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Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed
Four Nostrums of Conventional School Reform

by Bill Honig

The reform movement has failed to produce results overall, and reputable evaluations have shown that individual reform measures also proved to be ineffective. Turnaround schools, charter schools, incentive schemes, or test-based school and teacher accountability have had either nonexistent or trivial effects. In his book Visible Learning, John Hattie writes that even when reforms produced small gains, they fall far below the improvements brought about by validated initiatives. In this article, I examine four other nostrums of reform.

Major Problems with Teach for America (TFA)

Teach for America (TFA) attracts bright, motivated graduates from our top colleges who agree to teach in public or charter schools for two years. They receive just five weeks of training and then are thrown into schools to sink or swim. Not surprisingly, many flounder and, at the end of their two-year commitment, leave the classroom in large numbers. By the end of five years, large numbers have left teaching. You cannot build a profession on a two-year commitment with minimal training.

Gary Rubenstein is a former TFA teacher. For a devastating, ongoing critique of TFA’s practices, see his blog. In another alumni critique, Andrew Gerst offers suggestions for improvement based on the Aspire charter management organization training model. Aspire has a one-year internship, which results in large numbers of neophytes performing well in their second year and staying in the profession. Both critics claim that TFA is unwilling to spend its considerable profits to fix flagrant deficiencies. Many former TFA teachers, now dissident apostates, have written about major flaws with the program. See also an interview with Daniel Katz who recommends that his students not consider Teach for America. The organization has been addressing some of these issues. TFA has a small pilot that requires a longer commitment and provides an initial year’s internship, is beginning to invest more heavily in first year coaching, and is allowing local TFA regions to institute changes in the model.

One of Rubinstein’s most powerful points is that although many TFA teachers leave at the end of two years, some stay in education and wind up as unseasoned principals and superintendents. Despite the teachers’ limited backgrounds in education and minimal experience, good political connections enable them to move into these important positions. Many of these young TFA veterans prove to be disasters as administrators. In part, this is due to their unwillingness to learn from competent educators and their ignorance of educational best practice. Of course, it did not help matters that they often were cast as knights in shining armor coming to save inept over-the-hill educators.

Mathematica conducted an evaluation of a small number of high school TFA teachers and found essentially no advantage in hiring them. The analysis found no difference in reading scores and only a negligible difference in math. A recent report on elementary TFA teachers also found no effects and revealed that most were planning to leave the profession quickly. In addition, their view of the training received had fallen compared to that of participants in previous years. For a critical review of the report, see Vasquez Heilig’s blog.

Barbara Veltri is a former TFA trainer. She wrote a disparaging analysis of TFA’s practices claiming, among other deficiencies, that a large number of TFA teachers are especially ill equipped to teach math. Katie Osgood adds to the discussion by describing how TFA’s heavy indoctrination of teachers hampers their classroom effectiveness. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the program and its infrastructure could have been invested in supporting new teachers who wanted to make education a career and who were willing to get the proper training. Finally, Julian Heilig and Jameson Brewer have produced several podcasts titled Truth for America detailing the shortcomings of TFA by former TFA teachers.

Teach for America has turned into a massive financial enterprise—with assets worth nearly $500 million and managers earning absurdly high salaries. In 2013, its two co-CEOs received $382,000 and $342,000, respectively, and TFA founder Wendy Kopp received $156,000 for an eight-hour workweek during that same year. TFA obtains large federal and state grants as well as funding from conservative foundations that seem eager to replace competent experienced teachers with cheap raw recruits. For providing these low-cost replacements, TFA charges districts a hefty sum. In 2013, it received grants of $74 million in “government grants” and charged districts an additional $32 million in “service fees.” Not bad for a supposedly charitable nonprofit organization staffed by raw recruits, many of whom will be gone in two years. Fortunately, the word is getting out about TFA. Its enrollments are down, and districts are starting to eliminate the program.

In 1969 I was part of a similar federally funded project called Teacher Corps, which truly was a solid program. Our cycle had 40 people from different walks of life and different ethnic/racial backgrounds. We were 10 African-Americans, 10 Asian-Americans, 10 Hispanics, and 10 whites. The major difference between Teacher Corps and Teach for America’s program was that we did not limit our commitment to two years, and a respected school of education at San Francisco State University managed the program. We were given extensive training, not only in the summer before we started as interns, but for one full year after that. The education I received both at the college and on-site in the schools was excellent. No sink or swim. The Aspire charter school network has a similar internship program as do some of our best performing public school districts.

