NEA Today The National Education Association online news and information resource. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:52:31 +0000 en hourly 1 No, Parental Involvement is Not ‘Overrated’ Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:10:17 +0000 twalker By Tim Walker

Anyone who follows education news and trends has come to expect that, every three or four months, a new research report or book will be released that dishes up a counter- narrative too irresistible for the media to pass up.  On April 14,  we had a whopper, courtesy of The New York Times (and probably an overzealous headline writer) On that day, the Times ran an op-ed by two sociologists, Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris, with the headline … drum roll please … “Parent Involvement is Overrated.”

“Most people, asked whether parent involvement benefits children academically, would say ‘of course it does,’” Robinson and Harris wrote. “But evidence from our research suggests otherwise. In fact, most forms of parental involvement … do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they may actually hinder it.”  This finding was fairly consistent, they noted, regardless of race, ethnic background or socioeconomic status.

Their advice? “Set the stage” for your kids by impressing upon them the importance of education and then “get off.”

In supporting their claims, Robinson and Harris trumpeted their analysis of numerous longitudinal surveys covering demographic and socioeconomic data on American families, information about various forms of parental engagement, and academic outcomes (translation: test scores) of elementary middle and high school students.

The Times is actually just the latest, although most visible, media property to spotlight Robinson’s and Harris’ findings. In March, Dana Goldstein  discussed their research in a widely-shared story for The Atlantic Monthly called, referencing one of the parental involvement activities singled out out in the research, “Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework.”  And their book, The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education was published by Harvard University Press in December 2013.

On one hand, it’s not surprising that an attempt to upend decades of research that demonstrate the value of parental involvement scored big in the media. Still, the general lack of skepticism – glaringly apparent in Goldstein’s story for The Atlantic - is pretty discouraging. As developmental psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell wrote in Psychology Today responding to Robinson and Angel, “when researchers use ‘big data’ to draw simple conclusions, it can potentially harm children.”

Anne T. Henderson, a senior consultant at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and a leading expert on the relationship between families and schools, agrees and says Robinson and Harris draw upon a limited body of federal survey data to cobble together some rather expansive and faulty conclusions.

While she sees some value in pointing out some of the drawbacks of “garden variety” forms of parental engagement, Henderson cites numerous weaknesses in Robinson’s and Harris’ work, including the absence of any new data collected by the authors, the lack of proper context to a lot of the data (especially around the information provided by parent about their school-related activities) and the obviously flawed use of student test scores exclusively as the only measure of success.

Henderson also points out that much of Robinson’s and Harris’ works fails to take into account that correlation does not equal causation.

“What very well may be happening is that parents of kids who are struggling are the parents who are trying to help their kids with homework,” Henderson explains. “So it’s not necessarily the case that the parents’ help is causing the kids to do worse, it’s the fact that the kids are doing poorly that has triggered the parents to help.”

Furthermore, while Henderson and other experts acknowledge that sitting down and helping students complete homework assignments can be problematic- especially if the parent doesn’t really understand what is being taught in class – strategies exist that are more useful.

“We do know from a wide body of research that if schools use, for example, interactive homework assignments, their classroom will have higher student performance on a variety of measures, including test scores, on the subjects the assignments cover.” Henderson says. “The Robinson/Harris study didn’t consider that body of research.”

As with many of the other parent involvement practices the researchers cover, help with homework generally falls into that category of conventional practices that have already been recognized as being potentially ineffective. There really isn’t anything “groundbreaking” about this conclusion, which is why Henderson wrote a book in 2007 called Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships.

In face, the very use of the term “parental involvement” reflects a somewhat stale approach to a much more complex issue.

“The field has moved on to advocate for much higher impact strategies that use a broader and more inclusive definition of family engagement rather than just ‘parent involvement,’” explains Henderson. One of the priorities of a new professional association she is co-founding, the National Partnership for Family, School, and Community Engagement, will be to push the federal government to ask  better questions and collect data about school practices that really engage families, not just ask superficial questions about garden variety practices like helping homework or attending a back-to-school night.

