I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What Research?!?!

You know what one of my great pet peeves is? When prominent people, who are granted a prominent place in our society's discourse, cite "research" without telling us what that research is.

Case in point: Newark Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson:
Research shows that effective teachers put students on an entirely different life trajectory — toward college, a higher salary, even a more stable family life. I am committed to ensuring that we have a strong teacher in every classroom and great leader in every school. Based on my 20-plus years in education, I know we must significantly change how we recruit, select, develop and retain our educators.
Some research shows that we lose our best teachers to charter schools and other professions because they feel they are not growing and they become disheartened seeing students in ineffective classrooms. After multiple poor ratings validated by several people, we should presume that these few teachers are ineffective and partner with the union to manage them out — efficiently. [emphasis mine]
I would dearly love to see this "research." I would love to evaluate it for myself and decide whether it's think-tanky nonsense or serious work done by serious people. But I can't, can I? Because Anderson won't tell me what it is, and the Star-Ledger thinks it's enough for her to cite it without checking it for themselves.

This sort of laziness - and, really, that's what it is more than anything - just galls me. I spend all this time here providing links to everything, but the largest paper in the state can't even be bothered to give me the name of a study when an op-ed mentions it. Is that really too much to ask?

Because what Anderson is saying is very, very provocative. Yes, I agree that a good teacher can change a kid's life; I've seen it, and I've lived it. But is there is research that shows that we can identify these teachers on the basis of a metric that can be fairly and evenly applied to a large body of educators? Not even Chetty, Friedman and Rockoff (my best guess as to who Anderson is referring to here - but who knows for sure?) could possibly make that claim based on their study.

As to the other research Anderson cites: I can't even guess what she's referring to. There's certainly research that shows the attrition rate for teaching is very high (it's an open question as to exactly how high). But the assertion that we're losing these teachers to charter schools is awfully bold, especially considering that charters don't do any better at raising student achievement when accounting for those students' characteristics.

Certainly we know that teachers are becoming increasingly demoralized, but I have yet to see evidence that they aren't enjoying their jobs anymore because of collective bargaining. Where is the proof for what is Anderson citing? And why do I even have to ask the question?

As to the rest of her editorial:
A great fifth-year teacher makes $35,000 a year less than a mediocre 14th-year teacher. We want to reward our most talented educators with higher compensation — especially if they teach in hard-to-staff subjects or excel with our highest-need students.
Superintendent Anderson, where are you going to get the money to pay that fifth-year teacher more? Because unless and until you are prepared to substantially increase the entire payroll of the Newark Public Schools, what you are really talking about here is taking money away from "average" teachers and giving it to "good" teachers. Most likely on the basis of standardized test scores. Do you really think that's going to help your teachers' morale?

Just once I'd like to see someone with Anderson's views admit that this is the plan. Because that admission would beg the next question:

If the goal is to put a "good" teacher in every classroom, won't any merit pay scheme eventually raise the entire payroll of the school system? If not, how do you propose we allocate students to the select few "good" teachers? A lottery?

If said it before: they haven't thought this all the way through. And the reason they haven't is that they are never asked the hard questions about the details of their schemes.


Golfer said...

Brilliant once more. Anderson and her BROADIE commrades have no credible research to support their schemes. The oft quoted Chetty study is problematic on so many different levels it's laughable. For one, the study purports to prove how a single year with a great teacher has lifelong impact. So, if you agree, as most people would, how do you isolate teacher impact? By using the current VAM and SGP models, only short term impact is even sought! Thus if a third grade teacher, goes back to the basics and fills in the gaps that her students have, and does so very effectively, she may very well change the "trajectories" of her students, but she will also not show " growth".
Peter Schulman seems to be the only intelligent mind in the NJDOE and even he has not the courage to speak the truth. The Broadies have invested too much in their belief systems to see the truth. Additionally, the Governor sets the policy. The NJ BROADIE Fellows are actually just the unwitting stooges in a movement they do not even understand.

Keep up the good work Duke, they can not keep fooling all the people all the time.

Duke said...

Golfer, Chetty is so problematic not because it's a bad study, but because it's being misapplied - and that includes by its authors, who should know better.

Yes, there is all the difference in the world between changing a kid's life and demonstrating "effectiveness." And, again: what other profession does this? Would even consider doing this?

Thx for commenting.

jcg said...

Site research? Do you mean independent, peer reviewed research conducted by educators or developmental psychologists,that is internally reliable and externally valid, that has shown functional, meaningful outcomes in schools and has been replicated at least 3 times?

We can't wait for such nonsense. We have an existential crisis in public school teacher quality that will destroy this generation of children and is a national security threat equivalent to Saddam Hussein's mushroom clouds.

Arne,Chris,Corey,Michelle,Jebbie, Eli,Bill, Condoleeza, Joel, Andrew, Michael, and Rahm have donned their capes and are flying to the rescue. Sit quietly and listen to their instructions. And put that kryptonite away before someone gets hurt.


Golfer said...

A few days ago I relayed the "novel" idea of opting out of standardized testing. Since then I found this: http://unitedoptout.com/about/ . It seems the novel idea my neighbor planted had been explored and acted upon!

Curious if you knew, and what you think.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous, Lois. Why do you think there is a crisis in public school teacher quality? What do you think caused this? Do you not realize all this rhetoric is a step in the obliteration of the middle class. I predict only the most desperate individual will want to go into teaching taking us back to the two year normal school educator. Less than ten years Lois. Just think of the implications of that! You need to become informed as to the real reasons behind these attacks on teachers. Btw, the only public school teachers flocking to charter schools are the ones who either can not get a public school position or those who have not been renewed. Yes Lois, there are many teachers who do not receive tenure.

Duke said...

Last Anon: just to be clear, "Lois" (jcg) was being sarcastic. She's a long-time reader who has lived down in TN what we will soon be living here in NJ.

Thx for posting.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it took me half a sec. to get it--but it's not her fault: the troll posts are so insane that I have nearly taken them for parody. Alas, they are for real.

jcg said...

No offense taken. We need anger and passion if we're going to take back our profession from the rogues and thieves.

TN is a cesspool of ALEC legislation and Race to the Top mandates. Here's the latest corporate reform bill could surface in NJ in the dark of night: no pedagogy or expertise needed to become a teacher:

The Tennessee House Education sub-committee is considering HB 3059 sponsored by Representative Ragan.

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel - As introduced, requires the state board of education to develop a transitional licensure program for professionals interested in teaching in grades 7-12 that does not require pedagogical study.