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Volume I, Number 4, April, 2003

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Article © 2003, AASA, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the January 2003 issue of The School Administrator

"The Teachers College offers no classes of its own, aside from an introduction to the program. Instead, it allows students to tap in to courses from as many as 45 universities around the country."

Quoting from the Education Week article of March 19, 2003.

Visit Teachers College online.

Do as We Say
Not as We Do:
The Great Gamble on Teacher Quality

by Jamie McKenzie (about the author)

Despite the strident rhetoric emerging from Washington about funding only scientifically proven educational programs, the Administration just threw ten million in tax dollars behind an untested, dubious scheme to meet the shortage of qualified teachers by offering online diplomas that will require no face-to-face attendance.

Seems like the call for science only applies when blocking the pet projects of others.

"Do as we say, NOT as we do."

"Online School Could Address ESEA Decrees," Education Week, March 19, 2003.

The Secretary has a curious belief that teachers do not benefit from learning HOW to teach. Education Week reported on June 19, 2002:

Paige Uses Report
As a Rallying Cry
To Fix Teacher Ed.

"Many schools of education have continued business as usual, focusing heavily on pedagogy, how to be a teacher, when the evidence cries out that what future teachers need most is a deeper understanding of the subject they'll be teaching, of how to monitor student progress, and how to help students who are falling behind," Mr. Paige told hundreds of state, school district, and higher education officials gathered here for a Department of Education conference on teacher-quality evaluation.

A Lack of Scientific Evidence

Where is the Secretary's evidence that less preparation in HOW and more focus on WHAT produces better teachers? Not in the report. Not at ERIC.

And where is his evidence that online learning wins better results when preparing teachers to teach than face-to-face methods would? Not in the report. Not at ERIC.

Before he takes us down this risky, unproven path, perhaps he should practice what he preaches and present credible evidence?

The "science" behind the report cited by Secretary Paige would not stand up to reasonable scrutiny, and his passionate belief in alternative paths to certification is poorly anchored in fact.

This rejection of pedagogy flies in the face of hundreds of years of learning. The report is laced with poorly substantiated change strategies. Launching a major teacher quality venture on such flimsy grounds is akin to managing on hearsay. We are starting to see autocracy grounded on pseudo science - top down dictates from Washington that violate state rights.

Alvin Toffler warned of info tactics - the distortion and manipulation of information to push political and social agendas - in his 1991 book, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century. He underlined the importance of digging past the executive summaries and conclusions of powerful figures to see if they were truly backed by credible evidence.

The U.S. Department of Education has been recently claiming scientific evidence in some cases without actually presenting anything resembling it. To appreciate this, we encourage readers to download and read the Secretary's report. We see this disturbing practice with teacher quality, and we see it with the pseudo-science and biased research behind the Reading First initiative - as so-called evidence reported by the National Reading Panel is highly questionable and dubious. (See review of Gerry Cole's new book, "Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation and Lies.")

Download a PDF copy of "Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge - The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality" - U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education - 2002. Read for yourself and note the poorly constructed, thin case for radical change.

Sadly, much of the press reprints the Department's press releases and passes along the claims of scientific evidence without actually checking their veracity and reliability. Half truths and distortions become conventional wisdom.

Distorting Research and Reality

The report mentioned above, "Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge," takes enormous liberties with the research on teacher quality, reporting those studies that concur with the authors' biases and dismissing opposing information, research and findings. The findings of reports are distorted. The experience of alternative programs is misrepresented. We have the thinnest of cases built on speculation and bogus data.

In a graduate course a paper of this thin quality would not even receive a failing grade. A good instructor would require that it be re-written in a more truthful, balanced way. It reads like a sales pitch or a piece of propaganda.

To illustrate with specifics . . .

1) Content vs. Pedagogy

The report tries to build a case that pedagogy is a failed aspect of teacher preparation. What we really need is teachers with strong content backgrounds, according to the Secretary's team. Rather than engage in a full review of the literature and the scientific research on a systemic approach to teacher improvement that would include all elements thought to be important to the development of strong teachers, the authors cut right to the chase and share a series of studies that purport to show the clear superiority of content over pedagogy.

We are spared a dispassionate (and scholarly) review of the evidence. Take a quick look at this report's End Notes. The reports and thinkers listed read like a "Who's Who" of conservatives and advocates for alternative routes. There is no balance. There is no objectivity. There is no true review of the research.

