Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anchorage School District Hits the Hump

Anchorage Daily News: Test scores decline in Anchorage schools by MEGAN HOLLAND
ANNUAL REPORT: Poor test results in 'three R's' come after four years of gains.
I guess the good news is that all of my kids schools did much better than the district, but I suspect that it's only a matter of time before they start showing declining scores.

Unfortunately, the Anchorage School District seems to have put itself on the path to less effectiveness.  

Recently, the school board formally adopted Everyday Math after a flawed evaluation process.  Of course, many schools in the district were already using Everyday Math.

In reading, the school district uses Houghton Mifflin Reading, which is just a repackaged whole language program with just enough phonics thrown in to meet the Reading First guidelines.  It's effectiveness has yet to be determined according to the What Works Clearinghouse.

If the School Board had any common sense at all, they would take a look at what's happening over at Eagle Academy Charter School.  According to their Profile of Performance, they are kicking ass.  73% advanced in Reading, 69% advanced in writing, and 75% advanced in math.  Compare this to district percentages of 40%, 35%, and 40% respectively.

I tried to get my kids into Eagle Academy when I first arrived here, but unfortunately they didn't have enough slots for all my kids, and the logistics of getting them there was going to be to difficult.  I would like to think that we provide an equivalent educational experience by supplementing our kids instruction at home, but it sure would be nice if the school district used charters schools like they should, and adopted the more successful instructional practices.

Teacher Quality

I was just reading Kevin Carey's latest post about teacher quality, or more specifically alternate certification programs vs. traditional certification programs.  He brings up an interesting point about the possibility of there being some sort of mystery innate factor that heavily influences student outcomes and teacher effectiveness.

Well I am here to tell you Kevin, that the factor isn't such a mystery.  Four school age kids, twenty or so teachers in their lives, and I can spot an effective teacher in the first week of school.  I haven't been wrong yet.

An effective teacher:
  1. Reinforces the basics/building blocks continually
  2. Is organized i.e. plans out assignments and and doesn't lose homework
  3. Expects students to be behaved and responsible
  4. Uses students work to evaluate how well they taught, not just how well the student learned
As far as the alternate certification vs traditional certification argument goes, I think the whole debate is putting the cart in front of the horse.

In my several years of being an education junkie, I have yet to read about a single study that compares the effectiveness of education teachers programs.

The value added effectiveness of all education program graduates should be measure and tied back to their school.  Nursing schools are graded based on their NCLEX pass rates.  Why couldn't we track education majors for a few years after they enter the teaching profession and publish which schools do a good job of preparing teachers.

I would wager that once the rankings came out, education schools would quickly abandon all the pseudo science they try and pass of as pedagogy and start providing effective instruction on how to prepare lessons, maintain discipline, and teach math/reading.

Is that to much to ask?