Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 01/ 3/2011

A response to Arne Duncan

By Valerie Strauss

Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, wrote the following as a response to a column written by Education Secretary Arne Duncan in today's Washington Post. In his piece Duncan calls for Democrats and Republicans to come together to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind.

By Stephen Krashen

1. Response to Arne Duncan’s claim that his policies succeed in overcoming poverty:

Duncan states that schools and their "local partners" are "overcoming poverty" by "investing in teachers, rebuilding school staff, lengthening the school day and changing curricula."

I know of no evidence that this is so. Rather, the research indicates that there are very few high-performing schools in high poverty conditions. Also, to my knowledge, no detailed studies have emerged with descriptions of rebuilt schools with longer days showing consistent, startling progress.

There have been occasional media reports (e.g. Felch, Song and Poindexter, 2010), but these cases of improvement are sketchy. It is not clear whether scores are being pumped up by test prep or are the result of genuine teaching and learning.

The lack of comparison groups makes it impossible to dismiss the possibility that all students in the district are getting better, possibly due to the introduction of new tests and "test inflation," improvement due to greater familiarity with the test. Gerald Bracey (2009) reported that one highly publicized "success story" published in The New York Times about the Harvard Promise Academy, was true only for one grade, one subject and for one year.

Duncan gives the impression that "overcoming poverty" happens all the time under his administration. There is no real evidence that it happens at all.

2. Response to Arne Duncan claim that there is widespread support for new tests.

Yes, we all want accurate ways of measuring student growth. But does this mean we must have new tests and more testing than has ever been done before? I think we already have a wonderful and accurate way of "accurately measuring what children know." It also "helps inform and improve instruction." It’s called teacher evaluation.

There is no evidence that extensive testing does a better job than teacher evaluation done by professionals who deal with children daily.

The plan presented in the Department of Education’s Blueprint for Reform calls for an astonishing amount of testing, far more than we have now with No Child Left Behind. The only people I know who support the testing plan have spent very little time in schools, haven’t read the Blueprint, or just aren’t listening to real education professions or students. Or all three.

We are about to make a mistake that will cost billions and make school life (even more) miserable for millions of teachers and students. The only ones who will profit are the testing companies. We should be talking about reducing testing, not increasing it.

3. Response to Arne Duncan’s claim that more and more people want "a real definition of teacher effectiveness" and multiple measures.

Duncan wrote: "More and more, teachers, parents, and union and business leaders want a real definition of teacher effectiveness based on multiple measures, including student growth, principal observation and peer review."

No: More and more, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and companies in the testing business want value-added standardized test scores (widely acknowledged to be inaccurate in evaluating teachers), and want to video-tape teachers to make sure they are focused on test/standards-related items in class. There are no teachers, union members, or parents marching in the streets and writing angry letters demanding new and more rigorous measures for teacher evaluation.

Most important: There is no evidence that there is a crisis in teacher quality, no evidence that teacher quality has declined. When we control for poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international comparisons.

The problem is poverty.

-0-

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!


By Valerie Strauss  | January 3, 2011; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  arne duncan, bill gates, education secretary arne duncan, esea, nclb, no child left behind, school reform, testing industry  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: America’s disdain for its children
Next: Myths and realities about KIPP

Comments

"It is not clear whether scores are being pumped up by test prep or are the result of genuine teaching and learning." That is so true. If you blitz students before taking a standardized test (SOL) they will normally do better. Test them a week later and all is lost!!! I have seen it done over and over in high school. Is this authentic learning or just beating the system? I think we all know.

Posted by: 398North | January 3, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"More and more, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and companies in the testing business want value-added standardized test scores (widely acknowledged to be inaccurate in evaluating teachers)..."

But few seem willing to even question whether those same tests are a valid method for evaluating what and how well students are learning. Anybody who has done research into psychometrics has to be familiar with the concept that test scores generally reflect socioeconomic status. Students who live in (or attend schools in areas of) high poverty don't generally have access to the breadth and depth of literacy experiences that middle- and upper-class children do. Granted, correlation is not causation but isn't it reasonable to conclude that unless and until that discrepancy is addressed, higher-income schools or districts will continue to outperform those in less-advantaged areas? Since there's precious little teachers and schools can do to level this playing field, focusing on test scores (regardless of whatever it was that effected any raises) seems...ill-advised. All of which completely ignores the very real doubts many of us in the trenches have about validity and reliability of the tests themselves, even those that are supposedly criterion-referenced rather than standardized. As I sign an affidavit each year pledging not to reveal the contents of the various tests I administer each year, I am unable to give specific examples without risking my job. It's the same job I wonder how much longer I'll be able (or willing) to keep so long as we as a society continue to conflate student achievement with scores on a test.

