September 2008 Archives

Time was when teachers in California could be dismissed, transferred, or disciplined if their students wrote articles that school administrators did not like. Not anymore. A bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the weekend would make it tougher for administrators to retaliate against high school and college journalism teachers who protect students' free speech. According to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, teachers have been punished at least 12 times since 2001 because of articles written by student reporters. In one instance, an adviser for a high school newspaper was reassigned after her students wrote a scathing editorial calling for ...


An appeals court ruled earlier this week that three Lowell, Mass., teachers were improperly dismissed from their jobs following a district-administered English fluency test. The three teachers are non-native English speakers. Massachusetts, in 2002, required all public school teachers of subject-matter classes to be fluent and literate in English. The court found that the Lowell school district did not follow state regulations, which specify that teachers' grasp of English should be evaluated through classroom observation and personal interviews. It's an interesting case, and I'm not sure how many other states have similar laws on the books. The "highly qualified" teacher ...


UFT President Randi Weingarten this afternoon proposed her solution to the problem of "excessed" teachers in New York City--an immediate hiring freeze. Excessed teachers are those who have lost their jobs because of their schools closing or downsizing and who have not been able to find new jobs because of a new district policy that allows principals to hire those that are a good fit regardless of seniority. The New Teacher Project released a report earlier this week that said the excessed teachers will cost the city $74 million this school year. The project has urged the district to make ...


A nonprofit group, Teachers in Space, is seeking applications for a program to fly teachers to space in suborbital vehicles and return them to the classroom. The original NASA Teachers in Space program ended with the 1986 Challenger disaster, which killed teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe and six other crew members. The program was retooled as the Educator Astronaut program, in which former educators became full-time NASA employees, but did not return to their classrooms. Barbara Morgan was the first Educator Astronaut. She flew aboard the space shuttle in August 2007. The Teachers in Space nonprofit was set up to revive the ...


The Dallas Morning News has a story this morning about the district wanting to use $18 million of Title I money to pay the salaries of 300 teachers. The district, apparently, has a shortfall of $84 million in its budget. But this is not sitting well with the state education department, which says that federal money cannot be spent on making up for local budget cuts. And that, state officials say, is in effect what Dallas plans to do. The imbroglio in Dallas does make one wonder about how states and school districts will cope with budget woes in a ...


Responding to the New Teacher Project's report on excessed teachers in New York who will cost the city $74 million this school year, United Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten has called a press conference at 4 p.m. tomorrow where she will be joined by "several of the hundreds of educators in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool who have tried for months to secure permanent teaching positions despite Department of Education policies that hinder their efforts." Stay tuned as we bring you more on this....


The promise of more money has not exactly sent school districts in Minnesota rushing to embrace Gov. Tim Pawlenty's widely touted Q Comp performance-pay plan for teachers. After three years, in 2007-08, only 39 of the state's 334 districts and 21 charter schools had signed up for it. Part of it might have to do with the fact that the plan requires local unions to get on board. And as is well known by now, unions are not the biggest fans of performance pay, although Minneapolis had implemented a popular, union-approved performance-pay plan before Q Comp. Now Pawlenty, a Republican, ...


The Algiers Charter Schools consortium in New Orleans just received a $17.6 million grant from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, a program designed to seed performance-based compensation programs. Algiers' grant was initially given to the Lakewood County school district, in Florida, but that district faced internal squabbles about implementation and opted out after its first year. Like a number of other TIF grantees, Algiers will use the Teacher Advancement Program model. TAP, which is overseen by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, includes standards-based professional development and a career ladder for teachers, in addition ...


The Washington Teachers Union membership is meeting tonight about the proposed D.C. contract, including its "red" and "green" compensation tiers. To my great dismay, media aren't allowed to attend. But I'm betting this will be the contract's make-or-break moment. The head of the WTU, George Parker, said on PBS' Jim Lehrer Newshour recently that members are polling 2-to-1 against the contract. The contract would allow teachers opting the "green" tier to earn up to $20,000 annually in bonuses, but they'd forgo tenure protections for one year for that opportunity. "Red" tier teachers would maintain the existing pay schedule. ...


