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Blogs of the Week

April 03, 2012 3 min read
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Duncan Decries Publication of Ratings

Publishing teachers’ ratings in the newspaper in the way The New York Times and other outlets have done recently is not a good use of performance data, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview.

“There’s not much of an upside there, and there’s a tremendous downside for teachers,” he said last month. “We’re at a time where morale is at a record low. ... We need to be strengthening teachers, and elevating them, and supporting them.”

So how does this square with Duncan’s famous endorsement, in 2010, of The Los Angeles Times’ controversial project to publish a database of teacher “value added” ratings?

Duncan called publication of that data “far from ideal,” noting that teachers could only get it once it was published.

The city teachers’ union still hasn’t come around to using the data in a districtwide evaluation system, but it is being piloted voluntarily in some schools.

Duncan’s comments opposing the mass publication of this information echo those of others in the field—including philanthropist Bill Gates and Teach For America’s Wendy Kopp. While both are generally bullish on the use of such data as a component of teacher evaluations, they argue that its mass publication amounts to a shaming of teachers.

Duncan said he supports the judicious disclosure of such data to principals and parents.

He underscored that any such sharing should also be a comprehensive look at teacher performance, not just test-score-related measures.

States’ open-records laws regarding personnel evaluations are murky. An Education Week analysis of these laws conducted by Amy Wickner, a library intern, found 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, in which access to teacher evaluations is theoretically permissible.

—Stephen Sawchuk


N.J. District Scrambles To Clarify Hugging Ban

In the world of spin control, here’s an unenviable job: trying to explain that a ban on hugging in a New Jersey middle school isn’t really that big a deal.

You might have heard the brouhaha last month when the principal of Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School, Tyler Blackmore, announced over the public-address system that the school of 900 11- to 14-year-olds was “a no-hugging school.” The new rule came in the wake of some “incidents of unsuitable, physical interactions,” according to Associated Press reports.

As the no-hugging news made its way home to parents, many of whom responded with outrage, the school and the district scrambled to clarify the message.

Blackmore sent a recorded telephone message to the school’s families, saying no one would be suspended for hugging, according to cbs’ New York affiliate.

Superintendent David Healy said the district must “teach children about appropriate interactions.” He defended Blackmore’s decision and confirmed that no child would be suspended for hugging.

No word so far on how Matawan-Aberdeen is enforcing its “no-hugging school” distinction, since no student will be disciplined for hugging.

—Catherine Gewertz


Initiative Rallies Out-of-School Leaders

Out-of-school programs can reduce negative behaviors and improve students’ attendance and achievement, says a new report released March 27 that draws findings from some 60 after-school studies.

The report was officially released last month in conjunction with the launch of the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project, an initiative and website that promote expanded and extended learning efforts nationwide. The initiative is supported by the Noyce Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and other organizations.

The website will offer news on research in the field, promising practices, and avenues for collaboration between programs and community partners.

So far, 450 organizations and advocates have signed on to support the project, and statewide after-school networks have plans to host summits that further the discussions on best practices for out-of-school programs to have the most significant impacts on participants.

—Nora Fleming

A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week


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