August 2008 Archives

As urban and suburban school districts experience annual recruitment pangs, the numbers of overseas teachers recruited to teach hard-to-fill subjects is on the rise. Attracted by better pay than they get back home, more Filipino teachers than ever before are flocking into the United States, according to this article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.This week, 93 teachers who will teach math, science and special education landed in Washington en route to Prince George’s County in Maryland. They followed a batch of 115 teachers that arrived in July to teach in the county. Other districts also have offered jobs ...


"Obama and the NEA: If elected, will he be willing to part ways with the union?" Or that's what the Rocky Mountain News wants to know. And here at Teacher Beat, we think it is a question worth examining. It is true that so far Obama has expressed support for merit pay, which the NEA is famous for not liking. But does anyone even know what Obama means when he talks about supporting performance pay? So far, at the convention in Denver, we've heard many other Democratic voices endorse it without actually going into any specifics, and many others have ...


In Denver, it's been all about performance pay for the last few days. First the school district and the teachers' union settled a long-running dispute over changes to the teacher merit-pay plan, and now the Democrats at their national convention are all set to embrace performance pay as a party-platform issue. For the teachers' unions, which are out in full strength at the convention, this has not been a blessing, exactly. In fact, they have been looking like everyone's favorite punching bag. The unions have long disliked any deviation from teacher tenure and seniority, and the National Education Association has ...


If money is any measure, the teachers' unions certainly have a thing for Hillary Clinton. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the 3.2-million-member National Education Association may have endorsed Barack Obama for president, but Clinton got just a little more of their money: $23,000 compared with the $22,000 received by Obama. And the American Federation of Teachers, which first endorsed Clinton for president, gave her a whopping $32,000 compared with just around $11,000 for Obama, whom they later endorsed. The NEA made it into the top 10 "heavy-hitters" list of political givers ...


The saga between the Washington Teachers' Union and District of Columbia public schools took another interesting turn last week. WTU filed a lawsuit against the school system over the dismissal of more than 70 probationary (nontenured) teachers. The union seeks to restore these teachers to employment. George Parker, the president of the union, said the district dismissed these teachers even though they were meeting the expectations of their probationary period, thus the dismissals violated due process guaranteed educators as part of the current contract. The lawsuit is illuminating, given the state of current contract negotiations, which hinge on a two-tiered ...


This story on New Jersey's progress toward meeting the goal of putting a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom is interesting. The state has 99 percent of teachers meeting the HQT standard. That's impressive, but not unique: Almost every state is past the 90 percent mark now, and North Dakota actually reached 100 percent last year. What's telling is that the state is having a particularly hard time getting middle school educators highly qualified. Under NCLB, middle and high school teachers are essentially held to the same standard: They need to hold a major or have completed coursework equivalent to ...


Just in time for the Democratic convention, Denver schools and the teachers' union have come up with a tentative agreement on ProComp, the city's performance-pay plan for teachers. The contract would give all teachers 3 percent pay raises and allow teachers who don't want to be part of ProComp to drop out by October this year. But some veteran teachers could also see their pay raises vanish, which has left them feeling pretty dissed, according to this Denver Post story. One teacher said the change would cut yearly raises for veteran teachers to $350 a year from a possible $1,300...


In its fight to resist major changes to the performance-pay system ProComp, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association doesn't seem to have any friends. First there was a report from the citizens' commission, A-Plus Denver, issued this month that said ProComp contributes too much toward salary base-building, which the union favors. Instead, the report said, the money should be driven more directly toward the elements that contribute to improving student achievement. Then, a splinter group of about 275 teacher members went public saying the union leadership was not representing the view of the majority within the union, and called for a ...


A quick update on the murky saga of the Chicago Teachers Union. Yesterday, the union's executive board voted to get rid of Ted Dallas, the vice president who had been accused of financial improprieties. Dallas had in turn filed suit against the union, accusing President Marilyn Stewart of similar misdoings, including spending half a million dollars on food over a year. Read the Chicago Tribune story here. Dallas had been a member of the union since 1970, and had run on Stewart's slate for the last two elections. But the two fell violently apart over the past several months. At ...


I wrote about the pending "tenure-for-pay swap" proposal in the D.C. schools contract here. About the same time the story went up, a copy of some of the results from the poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers of Washington Teachers Union members wound up on this Web site. The findings, on the face value of things, don't appear to bode well for the plan: 44 percent of WTU members polled expressed unfavorable opinions about the proposal; just 23 percent supported it.That was without hearing any details. When told about the "red" and "green" tier, the percentages ...


They probably don't look like Michelle Pfeiffer or clown around as voraciously as Jack Black. But the most successful teachers in real life do share some of the maverick and eccentric qualities seen in Hollywood's most famous teacher depictions. That's what Catherine Cornbleth, a University of Buffalo professor, found after studying teachers entering urban classrooms with students from different racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds and with varying levels of academic ability and motivation. In her book, Diversity and the New Teacher: Learning From Experience in Urban Schools, Cornbleth says teachers who succeeded in these challenging environments have some of ...


Less than a week before the national spotlight turns on Denver, which is playing host to the Democratic National Convention, school district officials must be praying really hard. Starting tomorrow, for three days, union and district officials will negotiate proposed changes to ProComp, the city's highly lauded performance-pay plan, which both sides had blessed at its creation. For now, that camaraderie is moot as the district and the union fight bitterly over what to change, and to what extent. You can read about those proposed changes in this story and in a chat we recently hosted with teachers' union President ...