Posted by: Coachmere | January 3, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Krashen is "right on the money".. poverty is the culprit effecting the learning process. I would like Arne Duncan to work for 6 months as a teacher in a title one school. How would he teach an elementary school student who had to go with mom to the laundromat at 11:00 pm when she got off her shift? The child would understandably be falling asleep in class. Title one teachers have endless stories like this! How about the child who sleeps in a bed with two other people and the snoring keeps him up? There are myriad reasons connected to poverty that "get in the way" of a child's ability to focus in the classroom. REAL nationalized insurance, affordable housing, living wages etc... these are just some of the necessities that will help economically disadvantaged parents put more focus on family life. Those linked to the profitable testing industry want more and more student testing and "sure-fire" measurement of teacher effectiveness. To them it IS ALL ABOUT TEACHERS - WRONG! Read the education section of the New York Times where recently about 6 well respected principals reveal "their wish list" toward improving education. Not one principal mentions more testing! Not one principal mentions value added evaluative measures of teacher "effectiveness". The people of this nation must reflect on what Krashen, Ravitch, Darling-Hammond, Meier, Kozol, THE STUDENTS themselves, and THE TEACHERS themselves are saying. Bloomberg, Broad, Gates, Winfrey, Duncan... are just promoting spin and unfortunately are getting in the way of EDUCATING our nation's CHILDREN! Spin led people of this nation to believe that their retirement savings were solid (think Enron). Spin is what led people to believe that they could AFFORD A MORTGAGE (think banking foreclosure crisis). SPIN is what is leading Americans to believe that these nationalized standardized tests reflect student learning! Every minute a teacher must prep students for upcoming standardized tests is a lost opportunity for real learning to take place.

Posted by: teachermd | January 3, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

And where is this getting published besides here, in this lovely, but largely hidden-from-view online column?

Arne Duncan and his crew can be as wrong as wrong can be, but as long as they're in charge, they will get their way -- unless there is an uprising.

Posted by: efavorite | January 3, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Valerie for always posting articles by great people!

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 3, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

If the only goal of testing is to evaluate success of teachers, it will fail. A good teacher uses testing to determine what the students don't know--not just what they do know.

I don't have the answer--but I do know that Arnie doesn't. I think the schools have enough money but it is managed very poorly. I think that the use of all this money for testing is a tragic waste. There are far too many administrators sitting in Taj Mahals who have lost touch with the classroom.

I believe all parents (with some tragic exceptions) want what is best for their children--they need to understand how important school is. I think this comes from community schools with teachers and administrators who care about the community. The parent as mentioned in a prior comment who takes his child to the laundromat at 11 p.m. may be doing the best he knows how--and he may have no choice. Or, he may not understand that he should have given up something to get there earlier. Either way, it is tragic.

Posted by: mmkm | January 3, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Duncan claims widespread support, but the truth is that the US public is experiencing a barrage of misinformation that, through repetition, becomes "common sense." Instead, we need the lucid and evidence-based commentary of Krashen. Some evidence of the misinformation has been detailed in the following:

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/28/wrong-questions-wrong-answers-legend-of-the-fall-pt-iv/

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/17/fire-teachers-reappoint-rhee-legend-of-the-fall-pt-iii/

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Finnish-Envy-by-Paul-Thomas-101214-873.html

Posted by: plthomas3 | January 3, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Educationlover - I saw this comment of yours on the Arne Duncan editorial:

educationlover54 wrote:
I think we need a way to evaluate the secretary of education so we can convince Obama to fire him.
1/3/2011 4:35:34 PM

Excellent! I think Valerie or her experts should make a column out of that.

Posted by: efavorite | January 3, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to Valerie, Steve, and Jerry! Great article!

Posted by: realannie | January 3, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

efavorite,

Everyone I know in Chicago during Duncan's reign there dislikes him massively. Everyone knew he was screwing up. Why didn't Obama know this?

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 3, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Krashen knows his stuff. I went to a workshop he led a few years ago. We were all seated in rows, he was up front and lectured. A boring way to "teach" by most standards (although my preferred way of learning). This guy kept the crowd of about 300+ educators spellbound. You could have heard a pin drop during the several hour workshop.

He's spot on in this article as well.

I agree with efavorite: Where else is this being published?

Until people like Krashen, Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond and others are given a national forum, we won't see much change. Why weren't they invited on Oprah or NBC's "Education Nation" series along with Rhee et. al.??

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 3, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Krashen’s ideas and ethical research make sense - unlike the for-profit corporate test pushing fake reformers. Like Enron’s black box, the reformers work to shut-out dissenting voices. Enron’s scammers used California like the education reformers use children and families in poverty.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | January 3, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Krashen,
You are amazing.
My sister in law sent her girls to a charter school but now has them in public schools. Her words. . "All they do in this charter school is teach them to the test. That's cheating."
She loves the teachers her children have in the public schools. "They are teaching them how to think."

Posted by: tutucker | January 3, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Let's make 2011 a year that we are heard. Let's get a postcard campaign going. I plan to send a postcard for each of my children and husband with a phone call about a week later seeing if it was received. :-)
I plan to post this message in various places. Please join me and get as many people as you can to join.

