NCATE responds correspondence by JamieThackray



Quick fix                                                                                             quality is best attained when the state

M      argaret Raymond and Stephen
       Fletcher’s findings (“Teach for
America,” Research, Spring 2002) from
                                                                                                     heavily regulates employment, requir-
                                                                                                     ing teachers to take numerous educa-
                                                                                                     tion courses before they can be consid-
their initial evaluation of Teach for                                                                ered for a teaching job. The problem is
America (TFA) are not too surprising,                                                                that because teaching is not a science, the
given the makeup of TFA recruits and                                                                 technical knowledge base is thin.There-
the teachers with whom they are being                                                                fore, many education courses lack acad-
compared.                                                                                            emic substance and none is highly pre-
    They find that TFA recruits in                                                                   dictive of success. Yet they dilute
Houston are “at least as effective as other                                                          prospective teachers’undergraduate edu-
teachers in the district.” However, the                                                              cation by displacing academic courses.
researchers readily admit to the limits of                                                           Since many top college students thus
their research, in that many of the other                                                            avoid education degrees, teacher-prepa-
teachers in the Houston district have                                                                ration programs often enroll weaker stu-
gone through quick-fix alternative cer-                 their “real” careers.                         dents to meet school demand. Still, edu-
tification programs.                                        However, TFA is not an answer to          cation graduates do not provide a reliable
    TFA recruits“are a select group of col-            the teacher shortage in America. Amer-        supply of new teachers. Forced to com-
lege graduates, culled from the finest                  ica needs almost 200,000 new teachers         mit in their teens in order to take the
universities and often performing near                 each year, or about 2 million in the next     required courses, some change their
the top of their class,” write Raymond and             decade. The select group of top college       minds by graduation and do not enter
Fletcher. Individuals with these qualifi-               graduates that includes TFA members           teaching, while many leave their jobs
cations are not the norm in alternative-               will not stay for long in jobs that are at    within a few years.
certification recruitment. In Prince                   the bottom of the pay and perk scale—             Because the traditional approach is
George’s County, Maryland, hairdressers                jobs that in many urban and suburban          unworkable, states have always main-
and cabdrivers answered ads for teach-                 locations make them eligible for low-         tained other pathways. However, these
ers in 2000 and 2001. Usually, alternative             income housing. The vast majority did         long-standing alternatives merely
routes attract those who have not                      not attend Ivy League schools to earn less    eschew the enforcement of certification
thought about their career choices and                 in a year than it cost for nine months of     requirements rather than questioning
are looking for something to do or are                 their undergraduate education.                their necessity or effectiveness. If dis-
unemployed. In fact, during the recession                  If the salaries and working conditions    tricts claim to be unable to find certified
after September 11, 2001, applications for             of teachers were raised to a level com-       teachers, the state declares an “emer-
teaching shot up in various locations                  mensurate with those of other college         gency” and authorizes the employment
across the country. Most alternative-                  graduates, the profession would begin to      of uncertified people, who then begin
certification applicants usually end up                 attract more of the best and brightest        after the fact to meet requirements that
in the classroom because something bet-                into teacher preparation programs.            are supposed to be legal prerequisites.
ter has not turned up. This is a far cry                                       JANE LEIBBRAND        On the one hand, emergency policies
from the TFA recruits, with their Ivy                           National Council for Accreditation   have always barred districts from hiring
League degrees and 3.4 GPAs.                                                  of Teacher Education   talented people with degrees in acade-
    During the past decade, TFA has                                              Washington, D.C.    mic subjects when a mediocre yet cer-
placed 7,000 recruits in classrooms—                                                                 tified person was available. On the other
but only 2,000 to 3,000 of those are                                                                 hand, districts have used shortages to
still in the classroom. Retention is                   No alternative                                rationalize the employment of people
lower than among regularly trained
teachers, creating constant turnover in
those schools that choose TFA
                                                       D    avid Ruenzel’s article (“Tortuous
                                                            Routes,” Feature, Spring 2002) accu-
                                                       rately describes a major deficiency of
                                                                                                     who have not studied and do not know
                                                                                                     the subjects they will teach.
                                                                                                         In 1983, New Jersey challenged the
recruits. This may give TFA graduates                  most alternative routes to teacher certi-     traditional approach at its roots. The
a realistic picture of the problems in                 fication: Because they reflect traditional      state asserted that most undergraduate
education (indeed, they’re contributing                assumptions about teaching, they are          education courses are not useful and
to some of them, like teacher turnover                 no more effective than the unworkable         trimmed all but three from its tradi-
in urban schools), and they may advo-                  systems they are intended to help fix.         tional preparation programs, thus
cate for solutions as they move on to                     Those systems assume that teacher          strengthening teaching degrees and mak-

