Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mixed Bag of Results for TEACH FOR AMERICA

The following is a peer reviewed research paper by a colleague of mine at The University of Texas at Austin. I am including the Executive Summary as well as the entire 17 page report. It is well worth reading if you want to know anything about the research and results behind the TEACH FOR AMERICA program. -Dr. Petrosino

Teach For America (TFA) aims to address teacher shortages by sending graduates from elite colleges, most of whom do not have a background in education, to teach in low-income rural and urban schools for a two-year commitment. The im- pact of these graduates is hotly debated by those who, on the one hand, see this as a way to improve the supply of teachers by enticing some of America’s top stu- dents into teaching and those who, on the other hand, see the program as a harm- ful dalliance into the lives of low-income students who most need highly trained and highly skilled teachers.

Research on the impact of TFA teachers produces a mixed picture, with results af- fected by the experience level of the TFA teachers and the group of teachers with whom they are compared. Studies have found that, when the comparison group is other teachers in the same schools who are less likely to be certified or traditional- ly prepared, novice TFA teachers perform equivalently, and experienced TFA teachers perform comparably in raising reading scores and a bit better in raising math scores.

The question for most districts, however, is whether TFA teachers do as well as or better than credentialed non-TFA teachers with whom school districts aim to staff their schools. On this question, studies indicate that the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers.

Experience has a positive effect for both TFA and non-TFA teachers. Most stu- dies find that the relatively few TFA teachers who stay long enough to become fully credentialed (typically after two years) appear to do about as well as other similarly experienced credentialed teachers in teaching reading; they do as well as, and sometimes better than, that comparison group in teaching mathematics. However, since more than 50% of TFA teachers leave after two years, and more than 80% leave after three years, it is impossible to know whether these more pos- itive findings for experienced recruits result from additional training and expe- rience or from attrition of TFA teachers who may be less effective.

From a school-wide perspective, the high turnover of TFA teachers is costly. Re- cruiting and training replacements for teachers who leave involves financial costs,and the higher achievement gains associated with experienced teachers and lower turnover may be lost as well.

Thus, a simple answer to the question of TFA teachers’ relative effectiveness cannot be conclusively drawn from the research; many factors are involved in any comparison. The lack of a consistent impact, however, should indicate to policy- makers that TFA is likely not the panacea that will reduce disparities in educa- tional outcomes.

The evidence suggests that districts may benefit from using TFA personnel to fill teacher shortages when the available labor pool consists of temporary or substi- tute teachers or other novice alternatively and provisionally certified teachers like- ly to leave in a few years. Nevertheless, if educational leaders plan to use TFA teachers as a solution to the problem of shortages, they should be prepared for constant attrition and the associated costs of ongoing recruitment and training.

A district whose primary goal is to improve achievement should explore and fund other educational reform that may have more promise such as universal pre- school, mentoring programs pairing novice and expert teachers, elimination of tracking, and reduction in early grade class size.

It is therefore recommended that policymakers and districts:

1) Support TFA staffing only when the alternative hiring pool consists of uncerti- fied and emergency teachers or substitutes.

2) Consider the significant recurring costs of TFA, estimated at over $70,000 per recruit, and press for a five-year commitment to improve achievement and re- duce re-staffing.

3) Invest strategically in evidence-based educational reform options that build long-term capacity in schools.

Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hoboken Reporter Article: 35 Retirements or Resignations in Hoboken School District

NEW CHAPTER – Mary Tremitiedi is among several senior school district staff members who recently retired. Last week, she looked back on her 38 years in the Hoboken public schools.

From the Hoboken Reporter story entitled: Several principals leaving Hoboken schools.

With 35 retirements or resignations expected by the end of August, the Hoboken School District will see an unusually high number of staff changes when classes start again in September.

On Thursday, Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter confirmed that Wallace Primary School Principal Charles Tortorella will retire effective Aug. 31.

