2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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New Books from Teachers College Faculty

New works from TC faculty members Henry M. Levin, Susan Fuhrman, Joan Jeffri, Jeffrey Henig, Lynn Kagan, and R. Douglas Greer on topics ranging from education policy research and how the media represents it to the public to  language development in children and arts administration issues in the U.S. and China.

Investing in Education Is Expensive. Not Investing is More So.

A new book co-authored by TC’s Henry Levin recaps findings from the College’s first Educational Equity Symposium

Two years ago, Teachers College held its inaugural Symposium on Educational Equity, focusing on the costs society incurs -- both monetary and civic -- when young people fail to graduate from high school. Now the finalized papers from that event have been published in book form as The Price We Pay (Brookings, 2007), co-edited by TC faculty member and symposium chair Henry Levin and Clive Belfield of Queens College of the City University of New York.  Taken together, they paint a portrait of the U.S. at a watershed moment in the evolution of its economy, demographics and education system, raising issues and suggesting new policy directions that are likely to remain relevant even as the numbers change.

"We know that education is expensive, but poor and inadequate education for substantial numbers of our young people may have public and social consequences that are even costlier," Levin and Belfield write in a new chapter at the beginning of the book. What follows, in a series of chapters by a cast of scholars that includes Richard Rothstein, Thomas Bailey, Ronald Ferguson, Michael Rebell, Marta Tienda, Jane Waldfogel, Irwin Garfinkel, Peter Muennig Cecilia Rouse, Enrico Moretti and others, is the most accurate estimation yet produced of those costs in terms of lost personal income and tax revenue and additional expenditures on health care, crime and welfare expenditures.

Beyond the numbers -- annual losses from high school drop outs in federal and state income taxes alone likely exceed $50 billion, and a 1 percent increase in male U.S. high school graduation rates would yield savings of $1.4 billion in reduced crime -- there are penetrating discussions of the future impact of current demographic trends in the U.S., the nation's prospects in the global economy, the role of parenting in transformative school reform, and the promise of pre-k interventions.

“A society  that provides fairer access to opportunities, is more productive, and has higher employment, better health and less crime is a better society in itself,” Levin and Belfield write. “It is simply an added incentive that the attainment of such a society is profoundly good economics.”


Turning the Microscope on Education Policy Research

A new volume of essays co-edited by TC’s Susan Fuhrman looks at what the field has accomplished and where it’s headed

“The passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 made the federal government an important partner in educational policy. Federal agencies also began to follow the example of Robert McNamara’s Defense Department, and sponsor research on the implementation and effects of governmental programs… as social research grew in both higher education and think tanks, analysts began to examine how federal and state policies actually reach recipients and how local schools and districts responded.”

Thus was the field of education policy research born. Forty years later, what contributions has it made? What are its prevalent modes and operating assumptions? Where is the field headed – and how could it improve?

These are among the key questions addressed in The State of Education Policy Research (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2007), a new compendium of essays edited by Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman together with David K. Cohen of the University of Michigan and Fritz Mosher of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. With a cast of contributors drawn from the fields of education, economics and related disciplines, the book is aimed at policymakers who draw on policy research and policy researchers who want to improve their efforts.

“Education research in general has come under attack as being insufficiently rigorous,” the editors write in their preface. “Critics charge that its generalizations are made on small samples and that it reveals little about cause and effects.” The answer, the editors suggest, lies in research focused on the interaction of policy and practice. 

A chapter co-authored by Fuhrman with Margaret Goertz and Elliot Weinbaum of the University of Pennsylvania models this approach. The three analyze the changing roles of federal, state and local government in shaping education policy and the interrelationships among all three.

“The growing centralization and standardization of certain areas of education policymaking coexists uneasily with the public’s desire for local control of its schools,” the authors write. “It results in a system that is very tightly controlled around some issues – e.g., civil rights, state standards and assessments – and very loosely controlled around other functions, most notably teaching and learning.” Fuhrman, Goertz and Weinbaum recommend that future research include projects that track shifts in power between levels of government as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act – including comparative studies of countries like New Zealand, where standards reform has occurred in parallel with “substantial devolution of authority” to local schools.

“Clearly the delicate and shifting balance of America’s intergovernmental structure around education provides a variety of challenges when we strive for widespread educational improvement,” the authors conclude. “However, when thoughtfully examined, the system also provides an opportunity for identifying particularly successful arrangements that will yield more efficient and effective practice.”


The Arts and Two Superpowers

TC’s Joan Jeffri collaborates on a look at arts administration in the U.S. and China

The world of arts administration has grown explosively in the U.S. since 1970, when the sale of the private collection of an American taxi fleet owner, Robert Scull, and his wife, Ethel, brought profits of up to nine times the value of certain paintings. Now China is undergoing a similar transformation, with a sudden rapid expansion of the market for Chinese art both in China and America, and with the opening of some 2,000 museums during the past decade.

With those events as backdrop, TC faculty member Joan Jeffri, director of the College’s Program in Arts Administration, and Yu Ding, her counterpart at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, have co-authored a new book that explores critical issues in arts administration by spotlighting (and sometimes comparing) practices in their two countries. Titled Respect for Art: Visual Arts Administration and Management in China and the United States (Intellectual Property Publishing House, China, 2007), the book grows out of a belief that “understanding often begins with two people talking to each other” and explores “cultural difference, practical commonalities, present challenges and future needs as the arts and culture become increasingly global.” The focus is on four areas in the visual arts:  museums, the art market (including commercial galleries, auction houses, fairs and expositions), non-profit spaces and public art, with the ultimate hope “that the principles, models, issues and solutions will be applicable to many other countries, possibly as a yardstick with which to measure their own development.”

“Things are changing rapidly in China and China is looking for models wherever it can find them,” Jeffri says. “And my contention is that they will come up, as they always do, with something uniquely Chinese.”

Meanwhile, the learning flows both ways. For example, Jeffri says, public art in China has developed differently than in the U.S., as more of a social service – an effect of the Communist system, which  does not seek to sponsor potentially controversial forms of expression. On the other hand, artists in China are often part of the public system – and honored by it – in ways that don’t happen in the U.S. Jeffri cites the example of an expensive new city-planned housing development outside of Beijing that has incorporated an artists’ village.

“The artists were integrated into the development scheme, unlike here in the U.S., where you gentrify neighborhoods with artists and then kick them out,” Jeffri says.

 

Improving the Pre-K Workforce

TC’s Lynn Kagan and former students address a major hurdle for a promising field

From Fortune 500 companies to tiny non-profits, most institutions are only as good as the people who work for them.

And that, argues a new book co-written by TC’s Sharon Lynn Kagan together with Kristi Kauerz (former TC student and currently Early Childhood/P-3 Policy Director Colorado Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien) and Kate Tarrant (TC doctoral student and graduate research fellow), is the crux of the problem facing a field that is increasingly considered one of the great hopes for closing America’s achievement gap between rich and poor students: early care and education.

“The ECE teaching workforce enables children to learn, families to work, and the American economy to thrive,” the authors write in The Early Care and Education Teaching Workforce at the Fulcrum: An Agenda for Reform (Teachers College Press, 2008). “But the fulcrum is precarious; the ECE teaching workforce…is characterized by low entry criteria, limited growth opportunities, low compensation and high turnover” even  though “investments in early care and education are at an all-time high, as are fiscal commitments from policymakers at local, state and federal levels.”

In fact, according to Kagan, Kauerz and Tarrant, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s children under the age of five spend time in “non-parental care,” and nearly “5 million individuals other than parents” care for and educate them. With a growing body of research demonstrating that “early childhood is the crucial period when positive interactions with adults can have the greatest impact on children’s lifelong outcomes,” the skills and knowledge that ECE teachers should ideally possess include comprehensive understanding of typical and atypical child development, including the role of cultural pluralism; adult learning; the transformation of written curricula into effective practice for youngsters; the ability to reflect upon and improve teaching practice; and much more. Yet study after study demonstrates “a paucity of high-quality ECE teachers,” a state of affairs that owes to the wholesale lack of consistency “across states or even within states regarding the way ECE programs are funded, regulated, monitored or improved.”

The authors call this “classic market failure” and argue that it is exacerbated because “consumers do not have adequate knowledge of the product or service they are consuming, so they cannot easily discern quality.”

The book concludes with a series of recommendations for improving ECE, beginning with “definitional clarity” around key terms and concepts that will enable the field to speak a common language. The authors also call for a workable delineation of responsibility among federal, state and local governments around the delivery of ECE services; the development of consistent data across ECE program types; greater attention to data on child outcomes; research that codifies key knowledge and skills for ECE teachers – including the identification of particular thresholds of formal education or training that matter to child outcomes; funding for projects that take promising ECE policies and programs to scale; creation of a national  ECE teacher education compact that would foster effective and consistent  ECE teacher preparation and licensure; increases in ECE teachers’ compensation and benefits; and much more.

“The ECE workforce is in a precarious state, caught in the balance between creating a new, equitable and systemic approach to professional development, and languishing even more deeply into a quality crisis,” the authors write. “We conclude with appreciation for what has been accomplished and, based on this, with fervent optimism that what can and should be done, will be achieved.”

