Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In Defense of Data

Alex Russo at "This Week in Education" comments today on Teach For America as seen in Donna Foote's book Relentless Pursuit.
"The organization micromanages them instead of supporting or encouraging them, implements an obviously unhelpful scripted mentoring system that is -- along with many other things -- "quietly shelved" before the next year, and pressures teachers to conform to a cockamamie accountability system based on irregular, self-reported, unverified achievement data. Talk about juking the numbers."
The critical comments in the book are valid and are ones that folks at all levels of the organization are working to address. As noted, the 2006 teacher training system was replaced when another, superior version was developed. This happens when a self-critical, ever-evolving organization seeks to improve. Not upgrading a system – as is the case in some, more traditional teacher training programs – is surely a dereliction of duty to student learning.Teach For America’s model, which focuses on student achievement, is always going to be constantly evolving; that’s, in part, why it’s so great. When I look at the teacher training model, the most compelling piece is that it is directly linked to student achievement data. Data detailing 1) how the applicant measures up on the admission rubric, 2) how he is trained at Institute, and 3) how he is supported while in the classroom, can be regressed against how his students achieve on a year-over-year basis. With nearly 4,000 points of reference, Teach For America seems poised to become a very valuable laboratory for perfecting how we train teachers. I predict that as soon as traditional colleges of education see the results of Teach For America’s internal studies, they will begin to rely on the organization to give them the proven best practices for training teachers to positively affect student achievement.

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