Beach Edu-Reads, Part 2

The beach forecast is looking warm and sunny. You need your edu-reads. Here’s installment two!

When I was working for a state department of education, I had the chance on several occasions to meet with groups of award-winning teachers. In every case, I learned a great deal. Their thoughts on policy issues were always insightful and often different than the positions staked out by the reform crowd and unions. I was reminded of those experiences by this new report from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. It summarizes survey results of state and national teachers of the year; they hold forth on the professional experiences that most contributed to their impressive performance. Anyone interested in educator effectiveness ought to read it…and we all should think of ways to make more use of this organization in the future.

Several of my Bellwether colleagues have written a terrific report on the use of student surveys in teacher evaluations. This subject ended up in lots of headlines after the release of findings from the MET study and as states developed new rules for educator evaluations. But there’s been a paucity of reporting on what’s actually happening. No more! This report finds that the use of student surveys is still quite limited in districts and preparation programs, though a growing number of high-performing charter operators have adopted this approach (often at the behest of teachers). The report also uncovered a number of challenges related to earning teacher support and using survey results for professional development. If you follow educator evaluation reform, you really ought to give this a read.

Tom Loveless, a reform-oriented scholar, who, like Rick Hess, has questioned Common Core’s value, is out with a smart look at the implementation of these new standards. Like a good political scientist, Loveless takes us back to a classic text to order our thinking about policy implementation generally. He then draws interesting conclusions based on the peculiarities of primary and secondary schooling and the specifics of CCSS. After reading this report, you might be tempted to read the Brookings-Fordham-CAP volume on K–12 governance and the Hess-McShane volume on Common Core and reform more broadly. (To be clear, that would be a good, if time-consuming, endeavor!)

AEI’s Andrew Kelly has written a terrific primer and status-check on MOOCs (published by Bellwether). The paper will help you understand the differences between providers like Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy and appreciate MOOCs’ limitations (no college credit, not great for those not ready for college-level work) and promise (could improve IHE teaching and help workers develop new skills). I learned a good bit from the separate sections on the influence on higher education and implications for policymakers. Though this report focuses on post-secondary education, it has lots to offer those interested in high school reform and K–12 ed tech.

If you’re interested in rural education, you might give this short government report a look. Wisconsin’s legislature studied the needs of its rural schools and developed a range of recommendations, many having to do with funding. The report has lots of interesting tidbits, but, in total, it serves to underscore a major lesson from our ROCI initiative—that the needs of rural K–12 are often quite different than the needs of urban K–12 and that the former gets too little attention.

-Andy Smarick

This first appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

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