The news came on the heels of several other retirement announcements in the last few months, including from former Connors Primary School Principal Linda Erbe, Brandt Middle School Principal Edith Vega, Director of Special Services Elizabeth Falco, Hoboken High Vice Principal Eileen Carvalho, supervisor Steven Repetti, and Mary Tremitiedi, who was the administrative assistant to the superintendent.

“It’s all because of the pension reform that we have all these retirements.” – Mary Tremitiedi

The district includes six regular public schools and fewer than 3,000 students.

The high number of retirements is not necessarily a coincidence. Gov. Chris Christie announced earlier this year that he plans to cut state spending partly by reigning in pay, pension benefits, and health insurance costs for public employees, including teachers. Among the changes, Christie has supported limiting the amount of sick and vacation pay when employees retire.

More than 5,000 teachers statewide have already announced plans to retire this year. At this same time last year, less than 3,000 had decided to retire, according to the New Jersey Education Association.

During the April school board elections in many municipalities, Christie told voters they should vote down school budgets in districts where teachers did not accept pay freezes. Fifty-eight percent of school budgets were rejected statewide.

Mary Tremitiedi, the former assistant to the superintendent who retired last month, said Thursday that she believes the governor’s proposed changes had an impact.

“Normally, we wouldn’t have this many retirements,” she said. “I would say just about everybody [decided] to retire because of the reform.”

When contacted, Tortorella declined to comment on his reasons for leaving.

Changes this fall

The retirements mean the 2010-2011 school year will be one of change and transition in the Hoboken School District.

The Hoboken Board of Education recently voted to hire Laurinda Pereira to be the new principal of Connors School, an elementary school in southwestern Hoboken, starting Aug. 1. Pereira will begin her new position at a critical time for Connors: The students were supposed to move to temporary quarters in September while the state funded renovations for the building, but the Christie administration postponed the funding. For now, students will remain in their original building until work can start.

Former Hoboken High School Principal Lorraine Cella also resigned in March, but did so in order to take a position at a different district.

Best is yet to come

Despite all the changes, Tremitiedi said the school system is sound and is heading in the right direction.

“We’ve made a lot of investments, especially in the area of technology,” she said. “And it’s paying off.”

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

Picture: Assistant to the Superintendent- Mary Tremitiedi is among several senior school district staff members who recently retired. Last week, she looked back on her 38 years in the Hoboken public schools

Monday, July 19, 2010

The AP vs IB (non) Controversy

Here is an article on the IB/AP issue. Recently the Hoboken School District decided to abandon it's almost 15 year commitment to the IB program. Below is an independent blog supporting the IB program. New research published by the Harvard University Press (2010) has been critical of the AP program.

Not for the first time we have protesters -- this time in Idaho -- trying to get the International Baccalaureate program tossed out of schools because, they say, it is, anti-American.

Usually the most serious threat to the IB is its sort-of rival, theAdvanced Placement program.

But allegations that the international education program is not only anti-American but also Marxist and anti-Christian have led to controversies in recent years in several states, including Utah, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The program isn’t any of the things the protesters say it is. IB is a rigorous program for students ages 3 to 19, now in about 3,000 schools, in 139 countries, that teaches students to understand issues from an international perspective.

That focus and multicultural themes in the program have led to the anti-American charges by some opponents, while others say it is socialist because the International Baccalaureate Organization signed the Earth Charter, a collection of global principles created in France in 2000.

A protester, Luke Sommer, was quoted in the Coeur d'Alene Press in Idaho that he worries that the IB program aims to undermine American values.

"They want to change the way your child thinks, not feed your child’s mind with information, and information about our history, heritage and why we believe what we believe," Sommer said.

The mindset that leads to these protests is not entirely unlike the fear in Arizona that led to the passing of a new law that attempts to restrictwhat can be taught in ethnic studies programs.

The immediate target of the law was an ethnic studies program in the Tucson Unified School District that offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature.