6     E D U C AT I O N N E X T / S U M M E R 2 0 0 2                                                            

ing them more attractive to top college           Most alternative                             The failure to challenge the tradi-
students. The state then gave all candi-                                                   tional approach is sometimes the result
dates with degrees in academic subjects      routes to certification                       of legitimate philosophical differences.
the option of taking the three courses                                                     More often, though, it results from polit-
during their initial year of employment.         are hamstrung by                          ical lobbying by interest groups that
    New Jersey’s policy reflects a belief                                                   want to use government regulation to
that it makes most sense to rely on the         the fact that they                         advance their professional image and
circumstantial judgments of principals,                                                    that otherwise benefit from a tight and
who happen to be licensed by the state           reflect traditional                       monopolistically controlled job market.
to assess teaching capability. Teacher
quality is achieved by expanding job                 assumptions                                                  LEO KLAGHOLZ
opportunities, intensifying competition,                                                             Former New Jersey Commissioner
and challenging school leaders to                  about teaching.                                                      of Education
embrace responsibility for teacher selec-                                                                       Pomona, New Jersey
tion and induction.                         Ruenzel expresses. The problem is that
    During the past 16 years, more than     most of these alternatives were merely
10,000 new teachers have completed          tacked onto traditional certification poli-     Asking the wrong questions
New Jersey’s alternative route. Most of
the state’s 600 school districts—large
and small, urban and suburban, wealthy
                                            cies that remain unchallenged.
                                                Some alternate routes inexplicably
                                            waive the same education courses that
                                                                                           F    lorida’s A+ program is one of many
                                                                                                education programs being closely
                                                                                           watched in education and policy circles.
and poor—have hired them. In any            the state continues to require in tradi-       Because it includes vouchers and test-
given year, up to 40 percent of all new     tional preparation programs.This causes        based accountability, the program has
teachers are alternative routers. A five-    school administrators to shy away from         received national attention as a potential
year pilot study showed that the initial    nontraditional candidates because it por-      way to improve public education, and
2,000 had higher test scores than edu-      trays them as less well “trained.” Other       especially “failing schools.” The promi-
                                                                                           nence of the program has increased the
                                                                                           stakes in research—and the need for
                                                                                           careful analysis.
                                                                                               Jay Greene’s analysis of the A+ pro-
                                                                                           gram (“The Looming Shadow,” Research,
                                                                                           Winter 2001) provides results that are
                                                                                           incomplete at best and probably quite
                                                                                               First, Greene assumes that the effects
                                                                                           of the A+ program on school perfor-
                                                                                           mance are due entirely to the pressure
                                                                                           of facing vouchers. Our work, however,
                                                                                           indicates that much of the effect came
                                                                                           simply from the public embarrassment
                                                                                           of a school’s receiving a low grade.
                                                                                               Second, Greene reports only raw
                                                                                           gains in test scores, rather than effect
cation graduates, were more likely to       states require alternate candidates to         sizes, which makes it impossible to deter-
hold advanced degrees, and more often       complete the same courses that are             mine whether the effects are large or
had previous experience working with        required in undergraduate preparation          small. This is surprising because esti-
children. They were also three times        programs. This produces an alternate           mates of the effect sizes are easy to obtain,
more likely to be minorities and four       route that is unnecessarily cumbersome,        simply by dividing the raw score gains by
times less likely to leave their teaching   a discouragement to candidates and             the student-level standard deviation in
jobs during the first year.                  employers alike. Still other states model      score levels. According to the published
    Although other states responded to      their alternate routes after the old emer-     work of Gregory Camilli and Katrina
such evidence by adopting alternate         gency credential policy, restricting their     Bulkley of Rutgers University, Greene’s
routes, many deserve the criticisms that    use to instances of teacher shortage.          raw score gain in reading translates into                                                                    S U M M E R 2 0 0 2 / E D U C AT I O N N E X T   7

