Relaxing Wisconsin’s Weak K-12 Teacher Licensing Requirements; MTEL?

Molly Beck: A group of school officials, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, is asking lawmakers to address potential staffing shortages in Wisconsin schools by making the way teachers get licensed less complicated. The Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges, created by Evers and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators executive director Jon Bales, released last […]

MTEL Arrives in Wisconsin: Teacher Licensing Content Requirement, from 1.1.2014

2011 WISCONSIN ACT 166, via a kind reader:

Section 21. 118.19 (14) of the statutes is created to read:
118.19 (14) (a) The department may not issue an initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in grades kindergarten to 5 or in special education, an initial license as a reading teacher, or an initial license as a reading specialist, unless the applicant has passed an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test administered in 2012 as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure [blekko]. The department shall set the passing cut score on the examination at a level no lower than the level recommended by the developer of the test, based on this state’s standards.
(c) Any teacher who passes the examination under par. (a) shall notify the department, which shall add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that he or she passed the examination.
and….
115.28 (7g) Evaluation of teacher preparatory programs.
(a) The department shall, in consultation with the governor’s office, the chairpersons of the committees in the assembly and senate whose subject matter is elementary and secondary education and ranking members of those committees, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, do all of the following:
1. Determine how the performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory program described in s. 115.28 (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in s. 115.28 (7) (e) 2. and located in this state will be used to evaluate the teacher preparatory and education programs. The determination under this subdivision shall, at minimum, define “recently completed” and identify measures to assess an individual’s performance, including the performance assessment made prior to making a recommendation for licensure.
2. Determine how the measures of performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory or education program identified as required under subd. 1. will be made accessible to the public.
3. Develop a system to publicly report the measures of performance identified as required under subd. 1. for each teacher preparatory and education program identified in subd. 1.
(b) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the department shall use the system developed under par. (a) 3. to annually report for each program identified in par. (a) 1. the passage rate on first attempt of students and graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1.
(c) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, each teacher preparatory and education program shall prominently display and annually update the passage rate on first attempt of recent graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1. on the program’s Web site and provide this information to persons receiving admissions materials to the program.
Section 18. 115.28 (12) (ag) of the statutes is created to read:
115.28 (12) (ag) Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, each school district using the system under par. (a) shall include in the system the following information for each teacher teaching in the school district who completed a teacher preparatory program described in sub. (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in sub. (7) (e) 2. and located in this state on or after January 1, 2012:
1. The name of the teacher preparatory program or teacher education program the teacher attended and completed.
2. The term or semester and year in which the teacher completed the program described in subd. 1.

Related:

This is a sea change for Wisconsin students, the most substantive in decades. Of course, what is entered into the statutes can be changed or eliminated. The MTEL requirement begins with licenses after 1.1.2014.

MTEL 90: Teacher Content Knowledge Licensing Requirements Coming To Wisconsin….

The Wisconsin adoption of teacher content knowledge requirements, on the form of MTEL 90 (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure) by 2013-2014 would (will?) be a significant step forward via the Wisconsin Read to Lead Report), assuming it is not watered down like the oft criticized (and rightfully so) WKCE
There are significant implications for :Education School preparation/curriculum with the addition of content knowledge to teacher licensing requirements. 
Much more on Read to Lead, here and a presentation on Florida’s Reading Reforms
www.wisconsin2.org

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Governance and the November, 2018 Election

<a href=”https://madison.com/ct/news/local/education/democratic-legislators-look-to-make-big-changes-to-state-education/article_882a0ddd-3671-5769-b969-dd9d2bc795db.html”>Negassi Tesfamichael</a>: <blockquote> Many local Democratic state legislators say much of the future of K-12 education in Wisconsin depends on the outcome of the Nov. 6 election, particularly the gubernatorial race between state superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Legislators spoke at a forum at Christ Presbyterian Church Wednesday night, […]

Wisconsin DPI: “We set a high bar for achievement,” & abort Foundations of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement}

Molly Beck and Erin Richards: “We set a high bar for achievement,” DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said. “To reach more than half (proficiency), we would need to raise the achievement of our lowest district and subgroup performers through policies like those recommended in our budget, targeted at the large, urban districts.” The new scores reveal […]

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Jessie Opoien: Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state’s K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers’ budget letter includes a swipe at the […]

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Kelly Meyerhofer: Walker proposed $13.7 billion in total state support for public schools for the 2017-19 biennium. That includes about $2.2 billion in property tax credits that are counted as K-12 funding, but don’t go directly into the classroom. Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger touched on the record amount in a Saturday statement: “Scott Walker […]

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Emily Hanford: Balanced literacy was a way to defuse the wars over reading,” said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight.” “It succeeded in keeping the science at bay, and it allowed things to continue as before.” He says the reading wars are over, and science […]

On the Path to Becoming a Teacher: The Landscape of Student Teaching in Chicago Public Schools

Molly F. Gordon, Jennie Y. Jiang, Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Matthew Ronfeldt, Hillary Greene Nolan, and Michelle Reininger: Key findings teacher preparation programs may be interested in: Student teachers’ self-reports of their own level of preparation at the end of student teaching were not related to their performance in their first year of teaching. Mentor teachers’ […]

Strengthening Reading Instruction through Better Preparation of Elementary and Special Education Teachers (Wisconsin DPI, lead by Tony Evers, loophole in place)

Elizabeth Ross: This study examines all 50 states’ and the District of Columbia’s requirements regarding the science of reading for elementary and special education teacher candidates. Chan Stroman: “Report finds only 11 states have adequate safeguards in place for both elementary and special education teachers.” Make that “10 states”; with Wisconsin PI 34, the loophole […]

Election Year Taxpayer Spending Rhetoric: Tony Evers Edition

Politifact: “Tony misspoke,” his campaign spokeswoman Maggie Gau told us. “We acknowledge it’s not correct. As much as we try to prevent them, no one is perfect and mistakes happen on the trail.” UW System’s funding streams The UW System is composed of 13 campuses, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that offer four-year and advanced […]

Tony Evers vows to restore state (taxpayer) commitment to fund two-thirds of schools in 2019-’21 budget

Annysa Johnson: A brief summary of the proposal, provided by Evers’ office, said the budget would, among other things: Ensure that no district receives less in aid than they previously received. Allow districts to count 4-year-old kindergarten students as full time for state funding purposes. They are currently funded at 0.5 and 0.6 full-time equivalent. […]

How Effective are Tennessee’s Teacher Preparation Programs?

Education Consumers foundation: Tennessee’s Value Added Assessment System has been in place since 1995. It enables users to estimate the success of teachers, schools, and districts in lifting student achievement and it does so in a way that permits statistically fair comparisons. Since 2007, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission has published a report card that […]

Ongoing Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken our thin elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition: Despite the written and oral testimony of many concerned stakeholders around the state, the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules made no changes to the PI-34 teacher licensing rule that was submitted by the Department of Public Instruction. As a result, graduates of any teacher preparation program (along with other […]

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges

Alan Borsuk: Overall, the Read to Lead effort seems like the high water mark in efforts to improve how kids are taught reading in Wisconsin — and the water is much lower now. What do the chair and the vice-chair think? Efforts to talk to Walker were not successful. Evers said, “Clearly, I’m disappointed. . […]

Support modifications to the Wisconsin PI-34 educator licensing rule

Wisconsin Reading Coalition E-Alert: We have sent the following message and attachment to the members of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, urging modifications to the proposed PI-34 educator licensing rule that will maintain the integrity of the statutory requirement that all new elementary, special education, and reading teachers, along with reading specialists, […]