4
Kati Haycock, Good Teaching Matters ... A Lot (Washington, D.C.: The Education Trust, 1998). Available at http://www.edtrust.org.
5
Ibid., p. 3.
6
Dan D. Goldhaber and Dominic J. Brewer, “Teacher Licensing and Student Achievement,” Better Teachers, Better Schools, eds. Chester E. Finn Jr. and Marci Kanstoroom (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999). Available at: http://www.edexcellence.net/better/goldhab.pdf.
7
Findings from several studies suggest the effects of teachers having advanced degrees on student achievement are weak, including: David Grissmer, et. al., Improving Student Achievement: What State NAEP Scores Tell Us (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2000). Available at: http://www.rand.org; and Goldhaber and Brewer.
8
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Qualifications of the Public School Teacher Workforce: 1987-1988 to 1999-2000 (Washington, D.C., forthcoming). 9
Kate Walsh, Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling for Quality (Baltimore, Md.: The Abell Foundation, 2001). Available at: http://www.abell.org.
10
Goldhaber and Brewer.
11
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education, New York University, “A Brief History of Teacher Professionalism,” remarks delivered at the White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers, March 2002. Available at: http://www.ed.gov.
12
David L. Angus, Professionalism and the Public Good: A Brief History of Teacher Certification, ed. Jeffrey Mirel (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 2001). Available at: http://www.edexcellence.net/library/angus/angus.html.

This is not scientifically based research or policy making. It is stacking the deck of cards. It is partial truth.

The report starts with good questions . . .

Is teacher quality an important indicator of school success? Does content knowledge relate to academic achievement? Aren’t other things, like methods courses or practice teaching, essential as well? Let us turn to the scientific evidence for guidance.
Page 6

The trouble is the very special lens with which they review evidence. The lens is as limited as the blinders we put on race horses. They only note reports and evidence that supports the Secretary's often repeated bias - that pedagogy does not matter. They screen out anything that might look at balance, combinations and systemic approaches giving each element or factor in the system its due consideration.

They never pay attention to research on pedagogy.

Notwithstanding, the authors of this report kill pedagogy while lifting content to a supreme position. They ignore the work and thought of those with different data, different conclusions and different ideas about what creates good teaching. They look at a single element in a complex system, thereby oversimplifying and distorting reality. They see and report only what they want to see. They confuse associations between elements with causation.

This is not science. It is politics. They reach about as much truth here about the factors leading to good teaching as some accountants and corporate leaders of the past decade who were intent on cooking the books to inflate earnings and drive stock prices sky high.

Claim #1 - Good Teaching Matters. Who would dispute this finding? The report enthusiastically reports research from William Sanders in Tennessee that shows that students do better with teachers whose students have done well in the past. He found that students do poorly with teachers whose students have done poorly in the past.

Why did the authors cite Kati Haycock, "Good Teaching Matters ... A Lot," (Washington, D.C.: The Education Trust, 1998) as their source instead of Sanders? They should be quoting directly from Sanders after reading his methodological sections (see methodology) to see how good his science is, but all we get here is the summary and citation of a secondary source. They also should have mentioned both authors - William Sanders and June Rivers. (Go to Sanders and Rivers' report)

"Research Progress Report Cumulative and Residual Effects of Teachers on Future Student Academic Achievement." William L. Sanders and June C. Rivers. November 1996.

They summarize some of what Haycock says about Sanders' research but they fail to quote her comment:

None of these studies has yet advanced to the obvious next step: identifying the qualities that make for an effective teacher. (Page 5)

Despite the above limitations, the authors conclude this section with the following pronouncement:

Similar studies in Boston and Dallas have confirmed these findings. According to some estimates, the difference in annual achievement growth between having a good teacher and having a bad teacher can be more than one grade level of achievement in academic performance. The implication is that not only does teacher quality matter—it matters a lot. (Page 7)

The report spends two pages establishing that effective teachers are effective, but no evidence has yet been presented showing that content is more important that pedagogy.

We know that effective teachers are effective. What matters is the missing research mentioned by Haycock above.

None of these studies has yet advanced to the obvious next step: identifying the qualities that make for an effective teacher. (Page 5)

Without that research, the Secretary's report is without foundation and its recommendations without scientific basis. Utilizing the harsh credo of NCLB, the recommendations of the Secretary's report should go unfunded until credible evidence is presented.

