(Next to me on the couch I hear a sly, subtle shout of joy)
Oh wait honey, there’s more… “Except after two girls, when a third girl is more likely“.
Due date #3: July 21st.
This article, written by my husband, was published last week in Education Week, “the single must read news source for K-12 leaders and policy experts”. Please read it and tell me what you think.
By Alvin H. Crawford
Our school systems are broken, but everyone seems to have his or her favorite villain rather than a strategic approach to producing positive student outcomes. Unions, teachers, districts, parents, politics, school choice, and competition all play a role, but the blame game doesn’t address the core problem. Here’s the reality: If we fix public education, every child will have an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, and the United States will have an opportunity to play a role in the global knowledge economy. The challenge is determining the real source of the problem and providing a solution that works for every school in the nation. And those are no small tasks.
Research suggests the problems lie not with the students but with the adults. Teacher-performance research clearly illustrates we have a teaching problem in school districts. It suggests the quality of a classroom teacher is the single most important element in a child’s success. Given such data, one might conclude there are more suboptimal teachers than great ones. But let’s not immediately point fingers at teachers. Arguably, most enter the profession hoping to have an impact on children, yet a third leave after three years, and 50 percent after five years. The heart of the problem is that there are too many poorly trained administrators, principals, and teachers. In most industries, people are considered the most important asset, and corporate leaders ensure they are trained to do their jobs effectively. Public schools should be no different.
However, most foundations and policymakers have focused on accountability and evaluation rather than training. The assumption: If we measure teachers more effectively, we can get rid of the bad ones. The problem is too deep and systemic, though. In short, we cannot fire or hire our way out of this problem. The statistics suggest that if we develop a support system for principals and teachers to train them effectively, we will change education culture, retain new educators more effectively, enhance the performance of existing staff members, and identify those who, despite effective training, can’t meet standards and should pursue other careers.
According to several studies, school districts spend more than $10,000 on teacher professional development per teacher, per year. The number is startling and, in most cases, represents an amount far greater than any district budgets or believes it spends. In most instances, staff development is funded through a combination of federal funds (Titles I, II, III, and IV, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), several district-level departmental budgets (curriculum and instruction, accountability, professional development, and human resources), and school-level budgets. In most instances, no centralized accounting exists for those dollars, either in how they’re spent or their overall impact.
But the body of research reveals that staff-development costs, including central-office and local staff, hours of teacher time, stipends, salary increases, substitutes, facilities, instructors, and material expenditures hover in the range of $8,000 to $16,000 per teacher, per year, especially in larger districts. Most districts have no idea they spend that much on staff development. Sadly though, most administrators agree their professional-development outlay has no correlation with student-achievement results.
The $10,000-per-teacher cost could be justified if a significant change in teacher practice or student achievement were the result. But most professional development today lacks alignment to student-achievement needs, fidelity of implementation, and scale or reach. Professional-development days are historically spread throughout the year and delivered by internal resources through one-day trainings with little or no follow-up. In most cases, the inch-deep and train-the-trainer approaches to professional development won’t transform practice.
Scaling effective practice is also a significant issue. Most training takes place outside the classroom, an arrangement that requires coordination of days, substitutes, trainers, and facilities. This means many initiatives take six to eight years to reach all teachers in a given school or district, creating isolated pockets of knowledge but no systemic change in overall teacher practice. Research should dictate the model and methods for training all employees, but curiously, over 15 years ago, theConsortium for Policy Research in Education, or CPRE, wrote a report on professional development that largely echoes the same problems we have today: lack of alignment, fidelity, and scale.
There is a “paucity” of solid research on the impact of professional development on student achievement, the U.S. Department of Education has found. In reviewing 1,300 studies on the subject, the department found that only nine of them met What Works Clearinghouse standards for research. However, the nine studies agreed that “teachers who receive substantial professional development” can raise student achievement “by about 21 percentile points.” A report by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education concluded that to be effective, professional development must be focused, engaging, intensive, linked to student learning, supported with coaching, and integrated with other school initiatives, and continuous for “an average of about 50 hours or more on a given topic.”