“There is  large body of reliable research that shows well-designed family engagement practices are associated with higher grades, higher test scores, better attendance, more motivation, and moving onto post-secondary education,” Henderson says.

“The last thing parents should do is get off the stage.”

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How Anxious are Kids About Taking Standardized Tests? This Anxious. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:59:56 +0000 twalker A counselor at an El Paso elementary school, in an effort to allay student fears about having to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests this week, held conversations with students in grades 3 through 5 to see exactly what they were worried about. The counselor made a list of comments kids had made during these discussions. Check out some of the responses. Source: The Washington Post/The Answer Sheet

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Public School Students Will Look Pretty Different By 2022 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:54:43 +0000 twalker In the future, public schools are going to be less white and more Hispanic, according to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The report estimates that between the 2009-2010 and 2022-2023 school years, there will be a 16 percent decrease in white students, 14 percent decrease in black students, and 29 percent decrease in American Indian and Alaskan Native students who graduate public high school. However, there’s expected to be 23 percent increase in Asian and Pacific Islander students and a whopping 64 percent increase in Hispanic students who graduate. Source: The Huffington Post

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Kennedy Center Program Improving Access to Arts For All Students Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:23:39 +0000 twalker By Kelsey Nelson

The facts are clear: Students who participate in the arts demonstrate improved academic performance and lower dropout rates. Without the arts, students can face greater difficulty mastering core subjects, higher dropout rates and disciplinary problems. Even with all the established positive effects of arts education, school systems continually cut funds from their arts education departments.

The good news is that new partnerships have been developed that are helping sustain or actually bring back arts programs to underserved public schools across the country.

One such initiative is “Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child” developed by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The primary goal of “Any Given Child” is to assist communities in developing a plan for expanded arts education, including dance, music, theater, visual arts, and media arts, in their schools, ensuring access and equity for all students in grades K-8. The program blends existing resources of a school system with those of local arts organizations and is currently in 14 metropolitan cities: Austin, Baltimore, Fresno and Sacramento, Iowa City,  Jacksonville, Juneau, Madison, Missoula, Portland, Sarasota, Las Vegas, Springfield, and Tulsa, with more expected to be added before the end of this year. The initiative was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation

“’Any Given Child’ has had the largest impact on the greatest number of students and teachers in the shortest period of time for any education program of the Kennedy Center,” explains Darrell Ayers, Vice President of Education for the Kennedy Center. “In 5 years this program went from 0 to impacting 61,000 teachers and over 1,000,000 students.”

In each community, the program is carried out through three phases. In phase one, the school district is guided by a Kennedy Center consulting team. Community leaders participate in a strategic planning process that includes visioning, goal setting, and development of surveys to determine the current status of arts education and to identify where gaps exist in programs and resources. During the completion of this phase, survey findings are applied along with the creation of long-range goals and action steps are created to complete these goals.

Next, guided by an implementation committee, the school district’s strategic plan is put into action. Communications and marketing are vital to this phase. The Kennedy Center consulting team visits the site on a limited basis, and offers technical assistance.

The final phase is centered on sustaining and expanding arts education, which includes ensuring funding, and staffing for program initiatives, communications, and marketing. This phase has no end date but begins during the fifth year of a school district being in the program.

Tulsa Public Schools hopes to ingrain the program as a permanent part of the TPS Curriculum. After two years of strategic planning, the Any Given Child-Tulsa Community Arts team decided to implement the full program without a pilot. Based on the advice of the Kennedy Center, program leaders plan to retain the program in its current format for the first three years of implementation. Tulsa school leaders hope that in year four of implementation that, depending on the budget, they will be able to add Professional Teaching artists to the program to work with teachers and students.

Educators in Tulsa say “Any Given Child” has helped revive arts education in their community.