In promoting itself, Teach for America has used rhetoric closely aligned with the narrative used by some of the more extreme members of the “reform movement.” Its leaders have the unfortunate habit of claiming that public schools and teachers are inept and have nothing of value to teach TFA, and that only its recruits can save America’s failing schools. This is how the organization attempts to energize and motivate its trainees—by tearing down the existing structure. We got some of that in Teacher Corps, but were very quickly disabused of this arrogant attitude when it turned out that our supervising teachers in the schools actually knew what they were doing. We learned a great deal from them.

Many Teach for America teachers who chose to stay in education have become stellar professionals. Many others have left under duress after two years or to take more lucrative jobs in the corporate sector. But it is absolutely indefensible to build up your own organization by castigating public schools, allowing your teachers to replace qualified veteran teachers because they are cheaper, and allying yourself with extreme reformers who are bent on privatizing public education.

How About Merit Pay?

Merit pay sounds like a good idea. Pay our best teachers more and teachers will strive harder and stay in the profession longer. Unfortunately, just about every study has found that merit pay does not improve student or teacher performance. A few evaluations have reported gains from merit pay, but the increases were negligible. Merit pay schemes cause considerable collateral damage by forcing teachers to compete against each other, instead of encouraging and rewarding team-building and collaboration. Often merit pay proposals also use ill-conceived mechanisms for determining who gets rewarded. The result is that a significant number of deserving teachers get overlooked, while low-performing teachers get rewarded. Ironically, the extra money is not what motivates most teachers; they would rather be part of an effective group effort.

At any rate, there is a much better way to reward our best teachers and keep them in the profession—career ladders. Let our most proficient educators earn more money, but we should require them to mentor existing or new teachers and take on instructional development or leadership roles in addition to their classroom duties. They would earn more pay, but instead of merit pay’s something-for-nothing approach, they would contribute their talents to the continuous improvement efforts at the school. See the report written by Catherine F. Natale and her colleagues, Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways: A 21st Century Imperative. Why pay our best teachers stipends without receiving additional help from them? Most teachers strongly oppose merit pay, but few have objections to paying our best practitioners for taking on additional responsibilities. In fact, there is already a strong precedent for career ladder strategies. In secondary schools, department chairs receive a stipend when assuming additional duties.

Is Test-Based Retention Effective?

Similar problems occur when test results have high-stakes consequences for students. Comparable to using test performance for teacher evaluations and merit pay, single application tests should not be used to decide whether a third grader gets promoted to fourth. As discussed in the companion article Have High-Stakes Testing and Privatization Been Effective?, performance on a standardized test isn’t sufficiently accurate, and there are much better ways to determine student progress. It might be acceptable to use the information from once-a-year test results as one piece of data (albeit a very weak source of information) to ascertain what a student knows and to fashion appropriate instruction or intervention. But relying primarily on a broad-scale assessment to determine a high-stakes decision such as promotion is especially dangerous and unfair.

Many states that have adopted retention schemes offer students alternative methods to avoid being retained. Even so, holding students back is still an unsound policy. Sadly, many districts have lately been forced to adopt retention policies under state legislation authored by conservative governors and legislatures, many of whom are at the beck and call of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These harsh legislative mandates were passed under the guise of ending “social promotion.” This flies in the face of 30 years of research that has shown this strategy does not work and causes substantial harm to those children held back. These policies are tantamount to educational malpractice—research condemns them as academically, emotionally, and socially harmful to the student retained and to the class he or she is placed in. Retention is also very expensive—costing about $11,000 per student for one additional year of schooling. The money could be spent on far more effective approaches. See also David Berliner and Gene Glass’s 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools and the Education Week article “Should 3rd Grade Be the Pivot Point for Early Reading?” Thankfully, some states are now retreating from such an ill-advised policy after witnessing its disastrous results. However, Nevada just adopted a retention scheme.

This valid and reliable research has found that when compared to the performance of students who are held back, the performance, graduation rates, and emotional health of similar struggling students who are promoted are all appreciably higher. The retention strategy often is based on noneducators’ unsound assumption that first-, second-, and third-grade students fail because they are not trying hard enough, and if they are held back or threatened with retention, they will exert more effort. The fact is that these students do not lack motivation. I have yet to encounter a child who doesn’t possess an intense desire to learn how to read. But I have witnessed the pain caused to youngsters who are separated from classmates and made to feel like failures because of misguided policies.

