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Friday churn: Gates’ teacher study findings

Updated 2:30 p.m. – Initial findings from a national two-year study of teacher effectiveness in seven school districts, including Denver Public Schools, appear to validate the use of value-added measures. They also show promise in asking students’ opinions of their teachers and classroom work.

That’s according to a report released today and discussed this morning in a press conference call with Thomas J. Kane, deputy director of research and data for the education program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is funding the Measures of Effective Teaching or MET Project.

“For 40 years, we’ve known there’s large differences in student achievement gains in different teachers’ classrooms and yet almost everywhere teacher evaluation is a perfunctory and meaningless exercise,” Kane said. “If we know teaching matters and, given the evidence, if the quality of instruction varies so much, why do we provide such little feedback to teachers to help them improve?”

Today’s report is the first of four to be released over the course of the project, which included videotaping 13,000 classroom lessons last spring. Only six percent of those videotaped observations have been analyzed, however, so that data is not included in today’s release.

Key findings from the report, according to Kane:

  • Teachers with high value-added histories on state exams also tended to have high value-added on supplemental tests requiring deeper conceptual knowledge. “So it was not the case that the high value-added teachers on the state tests were simply teaching to the test and not teaching concepts.”
  • Student perceptions of their teachers held true across classes and was predictive of their teachers’ ability to make achievement gains. The data was collected from student surveys asking questions such as, “In this class, we use time well,” and “In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes.”
  • Both value-added histories and student perceptions are predictive of a teacher’s ability to add value in another class or academic year. “Our report is not saying there’s no fluctuation and no volatility … It’s just that things are not so volatile that they’re not predictive.”

Read the preliminary findings research report and learn more about Denver’s part in the project. Our partners at Education Week have a full story here.

Updated 11:45 a.m. – Republican assignments to the House Education Committee were announced today by incoming Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and four of the seven are freshmen without any particular education backgrounds.

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, will be chair, as was announced earlier. The vice chair will be freshman Don Beezley, a Broomfield businessman. The other newcomers are Chris Holbert of Parker, a political consultant; Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, a retired doctor, and businessman Robert Ramirez of Westminster, whose wife is a Jeffco elementary school teacher. Ramirez last month narrowly defeated Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada, a longtime ed committee member.

Republicans returning to the committee are Carole Murray of Castle Rock and Ken Summers of Lakewood. House Democrats haven’t yet named committee members and aren’t expected to do so until Monday at the earliest.

The lineup for Senate Ed is set, with only two new members (see this earlier Churn item for names).

See the House Republicans’ Facebook page for other committee assignments.

What’s Churning

The annual Department of Education budget hearing with the Joint Budget Committee kicks off at 1:30 p.m. and is scheduled to run until 5.

The event always draws a good crowd of legislators, State Board of Education members, Department of Education executives and education lobbyists, so it’s being held in the large Hearing Room A of the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave.

The official purpose of the session is to allow department leaders to respond to questions raised by legislators during a previous budget briefing by JBC staff. That meeting was held on Dec. 3 and featured a committee analyst’s warnings about the need to control future K-12 spending – see story.

But the hearing often goes in directions different than discussing the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Last year’s session turned into a wide-ranging discussion about the cost of education reform, particularly testing – see archived story.

Check EdNews later today for coverage.

Tomorrow, Denver Public Schools hosts a schools fair in Far Northeast Denver as that part of the district switches from typical neighborhood-school boundaries to a regional enrollment zone. That means families of 6th-graders and 9th-graders in fall 2011 will be asked to rank their top preferences of any schools in the area.

It’s a big change and district leaders have scheduled tomorrow’s “expo” and an “open house” in January as part of the effort to get the word out. Preference forms are due Jan. 31. Last month’s contentious DPS board vote approving changes at six struggling schools in Far Northeast Denver also means several programs new to parents.

Part of the change package is a new transportation system – all kids will be eligible to ride buses that function as shuttles from school to school. Students can get on, and off, a bus at any school. To learn more about the enrollment change, new program options and the new bus system, go here.

What’s on tap:

The University of Northern Colorado trustees meet starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Panorama Room at the university center on campus in Greeley (agenda highlights).

Gov. Bill Ritter will participate in a roundtable discussion in Grand Junction with Mesa State College students and college President Tim Foster about ways to encourage and support students to complete their college degrees. The session starts at 9:30 a.m. on campus in the Academic Classroom Building, 3rd floor Gallegos Family Board Room.

The Ritter administration just completed a month-long outreach effort named Complete College Colorado, which included events designed to publicize the importance of college completion. (See the campaign’s website for more information and this news release for the governor’s take on how the effort went.)

Good reads from elsewhere:

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