“Every day I pick up my sword and shield and advocate for dollars to keep arts alive in our schools,” explains Ann Tomlins, fine arts coordinator for the district. “I want to see the arts institutionalized so that by the time one of our students graduates he or she will have a working vocabulary about the arts, a happy memory of a live arts experience, and an interest to support arts in the future.”

The program has also had a tremendous impact in Jacksonville, where it began about a year ago. It has helped the city, according to Duval County School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, “become a national leader regarding arts education and exposure to the arts. We’ve been able to lay a solid foundation of a national model in which all families and children are exposed to the arts.”

The Iowa City School District was initially the smallest district to participate In Any Given Child and has maintained a strong presence for arts education in schools, thanks in part to the partnership between the University of Iowa, the  district and the Kennedy Center.

“The partnership has brought community resources forward in a manner that facilitates a systematic plan for providing our students with learning opportunities in the arts. The systematic component is what is so pivotal,” explains Pam Ehly, director of instruction  for Iowa City.

Without the funds and expertise provided by Any Given Child, new arts program in Sarasota, FL. probably would never have seen the light of the day, including the launch of two new orchestra programs and one chorus program at the middle school level.  The local program is also  building teams of teachers who will be participating in arts integration training.

“Long term, we hope to continue building on this amazing arts platform,” said Brian Hersh,  program director of Any Given Child, Sarasota County Schools. “With so many tidal shifts in education, we hope to provide arts programs with the strength, continued relevance and an enduring legacy. Our bottom ,one is that we want to help prepare students to lead successful lives, and we believe this is accomplished with a quality arts education.”

“Infusing arts in every classroom is off the charts in importance,” says Sharon Hatfield, a teacher at Remington Elementary in Tulsa. “Because your students are learning, they’re engaged, they’re happy, they want to be in school. It brings out the best in very child.”

Related Posts:
Why Music Education Shouldn’t Play Second Fiddle
The Good and Bad News About Arts Education
Actor Speaks Up for Arts in Education and Service to Others

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School Stabbings Signal Need for Broad Safety Plans Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:49:54 +0000 twalker Large-scale shootings have been a dominant driver of school safety debates, but a stabbing spree at a Pennsylvania high school this month should serve as a reminder that educators need to be prepared for a range of situations—including smaller, nonfatal incidents that don’t involve guns at all, school safety experts say. ”When we focus our policy responses almost entirely on firearms in these events, we overlook major things and we aren’t going to address the root of the problem,” said Laura E. Agnich, an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. Source: Education Week

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5 Ways to Help Students with Autism Succeed in the Classroom Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:00:06 +0000 twalker In April, educators, parents and advocates across the country are helping raise awareness about autism.  Research shows that when students with intellectual and development disabilities are educated in mainstream education classrooms with their peers, they do better both academically and socially.  But for teachers who haven’t worked with students with autism, the challenges and unknown can seem daunting. So how can educators make their classroom a welcoming and productive environment for all students? Source: SmartBlog on Education


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Performance-Based Funding: Chasing Outcomes Over Real Learning Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:11:14 +0000 twalker By Mary Ellen Flannery

Performance funding for public colleges and universities is a bad idea on fire these days. Even as more research clearly shows the plans don’t work as intended, nearly 30 states, most recently Florida, have adopted punitive approaches to paying for higher education. “They have this one-size-fits-all vision for higher education, and they have one idea about what a model university should be,” said Tom Auxter, president of the United Faculty of Florida. “They don’t get that different universities have different missions, and different constituencies that they serve.”

Twenty-five states currently have some kind of performance-based funding system for their public colleges and universities, and five (Colorado, Georgia, Montana, South Dakota and Virginia) have approved plans not fully in place yet, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The way performance-based funding typically works is a state will set aside 5 to 50 percent of their higher-ed funding, and then use those millions of dollars to reward institutions with the most graduates or course completers. Although NCSL encourages states to also “reward colleges that graduate low-income, minority and adult students to ensure that institutions keep serving these populations,” most states do not have benchmarks that acknowledge some students take longer to graduate or may need additional support along the way.

