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Short takes on big news at the College

The big topics continue to be debated @TC. In this issue: the future of teacher tenure, factors associated with gun violence by young people, why diversity matters in pre-K classrooms, the importance of “cognition in the wild” and more.

 

Teacher Tenure on Trial

Should seniority and dismissal be courtroom matters?

In June 2014, a California trial court found the state’s procedures on teacher tenure and dismissal unconstitutional because they expose low-income and minority students to “grossly ineffective” teachers. Suits are also claiming that New York statutes on teacher tenure and dismissal violate a constitutional guarantee of a “sound basic education.”

Are the days of teacher tenure numbered? In Decem­ber, TC’s Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis (EPSA) hosted the first non-partisan, scholarly consideration of that question.

“We’re seeing a shift in strategies — what polit­ical scientists call ‘venue shopping’ for arenas where achieving victory appears more likely,” said EPSA Chair Jeffrey Henig.

The courts have dictated education policy in the past, but are there “principled ways to deter­mine when judicial intervention in educational policy-making is proper?” asked Jay Heubert, TC Professor of Law & Education.

The courts must take on teacher tenure, argued Stanford University’s Eric Hanushek, because teacher effectiveness is paramount in shaping life outcomes. Hanushek said a class of 35 students taught for one year by a teacher in the 75th per­centile for quality would go on to earn the current equivalent of $430,000 per year more than if taught by a teacher of only average quality.

Harvard’s Susan Moore Johnson predicted that if the California decision is upheld, “effective teachers will leave or avoid their schools” because measures such as ending seniority-based layoffs simply signal to teachers that they are expendable. And TC Professor of Law & Practice Michael Rebell, who helped establish that many states guarantee quality education as a constitutional right, said courts shouldn’t weigh in on teacher tenure because the return won’t justify the cost. Relatively few ineffective teachers will likely be weeded out on the basis of tenure, Rebell suggested, compared with gains wrought by improving teachers’ salaries and working conditions.

“There may be a constitutional right [in New York] for students to have an effective teacher, but if there is, it goes well beyond tenure to retention, supports, salaries, etc.,” Rebell said. “We have to think through if there are manageable standards where a court can intervene.”

 

CLIMATE GAMES

Digital games are effective in educating and getting the public to care about climate change, according to a study published by TC researchers in April on the Nature Climate Change website. Jason S. Wu, Science Education doctoral student, and Joey J. Lee, Research Assistant Professor and Director of TC’s Real-World Impact Games Lab, argue that because games allow players to “simulate complex models or provide a level of control that is not possible in the real world,” players experience “the complexities of climate systems…participate in decisions affecting climate change and immediately see the resulting outcomes.” Also, games are fun.

REFLECTIVE LEARNERS

Amarion Wilson (top) and Christopher Townsend, students at the Harriet Tubman  Elementary School (PS 154), prove themselves to be snap students at the  “Healthy Selfie” workshop during a spring Community School Kick-Off & Health Fair event to celebrate the school’s partnership with Teachers College.

 

Pre-K Takeaway: Diversity Matters

An april report by Jeanne L. Reid and Sharon Lynn Kagan of TC’s National Center for Children and Families finds racial, ethnic and economic disparities in U.S. preschools and calls for increased diversity. “The research on classroom composition and peer effects in early childhood education suggests that segregating children limits their learning,” Reid and Kagan write in “A Better Start: Why Class-Diversity Matters in Early Education.” “Yet much current preschool policy effectively segregates children by income, race or ethnicity.”  Funded by The Century Foundation and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the report urges increased funding for Head Start to enable enrollment of children from families above the poverty line without jeopardizing services to low-income children.

 

Youth and Guns: It’s Not Just Mental Illness

Multiple risk behaviors, beyond more commonly discussed indicators of poor mental health…are associated with gun possession among youth,” finds research co-authored in PLOS ONE in November by TC health educa­tor Sonali Rajan.  Rajan and Kelly Ruggles of NYU Langone Medical Center strongly linked more than 40 different behavioral factors with gun possession, including heroin use, having been injured in a fight, and having been a victim of sexual violence. The researchers drew on data amassed between 2001 and 2011 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is our hope that this study will help shift the rhetoric around gun violence, identify potential points of intervention, and help re­frame research priorities,” the researchers write.

 

IN BRIEF

To prepare non-U.S. students for the rigors of graduate work in the United States, Teachers College is launching a new Inter-national Pre-Graduate Program, this summer. Just under 20 percent of TC’s students are international, up from 11.8 percent in 2009.

TC’s Columbus Day “Sympo­sium on Math Education in Latin America” highlighted the region’s growing prominence in mathe­matics and launched Mathematics and Its Teaching in the Southern Americas, an anthology co-edited by symposium chair Bruce Vogeli, Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education.

Delivering TC’s second annual Edmund Gordon Lecture this past fall, Emory University historian Vanessa Siddle Walker hailed leaders of black schools in the Jim Crow South who established a vibrant professional community and prepared the generation that won civil rights.

