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  • How to make teaching the career choice for Millennials

    by Kathy McKnight

    hero img

    Ask a group of American kids what they want to be when they grow up, and odds are you’ll hear “teacher” less and less. In the US there are some disturbing indications that teaching is increasingly falling out of favor as a career choice. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, there was a massive 30% drop in enrollments to teaching preparation programs; while The New York Times reported that applications for Teach for America, a well-respected program to recruit elite college graduates to teach in high poverty schools, declined by 10% from 2013 to 2014. It is perhaps even more troublesome that teaching also seems to be falling out of favor with teachers - a 2013 MetLife survey indicated that just over one in three teachers reported to be “very satisfied”, down by almost 40% in just four years.

    One of the reasons put forward for this trend is the perceived narrowness of the teaching career path, especially amongst Generation Y ‘Millennials’. This is, according to research, the demographic that’s impatient to realise their ambitions, demanding of choice and opportunity, and certain that their careers will move forward on their terms - features they do not relate with teaching.

    So three years ago Pearson, with several key partners, set out to understand how the teaching profession can evolve to meet the 21st century career expectations of those who currently teach, and those that might one day.

    In that time we’ve studied eight teacher career advancement initiatives in the US, and found there’s much to be encouraged about. From urban to suburban and rural districts; in areas of affluence and high poverty; and in schools with and without strong union presence - there is plenty of evidence for how to improve teacher career pathways, and what happens when you do.

    Here are some of the key highlights from our observations. You can read the full report here.

    Districts observed improved trends in the recruitment and retention of teachers: All districts with teacher career advancement initiatives reported an increase in applicants to teach, and increased retention rates - notably of effective and experienced teachers.

    Creating time for teachers to meet and collaborate is an ongoing challenge for districts: One of the most commonly cited advantages of teacher career advancement initiatives was more collegial interaction, with teachers working with colleagues across grade levels and subject areas. In part this is due to the significant costs associated with releasing teachers full-time for instructional coaching, meaning that mentoring and coaching is often done ‘in-house’ by other teachers. Some districts have even adopted 'hybrid' teaching/coaching roles. The benefit is felt by both mentee and mentor. One mentor teacher from Knox County said to us: “I’ve told so many people that they need to be mentor teachers because just what you learn about yourself is much. I feel like I’ve gotten more back from doing it than I’ve given to my people that I coach.”

    However, we also observed that it takes time and effort to change the culture of isolation to promote sharing of practice and collaboration.

    There is some evidence of a positive impact on teacher effectiveness and some short-term student learning outcomes: There is limited 'hard data' about the impact of teacher career advancement initiatives on student achievement, although there is much anecdotal evidence. Teacher and administrator focus groups almost universally cited the positive benefits on students of teacher collaboration, focused conversations on curriculum and instruction, lesson modeling, and taking time to reflect on teacher effectiveness.

    “This is about closing achievement gaps, and you don’t close achievement gaps by doing the same … things that you’ve done for 50 years,” one Denver administrator told us. Another, from Scottsdale, commented: “It is because of that career ladder culture [that] every single teacher is vested in getting that student growth, doing the best thing they can for their students on campus, in their classroom, at their school… it really has created a culture within our district.”

    Teachers in leadership roles report greater job satisfaction: The general consensus of teacher leaders we interviewed was that motivation and job satisfaction were positively affected by opportunities for collaboration and professional development, recognition as leaders in their district, and opportunities for additional compensation. Interestingly, we also heard that another significant positive feature of the teacher career advancement initiatives is that teachers can take on leadership roles without stepping into formal administrator roles.

    “I knew in a flash that this new [multi-classroom leader] model would bring me my dream job… a teacher who continues to teach while leading a team of teachers…” a teacher from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools told us.

    Teacher/administrator relations and the roles of principals change in positive ways, but present new challenges: Our studies found that, as teachers and administrators collaborate more, there becomes a need to manage teams of teacher leaders who now require new skills, and also additional support for principals. A Seattle ‘career ladder’ teacher described her experience to us: “Oh, you’re going to be on this professional development committee which is going to meet every other week on top of the building leadership team, on top of leading your own PLC. It becomes you’re one of five people that are doing everything in the school and that’s not the point of the role.”

