Report: ‘Top-third’ teachers essential to U.S. success

Research has revealed that skilled teachers are essential to student success.
Skilled teachers are essential to student success.

Improving teacher effectiveness has risen to the top of national education priorities, but the key to attracting, training, and retaining truly effective teachers might lie in the “top-third” concept, which seeks to recruit students who perform in the top third of their academic discipline into the teaching profession.

Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching,” by Byron Auguste, Paul Kihn, and Matt Miller of McKinsey and Co., examines teaching programs and strategies in some of the world’s best-performing nations and seeks to outline how adapting those strategies for practice in the United States might reap enormous benefits for the U.S. economy.

While the world’s top school systems have dedicated approaches to attracting, retaining, and supporting teachers, “the U.S. does not take a strategic or systematic approach to nurturing teacher talent,” the authors state. “We have failed to attract, develop, reward, or retain outstanding professional teaching talent on a consistent basis.”…Read More

What schools can learn from charters about teaching English language learners

Dual language learning is considered a unique characteristic for some charters.
Dual-language learning is considered a unique characteristic for some charters.

As charter schools become testing grounds for innovative approaches to education, many of these schools with high English language learner (ELL) and Latino enrollments are identifying best practices for how to achieve proficiency with these students. The most important advice: Involve the community and offer after-school activities.

“Next Generation Charter Schools: Meeting the Needs of Latinos and English Language Learners,” a new report released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), details how charter schools can become models for all schools that serve a high number of ELL and Latino students.

The report comes as the Obama administration has encouraged states to support the expansion of high-quality charter schools by giving states that lift caps on new charters a chance to win grants from its Race to the Top competition. But even as the administration pushes for more charter schools, many critics are questioning whether the schools really are any more effective than traditional public schools.…Read More

NCTAF: Transform teaching through collaboration

Teacher teams can increase student achievement.
Teacher teams can increase student achievement.

According to a new report, 21st-century teaching and learning can only occur if teachers and school staff work together as a collaborative team; simple adjustments to antiquated school policies and structures that are already in place won’t help.

The research brief, titled “Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning: What Research and Practice Reveal about Professional Learning,” was conducted by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), with support the Pearson Foundation. The publication gives school policy leaders and educators an extensive review of research and case studies on innovative teaching practices currently implemented by top-performing schools.

According to Hanna Doerr, NCTAF program leader and editor of the report, the research was undertaken as a reaction to the Obama administration’s mission to have every student college and career ready, and to close the achievement gap for low-income students.…Read More

Smaller urban high schools found to boost achievement

New York City is not alone in seeking to engage students by opening small high schools.
New York City is not alone in seeking to engage students by opening small high schools.

With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg has systematically shut down large, failing high schools and replaced them with small schools—many pegged to themes like technology or the business of sports. Now, a new study funded by the Gates Foundation suggests that the small schools have succeeded in boosting graduation rates for the city’s most academically challenged students.

Proponents of the smaller-schools approach to education reform say the schools can provide one-on-one support to struggling students, and the specialized programs are supposed to improve students’ motivation by enticing them to apply to schools that match their interests.

“This shows the strategy is working,” said New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who since 2002 has shuttered more than 20 large high schools with as many as 4,000 students each and replaced them with 216 small schools with names like the Academy of Health Careers or the Law, Government, and Community Service Magnet High School.…Read More

Critics say administration’s blueprint is too similar to NCLB

Critics say the blueprint does not go far enough in changing NCLB.
Critics say the administration's blueprint for rewriting the nation's education law does not go far enough in changing NCLB.

As the Obama administration seeks support for its plan to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), many education policy analysts worry that the new blueprint’s guidelines are too reminiscent of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—most notably by continuing to place too much focus on high-stakes testing.

In the proposed dismantling of NCLB, education officials would move away from punishing schools that don’t meet benchmarks and focus on rewarding schools for progress, particularly with poor and minority students. (See “Obama offers blueprint for rewriting NCLB.”)

The proposed changes call for states to adopt standards that ensure students are ready for college or a career, rather than grade-level proficiency—the focus of the current law.…Read More

Teachers share their views on how to improve education

Teachers also said administrative support, not more money, motivate them to succeed.
Teachers say administrative support, not more money, will motivate them to succeed.

In one of the largest national surveys of public school teachers, thousands of educators agreed that today’s students aren’t college-ready when they graduate from high school. Teachers’ suggestions for solving this problem include clear, common standards; multiple measures of student performance; and greater innovation, including differentiated instruction and more use of digital resources.

The survey, titled “Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools,” was commissioned by Scholastic Inc. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by Harris Interactive. More than 40,000 public school teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade participated, and the results were released March 3.

The survey focused on the state of American education, the challenges facing students, and the tools and resources teachers need to face those challenges. Teachers gave honest opinions on issues such as student achievement, performance pay, technology use, and administrative support—and some of their answers might surprise school leaders.…Read More