A story in Nature in March described the application of dynamical systems theory by TC psychologist Peter Coleman to understand persistent violent conflict in nations such as Colombia, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Schools must adapt to reflect out-of-school “cognition in the wild,” said 2014 Tisch Lecturer Reed Stevens of Northwestern University, because students spend just 18.5 percent of their waking hours on formal school subjects but nearly 50 percent using various forms of media.

 

African Education Center Renamed for Bond

TC has renamed its center for African Education as the George Clement Bond Center for African Education in honor of the College’s great education anthropol­ogist, who passed away in May 2014. Bond, the Center’s founding director, was an authority on the African diaspora who was widely credited with identifying and representing the historical narratives of indigenous African peoples.

“We are excited to continue the work and vision of Professor Bond,” said Interim Director S. Garnett Russell, Assistant Professor of International & Comparative Education. “I see the Bond Center as a means for faculty with common interests to come together to develop new research projects. It’s surprising how much work at TC relates to Africa.

 

Summer Reading

While not typical beach fare, books by four TC faculty members may make a lot of summer lists.

Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools (Teachers College Press). Ernest Morrell, Macy Professor of English Education, argues that critical media education can improve academic literacy in underserved youth. Morrell and his co-authors received Choice Magazine’s 2014 Outstanding Academic Title Award.

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race (Wiley). Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology & Education, warns that without deep understanding of the stakes, discussion of race may trigger misunderstanding and even violence. Race Talk extends Sue’s pioneering work on the often unintended but damaging manifestations of prejudice known as microaggressions.

The Spiritual Child: The New Science of Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving (St. Martin’s Press). Lisa Miller, Professor of Psychology & Education, focuses on “the culturally neglected, yet pressing need to support spiritual development in children and adolescents.” Miller’s studies have documented positive effects of faith on the brain.

Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Harvard University Press). Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins of TC’s Community College Research Center argue that to increase stu­dent completion, community colleges must engage in fundamental redesign. The authors delineate research-based design principles and strategies to help colleges achieve this challenging goal.

Partnering with NYC Schools on Two New Fronts

Through a grant to TC’s Office of School and Community Part­nerships that’s part of New York City’s new Attendance Improvement and Dropout Prevention Community Schools Strategy, TC is ex­panding its relationship with P.S. 154 (the Harriet Tubman School), one of six public schools in the College’s REACH initiative. In addition, TC’s Cen­ter for Technology and School Change, directed by Associate Professor of Practice Ellen Meier, is creating technology instruction programs in 10 of the city’s public schools.

 

Published Friday, Jun. 5, 2015

@TC

The big topics continue to be debated @TC. In this issue: the future of teacher tenure, factors associated with gun violence by young people, why diversity matters in pre-K classrooms, the importance of “cognition in the wild” and more.

 

Teacher Tenure on Trial

Should seniority and dismissal be courtroom matters?

In June 2014, a California trial court found the state’s procedures on teacher tenure and dismissal unconstitutional because they expose low-income and minority students to “grossly ineffective” teachers. Suits are also claiming that New York statutes on teacher tenure and dismissal violate a constitutional guarantee of a “sound basic education.”

Are the days of teacher tenure numbered? In Decem­ber, TC’s Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis (EPSA) hosted the first non-partisan, scholarly consideration of that question.

“We’re seeing a shift in strategies — what polit­ical scientists call ‘venue shopping’ for arenas where achieving victory appears more likely,” said EPSA Chair Jeffrey Henig.

The courts have dictated education policy in the past, but are there “principled ways to deter­mine when judicial intervention in educational policy-making is proper?” asked Jay Heubert, TC Professor of Law & Education.

The courts must take on teacher tenure, argued Stanford University’s Eric Hanushek, because teacher effectiveness is paramount in shaping life outcomes. Hanushek said a class of 35 students taught for one year by a teacher in the 75th per­centile for quality would go on to earn the current equivalent of $430,000 per year more than if taught by a teacher of only average quality.

Harvard’s Susan Moore Johnson predicted that if the California decision is upheld, “effective teachers will leave or avoid their schools” because measures such as ending seniority-based layoffs simply signal to teachers that they are expendable. And TC Professor of Law & Practice Michael Rebell, who helped establish that many states guarantee quality education as a constitutional right, said courts shouldn’t weigh in on teacher tenure because the return won’t justify the cost. Relatively few ineffective teachers will likely be weeded out on the basis of tenure, Rebell suggested, compared with gains wrought by improving teachers’ salaries and working conditions.

“There may be a constitutional right [in New York] for students to have an effective teacher, but if there is, it goes well beyond tenure to retention, supports, salaries, etc.,” Rebell said. “We have to think through if there are manageable standards where a court can intervene.”

 

CLIMATE GAMES

Digital games are effective in educating and getting the public to care about climate change, according to a study published by TC researchers in April on the Nature Climate Change website. Jason S. Wu, Science Education doctoral student, and Joey J. Lee, Research Assistant Professor and Director of TC’s Real-World Impact Games Lab, argue that because games allow players to “simulate complex models or provide a level of control that is not possible in the real world,” players experience “the complexities of climate systems…participate in decisions affecting climate change and immediately see the resulting outcomes.” Also, games are fun.

