January 2009 Archives

Big P.D. Report Coming Out

Professional development is one of the most difficult teacher issues to write about well. It sits right at the nexus of policy and practice, the research on PD is spotty, the common delivery methods ("spray 'n pray" workshops) are positively archaic, and the really good examples are so classroom-based that it's hard to talk about them in broad strokes. So I'm excited about a report coming out next week. It's expected to synthesize much of the research on staff development, draw from other countries that have had success developing teachers, and situate the U.S.'s current efforts in the ...


N.Y.C. Anticipates Teacher Layoffs

New York City appears poised to enter the melee over teacher layoffs that's shaking its sister mega-tropolis Los Angeles right now: N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has submitted a budget proposal calling for cuts of more than 15,000 teachers out of about 77,000. Not surprisingly, the United Federation of Teachers is preparing to fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening. This afternoon, it's holding a demonstration in downtown Manhattan to protest the cuts. Yesterday, L.A. teachers did much the same thing, marching from the district headquarters to Pershing Square in downtown L.A. All ...


L.A. Teachers Boycott Testing

There's a lot of important teacher activity in Los Angeles these days. Don't miss this story about the local teachers' union threatening to boycott the district's use of "interim," or periodic assessments. But both The Los Angeles Times and the district attribute an increase in student achievement to the tests. There are lot of issues to tease out here, and without knowing more about how these assessments operate, it's hard to comment on them. On the one hand, I can understand how frustrating it must be for teachers to give these tests if they're not well timed to what's being ...


CAP Releases Recommendations for Teacher-Effectiveness Policies

This morning, the Center for American Progress' Robin Chait releases a paper detailing the organization's vision for moving the federal teacher-quality agenda forward. Check it out here. Her basic idea is to use federal policy to help states create a teacher-effectiveness "framework." This would work by 1) providing funds to help states improve their data and testing infrastructure; 2) establishing state grants to increase the supply of teachers through enhanced alternative-certification programs; and 3) creating a new competitive district and state grant program, somewhat like the Teacher Incentive Fund, for states and districts to experiment with tenure reforms, differential pay ...


New TIF Money in Jeopardy?

Alyson Klein reports on the Senate markup of the economic-stimulus bill here. Like the House version, the bill would add $100 million for Teacher Quality Enhancement grants, which go mainly to partnerships between districts and teacher colleges. But the bill does not put a dime toward the Teacher Incentive Fund, the federal performance-pay program, whereas the House put forward a preliminary $200 million figure. The House's bill hits the floor tomorrow. It looks as though Teacher Beat may have been wrong when we predicted that the Democrats are going to carry the torch forward on performance pay. Instead, expect a ...


Crossing the Divide

The edu-policy community spends a lot of time discussing the relative merits of different routes into the teaching profession. This story from The Los Angeles Times raises what to me seems like an important and understudied question: How do alternative routes like Teach For America and the New Teacher Project affect the composition, culture, and norms of a school's workforce, especially when that workforce is made up traditionally trained veterans? The story paints a somewhat disturbing picture of Compton's (Calif.) experience negotiating this divide, including a fair amount of vitriol between supporters of the various routes both at school sites ...


Gates' 2009 Letter Focuses on Teachers

The Gates Foundation has a must-read letter up for teacher-policy folks. Check it out. My colleague Erik Robelen has reported on the basic contours of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new approach to education reform here and here. But there are some really interesting tidbits to cull out from this letter. For one, it's clear that Gates is going to go whole hog on the teacher-quality issue, particularly on the teacher-effectiveness front. In the letter, Gates writes: "Whenever I talk to teachers, it is clear that they want to be great, but they need better tools so they can measure ...


L.A. to Carry Deficit Rather Than Dismiss Teachers

According to this story in The Los Angeles Times, the district has decided to keep all its teachers on the payroll for the time being. Earlier this month, it looked like up to 2,300 teachers could lose their jobs mid-year. But $500 to $600 million will continue to need to be cut from next year's budget, which means jobs are still going to be on the line. Officials are hoping that 2,000 early retirements will naturally help lower the number of teachers in jeopardy of the pink slip. The story explores a couple of interesting scenarios that suggest ...


Ohio Report Calls for Tougher Tenure Standards

An Ohio philanthropic group says schools should have a freer hand in awarding tenure to good teachers and firing bad ones. The Ohio Grantmakers Association, a group representing more than 200 private and corporate foundations that give more than $300 million to schools in the state each year, made its recommendations to the governor and legislature yesterday. The report calls for strengthening state law to require teachers seeking tenure to demonstrate their skills, based partly on student performance. And whereas current law on dismissing teachers focuses on immoral conduct, the report recommends that the terms for dismissing teachers be made ...


A New Era for Teacher Policy?

Maybe it's a little early to read the tea leaves, but we here at Teacher Beat think there might be a lot more attention at the federal level to teacher quality. Why? Well, the confirmation hearing for Arne Duncan focused nearly exclusively on teaching, while the economic-stimulus package has oodles of new funding for teachers. The last seven years have been mostly a punching bag for the "highly qualified" teacher requirements of the No Child law. Few people would argue those provisions were perfect, but from a conceptual standpoint, Congress made a monumental decision to set a federal teaching standard. ...