Dear Mr. Gates,
Dr. Diane Ravitch has invited you to a public debate around public education. I look forward to hearing the two of you debate. Please contact Dr. Ravitch at: New York University, 82 Washington Square East, New York, New York 10003.
Sincerely,

(Please send your postcards or call The Gate's Foundation at PO Box 23350, Seattle, WA 98102. The foundation's phone number is (206)709-3100.)

Posted by: tutucker | January 3, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Arne Duncan has not spent a SINGLE DAY in the classroom as a teacher, yet he dares tells teachers what to do and how to teach? I teach in an inner city High School. Last year I attended the funerals of 3 of my students. Let him teach standards to students who are living in the 'hood, poverty-ridden and all in gangs. Good luck, Arne, welcome to MY world.

Posted by: ulysses61 | January 3, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Arne Duncan has not spent a SINGLE DAY in the classroom as a teacher, yet he dares tells teachers what to do and how to teach? I teach in an inner city High School. Last year I attended the funerals of 3 of my students. Let him teach standards to students who are living in the 'hood, poverty-ridden and all in gangs. Good luck, Arne, welcome to MY world.

Posted by: ulysses61 | January 3, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Arne Duncan has not spent a SINGLE DAY in the classroom as a teacher, yet he dares tells teachers what to do and how to teach? I teach in an inner city High School. Last year I attended the funerals of 3 of my students. Let him teach standards to students who are living in the 'hood, poverty-ridden and all in gangs. Good luck, Arne, welcome to MY world.

Posted by: ulysses61 | January 3, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

It's people like this idiot Krashen who knows nothing about how to teach teachers to move student achievement who spew this crap to the newspapers and in their classrooms. He is exactly the reason why teachers continue to come to classrooms unprepared- there are simply too many poor teachers in education classrooms in our colleges who don't know how to teach and are teaching are up and coming educators.

As Michelle Rhee said, "We are going to backmap to all of the colleges sending these bad teachers and we're going to send them back to you!"

Posted by: teacher6402 | January 3, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402: What’s your hidden agenda? Dr. Krashen speaks the truth and the truth intimidates the fake reformers by chipping away at their profiteering plan to dismantle public education.

Why didn’t Rhee follow through on her foolish threat to backmap and send teachers who met all the degree/certification requirements back to college? How could Rhee’s imprudent thoughts spewed from her mouth be implemented?

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | January 3, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I think Arne needs to take one of those critical thinking classes he says education needs. He is clearly lacking in this area. Thank you, Dr. Krashen. If only someone were listening.

Posted by: chicogal | January 3, 2011 10:36 PM | Report abuse

@nfsbrrpkk- I have no hidden agenda except for our schools to start hiring qualified teachers who can teach students. Anyone who has ever stepped into a classroom with a student of poverty knows full well that there are no limitations in the scope and cognitive ability of a child simply because he/she doesn't have great health care or parents who tuck them in at night- I know alot of rich kids who are a mess mentally...cognitively, however, these kids are fine. The sad reality is that we continue to recruit from the bottom 1/3 of college graduates- and almost any moron can get a college degree today so you can imagine what the bottom 1/3 looks like- as Michelle Rhee recently stated to MSNBC, "basically if you have a pulse and can pass a criminal background check you can be a teacher..." this is a sad reality. I am en educator in DCPS. Many of the teachers I work with don't know there content and therefore are unable to anticipate student confusion, motivate students or make the learning relevant. And anyone, poor or rich, would not engage in that!

Until we take the "public" out of public education and put it in the hands of individuals who must compete for the job to teach and recruit and pay the highest performing teachers higher salaries we will never close the achievement gap or improve schools. For those of you that think this is about poverty, perhaps you should examine the data. The top 5% of our student achievers are testing far below China and Singapore's top 5%. The issue isn't poverty. We are the world's richest economic power in history and spend far more per pupil than any nation in the world...we just continue to pay people for seniority instead of performance and we continue to recruit the lowest performing students and make them teachers...this isn't rocket science...

Posted by: teacher6402 | January 3, 2011 11:23 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402 - you're an educator but not a teacher, right? I've never heard a teacher generalize about their peers like that. Sounds like you hate teachers.

Good teaching can't overcome the effects of poverty (or other major problems outside of school)and you know it. No one makes those claims except the most rabid reformers - and they can't prove them. They are simply claims that people are shouting louder and louder as if that makes them more true.

This is what people do when they are running scared.

Posted by: efavorite | January 3, 2011 11:40 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402,

Let's have a smack down with you and Krashen in a classroom. I will bet a large sum of money that you can't teach anything to anyone as good as Krashen. By the end of the day, your value-less score will be four times smaller than Krashen's value-added one.

