People want an education for a variety of reasons. Some have a love of learning. Others want to attend a good college or vocational school. Still others, see an education as a ticket to a good job. Increasingly for schools, the goal is to prepare kids with the skills to attend and succeed at college. In order to give children the skills to succeed, schools need teachers who are effective at educating their population of kids. There are many themes in the attempt to answer the question, what will prepare kids for what comes after high school.
One of the themes is measurement of where children are when they prepare for the next step. A couple of articles have come out recently about the ACT test. Eric Gorski of AP is reporting in the article, ACT Scores Dip, But More Students College Ready which was reprinted in the Seattle Times.
Average scores on the ACT college entrance exam inched downward this year, yet slightly more students who took the test proved to be prepared for college, according to a report released Wednesday.
The findings sound contradictory. But the exam’s authors point to a growing and more diverse group of test-takers – many are likely scoring lower overall, but more are also meeting benchmarks used to measure college readiness….
Although that still shows three in four test-takers will likely need remedial help in at least one subject to succeed in college, ACT officials are encouraged to see improvement as ever-larger numbers of students take the exam….
On the not-so-encouraging front, ACT-takers prepared for college English have dropped from 69 percent to 66 percent in that span. Still, English remains a strong suit for ACT test-takers compared to other subjects.
To measure whether students are ready for college, the ACT sets minimum scores in a subject area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of getting a B or higher or about a 75 chance of getting a C or higher in a first-year college credit course. The courses include English composition, algebra, biology and introductory social science courses like Psychology 101.
The ACT report found a combined total of 43 percent of test-takers met either none (28 percent) or only one (15 percent) of the four college readiness benchmarks….
The ACT is growing as more states require it for all high school seniors, meaning test-takers are not just the college-bound….
Schmeiser noted that the ACT’s test-taking population “now includes virtually all students in eight states, many of whom might not have considered taking a college and career readiness assessment years ago.” The ACT says another three states – Arkansas, Texas and Utah – either have been or soon will make state-financed ACTs available to all districts.
One result: a more diverse pool. Ethnic and racial minorities this year made up 29 percent of all ACT test-takers, up from 23 percent in 2006. Most significant was a near doubling of Hispanic graduates tested, to almost 158,000 students.
Education Week reports about some of the challenges facing students of color in More Minorities Taking ACT, But Gap Persists
The second theme is teacher effectiveness and having an effective teacher in every classroom. The key question is the measure of teacher effectiveness. One of the contentious issues in the current contract negotiations between Seattle public Schools and the Seattle Education Association is the SERVE proposal. The SERVE proposal was discussed in Update: Lines Are Being Drawn In the Sand Between the Seattle School District and teachers
There is an excellent article in the LA Times by Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith about attempts to measure teacher effectiveness. In Who’s Teaching LA’s Kids? Felch, Song, and Smith report the findings from statistical data reviewed by the LA Times from reviewing LA School District records.
The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student’s performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.
This article examines the performance of more than 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers for whom reliable data were available.
Among the findings:
• Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year’s end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.
• Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.
• Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.
• Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students’ academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.
• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.
Other studies of the district have found that students’ race, wealth, English proficiency or previous achievement level played little role in whether their teacher was effective.
The L.A. study produced some interesting results about teacher effectiveness and the focus is upon measureable improvement for a particular group of students. Remember, that students arrive at school at different points in the ready to learn process. Education Secretary Duncan is keeping the pressure on teachers with a proposal to inform parents about the effectiveness of teachers.
In the LA Times article, U.S. Schools Chief Endorses the Release of Teacher Data Song and Felch report:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday that parents have a right to know if their children’s teachers are effective, endorsing the public release of information about how well individual teachers fare at raising their students’ test scores.
“What’s there to hide?” Duncan said in an interview one day after The Times published an analysis of teacher effectiveness in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school system. “In education, we’ve been scared to talk about success.”
Principals and parents have known almost forever that some teachers are more effective than others. The question that must be answered is, can what these teachers are doing be replicated and taught? The issue is matching teachers to a population of kids where they will produce measureable achievement in their kids. Teachers must be given the support and mentoring opportunities to become effective. If teachers can’t be effective with proper support, then they are not matched to their classroom or may be they are in the wrong profession.
Dr. Wilda may be contacted at [email protected]
To receive updates from the Seattle Public Education Examiner, just click “subscribe” at the top of the story and enter your email address which will not be shared.
Dr. Wilda says this about that ©