Seniority in Teacher Layoffs

Team R & R over at the Center for American Progress has an article that explores some of the themes Teacher Beat wrote about in this post with respect to the cost-effectiveness and impact on student achievement of laying off teachers by seniority level rather than effectiveness. Eduwonk (and possible Duncan appointee?) Andy Rotherham picks up the thread here. We suspect there will be more chatter about this if the financial situation doesn't improve and districts are forced to cull more teaching positions. Stay tuned....


Survey Finds High Schoolers Unhappy With Teachers

There is plenty of speculation over whether teacher-accountability systems should include evaluations from students. Students, the argument in favor of the idea goes, are the best and most logical judges of teacher effectiveness since they are actually in the learning environment. If that is true, high school teachers in Providence, R.I., just got a failing mark from their students. A student-sponsored survey in the district found that high schoolers are generally not happy with their teachers. The survey collected information from nearly 1,700 students, or about 21 percent of the city's public high schoolers. Common complaints included: Teachers ...


Student-Achievement Data in Tenure Decisions

The fine folks over at the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research have an interesting study up on the use of student test-score data in tenure decisions. Of late, some economists who study the teacher workforce, such as Thomas Kane at Harvard and Eric Hanushek at Stanford, have argued that it might make more sense to see how teachers are doing on the job and then set policies to transition out ineffective teachers, rather than attempt to prescreen teacher-candidates for effectiveness. Most districts do the latter but not the former, and that process hasn't proved very ...


Inaguration: The Teacher Moments

Over the inaugural weekend, I did some reporting for another Education Week blog, Politics K-12. And, of course, I had my eye out for interesting teacher-related events. So make sure to check out details about the National Education Association's participation in the Inaugural Parade; read about the lesson the school director of the KIPP Academy of Opportunity, in Los Angeles, taught in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and attend a reception for Linda Darling-Hammond, whose academic career has focused on scholarly work on teacher preparation and professional development....


Ala. Panel Calls for Advancing Teachers in Classrooms

Here's an idea for retaining teachers who might want to move out of their jobs to administrative positions or other professions in order to make more money. A commission created by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has recommended a system in which teachers can advance in their careers and get higher pay without leaving the classroom. Teachers could move from "apprentice teacher" to "classroom teacher" to "professional teacher" to "master teacher" and then "learning designer," all by meeting certain education and experience requirements. Each designation, the commission's report says, would provide teachers with different opportunities. For instance, a master teacher might ...


Summary of Teacher Provisions in Stimulus

Here's a rundown of teacher-related funding in the House's stimulus package: $13 billion each for Title I and IDEA grants. Much of that money would support the hiring of teachers and paraprofessionals and the provision of professional development. $100 million for the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants (Title II of the Higher Education Act). This would be a big win for teachers' colleges, which have seen this grant dwindle steadily down over the years. It could be used in support of partnerships to improve teacher education, including the establishment of residency programs. $100 million for the National Science Foundation to support ...


Performance Pay in the Stimulus?

This just in: It looks like the economic stimulus package on Capitol Hill will include $200 million or "competitive grants to school districts and states to provide financial incentives for teachers and principals who raise student achievement and close the achievement gaps in high-need schools." That sounds a lot like performance-based pay to me. $200 million is no small figure. It's more than twice what the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, the government's current performance-pay program, gets each year. We're trying to locate some additional details; check back here and over at Campaign K-12 for more. If it is performance pay, ...


Mass Layoffs Likely in L.A.

This story from the Los Angeles Times portends really tough times for that district's teaching force. The school board approved a measure to give 2,300 teachers the pink slip if the fiscal situation doesn't improve. No wonder the state is pushing so hard for operating relief in the stimulus package currently being fleshed out on Capitol Hill. The story also indicates that the district will probably have to give up its love of smaller class sizes, suggesting that some may rise to nearly 30 students. The layoffs, the story indicates, would be targeted at teachers with fewer than two ...


KIPP Unionization: A Blip or a Sign?

Mike Antonucci, the union watchdog blogger at EIA Intercepts, has this contrary viewpoint to what he calls the "mass hysteria" in the media about the unionization of two New York City KIPP schools. "All this hoohah is silly," he writes. "How many stories have you read about the 355 new charter schools that opened this year? How many of them are unionized?" It's certainly true that a vast majority of charter schools are not unionized, and the teachers' unions have had a very hard time making inroads into such schools in the past. Still, the fact that charters that are ...


Staffing ED: The Gloves Come Off

Our intrepid colleague Alyson Klein reports on a letter ostensibly sent by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education opposing New Leaders for New Schools President Jon Schnur, Teach For America CEO Wendy Kopp, and Education Sector Co-Founder Andy Rotherham, also known as "eduwonk," as appointments for the Education Department. The gloves are really off in this letter, which says that Kopp, Schnur, and Rotherham "have evidenced a constant and intense disregard for working with the organized education community" and that their appointments would signal "expansion for organizations that promote the revolving door of under-qualified teachers as the best ...


