March 2009 Archives

Will Salaries Be Included in Stimulus Reporting?

It's turning out to be a day of wonk-tastic posts at Teacher Beat, but when there are billions of dollars hanging in the balance, details really do matter. Case in point: The accountability principles in the stimulus bill require districts that receive Title I recovery funds to "report a school-by-school listing of per-pupil educational expenditures from state and local sources." Right now, it's not clear whether these expenditures are going to include actual teacher salaries. Under the current Title I, districts can just submit a district-wide salary average to prove that resources are equitably allocated among high- and low-poverty school ...


Brush Up on Teacher Distribution

I'm hearing rumblings that the Obama administration is going to take the teacher-effectiveness and teacher-distribution language in the stimulus bill seriously. If you're looking for a primer on those issues, take a look at this story I wrote not long ago. Delaware is one of a handful of states that's doing some really exciting work on teacher distribution. The state, in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Education Laboratory, the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center, and the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality—three federally supported technical-assistance/research bodies—is using state teacher data and surveys of administrators, to figure out the working conditions...


Duncan's Take on Teacher Prep and 'Union Jobs'

The education secretary wants weak teacher-prep programs to shape up, and reminds union leaders that federal stimulus dollars are saving classroom jobs.


Duncan Talks Teachers With Ed Week

The education secretary discussed ways to reward talent and encourage ineffective educators to move on.


A Mysterious 21st-Century Skills Meeting

Now THIS is interesting. Apparently, there's a big panel discussion on 21st-century skills going on today at the National Education Association's headquarters. NEA, one of the founding partners of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, is hosting. I heard about the event in a very roundabout way and sent a puzzled e-mail to a bunch of folks inquiring whether I could drop by and attend, since I've written about 21st-century skills in two recent stories. I was extended an invitation by one NEA official, only to have it rescinded minutes later by another. The panelists all appear to be supportive ...


Weingarten to Help Shape 2012 Primary Calendar

From Guest Blogger Dakarai A. Aarons American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten will have a hand in shaping the 2012 presidential primary calendar. The union head was among those named to the new Democratic Change Commission by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Hat tip to POLITICO.com for first reporting the news.) The 37-member group is charged with recommending changes to the Democratic Party’s rules for the 2012 presidential nominating and delegate-selection process. The nominating calendar became a source of serious tension during the 2008 campaign, after Florida and Michigan defied party ...


Everything Old Is New Again (and Again, and Again...)

Every Monday morning, our executive editor here at Ed Week puts up a copy of the paper from 25 years ago in the kitchen. Some stories now seem a bit frozen in time—you don't hear so much about asbestos fines nowadays—but others are eerily prescient. "Teaching: The Pressure for Change Is Mounting" screams a headline over two stories. One is about a National Education Association committee considering teacher career ladders. The other is about the sorry state of teacher evaluation, circa 1984. Some of the grafs could be written today. One of them reads: "The success of current...


Update on the N.Y.C. KIPP Edu-Drama

Elizabeth Green has the scoop on the latest in the New York KIPP unionization at the Always Mentally Prepared campus in Brooklyn. At least one teacher there has pulled her support for the union. In the meantime, the staff of two other KIPP schools have sent in a petition to sever their contact with the United Federation of Teachers. Commentary from Rotherham here. UFT pres Randi Weingarten sounds a bit flustered in quotes posted on Alexander Russo's blog. She tries to draw a connection between the two events, blaming KIPP management for the move. "What is interesting is this move ...


Ariz. Bill May Extend Layoff Deadlines (Update)

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin In an attempt to prevent dispersing more pink slips than necessary (as is the modus operandi in California, among other states), Arizona legislators are considering a bill that would push back the state deadline for sending layoff notices from April 15 to June 15. District officials in favor of House Bill 2630, which is expected to pass in the next few days, see it as a necessary move to avoid driving worried educators out of the state. The Arizona Education Association opposes the bill, stating that it would give laid-off teachers little time to find ...


Providence Teachers Union Chief Reacts to Staffing Order

I recently wrote a story on the staffing situation in Providence, R.I. The state commissioner, Peter McWalters, has directed district officials to override the collective bargaining agreement and to staff open positions through a criterion-based hiring process, rather than teachers' seniority perferences (see here for the story and here for some background). The head of the Providence Teachers Union, Steven Smith, wasn't able to comment at press time, but I got a chance to speak with him earlier this week. Not surprisingly, he's unimpressed by the directive. For instance, it ignores the turnover within the rank of school principals ...