Let's be serious, though. Stephen Krashen, like Mike Rose, has been in the classroom doing what teachers do. Krashen has a long and documented history for helping the poor, the limited English, and the learning disabled. He's a can-do man who can perform and get results. You, however, have done nothing that has been seriously documented. Nada. Zero. Zip. In fact, there is no evidence that you can perform in any way whatsoever in any situation. You have either ignorantly or stupidly used the word "idiot" to describe someone who has gotten strong results in a classroom full of English learners. Whatever you believe about his ideas concerning the above topics, he has done wonders for those kids, and
"idiot" is certainly not a word that comes even close to describing him. What it does do is describe your re-action to someone who obviously bested you in idea, skill, and life.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 3, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

"Many of the teachers I work with don't know there content..."

@teacher6402: I hope to FSM that you don't teach English.

Posted by: Coachmere | January 3, 2011 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Stephen Krashen is right. The lunacy is just too much to take.

I think Arne Duncan is even worse than Margaret Spellings. Obama chose a DUNCE who doesn't give one hoot about kids. Duncan the Dunce is out of his league. He should just go play basketball and get his nose out of education.

And the same goes for Gates.

Teacher6402 check your words. You used "there" instead of the proper word, "their." Krashen would have you on your knees begging to stop the debate. Get your facts straight, Teacher6402. People like YOU are the PROBLEM.

Posted by: Educator10 | January 4, 2011 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Yup, Duncan has NOT a clue and his claims are false. Duncan either lies or he is a true DUNCE.

Posted by: Educator10 | January 4, 2011 12:21 AM | Report abuse

That's a good post. I'd push back slightly on two points:

1) The cause isn't entirely poverty.

2) It's more than just business leaders. I think he's forgetting taxpayers.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | January 4, 2011 12:47 AM | Report abuse

We have all been part of the problem and I'd agree with Cal that the problem is more than poverty alone - this is a systemic issue requiring a systemic fix.

We have allowed the system to ignore our societal needs and desires. Who should set the goal for OUR education system? Who has the power?

I agree with Duncan on a portion of one of his statements - "this is a goal Republicans, Democrats and all Americans can unite behind." NOW, we must set the goal. Only through the authority of the People can our government institutions function. Only we can Save Our Schools.

Posted by: victoriayoung | January 4, 2011 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Thank you very much! Here is my 2 cents, I just printed Coupons for free. You can print coupons before you shop by searching "Printapons" online

Posted by: gracejhenry | January 4, 2011 5:01 AM | Report abuse

'There are no teachers, union members, or parents marching in the streets and writing angry letters demanding new and more rigorous measures for teacher evaluation.'

Gallup poll results from June 2010 show that fully 75% of parents of school children want teacher pay to be linked to student academic achievement as opposed to current teacher salary scales. If 75% of parents isn't a strong enough indicator, what number are you looking to see?

'There is no evidence that there is a crisis in teacher quality, no evidence that teacher quality has declined.'

Relative college class rankings of entry-level teachers has been steadily declining, and the percentage of new teachers coming from highly selective colleges has been steadily decreasing. Is there some other evidence that you require?


Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 7:30 AM | Report abuse

This column is a reliable indicator as to why the educational establishment has been excluded from the ed reform dialogue.

Teacher6402 gets bombarded by all the insecure and defensive "teachers" who feed into these blogs. It gets redundant real fast and often borders on the hilarious.

"...we already have a wonderful and accurate way of "accurately measuring what children know." It also "helps inform and improve instruction." It’s called teacher evaluation." Now here's an argument I could hammer from pillar to post from now until doomsday.

Just why is it that billions have had to be spent on bi-partisan approved NCLB state tests since 2002? Could it have anything to do with ubiquitous grade inflation, social promotions and graduating everyone for years regardless of effort or performance? My word, did these tests simply fall from the sky for no reason or did someone, somewhere, finally wake up and conclude something was rotten in Denmark? And it wasn't the educational establishment that figured this out. No, it was the purported outliers, state and federal legislators along with the business community that eventually said, enough is enough.

Tell the whole story once in awhile and these columns/blogs could realize a great deal more credibility than their existing status of ventoramas.

As a retired Massachusetts classroom teacher I was fed up with the establishment's propaganda for my entire career, and I still am.

You go teacher6402. Don't back down to the predominantly misinformed entries you read in places like this.

Posted by: phoss1 | January 4, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

"Relative college class rankings of entry-level teachers has been steadily declining, and the percentage of new teachers coming from highly selective colleges has been steadily decreasing. Is there some other evidence that you require?"

Yes - student outcomes where the effects of poverty and lack of English language skill are not prevalent.

Also, lets see the scores of kids with those limitations who do have teachers from the top third of their classes. They do exist and I'm pretty sure that if their kids' scores were soaring, we would have heard about it by now.

Posted by: efavorite | January 4, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

First off I made an error in spelling typing fast. I know the difference between there and their...lol!

