From Proficiency to Mastery

Earlier this year, EdSec Betsy DeVos caught a great deal of flak for not acknowledging the difference between proficiency and progress when it comes to student learning. But with her remarks earlier this month, she may have changed the discussion by shifting the debate to one on mastery. 

Over on BAM! Radio Network, we examine this development on the latest edition of #TrumpED. Give it a listen!

A Few Future-Looking Qs for DeVos

As Washington and the education community gear up for Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearings to become the next EdSec, over at BAM Radio Network I explore a few areas we really should look into, but likely won’t.

Sure, we could spend the entire hearing discussion past actions on charter schools, vouchers, reform advocacy, and reform dollars. But rather than just talking the past, what if we actually explored the future and how the U.S. Department of Education can impact the entire education community.

The nation needs a clear vision of accountability, teacher preparation, modes of learning and expectations for all. Now seems like as good a time as any to start asking. Give it a listen here. You won’t be disappointed.

Revisiting Four Key EduConcerns for a New Presidential Administration

Back in January, Eduflack wrote for Education Post on the four key education concerns the few dozen folks seeking the presidency need to consider. More than 10 months later, these four issues were barely touched in the 2016 campaign at almost every level. But they remain essential, particularly as President-elect Trump begins to shape his education policy and chooses a leader to head his U.S. Department of Education.

The four areas I continue to hope we focus on include:

  1. The proper federal/state role when it comes to education policy;
  2. 21st century education and real 21st century learning;
  3. Accountability, and how to effectively hold education institutions, particularly colleges and universities, accountable; and
  4. The future of teacher education.

In each of these areas, I pose a number of questions that we must consider. Each question was relevant at the start of the calendar year. Each is relevant today. And each will be even more relevant at the start of a new administration and a new Congress.

I just hope someone (or someones) is starting to explore answers and responses.

 

 

Finding Value in VAM 2.0

Sure, we’ve all heard about the shortcomings in teacher evaluation systems, particularly when it comes to using value-added measures in the mix. Some states have pulled back fro using VAM for the time being, while others are exploring excluding the process for the long term.

But there is real value in factoring in VAM scores … if we improve the methods by which we collect and apply those VAM numbers, writes Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine in a new commentary for Education Post. As Levine, the president emeritus of Teachers College Columbia University, notes:

In order to determine teacher effectiveness in the years ahead, we need to supplement VAM scores with other measures of student growth, further develop state data systems on student achievement, and create more advanced and sensitive 2.0 versions of VAM assessment.

We need to apply what has been learned and develop a next-generation VAM that will help strengthen teaching and learning for the nation’s children.

In pointing out some of the specific problems with VAM 1.0 — lessons Levine learned by using it to evaluate the success of his own Teaching Fellowship program at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation — he offers some specific lessons for both why and how VAM can be improved to be useful and fair.

It’s definitely worth the read. While some are quick to get rid of VAM entirely, we know that it will ultimately be replaced by something else. It makes far more sense to take the lessons learned today to improve the existing model for tomorrow, rather than repeating current mistakes.

Give the piece a read. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

On #EdData, It Is Time to Act

I’ll proudly admit it. Eduflack is a strong advocate for data in the learning process. I make no apologies for believing that we need good research and data to determine how effective teaching and learning actually is. Without such data, we are just wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’ that we are getting it right.

Our kids deserve more than just a wish and a prayer. When it comes to their educations, we need to both trust and verify. And education data is the only way to do that.

Of course, that means educators, parents, policymakers, and others in the mix must be able to distinguish between good data collection and lousy. It means ensuring that, if data is collected, it is promptly provided to teachers so they can use it to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. And it means eliminating those tests that are simply done to check a box, without linking back to our students and their demonstrated knowledge.

The topic of #eddata is usually (one of) the third rails of education policy. For many, assessment is the third circle of Dante’s inferno. They preach of how testing (and the data coming from it) is destroying our schools, stressing out our kids, and stripping the joy of learning from our classrooms. It is also seen as the guillotine in a results-oriented system, used to punish schools, teachers, and kids who are not where we want them to be.

In the battle for edu-hearts and minds, such a false narrative can be incredibly powerful. It can lead parents and educators to forget that data has always been an important part of our K-12 system, and that while specific tests may come and go, not testing our kids just isn’t an option. And it ignores the truth that teachers speak each and every day, that they need data to effectively lead their classrooms, and the question should be what data is collected and how are we assessing student learning (not if we assess it at all).

For the past decade, the Data Quality Campaign has worked across the country to address the false narrative and help policymakers and educators see the importance of educational data quality (thus the name). Because of their work, we see states that have created incredibly strong data systems focused on the learner. We are seeing policymakers and leaders asking the right questions when it comes to data and accountability. And we are seeing where good data is improving instruction, particularly for those communities that need it the most.

Earlier this week, DQC launched an important new report and all to action, Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students. In Time to Act, DQC lays out four key priorities when it comes to ed data:

  • Measure What Matters: Be clear about what students must achieve and have the data to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.
  • „ Make Data Use Possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
  • „ Be Transparent and Earn Trust: Ensure that every community understands how its schools and students are doing, why data is valuable, and how it is protected and used.
  • „ Guarantee Access and Protect Privacy: Provide teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.

In issuing this important call, DQC President Aimee Guidera noted that education data should be seen as a flashlight to guide teaching and learning, not as a punitive hammer for teachers and students. As correct as Guidera is, I propose we take it a step further. Ultimately, ed data needs to be our Bat signal (of course the good, Michael Keaton kind, not the Ben Affleck model), one that we signals when we need help and one that makes clear to the community at large that we are watching over those who need our help. That even in dark hours, there is an incredible collection of tools and data and commitment available on the edu-utility belt to help all those who need it.

No, are schools are no longer waiting for Superman. Batman has taught us the right tools can turn a regular guy into a superhero. When that ed data light is shown in the right way, it can illuminate the path to help all educators and kids succeed. We need to make sure that that light is as strong as possible, equipping all educators with the tools to be the superheroes they are.

 

 

For Students’ Sake, Let’s Look to Student Data

Over at Education World, I have a new piece that looks at the important role student research and data can play when gathered and utilized properly. From Data Quality Campaign to ACT to NWEA to Project Tomorrow to ERCA, we can see the value data plays, particularly in understanding student perceptions on key issues, including their college and career aspirations.

As I wrote:

For years, we have grappled with the notion of “assessment literacy,” where educators, families, and policymakers can better learn the importance of data collection and the ability to distinguish a valuable data-gathering tool from a lousy one. At the same time, educators have demanded that any student data collected needs to be used to help the student, and not just as the impetus for punitive action.

Teachers are right. We probably don’t focus on what is helpful to the student nearly as often as we should, particularly when it comes to student data. And that’s a cryin’ shame. The student perception information coming from organizations like Project Tomorrow and NWEA is incredibly important. It provides a glimpse at how what is taught in the classroom aligns with student interests and passions. It helps us better understand the path today’s young learners are on as we encourage them toward college and career success.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

 

 

Chaos, Coherence, Better #TeacherEd

If we want our children to be critical and creative thinkers, individuals who possess a true love of learning and a deeper ability to demonstrate it, we must ensure they have like-minded educators guiding them through the process. They need teachers who both know and do, instructional leaders who are able to adapt to the individual learner and specific lesson. They demand educators who personify the balance of both inputs and outcomes.

From “Out of ‘Chaos,’ A Call for Improved Teacher Education,” Eduflack’s latest on Medium