an effect size of just 0.04—equivalent to                 “How large do test-                      this disagreement is only a difference
increasing a student’s test score from                                                             of degree, not kind. Carnoy and Harris
the 50th to the 51st percentile. This                     score gains have to                      rely upon an analysis by Camilli and
effect is very small even by the standard                                                          Bulkley to claim that the gain experi-
Greene proposes, and grows smaller still                 be to justify serious                     enced by schools facing the threat of
if adjusted for the separate effect of                                                             vouchers was a modest one. Camilli
school ratings.                                          consideration in the                      and Bulkley compute the gains as units
    Third, Greene performs a kind of                                                               of standard deviations for individual
cost-effectiveness analysis: Do vouchers                   voucher debate?”                        students, even though we only know
produce gains at lower cost than other                                                             the variation in test scores on the
education reforms? Economists are                      Harris agree with me, at least implic-      school level and do not know the varia-
trained to answer such questions by                    itly, is remarkable. First, Carnoy and      tion at the individual student level.
focusing on the economic costs. Greene’s               Harris do not take issue with the fact      They get around this by assuming a
analysis has some technical problems,                  that test scores in Florida increased at    certain relationship between school-
but the greater flaw is that he has asked               schools that faced the prospect of          level variation and student-level varia-
the wrong question altogether. Those                   vouchers under the A+ program. Sec-         tion in test score results. In other
who follow the debate on vouchers closely              ond, they do not dispute my analysis        words, they are guessing, even if it is
know that the critique of vouchers has lit-            comparing the results of the high-          informed guessing. If their guess is off,
tle to do with the effects of vouchers on              stakes state test and the low-stakes        gains as measured in terms of standard
test scores and monetary costs. It involves            SAT 9, which found that the excep-          deviations are larger than they claim.
the possibility that vouchers will create a            tional test-score gains experienced by          Rather than guess about what is
hierarchy of schools based on income                   schools facing the prospect of vouch-       not known, I prefer to report the
and race, that increased choices for some              ers represented real increases in stu-      gains in terms of a unit that is known
may mean decreased freedoms for others,                dent achievement, not a manipulation        and that everyone can understand—
and that the roles of parents, teachers, and           of the state testing system or a result     dollars. I calculate that to achieve the
citizens in the education process will be              of teaching to the state test.              same test-score gain in math achieved
changed for the worse.                                      The only issues in dispute here are    by the prospect of vouchers, Florida
    Weighing these issues is the respon-               the extent to which vouchers as a sanc-     would need to increase per-pupil
sibility of policymakers, not economists               tion for chronic failure are uniquely       spending by $3,484. Even the smaller
and education researchers. However,                    capable of producing gains and whether      gain produced in reading scores
researchers are responsible for helping to             those gains are large or not. Carnoy and    would require an increase of $888 per
frame the questions properly. In this                  Harris suggest that perhaps the threat      pupil to accomplish the same result.
case, the key questions appear to be:                  of reconstitution or the stigma of being    By any normal accounting, these gains
How large do the test-score gains have to              labeled a failure can motivate schools to   are not small.
be to justify serious consideration in the             improve. It is certainly plausible that         Even if Carnoy and Harris were
debate about vouchers, equity, and social              various sanctions could be effective.       correct in claiming that the gain pro-
values? Is a 0.04 standard deviation gain              My position is simply that the evidence     duced in reading scores only yields an
large enough to be considered impor-                   from Florida shows that improvements        average improvement of 1 percentile
tant? Also, what do these small gains                  occurred when vouchers were the sanc-       point, such a gain is not trivial over a
suggest about the performance of the                   tion. We do not have evidence of simi-      one-year period. And the larger gains
current education system? These are the                lar quality from other states demon-        achieved in math (even assuming their
questions that researchers should be                   strating that reconstitution or             standard deviation estimates are cor-
putting to policymakers.                               embarrassment is equally effective.         rect) would be more substantial.
                                                       Given the available evidence, we should         Given the difficulty policymakers
                        MARTIN CARNOY                  operate under the working policy con-       have historically experienced in trying
                        Stanford University            clusion that vouchers are an effective      to devise any programs that produce
                                                       sanction and that the effectiveness of      large-scale, demonstrable gains in stu-
                         D OUG HARRIS                  other sanctions is unknown.                 dent achievement, the improvements
                   Economic Policy Institute                Our disagreement over the magni-       realized by the A+ choice and
                                                       tude of the improvement experienced         accountability program in Florida sug-
Jay P. Greene responds: The degree                     by schools facing the prospect of           gest a very promising avenue for
to which Martin Carnoy and Doug                        vouchers is more substantial, but even      reform efforts.

8     E D U C AT I O N N E X T / S U M M E R 2 0 0 2                                                         

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