A far more scholarly and balanced treatment of the teacher quality challenge is offered up by the Carnegie Foundation at http;//www.carnegie.org/pdf/teachered.pdf

It is noteworthy that this report mentions the report issued by Kate Walsh and the Abell Foundation but balances her work with others and ends up with vastly different recommendations.

"Teaching as a Clinical Profession:
A New Challenge for Education"
by Michael deCourcy Hinds
©2002 Carnegie Corporation of New York

Essentially, the initiative calls for treating teachers as modern clinical professionals and focuses on reforming schools of education as a first step. Better teacher preparation and support, according to this strategy, will help beginning teachers do a better job in assessing students’ capabilities, diagnosing their learning styles, prescribing a curriculum and adjusting teaching practices to reflect the latest research, their own experience and that of their colleagues.
Page 3

Claim #2 - Teachers with high verbal scores and strong content backgrounds "have been linked to higher student achievement."

The use of the word "linked" is crucial. Factors and variables can be linked without proving causation. High family phone ownership is linked with lower infant mortality in African nations. Should they buy more phones so that fewer children will die?

Evidence? Again the authors site research second hand, citing Haycock's summary of a study by Eric Hanushek. She gives his work a single paragraph and a citation. But the authors of the Secretary's report provide a quotation from Hanushek that does not appear in Haycock's summary. This is peculiar "scholarship."

The proper citation is: "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality." Journal of Political Economy, 1992, vol. 100, issue 1, pages 84-117.

Haycock quotes Hanushek as saying, “The difference between a good and a bad teacher can be a full level of achievement in a single school year.” (Page 3) There is no mention of how he reached this conclusion. There is no evidence of science.

The authors of the Secretary's report quote him as saying, “[Perhaps the closest thing to a consistent conclusion across studies is the finding that teachers who perform well on verbal ability tests do better in the class-room [in boosting student achievement].” (Page 7)

The abstract of the Hanushek article (mostly about family size) makes the following (more cautious claim):

Finally, teachers are shown to differ enormously, even though performance differences are poorly captured by commonly measured teacher characteristics.

The actual Hanushek study, which was based on the progress of just 1920 students in Gary, Indiana, used different words than either those quoted by the Secretary's report or Haycock. While their words are surrounded by quotations, their sentences cannot be found in Hanushek's study.

But there is a more important problem with using Hanushek's study to make statements about teachers across the land. His study was primarily focused on families in Gary to see how size of family and aspects of family life (father present in the home) influenced student performance. His comments about teachers are a minor part of his study and the statistical analysis of teacher performance is very theoretical, based on models and dummy variables. He referred to teacher and school inputs as "exogenous" - a technical statistical term that means they are complicating outside factors and influences that might make it difficult to study what you really care about - the treatment effects or key variables in your study.

Hanushek's comments about teachers, then, are a side product of this study and are quite limited in their value beyond the limited population and the abstruse statistical techniques of this one study.

He keeps stating complex statistical limitations regarding his analysis of the impact of teachers:

Teacher quality, or "skill," is viewed as being idiosyncratic, differing across teachers but not in accord with simply measured attributes. Skill differences are estimated by mean differences in student achievement growth across teachers, conditioned in other inputs. {He has the following footnote here - Separate teacher, or classroom, effects are estimated only if the teacher is observed with three or more sampled students.} When this general covariance structure, which is equivalent to including separate dummy variables for each teacher in the sample, is used, there is no requirement to specify or measure the precise characteristics of teachers and schools that are important - a task that has proved extremely difficult (See Hanushek [1986] for an extended discussion].

A subsequent section investigates the possibility that differences in classroom performance are not entirely attributable to differences in teacher skill but instead involve more complicated interactions of teachers and specific classes of students. (pp. 90-91)

Hanushek repeatedly includes disclaimers about his sample that neither Haycock or the authors of the Secretary's report mention when applying his findings to the whole population and the whole nation:

The sample used here - low income black students from Gary, Indiana - is clearly not representative of the entire population. (Page 104)

As for using Hanushek's study to support the claim of the Secretary's report "that teachers who perform well on verbal ability tests do better in the class-room," it pays to read what he really wrote in his report:

Finally, teachers took a short word test, which is frequently interpreted as a substitute for a general IQ test. There is mixed evidence about the relationship of teachers who score higher and student performance. "Smarter" teachers appear to do better in improving reading performance, but not vocabulary performance. (Page 110)

Recall that the term "recent studies" was applied to Hanushek's data? His study (1992) was based on data collected about students and their scores twenty years earlier in 1972-75 for the Gary Income Maintenance Experiment. Those data are now 30 years old!

