Aspiring Principals Inspire Improvement

Graduates of the New York City Aspiring Principals Program (APP) have successfully increased English test scores at traditionally low-performing schools, says a study released August 24 by the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. APP is part of the New York City Leadership Academy, which was formed in 2003 to recruit, prepare, and support the professional development of aspiring principals in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). The Leadership Academy is particularly focused on improving leadership in historically high-poverty, low-performing schools. APP has 390 graduates who comprise approximately 15 percent of NYCDOE’s principals.
The report studied student outcomes at schools led by APP graduates and at comparison schools led by other new principals. Prior to the arrival of a new principal, the average elementary and middle school students at APP principals’ schools performed significantly below their citywide grade level in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. In contrast, students at the comparison principals’ schools scored approximately at citywide grade-level average. According to the study, in “the initial years of their leadership, elementary and middle school APP principals had comparable or better growth trends than comparison principals” in ELA. Additionally, while comparison schools’ scores dropped behind citywide averages in their third and fourth years, APP schools remained stable.

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TNTP Tool for “Interpreting Race to the Top”

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) recently assembled a PowerPoint presentation to help education leaders and policymakers pursue Race to the Top reforms. “Interpreting Race to the Top” includes:

1. A succinct summary of Race to the Top application and selection criteria;
2. An analysis of each of the four Race to the Top “assurances”: standards, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and school turnarounds;
3. Practical questions for districts and states to ask as they assess their progress and plans; and
4. Preliminary analysis of each state’s current competitiveness for funding, given its existing policy framework.

The recommended checklist for states and districts available in TNTP’s PowerPoint may be very useful in helping states and districts identify their current competitiveness for funding. It raises key questions about what elements in states’ current policy frameworks may benefit or inhibit them as they pursue Race to the Top reforms.

For additional guidance on Race to the Top, view SMHC’s “State and District Roadmaps to Federal ‘Race to the Top’ Proposals,” available here.

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New Paper from SMHC on Measuring Teaching Practice

In this rich working paper, Anthony Milanowski, SMHC Senior Researcher, with contributions from Herbert G. Heneman, III, Dickson-Bascom professor (Emeritus) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Steve Kimball, SMHC and CPRE researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reviews the current state of the art in teaching assessment by examining seven assessment systems. This study is the latest contribution from SMHC to the national dialogue on the rising importance of measurements of teacher effectiveness. Under Race to the Top, all states have given President Obama the assurance that they will array teachers by effectiveness. Support for this requirement drives the research by Milanowski, who writes, “Teacher performance in the classroom is the lifeblood of the educational enterprise… The assessment of teaching performance is a critical part of any attempt to develop a coherent system for the strategic management of teacher human capital.”

However, in spite of states’ assurance to array teachers by effectiveness, no state currently has the capacity to do so. Even those states that do have value-added assessment systems only cover 15 to 35 percent of teachers. In his study, Milanowski works to develop a “specification” for a state of the art performance assessment system, to help states or districts think about how they want to develop their own teaching competency model and what assessment approaches fit best with different uses of this model.

Through the SMHC State and District Reform Networks, SMHC will be working with states and districts on measurement systems and new measurement tools coming from the Gates foundation, to create a system that successfully arrays teachers credibly by effectiveness.

The working paper is available here. The final paper will come out this Fall.

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What’s the Mark of a Great School Leader? Great Followers

SMHC Task Force member Denis Doyle stresses the importance of HR alignment and strong school leadership in this recent post on The Doyle Report. According to Doyle, the success of Montgomery County MD schools is largely due to its management of human capital. Doyle writes, “One of the lessons that cannot be stressed enough is that the institution’s ‘human capital’ must be aligned … to bring it all off: teacher and principal recruitment, oversight, in-service training, compensation, promotion, tenure must all work together seamlessly… Even more important is the leader’s vision.”

Montgomery CO schools Superintendent Jerry Weast is responsible for much of the district’s high academic achievement, Doyle writes. The greatest testament to Weast’s success is not his function as an irreplaceable leader, but rather his ability to inspire followers. In Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Schools, a recently published book by Doyle and Stacey M. Childress and David A. Thomas of the Harvard Business School, Doyle documents Weast’s strategies in an effort to develop “the architecture of success from which his successors and colleagues can (and must) learn.”

School leadership was a focus of the recent SMHC National Task Force meeting. Task Force members deliberated extensively how to produce effective principals, and looked in particular at Chicago Public Schools’ ongoing efforts to reform their approach to principal recruitment and placement.

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Newsweek Captures Sec. Duncan’s Address at the SMHC Task Force Meeting

In “Obama’s Stealth Education Reformer,” Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift reports on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s presentation at the SMHC Task Force meeting on August 4. Clift writes, “Duncan turned heads when he entered the Ritz-Carlton in Washington early this month in part because he’s so tall (6-foot-5), and because he is offering the kind of strong, spirited leadership that the education community doesn’t often associate with Washington.” Clift reports that sitting alongside SMHC co-directors Allan Odden and Jim Kelly and SMHC Task Force chair Governor Tim Pawlenty, Duncan urged the SMHC Task Force to “move outside [its] comfort zone,” and insisted that a lack of political will would be the only explanation if we fail to reform the U.S. education system.