Two reports that studied retention found improvement in performance in later years. But, as critics of the reports and the report writers themselves point out, what the studies actually showed was that intensive intervention will lower failure rates. They never compared intensive intervention for comparable students not held back with intensive intervention and retention, which of course is the issue.

Virtually all cases of reading failure stem from a deficiency in initial reading instruction and the lack of proper intervention, even in kindergarten. There really is no excuse for not implementing the powerful knowledge about how to teach youngsters to read. Successful reading instruction and timely intervention will teach almost every student to read, and for those still having problems, support in the next grades will be much more fruitful than retaining those students. In addition, most retention plans concentrate policy on the third grade, which is several years too late. For a review of this research covering best first teaching practices and timely intervention, see the white paper on foundational skills in the California ELA/ELD framework and an article by Linnea Ehri summarizing what is known about beginning reading. Struggling students should not pay the price for a school’s failure to provide evidence-based instruction and early intervention. See also David Kilpatrick’s Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties and Louise Spear-Swerling’s The Power of RTI and Reading Profiles: A Blueprint for Solving Reading Problems.

Further, all too often the retained student encounters the same instruction in the new class that the student received previously, thus producing little improvement. Then too, placing a resentful, older, and usually male student in a third-grade class when he is chronologically and socially ready for fourth grade, isolated from friends, and labeled a failure is a recipe for a problem-plagued year.

Forced retention of elementary students is a cruel and mean-spirited policy. What is frustrating for educators is that this politically imposed “solution” to reading difficulties hardly ever helps struggling students but does cause tremendous damage to those children and the school. It is another example of a highly touted “reform” that ignores a compelling body of research, adopts a simple but wrong solution to a complex problem, fails to pursue what does work, and then blames the victim.

How destructive this “reform” could be was brought home to me personally a decade ago. I will never forget the poignant conversation I had with a retained first grader. I was at the park with my three-year-old granddaughter, Annika. While she was playing, I struck up a conversation with a boy who was amazingly skillful on the monkey bars and who turned out to be quite engaging—overall, a great kid. In the course of our chat, I asked him how old he was (since he was so physically coordinated) and what grade he was in. He was old enough for second grade but had been retained in first. This was his previous teacher’s recommendation as the best approach for helping his struggles with reading. All of a sudden, these strong emotions emerged as he started to talk about being held back, his sadness over being cut off from his friends, his anger at what had been done to him and not knowing why they did it, and his sense of personal failure.

All this surfaced during a 15-minute conversation. I did talk to his grandparents who were with him at the park and counseled them to raise the issue with the parents, but they seemed reluctant to challenge the teacher or the school on the issue. What has never left me was how mature and outgoing this child was—even while suffering from a profound sadness from what had happened to him. And I was struck by how the people in the system, while thinking they were doing something helpful, had in fact caused him tremendous humiliation and anguish for naught by following such a benighted policy. What also bothered me enormously was that he was made to pay for the school’s mistakes. The school did not know how best to teach him to read, did not have support systems in place to help him other than holding him back, and placed misguided faith in the efficacy of retention. It reminded me of the doctors hundreds of years ago who caused patients substantial harm by bleeding them, under the mistaken belief that such a practice was beneficial.

A similar heartbreaking story unfolded for thousands of children in Mississippi who were held back when the governor sponsored legislation for strict retention but never funded support for early intervention.

Is Technology Innovation Key to School Improvement?

Many reform advocates tout technology as a critical disruptive element that will enable schools to perform better at less cost. Many opponents of conventional market-driven reform strategies initially worried that the movement to incorporate more technology in schools or to replace teachers with computers was just a ploy to sell unneeded devices or an invitation to corporate America to privatize education by replacing public schools with low-cost corporate schools. The experience in many states gives credence to these concerns. The terrible results from virtual charter schools, discussed at the end of this article and in the companion article Charter Schools Are Not the Key to Improving Public Education, are clearly a cautionary tale. For a 306-page handbook on the corporate takeover of our schools, see American Revolution 2.0: How Education Innovation Is Going to Revitalize America and Transform the US Economy.

