Ed Schools Take the FCAT

November 25, 2009

(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.

The Last Word on Unions and Reform

May 26, 2009


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

In the great Flypaper debate over whether unions are an obstacle to reform, Robert Costrell has what can only be considered the last word on the subject. Little Ramona started the argument by asserting that Massachusetts has strong unions and yet it accomplished some reforms, therefore unions are not an obstacle to reform, QED. (I paraphrase, but not by much.)

Costrell offers a very striking post on his real-world experience in Massachusetts. Excerpt:

It is indisputable that the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) was the largest obstacle to implementing key elements of the reforms, most notably the MCAS exit exams, which were the main driver of Massachusetts’ success. Diane seems to minimize “the current effort to show that teachers’ unions were no help to education reform in Massachusetts,” as if this were some sort of recent revisionist history. But the “current” effort simply reiterates the well-documented history that was established at the time.  The fight against MCAS featured lawsuits, boycotts, demonstrations, and, most famously, the MTA’s $600,000 fear-mongering ad campaign (the ads showed a ticking clock with nervous students, despite the fact that the exams were untimed).

Here’s the game changer:

My own contribution to this history was solicited by Diane for her last annual Brookings conference….At the time, Diane thought my piece was “great.” So I was surprised to read that the lesson Diane now draws from Massachusetts is that “unions do not block academic improvement.” Well, it was certainly not for lack of trying.

Back in the early 1990s, we videogamers used to call that a “finishing move.”

In other news, sock puppet and Sith apprentice Leo Casey continues to offer his insights. Question for Leo: How deep do you intend to let the hole get before you stop digging?