school management organization and author of Teach Like a Champion and Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better in a recent Future of Education conversation with Steve Hargadon. He started trying to improve teaching by identifying the best practices of exceptional teachers and giving workshops on those “gold nuggets” to less experienced teachers. While many teachers found what they learned helpful, they couldn’t put the new methods into practice. “Every other performance profession prepares people by practicing and breaking things down into sections,” said Lemov. So he shifted his professional development workshops to emphasize practicing good teaching strategies rather than just thinking about them. The article is in the KQED MindShift blog.


Dan Greenstein writes this commentary in Inside Higher Ed: So many exciting and innovative efforts are under way to deliver the best educational value to as many students as possible. Since joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation a year ago, I’ve spent considerable time talking to college presidents, chancellors, faculty members, grantees, and other partners. We continually learn from higher education leaders and use what they tell us to assess how we can support their creative and inspiring efforts. Their commitment to innovation is real and exciting. However, I’m also finding that some institutions are chasing innovation without exactly knowing why they are doing it, leading to a very clear rumbling of what I call "innovation exhaustion." I encountered this at the Education Writers Association (EWA) national seminar, held recently at Stanford University. From reporters to college officials, everyone is after the next big thing, whether it’s MOOCs (massive open online courses), online education, ed-tech startups, competency-based courses or e-portfolios. But to what end?

With interest rates on some student loans set to double, millions of students and families across the nation may be forced to re-consider whether it is worth taking on even more debt to finance a college education. While the data are clear -- it is much better to have a college degree than not -- it is also true that not all valuable degrees need to put families into serious debt. Many community colleges today prove that value can be had at a reasonable price. Our nation's 1,200 community colleges educate 13 million students -- including the majority of college freshmen and sophomores. These schools are growing much faster than the four-year college sector. They also serve as a central point of access for the rapidly growing populations of minority students. And according to a recent study by Sallie Mae, two-year colleges are becoming an increasingly popular choice for upper middle-class students too. We serve together as co-chairs of the biennial Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which reveals what a great bargain community colleges can be for students and our country. The Aspen Prize process involves an in-depth investigation of the outcomes, contexts, and practices of the nation's community colleges. After two years of awarding the Aspen Prize, we have learned of innovative approaches that colleges are taking to increase academic rigor, measure and improve students' learning, support low-income and minority students, build partnerships with K-12 schools and four-year institutions and create strong ties with local industries that rely on well-prepared community college graduates. John Engler and Richard W. Riley posted this commentary in the Huffington Post.