A second objection to the use of technology to improve schools is based on Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation, one of the theories promoted by reformers. Christensen’s innovation has wreaked havoc on many neighborhood community schools without actually improving student or teacher performance. Critics argue that massive disruption does not seem appropriate for important public institutions like our schools. Jill Lapore seriously questions Christensen’s research in “The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong.”

Finally, the critics of technology express concerns that standards, test production and grading, and newly required materials and training are all being proposed in order to create huge new markets for the private sector. I am less apprehensive about this point. There is plenty of room for a vibrant public school sector to use the expertise of private and charitable entities in its pursuit of an effective Build-and-Support strategy. Proprietary instructional materials can supplement open-source materials. For an excellent example of the growing open-source material segment, visit the ISKME website. For an article about open-source materials, see “Free Online Content Helps Teachers Meet Common Core Demands.” See also the Common Sense Media website for reviews of digital and other educational materials or the tips for blended learning.

The more active curriculum envisioned by the Common Core standards and the Next Generation Science standards could profit from digitally delivered activities that are sophisticated, dynamic, and engaging. For example, a digital platform offers students the chance to investigate an epidemic in another country using online synchronous collaboration, access digital content that explains why the Industrial Revolution started in England, or participate in virtual science labs with simulations and graphic modeling. Relevant materials could be organized for these activities, thus avoiding open-ended Internet searches that are often overwhelming and unproductive for students.

Further, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) demonstrate how technology has the potential to provide all students with access to rich, effective curricula, including those with physical disabilities, learning differences, or limited proficiency in English.

For information about web tools, see the links provided by EdTechReview. Adaptive technology can drive instructional improvement by giving students immediate feedback, adjusting content and the amount of scaffolding to their individual needs, and organizing and reporting student performance data to help teachers track growth in important standards in real time. See, for example, the GOORU site.

One exciting development in the educational technology sector is the growing interest in gamification, or the use of game-design mechanics and principles to motivate and engage students. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center is at the forefront of research in this field. For a list of 100 websites in this area, see “Play to Learn: 100 Great Sites on Gamification” and The Game Believes in You, a recent book on the subject by Greg Toppo. See also the article “Frontiers of Digital Learning Probed by Researchers” and “Can Digital Games Improve Our Schools?,” a nuanced perceptive article by John Thompson.

Two books offer a critical analysis of eLearning games and digital simulation, questioning whether virtual activities actually produce results or work for all children. Our past experience with other supposedly “breakthrough” innovations suggests that the most appropriate approach is to avoid going overboard and to insist on balance.

Some educators and parents are worried about student privacy issues, but with proper prohibitions against selling data and restricting its use to feedback to teachers, those fears can be minimized. The potential power of these initiatives is too important to ignore.

Finally, there is the push for blended learning and performance-based instruction using technology. In blended-learning settings, a student works with a teacher and digital devices. In proper balance and if done right, blended learning could greatly enhance the curriculum. For an example, see Blackboard K–12. However, as widely documented, blended learning can be misused. For an international cautionary note, see a recent report that recommends a balanced approach after finding that too much technology in the classroom actually lowered student performance.

The jury is still out on whether technology innovation will improve instruction or suffer the same fate as previous technological fixes such as hyped teaching machines several decades ago, which turned out to be a huge fiasco.

As mentioned previously, virtual or online charter schools have had major problems in performance. Investigations have revealed some high-profile scams and exploitation. A 2015 report produced by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), Mathematica Policy Research, and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that virtual charters result in the loss of a full year’s worth of instruction—a disastrous result. Both Samuelsohn and Stober have questioning the value of virtual schools have been published by many different sources.

Unquestionably, some technology advocates go too far and envision a future where machines and software replace expensive teachers and eliminate the social aspects of learning under the guidance of a competent, caring teacher. So far, that nightmare has not been realized.

Several major issues need to be more fully explored. One major question is how different students profit or fail to profit from technological solutions. Some youngsters have no problem with digital learning, while others become easily flummoxed or bored. Another concern is how to avoid overindulgence in unproductive games, prevent the hampering of social development, and escape the tendency to replace robust traditional instructional activities with low-level computer-based busywork.

Summing Up: The Failure of Conventional Reform

The ineffectiveness of current federal and state policies based on conventional reformers’ agendas should not have been surprising. Fifty years ago, W. E. Deming warned of the negative side effects of an overreliance on evaluation strategies and incentive schemes. Fear tends to make employees disengage, narrow their efforts, or game the system so they appear compliant. It diverts attention from and decreases motivation for collaborative teams and local structures that allow for continuous improvement. This ruinous situation is well known in the social sciences, articulated as Campbell’s law.