    ***

    For all the positives coming out of our study, the reality is that sustaining these initiatives is hard work, requiring stakeholder support (teachers in particular), a school/district culture that can deal with change and ambiguity, and external support—either monetary or technical assistance. Funding in particular is the greatest challenge to continuity. Grants, either district funding sources or from external bodies, are typically designed to launch programs, not sustain them. Our study sites are navigating this treacherous territory in different ways, and with differing success. Denver, for example, offers a vision of flattening the organizational structure of schools and replacing some highly paid administrative positions with teacher leaders. A teacher we spoke to there made the point that this was not just about sustaining funding, but also maintaining the right culture.“This needs to be a teacher-led initiative, a teacher supported initiative, because it is about elevating the craft from the peer perspective…”

    The next few years will be critical in determining whether these teacher career advancement initiatives will continue, expand or be modified. With the new ESSA legislation and the focus on developing teaching and the profession, we hope that the lessons learned and recommendations contained in the full report will help propel more schools and districts to implement innovative, sustainable teacher career advancement initiatives. And to make the profession top of the list of what kids want to be when they grow up.

    ***

    Follow up with Kathy about this research - @McKni8

    read more
  • Intelligence Unleashed: an argument for AI in education

    by Michael Barber

    hero img

    For thirty years I have attended conferences where speakers have spoken to slides comparing images of an early 20th century classroom with one from today, and have pointedly asked: ‘why so little change?’ The modern variant goes something like this: smart technologies have already transformed so many parts of our lives – from how we date to how we book a taxi. It would seem that there is no doubt that AI (artificial intelligence) will also significantly influence what we teach and learn, as well as how we do it. And yet...

    Adopting a puzzled stance as to why things have not changed more has some value. It prompts us to examine our assumptions, our habits, and our routines. It only takes us so far, though. More is needed.

    What we need – what we should demand – is an explanation of why and how things could be different. First, we need to be empowered by an understanding of what artificial intelligence in education (AIEd) is, what it delivers, and how it goes about doing that.

    Second, we need a clear explanation of how the field of artificial intelligence can connect to the core of teaching and learning, so that we can avoid general-purpose technologies being used in ways that do not deliver the step changes in learner outcomes we seek. For example, smart technologies that adapt to what is liked, rather than what is learnt, or that deliver more efficient administration, but not more efficient learning.

    Third, we need concrete options that will allow us to make the potential of AIEd real at the system level – that is, at the scale that will allow it to support the teaching profession broadly and impact positively on the learning experience of each and every student. And fourth, we need to ask and answer some profound ethical questions – for example, about the acceptable uses that can be made of the data that AIEd collects.

    In other words, what we need is a degree of specificity about AIEd that allows us to assess, invest, plan, deliver, and test. This is what our new research paper, 'Intelligence Unleashed', offers – a useful primer on AIEd and a compelling argument about what it can offer learning.

    From what AI is and how AIEd-driven learning systems are built, onto its potential role in addressing the profound issue of robots and machines taking over more and more current jobs, it covers a vital range of topics with ease and elegance. It is also a good read, with entertaining references from PacMan and Stephen Hawking, sci-fi and ancient philosophy. And, yes, it is understandable to a non-technical reader!

    To make my own case for reading this paper, let me move to a more local, anecdotal, level. Recently a member of my Pearson team talked to me about a phonics learning app he had bought for his young son. We could easily identify the affordances that the technology brought – perfect pronunciation of 42 phonics sounds, infinite patience, and a healthy spillover of engagement from the software to learning.

    Yet, it was equally easy to identify ways in which some basic AIEd techniques could have made the app so much better. Content was re-presented even after it had been mastered, which led to boredom. Other content was accessible even though it was much too difficult, leading to frustration. And there were no speech recognition capabilities present to verify the learner’s pronunciation, or blending of sounds.

    Asking for these features is not asking for science fiction. Instead, it is asking us to incorporate findings from fields like the learning sciences into AIEd tools so that these insights are realised in cheaper, more effective ways. This paper offers a long-list of where we should look for this combination of learning insights and technology – for example, collaborative learning, meta-cognition (or knowing about one’s own thinking), useful feedback, and student motivation.

    Funders and founders, policy makers and philanthropists – in fact, anyone who takes seriously the urgent need to embark on the next stage of education system reform – should read and debate this paper. Only then will we (finally) make good on the promise of smarter technologies for learning (and, as a side effect, get rid of those boring slides).

    ***

    Read the full report - Intelligence Unleashed: An Argument for AI in Education

    read more
  • Britain and the EU

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    Man walking and wearing a back pack and wooly hat

    Now that the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union has been set for June 2016, lots of organisations and people are asking what Pearson thinks about the issue.