Requesting action one more time on Wisconsin PI-34 teacher licensing

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Thanks to everyone who contacted the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) with concerns about the new teacher licensing rules drafted by DPI. As you know, PI-34 provides broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) that go way beyond providing flexibility for […]

Draft Revision of PI 34 (Wisconsin educator licensure rules); hearings and comment period in January 2018

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI): Changes to the administrative rule that governs educator licensing, PI 34, are the result of significant input from a diverse set of stakeholders throughout the state. The changes also implement new statutory language related to licensure as a result of the most recent biennial budget (2017 Wisconsin Act 59). […]

Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Exam Results

Results, by ed school, via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: October, 2015 data request: January 2014-August 2014 .xls. .docx September 2014-August 2015 .xls .docx To Date (2015) .xls .docx July 2017 Request: 2013-2014 .xls 2014-2015 .xls 2015-2016 .xls 2016 – YTD .xls Much more on Wisconsin’s Foundation of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge exam, here. […]

Do Kids Care If Their Teachers Are Certified? Should Parents

Alina Adams: Last week, New York City schools received two pieces of contradictory news, which made for an interesting contrast in how teachers are viewed. In the first, the Department of Education will now require principals to staff vacancies with teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve, also known as “the rubber room,” where pedagogues who […]

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack and Michael Fish: Major Findings CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students Change in performance was observed immediately after switch Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as […]

“Mr. Hayes’s solution is to improve education”

Joseph Tago: Mr. Hayes’s solution is to improve education, specifically with a national apprenticeship program that would guide local public-private partnerships to train and prepare the workforce better. He knows the problem firsthand: “I’ve got thousands of job openings.” Do you really? “Thousands,” he replies. “A lot of this is because we’ve got growth in […]

Teacher Content Knowledge Requirements

Robert Pondiscio: Slowly, slowly, a small but persuasive body of work is emerging which raises curriculum to an object of pressing concern for educators, and expresses long overdue appreciation for the idea that the instructional materials we put in front of children actually matter to student outcomes. A welcome addition to this emerging corpus is […]

Some alarming recommendations from the Wisconsin Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via email: On January 27th, the Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges, convened by DPI Superintendent Tony Evers and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) Executive Director Jon Bales, issued its Full Summary of Preliminary Licensing Recommendations. Together with earlier recommendations from the State Superintendent’s Working Group on School Staffing Issues […]

Officials could lower bar for passing new NY teacher exam

John Hildebrand: State education officials are eyeing a plan that could “recalibrate” — and presumably lower — passing scores on a challenging new teacher licensing exam that has produced a failure rate of more than 20 percent since it was introduced statewide in 2015. The revamped assessment, called edTPA, was meant to measure candidates’ teaching […]

The Economist’s Washington correspondent wonders why his offspring are being taught swimming so well and maths so badly

James Astill: Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the OECD’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and […]

Teacher Preparation Regulation: Déjà Vu Or Real Change

Robert Pianta: Recently U.S. Secretary of Education John King announced the Department’s new regulations for a teacher preparation program accountability system. This is the Department’s final rule concerning the Federal role in regulating teacher preparation under Title II of the Higher Education Act, with provisions very similar to prior versions. On cue, Randi Weingarten, President […]

My humbling—and motivating—teacher test experience

Peter Sipe: One of my favorite pieces of writing is four sentences long. It’s the statement General Dwight Eisenhower drafted in the event D-Day ended in defeat: Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place […]

Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Erin Richards: The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools. But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, […]

Passing Rate Declines by 20% as State Uses New Certification Exams for Teachers

Elizabeth Harris: New York State saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced, state officials said on Wednesday, portraying the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance of teacher preparation schools. In the 2013-14 school […]

Best state in America: Massachusetts, for its educational success

Reid Wilson: That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement. In almost every category, the Bay State beats the […]

UW-Madison’s Julie Underwood says controversial teacher education rankings “don’t mean much”

Pat Schneider: “So whether the ratings are lackluster, or horrible, or great doesn’t mean much to me,” she said. UW-Madison School of Education programs in secondary education were deemed to be in the bottom half nationwide and were not ranked. Underwood is not the only educator skewering the NTCQ ratings released this week that discredit […]

2014 Teacher Prep Review Findings

National Council on Teacher Quality: Our Approach There’s widespread public interest in strengthening teacher preparation — but there’s a significant data gap on what’s working. We aim to fill this gap, providing information that aspiring teachers and school leaders need to become strategic consumers and that institutions and states need in order to rapidly improve […]

To improve our schools, we need to make it harder to become a teacher.

Amanda Ripley: So far this month in education news, a California court has decimated rigid job protections for teachers, and Oklahoma’s governor has abolished the most rigorous learning standards that state has ever had. Back and forth we go in America’s exhausting tug-of-war over schools—local versus federal control, union versus management, us versus them. But […]

Teacher Education School Qualification Commentary

Chris Rickert: I guess when you’re 76 years old and on the verge of retirement after more than 50 years in the same field, there’s really no need to pull your punches. Madison East High School biology teacher Paul du Vair proved that in a Sunday story in this newspaper, where he says the “greatest […]

Finns beat U.S. with low-tech take on school

Caitlin Emma: At the start of morning assembly in the state-of-the-art Viikki School here, students’ smartphones disappear. In math class, the teacher shuts off the Smartboard and begins drafting perfect circles on a chalkboard. The students — some of the highest-achieving in the world — cut up graphing paper while solving equations using their clunky […]

Kill the bill that would let politicians muck around with Common Core standards, says education dean

Pat Schneider Tim Slekar, the dean of education at Edgewood College and outspoken critic of corporate-driven education “reform,” couldn’t read another word about Wisconsin GOP legislators’ plan to rewrite the state’s educational standards without saying something about it. “Someone has to say it: Any bill that would allow politicians the ability to directly and/or indirectly […]

Wisconsin Teacher Evaluation System Commentary

Erin Richards:

In 2009 when the federal government announced the requirements for states to compete for billions of dollars of school reform grants, Wisconsin’s name came up — but not in the context state leaders wanted.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called a Wisconsin law on the books at the time “simply ridiculous” because it prohibited using student test scores as a factor in evaluating teacher performance. Wisconsin never won a grant through the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition.
Nearly five years later, the state is on the brink of rolling out an evaluation system for educators in all K-12 public school districts, but the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction still hasn’t determined how to tie student outcomes into those ratings.

Wisconsin adopts a small part of MTEL

Wisconsin Reading Coalition: 2013 Reading Report Card

Wisconsin Reading Coalition (PDF), via a kind email:

he National Center for Education Statistics has released the 2013 scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the “Nation’s Report Card.” While the press has rightly focused on Wisconsin’s scores for black students (lowest in the country) and the black-white gap (largest in the country), the data indicates many other areas of concern. Here are some major takeaways from the critical 4th grade reading performance:

  • Wisconsin’s average score (221) in 2013 is identical to 2011, and is statistically unchanged from our first NAEP score (224) in 1992.While we have remained stagnant, many other jurisdictions have seen statistically significant increases.
  • Wisconsin ranked 31st out of 52 jurisdictions that participated in NAEP this year. In 1994, we ranked 3rd.
  • Since 2007, the number of jurisdictions scoring significantly lower than Wisconsin has shrunk from 21 to 11. The number scoring significantly higher has grown from 8 to 15. Wisconsin sits in the lower half of the “middle” group of 26 jurisdictions.
  • Only 8% of Wisconsin students scored at the advanced level, while 32% were below basic, the lowest level.
  • Compared to their peer groups nationwide, Wisconsin’s white, black, Hispanic, Asian, low income, and disabled students all scored below their respective national averages.
  • Wisconsin had the lowest scores for black students in the nation.
  • Wisconsin had the largest gap between white and black students in the nation.

