If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

by Robert Pondiscio
May 11th, 2009

Common Core accuses Massachusetts educrats of “sneaking 21st century skills into classrooms basically under cover of night.”

Last week the Pioneer Institute learned that bureaucrats at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have snuck 21st century skills into the statewide Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) without telling anyone-effectively changing the content of Massachusetts education without public or legislative input.

The Boston Globe took time off from fighting for survival last week to let Bay State ed officials feel their displeasure over the test debacle as well.  “Massachusetts stands apart in public education precisely because it created high academic standards, developed an objective measure of student performance and progress through the MCAS test, and required a passing grade in order to graduate,” observed a Globe editorial.  “Students, as a result, rank at or near the top of standardized testing not just nationally but on tough international achievement tests in math and science. Any retreat from this strategy would be a profound mistake.”

No Room at the Inn

by Robert Pondiscio
May 11th, 2009

No real surprise, given the parlous state of the economy and employment, but NYC’s Department of Education has ordered principals to fill teaching vacancies with internal candidates only.   The news has left would-be teachers, including those hired by Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows scrambling for jobs, reports the New York Times.   The city will hire about half its usual number of educators from TFA and the Fellows program. 

New York schools–especially struggling schools–looking for new teachers will likely have to fish in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, which consists of educators who are unemployed but still on the City’s payroll.  In most cases, ATR teachers were working at schools that were shuttered or downsized. However, Gotham Schools notes a report by The New Teacher Project, which found that “teachers in the pool were six times as likely to have been rated unsatisfactory by a principal as teachers who hold positions.”

No matter how you slice it, the hiring pool from which principals can hire has just become reed-thin.  “The fact remains that, if the city weren’t forced to pay ATR members indefinitely, perhaps a substantial percentage of teachers could still be new hires (or, maybe, the freeze wouldn’t have happened at all),” writes the New Republic’s Seyward Darby “In good economic times or bad, on financial, pedagogical, and political levels, the ATR is simply unsustainable.”

 

Beauty Premium Observed in High School Grading

by Robert Pondiscio
May 11th, 2009

Want to boost your GPA?  Pay attention, work hard and practice, practice, practice.  That’ll help.  But it helps if you’re good-looking, well-groomed and easy to get along with, according to a new University of Miami study.  “Physical attractiveness, personality, and grooming are good predictors of grades in high school and may indicate future success in college and labor markets,” notes the report by the University’s Health Economics Research Group, which purports to be the first to demonstrate that non-cognitive traits play an important role in the assignment of grades in high school.

“Several studies in the literature have found that physical attractiveness is significantly related to labor market earnings for men and women. Thus, we were somewhat surprised to find that physical attractiveness was not the most important non-cognitive predictor of grades,” notes Michael T. French, professor of health economics in the UM College of Arts and Sciences and one of the authors of the study. “Instead grooming and personality were stronger predictors of academic success in high school for boys and girls, respectively.”