Foes of the program said that minority students in the program were being taught “ethnic chauvinism” and to resent whites; the law lists a series of things no ethnic study program can do in Arizona, including promoting resentment toward a race or class of people or promoting the overthrow of the U.S. government. The program’s directors said it does nothing of the sort.

The real issue here is how American history is taught in our schools and through what eyes the narrative should be told. Through the eyes of the oppressed? The victors? Men? Women? The religious? There are legitimate debates about these issues.

But the folks who are protesting the IB program, and those who want to restrict ethnic studies, have the wrong targets. They would be better off putting their energy toward ensuring that public schools aren’t obsessing so much with standardized tests in math and reading that teachers don’t have time to teach history.

For the record, former President Bush pushed for the expansion of Advanced Placement and IB programs. He didn’t see anything anti-American in them.

And then there is this: My esteemed colleague, Jay Mathews, who nobody would call a screaming liberal, recently wrote a post on his blog Class Struggle with this headline: “AP vs. IB--choosing sides.”

Jay wrote that if he had to choose which program is “better,” he would lean toward IB, because:

I think IB is slightly better than AP because the exams demand more writing, having no multiple choice questions as AP exams do, and because the IB program includes a 4,000-word essay requirement that AP lacks. Then again, it is easier to get college credit for good AP exam scores because university faculties have been slow to realize that IB is as good as AP. But those professors are coming around, and IB students eventually get their way.

I write this not to say that you should agree with Jay about which one is “better.”

It is, however, to show where the real lines should be drawn on the IB program debate.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Jersey Gov. Christie Proposes Superintendent Salary Cuts and Merit-Based Bonuses

The following story was reported on NJ.com and by Claire Heininger and Lisa Fleisher of the Newark Star Ledger. A quick summary is that Governor Christie wants to cap the pay of Superintendent's around the State of New Jersey and is proposing this cap be correlated with the size of the school district as measured by number of students in the school district. There are a number of issues and inconsistencies at play here, I will try to explain a few briefly and save the details for a later post.

The Governor does not explain that Superintendents, by NJ law, are not able to receive tenure. In fact, they are limited to contracts of 5 years or less. From an idealogical point of view, a worker gives up security (tenure) for the right to be compensated on a competitive basis in an "open market" (all you libertarians and free market capitalists, please raise your hand). Conversely, one would argue that school districts can release a superintendent when they are not happy with him/her and bid for the most talented and highly experienced. For an analogy, think of "free agency" in baseball and the case of Curt Flood who challenged the old ruling that a player belonged to a baseball club (a "highly paid slave" in the words of Curt Flood).

In fact, Secretary of Education

Schundler said that although the average superintendent contract is three to five years, they remain in districts an average of two years.

"People are bouncing around like free agents in baseball," Christie said.

To be clear, t

he fairly recent rise in superintendent pay and the so called "bouncing around" in part stems from the state's decision almost two decades ago to do away with tenure- a Republican administrations decision to bring "market forces to bear". Many superintendents in effect are free agents, moving among school districts and taking salary increases as they go, said Scott Oswald, superintendent of the Collingswood district.

"If a district is looking for someone, they'll look to those districts where there's been success, where a person's proven themself," he said.

And for those school districts where high test scores have come to be expected - the schools' reputation drawing new residents to town in droves - superintendents can get top dollar.

Governor Christie seemingly wants the best of BOTH worlds. He wants to place a cap on wages AND provide no security. Furthermore, he wants to eliminate the advantage of the "free market" in public education administration by NOT having superior superintendents compensated in the open market. Moreover, he wants to have a uniformed "merit" component incorporated, thus taking local control away from the Boards of Education -who are in a theoretically better position to decide what qualifies as "merit" for their particular district. Finally, it's somewhat simplistic to think that a superintendent's pay be correlated with the size of the district. Using this rationale, I imagine the CEO's of the largest companies should make the most money rather than the CEO's of the MOST PROFITABLE companies.

The average salary for a superintendent in New Jersey is $154,409, about $9,000 above the national average but below that of other states in the region, according a 2008 report commissioned by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA).