How will Wisconsin respond?
Social and economic disadvantages affect achievement for many students, but other states do better at mitigating those realities. Wisconsin must look within the education system itself for improvement opportunities, starting with teacher preparation. Beginning in 2014, the Foundations of Reading exam will require prospective teachers to understand the science of reading that is woven through the Common Core State Standards and that is necessary for successful intervention with struggling readers. As DPI revises the regulations governing educator licensure and preparation program approval, it will be important to align them with the only comprehensive guidelines available, the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (Moats, Carreker, Davis, Meisel, Spear-Swerling, Wilson, 2010), and to encourage independent, objective program reviews for campuses. Equally important, our state and districts need to provide practicing teachers with that same knowledge of language structure and reading acquisition, and to track the impact of professional development on student performance outcomes. Programs like LETRS from Sopris Learning and the online coursework and coaching offerings from the Science of Reading Partnership deserve attention. Only then can we hope to see student outcomes begin to reflect the efforts of our dedicated educators.
The pie charts below show the breakdown of proficiency levels of Wisconsin students as a whole and broken into sub-groups. The line graphs show the trend over time in Wisconsin scores compared to Massachusetts, Florida, and Washington, D.C., where the science of reading has found a greater acceptance in education, as well as the changes in national ranking for Massachusetts, Florida, and Wisconsin.



Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results and Wisconsin adopts the MTEL-90 (Massachusetts) elementary teacher English content knowledge requirements.

States are Starting to Test Teachers

The Economist:

IN THE film “Bad Teacher”, Cameron Diaz’s character says she entered the profession “for all the right reasons: shorter hours, summers off, no accountability”. No one is threatening to take away the first two agreeable perks, but several states are eyeing the third.
In the past, teachers were judged solely on their level of education and the number of years they had spent in the classroom–neither of which tells you whether their pupils are learning anything. But this is changing. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a research group, finds that most states now demand that student achievement should be a significant factor in teacher evaluations (see chart). Only Alabama, California, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas and Vermont have no formal policy.
The expansion of teacher evaluation is broadly good news. Work published in 2011, from Columbia and Harvard, showed that pupils assigned to better teachers are more likely to go to college and earn decent salaries, and less likely to be teenage mothers. If teachers in grades 4 to 8 are ranked according to their ability to add value (ie, teach) and those in the bottom 5% are replaced with ones of average quality, a class’s cumulative lifetime income is raised by $250,000. Bill Gates once said that if every child had mathematics teachers as good as those in the top quartile, the achievement gap between America and Asia would vanish in two years. (His lecture has been watched 1.5m times online.)

Much more on teacher content knowledge requirements, here.

You can’t fire your way to Finland. You actually have to build the capacity of teachers.

Peter Cookson, Jr., via a kind reader’s email

ES: What are your thoughts about evaluating teachers by their students’ standardized test scores? What’s missing from the public debate?
LD-H: Teacher-bashing infuriates me. The commitment of individuals who go into teaching in this country is extraordinary. And many teachers are highly able. We do have a wide range of access to knowledge for teachers, just like we have a wide range of access to knowledge for students. That means that teachers are left with one hand tied behind their backs if they aren’t given the knowledge and the skills they need.
Evaluation has to begin at the very beginning of the career. Finland’s rise to the top of the international rankings is typically attributed by the Finns to the deep training of teachers in a highly professionalized master’s degree program. [In Finland education] students have strong content background, and they study teaching methods while they spend a year in a model school, pursuing a clinically supported internship. In addition, there is a lot of attention to learning how to teach special education students and to personalize teaching for all students. The idea is if you can teach kids who struggle to learn, then you can teach anyone. It really pays off. Finally, teachers learn how to use and conduct research, and [each writes] a thesis in which he or she researches an educational issue as part of the master’s degree.
In Finland there is very little formal evaluation that happens after teachers get into the profession because the bar is so high at the beginning, and there are so many supports to get better. There are some analysts who have claimed, “Oh, if you fire the bottom 10 percent of teachers every year, you’ll get educational outcomes like those in Finland.” In fact, that is not how Finland gets high educational outcomes. You can’t fire your way to Finland. You actually have to build the capacity of teachers.
We ought to be having a conversation about performance assessments for entering the field. [American Federation of Teachers President] Randi Weingarten has called for a “bar exam” for teachers. I’ve been involved in building teacher performance assessments in which beginning teachers demonstrate that they can plan a curriculum, teach it, produce and evaluate student learning. We find that these assessments improve teaching and improve the quality of teacher education.

Related: Wisconsin adopts its first teacher content knowledge licensing requirement – for elementary English candidates, from Massachusetts (MTEL).

Wisconsin hopes to mirror Massachusetts’ test success for teaching reading

Alan Borsuk:

A second-grade teacher notices that one of her students lacks fluency when reading aloud. The first thing the teacher should do to help this student is assess whether the student also has difficulties with:
A. predicting
B. inferring
C. metacognition
D. decoding
Don’t worry if you’re not into metacognition. The correct answer is decoding — at least according to the people who put together the test teachers must pass in Massachusetts if they are going to teach children to read.
The Massachusetts test is about to become the Wisconsin test, a step that advocates see as important to increasing the quality of reading instruction statewide and, in the long term, raising the overall reading abilities of Wisconsin students. As for those who aren’t advocates (including some who are professors in schools of education), they are going along, sometimes with a more dubious attitude to what this will prove.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction officially launched the era of the new test for reading licenses with a memo sent last week to heads of all teacher preparation programs in the state. The memo spelled out the details of implementing a law passed in 2011 that called for Wisconsin to use the Massachusetts test. The memo included setting the passing score, which, after a short phase-in period, will match what is regarded as the demanding Massachusetts standard.
In a nutshell, after Jan. 31, 2014, anyone who wants to get a license that allows them to teach reading in Wisconsin will have to pass this test, with 100 multiple choice questions and two essay questions, aimed at making sure they are adequately prepared to do so. (Those currently licensed will not need to pass the test.)
Why Massachusetts? Because in the 1990s, Massachusetts launched initiatives, including requiring students to pass a high school graduation test, requiring teachers to pass licensure tests specific to the subjects they teach, and increasing spending on education, especially in schools serving low-income children.
At that point, Wisconsin and Massachusetts were pretty much tied, and down the list of states a bit, when it came to how students were doing. Within a few years, scores in Massachusetts rose significantly. The state has led the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math achievement for a decade. Wisconsin scores have stayed flat.

Many notes and links on Wisconsin’s adoption of Massachusetts (MTEL) elementary English teacher content knowledge standards. UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg’s recommended Wisconsin’s adoption of MTEL.