    First and foremost, we think this is a decision for the British people to make, and no doubt there will be a range of opinions within Pearson, as there are across the country. Each of us in the UK has a vote, and will use it as we see fit.

    We have though been asked by some organisations on both sides of the debate what Pearson's position is and we think it's right to take a view.

    Only a small proportion of Pearson's business relies directly on trade between the UK and the rest of the EU. Nonetheless, we have carried out analysis of how Britain leaving the EU would affect Pearson across a number of regulatory and financial aspects. This analysis has concluded that Pearson would be better served by the UK remaining part of the EU.

    As part of Britain and Europe's education community, we see the considerable value that British membership of the EU brings to universities, colleges, schools, teachers, students and pupils.

    As a global business based in the UK, we believe that Britain, its businesses and its people are, on the whole, better off as part of Europe.

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  • The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund: combining social need with business know-how

    by Kate James

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    Tens of millions of children and young adults are missing out on their education due to conflict, threat of attack or the after-effects of natural disaster, some for weeks and months, still more for years at a time. When world leaders came together at the UN in September 2015, this challenge was top of mind as discussion focused on the Syrian refugee crisis and the need for both immediate action; and also with the launch of the 17 Global Goals, long term sustainable solutions to the world's biggest humanitarian challenges.

    At Pearson, we’ve chosen to work with Save the Children to pilot models of sustainable, quality schooling for children in conflict zones, but we also want to address the ongoing education crisis that can be less immediately apparent than that brought about by war - 59m primary-school-age children out of school and nearly 800m illiterate people across the world. For those learners who are in school, there are many other trenchant challenges that plague education systems in sections of the developing world: lack of teachers, poor teacher development, insufficient materials, out of date resources...the list goes on. As we focus on Global Goal 4 - to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning - we are looking at ways to ensure every learner has access to a high-quality, affordable education.

    One of the ways we are looking to do this is through the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF), which invests in entrepreneurs who are helping to meet the demand for high-quality, low-cost education in the developing world. In PALF’s first annual letter, learn more about the impact and reach of our ten portfolio companies as they set out to improve the quality of education for people everywhere.

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  • The case for "unbundling" the teacher

    by Michael Barber

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    For most of the past century we have bundled a very complex set of disparate skills into a single role we call the ‘classroom teacher’. Teachers must have deep content knowledge to understand the scope and sequence of a curriculum, and pedagogical expertise to plan effective lessons and evaluate student comprehension and mastery. We also ask them to be charismatic presenters, a coach/mentor to provide support and motivation for students to persevere, and project managers able to keep track of each students academic progress.

    It is incredibly difficult, and perhaps unrealistic, to expect to find such a diverse skill-set in a single individual. As a result the past few years has seen various attempts to “unbundle” the teacher. While much is made of the developed world’s experiments with unbundling, most notably flipped classrooms and MOOCs, some of the most interesting innovations are occurring in the developing world where the dual constraints of limited financial resources and a weak labor pool make the need for new solutions all the more pressing.

    The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund has invested in some exceptional entrepreneurs that are tackling this challenge head-on.

    For example, at SPARK, a school chain in South Africa, a highly trained teacher is in charge of the whole group and guided practice portions of the typical learning cycle, while the independent practice portion of the learning is done primarily with the aid of “e-learning labs.” Here students work to reinforce and extend classroom instruction with personalized computer programs overseen by a more junior assistant.

    This allows the extremely valuable time of the master teacher to be dedicated to the more complex tasks of implementing best-in-class instructional methods and overseeing classroom management. As a result, the cost of delivering high-quality education is substantially lower, while quality is maintained.

    Another example of the same trend is provided by Bridge International Academies, who dedicate the bulk of their six-week teacher training program to focusing on techniques for classroom management, student engagement, and checking for understanding, while a team of world-class educators based in Boston and Nairobi write a rigorous, student-focused lesson script which the teachers read on an e-book during class.

    Visiting a Bridge classroom you will see students being pushed to perform more challenging cognitive tasks (for instance, instead of simply writing down a list of map symbols they will be using these symbols to draw a map of their own neighborhood) with teachers circulating the classroom carefully checking students work. Both of which are rarely found in a typical classroom in Kenya.

    My prediction is that 2016 will see much more piloting, experimenting and testing of these new models. Some will be taken to scale, most obviously through new public-private partnerships that are able to see the value in moving away from the old model of a single, jack of all trades, teacher. This division of labour will allow expertise to be deployed where it is most needed, and where it can best be found - and the impact on learning will become increasingly visible.