As Diane Ravitch explains:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

That is exactly what has occurred far too often in our educational system during the past decade under policies pursued by conventional “reformers.” Knowledgeable educators predicted that these initiatives would fail, but their warnings were ignored. As foretold, high-stakes, test-driven accountability has resulted in narrowing the curriculum, gaming the system or cheating, using unproven and unfair reward and punishment tools (such as the recent teacher evaluation debacles in many states), and encouraging superficial teaching to the test to the detriment of deeper learning. It has diverted attention from, de-emphasized, or belittled the policies that actually produce substantial results. No wonder the results have been disappointing.

More importantly, punitive management techniques and demonization of teachers and schools have not only eroded support for the institution of public education but have created widespread alienation among teachers.

This is why recent polls found that teachers in the US score among the highest on scales of liking their profession but among the lowest on satisfaction with their working environment, the very opposite of the engaged professionals we need to perform effectively in the difficult circumstances encountered in schools across the country. For example, a recent survey of 30,000 teachers by the American Federation of Teachers found high stress levels among teaching staff:

  • Only one in five educators feels respected by government officials or the media.
  • Fourteen percent of educators strongly agree with the statement that they trust their administrator or supervisor.
  • More than 75% say they do not have enough staff to get the work done.
  • Seventy-eight percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.
  • Eighty-seven percent say the demands of their job are at least sometimes interfering with their family life

A MetLife survey found that in the face of ill-conceived reforms and political and societal censure, the percentage of teachers who were “very satisfied” dropped dramatically from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012. See also Jeff Bryant’s blog post “We Won’t Get Great Teachers by Treating Them Badly.”

Worse yet, the Test-and-Punish regime has convinced many teachers to leave the profession, a costly decision for schools and students, as reported in Revolving Door of Teachers Costs Schools Billions Every Year. High-stakes testing is one of the major causes of the wholesale flight of teachers from harsh “reform states” to more supportive jurisdictions. There are serious shortages of teachers in states such as North Carolina, Utah, Indiana, and Kansas. England has suffered similar effects from a Test-and-Punish regime.

Ironically, these studies also show that teachers yearn to break out of the traditional isolated culture of most schools and work together with their colleagues in an effort to become better at what they do. We should give them the chance to enlist in this crucial effort.

Broad swaths of the public have begun to turn against Test-and-Punish and privatization strategies; it is time for our political and opinion leaders to follow suit. The reaction to Arne Duncan’s resignation on October 1, 2015, as national secretary of education is instructive. Of the 228 comments written in response to a New York Times article reporting the event, it was hard to find even one supporting the aggressive policies the Obama administration had pursued. The comments were uniformly negative and angry—accusing the administration of devastating public education and providing the least effective educational leaders in recent history.

A statement by the Network for Public Education captures the spirit of the commentators:

The policies of the US Department of Education [under Duncan’s (and Obama’s) watch] have inflicted immeasurable harm on American public education. The blind faith in standardized testing as the most meaningful measure of students, teachers, principals, and schools has distorted the true meaning of education and demoralized educators. Punitive policies have created teacher shortages across the nation, as well as a precipitous decline in the number of people preparing to become teachers. The Race to the Top preference for privately managed charter schools over public schools has encouraged privatization of a vitally important public responsibility.

As I stated in the conclusion to the introductory remarks on this website: Public education has always been central to the continued health of our democracy and our way of life. So-called reformers have foisted a set of initiatives on our schools based on an outmoded management philosophy and a flawed analysis of what it takes to improve education. These policies ignore history, research, and experience, which is why our best schools and districts have studiously avoided them. The reformers’ proposals not only thwart the measures actually needed to improve our schools but their initiatives threaten to put the whole enterprise of public education at risk. We need an immediate course correction to follow the lead of our most successful schools and districts in creating effective learning communities at each school and, finally, building the educational profession that this country deserves.

