Tag Archives: Education Reform

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dana Goldstein

Last week the Brown Education Department Speaker Series concluded for the semester with its fourth and final speaker of the year. The department welcomed Dana Goldstein, a 2006 Brown graduate, journalist, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In her book, Dana Goldstein asks, “Why is teaching the most controversial profession in America?” Historically, American public school teaching developed as an explicitly working class job. Yet at the same time that we pay public school teachers poorly, police their political activity, and prevent them from influencing the curriculum, we have come to expect teachers to play a key role in the eradication of poverty and inequality.

Goldstein outlined in her presentation how many attitudes about the school reform debate are old and cyclical rather than new conversations.  Moral panic, for example, has frequently caused us to focus on who is teaching rather than addressing structural issues. The concept of data-based reform is also not new, with the idea of pay tied to performance being almost a century old. Goldstein further outlined how valuable data that is not test scores is historically ignored, even if it yields important insights, such as how school funding correlates to teacher effectiveness. The media further exacerbates issues with this conversation by incentivizing focusing on extremes rather than on how to improve the average teacher.

Ultimately, Goldstein concluded by noting the underlying issue that education reform is usually done to teachers, not with teachers, and that if we are truly going to increase the prestige and effectiveness of American public school teaching, we need to use a new strategy: conceiving of teachers as intellectuals, and allowing them to collaborate to exercise real professional discretion and leadership.

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Ansley Erickson

The Brown Department of Education hosted another installment of its Speaker Series last week, and was proud to feature Dr. Ansley T. Erickson, Assistant Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Erickson co­-directs the collaborative and digital historical research project Educating Harlem.​ Dr. Erickson is a graduate of Brown University, class of 1995, with a B.A. in Education Studies and Political Science.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As Dr. Erickson began her talk, she remarked how the classroom where we were assembled coincidentally held special significance for her. The lecture hall was the ​location of her first Brown University Education class, taught by the legendary education reform leader Ted Sizer, the Founding Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. We were further honored to have the late Sizer’s wife, Nancy Faust Sizer, present in the audience for Dr. Erickson’s presentation.

American schools today are starkly segregated by race and class. After a few decades of limited attention to this problem, advocates are calling for a new era of desegregation. Dr. Erickson walked the group through her research on the history of desegregation in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the longest-­running, broadest, and most statistically successful school desegregation plans in the country, and indicated how her case study could offer important lessons, and at times cautions, for desegregation efforts going forward.

Dr. Erickson pointed out various systemic roadblocks to true integration. For example, despite the new illegality of school segregation in the 1960s, it continued to be unofficially enforced by the state due to federal suburban home financing only being available to white families. Once busing was introduced, a more genuine integration began, however this still raised the moral question of if a black student’s education was “equal” if they were systemically being told that in order to receive a quality education they must be removed from their communities.

Dr. Erickson argued that fostering equality today depends on reckoning with segregation’s deep roots, desegregation’s complex history, and considering these intricate questions.

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Douglas Harris

Douglas Harris_Headshot
The Brown Education Department Speaker Series held its second installment last week, and was proud to feature Dr. Douglas Harris, a Professor of Economics, the Schleider Foundation Chair in Public Education, and founder and Director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) at Tulane University.

Dr. Harris delivered a presentation to the Department entitled “Taken by Storm: The Post-Katrina New Orleans School Reforms and their Effects on Students“. The school reforms put in place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina represent the most intensive test-based and market-based school accountability system ever created in the United States. Collective bargaining ended, school choice expanded, and nearly all public schools were taken over by the state. Now ten years later, Harris’s study is providing New Orleans with the first examination of the effects of this package of reforms on student achievement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Harris walked Education Department faculty and students through his research step by step, showing that even when controlling the data for other influences, over time the reformed system of schools had clear, statistically significant positive effects on student outcomes.  Despite these encouraging initial results, Harris cautioned that this extreme overhaul approach may not be generalizable to other geographic locations, but was only successful in New Orleans due to a specific combination of circumstances, such as population characteristics and the rapid influx of passionate teachers to the area post-Katrina.

UEP Professor Matthew Kraft in the News!

Yet again, Urban Education Policy Professor Matthew Kraft’s research is making headlines!  In this past week, his work on “The Underutilized Potential of Teacher-to-Parent Communication: Evidence from a Field Experiment” has been featured in The Boston Globe, and Education Week.   The study, which is co-authored by Todd Rogers, director of Harvard’s Student Social Support R&D Lab, is set for publication in the August 2015 issue of the academic journal Economics of Education Review.

Read the entire paper today, or check out the abstract below:


We study an intervention designed to increase the effectiveness of parental involvement in their children’s education. Each week we sent brief individualized messages from teachers to the parents of high school students in a credit recovery program. This light-touch communication increased the probability students earned credits by 6.5 percentage points – a 41% reduction in the proportion failing to earn credit. This improvement resulted primarily from preventing drop-outs, rather than from reducing failure or dismissal rates. The intervention shaped the content of parent-child conversations with messages emphasizing what students could improve, versus what students were doing well, producing the largest effects. Our results illustrate the underutilized potential of communication policies with clear but reasonable expectations for teachers and program designs that make communication efficient and effective.