    ***

    Read more about the work of SPARK and Bridge.

    read more
  • An Online Textbook Scholarship for Every Student at Kentucky State University

    Banner image of Kentucky State University campus taken from the school’s website

    Making Essential Course Materials Affordable

    As students across the nation returned to campus this fall, college affordability was an increasingly frequent topic of discussion among policymakers and political candidates. As the debate over how to address this important issue continues, one university is taking matters into its own hands.

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  • A Mom Helps Foster Families During Hectic Back-to-School Season

    Seven smiling school kids

    Mel Jurgens is the mother of three daughters.

    Mel and her husband, Wally, formally adopted the girls in 2006 and 2008. The girls first came to the Jurgens home as children in Iowa’s foster care program.

    “First and foremost, I’m a mom,” Mel says.

    She’s also Manager for Scoring Solutions and Proposals for Pearson.

    And, earlier this fall, Mel found a way to combine her work at Pearson—with her experience parenting three children.

    read more

John Fallon

  • Skilling India, skilling the world

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    hero img

    Prime Minister Modi’s visit to my home city of London last week is a reminder that in the race to build a world of better education, few places compare with India for the scale of the challenge and the ambition.

    The Indian Prime Minister has rightly highlighted the problem of India’s “acute skills shortage”, and how this is hampering the pace of economic growth and undermining international competitiveness.

    There are a number of reasons for this. Traditional rote-learning, for centuries the teaching style of choice, where students regurgitate knowledge, is increasingly out of sync with workplaces that value emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Team-building, conflict resolution, empathy, leadership, resilience – this is the stuff of the successful 21st century worker; but it is not the stuff that schools are sufficiently good at teaching.

    The Pearson India team recently published our annual Voice Of The Teacher survey.  They found that 57% of Indian teachers consider their students insufficiently prepared for employment on completing school. Three quarters of teachers want greater industry input into course content – a theme I also heard loud and clear when the Pearson board visited India last month. The full report has some fascinating insights on the state of play in Indian education.

    Yet the infrastructure is there to make big improvements. Technology lets us learn what we want, when we want, at the pace we want. It can give us instant feedback and tell us where an individual – I – am going wrong and what I need to do to progress. And most importantly of all, it can do this for billions more people than the traditional classroom can. Not just access to learning - but also progress.

    This skills challenge is not one of those great, intractable global issues. Solutions shouldn’t be hard to come by. It will require closer collaboration between educators, and employers. Nobody knows better than employers what sort of skills are needed for the workforce, and nobody knows better than teachers how to impart these skills onto young people.  Governments need to put in place structures and incentives which encourage this collaboration.

    Then there's the education providers like Pearson. We also have a vital role to play, through businesses we own like IndiaCan, which runs over 100 career coaching centres across India. My colleague Leah Jewell’s blog explains how we’ve helped 10,000 young people achieve their first taste of employment; people often left behind and let down by education when they were younger. Better employment outcomes are perhaps the ultimate measures of educational efficacy.

    Free market forces and government policies may determine unemployment levels, but with the right education, nobody ever need be unemployable. I hope India continues to think outside the box when it comes to skilling up its population.

    Get it right, and we all win: the school leaver gets the job, businesses get their talent, and a nation continues to lift itself up.

    ***

    This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

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  • Sustainable Development Goals & the World's Largest Lesson

    John Fallon

    by John Fallon

    hero img

    Later this month, when world leaders meet at the United Nations in New York, they will announce their commitment to the new Global Goals for sustainable development, setting out their ambition for a more peaceful and prosperous world.

    All 17 goals are important, but the fourth – “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” – makes many of the others that much more achievable, too. For education can slow and even reverse the vicious cycle of poverty, and give people the chance to improve their prospects, their communities and their lives. Education is a pathway to improved health, nutrition and wellbeing, particularly for women and children (goals 2, 3 and 4). A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5. Education helps create ‘global citizens’ with the knowledge to promote responsible consumption and production patterns (goal 12) and aids the development of peaceful societies (goal 16). Education has an effect on nearly every aspect of the societies in which we work.

    Just one vivid example of this: through the Sudiksha program in Hyderabad, India, which we invest in via our Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, local women are empowered to open and run neighbourhood branches of a low-cost preschool network under a profit-sharing model. Sudiksha trains and educates the women as teachers, and they are then able to teach students who otherwise would not be able to attend school. As the programme progresses, the risk of extreme poverty decreases for both the women and their students.