Having said this, I'm certain that the those of you responding on here are likely DCPS teachers who can't move student achievement and lack the instructional acumen or innovation to teach students. The comment by efavorite, "good teaching can't overcome the effects of poverty" is absolutely false and she knows it and frankly if she doesn't then she doesn't belong anywhere need children. If this were true then poor students should just not come to school. What a crock!!!

The fact is that we need to take the public out of public and make public schools competitive enterprises because until we can place reformers who believe in our kids and who are qualified to teach in high poverty schools then we will continue to have people like Strauss and Efavorite continue to make the argument that we can't move student achievement in high poverty schools. The reality is that they are right because as long as people who believe what they believe teaching our kids below means we will never be able to move student achievement in high poverty schools-because they suck at teaching and make excuses for their lack of talent- which is fine by them, but not by me. They need to be fired and go teach where all kids have great health plans, loving parents, and utopian societies.

Posted by: teacher6402 | January 4, 2011 8:30 AM | Report abuse

efavorite 'Also, lets see the scores of kids with those limitations who do have teachers from the top third of their classes. '

Great idea.

We could test all students and look at the differing results over time for different teachers.

If only someone had suggested that idea...

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Duncan's proposed reforms will increase testing to the benefit of the publishers who market said tests, but nothing he proposes will encourage students to be life-long learners or to be readers outside of the classroom, let alone critical thinkers or problem solvers. The curriculum will continue to narrow to address only that which is tested, and teacher-proof scripted curricula that "guarantees" high test scores will be part and parcel of education. Anything not tested will be tossed out of the classroom.
Duncan, as with Rhee, Gates, and Klein repeat ad nauseum catchy sound bytes - many of which are outright lies e.g. teacher tenure does not guarantee a job for life, and they darn well know it.
Duncan wrought havoc in Chicago Public Schools, destroying neighborhood programs while shutting out parents and the community in the decision making process, and yet the media continues to give Duncan and the rest of the so-called reformers a free ride, accepting what they say without question (with the exception of this column).
Steve Krashen has been talking about the role that poverty plays in schooling for years but the media won't even touch the issue. No other country that is involved in PISA test comparisons comes even close to the poverty rate in the U.S. When you factor OUT the poverty variable, our students actually compare quite well with other countries.
But until this country is willing to address poverty and other social ills, we will continue to watch the decline of the U.S. as a whole; while we watch the continued rise of the military industrial complex and the corporate fascist state.

Posted by: PGutierrez1 | January 4, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD,

I'm just a simple librarian who reads research day in and day out, writes a few abstracts, and enters files, but even I know when I see an eye-sore of an induction fallacy. Dude, one does not necessarily cause the other. I can easily think of several reasons why that is the case without invoking your reasoning for it. I would even wager that teacher6402, a person who is a hypocrite and as dense as a singularity, and phoss1, a lover of hypocrites and all things "hysterical," could come up with other reasons for why "Relative college class rankings of entry-level teachers has been steadily declining, and the percentage of new teachers coming from highly selective colleges has been steadily decreasing." Grow up and get some perspective before the last sliver of logos is lost to you.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 4, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

DHume1:

The statement was made that there is no evidence that there has been a decline in teacher quality.

I responded that the academic credentials of individuals entering the teaching field has steadily declined.

Now, either you believe that:

(1) The academic credentials of individuals entering the teaching field has not steadily declined;

or (2) The declining level of academic credentials of individuals entering the teaching field has no bearing on teacher quality.

In the case of (1), I believe there is sufficient objective data (e.g., the oft-stated note that the majority of teachers come from the bottom third of their respective college classes) to support.

In the case of (2), which I assume is your complaint based on your reference to inductive fallacy, I would have thought it would be self-obvious. As one who has hired hundreds of technical and academic personnel throughout my professional career, I can tell you that for those coming directly from college their respective class rankings and the competitiveness of their institution play a large role in the hiring decision because historically those have been strong indicators of future performance.

I'm certainly no librarian - just a humble mathematician and computer scientist with a few graduate degrees under his belt who now runs a company of a couple hundred technical folk - but I have a relatively decent grasp of logic.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

So, let's define "Credentials" - I say they are degrees, certifications and licenses.

Google says:
certificate: a document attesting to the truth of certain stated facts
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

A credential is an attestation of qualification, competence, or authority issued to an individual by a third party with a relevant de jure or de facto authority or assumed competence to do so.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credentials

credential - Documentary evidence that a person has certain status or privileges; To furnish with credentials; of, pertaining to or entitling to credit or authority
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/credential

No mention of class standing at all.

People at the top of their classes could be completely uncredentialed in any field.

It would be interesting to know how other fields have fared over the years in terms of class standing. Seems like it would be easy enough to find out, if anyone cared to.

It would also be interesting to note what effect it has on competency mid-career.

Posted by: efavorite | January 4, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

efavorite:

How about if we use Merriam Webster as something a bit more authoritative than Wikipedia?

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credentials?show=0&t=1294158525

Credential: something that gives a title to credit or confidence; also : qualification

In that respect, your credentials include everything you do or have done that gives an individual confidence in your ability - that is, your qualifications.