Big “take-aways” about teacher preparation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Elementary Teacher Prep Rating Distribution


Wisconsin Secondary Teacher Prep Rating Distribution


National Council on Teacher Quality:

Highly rated programs — The undergraduate secondary program at the University of Wisconsin – Stout is on the Teacher Prep Review’s Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars. Across the country, NCTQ identified 21 elementary programs (4 percent of those rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.
Selectivity in admissions — The Review found that 32 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Wisconsin restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. Countries where students consistently outperform the U.S. typically set an even higher bar, with teacher prep programs recruiting candidates from the top third of the college-going population.
Some worry that increasing admissions requirements will have a negative effect on the diversity of teacher candidates. By increasing the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher preparation the profession will attract more talent, including talented minorities. This is not an impossible dream: 83 programs across the country earn a Strong Design designation on this standard because they are both selective and diverse, although no such programs were found in Wisconsin.
Early reading instruction — Just 25 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Wisconsin are preparing teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, an even lower percentage than the small minority of programs (29 percent) providing such training nationally. The state should find this especially alarming given that Wisconsin now requires elementary teacher candidates to pass one of the most rigorous tests of scientifically based reading instruction in the country.
Elementary math — A mere 19 percent of evaluated elementary programs nationwide provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics, training that mirrors the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore and South Korea. 25 percent of the evaluated elementary programs in Wisconsin provide such training.
Student teaching — Of the evaluated elementary and secondary programs in Wisconsin, 58 percent entirely fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. 71 percent of programs across the country failed this standard.
Content preparation — None of Wisconsin’s elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation, compared to 11 percent of elementary programs nationwide. At the high school level, 23 percent of Wisconsin secondary programs earn four stars for content preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide. The major problem at the secondary level is that programs’ requirements for general science or general social science certifications do not ensure that candidates are prepared in the content of every subject they will be licensed to teach, since the states licensing test requirements do not provide this assurance.
Outcome data — None of the evaluated programs in Wisconsin earn four stars for collecting data on their graduates, compared to 26 percent of evaluated programs in the national sample. In the absence of state efforts to connect student achievement data to teacher preparation programs, administer surveys of graduates and employers or require administration of teacher performance assessments (TPAs), programs that fare poorly on this standard have not taken the initiative to collect any such data on their own.

Related: “Transparency Central” National Review of Education Schools and Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review.
Erin Richards

  • Some of the education programs in Eau Claire, Platteville, River Falls, La Crosse and Madison received between two and two and a half stars.
  • Other programs in Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior and Whitewater received between one and one and a half stars.
  • About 1 in 3 teacher training programs reviewed restrict admission to the top half of the college-going population.
  • About 1 in 4 elementary education programs reviewed prepare teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction
  • About 1 in 4 elementary ed programs reviewed provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics. That’s better than the national average of 19% of elementary education programs that offer strong math prep.
  • No Wisconsin programs evaluated earned any credit for collecting data on their graduates, compared with 26% of programs that did so in the national sample.

Nationally, more than 200,000 candidates graduate from teacher preparation programs each year, then enter systems where teacher quality has long been a point of debate.

Finally, Wisconsin recently adopted Massachusett’s elementary teacher content knowledge licensing (English only, not math) requirements beginning in 2014 (MTEL).

Common Core Education Is Uncommonly Inadequate

Jamie Gass & Charles Chieppo:

Massachusetts student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and SATs were unremarkable in the early 1990s. Then, after a landmark educational reform in 1993, state SAT scores rose for 13 consecutive years. In 2005, Bay State students became the first to score best in the nation in all grades and categories on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The students have repeated the feat each time the tests have been administered.
How to explain this turnaround? The state’s educational success hinged on rigorous academic standards, teacher testing and high-quality tests that students must pass to graduate from high school. All locally developed, these three factors aligned to produce amazing results.
Unfortunately, Massachusetts dropped its own standards in 2010 to join 44 other states (and the District of Columbia) in adopting the flawed standards of the Common Core. This is an educational program sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers that has been championed by the Obama administration.
Common Core recycles a decades-old, top-down approach to education. Its roots are in a letter sent to Hillary Clinton by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, after Bill Clinton’s presidential victory in 1992. The letter laid out a plan “to remold the entire American system” into a centralized one run by “a system of labor-market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by government functionaries.

What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?

Pasi Sahlberg:

“To prepare young people for a more competitive economy, our school systems must have less competition.”
Many governments are under political and economic pressure to turn around their school systems for higher rankings in the international league tables. Education reforms often promise quick fixes within one political term. Canada, South Korea, Singapore and Finland are commonly used models for the nations that hope to improve teaching and learning in their schools. In search of a silver bullet, reformers now turn their eyes on teachers, believing that if only they could attract “the best and the brightest” into the teaching profession, the quality of education would improve.
“Teacher effectiveness” is a commonly used term that refers to how much student performance on standardized tests is determined by the teacher. This concept hence applies only to those teachers who teach subjects on which students are tested. Teacher effectiveness plays a particular role in education policies of nations where alternative pathways exist to the teaching profession.
In the United States, for example, there are more than 1,500 different teacher-preparation programs. The range in quality is wide. In Singapore and Finland only one academically rigorous teacher education program is available for those who desire to become teachers.
Likewise, neither Canada nor South Korea has fast-track options into teaching, such as Teach for America or Teach First in Europe. Teacher quality in high-performing countries is a result of careful quality control at entry into teaching rather than measuring teacher effectiveness in service.
In recent years the “no excuses”‘ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school.
Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.
For me the latter is right. In the United States today, 23 percent of children live in poor homes. In Finland, the same way to calculate child poverty would show that figure to be almost five times smaller. The United States ranked in the bottom four in the recent United Nations review on child well-being.

Related: MTEL 90: Teacher Content Knowledge Licensing Requirements Coming To Wisconsin…..

So why haven’t we ensured that all children get a rigorous, supportive education? Fear Factor: Teaching Without Training

Lisa Hansel, via a kind reader’s email:

So why haven’t we ensured that all children get a rigorous, supportive education?
This is a question I ask myself and others all the time. I think it’s more productive than merely asking “How can we?” Those who ask how without also asking why haven’t tend to waste significant amounts of time and resources “discovering” things that some already knew.
Okay, so I’ve partly answer the why question right there. Much better answers can be found in Diane Ravitch’s Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, E. D. Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, and Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.
But still, those answers are not complete.
Right now, Kate Walsh and her team with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) are adding to our collective wisdom–and potentially to our collective ability to act.
NCTQ is just a couple months away from releasing its review of teacher preparation programs. The results may not be shocking, but they are terrifying. Walsh provides a preview in the current issue of Education Next. In that preview, she reminds us of a study from several years ago that offers an insiders’ look at teacher preparation:

The most revealing insight into what teacher educators believe to be wrong or right about the field is a lengthy 2006 volume published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Studying Teacher Education. It contains contributions from 15 prominent deans and education professors and was intended to provide “balanced, thorough, and unapologetically honest descriptions of the state of research on particular topics in teacher education.” It lives up to that billing. First, the volume demonstrates the paucity of credible research that would support the current practices of traditional teacher education, across all of its many functions, including foundations courses, arts and sciences courses, field experiences, and pedagogical approaches, as well as how current practice prepares candidates to teach diverse populations and special education students. More intriguing, however, is the contributors’ examination of the dramatic evolution of the mission of teacher education over the last 50 years, in ways that have certainly been poorly understood by anyone outside the profession.
Studying Teacher Education explains the disconnect between what teacher educators believe is the right way to prepare a new teacher and the unhappy K-12 schools on the receiving end of that effort. It happens that the job of teacher educators is not to train the next generation of teachers but to prepare them.

Huh? Really? How exactly does one prepare without training? Walsh goes on to explain that. But the only way to prepare yourself to comprehend the teacher educators’ reasoning is to pretend like “prepare them” actually means “brainwash them into believing that in order to be a good teacher, you have to make everything up yourself.” Back to Walsh:

Harking back perhaps to teacher education’s 19th-century ecclesiastical origins, its mission has shifted away from the medical model of training doctors to professional formation. The function of teacher education is to launch the candidate on a lifelong path of learning, distinct from knowing, as actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable. In the course of a teacher’s preparation, prejudices and errant assumptions must be confronted and expunged, with particular emphasis on those related to race, class, language, and culture. This improbable feat, not unlike the transformation of Pinocchio from puppet to real boy, is accomplished as candidates reveal their feelings and attitudes through abundant in-class dialogue and by keeping a journal. From these activities is born each teacher’s unique philosophy of teaching and learning.
There is also a strong social-justice component to teacher education, with teachers cast as “activists committed to diminishing the inequities of American society.” That vision of a teacher is seen by a considerable fraction of teacher educators (although not all) as more important than preparing a teacher to be an effective instructor.