    By putting efficacy at the heart of everything we do in education, Pearson has been contributing to a wider movement to focus much more on outcomes over inputs. So it’s encouraging that the new goals also focus on outcomes, such as expanding access to education, ensuring the success of students (measured by completion rates) and enabling them to progress in their lives (tracked by placement into jobs or further education). This is particularly important in a world of constrained resources, where everyone involved in education is trying to do more with less.

    These goals, of course, are a vital means by which we fulfil Pearson’s own purpose – to empower people to progress in their lives through learning – which is reflected in the reach and impact of our people, products and services. But beyond our purpose, it is our responsibility as a learning company to support the Global Goals' focus on improved quality of life for the world’s poorest citizens, and to do so by using our expertise in teaching and learning.

    Clearly, we can’t do this alone, and we know that the Global Goals themselves call for a robust network of partnerships to carry out this work (goal 17). So we will continue working with our partners Save the Children, Kiva and Camfed, and will step up the work we have started with a number of global education partners through Project Literacy. We will offer support in new ways as well.

    Plans to give widespread international attention to the Global Goals this month include an initiative called the World’s Largest Lesson.  Pearson will be playing an active role in promoting that lesson. You can help by learning all you can about the Global Goals at the link above, reading about the World’s Largest Lesson and sharing it on social media using #telleveryone and #globalgoals.

    Everyone, no matter where they were born and under what circumstances, deserves an equal shot at a healthy, safe and fulfilling life. With these ambitious new goals, the world is setting out to achieve just that – and to do so in our lifetime. I look forward to all of us at Pearson being able to say that we played our part in making that happen.

     

     

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  • John Fallon on reliable learning infrastructures

    by Gillian Seely

    hero img

    No two classrooms are alike, but all students deserve access to a reliable learning infrastructure. Pearson CEO John Fallon speaks with students, teachers and local citizens on a panel discussion at Texas Southmost College about education in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

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  • The future of assessment

    by Dominic

    Student and teacher experiencing learning

    Think of assessment in education, and you probably think of end of term tests, where kids sit in rows of desks, with a set time to answer identical questions. But in world that increasingly values what you can do and not just what you know, does this way of testing fit the bill anymore? Are they doing the job that ultimately education exists for - to prepare people for the world.

    Increasingly educators think not, and so a new era of assessment is being ushered in; enabled by technology, personalised to the student, and providing teachers with insights in real-time. We've taken a look at the opportunities and challenges that await.

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  • The small gift with big impact

    by Hanne Brown

    A happy looking boy

    Nearly 3,000 books distributed to children in Sri Lanka; 6,000 to children in Swaziland; and nearly 40,000 books now benefitting homeless and low-income children in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago. At Pearson we are proud of the number of free books we distributed last year all around the world… but equally saddened. That well into the 21st century the joy and power of reading remains out of reach for millions of children. That while many kids come home from schools with their bags packed with books, as we stroll past libraries stuffed with the beauty of words, as our bookshelves at home already house more stories than we could possibly read in our lifetime… that while many of us take books for granted, millions more can only dream of them.

    We should never devalue the exercise of simply reading for the love of it; and neither should we discount the enormous consequences of not being able to. To summarise hundreds of thousands of pages of heavy-duty research into reading - books make brains bigger, and with that knowledge comes opportunities for a better life.

    Since 2002, we have been donating some of our unsold books in the United States to children all over the world. For many, it will be the first book they have ever owned. And though their new books won’t be the answer to the challenges they face in life, they might just be the small start they need into a better future.

    Last year, with the help of our non-profit partners across the world, we donated nearly one million books from our US warehouses alone. They have found their way into the hands of millions of children living at or below the poverty line - in communities where there may be as few as one book per 300 children. It is a small gift from us that, we hope, will have a large and lasting impact.

    And it’s an impact that ultimately reaches beyond the lives of the proud young owners of their new books; beyond education, to help the environment that we all depend on. No longer do unsold books produce the pollution from pulping or add to the deluge of landfill sites. By putting these books to the use they were created for, we are helping our planet to flourish, as well as the lives of our youngest generations.