More than any other position in New Jersey Public Education, the Superintendency is a unique position because there is so much responsibility and so little security. This is why they "hop around" from district to district. With changing Boards of Educations and the politics associated with such, Superintendents are in a uniquely vulnerable position. No one is crying for Superintendents, largely because of their higher than average salaries compared to the average New Jersey resident. But Superintendent salary offers a unique opportunity for the Governor and Secretary of Education to see clearly what an open market (or at least as close as you can get to such in the public sector) is willing to pay for expertise. The fact that the governor's cap is substantially lower than what the market is willing to bear, may be politically leveraged but seems to be inconsistent with more traditional Republican and capitalistic ideology. It is true that most state workers, including Governors and Secretary's of Education, do not work under these open market systems....but Superintendents do. A compromise would be to reintroduce tenure for Superintendents. This would then balance the short fall from a competitive market that superintendents must take from a compensation standpoint with the security and reduction of "hopping around" that is the current state of affairs as articulated by both the Secretary of Education and the Governor.

In part, do we look upon Superintendents as "big" Principals or do we look at them as Chief Operating Officers of "companies" with budgets in the tens/hundreds of millions of dollars?

It will be interesting to see if Governor Christie's fellow "free market" Republican colleagues support this measure and on what idealogical ground they base there justification.


SPOTSWOOD — Gov. Chris Christie today said he wants to limit pay for school superintendents and other administrators based on district size, cutting back salaries for those who already make more than the max, and introduce merit-based bonuses.
The proposal would mean pay cuts for 366 superintendents at the end of their contracts, saving school districts $9.8 million, the governor said.

“While families and school districts across the state cope with fewer resources and continued fiscal challenges, many school administrators continue to receive salaries that are out of proportion with the private sector and current economic realities," Christie said in a statement. “This cap will limit excessive administrator pay and ensure that more dollars are available for our children.”

Christie unveiled the limits in Spotswood, where he commended administrators for accepting a wage freeze. Pay for superintendents would be pegged to the number of students in a district, from $120,000 for the smallest districts up to more than $175,000 in the 16 districts with more than 10,000 students. Bonuses for "significant, state-defined improvements in student learning" would be offered, but would not count toward a superintendent's pension.

Education commissioner Bret Schundler said the salary limits would also apply to non-tenured assistant superintendents and business administrators. Those who are tenured and are above the scale will see their pay frozen, he said. Interim superintendents will also be covered by the rules, Schundler said.

Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said the governor was unfairly singling out school administrators. “Clearly, we think this is the wrong path,” he said. “Why don’t we see college presidents, or hospital administrators, or police chiefs or football coaches at colleges on the list. We’re not talking about comprehensive reform here. We’re talking about targeting a specific group.”

Bozza said he worried the state would lose experienced administrators and create an imbalance in the school leadership ranks.
“We’ll have a situation where the school superintendent, who is the leader of the district, earning less and having fewer benefits than many of the people who work for him or for her in the district,” he said. “That’s just an incentive for experienced people to go to other states, for people who are principals who might aspire to a higher position not to take it.”

Christie said New Jersey "may lose some" superintendents because of the salary cuts, but "if that's their basis for going, goodbye." He said he hopes other states will follow suit by reining in pay, and he believes the caps will calm down the competition for superintendents among districts within the state.

"People are bouncing around like free agents in baseball," the governor said.

The proposed pay scale also includes tiers for superintendents who manage more than one school district, as well as districts that include high schools. Christie and Schundler said the changes will encourage school districts to share superintendents.
Christie made teacher pay a major issue throughout the spring, urging residents to vote down school budgets in districts where unions had refused to renegotiate contracts and accept pay freezes.

Superintendents' contracts are reviewed by executive county superintendents, which are appointed by the governor.