It is interesting to note that the authors of the Secretary's report did not report another of one of Hanushek's findings:

Within this sample, there is no evidence of differences in performance for male and female teachers, but white teachers do significantly worse than black teachers. The sampled students are all black. Therefore, this result may reflect either that black students do better with teachers of their own race or that the white teachers that are attracted to this setting are otherwise poorer, given their measured characteristics. (Page 110)

Imagine generalizing to the nation on this intriguing finding!

Continuing beyond Hanushek's work, the authors make the following claim:

More recent studies suggest that subject-matter background can also have a positive effect on student performance. Research has generally shown that high school math and science teachers who have a major in the subjects they teach elicit greater gains from their students than out-of-field teachers, controlling for student’s prior academic achievement and socioeconomic status. These same studies also suggest that possessing an undergraduate major in math and science has a greater positive effect on student performance than certification in those subjects. (Page 8)

The citation? Dan D. Goldhaber and Dominic J. Brewer, “Teacher Licensing and Student Achievement,” Better Teachers, Better Schools, eds. Chester E. Finn Jr. and Marci Kanstoroom. Download PDF.

Studies? Science? Take a look.

This is a single study by Dan D. Goldhaber and Dominic J. Brewer. Dan D. Goldhaber is evidently one of the authors of the Secretary's Report. Major sections of the report appear verbatim in a Goldhaber article, "The Mystery of Good Teaching" for the Hoover Institution and its publication, Education Next. An early draft? (See article) Furthermore, he is not an educator. He is an economist with a Ph.D., in Labor Economics from Cornell University.

Goldhaber and Brewer's disdain for the thinking and research of educators is evident from their failure to cite it or give it serious consideration in the paper.

For the authors of the Secretary's report to claim any kind of serious review of the literature and then cite a single study by one of the authors is absurd. It saves time to cite only one's own studies, but it hardly stands as scholarship or science. There is no serious, open-mined review of literature in the Secretary's report or in the study by Goldhaber and Brewer. There is no dispassionate search for understanding. Both documents have policy agendas that drive the both the review and the consideration of evidence. The authors are intent on building a case for an extreme point of view and action plan rather than seeking a more balanced, complex understanding of systems that defy simple solutions, panaceas, and bromides.

Ironically, Goldhaber and Brewer contradict the claims the authors (and Goldhaber, himself, evidently) make about well controlled studies:

There is remarkably little rigorous research on several critical issues:
Do teachers with regular licenses perform better than those with a probationary
or emergency license?
Are some components of teacher licensure more effective than others?
What effect does licensure have on the quality of individuals entering
teaching?

And . . .

To our knowledge, there have been no large scale studies at the individual student
level that explicitly examine the relationship between teacher licensure and student
outcomes. (Page 87)

Read the claim again . . .

Research has generally shown that high school math and science teachers who have a major in the subjects they teach elicit greater gains from their students than out-of-field teachers, controlling for student’s prior academic achievement and socioeconomic status. (Page 8)

In their Methodology section, Goldhaber and Brewer explain that they built their study on data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS) - "a nationally representative survey of about 24,000 eighth-grade students conducted in the spring of 1988."

While they controlled for the student's socioeconomic status, they failed to control for the teacher's status, college scores or other confounding variables, even though we have data showing that weaker students are more apt to sign up for undergraduate education degrees and smarter students are more apt to sign up for majors in subject matter areas. Mr. Goldhaber writes, himself, " . . . it is not surprising when one considers the fact that most college students selecting education majors tend to be drawn from the lower part of the ability distribution.." (Page 94) The footnote supporting this assertion leads to the following citation: Eric A. Hanushek and Richard R. Pace, “Understanding Entry into the Teaching Profession,” Economics of Education. Review (1995). No page number is supplied.

Without scientifically controlling for these teacher differences, we have confounding variables. We cannot tell whether it is the teacher preparation (or lack of same) that causes differences in student performance or whether is actually the mental and socioeconomic advantages of certain groups that matter.

The absence of control groups and controls for the teachers' aptitude and social-economic backgrounds in Goldhaber and Brewer's study means that they have failed to meet the criteria for scientifically reliable research applied by the National Reading Panel and various administration spokespersons who identify the qualities of what they think is "scientific." If we were to apply the supposed NRP standards to their work, it would not be included, referenced or cited.