Recent Developments

9/1/2016  A new report by the US Department of Education finds teacher incentive schemes ineffective. https://www.cabinetreport.com/curriculum-instruction/teacher-bonus-pay-barely-moves-the-dial-on-test-scores

7/30/2016 On-line Algebra students fare worse than those taught by a face-to-face teacher. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2016/07/online_algebra_worse_for_high-performing_students.html?r=1556213501

7/30/2016 Larry Cuban questions whether the hype on blending learning is accurate. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/proof-points-selling-and-marketing-blended-learning-to-educators-and-parents/

BBS Companion Articles

The Big Picture
Have High-Stakes Testing and Privatization Been Effective?
Why Conventional School “Reforms” Have Failed
Charter Schools Are Not the Key to Improving Public Education

Reference Notes

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge.

Major Problems with Teach for America (TFA)
Blanchard, O. (2013, Sep 23). I Quit Teach for America. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/i-quit-teach-for-america/279724/

Rubinstein, G. (2015, Sep 19). Category Archives: Teach for America. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/category/teach-for-america/

Gerst, A. (2015, Jun 2). How I Would Fix Teach for America. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/06/02/a-tfa-teacher-how-i-would-like-to-fix-teach-for-america/

Davis, O. (2013, Aug 2). Teach for America Apostates: A Primer of Alumni Resistance. http://www.truth-out.org/articles/item/17750-teach-for-america-apostates-a-primer-of-alumni-resistance See also Brewer, J., & Matsui, S. (2015, Aug 3). Teach for America Counter-Narratives: Two Alumni Books Frame the Discourse. http://www.livingindialogue.com/teach-for-america-counter-narratives-two-alumni-books-reframe-the-discourse/ and Brewer, T. J., & deMarrais, K. (eds.). (2015). Teach for America Counter-Narratives: Black Studies and Critical Thinking. New York: Peter Lang Publishing; and Schaefer, P. (2015, Sept 11). After 25 Years, Teach for America Results Are Consistently Underwhelming. http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/09/11/after-25-years-teach-for-america-results-are-consistently-underwhelming/

Katz, D. (2015, Dec 18). Advice for My Students: Don’t “Teach for America.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielkatz/advice-for-my-students-do_b_8840714.html

Sawchuk, S. (2016, Jan 20). At 25, Teach for America Enters a Period of Change. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/01/15/at-25-teach-for-america-enters-period.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1-RM

Decker, P. (2001–2004). National Evaluation of Teach for America 2001–2004. Mathematic Policy Research. http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/our-publications-and-findings/projects/teach-for-america

Vasquez Heilig, J. (2015, Mar 10). Do You Have Five Minutes to Understand Whether Teach for America Is Effective? http://cloakinginequity.com/2015/03/10/do-you-have-five-minutes-to-understand-whether-teach-for-america-is-effective/

Veltri, B. (2015, Jun 3). Inside Information and Reflections from a Former TFA Instructor. http://cloakinginequity.com/2015/06/03/inside-information-and-reflections-from-a-former-tfa-trainer/

Osgood, K. (2016, Feb 10). The Dangers of Teach for America Indoctrination. http://mskatiesramblings.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-dangers-of-teach-for-america.html

Ravitch, D. (2016, Apr 23). Truth for America Podcast Episode 5. https://dianeravitch.net/2016/04/23/truth-for-america-podcast-episode-5/

Schneider, M. (2015, Jul 28). Teach for America Seeks Help Promoting Itself on Capitol Hill. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/teach-for-america-seeks-help-promoting-itself-on-capitol-hill/comment-page-1/

How About Merit Pay?
Moran, M. (2010, Sep 21). Teacher Performance Pay Alone Does Not Raise Test Scores. Vanderbilt News. http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2010/09/teacher-performance-pay/ See also Lavigne, A. L., & Good, T. L. (2014). Teacher and Student Evaluation: Moving Beyond the Failure of School Reform. New York: Routledge.

Tucker, M. (2016, Apr 14). How to Get a First-Rate Teacher in Front of Every Student. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2016/04/how_to_get_a_first-rate_teacher_in_front_of_every_student.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers

Natale, C., Gaddis, L., Bassett, K., & McKnight, K. (2013). Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways: A 21st Century Imperative. National Network of State Teachers of the Year and Center for Educator Learning and Effectiveness at Pearson http://researchnetwork.pearson.com/educator-effectiveness/personal-perspective-creating-sustainable-teacher-career-pathways-21st-century-imperative

