Initial Thoughts on Student Growth

Our VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core World, just finished a five week look at teacher evaluation using the National Association for Music Education’s Building and Evaluating Effective Music Educators in the School Ensemble workbook, the new National Core Music Standards, and the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. We have now begun a three week study of student growth.

Discussion Board

Is the current educational hysteria really going to make a difference in the overall educational system in America? Is Race to the Top, like the Educational Initiatives before it, about improving teaching and learning or about dismantling public education and lining the pockets of corporate America?

I do not believe that the current educational hysteria is really going to make a difference in the overall education system in America. One could hope that we could compare the hysteria to Horace Mann’s The Common School Journal, but I fear we will not see the response he did in the 1800s. Nor do I think the issues we are currently facing in education compare to the large issues Mann confronted.

I believe there are some legitimate issues confronting the American education system today: the achievement gap, preparation for an ever-changing job market, the importance of standardized testing from initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the growing cost of education… However, the current hysteria generated by people like Michelle Rhee or periodicals like Time Magazine will not truly solve any of those problems.

I am not well-versed in the involvement of corporate America in our education system. I have heard rumblings about potential conflicts of interest with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Core, The College Board, Pearson, and International Baccalaureate, but I do not feel qualified to make any statement about their influence in American education.

I do, however, agree with the philosophy of needing some sort of national standards. I don’t think that these national standards should be telling us how to teach, but they should set a standard for what students should know and be able to do at certain points in their educational careers. It is exciting (and scary) to see what Common Core holds for us. I am curious to see what Iowa will do with the new standards.

First Assignment

Compare and contrast President Ronald Reagan’s (A Nation At Risk) educational agenda with Barack Obama’s (Race to The Top) educational agenda. 1. What are the similarities? 2. What are the differences? 3. What surprised you from your research? 4. What disappointed you from your research? 5. What did you find encouraging from your research?

What are the similarities and differences?
A Nation at Risk is a narrative, designed to identify a problem and propose a solution. The success of this solution is put on the backs of local school districts to finance and adopt these reforms. Race to the Top is legislation, incorporated as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It urges state governments to apply for federal money to aid schools already in the process of what the report deems as educational innovation and reform. Race to the Top does not define a particular problem in American education.
Both educational agendas put forth suggestions for practices at the district, state, and federal levels, but leaves the details of implementation up to the individual school districts. Compliance is not mandated in either agenda, though Race to the Top implies a lack of additional federal aid if applications do not meet the legislation’s criteria. Reagan’s agenda does not detail how the federal government will financially support the reforms. Obama’s agenda gives highly detailed criteria for states to meet in order to receive financial support from the federal government.

What surprised you from your research?
I was surprised by a 2009 Edutopia editorial I found while researching A Nation at Risk. The author suggests that there was Republican spin put on A Nation at Risk to justify the reforms for which President Reagan was looking. Another, less public, report followed in 1990 from the Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico. The Secretary of Energy, Admiral James Watkins, commissioned the report to document the declines mentioned in A Nation at Risk with actual data. What the report discovered was steady or slightly improving trends, as opposed to the dire conditions described in A Nation at Risk. The Sandia Report showed a much larger cross-section of Americans participating in the SAT creating a declining average with every sub-group showing improvement (Simpson’s Paradox). The author continues with the position that the rhetoric from A Nation at Risk continued in the political sphere to bring us George H.W. Bush’s summit on education at the University of Virginia, Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000, and George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind.

What disappointed you from your research?
There were a number of components of both educational agendas that disappointed me. My biggest disappointment comes from a personal struggle I have yet to resolve: How much control should the federal government have in education? How should that correlate to the amount of funding the federal government should provide? A Nation at Risk provided no federal funds to aid in the reforms it suggested. Race to the Top provides $4.35 billion with very specific criteria for states to receive that aid.

Race to the Top continues to focus attention away from the fine arts. This is best cited in Priority 2: Competitive Preference Priority — Emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). States applying for Race to the Top funds are likely focusing their applications on these content areas. Fine arts programs in these states are not likely to receive any federal funding from Race to the Top.

What did you find encouraging from your research?
I like the suggestions put forth by A Nation at Risk in terms of content, standards and expectations, time, and teaching. I agree with the minimum graduation requirements it puts forth, as well as the skills recommended each subject should include. Most importantly, I am encouraged by the seventh implementing recommendation underneath Recommendation A: Content:

The high school curriculum should also provide students with programs requiring rigorous effort in subjects that advance students’ personal, educational, and occupational goals, such as the fine and performing arts and vocational education. These areas complement the New Basics, and they should demand the same level of performance as the Basics.