In Florida specifically, the new plan prioritizes the percentage of graduates with jobs; the average wages of graduates; the cost per degree; the six-year graduation rate; the number of STEM degrees; the percentage of students with Pell Grants, and a few other factors. The three (out of nine) universities that perform worst according to these metrics will lose probably 1 percent of their funding this year—or about $200,000 a year, under pending legislation—while the other six get more money.

All of these new plans replace traditional formulas, which financed institutions according to how many students they served, and how many faculty, staff, and other resources they needed to deliver a high-quality education. But those traditional formulas are expensive, and anyway, states haven’t fully funded higher education in a long, long time.

Where’s the Money?

“(State legislators) are evading the question, and the question is: what does it take to adequately fund our community colleges?” said Joe LeBlanc, president of the Massachusetts Community College Council. In Massachusetts, up to 50 percent of state funding for two-year colleges now depends on graduation rates and other metrics. Meanwhile, funding for Massachusetts higher education plummeted 38 percent between 2008 and 2012. “We’re not even close to fully funded,” LeBlanc scoffed.

Not surprisingly, Florida is right there, too, with a 41 percent cut over the past four years. And they’re not even the worst. During those same years, funding to higher education was chopped by half in Arizona and New Hampshire. Making matters worse, those cuts have come on top of decades of previous cuts. As a result, public colleges in the U.S. have essentially become privatized. At the University of Oregon, for example, just 5 percent of the school’s operating costs will be covered by the state this year.

“To work, even in theory, performance-based funding depends on rewarding the most successful, so it depends on more funding,” said Mark F. Smith, NEA senior policy analyst for higher education. “But there are much better investments for that additional funding that would actually help students learn,” he pointed out. (Academic counseling, for example, has been shown to increase student persistence and graduation rates.)

And it Doesn’t Even Work

If the aim of performance-based funding is to elicit more college graduates—something the United States needs in the multi-millions to keep up with its workforce demands—then we should see increasing graduation rates in states with those plans, yes?

The answer is no, according to several studies, including one by David Tandberg of Florida State University. In a co-authored paper, “State Performance Funding for Higher Education: Silver Bullet or Red Herring?” Tandberg found that performance funding “more often than not” failed to effect degree completion.

In fact, in the few instances where it did have an effect, it was more likely to be negative—graduation rates actually declined. The authors concluded: “Our analyses revealed that performance funding is not the silver bullet some are making it out to be. Instead, it may be a red herring, distracting policymakers from dealing with more fundamental policy problems, such as inadequate state funding or student financial aid.”

Meanwhile, another study shows the effects of performance funding might be particularly harmful at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), where often students take more time to graduate because they’re also working or taking additional developmental courses.

The unintended consequences of outcomes-based funding plans have been made very clear in K12 education, where big rewards for high-stakes reading and math test scores have led schools to set aside other subjects, like science and art. But unintended doesn’t mean unanticipated—in the 2011 NEA Thought & Action journal, Diane Ravitch warned higher-ed faculty and staff about the likely consequences of chasing “outcomes” for funding.

“This is the pursuit of numbers for the sake of meeting a quota, not for the sake of learning,” she said. “If numbers are our goal, we can give every student a college degree and not subject them to the trouble (and expense) of going to classes. In fact, with the rapid spread of online ‘learning,’ that seems to be the wave of the future.”

There’s also the cautionary tale of the Soviet shoes, often recounted by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute. To meet impossibly high Kremlin quotas for shoes, Soviet factory workers just made smaller shoes!

Unfortunately, they didn’t fit anyone.

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Protecting Classrooms From Corporate Takeover: What Families Can Learn from Teachers’ Unions Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:41:33 +0000 twalker Teachers have always held a cherished role in our society—recognized as professionals who know how to inculcate a love of learning in our children. But the “education reform” movement represented by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top blames teachers for the problems in our public schools. At heart, this is a debate between competing visions of teachers’ roles in public education in America. Teachers, through their unions, are defending the idea that they are best-equipped to teach children to become lifelong learners. Source: Yes!