Teachers in one Texas district will be able to bring more than school supplies when they return to school this month. They could be packing heat. That's right. Under a new school policy in Harrold County, teachers on the 110-student district's sole campus will be allowed to carry guns to thwart any threats of gun attacks. "When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started," Superintendent David Thweatt wrote on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Web site. Teachers who bring in guns, he added, would have to undertake crisis- management training first. They'd also, ...


There were almost as many journalists as there were teachers at the protest at the Washington Teachers' Union headquarters this morning, which was organized by supporters of the two-tiered pay-reform plan proposed by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. I'll come back to that in a minute. The crucial sticking point has been that under the plan, teachers electing the green path, in exchange for much higher pay, would revert to probationary status and lose some of their tenure protections. They could, in essence, be easier for prinicipals to dismiss. Washington Teachers Union President George Parker told reporters today that ...


A lot has been said over the years on the need for mentoring new teachers, and whenever I am among educators, I almost always hear at least one young teacher speak up for it. Now, a study of the effects of mentoring on New York teachers, which appears this month in the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that mentoring can improve retention when the mentor has prior experience in the school. In other words, when the mentor has school-specific knowledge. Jonah E. Rockoff, an assistant professor of economics and finance at Columbia University, looked closely at a mentoring program ...


I could easily have written twice as much about the fascinating Teacher Incentive Fund initiative. The theme of district-teacher collaboration came up again and again in the course of my reporting. If we know that collaboration is key to good plans, there's a follow-up question here that needs exploring and that is: What are the methods for creating this collaboration and sustaining it over time? Though the American Federation of Teachers, in general, remains wary about peformance pay, it isn't backing away from the TIF challenge. The national office counts a full-time employee, Rob Weil, who spends a good amount ...


California's Commission on Teacher Credentialing just announced that there are more than 11,000 out-of-field English-language-learner instructors in the state. That's an increase of 88 800 percent since the commission's last review, when the state reported only 1,450 out-of-field teachers for those students. (UPDATE -- A commenter below pointed out that the percentage increase is much higher than the figure listed in the report. It's probably a good thing that I don't cover math education.) The data cover the years 2003 to 2007; the previous review covered 1999 to 2003. Commission officials, though, said the larger number does not ...


A few weeks back, the two national teacher accreditors, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Educator Accreditation Council, were asked to work together to come up with a unified accrediting system in the best interests of the teaching profession. The first thing they agreed on, it appears, was to drop the word "unified." The idea for a unified accrediting body came from a task force set up by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which has for a long time wanted a single accreditor. In the past, it has made no secret that ...


Among the new teacher provisions in the reauthorized Higher Education Act are "teacher development" requirements for programs that prepare teachers. Now, these programs are to set annual goals for increasing the number of teachers in shortage subjects and fields, such as math, science, technology, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. Progress toward the goals gets reported annually by the states. I'm not sure how these will affect schools of education. I did hear from one party that programs, and sometimes states, tend to allocate a number of teaching "slots" based on specialization area. A number of them may need to ...


Several former Teach For America alumni are campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama, my colleague David Hoff reports in this week's edition of Education Week (check back here on our Ed Week homepage tomorrow for the full story). Sen. John McCain, too, has said he wants to increase the number of alternative-route teachers in America's classrooms. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of new legislative plugs for the program, which puts high-achieving college graduates from top schools into some of the nation's toughest schools. The bipartisan, newly reauthorized HEA bill authorizes $20 million for TFA for fiscal 2009 and $25 million for ...


The D.C. imbroglio over Chancellor Michelle Rhee's proposed plan to boost the salaries of teachers willing to give up tenure rights has been like watching a nail-biting show on performance pay unfold. Only now it could be headed off the cliff. The proposal from the district would more than double some teachers' salaries over a period of five years if they agree to go on probation for a year. For instance, a teacher with 10 years of service could see his or her annual salary go from $56,200 to as much as $122,500. Gasp! Of course, during ...


Welcome to Teacher Beat! My colleague Vaishali is the veteran who came into edu-journalism through a traditional journalism program. I'm the novice who fell into it through what amounts to our profession's version of an "alternative route." We're sure to have a lively discussion! And what better way than to start off on a controversial topic: class-size reduction. One of the participants in the ongoing NewTalk.org discussion, Ryan Hill, from TEAM Schools, a network of KIPP schools in Newark, N.J., has this to say about the intervention: "I can attest to the fact that the smaller a class ...


Three local affiliates of the National Education Association this week joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, the umbrella group’s blog reports. The locals, from California, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, will add 3,000 dues-paying members to the AFL-CIO and will take the total number of NEA members in the labor group up to 12,000. It was two years ago that NEA President Reg Weaver announced that the 3.2 million-member union would allow its locals to join the AFL-CIO, after years of resisting such a move. Although there hasn’t been a ...


Welcome to Teacher Beat, the blog where we'll talk about the policy and politics of teachers: their preparation, quality, salaries, unions ... if it has to do with that part of the teacher world, you can be sure we’ll be writing about it. But if it's lesson plans and pedagogy discussions you want, you'll be better served going to our sister site here. This blog was conceived after the stunning response from readers to our NEA and AFT convention blog. That response also told us that there appears to be a deep need for a forum chronicling the various bits ...


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