    ***

    (photo credit: Jesus Hernandez)

     

    read more
  • How to make teaching the career choice for Millennials

    by Kathy McKnight

    hero img

    Ask a group of American kids what they want to be when they grow up, and odds are you’ll hear “teacher” less and less. In the US there are some disturbing indications that teaching is increasingly falling out of favor as a career choice. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, there was a massive 30% drop in enrollments to teaching preparation programs; while The New York Times reported that applications for Teach for America, a well-respected program to recruit elite college graduates to teach in high poverty schools, declined by 10% from 2013 to 2014. It is perhaps even more troublesome that teaching also seems to be falling out of favor with teachers - a 2013 MetLife survey indicated that just over one in three teachers reported to be “very satisfied”, down by almost 40% in just four years.

    One of the reasons put forward for this trend is the perceived narrowness of the teaching career path, especially amongst Generation Y ‘Millennials’. This is, according to research, the demographic that’s impatient to realise their ambitions, demanding of choice and opportunity, and certain that their careers will move forward on their terms - features they do not relate with teaching.

    So three years ago Pearson, with several key partners, set out to understand how the teaching profession can evolve to meet the 21st century career expectations of those who currently teach, and those that might one day.

    In that time we’ve studied eight teacher career advancement initiatives in the US, and found there’s much to be encouraged about. From urban to suburban and rural districts; in areas of affluence and high poverty; and in schools with and without strong union presence - there is plenty of evidence for how to improve teacher career pathways, and what happens when you do.

    Here are some of the key highlights from our observations. You can read the full report here.

    Districts observed improved trends in the recruitment and retention of teachers: All districts with teacher career advancement initiatives reported an increase in applicants to teach, and increased retention rates - notably of effective and experienced teachers.

    Creating time for teachers to meet and collaborate is an ongoing challenge for districts: One of the most commonly cited advantages of teacher career advancement initiatives was more collegial interaction, with teachers working with colleagues across grade levels and subject areas. In part this is due to the significant costs associated with releasing teachers full-time for instructional coaching, meaning that mentoring and coaching is often done ‘in-house’ by other teachers. Some districts have even adopted 'hybrid' teaching/coaching roles. The benefit is felt by both mentee and mentor. One mentor teacher from Knox County said to us: “I’ve told so many people that they need to be mentor teachers because just what you learn about yourself is much. I feel like I’ve gotten more back from doing it than I’ve given to my people that I coach.”

    However, we also observed that it takes time and effort to change the culture of isolation to promote sharing of practice and collaboration.

    There is some evidence of a positive impact on teacher effectiveness and some short-term student learning outcomes: There is limited 'hard data' about the impact of teacher career advancement initiatives on student achievement, although there is much anecdotal evidence. Teacher and administrator focus groups almost universally cited the positive benefits on students of teacher collaboration, focused conversations on curriculum and instruction, lesson modeling, and taking time to reflect on teacher effectiveness.

    “This is about closing achievement gaps, and you don’t close achievement gaps by doing the same … things that you’ve done for 50 years,” one Denver administrator told us. Another, from Scottsdale, commented: “It is because of that career ladder culture [that] every single teacher is vested in getting that student growth, doing the best thing they can for their students on campus, in their classroom, at their school… it really has created a culture within our district.”

    Teachers in leadership roles report greater job satisfaction: The general consensus of teacher leaders we interviewed was that motivation and job satisfaction were positively affected by opportunities for collaboration and professional development, recognition as leaders in their district, and opportunities for additional compensation. Interestingly, we also heard that another significant positive feature of the teacher career advancement initiatives is that teachers can take on leadership roles without stepping into formal administrator roles.

    “I knew in a flash that this new [multi-classroom leader] model would bring me my dream job… a teacher who continues to teach while leading a team of teachers…” a teacher from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools told us.

    Teacher/administrator relations and the roles of principals change in positive ways, but present new challenges: Our studies found that, as teachers and administrators collaborate more, there becomes a need to manage teams of teacher leaders who now require new skills, and also additional support for principals. A Seattle ‘career ladder’ teacher described her experience to us: “Oh, you’re going to be on this professional development committee which is going to meet every other week on top of the building leadership team, on top of leading your own PLC. It becomes you’re one of five people that are doing everything in the school and that’s not the point of the role.”