According to Clift, Duncan has moved swiftly and effectively – and largely under the radar – to advance the agenda of tying data on student achievement back to individual schools and to teachers. Forty-six states have signed on to voluntarily work together to adopt common core standards and assessments of student achievement. The move towards common standards is critical to successfully reforming and restructuring school human resource practices. SMHC has emphasized the need for rigorous, clear standards that provide school districts with a single instructional vision, to which all human resources functions can be aligned.

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Widget Report Draws Praise

Raymond Pecheone, co-executive director of the Stanford University School Redesign Network and director of the Performance Assessment for California Teachers, and Ruth Chung Wei, director of Assessment Research and Development at the Stanford University School Redesign Network, recently reviewed The New Teacher Project’s report The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Teacher Differences. Tim Daly, president of The New Teacher Project, is a member of the SMHC Task Force.

According to Pecheone and Wei, due to the report’s extensive analysis of teacher evaluation systems the authors “build a compelling case for the inadequacy of the current teacher evaluation processes, uses, and policies in the four states.” Additionally, Pecheone and Wei assess the report’s four recommendations – that systems fairly and accurately differentiate between teachers’ effectiveness, have trained evaluators who are held accountable, use evaluations to inform key decisions, and have dismissal policies that offer due process and provide lower-stakes options for ineffective teachers to exit. According to Pecheone and Wei, these recommendations “appear to represent reasonable strategies for improving a broken teacher evaluation system.”

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Secretary Duncan Address SMHC National Task Force

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with the SMHC Task Force on Wednesday to discuss talent and human capital management from the federal perspective. Educator effectiveness has been at the crux of the education reform dialogue, and the recently released guidelines for the Race to the Top grant competition prioritize the development of “Great Teachers and Leaders.”

“The leadership around this table is pretty remarkable,” said Secretary Duncan. “I look forward to partnering with you.”

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SMHC Task Force Looks at SMHC District and State Reform Networks

The SMHC District and State Reform Networks are a critical focus of the ongoing SMHC project. Task Force Vice-Chairs Carl Cohn and Michelle Rhee, along with Janet Knupp, Task Force member, and Betsy Arons, consultant, Gates Foundation, updated the Task Force on the work of the District Reform Network. Launched in 2009, the District Reform Network is made up of more than 20 school districts, and addresses the full range of human capital management issues.

Governor Tim Pawlenty, SMHC task force chair, and Alice Seagren, Minnesota Commissioner of Education, updated the Task Force on the SMHC State Reform Network. Both networks are particularly focused on the broad range of issues related to talent and its strategic management, from recruitment to development, retention and rewards. But to engage in strategic talent management both networks also are addressing the need to measure teaching performance, which is the missing HR metric in most systems. The networks are considering how to pursue robust systems that will accurately and effectively measure teaching performance (and principal performance), which is needed to strategically manage all aspects of teachers and principals.

Approaches to Measuring Teaching Practice Probed at Task Force Meeting

The SMHC National Task Force reconvened yesterday and today. Responding to the recent national focus on systems to measure teacher effectiveness, SMHC Co-Directors Allan Odden and Jim Kelly, along with SMHC Senior Policy Analyst Anthony Milanowski led a discussion on approaches to measuring teaching practice. Odden, Kelly, and Milanowski unveiled the findings of the new SMHC paper, “Review of Teaching Performance Assessments for Use in Human Capital Management.” 

Among the report’s preliminary conclusions are that there is promising technology to improve the efficiency of teaching assessments, such as the videos and written reflections used in National Board and Pact; and that all assessments need to be aligned based on the same competency model. 

“Review of Teaching Performance Assessments for Use in Human Capital Management” will be available soon on the SMHC Web site.

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Principals, Strap on Your Armor

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week put the onus on principals to improve our schools when he called for a “team of warrior principals to leave the easier places and go into the most underserved communities with a chance to build a new team.” Secretary Duncan was addressing approximately 350 principals at the annual meeting of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of Secondary School Principals. He said we need to enlist 1,000 principals a year over the next five years, and that principals need to develop evaluations that are “fair, thoughtful, but meaningful.”
Principals are critical to SMHC’s school reform efforts. The SMHC District Reform Network has eight working groups, including one devoted to developing strategies to help principals serve as effective talent managers within their schools. Districts should align their systems for defining and developing principal competencies, which should include the competencies needed for human capital management at the school site. Additionally, the SMHC State Reform Network is made up of states working to adopt and implement key state SMHC reform that reinforce district abilities to recruit and retain top-principal talent.

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