The benefits of adding video to teacher evaluations

A Harvard researcher shares her national perspective on improving professional development

One of the biggest challenges in K-12 education is finding an effective and productive way to evaluate teacher performance. In a world where technology is rapidly reshaping the classroom, it’s natural to look to its potential, especially considering that many schools now have the technology to do classroom observation via video. However, these same schools aren’t yet convinced whether the investment will change status quo evaluations. To find out, in 2012, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, where I work, piloted the Best Foot Forward Project (BFF), a study that grew out of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project.

BFF began with pilot programs in large districts in Georgia and North Carolina as well as Relay Graduate School of Education. In an effort to gather data from large and small districts in both urban and rural areas, we then expanded the study to include Los Angeles Unified School District, the state of Delaware, and a number of districts in Colorado.

We randomly selected half the teachers to be in a treatment group that would take videos of themselves in the classroom. These videos were then passed along to their principals for evaluation purposes. We also had remote peers provide our treatment group teachers with formative feedback on their subject matter. The control group did “business as usual” when it came to their evaluations.…Read More

These 3 policy areas could help principals become more effective

New report details how state policymakers can help strengthen, support principals

principals-policyWhile school principals are often low priorities on state education policy agendas, a handful of states have taken steps to strengthen the role principals play in schools, according to a new report commissioned by the Wallace Foundation.

After analyzing how principals are supported and prioritized in a number of states, Paul Manna, professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary and the report’s author, suggests that those states’ actions focus on three areas in policymaking.

1. State leaders can move principals higher on policy agendas. Teachers typically have the larger share of agendas and professional development investments, according to the report. But when principals are elevated in state policy agendas, it can strengthen other state education efforts. “Numerous state education policy initiatives developed during the last two decades depend heavily on excellent principals for their success,” the report notes.…Read More

Three federal education policy updates

School funding cuts could be severe under sequestration.

As Congress nears a deadline to form a compromise and avoid sequestration, education stakeholders are hoping to avoid devastating school funding cuts that could put an end to some promising practices across the country.

A recent Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) webinar explored where some federal education policies stand, what President Obama’s second term holds for teachers and students, and what could happen if sequestration occurs.

President Obama’s education reform plans…Read More

Report questions efficacy of full-time virtual schools

“The current weak measures of effectiveness need updating to measure true student success based on outcomes,” said one online learning advocate.

A report released last week by university researchers is the latest to question the academic merits of full-time virtual schools run by K12 Inc.—and by extension, the promise of cyber education in general.

According to the report, students enrolled in schools run by K12—the nation’s largest virtual school company—have lower scores in math and reading on end-of-year exams than students in traditional schools, and parents are pulling their students out in droves. K12 disputes the report’s findings, saying they fail to measure student growth over time and are based on flawed research methods.

The report, titled “Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools,” was released by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado. It comes on the heels of a recent class-action lawsuit against K12 claiming that the company misled investors (see “Online learning provider K12 faces class-action lawsuit”).…Read More

Romney shifting focus from economy to education

Romney on May 22 announced a team of education policy advisers that includes former Education Secretary Rod Paige and other officials from President George W. Bush's administration. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Mitt Romney is wading into a new policy arena—the nation’s education system—as he broadens his focus to appeal to general election voters still getting to know President Barack Obama’s likely opponent.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has been reluctant to stray far from economic issues, is expected to outline a proposal for improving education in a speech May 23 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

Romney has offered few details for his plans on several key policy areas—foreign policy, health care, and education among them. He attacked Obama’s education policy while speaking to donors in New York City on May 22, previewing themes likely to play prominently in his speech the next day.…Read More

What public school administrators want from policy makers

School systems should not be required to spend local and state funds to implement federal mandates.

Learning Leadership column, March 2012 edition of eSchool News—Last month, the American Association of School Administrators’ Executive Committee and Governing Board came together at our national conference in Houston to approve our legislative agenda. The year ahead looms as a politically charged period, leading up to the presidential and congressional elections. Much of what ordinarily might happen on Capitol Hill won’t happen because of political posturing. Consequently, we have little hope that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be reauthorized prior to the elections. And that’s a shame, because there is substantial agreement between the two parties on key points.

Our governing body numbers more than 150 superintendents from around the country. They represent large and small districts, rural and suburban, wealthy and poor. They are, in fact, representative of every school district in America. You can be certain that the positions emerging from that group represent what our public school districts want in legislation coming out of Washington.

First and foremost, we want regulatory relief from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The waiver process that the Obama administration has implemented is a replacement for the stimulus dollars that became the carrot originally used to get states and school districts to adhere to the administration’s policy directives. If you want regulatory relief, then you must exchange the old regulations for these new ones. Those states and districts that go along and win approval will get regulatory relief. But the vast majority of children in our schools still will be subject to regulations that both the president and the education secretary have admitted are inadequate and in need of revision.…Read More

Readers: These 10 education policies need to go

"Remove the idea that all children learn at the same rate and dismantle K-12 grade concepts," suggested one reader.

As education stakeholders continue to debate various school reform ideas, many have targeted specific policies they see as outdated, cumbersome, or standing in the way of real progress.

We recently asked readers: “If there was one policy/rule that you’d like to have waived for your school/district/state, what would it be and why?” Here are our readers’ top responses.

What do you think of these education policies—and do you have any suggestions of your own for policies you’d like to waive or change? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.…Read More

NBC hosting education summit in September

American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science on a list of 30 industrialized nations
American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science on a list of 30 industrialized nations

NBC News is convening its own summit with education and political leaders next month to talk about ways to improve schools in light of statistics showing the U.S. lagging in student achievement.

The two-day “Education Nation” event in New York will be carried online and is part of a week of programming concentrating on education issues on NBC News broadcasts such as “Today” and “Nightly News,” as well as the MSNBC, CNBC, and Telemundo TV networks.

It’s also a chance for NBC to promote some of its education technology products, including a news quiz and historical archives of NBC broadcasts available to schools—something that ethics organizations will be watching closely.…Read More

Obama to defend education policies to critics

President Barack Obama is defending his administration’s education policies, responding to criticism that so far they have not substantially helped minority students, reports the Associated Press. The president blames some of the criticism of his plan on teachers and others resistant to change. Obama was to speak July 29 at the centennial convention of the National Urban League, one of eight civil rights organizations that released a report this week calling the president’s $4.35 billion education initiative an ineffective approach for failing schools. In excerpts released ahead of the president’s speech, Obama says his program’s goal is to spur innovate education reform in states and turn around failing schools, many in minority communities—and not just label them as troubled and then walk away. Obama will tell the civil-rights group’s convention that some of the criticism of his programs come from those resistant to change and a “comfort with the status quo.” The goal of the initiatives, he says, isn’t to fire or admonish teachers, but to hold them accountable and help “create a better environment for teachers and students alike.” The president will call for schools to provide teachers higher pay and a fulfilling, supportive workplace…

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