No Presentation Without Representation

Posted by on June 26, 2013

I tend to comment on newly-released teacher surveys, primarily because I think the surveys are important and interesting, but also because teachers’ opinions are sometimes misrepresented in our debate about education reform. So, last year, I wrote about a report by the advocacy organization Teach Plus, in which they presented results from a survey focused on identifying differences in attitudes by teacher experience (an important topic). One of my major comments was that the survey was “non-scientific” – it was voluntary, and distributed via social media, e-mail, etc. This means that the results cannot be used to draw strong conclusions about the population of teachers as a whole, since those who responded might be different from those that did not.

I also noted that, even if the sample was not representative, this did not preclude finding useful information in the results. That is, my primary criticism was that the authors did not even mention the issue, or make an effort to compare the characteristics of their survey respondents with those of teachers in general (which can give a sense of the differences between the sample and the population).

Well, they have just issued a new report, which also presents the results of a teacher survey, this time focused on teachers’ attitudes toward the evaluation system used in Memphis, Tennessee (called the “Teacher Effectiveness Measure,” or TEM). In this case, not only do they raise the issue of representativeness, but they also present a little bit of data comparing their respondents to the population (i.e., all Memphis teachers who were evaluated under TEM). Read More »


The Cartography Of High Expectations

Posted by on January 25, 2013

In October of last year, the education advocacy group ConnCAN published a report called “The Roadmap to Closing the Gap” in Connecticut. This report says that the state must close its large achievement gaps by 2020 – that is, within eight years – and they use to data to argue that this goal is “both possible and achievable.”

There is value in compiling data and disaggregating them by district and school. And ConnCAN, to its credit, doesn’t use this analysis as a blatant vehicle to showcase its entire policy agenda, as advocacy organizations often do. But I am compelled to comment on this report, mostly as a springboard to a larger point about expectations.

However, first things first – a couple of very quick points about the analysis. There are 60-70 pages of district-by-district data in this report, all of it portrayed as a “roadmap” to closing Connecticut’s achievement gap. But it doesn’t measure gaps and won’t close them. Read More »


Surveying The Teacher Opinion Landscape

Posted by on October 30, 2012

I’m a big fan of surveys of teachers’ opinions of education policy, not only because of educators’ valuable policy-relevant knowledge, but also because their views are sometimes misrepresented or disregarded in our public discourse.

For instance, the diverse set of ideas that might be loosely characterized as “market-based reform” faces a bit of tension when it comes to teacher support. Without question, some teachers support the more controversial market-based policy ideas, such as pay and evaluations based substantially on test scores, but most do not. The relatively low levels of teacher endorsement don’t necessarily mean these ideas are “bad,” and much of the disagreement is less about the desirability of general policies (e.g., new teacher evaluations) than the specifics (e.g., the measures that comprise those evaluations). In any case, it’s a somewhat awkward juxtaposition: A focus on “respecting and elevating the teaching profession” by means of policies that most teachers do not like.

Sometimes (albeit too infrequently) this tension is discussed meaningfully, other times it is obscured – e.g., by attempts to portray teachers’ disagreement as “union opposition.” But, as mentioned above, teachers are not a monolith and their opinions can and do change (see here). This is, in my view, a situation always worth monitoring, so I thought I’d take a look at a recent report from the organization Teach Plus, which presents data from a survey that they collected themselves.

Read More »


Education Advocacy Organizations: An Overview

Posted by on December 7, 2011

Our guest author today is Ken Libby, a graduate student studying educational foundations, policy and practice at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Education advocacy organizations (EAOs) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some focus on specific issues (e.g. human capital decisions, forms of school choice, class size) while others approach policy more broadly (e.g. changing policy environments, membership decisions). Proponents of these organizations claim they exist, at least in part, to provide a counterbalance to various other powerful interest groups.

In just the past few years, Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), 50CAN, and StudentsFirst have emerged as well-organized, well-funded groups capable of influencing education policy. While these four groups support some of the same legislation – most notably teacher evaluations based in part on test scores and the expansion of school choice – each group has some distinct characteristics that are worth noting.

One thing’s for sure: The proliferation of EAOs, especially during the past five or six years, is playing a critical role in certain education policy decisions and discussions. They are not, contrary to some of the rhetoric, dominating powerhouses, but they aren’t paper tigers either. Read More »


Disclaimer

This web site and the information contained herein are provided as a service to those who are interested in the work of the Albert Shanker Institute (ASI). ASI makes no warranties, either express or implied, concerning the information contained on or linked from shankerblog.org. The visitor uses the information provided herein at his/her own risk. ASI, its officers, board members, agents, and employees specifically disclaim any and all liability from damages which may result from the utilization of the information provided herein. The content in the shankerblog.org may not necessarily reflect the views or official policy positions of ASI or any related entity or organization.

Banner image adapted from 1975 photograph by Jennie Shanker, daughter of Albert Shanker.