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Straight talk at the "Straight Up" blog

Rick Hess is definitely “straight up.” Gotta really appreciate his blog, including his latest guest posts by Roxanna Elden (expert teacher and TLN member) and ed researcher Dan Goldhaber.

In her guesting debut, Roxanna unpacks the language of self-proclaimed school reformers who use terms like “status quo” to denigrate the efforts of teachers and bash the unions who seek to support them. Roxanna cautions us that teachers — beset by years of policy mandates that do not work — often see value in a number of seemingly "status quo" strategies. She writes: “Most teachers are open to growth and change, but we have also experienced changes so poorly planned, last minute, and disruptive that the status quo doesn't seem like such a bad alternative.”

And then there is the very thoughtful essay from Professor Goldhaber, making the case for the careful use of value-added models in assessing teaching effectiveness. As he and I have discussed in the past over a beer (me) or bourbon (Dan), the various statistical wrinkles and the messiness of student attribution require us to take a cautious and comprehensive approach to using VAM. One way for VAM to be thoughtfully put to work is to have teachers co-develop the metrics and then drive its application in determining effective and ineffective teaching. (We'll soon post a paper at the CTQ website that I co-wrote with several teacher leaders for the Gates Foundation. It makes the case for this approach.)

But let's remember that, in terms of tools, VAM is a creation of late 20th century statistics and measures academic growth pretty much in 20th century terms. Indeed, we might even say that the standardized tests currently in use (from which VAM results are derived) are actually built on 19th century principles of teaching and learning.

We are now entering the second decade of the 21st century. We have the smart teachers (e.g., Roxanna) and the smart tools (including smartphones in the hands of most educators) to reframe accountability and school reform. We have students who deserve cutting edge assessments respectful of the real work done by the professionals who serve them.

If we want to rid ourselves of the "status quo," let's start there.

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