Proposed pay limits for school administrators

School enrollment / maximum pay
up to 250 / $120,000
251 - 750 / $135,000
751 - 1,500 / $150,000
1,501 - 3,000 / $165,000
3,001 - 10,000 / $175,000
More than 10,000 / to be determined by the Department of Education

According to the guideline, the Superintendent of Hoboken would be capped at $165,000.

Picture: Gov. Chris Christie, left, and Education Commissioner Bret Schundler announce their plan to cut the pay of school superintendents during a press conference held at the E. Raymond Appleby Elementary School in Spotswood. (Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wallace Principal Retiring at End of Summer

Wallace Primary School Principal Charles Tortorella has informed the school district that he plans to retire at the end of the summer, Superintendent Peter Carter confirmed Thursday. Tortoella's retirement becomes effective Aug. 31. Carter said the school system will advertise for Tortorella's replacement soon on the district Web site. Carter declined to state whether an acting principal will be named and who that person might be, if a full-time person is not appointed by Sept. 1 - which is only six weeks away. According to the Hoboken Reporter, several other administrators have retired or left this year.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Date: July 12, 2010
Contacts: Sara Frueh, Media Relations Officer
Christopher White, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>


WASHINGTON — The National Research Council today released a draft framework that proposes the science content and concepts students should learn for grades K-12. The independent, nonprofit Research Council is seeking comment on the draft from the science and education communities and the public. The final framework will serve as the basis for new science education standards, to replace those based on documents developed over 10 years ago.

"In the past decade, the community has learned important lessons from implementing the existing science education standards, and there is a new and growing body of research on learning and teaching in science that can inform the development of new ones," said Helen Quinn, chair of the 18-member committee that drafted the framework, and professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford, Calif. "This draft framework will be revised based on input we receive, and a final framework, to be issued early next year, is intended to provide guidance to improve and update science education standards across the nation. We welcome feedback from those in the science and science education communities, who can help us ensure that the framework is of the highest quality and meets the needs of teachers and students."

The framework describes in broad terms the core ideas in science and engineering that students should understand and be able to apply, and the progression of ideas that students need to experience in order to comprehend them. The nonprofit education group Achieve, working with a group of state leaders, will use the final framework to develop new K-12 science education standards, which explain what students should learn in detail. The framework is also intended to be useful to others who work in science education -- curriculum designers and assessment developers, state and district science administrators, and teacher educators.

The comment period will run from July 12 through Aug. 2. During this time, the National Research Council will partner with the National Science Teachers Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Achieve, and the Council of State Science Supervisors to solicit feedback through meetings and focus groups. Individuals also can read the draft online and submit comments at www.nas.edu/BOSE.

After the comment period ends, the study committee will consider the submitted comments and make appropriate revisions to the framework. And as with all Research Council reports, the framework will undergo a rigorous, internal review process before its release, which is expected to be in early 2011.

The framework project is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter.
Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[ This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org ]

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Board on Science Education

Committee on Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards

Friday, July 9, 2010

Part 2: International Program Catches On in U.S. Schools- But Eliminated from the Hoboken Public Schools

I received a great deal of attention to a recent post on the decision of the Hoboken Board of Education to eliminate the International Baccalaureate program from the Hoboken School District. Here are some additional thoughts or "proof" that I was asked to provide. I hope this helps those parents and concerned citizens who requested some additional information.

One would think it reasonable to ask the following questions:

1) Was the public brought into the conversation about switching from IB to AP? If so, when were these meetings held? Who was in attendance? Are there minutes?

2) What are the specific educational advantages that the Board of Education sees in the Advanced Placement Program over the IB program?

3) The IB program was good enough for "Race to the Top" and "No Child Left Behind" federal support and there is plenty of research to support it's effectiveness. What specific aspects of the IB program do members of the Board of Education find troublesome?

4) Over the past decade, the Hoboken School District dedicated close to $750,000 to IB professional development, program support, and curriculum. The Advanced Placement program requires substantial teacher training and lab support for it's courses. Has the Hoboken Board of Education approved or have in place a model for effective implementation of a new Advanced Placement Program? Is it available for the public to see? Were teachers involved in the implementation plan like they were for the curriculum implementation plan?