The findings are muddled.

Roughly speaking, having a teacher with a certification in mathematics results in a two point increase in the mathematics test which represents more than three-quarters of a year of schooling (or about 16 percent of the standard deviation on the twelfth-grade test). This is about twice the impact of having a teacher with both a B.A. and an M.A. in mathematics. (Page 94)

and then . . .

One of the most interesting findings is that teachers who have emergency certification in mathematics also seem to have roughly the same impact on students as teachers who hold standard certification.

Muddled findings may result, in part, as Goldhaber and Brewer admit, from the lack of precision applied to figuring out which type of certification applied to each teacher. How sad that major national policy is being proposed on such dubious foundations.

But even if we had evidence that "Teachers with high verbal scores and strong content backgrounds "have been linked to higher student achievement," that would not prove that pedagogy or certification is bad or unimportant. The key word here is "linked." In complex systems we would expect multiple factors to influence student performance - including diet, health care and a roof to sleep under.

The administration's rush to simple solutions of complex problems is rash and dangerous. It is especially rash given the lack of credible scientific evidence to support such a rush.

Claim #3 - Content is more important than Pedagogy.

THE EVIDENCE ON PEDAGOGY AND EDUCATION DEGREES

In this section, the Secretary's report dismisses research on pedagogy by referring to a single study from the Abell Foundation, which allegedly ". . . evaluated approximately 175 studies spanning the past 50 years" and found none of these studies supporting the impact of certification scientifically reliable.

There is a great deal of contention surrounding the evidence on these components, with some studies linking these requirements to improved student achievement. However, the quality of many of these studies has been called into question. (Page 8)

The citation for this remarkable dismissal of opposing evidence and point of view is Kate Walsh, "Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling for Quality." (Baltimore, Md.: The Abell Foundation, 2001). Only a corrected edition is now available at: http://www.abell.org. The original was pulled and edited after being met with sharp criticism for its many failure.

We attempted to ascertain Ms. Walsh's credentials but neither she nor the Abell foundation were forthcoming, and the credentials are not listed anywhere in the report or at the foundation Web site. Most scholars would proudly share their credentials as part of winning a reader's confidence in their training and judgment. Silence on such matters is reprehensible. But it stands to reason that one who argues against demanding credentials from those who would teach our children might resist any request to see her own credentials to justify her stinging critique of the scholarship of others.

Ms. Walsh refused to supply her credentials in an e-mail to me on April 2, 2003.

Why Hide the Credentials of the Author?

My second request . . . (April 1, 2003)

Dear Ms. Walsh . . .

I wrote earlier this week requesting information regarding your professional background and credentials since the Abell Foundation provided me with your e-mail address and suggested I contact you.

I will be publishing my article this week and need the information
within the next 24 hours, please.

Ms. Walsh . . . (April 2, 2003)

I got your note but I am not sure why you need to have my cv for an article
that you are writing about my article; I'm not sure why it is relevant.
Could you elaborate please?

My reply . . . (April 2, 2003)

Yes. It is standard practice to review the credentials of an author
to determine what qualifications they have to be judging the work
of others.

Ms. Walsh . . . (April 2, 2003)

I'm sorry but it isn't standard practice.

For a policy analyst at a foundation to dispose of a major body of research with acrimony and disdain, one would expect at a minimum that she would have some relevant training in the field she was going to invade. Courses in statistics? Research design. Search as we did through the Internet, we could find no listing of credentials or graduate training.

Despite the fact that the Walsh study has been severely criticized for its many failures and distortions by highly respected educators and thinkers, the Secretary's report uses it to kill off all opposing studies with a single shot. There is no mention of its flaws and no attempt to review the critiques of this document. Her work is advanced without apology and without any qualifying comments as if it were some kind of gospel.

Even though Ms. Walsh and the Abell Foundation saw fit to retract and revise her original report after sharp criticism, the Secretary's report still uses the original report as its source.

Linda Darling-Hammond, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University and the Executive Director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, has written a stinging indictment of Walsh's scholarly sins and omissions, but the Secretary's report ignores her criticism and fails to include her information.

In order to make a case for this agenda, Walsh attacks all research that has found relationships between teachers’ preparation and their measured effectiveness, including students’ achievement. She goes on to characterize much of the education research as “flawed, sloppy, aged and sometimes academically dishonest” (p. 13), a characterization that more aptly describes her paper, which consistently misrepresents the statements of researchers, the findings of studies, and the evidence base for her claims.