Teachers overwhelmingly think that high school students should be taught rudimentary aspects of personal finance, according to a new survey by Americans Well-Informed on Automotive Retailing Economics, a group that promotes consumer education on car financing. Such aspects would including basic savings and retirement investing (94 percent), financing a car purchase (92 percent), financing a home purchase (91 percent), maintaining a household budget (98 percent), managing a credit card (98 percent), managing a bank account (99 percent), acquiring medical insurance (97 percent), and acquiring a student loan (97 percent). Additionally, 72 percent of teachers said that students old enough to ...


There's a mysterious drop in the number of teachers with master's degrees in the state of West Virginia. According to data from the state's department of education, the number of such teachers declined 5 percent over the past decade. Some attribute it to the baby boomer-retirement exodus. Others to the fact that bad economic times are causing fewer teachers to seek master's degrees. Yet others to the inevitable argument that teachers are leaving for higher-paying jobs in other fields. You can read more about it here in the Charleston Daily Mail. Interestingly, during the time that the number of teachers ...


Teacher shortage? Not in New York City, where 1,000 "excessed" teachers will go without jobs in the 2008-09 school year while receiving full pay and benefits at a cost of $74 million to the school district. These teachers are the fallout of a new hiring policy in the city that allows school administrators to hire teachers that are a good fit regardless of seniority, according to an updated version of a report released by the New Teacher Project. The excessed teachers are those who lose their jobs as a result of schools downsizing and closing. The teachers are then ...


My colleague Scott Cech has a great story up about the issue of formative assessment, the classroom-based, typically nonstandardized exercises that help teachers adjust their instruction and are not used for summative or high-stakes purposes. The research on the practice is strong, but most teachers haven't been trained about how to implement it. That's a big obstacle for states and districts that want to benefit from formative assessment.Some experts, as Scott reports, say formative assessment must be seamlessly integrated into instruction, which means that teachers need help constructing assessments that reflect the local curriculum. So what are the options ...


According to a new Center on Education Policy analysis, Maryland schools entering the "restructuring" phase of school improvement under NCLB are increasingly choosing the option to replace teachers and staff. In the past, most schools in restructuring appointed a "turnaround specialist" to improve the school. But the state has closed that option, and there's little evidence of its success, the report says. The report has already generated some lively commentary over at Eduwonkette (including "Skoolboy," who calls replacing staff the "neutron bomb" theory of school reform.) School leaders in Maryland have implemented this differently. Some have required all staff members ...


Michael DiMaggio will join the NEA Foundation as its director of development. He comes to the 40-year-old NEA Foundation from the Council of Chief State School Officers, where he spent seven years creating their corporate partner programs and oversaw the organization’s development efforts. At the CCSSO, he worked on an initiative that provides support and technical assistance to state education agency officials in low-performing, high- poverty schools and alternative education high schools. DiMaggio was once a special education teacher and high school athletic coach, according to a release from the foundation. The NEA Foundation gives out grants to teachers, ...


In a conference call on this survey, Joel Klein, the chancellor of the New York City schools, said he supported "front-loading" compensation for new teachers and offering more pay based on teacher bonuses. "So much [of teacher compensation] ends up in defined-benefit pension plans,” he said. “I think a lot of teachers are not going to be around to accrue long-term pensions.” Salary front-loading and performance pay? Hmm. Sounds a lot like the contract that District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is trying to put into place, with its green-tier proposal that would allow new teachers to make almost $70,000...


I had a bunch of stories due last week and neglected my blogging duties. So I owe my co-blogger Vaishali a big-shout out and thank you for holding down the fort in my absence! Not long ago, I wrote a story about a volume on state and federal accountability policies edited by Bruce Fuller at the University of California. The study I focused on found, using survey data from three state samples, that in the wake of standards-based reform, teachers are changing how they are instructing. But they are doing so autonomously and not always in uniform, aligned ways. Of ...