As one who has hired numerous academic and technical personnel, I routinely evaluate credentials from individuals. These credentials often begin with formal degrees, but typically include actual academic performance as well as work experience and letters of reference.

In specific cases, a $10 bottle of wine may exceed the quality of a $50 bottle of wine. But if you are building two wine cellars - one with wine at $10 a bottle and one with wine at $50 a bottle, I'm willing to risk the inductive fallacy of believing the $50 a bottle cellar will have a better overall quality...

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

FYIColumbia - Fine, while we're looking at merriam-webster, let's check their definition #2, which is the plural of the word (why did you leave that out?), which you used exclusively in your earlier post:

"2plural: testimonials or certified documents showing that a person is entitled to credit or has a right to exercise official power."

So, we're both right? No, actually I think I'm more correct. As much as people discuss credentials, I think class standing doesn't come up much -- unless people graduated at the very top of their class, not the top 1/3.

I've also heard it mentioned humorously, as in the case of John McCain, who graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis, but has had an extraordinarily successful career, compared to his classmates.

Posted by: efavorite | January 4, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

When will we see and hear the truth and value in both sides of the educational debates? When will we seek balance? Our government and its institutions were designed to function based on seeking to find and maintain balance between the factions.

Until we "adults" learn to play nice in the sandbox, children will suffer from a lack of proper education. Oprah asked Mr. Gates what percentage of schools we are talking about here. He didn't answer the question. So we "take the public" out of the equation? Privatize the whole system? Why? Because business looks out for us better than our own government? Or, because we can't change the system to lend support to the 25 to 30 percent that so desperately need our help. Really people?

Posted by: victoriayoung | January 4, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

efavorite:

I left out the second entry because - as it indicates - it refers to right to exercise official power (e.g., diplomatic credentials).

Your academic credentials include your class rank, courses you've taken - in short, your academic history. If you have a job interview and are asked about your academic credentials, you can safely assume the interviewer is asking about all of these things.

If you don't like the word 'credentials' then I'll happily re-phrase:

The academic qualifications to include college entry GPA, college entry SAT scores, and college GPA of individuals entering the teaching profession have been steadily declining.

My belief is that such a decline is indicative of a decline in the academic quality of individuals entering the teaching profession.

Furthermore, my belief is that a decline in the academic quality of teachers entering the teaching profession results in a decline in overall teacher quality.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

@FYIColumbiaMD- Where have you been? Finally, someone on here who makes sense and has actually intelligent things to say! Don't stop...please! And thanks to phoss1! Let's take over this blog and haver an intelligent conversation about real reform and real efforts to improve our schools. Our nation is 23rd in science, 17th in math and 30th in reading....can we please stop pretending that our teachers are high performers!!

Posted by: teacher6402 | January 4, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD,

Now you have engaged in a false choice. Tsk, "a fairly decent grasp" should be rephrased to a fairly shotty grasp. He's a sample and a number three to add to your limited cerebral functions: 3)It is very possible that there has been a decline in teacher quality unrelated to your own professional observations or reasons. By the way, this was my point.

I'll tell you what. I will do what you have not done from your Yertle the Turtle arm chair. I will do some research. I will call up a few universities and ask them why there has been a decline in teacher quality. I do have some good connections.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 4, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

DHume1:

Again, the statement has been made that there is no evidence that there has been a decline in teacher quality.

There *is* evidence that there has been a decline in the academic qualifications of those entering the teaching profession - specifically to include high school GPA, SAT scores, and college GPA (as measured by relative class rank).

Either you believe the decline in academic qualifications is non-existent or irrelevant.

My "own professional observations or reasons" have no impact on whether there has been or has not been a decline in teacher quality.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

In all this talk about academic qualifications of teachers, I notice that the reference is to those who are currently entering the profession. As a veteran teacher, this was not the case when I started teaching. In fact, there was a glut of teachers at the time which enabled school systems to pick the most qualified applicants from a ratherlarge number. The irony is that many of us who entered the teaching profession during that time had strong academic credentials and we have continued to maintain them in graduate programs--yet we are the ones who the public criticizes as "deadwood" simply because we have stayed in the profession for our entire careers. It seems that the reformers want it both ways. They want excellence in their teaching staff, but they want to keep the salaries low and thus they discourage any kind of longevity.

Posted by: musiclady | January 4, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

musiclady 'In all this talk about academic qualifications of teachers, I notice that the reference is to those who are currently entering the profession. '

I believe the Coleman and Weaver studies of the trend began in the 1960's and 1970's respectively.

To be fair, current research also indicates that secondary teachers who do not pursue a degree in education score at or above the average of their college peers.

'They want excellence in their teaching staff, but they want to keep the salaries low and thus they discourage any kind of longevity.'