Recent developments suggest the Advanced Placement test is losing some of its luster:

* A recent report by the National Research Council criticized AP and other advanced math and science classes for covering too much material in not enough depth. The panel also raised concerns about teacher preparation, quality control and access to the classes, especially for minority students and those in rural and inner-city schools.

The report echoed a 2001 study commissioned by the College Board itself that acknowledged a growing shortage of qualified teachers and weak academic backgrounds of some AP students.

* Harvard University announced in February that it will award credit only to incoming students who receive the highest AP exam score--a 5 on a 1 to 5 scale. (Many schools give credit for 3s or above.) Stanford, Yale, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, among others, also are rethinking their AP policies.

* A new book (published April 2010) published by the Harvard Educational Press containing the very latest research reports on the Advanced Placement test entitled "A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program" draws into question many aspects of the Advancement Placement Program.

Assuming the current Board of Education majority was aware of and were able to synthesize and understand these technical reports, one may reasonably question what is the basis for decision making in going against the best scholars, researchers and educators in the United States and eliminating the IB program in favor of the Advanced Placement Program in the Hoboken Public Schools.

I hope this helped clarify and provide additional detail for those interested.

-Dr. Petrosino

Saturday, July 3, 2010

International Program Catches On in U.S. Schools- But Eliminated from the Hoboken Public Schools

Spotlighting yet another questionable educational decision of the current Kids First Hoboken Board of Education majority, the New York Times reports on the growing enthusiasm of the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) around the United States. Unfortunately, in May of 2010 the Kids First majority pushed forward a vote to eliminate the IB program from the Hoboken School District and adopt the Advanced Placement Program (created by the for-profit Educational Testing Service- ETS). According to the NY Times article, "A.P. is great for content-based traditional learning...It’s great for kids who like to memorize. But for more creative kids, who want to make those connections, there’s nothing like the I.B." Hoboken has had IB in the district for the previous 10 years and the new curriculum was written to be consistent with IB objectives as well as New Jersey State Standards. It is somewhat ironic but not surprising that at a time when the rest of the nation is catching up to the initiatives begun in Hoboken, the district is now going in a different educational direction.


The alphabet soup of college admissions is getting more complicated as the International Baccalaureate, or I.B., grows in popularity as an alternative to the better-known Advanced Placement program.

The College Board’s A.P. program, which offers a long menu of single-subject courses, is still by far the most common option for giving students a head start on college work, and a potential edge in admissions.

The lesser-known I.B., a two-year curriculum developed in the 1960s at an international school in Switzerland, first took hold in the United States in private schools. But it is now offered in more than 700 American high schools — more than 90 percent of them public schools — and almost 200 more have begun the long certification process.

Many parents, schools and students see the program as a rigorous and more internationally focused curriculum, and a way to impress college admissions officers.

To earn an I.B. diploma, students must devote their full junior and senior years to the program, which requires English and another language, math, science, social science and art, plus a course on theory of knowledge, a 4,000-word essay, oral presentations and community service.

Here in Cumberland, Greely High School adopted the I.B. this year to make students more aware of the world beyond the United States.

“When our grads would visit from college, they’d tell us that while Greely gave them great academic preparation, they’d had no idea there was a big wide world out there,” said David Galin, Greely’s I.B. coordinator.

To that end, Greely’s I.B. 11th graders read literature from India (“God of Small Things”), South Africa (“Master Harold ... and the Boys”), what is now the Czech Republic (“The Metamorphosis”), Chile (“The House of the Spirits”), Egypt (“Midaq Alley”) and Colombia (“Chronicle of a Death Foretold”).

“Our students don’t have as much diversity as people in some other areas, so this makes them open their eyes,” said Deb Pinkham, the program’s English teacher.

The I.B. program is used in 139 countries, and its international focus has drawn criticism from some quarters.

