Top 20 Blog Entries of 2011!

We’ve already released the list of the most-read articles on the Education Next website in 2011. Today we bring you the 20 most-read blog entries from 2011. Happy reading!

20. Florida’s Class Size Amendment: Did It Help Students Learn?
by Paul E. Peterson

Paul Peterson summarizes a study of the impact of a class size reduction amendment in Florida.  The study found no detectable benefit from mandated class size reduction–either for students in general or for any student subgroup, racial, ethnic, or level of disadvantage.  Telling schools they must reduce class size—which is very expensive–yields no benefit, the study concludes.

19. The Case for Paying Most Teachers the Same
by Michael Petrilli

In professions like law and medicine, new hires get paid significantly less at the start, then pay rises rapidly–as soon as employees boost their effectiveness and productivity from on-the-job experience. In education, on the other hand, pay rises slowly, even though teachers’ effectiveness plateaus after as little as two (and no more than five) years on the job. So maybe we should pay young teachers more, and older teachers less, than we do now, argues Mike Petrilli. In other words, we should make their pay more alike.

18. Jeb Bush, Melinda Gates, Sal Khan and the Coming Digital Learning Battle
by Paul E. Peterson

Paul Peterson warns that we can expect a strenuous, highly politicized debate over the way in which digital learning should be provided:  “blended” learning that takes place within public school classrooms under the tutelage of a highly qualified teacher vs. “online” learning in which students are offered a choice of providers that include not only the blended classroom but also those who offer products exclusively online. “School districts and teacher unions can be expected to fight publicly funded online learning that offers students a choice of taking courses outside their local district school.”

17. The Education School Masters Degree Factory
by Paul E. Peterson

Paul Peterson describes a study finding that teachers in Florida with an M. A. degree were no more effective, on average, than teachers who lacked such a degree. He notes “One of the most straightforward ways school districts can obtain cost savings without harming students is to eliminate extra pay for teachers who earn a master’s degree.”

16. Is the Charter School Movement Stuck in a Rut?
by Chester E. Finn Jr.

“As the U.S. charter fleet sails past the 5,000-school and two-decade markers, there is reason to worry that it’s getting complacent, unimaginative, and self-interested,” wrote Chester Finn. “This wouldn’t be the first “reform movement” in the history of education to turn into an ideologically rigid, pull-up-the-gangplank-now-that-we’re-aboard sort of vested interest. But it would still be a great pity.”

15. Ed Next: Poll Top Books of the Decade
by Education Next

To mark Education Next’s 10th anniversary, we asked readers to help us identify the best books of the past decade. We selected 41 books as contenders and asked readers to vote for the top three. In January 2011, we announced the results: Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System came in first, E.D. Hirsch’s The Knowledge Deficit came in second, and Linda Darling-Hammond’s The Flat World and Education came in third.

14. The Enormous Economic Returns to a Good Teacher
by Eric Hanushek

Eric Hanushek explains a new report that calculates the value of a good (and a bad) teacher by tracing the economic ramifications of differences in student achievement.  “A teacher at the 85th percentile … with a class of 20 students generates over $400,000 in economic benefits, compared to an average teacher, for each year that she gets such achievement gains.”

13. No Matter How Hard You Try, You Cannot Deny US Math Performance is Terrible
by Paul E. Peterson

Paul Peterson defends a study he authored with Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessman that found that the United States ranked 31st in the world at bringing 15 year olds up to an advanced level of math achievement.

12. Khan Academy Not Overhyped, Just Missing a Key Ingredient – Excellent Live Teachers
by Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel

Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel note that most of the hype about the Khan Academy is ignoring its potential to enable the best in-person teachers to reach more students with personalized instruction. “This dual power of technology –both to extend reach of super-instructors boundlessly (no more low-value homework and large-group time) AND to allow reorganization of great on-site teacher time – is worth hyping.”

