August 2012 Archives

In my last post, I asked whether a Master's degree is worth the tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, time, and opportunity cost, given that it doesn't correlate with better teaching performance. Madeline writes: Personally, I believe a Master's Degree shouldn't even be attempted until the student has taught successfully for at least 5 years. Why is the degree called "Master's?" If you are graduated in 5 years with the Master's, in essence you are a master of nothing since you haven't practiced anything. And in my experience often those who get a Masters right away don't stay in ...


Should a Master's degree be part of the teacher certification process, and what role should it play in compensation, if any? Research has shown that holding a Master's degree does not predict higher teaching quality, and critics have pointed out that states "spend" some $14.8 billion on the pay bump that is provided to teachers with a Master's degree. In some areas, such as the Pacific Northwest, it is standard for teachers to obtain a Bachelor's degree in another field, followed by a Master's in teaching, which includes the internship and certification process. This type of arrangement is essentially ...


As I read Joel Klein's op-ed "The Case for the Private Sector in School Reform" in The Atlantic last week, I had the disconcerting feeling of agreeing with all of his arguments while simultaneously being somewhat revolted by them. The former NYC schools chancellor expresses obvious frustration at the opposition he has encountered since taking the helm of Rupert Murdoch's Amplify venture, which is marketing a tablet computing platform and curriculum to schools. Klein bases his argument on the fact that private-sector vendors have always served the education market, which is of course true. But he then equates this benign ...


How do we attract more top-performing male teachers to the profession, and what role does compensation play? EdWeek recently published an op-ed, Rethinking Teacher Compensation, by Laura Overdeck, Arthur Levine, and Christopher Daggett. The authors argue that states should reallocate compensation funding away from "backloaded" plans such as defined-benefit pensions, and toward earlier-career perks like higher starting salaries and annual bonuses. Around the same time, I read another op-ed, entitled "Reasons why men should be teaching in the classroom, too," by William Gomley. Like the EdWeek op-ed, Gomley's editorial makes reference to the 2010 McKinsey study Closing the Talent Gap, ...


As teacher evaluation has become a more serious concern around the country, we're starting to see things happen through a process that was once considered a mere formality. Teacher evaluation is growing teeth, and they're starting to show. In New York City schools this year, just 45% of 3rd-year teachers successfully gained tenure this year, down from 97% just five years ago. This can be attributed in large part to a four-tier evaluation system, which according to the Times has been accompanied by additional training for principals: The city's Education Department now has a team that trains principals in gathering ...


Kathleen Porter-Magee ripped into Heinemann last week with a scathing review of their book Pathways to the Common Core. I first learned of this review, on the Fordham Institute's Common Core Watch blog, after seeing a Twitter exchange between Porter-Magee and one of the book's authors on Twitter. She accuses Heinemann and the book's authors (Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Chris Lehman of the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project, or TCRWP) of bending the Common Core State Standards to support their existing work, rather than taking the standards seriously and making needed changes:Part ideological co-opting of the Common Core (CCSS)...


I've enjoyed corresponding with a number of people about school choice and charters lately, and the issue of parent empowerment has come up repeatedly. I see two possible ways that parent empowerment can function: 1. Parents become empowered to demand excellence from their community schools, and advocate successfully for improvements in the school, benefiting all students. 2. Parents become empowered to pursue alternatives for their own children, and use their advocacy to shift their students into an alternative tier of schools. The first dynamic is essentially one of advocacy, in which parents insist on quality. The problem is that such ...


Over the past few months, I've met many fantastic educators who work in charter schools, and I certainly have no gripe with them. Charter schools are great labs for innovation, and I'm glad they exist. Having a small number of charter schools is probably a good thing. Too often, though, complex policy issues tend to get reduced to simplistic "think of the children!" arguments, and charters are no exception. In Washington State, for example, we're hearing that we supposedly need charter schools because we have students stuck in "failing" schools and we need to give them another option. While charters ...


Why don't we look at school effectiveness as a question of efficiency - given its inputs, do this school's outputs suggest that it underperforms, or that it exceeds expectations? Instead of looking at overall achievement, in terms of test scores or graduation rates, what if we sharpened our focus on efficiency, and set out to learn exactly what it takes to educate all students well? We've known for some time that some students are easier to educate - those with higher incomes, more stable families, fewer learning disabilities, and the like - while other students are more difficult, and thus ...


I wasn't planning to ever write the terms "good education policy" and "Chris Christie" in the same sentence, but it appears that state Sen. Teresa Ruiz has pulled off something of a miracle: a substantive education reform bill that satisfies both the teachers' union and New Jersey's hard-charging governor. Her bill, signed into law by Gov. Christie on Monday, falls short of ending LIFO but accomplishes quite a bit, namely:Bumping the tenure timeline from 3 years to 4 yearsRequiring positive evaluations (3 or 4 on a 4-level scale) at least two of the final three years before being granted ...


I've been thinking a lot lately about why the national reaction was so strong to Andrew Hacker's op-ed in last Sunday's NY Times, "Is Algebra Necessary?" After engaging with various blog posts and comments on the subject, I've identified a couple of reasons. First is "tl;dr" syndrome—"too long; didn't read." Relying too heavily on the headline, thousands of readers simply fail to engage with Hacker's substantive and thoughtful argument. For example, many readers seem to think he's advocating for the end of all advanced math instruction, a scenario that would leave our society with a crippling lack of engineers...


Yolie Flores is President & CEO of Communities for Teaching Excellence, and a former LAUSD school board member. I asked her a few questions regarding the first successful use of California's parent trigger law in Adelanto, CA. On Performance: Do you think the primary impact of California's law will be through actual parent takeovers, or through increased responsiveness from districts that anticipate potential takeovers? Yolie Flores: I think most parents want to see their school district be responsive to them and address their concerns. They are eager for solutions and a commitment from school officials to improve their children's schools. But ...


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