REFLECTIVE LEARNERS

Amarion Wilson (top) and Christopher Townsend, students at the Harriet Tubman  Elementary School (PS 154), prove themselves to be snap students at the  “Healthy Selfie” workshop during a spring Community School Kick-Off & Health Fair event to celebrate the school’s partnership with Teachers College.

 

Pre-K Takeaway: Diversity Matters

An april report by Jeanne L. Reid and Sharon Lynn Kagan of TC’s National Center for Children and Families finds racial, ethnic and economic disparities in U.S. preschools and calls for increased diversity. “The research on classroom composition and peer effects in early childhood education suggests that segregating children limits their learning,” Reid and Kagan write in “A Better Start: Why Class-Diversity Matters in Early Education.” “Yet much current preschool policy effectively segregates children by income, race or ethnicity.”  Funded by The Century Foundation and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the report urges increased funding for Head Start to enable enrollment of children from families above the poverty line without jeopardizing services to low-income children.

 

Youth and Guns: It’s Not Just Mental Illness

Multiple risk behaviors, beyond more commonly discussed indicators of poor mental health…are associated with gun possession among youth,” finds research co-authored in PLOS ONE in November by TC health educa­tor Sonali Rajan.  Rajan and Kelly Ruggles of NYU Langone Medical Center strongly linked more than 40 different behavioral factors with gun possession, including heroin use, having been injured in a fight, and having been a victim of sexual violence. The researchers drew on data amassed between 2001 and 2011 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is our hope that this study will help shift the rhetoric around gun violence, identify potential points of intervention, and help re­frame research priorities,” the researchers write.

 

IN BRIEF

To prepare non-U.S. students for the rigors of graduate work in the United States, Teachers College is launching a new Inter-national Pre-Graduate Program, this summer. Just under 20 percent of TC’s students are international, up from 11.8 percent in 2009.

TC’s Columbus Day “Sympo­sium on Math Education in Latin America” highlighted the region’s growing prominence in mathe­matics and launched Mathematics and Its Teaching in the Southern Americas, an anthology co-edited by symposium chair Bruce Vogeli, Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education.

Delivering TC’s second annual Edmund Gordon Lecture this past fall, Emory University historian Vanessa Siddle Walker hailed leaders of black schools in the Jim Crow South who established a vibrant professional community and prepared the generation that won civil rights.

A story in Nature in March described the application of dynamical systems theory by TC psychologist Peter Coleman to understand persistent violent conflict in nations such as Colombia, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Schools must adapt to reflect out-of-school “cognition in the wild,” said 2014 Tisch Lecturer Reed Stevens of Northwestern University, because students spend just 18.5 percent of their waking hours on formal school subjects but nearly 50 percent using various forms of media.

 

African Education Center Renamed for Bond

TC has renamed its center for African Education as the George Clement Bond Center for African Education in honor of the College’s great education anthropol­ogist, who passed away in May 2014. Bond, the Center’s founding director, was an authority on the African diaspora who was widely credited with identifying and representing the historical narratives of indigenous African peoples.

“We are excited to continue the work and vision of Professor Bond,” said Interim Director S. Garnett Russell, Assistant Professor of International & Comparative Education. “I see the Bond Center as a means for faculty with common interests to come together to develop new research projects. It’s surprising how much work at TC relates to Africa.

 

Summer Reading

While not typical beach fare, books by four TC faculty members may make a lot of summer lists.

Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools (Teachers College Press). Ernest Morrell, Macy Professor of English Education, argues that critical media education can improve academic literacy in underserved youth. Morrell and his co-authors received Choice Magazine’s 2014 Outstanding Academic Title Award.

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race (Wiley). Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology & Education, warns that without deep understanding of the stakes, discussion of race may trigger misunderstanding and even violence. Race Talk extends Sue’s pioneering work on the often unintended but damaging manifestations of prejudice known as microaggressions.

The Spiritual Child: The New Science of Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving (St. Martin’s Press). Lisa Miller, Professor of Psychology & Education, focuses on “the culturally neglected, yet pressing need to support spiritual development in children and adolescents.” Miller’s studies have documented positive effects of faith on the brain.

Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Harvard University Press). Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins of TC’s Community College Research Center argue that to increase stu­dent completion, community colleges must engage in fundamental redesign. The authors delineate research-based design principles and strategies to help colleges achieve this challenging goal.

Partnering with NYC Schools on Two New Fronts

Through a grant to TC’s Office of School and Community Part­nerships that’s part of New York City’s new Attendance Improvement and Dropout Prevention Community Schools Strategy, TC is ex­panding its relationship with P.S. 154 (the Harriet Tubman School), one of six public schools in the College’s REACH initiative. In addition, TC’s Cen­ter for Technology and School Change, directed by Associate Professor of Practice Ellen Meier, is creating technology instruction programs in 10 of the city’s public schools.

 

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