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Thread: Valuing Teachers

  1. #46
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    Dave, it's disappointing that your primary response to someone who's interested in engaging you in a discussion is to throw insults left and right, "extraordinary myopia" being just one such example. And it's disappointing that you argue over semantics: "vision" versus "hypothetical approach," for instance.

    A few observations

    • You have not come close to showing how your standard results in an outcome that's 100x that of the median school system in the US. Granted, you've at least outlined an outcome: "complete mastery of a specified set of core domains and a specified minimum number of elective domains, ... the core domains [to] include at least three languages with their associated literature, music theory, art appreciation, world and national history, and the major branches of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics." Perhaps if every student attains this, the improvement *might* be on the order of 100x, but it's not clear to me that every student can clear this bar.

    • Primarily, though, you've proposed a set of inputs and assumed an outcome. I've simply taken a look at your inputs and thought about how we might get there. That's more than you've contributed.

    • As for what schools can and cannot do, YOU were the one who first said that they can't do everything. I'm simply agreeing that it's beyond their scope to solve the societal challenges that result in some 3-year olds not coming from family situations as conducive to education as we'd like.

    • As for "predicting within 1%," I'm doing no such thing. I'm simply pointing out the math behind adding 2 years to a 13 year education. And I'm not "worried" about this increase, I'm simply pointing it out.

    • As for your alleged "myopia" of my observation about student-teacher ratios, how is it that such ratios having an impact on cost is anything other than a factual reality?

    • As for the value of the "custodial value" that school systems offer, how is my pointing out this value in any way counter to your suggestion that such value might complement a school system?

    • As for your #1, in what way am I "sugar-coating?" The analysis showing that MA schools are near the top of the US and on par with the best internationally isn't my analysis, it's that of researchers in a position to make that statement. I'm in no way saying that we should be satisfied with this standing, and I'm supporting much of what you're suggesting as an end-point embodying valuable improvement.

    • As for your "#3," "Develop and syndicate a Plan for achieving the Vision via a sequence of Stages, each of which is measurable," why don't you share some thoughts?

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Dave, it's disappointing that your primary response to someone who's interested in engaging you in a discussion is to throw insults left and right, "extraordinary myopia" being just one such example.
    Having dismissed all of my points in a previous post as "semantic quibbling", you're in no position to take offense over "extraordinarily myopic". I responded to your charge by explaining exactly why those points weren't "semantic quibbling" -- an explanation that you've subsequently ignored. In contrast, you've provided no explanation of why your continuing focus on cost isn't extraordinarily myopic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    And it's disappointing that you argue over semantics: "vision" versus "hypothetical approach," for instance.
    The difference between "vision" and "hypothetical approach" is night and day. One expects to syndicate and implement a vision. The "hypothetical approach" outlined above is, as I've repeatedly explained, something one would never implement; it is in fact unimplementable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    You have not come close to showing how your standard results in an outcome that's 100x that of the median school system in the US. Granted, you've at least outlined an outcome: "complete mastery of a specified set of core domains and a specified minimum number of elective domains, ... the core domains [to] include at least three languages with their associated literature, music theory, art appreciation, world and national history, and the major branches of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics." Perhaps if every student attains this, the improvement *might* be on the order of 100x, but it's not clear to me that every student can clear this bar.
    I don't expect every student to clear that bar, 90% would a reasonable target. Considering all students entering our current educational system, what fraction exit with the best education that this system is capable of delivering? 2 or 3%? "Just" increasing this fraction from 3% to 90% would yield a 30X improvement in outcome.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Primarily, though, you've proposed a set of inputs and assumed an outcome. I've simply taken a look at your inputs and thought about how we might get there. That's more than you've contributed.
    I disagree. Your comments have mostly focused on why we can't get there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As for what schools can and cannot do, YOU were the one who first said that they can't do everything. I'm simply agreeing that it's beyond their scope to solve the societal challenges that result in some 3-year olds not coming from family situations as conducive to education as we'd like.
    No. I asserted that most of the change required would be beyond the reach of local systems to accomplish. You've focused on constraints imposed by schools -- mostly cost-based -- that would impede change.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As for "predicting within 1%," I'm doing no such thing. I'm simply pointing out the math behind adding 2 years to a 13 year education. And I'm not "worried" about this increase, I'm simply pointing it out.
    If you're not "worried" about it, what exactly was your rationale for pointing it out?


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As for your alleged "myopia" of my observation about student-teacher ratios, how is it that such ratios having an impact on cost is anything other than a factual reality?
    It's also a "factual reality" that we'll have to decide what color keyboards to choose, and whether they should have one or two CTRL keys -- decisions that will certainly impact cost; should we debate these decisions now as well?