All studies have limitations, and some are too problematic to be relied upon, including a
number that Walsh relies upon for her own assertions. However, Walsh’s paper, which is littered with dozens of inaccuracies, misstatements, and misrepresentations, sheds little light on them or their implications for the research base on teacher education and certification. In what follows I discuss the inaccuracies in Walsh’s account, the actual findings of many of the studies she purports to review, and the findings of other studies she chooses to ignore, as well as the implications of her proposals for teachers, their knowledge, and the students they teach.

The Research and Rhetoric on Teacher Certification:
A Response to “Teacher Certification Reconsidered” Page 3

Darling-Hammond points out that the Abell Foundation has been pushing the Baltimore Schools to allow non-certified teachers to work with city children - a program discontinued by the Superintendent.

A final agenda is to rekindle support for the Resident Teacher Program in Baltimore, a program that has been a revolving door of under-prepared teachers into and out of Baltimore Public Schools, recently targeted for discontinuation by the new superintendent of schools because of its high attrition rates and poor outcomes for children. Page 1

Readers can judge for themselves the quality of support for the assertions in the Secretary's report by reviewing both Walsh's and Darling-Hammond's papers. Most well meaning, open minded folks would find that the research on the impact of certification on student performance is complicated, uneven in quality and often unreliable (in any direction). That is not the same as proving that certification is worthless.

Darling-Hammond points out that In some cases Walsh dismissed the findings of a study because the sample size was small and yet cited that same study later when the study found something that matched her point of view.

For the Secretary's report to base its assertions on this single, obviously biased attack on certification is curious since the Secretary often points to the research of the National Reading Panel as a model of scientific research even though many of the studies the NRP cite compare just two classes of students at the kindergarten or first grade level - a sample size that would disqualify their findings from Walsh's approval rating.

Walsh argues for an end to certification because the evidence that it works is inconclusive, while
Darling-Hammond suggests that such a swerve in policy might do great damage and should not be allowed without the provision of credible evidence that it will improve life for those directly affected:

The burden should be on those who argue against efforts to ensure minimally qualified teachers for all students to prove that the confluence of race, poverty, and low achievement with the presence of untrained and uncertified teachers does not further disadvantage our nation’s most vulnerable students. (Page 21)

Some of Walsh's versions of what researchers reported varied so much from what they had actually written that Darling-Hammond contacted some of them for comment. Monk (1994), who had found that both content knowledge and methods contributed to teacher effectiveness was surprised by Walsh's rendering of his work:

Monk told me that when Walsh first shared her brief appendix review of his work with him, he was surprised that she had used his work to emphasize the importance of subject matter knowledge without acknowledging his findings on the value of education courses. He noted in an email to me that he had communicated to Walsh that:

My study of relationships between teacher course taking experiences and subsequent student gains in performance showed that the number of both content courses and content-specific pedagogy courses in a teacher’s background is positively related to pupil test score gains in the relevant content area. It is misleading to report the positive results for the content courses and to not acknowledge the positive results for the pedagogy courses.

After Monk communicated with Walsh, she did acknowledge in her appendix that Monk’s study provides support for the contention that education coursework has a positive effect on teaching performance; however, she did not incorporate this admission in her claims that “not one” of the studies ever cited on this topic provides such support. (pp. 24-25)

The citation for Monk is Monk, D. (1994). "Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement." Economics of Education Review, 12(2): 125-142.

Judge for Yourself
Kate Walsh, "Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling for Quality." (Baltimore, Md.: The Abell Foundation, 2001 - amended in 2002). Available at: http://www.abell.org. The original report was removed after its scholarship was critiqued by Linda Darling-Hammond.

"The Research and Rhetoric on Teacher Certification:
A Response to “Teacher Certification Reconsidered.” Linda Darling-Hammond. Available at http://www.nctaf.org/publications/

The evidence to show the irrelevance of pedagogy? A simple reference to the names of Dan D. Goldhaber and Dominic J. Brewer:
10 Goldhaber and Brewer.

What an interesting style of End Note! The mere mention of their names is sufficient to prove a point? Science? Evidence? Are we being pointed to the previously mentioned very weak research report? If so, the word "Ibid." is meant to appear here.

In a section meant to support the Secretary's ongoing assault on pedagogy, we have just two references. One is a global attack on all opposing studies and research. The other is the same report by one of the authors that is being recycled to provide (dubious) scientific evidence for one more unsubstantiated claim.