11. Steve Jobs on Education
by Jay P. Greene

After Steve Jobs died in October, Jay Greene reviewed selected remarks from Jobs on education, including his criticism of teachers unions and his support for vouchers.

10. With a Math Proficiency Rate of 32 Percent, U.S. Ranks Number 32
by Paul E. Peterson

Paul Peterson reports on the results of a new study examining the performance of U.S. students in mathematics compared to students in other countries. That information is obtained by comparing student performance on NAEP math and reading tests with the performance of students from across the world on similar examinations.  Only thirty-two percent of U.S. students in the class of 2011 were proficient in mathematics when they were in 8th grade, placing the United States in 32nd place among the 65 nations of the world that participated in PISA.

9. Nobody Deserves Tenure
by Checker E. Finn Jr.

Chester Finn traces the history of tenure and explains why it makes no sense for K-12 teachers to have it. “it didn’t come down from Mount Sinai—and there are plenty of other ways to safeguard public employees from wrongful dismissal besides guaranteeing them lifetime jobs.”

8. Teacher Accountability: The Next Front in the School Reform Wars
by Michael Petrilli

Mike Petrilli argues that school reformers should focus on teacher tenure reform rather than choice and accountability “After twenty years it’s become clear that choice and accountability are necessary but not sufficient to create the conditions for high-performing systems. They were too indirect; now it’s time to tackle teacher tenure and evaluations head-on. And that means fighting the unions in committee rooms in state capitals.”

7. The Best Books of the Past Decade According to Ed Next Readers
by Paul E. Peterson

In January 2011, after we announced the results of our “Best Books of the Decade” poll, Paul Peterson reflected on the results. Readers had been invited to vote for the three best education policy books of the past decade from a list of 41 books. Over 4000 votes were cast. Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System won the poll by a wide margin, pulling in 22 % of the total.

6. E.D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy and American Democracy
by Marci Kanstoroom

Marci Kanstoroom commented on the announcement that Core Knowledge would align its curriculum with the Common Core standards, and considered the claim by E.D. Hirsch that the standards have the potential to revolutionize reading instruction by embracing the idea that language mastery requires knowledge of history, science, music and fine arts. In a new book, Hirsch explicitly connected the idea of cultural literacy with the civic role of schools.

5. Why Digital Learning will Liberate Teachers
by Michael B. Horn

Michael Horn detailed the many different ways the growth of digital learning will benefit teachers. “The bottom line? Digital learning should liberate teachers’ lives by making the opportunities for success far more frequent, and the opportunities for teachers to pursue what they like and their passions about the teaching profession far more possible.”

4. Is Anybody Up for Defending the Common Core Math Standards?
by Frederick Hess

After trying without success to find an author for an Ed Next article defending the Common Core math standards, Rick Hess took his assignment to the blog, wondering why nobody involved with the standards was willing to make the case for their rigor and quality. “The notion that Common Core proponents needn’t make their case is an affront to democratic values,” he wrote.

3. Are Wisconsin Schools Better than Those in Texas?
by Paul E. Peterson

While debates raged last spring about the prospect of deep spending cuts (and limitations on collective bargaining rights) in Wisconsin, Paul Peterson took aim at a column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times that argued that low-spending Texas has rotten schools. Peterson responded to Krugman by pointing to data showing that if you look at the test scores of each ethnic group separately, Texas’ schools are doing better than Wisconsin’s.

2. Compared to Other Countries, Does the United States Really Do That Badly in Math?
by Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson

Paul Peterson and Eric Hanushek investigated why U.S. students scored in the bottom half of countries in math on PISA but in the top 10 in math on TIMSS. They found that many industrialized countries that participated in PISA did not participate in TIMSS, which also includes many countries from the developing world.

1. Eighth-Grade Students Learn More Through Direct Instruction
by Paul E. Peterson

Paul Peterson described a study that found that students learned more math and science when their teachers spent more time on lecture-style instruction and less time working on problems.

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