Ed Schools Take the FCAT

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Good gravy! Never mind the debate on using test scores to evaluate teachers. Florida is actually using test scores to evaluate teacher colleges:

It determined what percentage of graduates from each program had 50 percent or more of their students make a year’s worth of progress [on the FCAT]. USF’s College of Education — a huge pipeline for teachers in the Tampa Bay area — had 76 percent of its graduates reach that bar, putting it ninth among the 10 state university programs. Florida International University in Miami topped the field at 85 percent. The University of West Florida in Pensacola was last at 70 percent.

The only problem I can see here is that this just compares education schools to one another. All education schools are part of the problem. Still, I can see a lot of value in knowing which ones are more a part of the problem or less – not least because if they start competing with one another on the basis of results, maybe someday one of them will actually produce a radical transformative revolutionary breakthrough and actually become a value-adding rather than value-subtracting part of the education system.

62% of a hat tip goes to Flypaper’s Andy Smarick. I’m penalizing Andy by withholding 38% of the hat tip because he claims, with no justification, that Arne Duncan must somehow deserve some credit for this move. First of all, as Andy sort of sheepishly admits, a move like this must have been in the works for a while before reaching fruition.

But more important is that Florida has been the nation’s leader in this field for a long time now. Florida doesn’t follow the USDOE on this issue, the USDOE follows Florida. The only effect the USDOE has ever had on Florida’s interest in using test scores for evaluation purposes is to prevent it from going further faster.

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7 Responses to Ed Schools Take the FCAT

  1. allen says:

    As long as the job market, which is still dominated by school districts, ignores teaching skill there’s no incentive or need for ed schools to compete to produce the best-prepared teachers.

    It’s nice that Florida’s turning a spotlight on the ed schools but what’s the expectation? The the people who run the ed schools will be so embarrassed that they’ll stop pushing edu-crap and concentrate on teaching skill and content knowledge.

  2. allen says:

    Phooey.

    That the people who run the ed schools will be so embarrassed that they’ll stop pushing edu-crap and concentrate on teaching skill and content knowledge? Seems like a stretch to me.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    Ah, but there are two other factors.

    1) Schools in Florida are penalized for low test score performance, so districts have an incentive to hire teachers from ed schools with a track record of boosting said performance. The great thing about Florida is that they do it all, not just one piece. The only effective place to intervene in a vicious circle is – everywhere at once!

    I think Matt may have blogged about this concept once or twice (search for “I’ll have what Florida is having”).

    2) Colleges don’t compete on the output side, they compete on the input side. An ed school that can tell prospective students “that other school won’t make you a better teacher, and we will” is going to be able to attract more students on the margin. To think that the desire to be a better teacher exerts zero influence on teacher behavior would be more than cynical, it would be foolish. See my recent posts on “the destruction of a profession” – a good solid quarter of teachers are “idealists,” and that’s a heck of a big niche to support a business model on.

  4. allen says:

    1) As long as schools are part of a district some portion of their autonomy, say in the area of personnel policy and hiring, will be subsumed by the district. That means that the people who influence if not control a policy, district personnel, aren’t directly at risk for the results of bad policy since it’s the schools that get penalized. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a move in the right direction but it’s a move in the right direction that’ll be slowed by people who have little to gain from improving education and little to lose from the penalties.

    2) Har! And how would they compete on the output side? By letting it be known that their graduates are actively recruited by high-poverty or high-paying school districts? Who’d believe it?

  5. Littlegeniusblogger says:

    Don’t forget that the Florida legislature might eventually get fed up with a low-performing ed school and do kids a favor by cutting their funding. Florida already gets about half of their new teachers through alternative certification routes.

  6. Greg Forster says:

    Excellent point, LGB. Although unfortunately they’re more likely simply to get a smaller share of the inevitable increases rather than actually losing money. That’s still a pretty strong motivator, though!

  7. dcowart says:

    In Rhode Island our new commissioner is trying to find ways to make it more challenging to become a teacher and to stay a teacher. The standard in RI is amongst the lowest for the Praxis Teacher Exam. I think some healthy competition and rigor can make a big difference.

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