2) Alternative Programs (pp. 16-21)

The Secretary's report gives high grades to two alternative entrance and preparation programs, but the evidence gathered to support this endorsement is entirely one-sided. There is no effort to review all sides of a contentious proposition. Even the so-called positive evidence is pretty weak and unconvincing:

Page 18 (Commenting on Teach for America results in Houston - Secretary Paige's former district)

The evaluation found that, on average, across different grades and subjects, the effect of a TFA teacher was always neutral or positive. The differences between the average TFA teacher and the average non-TFA teacher are generally not statistically significant. However, TFA teachers show less variation in quality than non-TFA teachers. The evaluation reveals the district’s highest performing teachers are consistently TFA teachers, while the lowest performing teachers are consistently not TFA teachers.21

What a ringing endorsement! This is scientific evidence of effectiveness?

The footnote leads to Margaret Remand's and Stephen Fletcher's article, “Teach for America,” Education Next, Spring 2002. (Full text)

The study is deeply flawed and could not possibly survive scientific scrutiny, as it indulges in a "Straw Person" strategy of comparing unusually bright college graduates with teachers in a tough urban district, many of whom are not certified to teach. The authors themselves acknowledge this as a weakness . . .

First, this study was not designed to test the benefits of the various teacher-preparation programs or of certification. We do not have the ability, for example, to isolate the effect of Houston’s alternative certification program, because an appropriate comparison group was not available.

And yet, the Secretary's report uses their study in exactly that way without mentioning any of their caveats.

The methodology of this report has been severely criticized, as the authors somewhat defensively mention:

A third caveat relates to the criticisms levied against us by the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) after our report’s initial release. NCTAF, a strong promoter of traditional teacher-education programs and more stringent certification requirements, writes, “[CREDO] does not present data indicating how TFA teachers performed compared to teachers who came into the profession fully qualified and certified to teach. . . . To say that TFA teachers do just about as well as other new teachers [in Houston], an extraordinary number of whom are extraordinarily underqualified, is a weak endorsement at best.”

Despite a lack of statistical significance when comparing the student reading performance of TFA teachers with Houston teachers in general and a very small difference on math, the authors repeatedly indulge in language that tries to wring significance out of thin air.

All our results show the average TFA teacher improving her students’ performance by more than new teachers and at least as much as all teachers in Houston.

Why does the Secretary's report ignore information and reports like the scientific research conducted by Berliner and Laczko-Kerr:

The Effectiveness of "Teach for America" and
Other Under-certified Teachers on Student Academic Achievement:
A Case of Harmful Public Policy

Laczko-Kerr, I., & Berliner, D.C.. (2002, September 6). Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(37).

Quoting from the abstract:

Traditional programs of teacher preparation apparently result in positive effects on the academic achievement of low-income primary school children.  Present policies allowing under-certified teachers, including those from the TFA program, to work with our most difficult to teach children appear harmful.  Such policies increase differences in achievement between the performance of poor children, often immigrant and minority children, and those children who are more advantaged.

When the Secretary publishes a report that ignores conflicting scientific evidence, the report passes across the line from scholarly and objective to political and biased. The report becomes a sales pitch, a marketing tool and a piece of propaganda. Given the acrimony aimed at opponents of the NCLB party line on issues like phonics, the thin research base advanced to push for alternative teacher preparation roots is remarkable.

Gambling on Questionable Efforts

In funding online teacher preparation, the Secretary once again ignores scientific evidence. Many of the online programs have failed. He should be concerned about investing in digital diploma mills when so many of these programs have "bit the dust" in recent times.

He has pushed for a risky, unproven learning strategy to provide quality teachers just as Columbia University officially discontinues its Fathom.Com operations at the end of March, 2003.

"Mixed success for online colleges "
By HEMA EASLEY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: August 12, 2002)

The development is exciting for online educators and students, but analysts say the rosy figures hide a mixed reality. Of the thousands of colleges and universities that have jumped on the online education bandwagon, a few are succeeding, but many more are failing, said Kenneth Green, founder and head of the Campus Computing Project. The Los Angeles-based organization studies trends in online education.

While corporate giants have repeatedly championed virtual learning during the 1990s as a way of reducing the costs of human teaching and enhancing results, their methods are unsupported with the kind of research the Administration demands when it comes to phonics and reading. Many early efforts have failed.

New York Times - May 2, 2002

Lessons Learned at Dot-Com U.