Kate Walsh:

Nowhere is the chasm between the two visions of teacher education–training versus formation–clearer than in the demise of the traditional methods course. The public, and policymakers who require such courses in regulations governing teacher education, may assume that when a teacher takes a methods course, it is to learn the best methods for teaching certain subject matter. That view, we are told in the AERA volume, is for the most part an anachronism. The current view, state professors Renee T. Clift and Patricia Brady, is that “A methods course is seldom defined as a class that transmits information about methods of instruction and ends with a final exam. [They] are seen as complex sites in which instructors work simultaneously with prospective teachers on beliefs, teaching practices and creation of identities–their students’ and their own.”
The statement reveals just how far afield teacher education has traveled from its training purposes. It is hard not to suspect that the ambiguity in such language as the “creation of identities” is purposeful, because if a class fails to meet such objectives, no one would be the wiser.
The shift away from training to formation has had one immediate and indisputable outcome: the onus of a teacher’s training has shifted from the teacher educators to the teacher candidates. What remains of the teacher educator’s purpose is only to build the “capacity” of the candidate to be able to make seasoned professional judgments. Figuring out what actually to do falls entirely on the candidate.
Here is the guidance provided to student teachers at a large public university in New York:
In addition to establishing the norm for your level, you must, after determining your year-end goals, break down all that you will teach into manageable lessons. While so much of this is something you learn on the job, a great measure of it must be inside you, or you must be able to find it in a resource. This means that if you do not know the content of a grade level, or if you do not know how to prepare a lesson plan, or if you do not know how to do whatever is expected of you, it is your responsibility to find out how to do these things. Your university preparation is not intended to address every conceivable aspect of teaching.
Do not be surprised if your Cooperating Teacher is helpful but suggests you find out the “how to” on your own. Your Cooperating Teacher knows the value of owning your way into your teaching style.

Related: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.
Wisconsin has recently taken a first baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements (something Massachusetts and Minnesota have done for years) via the adoption of MTEL-90. Much more on teacher content knowledge requirements, here.
Content knowledge requirements for teachers past & present.

Teacher Bar Exams Would Be a Huge Mistake

Jason Richwine & Lindsey Burke:

He has 10 years of experience working in the engineering division of Lockheed Martin, and he’d like to share some of his extensive knowledge with high school students in Northern Virginia, where he lives. He’d prefer to take a couple of hours each day to teach a class on physics or calculus, which would enable him to stay in his current job. Bill imagines that this part-time teaching job will give him the opportunity not just to teach, but to mentor local students aspiring to science careers.
So Bill goes to the principal of the local public high school with his proposal. Before we detail the vast array of statutes and regulations governing who is allowed to teach in public schools, let’s pretend–for a moment–that those regulations don’t exist. Just consider how, in an ideal world, the principal would react to Bill’s offer.
First, the principal needs to verify that Bill can be an effective teacher. How might the principal do that? Perhaps require him to give practice presentations of difficult material. Then maybe Bill should shadow seasoned teachers for a period of time to get a feel for classroom management and lesson planning. When Bill does get his own classroom, the principal will want to check each year that his students are learning what they’re supposed to learn.

Related: MTEL teacher content knowledge requirements arrive in Wisconsin (in a very small way).

Advocating teacher content knowledge licensing requirements

Joel Klein:

For many critics of contemporary American public education, Finland is the ideal model. It performs at the top on international tests and has a highly respected teaching corps, yet it doesn’t rely on policies like test-based accountability and school choice that are the cornerstones of U.S. reform. So, the critics argue, let’s change course and follow Finland.
It’s facile, at best, to look to a small, largely homogenous, country, with a very different educational pedigree as a model for a nation like ours. Still, the “go- Finland” crowd is onto something: Finland long ago decided to professionalize its teaching force to the point where teaching is now viewed on a par with other highly respected, learned professions like medicine and law. Today, only the best and brightest can and do become teachers: Just one in every 10 applicants are accepted to teacher preparation programs, which culminate in both an undergraduate degree and subject-specific Master’s degree. Even after such selective admissions and competitive training, if there are graduates who are not deemed ready for the classroom, they will not get appointed to the system.
Like law and medical schools, education schools shouldn’t be able to survive if fewer than half their students can pass a rigorous professional exam.
Contrast that with America, where virtually anyone who graduates from college can become a teacher, and where job security, not teacher excellence, defines the workforce culture. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, “The U.S. attracts most of its teachers from the bottom two-thirds of college classes, with nearly half coming from the bottom third.” And, today, more than a third of math teachers in the U.S. don’t have an undergraduate degree in math, let alone a Master’s degree. Yet, even with this remarkably low threshold for entry, once someone becomes a teacher in the U.S., it’s virtually impossible to remove him or her for poor performance.
What explains this cross-national difference? It does not seem to be teacher pay. Although teacher salaries in Finland are slightly higher than the average salary there, they are comparable to teacher salaries in other European countries. And when adjusted for national price indices, they’re lower than teacher salaries in the U.S.
Instead, the difference seems to be rooted directly in the relative professionalization of the position. In addition to setting high standards of entry and providing high-quality professional education, Finland has established a culture that motivates teachers to excel at school and then innovate in the classroom. As a result, teaching holds an appeal comparable to that of other high-status careers in Finland.

Wisconsin has taken a baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements via the adoption of MTEL.

Wisconsin Education Rule-Making Battle: Should We Care? Yes; DPI Election Politics

Why should parents, citizens, taxpayers and students pay attention to this type of “rulemaking” case?
WKCE (Wisconsin’s oft-criticized soft academic standards – soon to be replaced) and MTEL-90 (Wisconsin adopts Massachusetts’ teacher content knowledge requirements).
I found Ed Treleven’s article interesting, particularly the special interests funding the rule making legal challenge. I am a big fan of our three part government system: judicial, legislative and executive. That said, the Wisconsin DPI has not exactly distinguished itself over the past decade. The WKCE “tyranny of low expectations” is exhibit one for this writer.
Ed Treleven

Even before the change in the law, rules ultimately have to be approved by the Legislature.
Democrats had labeled the law a power grab by Walker when it was proposed after Walker was elected and before he took office. He signed it into law in May 2011.
The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Madison Teachers Inc., the Wisconsin Education Association Council and others. Defendants were Walker, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch and schools superintendent Tony Evers. Smith’s decision, however, notes that Evers also asked the court to block the law. Evers issued a statement Tuesday saying he was pleased with Smith’s ruling.
Lester Pines, who represented the teachers groups in court, said the law as applied to DPI ran counter to a unanimous state Supreme Court decision in 1996 that said the Legislature cannot give equal or superior authority to any “other officer.”

Finally, it appears that current DPI Superintendent Tony Evers is ready to roll for the spring, 2013 election. I have noticed a number of DPI related inquiries on this site. Perhaps this will be a competitive race!
UPDATE: Gilman Halsted:

The Madison teachers union was one was one of seven plaintiffs that challenged this provision of ACT 21. Union President John Matthews says he’s pleased with the ruling.
“It’s simply because of the way the Constitution defines the role of the state superintendent,” he said. “The governor has equal authority not superior authority to the state superintendent and we think because of the enterprise if you will of public education that should not be a political issue. And Judge Smith saw it our way.”
But a spokesman for the governor’s office says he’s confident that Judge Smith’s ruling will be overturned on appeal and that the governor will retain his rule making veto power. Opponents of this new executive power see it as a power grab. And although this ruling appears to limit the governor’s power over rules that affect education it leaves his authority intact for administrative rules from any other state agency. State Superintendent Tony Evers released a statement hailing the ruling and pointing out that he had proposed language that would have carved out his exemption from the governor’s rule vetoes before the law was passed.