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As for the value of the "custodial value" that school systems offer, how is my pointing out this value in any way counter to your suggestion that such value might complement a school system?
    I have suggested that we ignore the "day care function" as part of eliminating all impediments and distractions from the process of developing an educational system that produces a ~100X improvement in outcomes; once a plausible candidate has been developed, we can consider "day care" and all the other constraints and requirements I've suggested be ignored during ideation -- but in the context of the proposed system's characteristics and economics. Prematurely focusing on cost and logistical constraints, as you've been doing, more or less guarantees that there will be little or no change.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As for your #1, in what way am I "sugar-coating?" The analysis showing that MA schools are near the top of the US and on par with the best internationally isn't my analysis, it's that of researchers in a position to make that statement. I'm in no way saying that we should be satisfied with this standing, and I'm supporting much of what you're suggesting as an end-point embodying valuable improvement.
    The description of Phase 1 above does not mention you by name. It's simply a statement of what must be done in order to move forward effectively.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As for your "#3," "Develop and syndicate a Plan for achieving the Vision via a sequence of Stages, each of which is measurable," why don't you share some thoughts?
    Certainly: no progress can be made on Phase 3 until we've largely completed Phase 2. Specifically, one can't build a plan to implement a Vision until one has defined that Vision. Miles to go before we sleep...

  3. #48
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    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/op...nocera.html?hp

    Very good article in today's New York Times.

    Some good points:

    a. Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

    b. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily.

    c. What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive. Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t. 


    The above is relevant because Wayland's ranking as a top-tier school district is in part because of the family environment. In most other metrics - Student-teacher ratio, spending per student, etc, we are average. The one negative though is that our teacher quality is comparable to the state but the average teacher salaries are 15% higher. (http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/mcas/pe...orgtypecode=5&).

  4. #49
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    Nick, agreed, we are fortunate to have students well-positioned to succeed educationally. When I first joined the School Committee back in 2000, Gary Burton said something to the effect that, "Our students come from stable families. Someone reads to them before bed. They get a good night's sleep. They have a warm breakfast in the morning. They show up at our door ready to learn. Given all that, it would be a travesty not to educate them well." Perhaps excepting the "good night's sleep" bit [grin], he nailed it.

    A question--you state that our teacher quality is "comparable to the state." By what measure? I have no idea where our teachers stand relative to their peers based on any metric, but would think that districts such as ours would tend to draw more applicants, allowing us to choose those who are better qualified.

  5. #50
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    Default Wayland School District Data

    Jeff,

    That is a great quote.

    About your question regarding comparability of teachers. I based my statement solely on the attached table. The source is Mass DoE.

    - Nick
    Attached Files Attached Files

  6. #51
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    Thanks, Nick. As an FYI, teacher certification and "Highly Qualified" are essentially binary measures that are easy to meet (as evidenced by the fact that the state average is so high). These measures do not come close, in my opinion, to speaking meaningfully about differences in teacher quality from one district to another.

  7. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Sawrikar View Post
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/op...nocera.html?hp

    Very good article in today's New York Times.

    Some good points:

    a. Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

    b. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily.

    c. What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive. Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t. 
    This thread has mostly focused on improving our educational system, an effort that must enable disadvantaged children to avoid and overcome these handicaps.

  8. #53
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    Back when I was involved with Massachusetts Reading First, which focused on exactly these disadvantaged students (that is, those from school systems that were both poor and characterized by reading deficiency), there were numerous examples of systems that far-outperformed their unsatisfactory expectations. Economist Ed Moscovitch delivered a memorable presentation highlighting these schools and suggesting efforts to replicate their successes. For whatever reason, the replication doesn't appear to be easy, the successes likely being the qualitative blend of engaged families, strong leaders, and talented teachers.

  9. #54
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    From the National Institute for Early Education Research: The State of Preschool 2010, Executive Summary

  10. #55
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    The power of a revocable bonus

    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Globe
    With budgets for education tightening across the country, it pays to get the best performance out of teachers. Economists may have found a way to do just that. They conducted an experiment at a poor, minority school district near Chicago where they randomly assigned some teachers to receive end-of-year bonuses based on student improvement, while other teachers received upfront bonuses that could be revoked at the end of the year if student improvement was below average. In other words, the only difference was the timing of the bonus. There were “large and statistically significant gains” on math test scores when bonuses were paid upfront, but not when bonuses were paid at the end of the year. Thus, the prospect of having to give back money they had already received was more motivating for teachers than the prospect of getting money.

  11. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    “Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment” is available here.

    "In this paper, we demonstrate that exploiting the power of loss aversion—teachers are paid in advance and asked to give back the money if their students do not improve sufficiently—increases math test scores between 0.201 (0.076) and 0.398 (0.129) standard deviations. This is equivalent to increasing teacher quality by more than one standard deviation."

    How is the stated increase in math test scores equivalent to a one standard deviation increase in teacher quality?

    In my experience, financial incentives are ineffective to counterproductive. This presentation lays it out nicely:

    What Motivates Us

    Pay high-caliber contributors enough that they don't need to worry about money; attract and motivate them with a credible higher purpose.

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