I don't believe that is the case - at least not in most of the presentations I have seen. In general, the focus appears to be on linking pay with performance - as it is in most other professional settings. Even switching teachers to the federal civilian service model would be a move in a positive direction.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD,

It is VERY possible that I believe there is a decline in new teachers coming into the teaching profession; and I presently DO believe this for a variety of reasons. However, that does not mean overall teacher quality has declined and will continue to do so. Why must everything be either/or for the simple-minded adult? The future is uncertain, and teacher quality as it is right now cannot be blamed solely on the present phenomena of the quality of new teachers entering the profession. That is a causation fallacy of epically stupid proportions. I could argue that if certain trends continue in the years ahead, then the teaching corp might have a crisis on its hands, but that is certainly not the case right now.

I agree with you that your own professional observations have "no impact on whether there has been or has not been a decline in teacher quality." However, you, not I, did bring it up as an example to prove your point. I will remind you of it again here:"As one who has hired hundreds of technical and academic personnel throughout my professional career, I can tell you that for those coming directly from college their respective class rankings and the competitiveness of their institution play a large role in the hiring decision because historically those have been strong indicators of future performance." These statements look suspiciously like you were using your own professional observations to make a global point. Perhaps you "simply" forgot or were careless in this case.

To a certain extent--but I AM NOT BEING EXCLUSIVE HERE (I would never make those mistakes)--superior academic qualifications or class ranks have very little affect on a teacher's efficacy. In fact, I have evidence to believe that the majority of teachers who have these superior class ranks or academic qualifications usually leave the profession early (for multiple reasons), make horrible teachers because they have rigid expectations based on "how they learned," or never even consider being a teacher because of their personal experiences with teachers (they did not need to be motivated to learn something). That is not always the case, though. Some, a small percent, do end up being great teachers. Conversely, those with low class ranks are usually also bad teachers. However, I have known of some exceptional teachers who came from the low low of teacher candidates. The better teachers, statistically speaking, tend to be in that Goldilock's area, not absurdly low and not genius high. As of right now, a majority of the very low are entering into the teaching profession. My concern is here, with that issue. As I said before, I have various reasons for believing this, but it is by no means a crisis yet and it does not mean the the teaching profession as a whole has declined (only others who make sweeping "simple" generalizations would use those type of fallacious arguments); it simply means that there may be a problem with teacher quality in the future.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 4, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

DHume1 'it simply means that there may be a problem with teacher quality in the future. '

As mentioned earlier, it may be worth examining the Coleman and Weaver reports tracking this from the mid-1960's. The trend has now continued for over 40 years. At the end of the 1960's, those indicating they would be going into teaching had higher academic performance than their college peers. That changed in the 1970's, performance declined significantly in the 1980's, continued gradually to decline in the 1990's and all data shows continued decline since that time.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Dhume1 'To a certain extent--but I AM NOT BEING EXCLUSIVE HERE (I would never make those mistakes)--superior academic qualifications or class ranks have very little affect on a teacher's efficacy.'

This is where we disagree. In the 1960's, we were generally hiring centered at the 60th academic percentile of college graduates. For the past two decades we have been hiring centered predominantly in the 30's percentile range. Given the relatively large data size, I think that represents a significant qualitative difference.

I think it's reasonable to argue that the difference is reduced as a result of the significant turnover in the teaching profession - but no independent research of which I am aware confirms this.

Likewise, you can also rationally argue that the difference is primarily seen at the elementary level (as there has been relatively little difference in entry teacher quality for those secondary teachers who pursue non-education degrees).

But I don't believe it is a reasonable argument to suggest that a dramatic drop in teacher academic qualifications as compared to other college peers won't impact teacher quality.

In any event, I stand by my initial assertion that evidence exists that teacher quality has declined.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD,

For your argument to be rigorous and worthy of any consideration, you will need to look at not only studies that show teacher college education stats and their "possible implications" but you will also need to examine parallel global student data: high school graduation rates, student test scores, and college attendance, for instance, from the 1960s to present day. Then you will need to critically match the data up. If your theory were correct, then you should have some parallel lines popping up. Or you might even have some general parallel trends that emerge. There are a few (some small spots in the 1980s, for example) but not enough for the whole thing to be significant in any meaningful way. And that's not what's happening as of right now, too (the lines are going in the opposite directions). So perhaps you should try something else that I read in the past.

I like this one: You could look at proving your argument in a microscopic way. Look at all those teachers who, for some reason or other, get recognized as outstanding educators in their field by parents, students, community members and peers, and political officials. Next, ask them what their college rank was. Now, in this case, you should see some consistency here if your argument held any weight. But guess what again? Most of these people are low to high average 3.0 scholastic individuals (there are obviously a few outliers in both directions) and most didn't even graduate from an Ivy League college. Hmm. Guess that doesn't work either.