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InBloom Student Data Repository to Close Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:16:04 +0000 twalker In a setback for the nearly $8 billion prekindergarten through 12th-grade education technology software market, inBloom, a non-profit corporationoffering to warehouse and manage student data for public school districts across the country, announced on Monday morning that it planned to shut its doors. The system was meant to extract student data from disparate school grading and attendance databases, store it in the cloud and funnel it to dashboards where teachers might more effectively track the progress of individual students. But the project ran into roadblocks in a number of districts and states over privacy and security issues. Source: The New York Times

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New Teachers Staying in the Classroom, But For How Much Longer? Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:11:59 +0000 twalker By Tim Walker

Approximately 200,000 new teachers entered the classroom in 2007-08, just as the nation stood on the edge of a devastating recession and an era of relentless budget cuts and assaults on the rights and reputations of public school educators. It has been a turbulent time to put it mildly. So of those teachers who weren’t pink-slipped, where are they now? Were they able to stick it out over these past few years in a profession known for high attrition rates?

According to newly-available research, the answer appears to be yes. Does this suggest, however, a new stability in the teaching profession? Probably not.

Dr. Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education just updated “Seven Trends: the Transformation of the Teaching Force,” released in late 2012, to include data from the 2011-12 school year, culled from the Department of Education’s latest School Staffing Survey. The new data further support the trends he and his colleagues identified 18 months ago: It has become far larger, simultaneously become both older and younger, and far less experienced. It has become less diverse by gender, but more diverse by race. Furthermore, the profession does not appear to be suffering from a decline in the academic ability of new teacher hires.

In 2012, Ingersoll also described the profession as increasingly unstable, citing the high levels of turnover and the influx of new teachers (which he labeled the “greening” of the teaching force)  Looking at years of experience, in 1987-88, the modal, or most common, school teacher had 15 years in the classroom. “By 2007-08, the modal teacher was a beginner in his or her first year of teaching,” explains Ingersoll.

However, as the economy began to deteriorate in 2007-08 and hiring tapered off and layoffs began, the greening of the teaching force slowed down. By 2011-12, the most common teacher was someone in his or her fifth year. To Ingersoll, this suggests that a significant number of teachers hired for the 2007-08 school year have stayed in the classroom.

Teaching Experience of School Teachers, 1987-88, 2007-08 and 2011-12 (Click to Enlarge)

Furthermore, while the teaching force increased by about 1.3 million from 1987-88 to 2007-08, it declined by only 45,000 teachers between 2007-08 and 2011-12.

Still, as Ingersoll told The Wall Street Journal, as the economy continues to strengthen, “we’ll see more teachers leaving, more beginners hired and a worrisome return to the ballooning and greening of the teaching workforce.”

Worrisome for a number of reasons, including turnover’s role in teacher shortages. “Increases in turnover among minority teachers, especially in disadvantaged schools, undermine efforts to recruit new teachers in hard-to-staff schools and to diversify the teaching force,” the report says.

In addition, many newcomers leave the classroom before they are able to fully develop their teaching skills. Research shows that teachers’ effectiveness increases significantly with additional experience for the first several years in teaching.

With teachers with 10 or fewer years’ experience the new majority of the teaching profession, the National Education Association  has moved over the past year to engage more intensively with educators who are in the first decade of their careers. NEA has recently launched a series of initiatives that collectively aim to empower teachers to lead, shape education policy, and prepare the next generation of teacher leaders. “This is all about giving voice and energy to the men and women who are in the classroom every day,” NEA President Van Roekel said. “ We need teacher leaders now.”

Related Posts:
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Survey: Teacher Job Satisfaction Drops to New Low
Wait, What? Educators Highly Satisfied With Classroom Autonomy, Morale

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