How to Fix the Schools

Joe Nocera:

“We have to find a way to work with teachers and unions while at the same time working to greatly raise the quality of teachers,” he told me recently. He has some clear ideas about how to go about that. His starting point is not the public schools themselves but the universities that educate teachers. Teacher education in America is vastly inferior to many other countries; we neither emphasize pedagogy — i.e., how to teach — nor demand mastery of the subject matter. Both are a given in the top-performing countries. (Indeed, it is striking how many nonprofit education programs in the U.S. are aimed at helping working teachers do a better job — because they’ve never learned the right techniques.)
What is also a given in other countries is that teaching has a status equal to other white-collar professionals. That was once true in America, but Tucker believes that a quarter-century of income inequality saw teachers lose out at the expense of lawyers and other well-paid professionals. That is a large part of the reason that teachers’ unions have become so obstreperous: It is not just that they feel underpaid, but they feel undervalued. Tucker believes that teachers should be paid more — though not exorbitantly. But making teacher education more rigorous — and imbuing the profession with more status — is just as important. “Other countries have raised their standards for getting into teachers’ colleges,” he told me. “We need to do the same.”

Related: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That? and Wisconsin begins to adopt teacher content standards.

Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Solidarity Newsletter by Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF):

MTI President Kerry Motoviloff addressed the Board of Education at its May 21 general meeting. At issue is the District’s plan to introduce more new programs into elementary teachers’ literacy curriculum, including Mondo and 3 new assessments. At the same time, elementary teachers are being told that they will be losing release days for the administration of K-2 testing.
Motoviloff listed more than 13 current K-5 assessments, explaining to Board members that each assessment comes with a set of non-comparable data or scores. She noted that the District has introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009.
Motoviloff stressed that all teachers are concerned about the achievement gap, and that the District needs to walk its own talk relative to ensuring fidelity in the curriculum process. She challenged the District to prioritize essentials, instead of swamping teachers with initiatives while reducing teachers’ time to implement the curriculum with fidelity, and emphasized the need to include time not only for assessments, but also time for teachers to analyze and plan. She also urged the District to stop pitting professional development against planning/prep time.

Related:

I’ve long suggested that the District should get out of the curriculum/program creation business and focus on hiring the best teachers. Like it or not, Oconomowoc is changing the game by focusing efforts and increasing teacher pay. Madison, given our high per student spending and incredible community and academic resources, should be delivering world class results for all students.
I don’t see how more than 18 programs and initiatives can be implemented successfully in just a few years. I’m glad MTI President Kerry Motoviloff raised this important issue. Will the proposed “achievement gap plan” add, replace or eliminate programs and spending?
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Madison tenure, which began in 2008, appears to be quickly coming to an end.

Implementation of Wisconsin’s Statutory Screening Requirement

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email [170K PDF]:

The selection of an early reading screener for Wisconsin is a decision of critical importance. Selecting the best screener will move reading instruction forward statewide. Selecting a lesser screener will be a missed opportunity at best, and could do lasting harm to reading instruction if the choice is mediocre or worse.
After apparently operating for some time under the misunderstanding that the Read to Lead Task Force had mandated the Phonological Assessment and Literacy Screen (PALS), the Department of Public Instruction is now faced with some time pressure to set up and move through a screener evaluation process. Regardless of the late start, there is still more than enough time to evaluate screeners and have the best option in place for the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, which by definition is the time when annual screeners are administered.
The list of possible screeners is fairly short, and the law provides certain criteria for selection that help limit the options. Furthermore, by using accepted standards for assessment and understanding the statistical properties of the assessments (psychometrics), it is possible to quickly reduce the list of candidates further.
Is One Screener Clearly the Best?
One screener does seem to separate itself from the rest. The Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR) is consistently the best, or among the best, in all relevant criteria. This comment is not a comparison of PAR to all known screeners, but comparing PAR to PALS does reveal many of its superior benefits.
Both PAR and PALS assess letter/sound knowledge and phonemic awareness, as required by the statute.
In addition, PAR assesses the important areas of rapid naming and oral vocabulary. To the best of our knowledge, PAR is the only assessment that includes these skills in a comprehensive screening package. That extra data contributes unique information to identify children at risk, including those from low-language home environments, and consequently improves the validity of the assessment, as discussed below.
Both PAR and PALS have high reliability scores that meet the statutory requirement. PAR (grades K-3) scores .92, PALS-K (kindergarten) scores .99, and PALS (grades 1-3) scores .92. Reliability simply refers to the expected uniformity of results on repeated administrations of an assessment. A perfectly reliable measurement might still have the problem of being consistently inaccurate, but an unreliable measurement always has problems. Reliability is necessary, but not sufficient, for a quality screener. To be of value, a screener must be valid.
In the critical area of validity, PAR outscores PALS by a considerable margin. Validity, which is also required by the statute, is a measure of how well a given scale measures what it actually intends to measure; leaving nothing out and including nothing extra. In the case of a reading screener, it is validity that indicates how completely and accurately the assessment captures the reading performance of all students who take it. Validity is both much harder to achieve than reliability, and far more important.
On a scale of 0-1, the validity coefficient (r-value) of PAR is .92, compared to validity coefficients of .75 for PALS-K and .68 for PALS. It is evident that PAR outscores PALS-K and PALS, but the validity coefficients by themselves do not reveal the full extent of the difference. Because the scale is not linear, the best way to compare validity coefficients is to square them, creating r-squared values. You can think of this number as the percentage of success in achieving accurate measurement. Measuring human traits and skills is very hard, so there is always some error, or noise. Sometimes, there is quite a lot.
When we calculate r-squared values, we get .85 for PAR, .56 for PALS-K, and .46 for PALS. This means that PAR samples 51 to 84 percent more of early reading ability than the PALS assessments. The PALS assessments measure about as much random variance (noise) as actual early reading ability. Validity is not an absolute concept, but must always be judged relative to the other options available in the current marketplace. Compared to some other less predictive assessments, we might conclude that PALS has valid performance. However, compared to PAR, it is difficult to claim that PALS is valid, as required by law.
PAR is able to achieve this superior validity in large part because it has used 20 years of data from a National Institutes of Health database to determine exactly which sub-tests best predict reading struggles. As a consequence, PAR includes rapid naming and oral vocabulary, while excluding pseudo-word reading and extensive timing of sub-tests.
PAR is norm-referenced on a diverse, national sample of over 14,000 children. That allows teachers to compare PAR scores to other norm-referenced formative and summative assessments, and to track individual students’ PAR performance from year to year in a useful way. Norm referencing is not required by the statute, but should always be preferred if an assessment is otherwise equal or superior to the available options. The PALS assessments are not norm-referenced, and can only classify children as at-risk or not. Even at that limited task of sorting children into two general groups, PAR is superior, accurately classifying children 96% of the time, compared to 93% for PALS-K, and only 73% for PALS.
PAR provides the unique service of an individualized report on each child that includes specific recommendations for differentiated instruction for classroom teachers. Because of the norm-referencing and the data base on which it was built, PAR can construct simple but useful recommendations as to what specific area is the greatest priority for intervention, the intensity and duration of instruction which will be necessary to achieve results, and which students may be grouped for instruction. PAR also provides similar guidance for advanced students. With its norm-referencing, PAR can accurately gauge how far individual children may be beyond their classmates, and suggest enriched instruction for students who might benefit. Because they are not norm-referenced, the PALS assessments can not differentiate between gray-area and gifted students if they both perform above the cut score.
PAR costs about the same as PALS. With bulk discounts for statewide implementation, it will be possible to implement PAR (like many other screeners) at K5, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and possibly 3rd grade with the funds allocated by statute for 2012-13. While the law only requires kindergarten screening at this time, the goal is to screen other grades as funds allow. The greatest value to screening with a norm-referenced instrument comes when we screen in several consecutive years, so the sooner the upper grades are included, the better.
PAR takes less time to administer than PALS (an average of 12-16 minutes versus 23-43).
The procurement procedure for PALS apparently can be simplified because it would be a direct purchase from the State of Virginia. However, PAR is unique enough to easily justify a single-source procurement request. Salient, essential features of PAR that would be likely to eliminate or withstand a challenge from any other vendor include demonstrated empirical validity above .85, norm-referencing on a broad national sample, the inclusion of rapid naming and oral vocabulary in a single, comprehensive package, empirically valid recommendations for differentiated intervention, guidance on identifying children who may be gifted, and useful recommendations on grouping students for differentiated instruction.
Conclusions
The selection of a screener will be carefully scrutinized from many perspectives. It is our position that a single, superior choice is fairly obvious based on the facts. While it is possible that another individual or team may come to a different conclusion, such a decision should be supported by factual details that explain the choice. Any selection will have to be justified to the public as well as specific stakeholders. Some choices will be easier to justify than others, and explanations based on sound criteria will be the most widely accepted. Simple statements of opinion or personal choice, or decisions based on issues of convenience, such as ease of procurement, would not be convincing or legitimate arguments for selecting a screener. On the other hand, the same criteria that separate PAR from other screeners and may facilitate single-source procurement also explain the choice to the public and various stakeholder groups. We urge DPI to move forward reasonably, deliberately, and expeditiously to have the best possible screener in place for the largest possible number of students in September.

