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The Answer Sheet: December 12, 2010 - December 18, 2010

Will firing 5-10 percent of teachers make us Finland?

Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates like to say that our public schools would become high-performing if we only fired the bottom 5-10 percent of teachers. Here's an examination of that notion.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 18, 2010; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Matthew Di Carlo, Parents, Research  | Tags:  assessing teachers, bill gates, eric hanushek, evaluating teachers, finland, michelle rhee, shankar blog, teachers  
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The carrot, the stick ... or something else?

We keep trying to get kids to go to school and study with carrots and sticks -- but maybe both approaches are wrong.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 17, 2010; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Learning, Sean Slade  | Tags:  chronic truancy, paying for grades, sean slade, student truancy, truancy  
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The disaster California schools face, and a teacher's call to action

California's public schools face a real funding disaster, and a teacher says it is time to fight back.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 17, 2010; 5:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Anthony Cody, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  anthony cody, budget deficit, california budget deficit, california schools, jerry brown, proposition 13  
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If D.C. region really is the nation's most educated, then...

If the Washington area really is the most educated educated region in the country, as new Census Bureau figures confirm, why can’t we figure out how to use the self-checkout machines in food and drug stores without begging for help from a salesperson? And more...

By Valerie Strauss  | December 16, 2010; 5:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Laugh and cry  | Tags:  census bureau, most educated region, washington d.c. region, washington region, wealthiest region  
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What Rhee wrought

Anyone who thinks that Michelle Rhee was a whiz as chancellor of D.C. public schools and should be heading a national "reform" movement ought to read about a high school she attempted to “transform” in the nation’s capital.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 15, 2010; 4:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (47)
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Michelle Rhee, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  d.c. schools, dunbar, dunbar high, dunbar high school, friends of bedford, michelle rhee, rhee, school reform, school transformation, transformation schools  
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Joel Klein's business model and the drowning of Nicole Suriel

The principal of the New York City elementary school where a field trip to a beach ended in the drowning death of a sixth grader has finally been fired. But not because of his responsibility in the botched trip.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 15, 2010; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Marc Epstein, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  joel klein, mayor bloomberg, new york city schools, nicole suriel, nyc schools, school reform, student drowning  
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Principal seeks to replace student body, improve scores

A principal asks the Kansas state commissioner of education to replace the entire student body at high school with students from another high school where test scores are higher. Yes, it's fake news, and yes, you will laugh and cry.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 15, 2010; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Laugh and cry  | Tags:  fake news, mr. teachbad, test scores  
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Standardized snake oil -- Brady

Educator Marion Brady writes: "Consider as failing every school – public, charter, private, whatever – that assumes that corporately produced, standardized tests say something important about something important."

By Valerie Strauss  | December 15, 2010; 5:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Marion Brady, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  marion brady, standardized tests  
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How Shanghai topped PISA rankings -- and why it's not big news in China

Q) How did Shanghai students, participating in a high-profile international exam for the first time, able to land at the top of the math, reading and science rankings? A) An obsession with test taking, to the exclusion of a lot of other things. Diane Ravitch and Yong Zhao explain.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 14, 2010; 4:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Standardized Tests  | Tags:  Yong Zhao, diane ravitch, finland and pisa, international test comparisons, international test rankings, international test scores, pisa, pisa rankings, pisa results, shanghai and pisa, shanghai students, u.s. performance on international tests, u.s. performance on pisa  
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College Board promotes holiday gift of ... test prep!

You can stop worrying what to get your teenager for Christmas. The non-profit College Board has a suggestion: test prep!

By Valerie Strauss  | December 14, 2010; 1:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Standardized Tests  | Tags:  christmas gifts, college board, college board and sat, sat, sat test, sat test prep, test prep, test prep courses  
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The 'Parent Trigger' doesn't help schools or parents

The so-called “parent trigger” law in California, which allows a majority of parents (from a school or from their “feeder” schools) to sign a petition that forces a school to be converted into a charter, is not a genuine parent engagement strategy. The recent effort to apply the law for the first time shows why.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 14, 2010; 10:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Charter schools, Guest Bloggers, Larry Ferlazzo, Parents  | Tags:  california schools, california's parent trigger, charter schools, larry ferlazzo, parent revolution, parent trigger, parent trigger law  
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Where education reform is heading: From extreme to extremum

If you want to understand where public education reform is heading, look south and east to Florida, where the governor-elect, Rick Scott, is talking about a new funding student formula that is more likely to destroy the public school system than accomplish anything else.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 14, 2010; 5:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (37)
Categories:  Accountability, Charter schools, Vouchers  | Tags:  florida schools, jeb bush, opportunity scholarships, private schools, public education system, public schools, rick scott, school choice movement, school funding formula, universal voucher program, universal vouchers, vouchers  
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What Norway (not Finland) tells us about schools

An educator explains what the United States can learn from Norway's education system.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 13, 2010; 1:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  OECD, PISA, PISA results, finland education system, finland schools, norway, school reform  
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Willingham: What causes performance decline across grades?

Cognitive scientist looks at why student performance declines across grades.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 13, 2010; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  arne duncan, daniel willingham, pirls, pisa, pisa scores, test scores, timss  
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A Felliniesque education story

A veteran teacher writes that if today's education debate seems Felliniesque, don’t worry; you have not lost your senses. "What is apparent, however, is that the people who run the show have."

By Valerie Strauss  | December 13, 2010; 5:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Standardized Tests, Teacher assessment  | Tags:  david steiner, fellini, how to assess teachers, merryl tisch, new york board of education, nyc schools, releasing test scores, standardized tests, teacher assessment, teachers, test scores released  
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What international test scores really tell us: Lessons buried in PISA report

Buried in the data report about the latest international results of PISA are lessons that show how U.S. education policy is failing.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 12, 2010; 9:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Research, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  PISA, PISA scores, U.S. PISA scores, arne duncan, education policy, how u.s. fares in international rankings, international rankings, international test scores, obama education policy, pisa, the american dream  
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