Is Test-Based Retention Effective?
The Center for Media and Democracy. Alec Exposed. http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed See also Berger, E. 2016, Jan 25). Arizona: Strangled by an Organized Minority. http://edwardfberger.com/arizona-strangled-by-an-organized-minority/

Xia, N., & Glennie, E. (January 2005). Grade Retention: A Flawed Education Strategy. Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. http://childandfamilypolicy.duke.edu/pdfs/pubpres/FlawedStrategy_PartOne.pdf See also Stipek, D., & Lombardo, M. (2014, May 20). Holding Kids Back Doesn’t Help Them. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/21/32stipek.h33.html

Berliner, D., & Glass, G., et. al. (2014). 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sparks, S. D. (2015, May 13). Should 3rd Grade Be the Pivot Point for Early Reading? Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/13/should-3rd-grade-be-the-pivot-point.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1

Heitin, L. (2015, Jun 12). Can Most Kindergarteners Really Tackle ‘Emergent-Reader’ Texts? Most Coaches Say Yes. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2015/06/can_kindergartners_tackle_emer.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=curriculummatters

Yopp, H. (2015). Resource Guide to the Foundational Skills of the California Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. California Department of Education. http://www.cde.ca.gov/search/searchresults.asp?cx=001779225245372747843:gpfwm5rhxiw&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=1&num=20&start=0&q=Yopp%202015%20Resource%20guide

Ehri, L. C. (2013, Sep 26). Orthographic Mapping in the Reading of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning. Scientific Studies of Reading 18 (1). http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10888438.2013.819356#.VXr1tOsqvzI

Chiles, N. (2015, May 28). As Mississippi Delivers Bad News to 5,600 Third Graders, Stressed-Out Parents Say There Must Be a Better Way. http://hechingerreport.org/as-mississippi-delivers-bad-news-to-5600-third-graders-stressed-out-parents-say-there-must-be-a-better-way/

Is Technology Innovation Key to School Improvement?
Strauss, V. (2015, Oct 31). Study on Online Charter Schools: “It Is Literally as if the Kid Did Not Go to School for an Entire Year.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/31/study-on-online-charter-schools-it-is-literally-as-if-the-kid-did-not-go-to-school-for-an-entire-year/

Moe, M. T., Hanson, M. P., Jiang, L., & Pampoulov, L. (2012, Jul 4). American Revolution 2.0: How Education Innovation Is Going to Revitalize America and Transform the U.S. Economy. GSV Asset Management. http://gsvadvisors.com/wordpress/wp-content/themes/gsvadvisors/American%20Revolution%202.0.pdf

Lepore, J. (2014, Jun 23). The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/the-disruption-machine

Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. http://www.iskme.org/

Ellison, K. (2015, Oct 15). Free Online Content Helps Teachers Meet Common Core Demands. http://edsource.org/2015/free-online-content-helps-teachers-meet-common-core-demands/88916

Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

Blackboard. http://www.blackboard.com/k12/index.aspx

CAST. (2011, Feb 1). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines–Version 2.0. Universal Design for Living. http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines See also CAST. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines–Version 2.0: Research Evidence. Universal Design for Living. http://www.udlcenter.org/research/researchevidence/checkpoint5_1

Gupta, P. (2015, Dec 31). 100 Popular (from 2015) Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers and Educators to Explore. EdTech Review. http://edtechreview.in/research/2256-web-2-0-tools-for-teachers-educators?utm_source=EdTechReview%E2%84%A2+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=cb71fd3b7a-Top_11_Complementary_Guides_2_1_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94aed71205-cb71fd3b7a-105652173

Gooru. http://www.gooru.org/#home

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/

Play to Learn: 100 Great Sites on Gamification. http://top5onlinecolleges.org/gamification/

Toppo, G. (2015). The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Herold, B. (2015, May 6). Frontiers of Digital Learning Probed by Researchers. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/06/frontiers-of-digital-learning-probed-by-researchers.html?cmp=ENL-CM-NEWS2-RM

Thompson, J. (2015, Sep 1). Can Digital Games Improve Our Schools? http://www.livingindialogue.com/can-digital-games-improve-our-schools/

Clark, R. E., Yates, K., Early, S., & Moulton, K. (2009). An Analysis of the Failure of Electronic Media and Discovery-based learning: Evidence for the Performance Benefits of Guided Training Methods. In Silber, K. H., & Foshay, R. (eds.) Handbook of Training and Improving Workplace Performance, Volume I: Instructional Design and Training Delivery. New York: John Wiley and Sons. http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/recent_publications.php See also Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist. http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/recent_publications.php