    ***

    For all the positives coming out of our study, the reality is that sustaining these initiatives is hard work, requiring stakeholder support (teachers in particular), a school/district culture that can deal with change and ambiguity, and external support—either monetary or technical assistance. Funding in particular is the greatest challenge to continuity. Grants, either district funding sources or from external bodies, are typically designed to launch programs, not sustain them. Our study sites are navigating this treacherous territory in different ways, and with differing success. Denver, for example, offers a vision of flattening the organizational structure of schools and replacing some highly paid administrative positions with teacher leaders. A teacher we spoke to there made the point that this was not just about sustaining funding, but also maintaining the right culture.“This needs to be a teacher-led initiative, a teacher supported initiative, because it is about elevating the craft from the peer perspective…”

    The next few years will be critical in determining whether these teacher career advancement initiatives will continue, expand or be modified. With the new ESSA legislation and the focus on developing teaching and the profession, we hope that the lessons learned and recommendations contained in the full report will help propel more schools and districts to implement innovative, sustainable teacher career advancement initiatives. And to make the profession top of the list of what kids want to be when they grow up.

    ***

    Follow up with Kathy about this research - @McKni8

    read more
  • Look at Your Data: Administrator Salary and Tuition

    Visualizing your data gives you clues about how two variables relate to each other. Ignoring clues from the visualization can you lead to potentially inaccurate conclusions.

    Last week Education Sector, a nonprofit education think tank announced something they are calling “Higher Ed Data Central.” They have taken a bunch of publicly available data sets and combined them into a database.

    On their blog, the Quick and the Ed, they started showing examples of what they could do with this data. On Friday they published a post including the graph below of the number of administrators who make over $100k per 1,000 students versus tuition at private non-profit 4 year universities.

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  • Explaining “Field Tests”: Top Six Things Parents Should Know

    by Jon Twing

    Field testing is a routine part of standardized test administration and many such field tests are occurring in a number of states this spring in one form or another. Because such field testing is so important and because it comes in many different varieties, it is important to understand some of the background.

    1) Let’s start with the basics. What is a field test?

    A field test (as defined by the National Council on Measurement in Education) is a test administration used during the test development process to check on the quality and appropriateness of test items, administration procedures, scoring, and/or reporting. Basically, this means that an “item” / test question (including reading passages, essay prompts) itself is tested, enabling educators and test developers to make sure that an item does measure what it is intended to measure—that the questions provide an accurate, fair and valid representation of what students know and can do.

    2) Do field tests count toward my child’s grades or impact his or her achievement?

    No. Field tests (be they separately administered tests or groups of items embedded within a ongoing assessment) never count toward a student’s score or ability to advance to the next grade. Students’ scores on these field-test items are only used to evaluate how well the items or test questions capture the knowledge and skills they are designed to measure.

    3) If field tests aren’t used for scoring or grading, why are they done?

    They are a vital element to the development of fair, high-quality tests. Field tests are done to help ensure questions used in upcoming standardized tests that count are fair for all students, of high quality and rigorous enough to comply with professional standards. It’s important for a state to know that questions, prompts, reading passages, or other test elements are worthy of being used to assess skills and knowledge appropriately.

    Many needs are balanced when field testing is conducted, but two are very critical: (1) minimizing burden on students and schools and (2) administering tests that meet recommended industry standards. Minimizing field testing is vital so that time can be spent on instruction, but it’s also important to gather enough data to be able to evaluate the fairness of questions, to eliminate flawed items, and to build tests each year that cover a range of curriculum from the very easy to the very difficult.

    4) What does field testing mean for my child?

    Field testing is conducted to make sure that the standardized assessments used in your school or your state meet professional standards for quality and fairness. The goal of field testing is to make sure all questions are free from bias, are aligned to academic standards of your state and function appropriately. However, if you are concerned with how field testing may impact your child then contact your child’s school to learn more.

    5) What kinds of field tests are there?

    Generally, there are two approaches to field tests: embedding questions within assessments that count for students and standalone field-testing. In both cases, any question deemed unfair after field testing is thrown out and won’t appear on any future assessments.

    Embedded Field Tests

    Students take embedded field-test questions at the same time they take the rest of their standardized test. This is typically done for multiple-choice assessments. Whenever possible, states embed field-test questions in multiple forms of “live” tests so that these field-test questions are randomly distributed to a representative student population. Experience shows that these procedures can give the state an appropriate amount of data to ensure fairness in a very efficient manner. The embedded field-test questions are not counted on a student’s score.

    Standalone Field Tests

    Sometimes separate field tests are necessary due to factors like test structure (i.e., tests with open-ended questions, tests that required students to perform tasks or lengthy essays), a small student population, or method of test delivery. States administer these separate field tests at a different time than the state assessments that are reported publicly. As with embedded field-test items, a separate field test does not count toward student scores.

    6) Once gathered, how is the information from field tests used?

