Kudos to Two Great Core Knowledge Schools

by Robert Pondiscio
December 9th, 2008

What’s going on in Colorado?  Ridgeview Classical Charter Schools ranks No. 15 on U.S. News’ list of the 100 best high schools in the U.S.  The school uses the Core Knowledge curriculum K-8, and a traditional, Classical-Liberal curriculum in the high school.  “The charter school, which opened in 2001, has been at the top of the state’s School Accountability Report measures and was previously near the top 100 in the U.S. News and World Report study,” notes the Colorado Charter blog

Another Colorado charter, Peak to Peak in Lafayette, which also uses Core Knowledge in K-8, places #69 on the U.S. News list. 

Bravo!

Teachers and Quarterbacks

by Robert Pondiscio
December 9th, 2008

In the new issue of The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on teacher quality is notable for what it’s not.  Mostly, it’s not about teaching.  The majority of the article is about football.  Gladwell spills an inordinate amount of ink describing how college quarterbacks are evaluated and how hard it is to determine who will succeed in the NFL based solely on their college performance.  Gladwell is making the same point about teachers: for all the attention to advanced degrees and other certification requirements, you can’t really know who will be a good teacher until they get to the classroom. 

When he finally gets around to looking at teachers, Gladwell looks at videotapes of teachers with the Dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Bob Pianta, who has developed a system for evaluating student-teacher interactions. “Of all the teacher elements analyzed by the Virginia group, feedback—a direct, personal response by a teacher to a specific statement by a student—seems to be most closely linked to academic success,” Gladwell writes.

“Educational-reform efforts typically start with a push for higher standards for teachers—that is, for the academic and cognitive requirements for entering the profession to be as stiff as possible,” Gladwell writes. ”But after you’ve watched Pianta’s tapes, and seen how complex the elements of effective teaching are, this emphasis on book smarts suddenly seems peculiar.” 

Point taken.  Gladwell concludes that teaching “should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree—and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before.”  He also estimates we’d need to try out four candidates to find one good teacher.  “That means tenure can’t be routinely awarded, the way it is now,” he notes. 

Over at This Week in Education, A-Rus says “Gladwell has no real way of getting us out of the current system of certification and tenure.” Fine, but that’s not his job.  If you point out that the Emperor has no clothes you’re not a failure if you don’t throw a robe over him.   Gladwell’s piece adds light, not just heat, to discussions about teacher preparation, training, certification and tenure.  Perhaps most importantly, the article has precious little to say about test scores, offering instead a nuanced view of what is and is not effective practice.  If articles like this also help move us past the “by their test scores shall ye know them” way of thinking about the teaching profession, and help start a conversation about what good teaching looks like, Gladwell’s done a useful service.

The Senator From AFT

by Robert Pondiscio
December 9th, 2008

Senator Randi Weingarten?  New  York Governor David Paterson says he will consider appointing AFT President Randi Weingarten to fill Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate seat.  Gotham Schools’ Elizabeth Green broke the story yesterday.  This morning’s Daily News has Paterson on the record confirming it. Paterson tells the New York Daily News that Weingarten contacted him about the seat.  Weingarten told him “she won’t run away” if Paterson calls on her.  “She said, ‘You know me well enough to know if you want me,’” Paterson said. “I thought she handled it very well.”

Most of the speculation around who will fill Clinton’s seat once she becomes Secretary of State surrounds Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo.