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April 16, 2014

New from ECS

When Rater Reliability Isn't Enough
In an era that will undoubtedly see major expansion in the number and use of observational instruments, the authors of this study argue that practitioners and researchers need to more carefully examine the sources of variation in observational scores and consider their implications for how these ratings are used. Their analysis demonstrates the hazard of using a common metric -- 80 percent interrater agreement -- as a sole measure of the reliability of a classroom observation system. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Significant Positive Impact of Teacher Evaluation
Fully implemented in 2011-12, Tennessee's teacher evaluation system continues to evolve and improve. Responding to feedback and analysis, the Tennessee State Department of Education included students with disabilities in teacher value-added scores and added legislative change for teachers with the highest scores on student growth in 2012-13. Teachers' perceptions of the system improved across every major indicator. In 2013-14 additional changes were made, including a more rigorous certification exam for all evaluators.

Apprenticeships as Postsecondary Credentials
Oregon H.B. 4058, signed into law in March, allows apprenticeship programs to count toward the state's 40-40-20 goal. The goal is that by 2025, at least 40 percent of adult Oregonians will have earned a bachelor's degree or higher; at least 40 percent will have earned an associate degree or post-secondary credential; and the remaining 20 percent or fewer will have earned a high school diploma or equivalent as their highest level of educational attainment.

Filling the Skills Gap
Under H.B. 1003, Indiana schools will get grants to develop and implement partnerships with businesses, allowing those schools to offer students internships and apprenticeships and dual high school-college credit all while getting paid. Participating businesses will get tax credits, not to mention a well-trained employee.

Scholarships for Future Skilled Workers
Alabama enacted H.B. 384 this session, providing a state income tax credit to individuals and businesses who contribute to a scholarship program for high school students dually enrolled in community colleges to become welders, electricians, mechanics or other types of skilled work.

Good Reads

Turning Apprenticeships into Credit Hours
The historic division between career/technical education and college continued to blur with the launch last week of a national consortium of colleges, employers and unions creating a skills acquisition continuum from Registered Apprenticeship to college with gainful employment. Called Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC), the program will use the American Council on Education and the National College Credit Recommendation Service to provide colleges with recommendations on translating apprenticeship experience to academic credit. (U.S. Department of Labor)

How Reliable Are Preschool Observations?
As more states fund pre-K to enhance school readiness, accountability becomes a greater issue in terms of cost and program quality. In the absence of standardized tests, classroom observation of preschoolers takes on greater importance. Which protocol is used? How capable are observers of generating reliable data? How often should these observations take place? This report provides a detailed analysis and description of classroom observation policies for 27 state-funded programs from the 2012-13 school year. (Educational Testing Service)

Align Learning Strategies with Human Nature
Students who strongly agree that their school is committed to building their strengths and that they have a teacher who makes them excited about the future are almost 30 times as likely to be engaged learners as their peers who strongly disagree with both statements, this poll finds. But less than half of students strongly agree that they get to do their best every day, and nearly seven in 10 K-12 teachers are not engaged in their work. (Gallup)

Do School Boards Matter?
Many school board members do not give top priority to improving student learning although students do better academically in districts where school board members have that focus. Researchers found board members tend to be shaped by their professional backgrounds. Former teachers or other school system employees are less knowledgeable about true district conditions than their colleagues who are not former educators. Further, at-large, on-cycle elections are linked with districts that beat the odds. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Cheering Up Adjuncts for Their Students' Sake
Part-time faculty far outnumber full-time faculty at most colleges; part-timers teach 58 percent of U.S. community college classes while making less money and getting few benefits, if any. While adjuncts are one way colleges save money, it's difficult to prevent their unhappiness from affecting students. This report suggests supporting adjuncts by including them in discussions, creating pathways to full-time work and, when possible, paying them more. (Center for Community College Student Engagement)

Men's Earning Gaps Widen
The gap in earnings between more educated and less educated workers has widened over time, but also the gaps are wider among younger men, according to this report. Men with a high school diploma or less experienced decreases in annual and cumulative earnings, those with some college experienced stagnated earnings and largest gains went to those with advanced degrees. The highest-earning quartile of high school graduates out-earns a hefty share of those with some college and four-year degrees. Along with rising tuition, this may explain why college completion rates haven't risen rapidly. (Urban Institute)

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