04/05/2011

NEXT POST
Teachers' unions: Good for teachers, good for learning? “Did you know that teachers in Wisconsin make $100,000 a year?” “Maybe that’s why their students rank second in achievement.” This is how rumors get started—and how public opinion is shaped. In the wake of the heated, national debate over the elimination of teachers’ unions’ collective bargaining rights, including bargaining for salary rates, many such “facts” have surfaced. However, a quick check on FactCheck.org shows that $100,000 is not the average salary, but rather the total average compensation package, salary and benefits, for teachers in Milwaukee. The claim that Wisconsin ranks second in combined SAT and ACT scores is based on questionable data from more than a decade ago. Much of the back-and-forth discourse in the media about teachers’ unions can distract us from what matters most: Do they help make teaching better for teachers? If so, does it translate into better learning for students? In a chapter from School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence (Molnar [Ed.], 2002), Robert Carini of Indiana University Bloomington examined the effect of teachers’ unions on student achievement in 17 studies. He found that unions “modestly” raise achievement for most students in public schools, especially on math and verbal sections of standardized tests. However, Carini also found that unions were “harmful” for the lowest- and highest-achieving students. Others, like Andrew J. Coulson in the CATO Journal article, “The Effects of Teachers Unions on American Education,” argue that achievement has stagnated while unions and the cost of schooling have grown dramatically. The value of unions for...
PREVIOUS POST
Turning classroom instruction on its head The classroom lecture. It’s been criticized, despised, even lampooned. An entire generation can probably recite the lines to Ben Stein’s dead-pan, droning lecture in the 1986 film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (“Anyone?... Anyone?”) But lectures aren’t necessarily bad. In fact , they can be an efficient way to help students acquire new knowledge. The problem with lectures, though, is often a matter of pacing. For some students, the information may come too slowly or repeat information they already know. Result: boredom. For others, a lecture may provide too much information too rapidly or presume prior knowledge students don’t have. If students zone out for a moment, they may miss important content and be lost for the rest of the lecture. Result: confusion. After a hit-or-miss lecture, teachers often give homework assignments, which students perform in what may be a private hell of frustration and confusion. What did my teacher said about cross-multiplying? Comma use in compound sentences? The Laffer Curve? A new generation of enterprising teachers is beginning to turn this classroom model on its head, creating what are called “flipped” or “inverted" classrooms. Using simple web software, they record and post their lectures online, creating mini-lectures similar to what Salman Khan has created with his Khan Academy collection of more than 2,000 online lessons. (Click here to view Khan’s recent TED talk). In these inverted classrooms, students watch the lectures at home, where they’re able to speed up content they already understand or stop and review content they don’t...

Recent Comments