Thursday, January 12, 2012


USA Today

By Christina Hoag, Associated Press/USA Today news | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register |

7:42 PM, Jan. 11, 2012  |  LOS ANGELES (WTW) — Good teachers are the key to accelerating academic achievement by Hispanic and black students to levels on par with their white and Asian counterparts, but poor, minority children are consistently stuck with the worst instructors, according to a study released Thursday.

"We know that great teachers have the power to help students catch up when they're behind," said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust-West, the education-reform advocacy organization that carried out the 18-month-long study. "But you can't catch up when you don't have access to the best teachers."

The study tracked 1 million Los Angeles students and 17,000 teachers over three years. It is the latest in a growing body of research showing that highly effective teachers are crucial to closing the so-called achievement gap.

The research is adding weight to education reformers' case for better evaluation methods of teachers, including an end to seniority-based layoffs in favor of performance-based measures and more stringent tenure standards.

Efforts to make those changes have been largely and strongly opposed by teachers unions.

A study released last week by researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities also found that the impact of good teachers extended far beyond test scores. [ THE LONG-TERM IMPACTS OF TEACHERS: TEACHER VALUE-ADDED AND STUDENT OUTCOMES IN ADULTHOOD] Lower teenage pregnancy rates, and higher college matriculation and adult earnings were linked to students with effective elementary and middle school teachers, according to that study.

Although the Education Trust study only analyzed the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the nation's second-largest school system with 665,000 students, its findings can hold true for districts everywhere, according to co-authors Orville Jackson and Carrie Hahnel.

"The same thing that is happening in LA Unified is happening across the country," Hahnel said.

The study analyzed teachers and student scores from standardized state tests, coming up with effectiveness rankings for the teachers. Researchers acknowledged that test scores are not the only measure of teaching quality.

It analyzed where more effective teachers were located, how many were laid off in 2009, and how students fared under effective teachers.

Results showed that the more effective teachers were concentrated in more affluent schools and that highly effective teachers were more likely to leave low-performing schools.

Students who started off behind their class but then had three consecutive years of top teachers reached levels of academic proficiency, while students who had the worst ranked teachers were stuck below grade level.

Seniority-based layoffs worsened the inequity, leaving more ineffective senior teachers in low performing schools while cutting younger, more effective ones.

The study found that seniority-based layoffs meant more jobs lost overall. Since senior teachers are highly paid, more lower-paid teachers had to be cut.

If the district had used performance criteria to make layoffs, only 5 percent of English teachers and 3 percent of math teachers who were cut would have lost their jobs, the study said.

The study recommended policy changes to help improve access to quality teachers, including better professional development of teachers and evaluation methods, incentives to retain top teachers in high-poverty schools, reform state laws mandating seniority-based layoffs and oversight to ensure that top teachers are spread equitably among schools.

Calls to the district administration and to the teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles were not immediately returned.

LAUSD is already working on measures including a new teacher evaluation system that is being tested as a pilot project. It has agreed to protect teachers at the district's lowest-performing schools from layoffs in order to prevent staff turnovers and allow younger teachers to remain.

Although the study underscored known problems, it pinpointed the need for urgency for reform with concrete evidence.

"I found these findings extremely chilling," said Yolie Flores, chief executive of Communities for Teaching Excellence, a school reform organization in Los Angeles.

The nonprofit is organizing a series of meetings throughout the district to present the study to the community.

●● smf: Connect the Dots/Follow the $

Non profit doesn't mean folks aren't in it for the money …this AP news story reads like a press release from the Gates+Broad Foundations – the words “urgency” and “reform” in the same sentence is the giveaway.

And “The research is adding weight to education reformers' case for better evaluation methods of teachers, including an end to seniority-based layoffs in favor of performance-based measures and more stringent tenure standards”? Please!

Ed Trust, West is a fully vested and generously funded member of ®eform, Inc. Their previous executive director, Russalyn Ali is now the Assistant Secretary of the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of ED – and was responsible for this exact same study of LAUSD by the Dept of Ed. The public sector has done the fieldwork and now the edupreneurs are in the game, monetizing the challenge.

The cited study's authors are both from the charter school world:

  • Carrie Hahnel - Director of Research and Policy, The Education Trust—West worked for the KIPP Foundation.
  • Orville Jackson - Senior Research Analyst, The Education Trust—West - came from Envision Schools in San Francisco where  he supported the charter management organization’s data-driven instruction.

Communities for Teaching Excellence which is organizing a series of meetings throughout the district to present the study to the community - is bankrolled by the Gates Foundation.

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