Posts tagged #teacher quality



The United States now bears the ominous title of being the world's most prolific jailer: with only 5% of the population, we represent 25% of the incarcerated. The vast majority of our prisoners are functionally illiterate—even if they went to school—and an inordinate number of them are people of color. In The Path to Prison, a former gang-member and felon from South Central Los Angeles shares his own path, helping us understand how so many capable and intelligent young men—especially African-American males like him—end up uneducated and behind bars in the 'home of the free.'  (8 min.) Featuring: Jerone Shell

The discourse around education reform—especially on issues involving teachers—lacks nuance, thoughtfulness and, often, commonsense. Political rhetoric is distracting from efforts to improve teacher quality, especially in schools serving urban, minority children. It has become virtually impossible to fire a teacher in America, and when incompetent, absent or even abusive teachers can’t be fired, they are shuffled to the schools where parents have the least power to do something about it. Meanwhile, qualified candidates go through the steps to become teachers only to be knocked around and sometimes out of the system by the same rules. In this short film, teachers themselves ask whether the system is serving students’ needs…not to mention their own. (17 min.)

Featuring: Howard Fuller, Pearl Arredondo, Virginia Walden-Ford, Steve Hill, Michelle Rhee, Amber Pierce, Batia Oren, Dan Gerstein, Lisa Raymond, Barrie Weiss

Charter schools have been around for over twenty years, yet many Americans are still unclear about what exactly these schools are and everyone wants to know why some are so great and others…not so much. Unchartered Territory looks at the advent of charter schools offering urban, minority children new school options while also providing new staffing models centered on results and accountability. Interviewing some of the most successful 'pioneers' of this still-developing frontier, this short film provides an insider’s look at both the opportunities and obstacles presented by charter school reform in America. (15 min.)

Featuring: Kevin Chavous, Deborah Kenny, Irasema Salcido, Steve Barr, Jason Epting


In production. Planned for release in early 2015

This short film examines the evolution of Oakland through the eyes of social entrepreneurs who are determined that youth of color not be left on the sidelines as Silicon Valley spreads across the Bay and into the home of the second largest black community in California. Kalimah Priforce, whose first success as a social justice rebel was a hunger strike at the age of eight, and Kimberly Bryant, a successful electrical engineer turned founder of Black Girls Code, are organizing large-scale hackathons to prepare youth to redesign the future through the power of digital coding. Joined on the national stage by #YesWeCode founder and CNN Commentator Van Jones, their work represents the cusp of a growing movement to change both the face and use of technology in America. But is Silicon Valley ready to be hacked? (22 min.)
Featuring: Kalimah Priforce, Kimberly Bryant, Van Jones, Yes We Code, Qeyno Labs & Black Girls Code, Isaiah Thomas, others (tbd)

In this short film, we follow Tyzjae (Tie-zhay) Monroe from sixth grade to his junior year in high school as he and his mother struggle to find him a school that acknowledges—let alone nurtures—his obvious intellect. As a black male growing up in urban America, Tyzjae has already encountered his share of obstacles and set-backs in his quest to follow a direct path to college. When it is discovered in junior high that he is an exceptionally good quarterback, suddenly his value to area schools increases exponentially and the path seems all but certain. So what happens when a serious injury at the end of ninth grade keeps him off the field for a year?  (Coming soon)
Featuring: Tyzjae Monroe, Tequaila Monroe, Curtis Monroe, Catrina Brown, Marco Clark, Alisha Roberts.

On a Friday night after a long week at work, Calvin Davis joined his family in Southwest Washington, DC for an informal gathering. Still wearing scrubs from his job at Children’s National Medical Center, Calvin caught up with old friends while his two boys rode their bikes around the block. When police followed his fifteen year-old home, pulling on gloves as they approached the teenager, Calvin intervened to ask “Why? What did he do?”  How these questions escalated into a night in jail for a father with no prior record will make you “Think of Calvin” next time you question racial profiling or how America has become the world’s most prolific jailer.  (Coming soon)
Featuring: Calvin Davis, Carlet Harris, Montae Harris, C.J. Davis

Race + Poverty = How You're Treated in American Education

These days, it has become totally acceptable for education leaders to blame poverty for our nation's achievement gap; to in effect say that all those kids can't learn in school because they're hungry, their families are dysfunctional, they are so far behind when they start Kindergarten that there's just no catching up, etc. These sweeping generalizations are very effective in removing all blame from the school system and preventing education reform efforts that could ensure that EVERY child receives the same quality of schools and teachers that wealthy students enjoy.


My last blog post inspired this op-ed, an exclusive for TakePart. It's getting some strong feedback, so clearly I've touched a nerve. Change is hard, but isn't it time for us to RETHINK the education system and the structures that surround teaching if they aren't benefitting anyone??

What We Need to Ask is: Does Unionization Still Make Sense?

Read it here: TAKE PART Op-Ed 9-18-12 


How Much Do Good Teachers Matter?

The answer is a LOT.

It always surprises me that we need more and more research to prove this to many people, given how intuitive and obvious it should be to anyone who has ever attended school. Regardless of what children bring with them to school in terms of home experiences, previous learning, expectations -- WHATEVER -- if the teacher in the classroom IS NOT teaching, or is not teaching effectively, or -- and this does happen -- is actually telling the students that they are not capable of learning .....well, NO learning will happen. 

Whereas a good or great teacher, armed with only paper and pencils can do amazing things. Give those teachers even better resources and they will arrange miracles. Fortunately, most teachers fall in this category (and are feeling quite dispirited by the polarized discussion that labels all participants as either "anti-" or "pro-" teacher, as if all teachers are equal in quality). 

Alas, today's education debates are such that we need hardcore research to prove that the quality/ability/effort of the teacher in the classroom has a tremendous impact on whether kids learn or not. 

Additional research is showing that when there are ineffective teachers in the system, they are disproportionately placed in front of low-income, minority students in communities where the parents have the least power to do something about it. Then we blame those parents, students and communities for the resulting lower academic performance. 

The question is, why do we allow this to continue? 

Some reading on the matter:



Posted on January 13, 2012 .


Public Impact is one of the most reliable resources in education reform. Check out this great new report about how we could ensure that EVERY student is taught by excellent teachers.

 Here's a blurb:

In Seizing Opportunity at the Top, we show what policymakers must do to: 

  • speedily improve the identification of excellent teachers – here we show how;
  • clear the policy barriers that keep them from reaching more students – here we offer a clear, simple list of new, more effective policies; and
  • catalyze the will for schools to put excellent teachers in charge of every student’s learning. Here we propose bold solutions to create this will—including a new right to excellent teachers and strong financial incentives for excellent teachers to reach more students—and we invite others to add to these ideas. Without will-enhancing actions, other policies and education changes will continue to fall short of their potential.
Posted on October 11, 2011 .


I couldn't have said it better myself. This short essay from Kati Haycock, founder of the Education Trust, frames the current education issues perfectly:

Look to Schools to Solve the Achievement Gap

Kati Haycock //Sep. 27, 2011 // 8:00 AM  from the Education Nation blog:

The shameful truth about America’s public schools system is this: If you’re a young person of color or come from a poor or working-class family, you stand a pretty high chance of getting a second-rate education.

In fact, the latest national data show that more than half of all African-American and Latino fourth-graders are unable to read at even a basic level. And, math skills of low-income eighth-graders are more than twice as likely to be below basic as those of their more affluent classmates.

This is an enormous problem, not just for these kids, their families and their communities, but for all of us. Low-income students and students of color together make up the majority of kids enrolled in our nation’s schools. A sub-par education at the K-12 level leads to lower college degree attainment, which, in turn, poses a direct threat to our nation’s future security and prosperity.

Certainly, a lot of students enter school already behind their peers. Most of us know that and are outraged that we allow so many American children to grow up in difficult circumstances. But instead of giving these kids more of what they need in order to catch up, our education system gives them less of everything that matters for academic success.

Consider this:

We spend less on their schools. Research and common sense both tell us that it costs more to educate disadvantaged students. But in high-poverty school districts, we spend an average of $773 less per student than we do in more affluent districts. And in high-minority districts, that funding gap is even greater: $1,122 per student.

We expect less from them. Far too often, students attending high- poverty schools receive A’s for work that would earn C’s in a more affluent school on the other side of town. And high school graduates of color are about half as likely as white graduates to have completed a college-prep curriculum.

We staff their schools with the least prepared teachers. We take the kids most likely to face outside-of-school challenges and put them in chemistry classes taught by English majors and algebra classes led by first-time teachers. In fact, low-income students and students of color are about twice as likely as other kids to be assigned to out-of-field or rookie teachers.

It’s easy to blame low achievement among these students on uninvolved parents or the burdens of poverty and race. But while the achievement gap has roots outside of schools — serious ones that we must address — it has solutions inside the school walls. When educators refuse to let a student’s circumstances become an excuse for poor performance, they can, quite literally, change his whole life for the better. And we’ve met thousands of these educators.

Every year, with our Dispelling the Myth award, The Education Trust recognizes schools that have doubled down in their determination to help kids learn and have yielded astonishing outcomes. These schools and the educators who staff them prove that low-income students and students of color can and do achieve at the highest levels, so long as they are taught at high levels.

Take George Hall Elementary School with a student enrollment that is almost entirely African American and low-income. Despite being in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Mobile, Ala., the strong leadership of a new principal transformed the school into a leading example of teacher collaboration and careful attention to student performance. Teachers at George Hall ensure that their lessons are rich, effective and broaden the students’ horizons; they use field trips and outside materials to provide the kinds of experiences that allow them to transcend poverty. Now, more than 95 percent of its students at least meet state standards in reading and math.

Then there’s Griegos Elementary School in Albuquerque, N.M. where three-fourths of the students are Hispanic and more than half are low-income. Despite its demographics, Griegos is one of just a handful of schools in New Mexico where most students are meeting state standards in math, reading and writing. Nearly four out of five Griegos fourth-graders meet state math standards, as compared to just 44 percent of students statewide. Like George Hall’s outcomes, these results are no accident – they’re the product of high expectations and rigorous assignments. As one Griegos educator said, “We don’t care if you’re rich or you’re poor. You’re going to do the work. Both for work and for behavior, they’re all accountable.”

George Hall and Griegos are just two of the schools bucking the trend and proving that all students can succeed. Our nation’s economic strength hinges on our deeply held belief that hard work and education are the keys to the American dream. And that, in turn, means we need to learn from the schools that are lifting student achievement and replicate their lessons all across the country. We have neither a mind nor a moment to waste.

Kati Haycock is president of The Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college.