Twice-Burned Florida Lawmakers Champion Merit Pay

Florida's two experiments with merit pay in recent years disappeared like a hangover after a prolonged date with controversy. But some state lawmakers still want to revisit the concept by spending on a merit-pay plan some of the federal stimulus-package dollars that might fall into Florida's lap. Senate Select Committee on Florida's Economy Chairman Don Gaetz told the Associated Press yesterday that the one-time money shouldn't be used for recurring expenses such as salaries. "We've got to build an education infrastructure that can keep giving us economic development muscle as we go forward," he said. "If we spend this money ...


NYC KIPP Teachers to Organize

Here's a fairly big feather in the teachers' unions' let's-organize-charter-schools cap: Leo Casey at EdWize reports that a majority of teachers at a KIPP school in Brooklyn have decided to unionize and signed authorization cards with the United Federation of Teachers. This is significant news because unions have long struggled to bring charter schools into their fold without much success. New Orleans, where the teachers' union has been struggling to survive, is one of the more obvious examples of this. On the other hand, this is the second major piece of news in under two months on big-city charters going ...


Duncan Hearing Focuses on Teacher Quality

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee's confirmation hearing for Arne Duncan, President-Elect Obama's nominee for Education Secretary, is focusing heavily on teacher-quality issues. You can watch it now at http://help.senate.gov/Hearings/2009_01_13/2009_01_13.html, or check in with us later when we'll bring you more details....


NEA, AFT Team on Lesson Plans for Inauguration

As inauguration fever grips many citizens in this nation, the two teachers' unions are giving teachers some help with bringing the Jan. 20 event into the classroom with a joint offering lesson plans on inaugural history. The guides, available here are designed to teach students about the history of Inauguration Day, and include information about the 2009 schedule of events and background about traditional inaugural ceremonies. The guides also suggest ways to supplement the lessons with discussion topics, films, books, and other educational Web sites. Students can, among other activities, compare and contrast the backgrounds of the two presidents from ...


Barack Obama: A Model School Leader?

Here's an interesting tidbit: K-8 teachers would, apparently, like to see Barack Obama as "Principal for a Day." Chicago-based educational publishing group Northpoint Horizons surveyed about 1,400 teachers on various aspects of education, including what supports and strategies they feel they need to be successful educators. But the question on principal for a day is indeed telling: Obama won three times as many votes as any other nominee. The top-10 vote getters also included Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Abraham Lincoln, George W. Bush, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Franklin, and John F. Kennedy. There's no ...


Falling Economy Stokes Creativity

The nose-diving economy has brought out the creative side of lawmakers trying to solve long-running problems in schools, like teacher retention. In Utah, where a study found that more than half the teachers who left their jobs in 2006-07 have taught for less than five years, a lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would make home-buying more affordable for new teachers, thereby giving them an incentive to stay on. Teachers in their first five years on the job would get $15,000 loans to buy homes. They would pay interest on the loans, but the $15,000 principal would be ...


A Union of the Unions. Not.

A merger between the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers? Now that's one we haven't heard in almost a decade, since efforts to bring the two teachers' unions under a single umbrella were quashed by the NEA's Representative Assembly. But this week, after the presidents of 12 labor unions issued a joint call for unification when President-elect Barack Obama's transition office said that it would prefer dealing with a united labor movement, there's been some speculation over whether this might also translate into a teachers' union merger. The New York Times had this quote from Randi Weingarten, ...


Happy Birthday, NCLB

NCLB turned 7 yesterday. Teachers, for the most part, dislike the law for what they see as an overemphasis on standardized testing, the pushing of blame for school failure on teachers, and the punishment of schools with sanctions. Underneath all that, teachers felt frustrated at not having been consulted during the law's creation in 2001, when the unions were largely left out of the negotiations. There's certainly a theme of teacher consultation and collaboration in the American Federation of Teachers' press release on the law's 7th anniversary: "For the past seven years, NCLB has become a stand-in for real discussions ...


Cash-Strapped L.A. May Cut 2,300 Teacher Jobs

The last few months have seen a barrage of announcements on education budget cuts in states and school districts teetering under the recession. Now comes news that the nation's second-largest school district, Los Angeles, could be laying off as many as 2,300 teachers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state deficit has created a shortfall of at least $250 million in the school district's nearly $6 billion budget, prompting officials to propose sending layoff notices to 1,690 elementary school teachers and 600 math and English teachers in middle and high schools. Teachers most likely to lose their ...


Rhee-vised Professional Development

Hopefully by now you've checked out Much Ado About Professional Development per this Bill Turque story in the Washington Post. It must be said: The intrepid bloggers here at Teacher Beat reported Ms. Rhee's plans for PD quite some time ago. Still, I'm glad to see that PD, generally considered a wonky and mushy topic, is getting some real attention for a change. (Although maybe this story in part reflects the current vogue for all things Rhee--everything from her clothes to her dating life has been generating attention.) The central debate in the Post story centers on the fact that ...


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