Although there is still a long way to go on improving reading scores, Brown Deer schools show that improvements can be made. by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

There are signs that the long struggle to close the achievement gap in reading has a chance of paying off. There is a long way to go – and recent statewide test scores were disappointing – but we see some reason for encouragement, nonetheless.
Alan J. Borsuk, a former Journal Sentinel education reporter and now a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School, reports that black 10th-graders in the Brown Deer school district did better in reading than Wisconsin students as a whole, with 84.2% of Brown Deer’s black sophomores rated proficient or advanced in reading, compared with 78.1% for all students and 47.7% for all black 10th-graders in the state. Some achievement gaps remain in this district that is less than one-third white, but they are relatively modest.

Schools are working to improve reading

As vice chair of the Read to Lead Task Force, I am pleased that Wisconsin is already making progress on improving literacy in Wisconsin.
The Read to Lead Task Force members deserve credit for making recommendations that center on improving reading by: improving teacher preparation and professional development; providing regular screening, assessment and intervention; ensuring early literacy instruction is part of early childhood programs; and strengthening support for parental involvement in reading and early literacy programs.
Across Wisconsin, districts and schools are working to implement the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. These standards are designed to increase the relevance and rigor of learning for students. Milwaukee’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan is a significant step that defines common expectations in reading for Milwaukee Public Schools students, who now receive reading instruction through one curriculum that is consistent across schools.

Learn more about Wisconsin’s Read to lead Task force and the planned MTEL teacher content knowledge standards, here.
www.wisconsin2.org.

Education expected to be a ‘major issue’ in Walker recall election

Matthew DeFour:

Education is shaping up to be a key, yet complicated, issue in the upcoming recall election of Gov. Scott Walker.
Democrats vying to oust the first-term Republican say his cuts to state education funding are a top issue in the campaign, and it’s as important or even more so than the issue that sparked the recall effort — the governor’s rollback of public employee collective bargaining.
“It’s the major issue in the campaign why we’re recalling the governor,” said Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, one of four Democrats in the May 8 primary. “It comes back to the issue of priorities.”
But Walker is telling voters the cuts were necessary to balance the state budget, and that collective bargaining changes have allowed school districts to become more efficient.
In recent weeks he’s taken the fight to the state’s largest teachers union over how to interpret the impact of the cuts. In a recent campaign ad he highlighted that school property taxes declined 1 percent this year statewide.

2012’s Act 166 is Wisconsin’s most substantive K-12 change in decades. Learn more, here.

Administration Memo on the Madison Superintendent Search

Dylan Pauly, Legal Services:

Dr. Nerad recently announced his retirement effective June 30, 2013. Consequently, over the next few months this Board will be required to begin its search for the next District leader. While some members of the Board were Board members during the search that brought Dr. Nerad to Madison, many were not. A number of members have asked me to provide some background information so that they may familiarize themselves with the process that was used in 2007. Consequently, I have gathered the following documents for your review:
1. Request for Proposals: Consultation Services for Superintendent Search, Proposal 3113, dated March 19, 2007;
2. Minutes from Board meetings on February 26,2007, and March 12,2007, reflecting Board input and feedback regarding draft versions ofthe RFP;
3. Contract with Hazard, Young and Attea;
4. A copy of the Notice of Vacancy that was published in Education Week;
5. Minutes from a Board meeting on August 27, 2007, which contains the general timeline used to complete the search process; and,
6. Superintendent Search- Leadership Profile Development Session Schedule, which reflects how community engagement was handled during the previous search.
It is also my understanding that the Board may wish to create an ad hoc committee to handle various procedural tasks related to the search process. In line with Board Policy 1041, I believe it is appropriate to take official action in open session to create the new ad hoc. I recommend the following motion:

Dave Zweiful shares his thoughts on Dan Nerad’s retirement.
Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.

The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.

Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.

Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.

Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

New Reading Teachers Should Pass a Reading Test; The Battle over Teacher Content Knowledge

Sandra Stotsky:

The educators’ biases have held sway for decades. But a new coalition is trying to find a way to make sure prospective teachers have some instruction in what decoding strategies are and why they are effective.
The latest action has been in Wisconsin. The state Legislature passed a bill that will help ensure that teachers no longer receive inadequate training in their preparation and professional development. The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, the Wisconsin branch of the International Dyslexia Association, and a group of parents, educators, psychologists and other professionals supported the measure. I was among the many experts submitting testimony for it.
The group had begun looking carefully at beginning instruction after noting Wisconsin children’s stagnant reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, and comparing those results with the scores in Massachusetts.
Why Massachusetts? Because children there are doing better than pupils in most other states on reading tests.
…….
As noted by Kathleen Porter-Magee in a 2012 Fordham Institute analysis of the impact of high standards on student achievement, the 2009 NAEP reading tests showed that “students scoring in Massachusetts’s bottom 25 percent score higher than students in the bottom 25 percent of any other state in the nation. And students scoring in the top 25 percent perform better than students in the top 25 percent of any other state.”
She attributed this performance to the effective implementation of its highly rated English-language-arts standards, first adopted in 1997 and then re-adopted in a slightly revised form in 2001.
But the Wisconsinites zeroed in on a more specific explanation for the Massachusetts results: the state’s licensing test, in place since 2002, for all aspiring teachers of elementary-age children. The content of the test includes knowledge of code-based beginning-reading instruction.

Related:

Faces of the achievement gap in Madison: The stories behind the statistics

Pat Dillon:  

In 2010, just five black and 13 Hispanic graduating seniors in the Madison Metropolitan School District were ready for college, according to data from the district and Urban League of Greater Madison. These statistics should make your heart race. If they don’t, and you’re white, you may be suffering from what anti-racism educator Tim Wise calls “the pathology of white privilege.” If you do get it and don’t take action, that is almost worse.
The issue affects all of us and fell a little harder into my lap than it does in most white middle-class families when my daughter told me last summer that I was going to have a biracial grandson. My response? “Not in this school district.”
The dismal academic record of minorities has long been apparent to me, through my own experiences and the stories of others. But many people only hear about the statistics. To help humanize these numbers I asked students and parents who are most affected to share their stories so I could tell them along with mine. The experiences are anecdotal, but the facts speak for themselves.

