August 2011 Archives

There's little doubt that the Social Security system is broken. While it provides a critical safety net for senior citizens, it's one of the worst retirement investments I could possibly make. I honestly don't expect to see a dime of the Social Security tax I pay returned to me as retirement benefits. At some point, I'd prefer to see Social Security phased out (except as a safety net), so that people who are depending on their future benefits will still get them, but younger people won't be perpetually forced to pay into a system that can never pay them back. ...


Last week, I shared a provocative quote from Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy: All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing. Tucker is saying not that we presently have a very poor teaching force, but that our teacher education programs are now attracting the weakest students they've ever attracted, because they simply cannot compete for the stronger students. This is happening for both historic and economic reasons, as he explains in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: When the baby boom was leaving our colleges, many people predicted ...


Earlier this week, I shared an extended quote from Marc Tucker about the future of the teaching workforce in the US, in which he presents a dire perspective on the "quality" of people entering teaching today. Since testing and accountability didn't turn out to improve education very much, national attention is now turning to teacher quality, with numerous reports and think tanks addressing the way we attract, train, and retain teachers and other educators. At the center of most of plans for improving education by focusing on teachers is some sort of plan for attracting "better" people to the teaching ...


"All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing." So says Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in this July 22 podcast (MP3) from Bloomberg EDU. He explains: We are now about to get the worst teachers we have ever had, for at least 100 years, if we do nothing. All we have to do is pursue our current policies, not change them, and we will have, over the next 5 or 10 years, a dramatic, dramatic dive in the quality of our teaching force. ... The only ...


There's no question that NCLB and RttT have marked an unprecedented level of federal involvement in education. In response to the sweeping and unproven reforms that these laws have brought to our nation's schools, there is an increasing call for the federal government to stay out of what has traditionally been regarded as a local issue. But in the modern era, can education be a "local issue"? In her brilliant ethnographic report "We Are Mountain: Appalachian Educators' Responses to the Challenge of Systemic Reform," Maureen Porter notes the inherently local nature of education reform and change: While policies may be ...


We've been "data driven" for at least a decade in education, with many a fortune made on assessment training for educators. I have no problem with using data to inform instruction, but I am starting to think we've gone too far in demanding that instruction be driven by data. Collecting data is not a neutral or free activity; you have to decide what's worth measuring and how you're going to measure it, and you have to take time away from something else in order to collect data. Assessments can be, but often aren't, meaningful learning opportunities for students. They can ...


Hawaii was one of ten winners in round two of Race to the Top, and with its $75 million grant came the mandate to develop a new teacher evaluation system that includes measures of student performance. Hawaii, like Washington DC, has a single school district, albeit for a much broader and more diverse geographic area. This means that a single entity, the Hawaii Department of Education, is responsible both for complying with the RttT terms and for implementing the new evaluation system, a situation no other entity except the District of Columbia is facing. The problem is that teacher evaluation ...


I get a lot of education-related email at my Gmail address, so I often see education-related ads of all kinds. But this one takes the cake: Yes, MassMutual, an insurance company, is actively, explicitly recruiting former or would-be-former teachers to sell insurance. You can see the pitch, complete with a video testimonial from an ex-teacher, on their website. It's not really surprising, given the number of people who leave the profession each year, that "secondary markets" have developed for teaching skills. Since no one majors in insurance sales in college, it makes sense for insurance companies to identify potential career-changers ...


US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made headlines today by suggesting that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 per year, in an address to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards last week. His comments on overall salary were what drew the most immediate attention on Twitter, but a closer look reveals that he's beating the usual drums: Merit pay and the end of seniority. In the speech, he mentioned the "top-third" recruitment strategy used by top-performing nations such as Finland: We have an amazing chance to modernize the teaching profession and expand the talent pool. But ...


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