Blackboard. http://www.blackboard.com/k12/index.aspx

Strauss, V. (2015, Jun 21). Blended Learning: The Great New Thing or the Great New Hype. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/21/blended-learning-the-great-new-thing-or-the-great-new-hype/ See also Corcoran, B. & Madda, M. J. (2015, Aug 8). Blended Learning and Flipping the Classroom: You’re Doing It Wrong. https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-08-08-blended-learning-and-flipping-the-classroom-you-re-doing-it-wrong and Dobo, N. (2015, Feb 10). What Mistakes Did They Make? Lessons from Blended Learning’s Early Adopters. http://hechingerreport.org/what-mistakes-did-they-make-learning-from-blended-learnings-early-adopters/ and Zhao, Y. (2015, Dec 6). ”Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job”: Five Big Mistakes in Education Technology and How to Fix Them. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/06/never-send-a-human-to-do-a-machines-job-five-big-mistakes-in-education-technology-and-how-to-fix-them/

OECD. (2015). Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection. PISA, OECD Publishing. http://www.oecd.org/publications/students-computers-and-learning-9789264239555-en.htm For an erudite discussion of this dilemma, see Cuban, L. (2016, Jan 19). Technology Integration in Districts and Schools: Next Project (Part 1). https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/technology-integration-in-districts-and-schools-next-project-part-1/ and Cuban, L. (2016, Jan 22). New Project in Technology Integration in Schools and Classrooms (Part 2). https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/new-project-in-technology-integration-in-schools-and-classrooms-part-2/

Glass, G. V. (2015, Oct 14). Outrageous “Class” Sizes at a Virtual Charter School. http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2015/10/outrageous-class-sizes-at-virtual.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EducationInTwoWorlds+%28Education+in+Two+Worlds%29 See also Miron, G., & Urschel, J. L. (2012, Jul). Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools. nepc.colorado.edu/files/nepcrbk12miron.pdf

Pazhouh, R., Lake, R., & Miller, L. (2015, Oct). The Policy Framework for Online Charter Schools. The Center on Reinventing Public Education. http://www.crpe.org/publications/policy-framework-online-charter-schools

Samuelsohn, D. (2015, Sep 23). Virtual Schools Are Booming: Who’s Paying Attention? http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/09/virtual-schools-education-000227;

Stober, D. (2015, Oct 16). Massive Open Online Courses Haven’t Lived Up to the Hopes and the Hype, Professors Say. http://phys.org/news/2015-10-massive-online-courses-havent-hype.html

Summing Up: The Failure of Conventional Reform
Ravitch, D. (2012, May 25). What Is Campbell’s Law? http://dianeravitch.net/2012/05/25/what-is-campbells-law/

American Federation of Teachers. (2015, May 13). Survey Shows Need for National Focus on Workplace Stress. http://www.aft.org/news/survey-shows-need-national-focus-workplace-stress

Bryant, B. (2015, Jul 30). We Won’t Get Great Teachers by Treating Them Badly. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/we-wont-get-better-teachers-by-treating-them-badly/

Phillips, O. (2015, Mar 30). Revolving Door of Teachers Costs Schools Billions Every Year. http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/03/30/395322012/the-hidden-costs-of-teacher-turnover

Bangert, D. (2015, Aug 3). Ed Reform’s Next Trick? Teacher Shortage. http://www.jconline.com/story/opinion/columnists/dave-bangert/2015/08/01/bangert-ed-reforms-next-trick-teacher-shortage/30981611/

Klein, R. (2015, Aug 8). A Memo to States: This Is How You Create a Teacher Shortage. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kansas-teacher-shortage-recipe_55c28ce6e4b0f1cbf1e3a2d7

Gilbert, F. (2016, Mar 1). Here’s the Real Reason Teachers Are Quitting (It’s Not Just the Money). http://theconversation.com/heres-the-real-reason-teachers-are-quitting-its-not-just-the-money-55468

Harris, G., & Rich, M. (2016, Oct 3). Arne Duncan, Education Secretary, to Step Down in December. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/03/us/politics/arne-duncan.html

Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2015, Oct 3). U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan Resigning in December. http://vamboozled.com/u-s-secretary-arne-duncan-resigning-in-december/

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