Chicago Strike, Research Among Top Posts in 2012

By Stephen Sawchuk — December 31, 2012 3 min read
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Readers, it’s time to take a look at what items most caught your attention here at the Teacher Beat blog over the past year.
We’ll run through them in reverse.

#10: Chicago teachers voted to end a seven-day-long strike as described in this, our 10th most read item of the year. The move paved the way for the ratification of a tentative agreement.

#9: It makes plain old common sense, but now empirical research tentatively supports the idea that teachers who seem to be effective in one school setting continue to do well when they transfer to other schools, according to a research study I reported on in July. Caveat: The specific magnitude of such teachers’ effect scores do differ, which is partly a function of how so-called “value added” models work. Remember, individual teacher value-added scores compares each teacher with those teachers of students of similar demographic backgrounds.

#8: Few reporters attended the National Education Association’s budget hearing in July. Too bad, because the details were shocking: The nation’s largest union had lost 100,000 full-time-equivalent members and expected to lose even more in coming months.(The mainstream press later picked up on this story.)

#7: Readers flocked to our Number 7 post, on an AFT proposal to create a bar-exam-like licensing test states could voluntarily adopt as part of their certification process. AFT has had a bit of a mixed track record on projects like this in recent years, but this effort could get a boost from the involvement of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

#6: I was heartened to see that readers found this item analyzing teachers’ instructional practices as interesting as I did when I wrote it. The blog item brought some additional attention to a finding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching study. As part of that effort, trained reviewers scored dozens of taped lessons from teachers. They found that teachers tended to get lower ratings on their ability to teach students how to analyze and solve problems, and on managing high-quality discussions among students. Such findings held up across all the teaching frameworks studied. It’s unclear why this seems to be the case, but the implications for policy are many, especially in a day and age of increased student expectations under the common core. Put another way: The common-core standards will require both teachers and students to perform at higher cognitive levels.

#5: You were interested in this item summarizing a Center for American Progress report that found the cost of compensating teachers holding advanced degrees has increased by nearly $15 billion in just four years. This remains a highly sensitive and hotly debated topic.

#4: In our fourth most-read item, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan walked back his support for a Los Angeles Times’ project that created a database of teacher-performance ratings based on test-score measures.He told me that “there’s not much of an upside there, and there’s a tremendous downside” to making teachers’ evaluation ratings public.

#3: In bronze-medal position is an excellent guest post from colleague Nirvi Shah, which profiled the fastest-growing education start-up: A free classroom-management website, ClassDojo.

#2: Our runner-up post was the first of many Chicago teachers’ strike-related posts and stories here at Education Week. This is the item to read if you want a short, neat summary of the background factors that led to the strike.

#1: The most popular item was my reporting on a research study showing thathigh levels of teacher turnover have a deleterious effect on student achievement—and not just for those students taught by the departing teachers. It’s the latest in what seems to be a new surge of high-quality studies trying to sort through the complex issue of teacher retention. Interestingly, reactions to the study felt a bit like a classic see-what-you-want-to see litmus test: Plenty of folks used the findings to take swipes at Teach For America, which requires candidates to serve only two years in the profession. Others interpreted it as a broader indictment of working conditions and a profession that tolerates a tremendous amount of churn.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.