UEP Professors Matthew A. Kraft and John P. Papay win the 2015 AERA Palmer O. Johnson Award!

Kraft

Prof. Matthew Kraft

Papay

Prof. John Papay

Last week, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) announced the recipients of its Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award. The Award is presented annually to recognize the highest quality of academic scholarship published in one of the AERA peer-reviewed research journals.

The UEP Program is proud to announce that the 2015 recipients are none other than Prof. Matthew A. Kraft and Prof. John P. Papay! Their paper “Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience” was published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis in December 2014.  Read the entire paper, or check out the abstract below:


Mounting evidence suggests that the school context in which teaching and learning occurs can have important consequences for teachers’ career decisions, teacher effectiveness, and student achievement. Using a rich dataset from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, we investigate how an individual teacher’s effectiveness (as measured by contributions to student achievement) changes as they gain experience on the job. Specifically, we look at how the professional environment of the school influences the degree to which teachers become more effective over time. We construct our measure of the professional environment from teachers’ responses to state-wide surveys.

We find that there is large variation in the extent to which teachers improve, both across individual teachers and across schools. Teachers who work in more supportive environments improve at much greater rates than their peers in less supportive schools. On average, teachers working in schools at the 75th percentile of professional environment ratings improved 38 percent more than teachers in schools at the 25th percentile after ten years. These findings highlight the role of the organizational context in promoting or constraining teacher development. Transforming schools into organizations that support the learning of both students and teachers will be central to any successful effort to increase the human capital of the U.S. teaching force.


Congratulations Professors Kraft and Papay!

Alumni Alert: UEP ’13 Mike Katz In the News!

Mike KatzThe Urban Education Policy program works to provide each student with valuable technical skills and enhanced perspectives to help advance future careers. As a tight-knit program, we remain closely connected with our alumni and enjoy celebrating their successes! We recently heard from a graduate who is working to accelerate the dialogue around early childhood absenteeism in Washington D.C.:

Mike Katz, UEP ’13, now works for the Urban Institute and helped lead recent research with D.C. Public Schools on pre-kindergarten absenteeism. The study involved two components, both focusing on the Head Start program. Mike’s work explored contributing factors to absenteeism and potential solutions, and culminated with the report Insights into Absenteeism in DCPS Early Childhood Programs: Contributing Factors and Promising Strategies. The work also analyzed attendance data, patterns, and trends for Head Start students in a separate report Title I schools, Absenteeism in DC Public Schools Early Education Program.

The two reports have received considerable media attention, including an NPR radio interview with Mike. The Washington Post and Education Week also ran stories on the work, (one of which was tweeted out by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan)!

Please join us in celebrating the work Mike Katz and his colleagues have accomplished by reading up on this interesting and important topic!

The UEP Speaker Series Presents Dr. Stella Flores

StellaLast week, the Urban Education Policy Speaker Series was proud to feature its second presenter of the semester, Dr. Stella Flores, an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Dr. Flores has served as a program evaluator for the U.S. General Accountability Office, a program specialist for the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and a policy researcher for the Texas State Legislature and various city governments in Texas.

Drawing on her research on the impact of state and federal policies on college access and completion for low income and underrepresented populations, Dr. Flores delivered a presentation titled “Do English Language Learners Go to College? An Examination of Long­-Term Educational Trajectories”, which explored the impact of interventions, such as participation in ELL programs, on student outcomes like high school graduation and college attendance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UEP students were enthusiastic for the opportunity to hear Dr. Flores speak about her research. Current student Kirsten Schmitz remarked that “UEP students take Quantitative Research Methods and Data Analysis our first semester, and so Dr. Flores’ presentation was especially well-timed. It was empowering to engage with her data on a higher level, drawing on the skill set we’ve developed in class and applying it to her findings around English Language Learners and college access.”

While engaging, the presentation also illuminated another side of education research and analysis: that the data encountered in the real world is not as neat or complete as the problems practiced in a classroom setting.  UEP student Mateus Baptista noted that Dr. Flores’s work highlighted “the clear limitations of data sets and how researchers can only work with what they are given.” For instance, no data was available to Dr. Flores on students’ parents’ education levels, a factor which clearly may have some influence on student outcomes. These limitations served as a welcome reminder of the realities of education practice and research.

The UEP program is so grateful that Dr. Flores was able to visit Brown for the second installment of the Speaker Series, and looks forward to resuming in the Spring semester with new presentations!

Professor Wong Meeting with Geoffrey Canada, Founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone

Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem’s Children Zone, and Stanley Druckenmiller, chair of the HCZ Board, were invited by Brown President Christina Paxson to deliver a talk on the impacts of federal fiscal policy on children and young adults.  Following the presentation, Professor Wong met with Mr. Canada to discuss ways for the HCZ and the UEP to work together on urban school reform.  Mr. Canada was interested in learning about the career pathways of our UEP graduates.

Geoffrey Canada and Prof Wong_10_15_13