I find the recommendations by A Nation at Risk for standards and expectations encouraging as well. They hint at the transition to standards-based learning and formative assessment currently happening in education. The recommendations for time also foreshadow these practices.

I am also encouraged by the freedom both agendas provide for local school districts to develop their own implementations of the suggestions provided. Neither attempt to be a “national curriculum,” but rather provide suggestions for improving our nation’s schools.

I am still wrestling with whether I am disappointed or encouraged by Iowa’s choice to not participate in Race to the Top. There are components of Obama’s educational agenda that I am encouraged by, including the fore core education reform areas and the vertical and horizontal alignment and P-20 coordination. However, Race to the Top’s choice to not include the fine arts as well as to demand that student achievement and student growth must be linked to teacher and principal evaluation concern me.

Works Cited
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009
http://neatoday.org/2013/04/25/a-nation-at-risk-turns-30-where-did-it-take-us/ http://www.edutopia.org/landmark-education-report-nation-risk http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/index.html http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html
https://www.rtt-apr.us/

Assignment 2

On the state level here in Illinois, two of the most significant pieces of legislation, possibly ever to be signed into law and is currently driving Educational Policy is Senate Bill 7 (SB7) and the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA). Write a research paper explaining Senate Bill 7 (SB7) and the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA). Each are very powerful pieces of legislation that have had a profound impact on every teacher in the state. I feel that it is important for you to know and understand these two laws and their impact on you and every colleague you teach with in your building. Use the internet or the Illinois State Board of Education website as resource materials. Answer the following questions: Senate Bill 7 (SB7) (Teacher Tenure Law)

  • What is the significance of Senate Bill 7 (SB7)?
  • What does this legislation mean to educators? Why is it important?
  • Do you feel that this legislation is going to improve education? Why or why not?
  • How have you or your colleagues been impacted by this law?
  • What long-term ramifications does this legislation have on our profession?

Performance Evaluation Reform Act (Teacher Evaluation/Student Growth)

  • What is the significance of the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA)?
  • What does this legislation mean to educators? Why is it important?
  • Do you feel that this legislation is going to improve education? Why or why not?
  • How have you or your colleagues been impacted by this law?
  • What long-term ramifications does this legislation have on our profession?

For our colleagues enrolled in the class that are not from the great state of Illinois, I would “assume” that you have similar legislation in your state as our politicians tend to all drink from the same cup.

I am currently in my second year teaching in the Ankeny Community School District in Iowa, my fifth year overall. Prior to coming to Ankeny, I taught in the Waterloo Community Schools for three years. As such, I wanted to look at the teacher tenure, teacher evaluation, and student growth laws in the state of Iowa for this assignment. I began my research with a search for the terms “teacher tenure,” “teacher evaluation,” and “student growth,” each linked with Iowa. Most of my information comes from the National Council on Teacher Quality  and the Iowa State Education Association.

In the state of Iowa, there are no laws governing teacher tenure. According to the NCTQ, “Teachers in Iowa are awarded tenure automatically after a three-year probationary period, absent an additional process that evaluates cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness.” and “Iowa does not connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness.”

Iowa Code 279 states:
“The notification and the recommendation to terminate shall contain a short and plain statement of the reasons, which shall be for just cause, why the recommendation is being made. The notification shall be given at or before the time the recommendation is given to the board.”

The Iowa courts determined in Briggs v. Board of Directors, 282 N.W.2d 740 (Iowa 1979) that just cause “relates to job performance including leadership and role model effectiveness.” This has been evidenced in a few other cases including: Board of Directors v. Davies, 489 N.W.2d 19 (Iowa 1992), Board of Directors v. Simons, 493 N.W.2d 879 (Iowa Ct. App. 1992), and Walthart v. Board of Directors, 694 N.W.2d 740 (Iowa 2005). In each of these cases, the courts upheld the school boards’ terminations of teachers because the teachers’ behavior limited their ability to be an effective role model. (http://www.isea.org/home/566.htm)

The biggest legislation we are looking at in Iowa is House File 215, signed in to law by Governor Terry Branstad on June 3, 2013. This educational reform package was put together by Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and then-Iowa Department of Education Director, Jason Glass. It was pushed through the Iowa legislature by the current Director of the Iowa Department of Education, Brad Buck. When signed, the legislation included the following provisions:

    • Raising the minimum starting salary from $28,000 to $33,500
    • Develop teacher leaders in the form of model teachers, mentor teachers, and lead teachers who will receive more compensation for serving in these roles
    • Reimburse tuition of students who commit to teach in Iowa schools for five years, focusing on math and science
    • Expand the Iowa Learning Online Program, offering Iowa students online courses taught by Iowa teachers
    • Create pilot programs in competency-based education
    • Allow school districts the choice for minimal instruction time in a school year between 1080 hours and 180 days
    • Create a centralized website for the posting of teaching jobs state-wide
    • Establish a task force for researching student assessments leading to teacher evaluations that include student achievement.
    • School funding increased by 2-4% for the 2013-2014 school year and 4% for the 2014-2015 school year

What is the significance of House File 215?
Governor Branstad’s 2013 education reform bill has begun the process of looking at how teacher evaluations can begin to include student achievement. Currently, there is not a requirement for teacher evaluations other than submitting to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners six continuing education credits over the course of the five year period for a standard license. Discussions around HF215 had mentions of annual teacher evaluations. These are currently being looked at by the Governor’s Council on Educator Development. The Governor also established an Assessment Task Force to look at developing a new assessment tool to replace the Iowa Assessments for measuring student growth. The Iowa Assessments replaced the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) for grades 9-12 and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) for grades 3-8 in 2011.

School districts in Iowa can now apply to the Iowa Department of Education to calculate instructional time in hours instead of days. Districts calculating instructional time in hours are able to manipulate the school calendar for longer days but shorter weeks or adjusting for snow days. There is now greater flexibility for Iowa school districts in determining start and ending dates and times.

HF215 also created a Teacher Leadership and Compensation System overseen by the Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation. A total of $5 million over three years has been made available to districts to develop teacher leaders. Districts apply to the commission for funds to train and pay lead teachers. Each school district has the flexibility to determine the roles these lead teachers will play.

What does this legislation mean to educators? Why is it important?
Much of the language in HF215 is continuing current practices in Iowa education. Setting allowable growth at 4% continued to provide adequate funding from the state. Funding for the Iowa Learning Online Program and the Teach Iowa Scholar Program has expanded to provide more opportunities for Iowa students and future Iowa educators. In an effort to continue to make Iowa teaching salaries competitive, the legislature is providing funds to raise the minimum starting salary.

The biggest and most important change in HF215 is the establishment of the Council on Educator Development and the Assessment Task Force. As the Assessment Task Force settles on new state-wide assessments, they will begin to be incorporated by the Council on Educator Development into their proposals for teacher and administrator evaluation. Currently the work of the Council is revolving around tying the Iowa Teaching Standards to the Danielson Framework.

Do you feel that this legislation is going to improve education?
There are parts of HF215 that I feel will improve education: continuing to provide stable allowable growth for state funding, continuing to make the state competitive in terms of teacher compensation, funding more opportunities for teacher leadership within the state, reimbursing tuition of educators committed to staying in Iowa, and providing districts with flexibility in scheduling instructional time.

I am concerned about the incorporation of student assessment data into teacher evaluation. How will the Council decide student assessment data will effect me as a music educator. Will my students’ math, reading, and science scores effect my evaluation? Will we have the opportunity to administer music specific assessments or have other methods for demonstrating student growth in our content area? I think there are good ways to incorporate student achievement into my evaluation, but I don’t think that student achievement data should come from assessments in content areas for which I am not responsible.

How have you or your colleagues been impacted by this law?
The only impact we have currently felt has been the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System. Our district designed two possible tracks for our different schools to take. The staff at each school voted for how they would like to implement this program, and our district moved ahead with the application process for the grant money. While our district was not approved during this first phase, the state guarantees all districts will be incorporated into the plan by the 2015-2016 school year.

The next biggest impact will be when the Assessment Task Force and Council on Educator Development make decisions on the next standardized assessments for Iowa students and how they will be incorporated into teacher and administrator evaluations.

What long term ramifications does this legislation have on our profession?
The decisions of the Assessment Task Force and Council on Educator Development will standardize teacher and administrator evaluation in the state of Iowa. We currently are only formally evaluated once every three years. The governor would like this to happen every year. He would also like student achievement to be tied to this evaluation, but he has not detailed how he envisions this happening.

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