Given the challenges and the evidence, how do we deliver effective professional development to teachers in a way that aligns to strategic objectives, provides the fidelity and rigor required to change instructional practice, and offers the scale required to address the needs of more than 50 million students?
The only effective way to scale professional development is to leverage online learning. Online professional development can deliver dozens of hours to teachers within eight weeks and includes collaborative learning environments supported effectively by coaching, modeling, mentoring, observation, and feedback. Online professional development works because it reduces travel costs and coordination, minimizes time out of the classroom, and allows educators to learn at their own pace. In fact, research suggests that online learning happens faster than face-to-face learning, with increased retention of the material.
Online professional development engages educators in high-quality learning by adhering to best practices in adult learning. It promotes differentiated coursework while enabling teachers to engage collaboratively with colleagues who share their learning needs. By delivering effective, differentiated online professional development, districts leverage the powerful advantages of technology and the online-learning environment. Districts delivering online professional development realize cost savings, scale critical instructional practices, differentiate teacher learning, advance strategic human-capital management, maintain intentional fidelity, and transform teaching.
Building educator capacity this way allows districts to focus on fixing the problems, immediately. Imagine if a district could effectively train 5,000 teachers in the common-core curriculum, differentiated instruction, cultural competency, effective teaching, instruction of English-language learners, formative assessment, and highly engaging classroom practice. Those courses could be delivered in less than six months to all teachers by the nation’s leading practitioners, with research-proven practice.
Imagine the dialogue. Imagine the engagement when principals, teachers, and coaches go about their work. There would be a common language and culture focused on addressing the problems. There would be a support system to help transform learning into practice. There would be a way to evaluate whether teachers who receive training and face-to-face support can meet the demands of rigorous instruction through end-of-year evaluations. And there would be transformational improvement in the ability of teachers to meet the needs of their students.
It’s time to take action and invest in developing our educators to meet the needs of 21st-century students by becoming 21st-century teachers. We can solve this problem by focusing our efforts, our investments, and our school districts on building capacity through online professional development.
Alvin H. Crawford is the chief executive officer of Knowledge Delivery Systems, in New York City, a national provider of strategic professional development for teachers, schools, and districts. He has worked in education and media for more than two decades.
A few weeks ago, I hopped on the plane to visit my friend Emma, who lives with her fiance and their two year old son in Malmö, Sweden. We met a very long time ago, in college, and always stayed in touch. However, since she came to my wedding in July 2007, we’ve both been too busy expanding our families. So it was about time for a reunion.
Malmö is a beautiful city in the south of Sweden, by the sea. The day I arrived, she showed me her parents’ place, the third oldest house in the city, built in 1706, beautiful! We did some shopping, and sightseeing by bike. The next day, we drove up to their version of The Hamptons, called Näset, to spend the day at the family’s summer house. While catching up, we realized what different lives we lead.
After giving birth, a Swedish mother gets one year paid maternity leave at 80% of her salary. Emma could not believe most mothers in the US, as well as in The Netherlands, have to leave their baby after three months or less to go back to work. Children in Sweden go to daycare after their first birthday, when their moms return to work full time. A nanny is not very common, and I don’t think Emma’s son even knows the word babysitter, because grandparents take on that role (this would actually save me $100 per night out).
A well known saying in Swedish is “Lagom är bäst”, which means “Better to be in the middle”. That is exactly where many residents are, and yet they are living extremely well. There is not a large disparity between the rich and poor. With a top individual income tax rate of 60%, Sweden has one of the highest taxes in the world. However, the tax money is distributed very equally among its citizens. They have a great health care and education system. I couldn’t believe daycare for their son is practically free. Actually, you could say children in Sweden are basically free, while in New York City, the third child is a status symbol…
So here I am, back in the country where everyone strives to live “The American Dream”; where bigger is better; where millions in capital gains only get taxed at 15%, and where the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger and bigger. This is so visible in our neighborhood, where the projects are around the corner from $20,000/month apartments.