Teacher advocates have long argued that it is unfair to judge a teacher by student test scores alone, especially those in classrooms with challenging environments. This week, the state commissioner of education agreed with that perspective when he reinstated a teacher who was fired over a teacher rating system based on student test scores. According to this story in the Dallas Morning News, Sharon Toussaint was one of eight teachers fired from Kimball High School under a recent reorganization to address chronically low test scores. Toussaint petitioned Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott to be reinstated. In his ruling, Scott ...


American Federation of Teachers locals have partnered with districts on pioneering reform efforts, including peer review and assistance in Toledo, Ohio, and charter schools in New York City. Now, locals working on reform plans could get financial support from the national union, which today announced the creation of a $1 million fund to support such efforts. The announcement of the AFT Innovation Fund comes just as the national teachers' unions have come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans as standing in the way of reform. In addition to the $1 million seed money, the AFT will seek more funding ...


Has Obama actually converted the NEA into a fan of charter schools? Maybe not quite, but when did you last hear an NEA president say something like this about charter schools: “Those of us in the education community can learn from charter school success stories and failures. The key is to identify what is working that can be sustained and reproduced on a broad scale so that as many students as possible can benefit.” That's a quote from Dennis Van Roekel, the NEA president, and it came in a statement issued right after Obama's speech in Dayton, Ohio, where he ...


Democrats have often been criticized for being in cahoots with the teacher unions on education policy, and each time Sen. Barack Obama voices support for charter schools or merit pay-- ideas that the national teacher unions aren't terribly fond of-- there's a lot of back-and-forth on how he's breaking away from the unions. Today, in his speech at a school in Dayton, Ohio, the Democratic presidential candidate-- who has received the endorsement of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers -- called for more charter schools, merit pay, and for replacing bad teachers. "We must give ...


Sen. John McCain's swipe against Barack Obama and teacher unions at the Republican National Convention Thursday has provoked a suitably angry response from the National Education Association and its new president. In his speech, about which you can read more on our Campaign K-12 blog, McCain said Obama, his Democrat rival, "wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats. I want schools to answer to parents and students." Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the 3.2 million-member NEA, which had 40 delegates at the convention, in a statement Friday called McCain "completely out of touch" with the ...


The beginning of the school year is also the time when teacher disgruntlement rears its head. Although there have not been any strikes in large urban districts in recent memory, and a couple of threats this year fizzled out, there are plenty of teachers out there walking the picket lines right now. In Broward County this week, teachers threatened to work less to protest stalled negotiations on their contract. ''There will be no volunteering, no field trips, no taking papers home,'' Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo told the Miami Herald. Strikes are illegal under Florida law, so an ...


In recent years, some voices like the New Teacher Project have called for changing how teachers are hired by school districts, and have even worked with some districts to revamp their hiring practices and to improve teacher retention. Now, a new report from the Annenberg Institute of School Reform at Brown University is touting another approach: it says districts ought to consolidate all teacher-related functions, like recruitment, evaluation, professional development, staffing, and even collective bargaining, under a single "human- capital management" office. The hope is that this would ensure better coordination of the teacher-related functions and transform the way districts ...


The NEA has been a rather busy bee at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul even as the AFT, not surprisingly, has chosen to stay far, far away. Dennis Van Roekel, the spanking-new president of the NEA, was at a Minneapolis jazz club yesterday where several unions led by the NEA were hosting a labor salute to Republican supporters. He spoke with my colleague Mark Walsh, who is covering the Republican convention in the Minnesota capital. Mark writes that 40 NEA members are among the delegates: a fairly sizeable number given that the unions are always perceived as being ...


Here's the latest on the D.C. contract news: Chancellor Michelle Rhee has said that she has a "Plan B" for instituting reforms to Washington's teacher-quality system if the tentative contract she's working on with the Washington Teachers' Union falls through (see previous posts and my story here for background.) She wouldn't elaborate on what Plan B entails. But here's one possibility: the district has quietly been laying the foundation for changes to its licensing system. According to a document from the office of the State Superintendent of Education, the district wants to institute a system that provides schools with ...


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