Monday, January 03, 2011

In reforming schools, quality of teaching often overlooked

The LA Times is out with another powerful, important story entitled "In reforming schools, quality of teaching often overlooked," which focuses on one school that, like so many other chronically failing schools, has gone through endless "reforms", none of which worked until teacher quality was improved -- ironically, due to seniority-based layoffs, which usually screws poor kids, but in this case resulted in the layoffs of inexperienced lousy teachers and replacing them with merely average teachers.


For those two decades, Markham has been considered one of the worst middle schools in California,  despite the best efforts of those principals and an army of well-intentioned reformers, including big-hearted volunteers, private foundations, corporate sponsors, the city attorney's office and — most recently — the mayor of Los Angeles.

In the last seven years alone, they tried changing the curriculum, reducing class size, improving school safety, requiring school uniforms, opening after-school programs and spending a lot more money per pupil.

The one thing they didn't do was improve the teaching — at least, not until last year, when layoffs swept out many of the school's worst performers and test scores jumped, a Times analysis found.

Since 2003, Markham has had dozens of the district's least effective instructors, as measured by the analysis of their students' progress on standardized tests. Seventy percent of the school's English and math teachers have ranked well below the Los Angeles Unified School District's average in effectiveness. Fewer than 10 Markham teachers have been in the district's top 20%, and most left the school within three years.

There are thousands of Markhams across the country, schools whose low test scores have triggered wave after wave of reform efforts over decades, mostly in vain.


In reforming schools, quality of teaching often overlooked

Years-long efforts to improve Markham Middle School in Watts included changing the curriculum, reducing class sizes and requiring uniforms. But real progress occurred when more effective teachers were brought in.


December 21, 2010, 6:36 p.m.,0,4180699,full.story 

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