I Got Schooled – Practice #3 – Feedback

So, here is Practice #3 – Feedback that is timely, consistent and teacher/principal-usable

M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has written a book (I Got Schooled) describing how, and how not, to close the education gap in the U.S. It should be very supportive in the current conversation and climate regarding what’s wrong with, and how to fix, New Mexico education.

For five years through his MNS Foundation, Shyamalan studied what is succeeding in closing the education gap — that depended only on practices inside the classroom itself and that were scalable.

He discovered closing the achievement gap depended on five practices and couldn’t be figured out by examining just any single practice by itself.

These five practices must be implemented together to have any substantive effect:

•            Effective teachers – dropping poor; hiring good; why it’s important; how to do it

•            Leadership – how it’s important; what it looks like; how to do it

•            Feedback – critical: frequency, consistency, teacher/principal usability

•            Smaller (high) schools –part of the “system” that turbocharges the other practices

•            More time in school – summers matter – children of low income and of color fall behind a month every summer; by the time they reach third grade they are so far behind it’s virtually impossible to catch up

Covered: successful schools, programs, clinical studies, and data and statistics, including: Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), Uncommon Schools, Achievement First/Endeavor, FirstLine schools, North Star Academy, Arthur Ashe, Los Angeles Green Dot Public Schools, and more.

The study also found four popular, expensive practices contribute little to closing the education gap:

•            Small classroom sizes

•            Master’s programs and Ph.D.’s for the teachers

•            Paying teachers like doctors

•            Funding the schools at $20,000 per pupil


  • Some way is needed to improve the performance of teachers that are retained
  • To increase the value of existing teachers, some way to measure that performance will be needed
  • Value Added Method (VAM – in its ideal form) compares students’ actual progress to predicted progress, and assumes that differences are due to the instruction they received
  • While it is true, “kids can’t be reduced to a test score,” subjective grading is even worse; a flexible yardstick may not have created the achievement gap, but definitely perpetuated it
  • Measuring progress in literacy or math requires more than just observing reading or math level at age seven. It needs to include:
    • Family income
    • Parents’ educational background
    • Geographic location
    • Inner city versus suburbs
    • Past performance by other kids in same school
    • Past performance by the individual student
    • That is to say, some form of VAM
  • VAM works generally quite well so long as
    • good data are available, and
    • when it’s used to measure GROWTH rather than ACHIEVEMENT
    • important: these two measures are easily and frequently confused
  • The most effective schools are focused on GROWTH; based on their scores in the first grade, did our eighth-graders do better than predicted
  • An even more valuable way to use VAM data is for improving teachers and improving instruction; make the practice of teaching data-driven
  • Figure out the reasons for failure and success
  • A successful organization is one that goes through cycles of planning, doing, studying, and acting, over and over again, i.e., continuous Improvement
  • End-of-year tests tell a school whether it is doing its job, but not how to do it better
  • Value-added data adds value only when someone actually uses it
  • To work, data-based instruction can’t be just voluntary
  • Teachers and principals opting out of the feed-back loop system destroy the possibility of positive results
  • Data is collected everywhere, but no one has taught teachers and principals how to analyze, interpret, and use the data that are being collecting
  • Teachers at high-achieving schools receive some kind of feedback from classroom visits and student achievement between 16 and 13 times a semester
  • High-achieving schools make 4 interim assessments (tests) every semester in math and language arts
  • High-achieving schools have more strategies for using data to customize instruction for different students, i.e., different data-driven ways to create individualized lesson plans
  • The frequency of this feedback is critical
  • The effect size for employing effective feedback is twice as large as the effect size for reducing class size
  • The effect size for employing effective feedback is even larger for the estimated effect-size from replacing the lowest-performing 8 percent of teachers with average ones
  • Feedback and consistency are also important for empowering students
  • Feedback must be meticulous, frequent, and mandatory
  • Feedback must be produced in a form that is usable by teachers and principals
  • Keep realistic the number of teachers that every principal is responsible for; maybe schools need to be smaller
  • And this practice is scalable

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