 

Talking Past One Another

TC’s Jeffrey Henig looks at what happens when researchers becomes pawns in ideological battles

In 2004, when the New York Times spotlighted research showing that students at conventional public schools were outperforming their charter school counterparts, it triggered a firestorm of claims and counter-claims by education scholars. To TC’s Jeffrey Henig, this exchange exemplified a disturbing trend: the failure of supposedly objective research to transcend ideology and settle important policy questions of the day.

“Despite high hopes about its potential to promote collective learning and a more informed democracy, research often seems to appear on the public stage in a swirl of political sloganeering that defies reason, fogs understanding, and runs the risk of reducing scientific evidence to the status of Madison Avenue advertising claims,” writes Henig in Spin Cycle:  How Research Gets Used in Policy Debates, the Case of Charter Schools.

In private, Henig notes, researchers in each camp have conceded that charter schools are a mixed bag. So why hasn’t there been more consensus in their public dialogue? Henig at least partly blames “the echo chamber of [our] overly partisan and ideologically polarized society” – conservatives’ framing of the charter school debate “in terms of market versus government;” the tendency of funding organizations to avoid studies that could support unwelcome conclusions; ideologically-driven decisions by the media in allotting space to the subject.

Ultimately, though, the Internet may be the biggest culprit. “Even preliminary findings often get tremendously broad dissemination within incredibly short periods,” Henig writes. Peer review is a frequent casualty.  “Arguably [researchers] would be better off bearing politicians irritation with our tentativeness and disdain for our deliberateness than losing touch with the norms and procedures that over the long run set research apart and give it what authority it deserves.”

 

Writing the Book on Language

After 40 years of teaching kids to speak, TC’s Doug Greer has some new numbers that help validate his work. He’s also got a new book that lays out his methodology.  

“The world was so new that there were no names for many things; so all the people could do was point.”

That line, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, is one of Doug Greer’s favorite analogies for how human beings develop language skills. For the past 40 years, Greer – Professor of Psychology and Education at TC, and a disciple of the late behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner – has quietly gone about the work of giving the gift of speech to young children with language delays resulting from either genetic causes (autism or other disorders) or environmental ones (the social deprivations that can attend severe poverty). He has founded schools in Ireland, England and the U.S. for children with linguistic disorders; pioneered in the development of a system called Comprehensive Applied Behavior Analysis in Schools (CABAS), which breaks language learning down into thousands of “learn units”; and mentored many hundreds of students in his methods.

Now he has produced two particularly compelling forms of validation for his work. The first is a book, Verbal Behavior Analysis: Inducing and Expanding New Verbal Capabilities in Children with Language Delays (Pearson Education, 2008), co-authored with his former graduate student (and former TC faculty member) Denise Ross, which provides a hands-on guide to teachers and parents who are trying to provide verbal capabilities to children. Like the CABAS method itself, the book offers a step-by-step process for imparting units of learning as seemingly basic as learning to ask for a cookie, using methods as seemingly primitive as leading a child through a “Simon says” series of movements that become associated with a word and the object it denotes. Yet these units, when absorbed, in fact represent huge leaps across a divide that separates learning, interacting children from those trapped by walls of silence.

Just as important as the protocols for teaching these behaviors is the system for documenting and measuring a child’s progress – both over a sustained period of time, but equally as important, from task to task, hour by hour, day by day. Such documentation is a staple at the schools Greer has founded in England, Ireland and the U.S. for children with linguistic disorders, and it figures just as prominently in more recent work he has done with high-poverty children in mainstream classrooms.

Perhaps even more compelling, at least for a lay audience, than Greer’s book are new data on the progress of class of normally-developing second graders with whom he employed CABAS teaching methodology during the 2006-07 school year. The 17 children, who attended public school in Morristown, New Jersey, did not have linguistic disorders, but the group included seven students receiving free or reduced lunch (a proxy for low socio-economic status), four who were designated special education students and four who spoke English as a second language. For the year, the average grade equivalence of Greer’s class across language, reading and math, as measured by performance on the national standardized test called the Terra Nova, was in excess of fourth grade. The average for the special education students was just under third grade equivalency; and the English Language Learners averaged just above fifth grade equivalency; the free- and reduced-lunch kids averaged just above sixth grade equivalency.

“These were supposed to be the toughest kids to teach because so many of them are poor, learning-disabled or speak English as a second language,” Greer says. “With the results like these, the question is no longer, ‘Can we close the achievement gap?’, but ‘Do we care enough to bother’?”

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