Seven elements for effective community-school partnerships

Partnerships for learning require that all partners involved understand and stick to strategies that encourage collaboration.

The phrase “It takes a village” is at the heart of a school reform movement called partnerships for learning, which aims to integrate community resources with local schools to educate the “whole child.” Now, a new report reveals the keys to successful community-school partnerships.

According to the Harvard Family Research Project report, “Partnerships for Learning: Community Support for Youth Success,” data collected from a community schools initiative called Elev8 show what successful partnerships for learning look like—and the effects these can have on learning.

Many educators are shifting away from the “traditional education model in which schools focus primarily on providing youth with a solid foundation in academics,” explains the report. “Instead, they are moving toward a more comprehensive approach that supports youths’ physical, social, and emotional needs in addition to their academic achievement.”…Read More

Gates Foundation: Test scores not enough for teacher evaluation

The most reliable systems for measuring teacher effectiveness include a balanced mix of evaluation methods, researchers said—including student test scores, lesson observation, and student surveys.

After three years of research on measuring teacher effectiveness, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Jan. 8 that it takes multiple measures to most accurately evaluate teachers.

The Seattle foundation concluded in its final report on its Measures of Effective Teaching research that test scores or principal evaluations are not enough on their own. The findings mirror what teachers unions have been saying.

Through incentives grants (such as Race to the Top) and waivers to No Child Left Behind rules, the federal government has been pushing states to update their teacher evaluation systems because it felt existing systems were inadequate.…Read More

States nervous about new Common Core school standards

In Kentucky this year, the percentage of elementary and middle-school students who rated “proficient” or better on statewide math and reading tests declined by about a third. Kentucky high schoolers also experienced a double-digit percentage point decline in both subjects, Stateline reports. Those results may sound dismal, but they were better than state education officials had expected. Kentucky is the first state to tie its tests to the new national Common Core standards in English and math, and state officials had projected that the new, tougher standards could yield declines of as much as 50 percent. Kentucky’s experience is likely to be repeated in dozens of other states. Forty-five states have signed on for the Common Core in both subjects, while Minnesota has adopted them just for English. The standards, which were developed jointly by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and released in 2010, are designed to be more rigorous than the current standards in most states, and to encourage deeper critical thinking. Chris Minnich, incoming executive director at the Council of Chief State School Officers, says all 46 states are beginning to implement the standards, though few are as far along as Kentucky…

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Quality of Texas teachers dropping with low pay

The quality of Texas’ teachers is dropping largely because of low pay in a competitive market, an expert economist testified Tuesday in the public school finance trial, the Associated Press reports. Duke University professor Jacob Vigdor said teacher salaries were 30 percent lower in Texas than for other college graduates and have fallen behind salaries paid in other Sun Belt states. He added 32 other states pay higher salaries, whereas Texas’ have not kept up with inflation since 2000. Vigdor was called to testify by attorneys for wealthy schools that are among the 600 districts to sue the state over $5.4 billion in cuts to school funding. The average Texas teacher salary is $47,311, well below the national average of $54,965. The pay is also historically low, noting that 50 years ago a teacher earned 50 percent more than a registered nurse in Texas, but now nurses earn 50 percent more than teachers…

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Fla. teachers score well in new state eval system

Nearly 97 percent of Florida teachers were rated as “effective” or “highly effective” under a controversial new evaluation system released by state officials Wednesday, but within hours they acknowledged there were problems with the results, the Associated Press reports. The scores varied widely among school districts, leaving critics to questions their validity. There were also concerns about the accuracy of the data in the value-added model, or VAM, which is derived from student test scores. Hillsborough County was listed as having about 23,000 teachers, even though only 13,000 teachers were evaluated.

“The numbers appear to be questionable so we’re having a hard time coming to any conclusions based on the data,” said Hillsborough County school district spokesman Steve Hegarty…

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Young teachers drawn to kids, career starts tricky

Jordan McNeil offered skills in high demand by public schools when she graduated from college with a dual major in special education and elementary education in 2011, the Associated Press reports. She needed just one interview to find the right spot for her, a classroom where she and two assistants spend all day teaching eight autistic children. A year into her career, she says the greatest satisfaction comes from the skin-tingling “light bulb moments” when someone’s knowledge really opens. Moments “when something really clicks with one of my students and I can see it, that they’ve figured it out and they understand,” she said. “It’s the little moments that make it worth it.” But the hard truth is that by some estimates as many as a half of new teachers like McNeil will quit the classroom in their first five years. That turnover is costly, since states spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to recruit, hire and prepare replacements…

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How effective are student surveys in teacher evaluations?

Should student surveys hold weight in teacher evaluations?

Student surveys about their classroom teachers have merit and could be useful, but school leaders should take care to not be too influenced by student feedback, according to a new review of a large-scale study of teacher effectiveness.

A report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) Project gives advice on administering and using information from student surveys to evaluate teachers and provide feedback to them.

Asking Students about Teaching” aims to learn whether student surveys are a valid tool to help evaluate teachers. The report also offers guidance and best practices for using student feedback surveys.…Read More

More training is key to better school data use

“It’s time to focus on the people side of the data equation,” the Data Quality Campaign says.

Schools and districts have come a long way in gathering and analyzing data to help boost student achievement, but according to a new report from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), what school data initiatives are still missing is the human element.

The DQC’s eighth annual state analysis, Data for Action 2012, found that although states are making progress in supporting “effective data use” and  have enacted data-based policy changes, they have “not yet focused on helping people—especially parents, teachers, and students—effectively use data.” The organization issued the findings of its analysis in a report titled “Focus on People to Change Data Culture.”

“States should be commended for their hard work building robust data systems,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the DQC. “But it’s time to focus on the people side of the data equation—how this benefits teachers and students. State policy makers must actively support a culture in which all education stakeholders are actually using and learning from this crucial information to improve student achievement.”…Read More

Traditional or charter schools? Actually, they help each other, study says

Charter schools are not a silver bullet for education reform, a new report says, but applying the best practices from some charter schools to low-performing public schools may increase student achievement, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Early data show that the strategy – applied in Houston and Denver pilot programs – yielded “promising” results, according to the report, titled “Learning from the Successes and Failures of Charter Schools” and released Thursday by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. The study could help improve cooperation between charter schools and traditional schools, which have often viewed each other as competitors. The debate about whether charter schools or traditional schools are more effective is a false one and misses the central point, said secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Hamilton Project’s education forum Thursday in Washington…

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