President Trump’s newly released budget would slash $9 billion — or 13.5 percent of funding — from the Department of Education. That’s a dramatic change. It’s important to remember, however, that Congress controls the country’s purse strings, so a President’s budget proposal serves more as a statement of priorities than a concrete action plan.
For those of us who work on teacher quality issues, that’s a relief. For one, Trump’s proposed Education Department cuts include the complete elimination of the roughly $2.3 billion Title II program. States and districts use Title II’s Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants for teacher quality activities, like recruiting teachers and supporting effective instruction.
Unsurprisingly, the mention of defunding Title II has teachers unions and advocacy organizations up in arms. Many state departments of education, districts, and schools have relied on this funding to support teacher-related activities for years.
But the effectiveness of the Title II dollars spent is questionable. Although states and districts are given a wide array of choices on how to spend Title II dollars, they tend to stick to the same activities. A closer look at the data on Title II use reveals that for more than a decade, districts have been using at least three quarters of Title II funding on just two activities: class-size reduction and professional development.
Data via U.S. Department of Education; Chart via author.
This funding allocation is problematic because there is no data to suggest that class-size reduction or professional development widely or consistently impact student achievement. Research shows that the effects of class-size reduction are restricted to only certain grades, with particular influence on students in early elementary grades. And while some districts and schools have been able to crack the code to ensure that teacher professional development positively impacts student learning, it is not happening at scale. Continue reading
Students are not learning, but teachers are told they’re doing their jobs effectively. This oxymoron is not new in American education, but recent teacher evaluation laws were supposed to demolish it by better aligning teacher evaluation scores and student learning outcomes.
The problem is: the laws aren’t working as intended. Even with new laws in place, the vast majority of teachers across the country continue to receive a rating equivalent to effective or higher. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) provides a new explanation for the phenomenon.
The report reveals that in almost all states, there are teachers who receive an overall evaluation score of “effective” or “highly effective” despite receiving a low score for leading students to academic achievement. This is possible because these teachers receive high scores on other parts of the evaluation such as principal and peer observations, student and parent surveys, and other district and state measures. As NCTQ’s new report details, the guidance and rules that structure states’ evaluation laws allow teachers who receive uneven scores throughout their evaluation to still be rated as effective practitioners — even when data show their students are not learning.
NCTQ’s report provides a new opportunity to discuss the negative consequences of misalignment between teacher evaluation and student learning outcomes. The following are a few damaging outcomes of such misalignment: Continue reading
Last week, my colleague Andy Smarick weighed in on the conversation about TNTP’s report, The Mirage. Andy questions if TNTP’s findings about teacher professional development—in short, that the system is largely failing—are accurate. That’s because the measure that TNTP used to track teacher improvement is teacher evaluation systems. Although TNTP looked for improvement on a wide range of multiple measures including summative evaluation ratings, classroom observation scores and value-added scores, Andy rightly challenges the measure because teacher evaluation systems on the whole lack the ability to accurately assess teachers’ knowledge and skills. Let alone teachers’ growth. Or even more, if or how the kinds of supports and trainings teachers’ receive lead to any kind of improvement in their practice.
Andy caught the eye of TNTP’s CEO, Dan Weisberg, who wrote in response that evaluation systems don’t have to be perfect to give meaningful trends about teacher improvement or lack thereof. So, Dan argues, we need to at least try to measure the impact of professional development.
Andy and Dan are both right. And their back and forth represents an important, ongoing, and frustrating conversation about how to measure teacher effectiveness and use the results to improve teacher practice.
The piece missing in Andy and Dan’s conversation that could halt the merry-go-round involves something much fuzzier than evaluation metrics and indicators: culture. Continue reading