 Related:

In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track.  Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

 Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.

4.1.2012 from Omaha: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad: Narrowing gap a work in progress in Madison

Joe Dejka:

The push to raise achievement for minority and low-income students in Madison Metropolitan School District remains “a work in progress,” said Superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Work has been done on Nerad’s watch, such as drafting a new strategic plan and a multifaceted, $106 million proposal for programs aimed at shrinking test score gaps between students of different races and income levels.
As for results, Nerad and Madison school board member Ed Hughes say there hasn’t been enough progress.
“We certainly haven’t seen, overall, the kind of improvement that we would like to see in reducing the achievement gap,” Hughes said. “But we need to look at whether the steps are being put in place that would give us some hope or confidence that we will see those gaps narrowing in the future.”
Hughes thinks Madison is on the right track.

Related:

In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track. Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.
A look at the numbers:
Omaha spends substantially less per student than Madison. The Omaha 2011-2012 adopted budget will spend 468,946,264 for 46,000 students: $10,194.48/student. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $369,394,753 for 24,861 = $14,858.40/student, 31.4% more than Omaha…. Green Bay (Superintendent Nerad’s former position) spent about 10% less than Madison, per student.

How to remake the Education Department (or, it’s time to give teachers a chance)

Peter Smagorinsky:

“If your goal is innovation and competitive ability, you don’t want either excessive unity or excessive fragmentation. Instead, you want your country, industry, industrial belt, or company to be broken up into groups that compete with one another while maintaining relatively free communication–like the U.S. federal government system, with its built-in competition [among] our 50 states.” — Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond reaches this conclusion in the 2003 Afterword to his magisterial analysis of the evolution of human societies, “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” Diamond argues that a primary reason that Europe and China proceeded along different developmental lines followed from their relative degree of central organization. China, due to a friendly geographic layout, was able to become consolidated as a political entity under unified rule. Europe, in contrast, was broken up by its terrain to create smaller, more competitive states.
To Diamond, the political fragmentation of Europe produced greater innovation as states competed for goods and power, even as transportation routes opened up avenues of exchange and communication. China, in contrast, operated according to a chain-of-command that suppressed innovation in service of conformity to a broad, centrally administered national culture. These two political orientations led to very different degrees of technological advance and its consequences, with the more competitive social arrangement producing the circumstances most conducive to invention and advantage.

Our K-12 system has been overly centralized for some time. I asked the three 2008 Madison Superintendent candidates if they planned to continue on this path, or simply focus on hiring the best teachers and let them teach….
Of course, teachers must have content knowledge.

Wisconsin Education Legislation Awaits Governor’s Signature

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent’s enewsletter:

The education bill with provisions related to Educator Effectiveness and Early Literacy is now waiting the governor’s signature.
State Superintendent Tony Evers applauded aspects of the bill this week, while acknowledging “difficult” moments during the Legislature’s just-ended session.
One provision of the education bill “incorporates the on-going work of my Educator Effectiveness Design Team,” Evers said.
That group is working to pilot “an educator evaluation system that is centered on student learning, and is fair, valid, and reliable. This legislation will allow our performance-based evaluation system to move forward, supporting teachers and principals in their job of educating students and helping our educators improve throughout their careers.”
Evers said other provisions “are based on a path forward that was agreed to by the members of the Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force.” He said those provisions “will help Wisconsin better prepare educators to teach reading. It will also help us to better identify kindergarteners who are struggling with the components of early literacy, and help us improve reading results for all children.”
“I look forward to the Governor signing this important bill into law,” Evers concluded.

Much more on the Read to Lead initiative, here.

This photo recently appeared on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ website.
The 2012 Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force report can be viewed, here. The report mentions a number of recommendations regarding teacher preparation, including:

The current Wisconsin teacher licensure exam has few questions on reading instruction, and many of those questions are lacking in rigor. Reading should be emphasized specifically; however, the state should also take this opportunity to strengthen licensure requirements overall. Specifically, the Task Force recommends the well-­‐regarded Massachusetts Test for Education Licensure (MTEL) “Foundations of Reading” to be the required state exam by 2013 to raise the bar. The exam should be incorporated within the current Wisconsin exam to reduce costs in the short term. In the long term, the state should explore adopting MTEL exams across all subject areas.
As part of the process of adopting a new exam, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will inform institutions of higher education on what will be covered on the MTEL, thereby igniting a much-­‐needed conversation to ensure the theoretical and technical knowledge needed to teach students to read is effectively and sufficiently taught to prospective reading teachers.

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

More Commentary on Proposed Wisconsin Teacher Licensing Content Requirements.

Alan Borsuk

In 1998, Massachusetts debuted a set of tests it created for people who wanted teaching licenses. People nationwide were shocked when 59% of those in the first batch of applicants failed a communications and literacy test that officials said required about a 10th-grade level of ability.
Given some specifics of how the tests were launched, people who wanted to be teachers in Massachusetts probably got more of a bum rap for their qualifications than they deserved. But the results certainly got the attention of people running college programs to train teachers. They changed what they did, and the passing rate rose to about 90% in recent years.
One more thing: Student outcomes in Massachusetts improved significantly. Coming from the middle of the pack, Massachusetts has led the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade scores in reading and math on National Assessment of Education Program (NAEP) tests for almost a decade.
Could this be Wisconsin in a few years, especially when it comes to reading?
Gov. Scott Walker and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers released last week the report of a task force aimed at improving reading in Wisconsin. Reading results have been stagnant for years statewide, with Wisconsin slipping from near the top to the middle of the pack nationally. Among low-income and minority students, the state’s results are among the worst in the country.

Wisconsin Framework for Educator (Teacher) Effectiveness


Design Team Report & Recommendation:

1. Guiding Principles
The Design Team believes that the successful development and implementation of the new performance-based evaluation system is dependent upon the following guiding principles,
which define the central focus of the entire evaluation system. The guiding principles of the educator evaluation system are:
The ultimate goal of education is student learning. Effective educators are essential to achieving that goal for all students. We believe it is imperative that students have highly effective teams of educators to support them throughout their public education. We further believe that effective practice leading to better educational achievement requires continuous improvement and monitoring.
A strong evaluation system for educators is designed to provide information that supports decisions intended to ensure continuous individual and system effectiveness. The system must be well-articulated, manageable

Related: Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading, Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test, Wisconsin, Mississippi Have “Easy State K-12 Exams” – NY Times and Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.

9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Guest Speaker Mark Seidenberg (Donald O. Hebb and Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, UW-Madison): Professor Seidenberg gave an excellent presentation on the science of reading and why it is important to incorporate the findings of that science in teaching. Right now there is a huge disconnect between the vast, converged body of science worldwide and instructional practice. Prospective teachers are not learning about reading science in IHE’s, and relying on intuition about how to teach reading is biased and can mislead. Teaching older students to read is expensive and difficult. Up-front prevention of reading failure is important, and research shows us it is possible, even for dyslexic students. This will save money, and make the road easier for students to learn and teachers to teach. Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.
Lander: Can Seidenberg provide a few examples of things on which the Task Force could reach consensus?
Seidenberg: There is a window for teaching basic reading skills that then will allow the child to move on to comprehension. The balanced literacy concept is in conflict with best practices. Classrooms in Wisconsin are too laissez-faire, and the spiraling approach to learning does not align with science.
Michael Brickman: Brickman, the Governor’s aide, cut off the discussion with Professor Seidenberg, and said he would be in touch with him later.

Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.