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Publications & Media

Learn more about Bellwether’s work by reading our publications, news articles, press releases, and case studies.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman

    In "Grading Schools: How States Should Define ‘School Quality’ Under the Every Student Succeeds Act,” author Chad Aldeman argues that accountability systems are a state’s best tool to signal what it values and how schools should be working to improve.

    But if states fail to take advantage of that opportunity, they may not provide sufficient urgency for schools to improve, especially for the disadvantaged students who rely on public schools the most and who have historically been underserved by them.

  • Media

    Education Next -- Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of all new teachers are hired after the school year begins. These late hires come in with lower college GPAs, are less likely to have prior teaching experience, and are less likely to be licensed in the area they’ll be asked to teach. Late hires tend to be concentrated in certain low-performing schools.

  • Media

    PDK Poll -- What should we do about low-performing schools? When the Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools asked Americans their preference between closing down a “public school that has been failing for a number of years” or keeping it open and trying to improve it, 84% said keep it open.

  • Media

    NY Daily News -- We should spend a little bit of time thinking about everyone who won’t be returning. That includes about 200,000 teachers who, for whatever reason, won’t be coming back to classrooms this fall. 

  • Media

    The 74 Million -- Live blog coverage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention

  • Publication
    Melissa Steel King
    Leslie Kan
    Chad Aldeman

    Nationwide, concerns about teacher shortages and the retention of experienced teachers, particularly in certain subject areas and states, have been growing in recent years. Moreover, in most states, teachers entering the profession are not as racially diverse as the student population; nationally, 44 percent of all public school students are students of color, while only 17 percent of all public school teachers are educators of color.

    Given that the contributing factors to and severity of these issues vary widely across the country, it is critical for policymakers to have state-specific data about their teaching workforce in order to design effective solutions. This longitudinal analysis of Illinois educator data can help inform local stakeholders’ conversations about key aspects of state education policy, particularly related to diversity and supply and demand.

    In this study, Bellwether Education Partners compiles a portrait of the Illinois school workforce from 2002 to 2012 and explores changing trends over the past decade for policymakers and researchers.

    Read more...

  • Media

    The 74 Million -- Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, according to the Associated Press, but a problem she faced in defeating Bernie Sanders through a drawnout primary process is likely to persist in a general election contest against Donald Trump.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman

    Why aren’t teacher salaries rising?

    It’s not for lack of money. Even after adjusting for inflation and rising student enrollment, total school spending is up.

    It’s not for lack of money spent on teachers, either. Districts are allocating about the same portion of their budgets to instructional costs—including salaries, wages, and benefits for teachers—as they did 20 years ago.

    Overall expenditures are up, but teacher salaries are actually down slightly over the same period.

    So what do Pac-Man and pensions have in common?

    In our new report, “The Pension Pac-Man: How Pension Debt Eats Away at Teacher Salaries,” we show that, like the proverbial Pac-Man, the rapidly rising costs of teacher retirement and insurance benefits are pushing out money that could be spent on salaries.

    Read more...

  • Media

    The Atlantic -- Are teachers losing out on thousands of dollars in potential extra pay because states are behind on maintaining pensions?

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel

    Schools increasingly rely on new teachers to staff their classrooms. A generation ago, the modal teacher had 15 years teaching experience, meaning that, if you asked teachers how many years they had taught the most likely answer would be 15. Today, the answer would be five years of experience. And the proportion of teachers who are new to the field will increase as the Baby Boom generation retires: Some estimates forecast half the nation’s teachers could retire in the next ten years.

    This demand for new teachers creates some obvious challenges for the education field, but it also means that states have a unique opportunity to leverage their authority over teacher preparation and certification to raise the overall level of teacher quality and effectiveness.

    To that end, Bellwether has produced two new reports:

    * Peering Around the Corner, analyzes 11 states that have made substantial progress in linking teachers to the preparation programs that prepared them. For each state, we review the technical and practical decisions they made — like determining which outcomes to measure and how to define them, identifying the right sample size, and deciding if and how to use the data for accountability. We also take a more general look at the challenges states can expect to face, and the tradeoffs they’ll have to make, as they take on this work.

    * Policymakers are still looking for the right way to identify effective teacher preparation and predict who will be an effective teacher. Nothing tried so far can guarantee effective teachers. In No Guarantees, we recommend an alternative approach that relies on the best available evidence to date: initial teaching effectiveness has promise for predicting future effectiveness.

    Read more ...

  • Publication
    Sara Mead, Chad Aldeman, Carolyn Chuong, and Julie Obbard

    After years of cuts to the teaching workforce, California districts are beginning to hire again. This positive change is offset, however, by the fact that teacher preparation programs are producing fewer graduates than the state’s schools and districts want to hire. As a growing number of districts face teacher shortages, or the prospect of them, California needs new strategies to improve both the supply and the quality of new teachers prepared in the state.


    California lacks a coherent strategy to grow the supply of high-quality teachers. A variety of organizations have identified weaknesses in the state’s teacher preparation programs and policies, but many of their recommendations would impose new requirements that lack research support and could further reduce the number and diversity of teacher candidates. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which oversees teacher preparation, is initiating reforms designed to reduce the focus on inputs in teacher preparation and increase attention to outcomes—but they may not go far enough. And none of these proposals would address the state’s most fundamental teacher preparation problems: a highly fragmented approach to preparation and an excessive focus on credential type, rather than on actual classroom effectiveness, as the sole measure of teacher quality.


    Improving the quality of teacher preparation in California will require a profound shift in the way that key players in the system—districts and charter schools, preparation programs, state regulators, and candidates themselves—think about their roles in teacher hiring and recruitment. Districts and charter schools need to take on a greater role in cultivating their own teacher supply. Preparation programs need to reframe the focus of their work around meeting the needs of K-12 schools and candidates—the consumers of teacher preparation. This will require both a wider variety of preparation programs and real, robust local partnerships between districts or charter schools and the programs that prepare their teachers. State policies can encourage and support these partnerships, while also providing greater flexibility for them to customize preparation to candidate and local needs.

    Read more ...

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman

    The American education system is in the midst of a strange paradox. Reading and math achievement levels are increasing for 4th- and 8th-graders, but they’ve barely budged for high school students. High school graduation rates are at all-time highs, and more students are going to and persisting in college, but college dropouts are now a bigger problem than high school dropouts. Meanwhile, overall educational attainment levels in the U.S. have slowed considerably, and we’re now 14th on a measure in which we used to lead the world.

    In Mind the Gap: The Case for Re-Imagining the Way States Judge High School Quality, Chad Aldeman argues that new, more multidimensional ways of judging high school quality are essential to break out of this paradox. Current state and federal policies on high schools tend to reward schools that perform well on measures like test scores and graduation rates while forcing changes on those that don’t. Instead of focusing on higher-order skills, challenging coursework, and annual progress toward college and career readiness, schools are encouraged to focus on lower-level skills and to push all students through to a diploma, regardless of what they learn. But while the focus on low-level academic skills and high school graduation rates has proved useful in some ways, it won’t be sufficient to drive dramatic improvements going forward.

    Fortunately, the conditions are now in place for a much richer definition of what it means to be a successful high school. With the expansion of educational data sources, a critical mass of new information about school quality now exists and is waiting to be put to good use. There is now enough information to create low-cost but sophisticated portraits of high school quality that include measures of student engagement, challenging coursework, and success in transitioning to college or a career.

    Read the full report for Aldeman’s recommendations on how to get there.

     

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