Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Today's Random Thoughts

-Hope everyone is having a great holiday season.  It always seems weird to me that people put their lights and decorations up weeks or months before, and then by the time we get to the 12th day of Christmas they're all down.

-Aaron Schutz has an interesting theory regarding the TFA civic engagement study -- if a number of people who go through TFA feel disempowered by their experience, they may be less likely to feel like they can make a difference in the future.  Although I'd think that those who had the worst experiences would be more likely to drop out . . .  Meanwhile, Andrew Rotherham and Rob Reich mostly agree with my feeling that TFA admitees are an elite group and that small differences within this group aren't Earth-shattering.

-Diane Ravitch says that some charter school operators are taking advantage of the set-up to pull in huge salaries.  She says she's heard of principals earning $400,000 or $500,000 and of one who made millions selling school supplies to the charter school he operates.  I'd have to think that this problem isn't very widespread, but I've been wrong before and likely will be again.  I guess it's like I've argued before: if you're going to argue that schools should be run like businesses . . . be careful what you wish for.

-I don't understand Jay Mathews' argument that scripted curricula could transform schools but that nobody will give it a shot.  If I've noticed one classroom trend since I started teaching, it's been the rapid spread of scripted and semi-scripted curricula, particularly in high-poverty, urban schools.

-Chad Alderman remarks on the fact that students from the poorest 40% of households made up 11% of the student body at a group of elite, private colleges in 2008-9 -- up from 10% in 2001-02.  Apparently the surge in financial aid during that time period didn't attract a ton more students from the poorest families.

-Robert Pondiscio reports that the Broader, Bolder Coalition is on the lookout for low-performing schools that artificially boost test scores through excessive test prep, curriculum narrowing, and other educationally dubious tactics.

-CREDO today released a report finding gains of .06 standard deviations in reading and .12 standard deviations in math for students in NYC charter schools compared to similar students from the same geographic locations.  For those of you who aren't statisticians, those gains are pretty small.  That students in charter schools would perform a little better than similar students in traditional public schools in NYC seems plausible, if not likely, to me.  Similar to the recent Hoxby student, there were some schools that did worse, some that did better, and many that were no different.  To me, the most important question is why some of the schools did better and whether that can be replicated and scaled up.

1 comment:

Claus von Zastrow said...

Hi, Corey--

I agree with you that the TFA analysis is tempest in a teacup stuff. The New York Times headline far outran the reality. You'd think all TFA grads had retreated to cabins in the woods. But as a commentator on another blog has noted, TFA is falling victim to some of the hype about its effects. That causes these huge overreactions on the other side.

Interesting read of the new CREDO study--the gains are indeed small as recorded. But it's hard to find very big gains in most studies like this. The real problem, again, is when people overhype the effects of governance changes without fully appreciating all the hard, hard work that must follow if we are to build or sustain big gains.