By KATIE HAFNER
"The truth is that e-learning technology itself, and those of us who represent the institutional and corporate agents of change in the e-learning environment, have thus far failed," Dr. Gonick said. "Across U.S. campuses today, e-learning technology investments are at risk, and many technology champions are in retreat." Since the mid-1990's, most of the purely virtual universities that sprang up — from Hungry Minds to California Virtual University — have been sold or scaled back or have disappeared altogether. The same is true for the lavish venture-capital financing for start-ups that designed online courses for colleges or put the technology for such courses in place, for a high fee.

In 2000, some $482 million in venture capital was spent on companies building online tools aimed at the higher education market. So far this year, that amount has dropped to $17 million, according to Eduventures.

CMU - The Ivy Jungle Network - June, 2002

Phoenix University remains the best success story in online education. California Virtual University, Virtual Temple, NYUonline, and E-MBA have all been abandoned. Others, such as Fathom consortium, ECornell, and Western Governors' University have changed dramatically and begun targeting very nontraditional students, often with non-degree offerings.

Secretary of Education Paige has shown a continuing disregard for the craft and art of good teaching in his public pronouncements, but this time he has also violated the Administration's own rules about scientific proof.

"Do as we say - Not as we do!"

Undermining Quality

On the one hand, we see an Administration spokesperson trying to dictate particular phonics programs by insisting on supposedly scientific evidence:

"Bush Adviser Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Phonics Program" - By Abby Goodnough, New York Times, January 24, 2003.

"We can find no published research indicating that this program has been tested with well-defined groups of kids and shown to be effective," Dr. Lyon said. "And clearly one would want to know those kinds of details before incorporating any program into use."

But then Secretary Paige gambles vast sums on an unproven, speculative system of online learning to prepare teachers for our classrooms. He publishes a report advocating unproven, risky alternative routes to certification.

Why is it OK for the Administration to invest in unproven ventures and favorite projects while schools must heed stricter rules and suffer threats from federal bureaucrats? We have one standard for schools - a different one for the Secretary and his associates.

It is curious that schools must suffer autocratic, top-down educational leadership from Washington at a time when there is so much talk about democracy. How did we enter this century with an Education Tsar?

Instead of investing in well documented, rigorous teacher preparation programs with significant human elements, good content, strong pedagogy and practice in the field, the Administration is throwing support and dollars behind what amounts to digital diploma mills - programs that stand little chance of making sure teachers can work effectively to change student performance.

Let's apply Dr. Lyon's words about reading to Dr. Paige's investment in online teacher preparation:

We can find no published research indicating that this program has been tested with well-defined groups of prospective teachers and shown to be effective," the school administrator said. "And clearly one would want to know those kinds of details before incorporating any program into use."

Should the scientific evidence rule for program adoption only be honored by the Administration when it is convenient?

As was pointed out in some detail in the January issue of this journal, "Gambling with the Children," this Administration has embedded many untested strategies in NCLB/ESEA (AKA Helter-Skelter) and in the Department's regulations on such elements as AYP, choice and teacher quality.

A Risky Experiment with Children

Time will reveal that NCLB is the single most risky experiment in the history of American education. It will also prove damaging. It is likely to harm already disadvantaged students most seriously as we see a decline in standards and quality.

If we flood schools with teachers who demonstrate knowledge without craft, we will undermine the quality of instruction, hurt millions of children and leave many of them behind.

Can you picture removing licensing requirements for lawyers, accountants, doctors, dentists and veterinarians? Would you want a surgeon operating on you whose primary education was virtual?

Lowering the standards for teacher preparation and turning to supposedly "teacher proof" packaged instructional programs condemns many of our students to a future of burger flipping and low paid jobs. Turning schools into factories where teachers need no craft or skill is fundamentally undemocratic and is likely to increase rather than reduce the social inequalities Secretary Paige and President Bush claim to defend.

What we see here is the harsh bigotry of lowered standards.

This online approach to teacher preparation actually has little to do with ensuring quality but much to do with cost savings, short cuts and lowered standards. As with much of NCLB/ESEA and its regulations, we witness again and again lowered expectations for teachers' effectiveness, pay and rights, as alternative, publicly funded charter schools are not held to the quality standards of the federal regulations. Such schools will be able to circumvent labor unions and hire those who come cheaply and unprepared.

Despite the rhetoric about not leaving children behind, that is exactly what these lowered standards will do.

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What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.