    After field testing, a range of stakeholders – generally teachers, school administrators, curriculum and assessment specialists who represent a range of ethnicities, genders, types and sizes of schools district, and geographical regions – all gather to review the data collected from the field test. This “data review” committee examines each test question (and related collateral like reading passages) to determine if each question is free from bias (economic, regional, cultural, gender, and ethnic) and that each is appropriately measuring what it was expected to measure. Questions that pass all stages of development—including field testing and this data review process— become eligible for use on future tests. Rejected questions are precluded from use on any test.

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  • Standardized testing. What is it and how does it work?

    by Kimberly O'Malley

    Standardized assessment is a lens into the classroom. It sheds light on why a child might be struggling, succeeding, or accelerating on specific elements of their grade-level standards. Results from standardized tests help inform the next step in learning for our students. But, sometimes it isn’t always crystal clear to students, parents and the public how and why the tests are developed. Let’s delve into that.

    As it stands, most states are still administering end-of-year tests as required by federal law under No Child Left Behind. For the most part, this means students take annual tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3-8; they are tested at least once in high school. Science is tested at least once in elementary, middle and high school. Additional testing in high school often is seen after completing specific courses, like Algebra or Biology, or as a gateway to graduation.
    Each state plans the specifics of its testing program, deciding elements like how many questions to put on a test, the dates for testing, whether tests are given on paper or on computer, to name a few. But, some similarities in the creation of the tests cut across the board.

    Standardized tests undergo a very rigorous development process so here’s a bit about the five major steps that go into making a test.

    States Adopt Content Standards

    This is where it all begins. Everything starts with the content standards developed by states and/or a group of states, as seen with the Common Core State Standards. Content standards outline what a student should be able to know at the end of each school year. These standards are the foundation for instruction in the classroom as well as the assessment.

    Given the huge range of knowledge and skills each student is supposed to master by year’s end, the assessment development process includes a determination of what will be assessed on each test for each grade. Because we can’t test everything covered in a year (no one wants the test to be longer than necessary), decisions must be made.

    Item Development

    Here’s where we get into the nitty gritty. Experts, most of whom are former or current teachers with experience and knowledge of the subject matter and grade level, create “items” that test the content selected in step two. These items can be multiple-choice questions, essay prompts, tasks, situations, activities, and the like.

    Of note, significant time is even spent deciding which WRONG answers to make available for multiple-choice questions. Why’s that? Every item is a chance to identify what our students really know. Incorrect answers can actually tell us a lot about what students misunderstood. For instance, did they add instead of subtract? Multiply instead of divide? Every bit of data helps disentangle what kids really, truly know, which makes the assessment process complex and the final product a very powerful education tool.

    Once the items are developed, then teachers, content experts, higher education faculty, and the testing entity at the state level review them. This diverse group of stakeholders works together to create items that are fair, reliable and accurate. Lots of revisions happen at this stage. And, during this process many items are thrown out — for any number of reasons — and never see the light of day.

    Field Testing or Field Trials

    Now, we test the items by giving them to students. Items developed in step three are “field tested” to gauge how each works when students respond to them. Here, and I can’t stress this enough, we’re testing the item itself – not the kids. We want to know that the question itself is worthy of being used to assess skills and knowledge appropriately. Students’ scores on these field-test items are only used to evaluate the items; they are not used to calculate a student’s score for the year.

    By doing these trials, we can see if gender, ethnicity or even English proficiency impact a child’s ability to successfully perform the task at hand. All of this is done to verify that each and every question is fair. Yet again, a range of stakeholders and experts are involved in the process, reviewing the results and making decisions along the way. The reality is this: if an item doesn’t meet expectations, it’s cut.

    Build the Test

    Using field-tested and approved items, systematically and thoughtfully the test takes its final form. Easy and hard items, tasks, and activities are incorporated. Items that assess varying skills and content areas are added. This part of the process helps us understand what a child really knows at the end of the assessment. As they say, variety is the spice of life. Same goes for an assessment. A mixture of challenging and easy items enable a range of knowledge and skills to be assessed.
    Setting Performance Standards – Finally, states with teachers and their testing partners to make decisions about how well students must perform to pass, or be proficient. For example, performance can be defined as basic, passing, proficient, or advanced. These “performance standards” provide a frame of reference for interpreting the test scores. They help students, parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers understand how well a student did by using a category rating.
    After – and only after – this rigorous, multi-step, multi-year process involving a range of stakeholders is complete, do the tests enter the classroom.

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