So that leaves me with why I believe your point is based upon a sprinkling of information that has been poorly digested, erroneously applied, and uber generalized for propaganda purposes. A helping of perspective from various angles would improve your posture dramatically.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 4, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

DHume1 'For your argument to be rigorous and worthy of any consideration, you will need to look at not only studies that show teacher college education stats and their "possible implications" but you will also need to examine parallel global student data: high school graduation rates, student test scores, and college attendance, for instance, from the 1960s to present day.'

My guess is if I did that you would argue that I didn't effectively normalize for right-handed vs. left-handed students.

Sigh.

The academic qualifications of individuals entering the teaching profession has steadily declined over the past 40 years.

You appear not to believe that this reduces teacher quality.

I believe that it does.

I'm perfectly willing to let the casual observer draw their own conclusion.

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD | January 4, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD,

No need to worry about which hand you will wipe your butt with; the right or the left will do the do just fine.

Both studies that I've mentioned have already been done. I entered one of them into ERIC some time ago. The other, a graduate thesis, can be found only at the university that spawned its student. Sorry, the latter will be harder to get. But with some effort both can be obtained with only a few fingers--on your right or left hand--doing the work for you.

And to be truly honest with yourself about this issue, the only way to truly gauge teacher efficacy is by comparing teacher grad stats with some form of student measure over a period of years. Just looking at the teacher college stats is really just a different way of deluding yourself into a one-way, self-fulfilling, dead-end alley. I advise all future students of research to avoid these types of induction errors.

Then you said again, "The academic qualifications of individuals entering the teaching profession has steadily declined over the past 40 years. You appear not to believe that this reduces teacher quality." Well, not exactly. And I thought I addressed this before (it's that stubborn either/or pattern that you cannot break away from). I have read some damning evidence recently concerning the last five years and teacher recruitment stats. A lot of the report had to do with present-day economics, current university practices of teacher recruitment, and current teacher/public trends and attitudes about teaching as a profession. Student data is not coupled with it, but it looks like some sound research on the surface. And if it is what I think it is, well, then the future may be bleak for present or future generations of school children who have these teachers.

Thank you for being "perfectly willing" to allow the causal observer to draw their own conclusions. That's mighty good of you. You sure are a man who knows his right from his left.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 5, 2011 12:48 AM | Report abuse

"Relative college class rankings of entry-level teachers has been steadily declining, and the percentage of new teachers coming from highly selective colleges has been steadily decreasing. Is there some other evidence that you require?"

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD

Columbia,

My brother was in the bottom 25% of his college class. He spent the last 22 years as a successful salesman for an educational supply business.

My younger sister barely graduated from college. She now works for the largest software manufacterer in the world and makes over 100,000 a year.

Bill Gates dropped out of college and became a billionaire. Steve Jobs never went to college and became a millionaire.

College rankings don't always correlate to success in life or how well you do in your career. The older you get the more you understand this.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 6, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"Relative college class rankings of entry-level teachers has been steadily declining, and the percentage of new teachers coming from highly selective colleges has been steadily decreasing. Is there some other evidence that you require?"

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD

Columbia,

My brother was in the bottom 25% of his college class. He spent the last 22 years as a successful salesman for an educational supply business.

My younger sister barely graduated from college. She now works for the largest software manufacterer in the world and makes over 100,000 a year.

Bill Gates dropped out of college and became a billionaire. Steve Jobs never went to college and became a millionaire.

College rankings don't always correlate to success in life or how well you do in your career. The older you get the more you understand this.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 6, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"Relative college class rankings of entry-level teachers has been steadily declining, and the percentage of new teachers coming from highly selective colleges has been steadily decreasing. Is there some other evidence that you require?"

Posted by: FYIColumbiaMD

Columbia,

My brother was in the bottom 25% of his college class. He spent the last 22 years as a successful salesman for an educational supply business.

My younger sister barely graduated from college. She now works for the largest software manufacterer in the world and makes over 100,000 a year.

Bill Gates dropped out of college and became a billionaire. Steve Jobs never went to college and became a millionaire.

College rankings don't always correlate to success in life or how well you do in your career. The older you get the more you understand this.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 6, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD

Can you define "teacher quality" and provide evidence that it is going down? My experience going between schools convinces me otherwise.

By the way, I'm an older person who has worked in both business and education. My experience is that higher grades in college does not equate to higher quality in business. Things like emotional intelligence and especially good work ethic is what makes someone good at what they do - it has nothing at all to do with college performance.

My experience in life makes me believe that college performance has nothing to do with the quality of work someone does. Look at incompetent doctors who did well enough in undergraduate work to get into medical school.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 6, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

FYIColumbiaMD

Can you define "teacher quality" and provide evidence that it is going down? My experience going between schools convinces me otherwise.

By the way, I'm an older person who has worked in both business and education. My experience is that higher grades in college does not equate to higher quality in business. Things like emotional intelligence and especially good work ethic is what makes someone good at what they do - it has nothing at all to do with college performance.

My experience in life makes me believe that college performance has nothing to do with the quality of work someone does. Look at incompetent doctors who did well enough in undergraduate work to get into medical school.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 6, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company