Many schools, and many parents, see the I.B. partly as a way to show college admissions offices that students have chosen a rigorous program, with tests graded by I.B. examiners around the world.

“I don’t think there is anyone who does not respect the I.B.,” said Panetha Ott, an admissions officer at Brown.

Fewer colleges give credit for the I.B. than for A.P., but dozens give students with an I.B. diploma sophomore standing and some offer special scholarships.

The I.B. is also being offered now in some struggling urban schools where educators say it helps put low-income students on par with their richer peers.

Last fall, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the program a three-year $2.4 million grant to prepare low-income and minority students to participate in the I.B.

California and Florida have the most I.B. schools, and New England the fewest.

In Cumberland, some parents questioned the I.B.’s cost, but none complained about the program’s content, according to Chris Mosca, Greely’s principal.

“No question, the people who founded the I.B. were sitting in Geneva, post-World War II, thinking about how to ensure world peace, so the clear philosophical bent is that by integrating learning and understanding issues from multiple perspectives, we can promote global thinking,” he said. “But what sold me on the program was that it’s good pedagogy, that it really shows kids how things go together.”

Still, Mr. Mosca has no plans to eliminate the school’s Advanced Placement offerings.

“A.P. is great for content-based traditional learning,” he said. “It’s great for kids who like to memorize. But for more creative kids, who want to make those connections, there’s nothing like the I.B.”

On a spring Tuesday, Greely’s I.B. history class was working in small groups, analyzing the Suez crisis with original source documents from Israel, Egypt, the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Nations.

Emily Hill, presenting a document from the Soviet foreign office’s Middle East desk, reminded the group that it was a secret memo, translated several times.

Emily, who said she was bored with school last year, said the I.B. program had been more interesting and challenging.

Because it is so rigorous, the I.B. is not for everyone. At Greely, only 21 juniors started the full program this year, and three subsequently shifted to a mix of I.B. and regular classes.

But those who stayed with it seemed enthusiastic.

“It’s like a little club of scholars,” said Maggie Bauer, a junior. “It seems more real-world than how we used to learn, and it’s changed how we look at the world.”

The graduates, too, say they feel well prepared.

“In our Theory of Knowledge class, when we debated health care, my role was to takeRush Limbaugh’s position, which couldn’t be further from my own,” said Michael Tahan, one of the graduates.

“I.B. taught us how to think through a position, and support it,” he added. “And while I understand why some parents might worry that the program is international-based, I think it’s good for America for students to learn how others nations think.”

The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness

Effective teachers are the key to student success. Yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives. The Widget Effect is a wide-ranging report that studies teacher evaluation and dismissal in four states and 12 diverse districts, ranging from 4,000 to 400,000 students in enrollment. From the beginning, over 50 district and state officials and 25 teachers’ union representatives actively informed the study through advisory panels in each state.

Panel members provided ongoing feedback and perspective and were invited to submit unedited written responses to the study’s findings and recommendations. Their insights supplemented survey responses from over 15,000 teachers and 1,300 principals, and data from more than 40,000 teacher evaluation records.

The study illustrates that teacher evaluation systems reflect and codify the “Widget Effect”—the tendency of school districts to treat teachers as essentially interchangeable—in several major ways:

All teachers are rated “good” or “great.” Less than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, even in schools where students fail to meet basic academic standards, year after year.

Excellence goes unrecognized. In districts with more than two ratings, 94 percent of teachers receive one of the top two. When superlative ratings are the norm, truly exceptional teachers cannot be formally identified. Nor can they be compensated, promoted or retained on a systemic basis.

Professional development is inadequate. Almost 3 in 4 teachers did not receive any specific feedback on improving their performance in their last evaluation.

Novice teachers are neglected. Low expectations for beginning teachers translate into benign neglect in the classroom and a toothless tenure process.

Poor performance goes unaddressed. Half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single tenured teacher for poor performance in the past five years. None dismiss more than a few each year.

The Widget Effect