Check out these statistics below:
• 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
• 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
• 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
• 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.
• A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
• 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
• Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
• For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
• In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
• As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
• The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
• Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
• In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
• The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
• In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
• More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
• This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
• Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
• The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.
So yes, the US is a great country with lots of opportunity to live the American Dream. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t have equal access to the same opportunities. The disparity in education sets a tone for the statistics above. Instead of building a strong nation, it seems that today the US policies are focused on providing a path for a small group of individuals to get bigger and bigger. For those who aren’t able to make it in this country, it would be nice if taxes on capital gains could go up a bit. Undoubtedly, the rich will still live a happy life, while the poor will be able to send their children to a good school, and receive better health care.
To Emma: I’m sorry this turned out to be such a depressing post. So here’s a fun fact for you that will make you come visit soon: Sockerbit, a typical Swedish candy store, recently opened their doors in the West Village. I went in last week, and had a flash back to your neighborhood candy store… Mycket trevligt!
Happy Birthday Mister President!
After weeks of visitors, lots of carrot cakes, Easter eggs, a sick family, and a birthday, I’m feeling very old, but excited to be back in Blog Land.
Since half of my girlfriends are due this fall – don’t pregnancies always come in waves – I figured I would share with you pregnant girls the great idea of a “Gender Party”. Forward the result of the ultrasound to a baker who bakes a cake with color-coded filling which reveals the gender of the fetus. Watch this..
Oh, and as far as baby names go, I bet Mariah and Nick inspired you.
Tap water tastes different in each country and it took me a while to get used to New York City tap water. Fresh Direct happily delivered big bottles of Poland Spring water. Oh, and of course trays of little sports bottles, for on the way. Imagine having to pay $2 for a little bottle in the park, that’s a rip off!
WAIT… A rip off? I was already being ripped off, big time. Why would we pay for something we can get for free at home, without harming the environment? It’s called marketing. So let me share a little marketing with you, about the irony of bottled water.
Check out this video. It’s quick and well worth watching.
We live in Manhattan where we pay a lot of money to send our children to the best schools. Why? Because our children are more gifted and talented, and therefore destined to attend only Ivy League Schools. If not admitted to the right preschool at the tender age of two (some kids actually fail the test, or should I say their parents’ professions do), we’d better pack our bags and hide in the ‘burbs.
Funny? I wish… Earlier this week, NY Daily News published the article, “Manhattan mom sues $19K/yr. preschool for damaging 4-year-old daughter’s Ivy League chances“
Yes, this is the world I chose to raise my daughters in. So let me tell you about the world I came from…
In The Netherlands, preschool, ages 2-4, three hours a day, five days a week costs $3,000 per year. The same schedule at the Studio School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side goes for $19,600.
Okay, I let myself go by publicly sharing my wish list. It’s just that every now and then, I dream about taking Mia shopping instead of to school, and about how much she would learn about her possible future. Does a preschool really prepare her for Yale or Harvard? In court papers, Nicole Imprescia (yes, by now everyone in NYC knows the mom’s name) suggests the preschool jeopardized her daughter’s chances of getting into an elite private school, or the Ivy League.
Living in Manhattan places such an unfair burden on parents. It’s a very competitive city where lots of parents have the means to send their kids anywhere. The question becomes whether these preschools are preying on the emotional vulnerability of parents, or whether they can have a transformative impact on your child’s future.
Being Dutch, I feel like it’s ridiculous. Having been here for a while though, I’d happily invest in a costly preschool, if I knew it would help my daughter get a higher test score. For us, this would open the doors to public Gifted & Talented programs, for $0.00, compared to private elementary school tuitions which cost up to $35,000 per year (not including their fund raisers). Then, Mia could both attend a good school and go shopping with me. She’d be the brightest kid in New York City, and I’d have more Louboutin shoes than I could’ve ever dreamed!