December 2008 Archives

Finlandia!

If you haven't taken a look at Kevin Carey's recent musings on Finland's highly praised K-12 education system over at The Quick and the Ed, do so now: they're well worth reading and timely for those of you interested in teacher policy. Why? Well, President-elect Obama, key adviser Linda-Darling Hammond, Arne Duncan and others have talked about improving assessment, offering more flexibility in assessment, etc. Though it's not entirely clear what that means policywise, Darling-Hammond for one is a fan of locally based, frequently non-standardized assessments that give richer information on student achievement. She often notes that Finland uses these ...


Teachers Resisting Hawaii's Random Drug Tests

Hawaii wants to randomly test any of its teachers for drugs under a contract signed with the state teachers' union two years ago, but the union now says it will not play along. The Hawaii State Teachers Association says the wording in the contract, which says the parties "agree to negotiate reasonable suspicion and random drug and alcohol testing procedures," is meant to apply only to teachers who go on field trips, work with disabled children, are frequently absent or have criminal records. The Associated Press quoted Mike McCartney, executive director for the Hawaii State Teachers Association, saying "this is ...


Teacher Salaries Lag Behind Inflation, Says NEA

The National Education Association has released its annual statistics on teacher salaries, and, as usual, the nation's largest teachers' union paints a grim picture. According to the report, inflation continued to outpace teacher salaries last year, and over the decade from 1997–98 to 2007–08, average salaries for public school teachers declined 1 percent while inflation increased 31.4 percent. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia saw real declines in average teacher salaries over those years, adjusting for inflation. The report says the average one-year increase in salaries for public school teachers was 3.1 percent, while inflation ...


Austin Hands Out $1 Million in Merit Pay

There's at least one district where some teachers are getting more money instead of having to worry about losing their jobs or pay. Austin this week handed out $1 million in cash bonuses to teachers under its pilot performance-pay program for teachers whose students did better on state tests. Teachers at six schools will get $4,000 extra each in their paychecks. But, as this story points out, of the six schools where staff will get bonuses, all but two had shown similar improvement in previous years. Which, of course, begs the question: did they really even need a performance-pay ...


Teachers' Unions Praise Duncan

President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Arne Duncan to lead the U.S. Department of Education is drawing lots of praise from just about everyone in education circles, and the teachers' unions are not to be left behind. Although Linda Darling-Hammond had appeared to be the unions' top choice for the job, the two national unions today were quick to celebrate the presumptive new education secretary. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised Duncan for collaborating with the teachers' union in his home turf, Chicago, and with other community partners "on various reform programs to help students ...


Ed Schools, NAACP Back Linda Darling-Hammond

Over at Politico, Ben Smith reports that 40 of the nation's education schools have signed a letter backing Linda Darling-Hammond for the EdSec position. Given that Darling-Hammond is a supporter of innovative ed school practices, such as the teacher-residency preparation model, and critical of some alternative routes, such as Teach For America, this isn't a tremendous surprise. He also reports that the NAACP has weighed in on behalf of Darling-Hammond. This, it seems to me, is a bit more of a surprise, given the NAACP's unusual relationship to the No Child Left Behind Act. Minorities, according to polls, tend to ...


Utah May Hold Back Merit-Pay Funds

A while back, Teacher Beat predicted that states were likely to pull the brakes on merit-pay plans, given the economic freefall. And we hate to say it, but we were right. Out of Utah comes news that the state board of education is considering delaying $20 million in promised performance-pay funds for teachers, because of looming budget cuts. Teachers in participating districts and charter schools would have received an average of $500 each under the merit-pay program. Teachers, of course, are not so happy about the news, since it comes after they've spent a year working for the bonuses. Utah ...


NBPTS Teachers Grow in Record Numbers

National-board teachers have gained a weighty reputation over the years, and many states now offer teachers who go through the rigorous process to get the credential attractive bonuses. Not surprising then that the numbers of board-certified teachers continues to grow each year. In its latest figures released this week, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards says 9,600 teachers achieved board certification in 2008: a 12 percent increase over 2007 and a record high. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia had at least a 20 percent increase from 2007 to 2008 in the number of teachers who became ...


Darling-Hammond Outlines Professional-Development Report

Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond is quickly becoming a polarizing figure for Democrats and the source of much debate, with news articles on her ranging from Tom Toch's take on assessment over at the Quick and the Ed to this New Republic piece that questions her credentials as a school reformer. My colleague Alyson Klein and I got to chat with Darling-Hammond briefly today after her keynote speech at the National Staff Development Council conference. As Alyson notes, Darling-Hammond couldn't give many specifics about the transition process. Her speech, though, highlighted a number of the ideas that are more likely ...


Kansas Ed Officials See Silver Lining

There could be a silver lining to the cloud of economic gloom, after all. And the education department folks over in Kansas say they've found it. The struggling economy, officials in the state's education department say, could bring more people into teaching and cause fewer to leave the profession. A teaching license is like a safety valve for many, Alexa Posny, Kansas' education commissioner, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. Existing teachers, she feels, will likely will be slower to leave the profession to retire or pursue another career, and more college students may see teaching as a dependable profession to pursue. ...


AFT to Spearhead New D.C. Proposals

There have long been rumors about the high-level of American Federation of Teachers' involvement in the contentious District of Columbia teacher-contract negotiations. Now the union's cards are out on the table: This weekend, the Washington Teachers' Union passed a motion to officially partner with the AFT in developing contract proposals. Readers of this blog can scroll through our archives to read more about the contract. One of D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's controversial proposals would give teachers opportunities to earn six-figure salaries if they agree to forgo tenure for a year and be evaluated based on their students' achievement growth. ...


New Teacher Project Scores High in Louisiana Study

The New Teacher Project is considered by many to be one of the best alternative teacher- preparation routes out there today. But there have been very few studies so far that demonstrate the effectiveness of the teachers it prepares. Now, new data in Louisiana show that TNTP teachers outperform beginning and experienced teachers in math, reading, and language arts. The Louisiana Practitioner Teacher Program of the New Teacher Project certified more than 800 teachers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and the study, led by George Noell of Louisiana State University, gave it the highest ranking in each of these ...


Teacher Selling Ads in Exams

Has anyone heard about the teacher who's selling ads in his test papers? Yes, it's true. John Farber, a teacher at a suburban San Diego school, says he is doing so to cover the costs of printing the papers, after the school district scaled back his printing budget. Since cutting back on the tests was not an option for Farber, he decided to come up with a creative solution. Of the seven ads he has run so far—one per test or quiz—five were inspirational quotes from parents at the school, and two were ads from local businesses connected to parents...


CAP Releases Tenure Primer

Feeling the need for some R & R? Well, the dynamic duo of Robin Chait and Raegen Miller over at the Center for American Progress have written what amounts to a primer on the issue of teacher tenure, the job protection granted to teachers who fulfill the terms of a probationary period. It couldn't come at a better time: Teacher tenure seems poised to emerge as one of the big teacher-quality issues in 2009, with D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee trying to overhaul it as part of her district's contract negotiations, New York City confronting the use of test scores in ...


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