Impending Cuts Force N.C. to Balance Performance, Need

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Last week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, facing an $87 million budget deficit, approved a plan that would lay off 456 teachers and 83 assistant principals, according to the Charlotte Observer. Heated that administrative contracts are not being slashed first, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators responded by organizing a rally and marching to the government offices with signs and banners. Superintendent Peter Gorman has emphasized that the plan is no more than a draft and that he is looking elsewhere to make cuts. Although stimulus money may help, he claims, the state budget looks less than ...


Talk of Teacher Evaluation

Dan Willingham offers an interesting conceptual analysis on how to improve teacher evaluation here. Essentially, he says that the diagnostic can go both ways, either by over- or under-identifying which teachers aren't performing up to snuff. Finding the appropriate balance is tricky, and the unions need to advance this conversation, he writes, but that's hard for them to do because of their role as teachers' protectors. The inimitable Andy Rotherham's take on it is here. Unions, he writes, "don’t want to use data to evaluate teachers and they don’t want to use managerial discretion. I guess that leaves ...


Van Roekel Talks AFL-CIO

Last Friday, I had a nice catch-up with Dennis Van Roekel, the leader of the National Education Association. We talked about the NEA's discussions about joining a larger labor coalition with AFL-CIO and Change to Win, two labor umbrella organizations that themselves are thinking of reuniting after a nasty split. "Any discussion of where the labor movement will be in 10 to 15 years, I think NEA ought to be part of that discussion, as a 3.2 million-member organization," Van Roekel told me. He added that a couple of factors make this a good time to consider joining the ...


Are Teachers' Pensions in Jeopardy?

Here's a sobering story out of Texas with some big education implications. According to the story, the state teacher pension system's unfunded liabilities have tripled over the last six months, to $40.4 billion. Although the system will be able to pay out benefits for current retirees, its future looks grimmer, unless the state can figure out some way to offset the liability. Other states, notably Georgia, are in a similar situation. Lawmakers are considering increasing the percentage that employees have to pay into the system, a move that's sure to be unpopular with the teachers' associations in the state. ...


Outlook Less Than Rosy on Pink-Slip Friday

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Today in California, 26,000 school district employees will find pink slips in their boxes. Although the massive dispersal of such notices by the March 15 deadline is somewhat of a yearly charade, with most of them generally being rescinded when the budget is finalized in May, teachers are preparing for the worst this year—and rightly so. Education budget cuts are estimated to land between $8.4 and $11.6 billion (the unions are predicting the higher end of the scale) and even some district officials are admitting that the outlook is bleak. "I ...


Union Official to Advise Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just announced the appointment of Jo Anderson Jr., the executive director of the Illinois Education Association, as senior adviser to the department. He'll be in charge of outreach to teachers and teachers' unions. There have been some rumblings about this, so while the appointment isn't exactly a shock, I'm told there was no analogous position under the Bush administration, which had a rocky relationship with the two national teachers' unions. A couple of interesting things here. First, looks like we're going to get a lot of Illinois folks coming to Washington just like ...


Drumming Up Sympathy for PD May Require PR

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Last month, Stephen reported on the NSDC finding that U.S. teachers spend more time in the classroom and less time on collaboration and professional development than their peers in the highest-performing countries. (Many of our readers were right on board with the study’s findings—take a look at some of their insightful comments.) The PD scheduling discussion came up more locally this week when a southeast Wyoming school board, prompted by a parent petition, voted to get rid of its district’s weekly staff training half-days. It’s easy to see how this ...


Indiana District OKs Peer Review

Talk about good timing: The Anderson, Ind., school district has become the first peer- assistance and -review program in the Hoosier State. Like the Toledo, Ohio, peer-review program, the Anderson PAR will provide targeted assistance to new teachers and to struggling veterans through a combination of peer-mentoring and -evaluation. “PAR is an example of an innovative, successful union-led education reform,” said Dal Lawrence, who helped craft Toledo's program nearly 30 years ago. “It shows just how inaccurate the stereotype is that teacher unions are anti-reform or anti-accountability.” The AFT has promoted PAR for quite some time, and the concept got ...


Randi Weingarten on the Obama Education Speech

I had the chance late yesterday to speak to Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers' president, about President Obama's education agenda-setting speech. We talked mainly about Obama's contention that there is "no excuse" for districts to keep severely underperforming teachers in the classroom. (To me, that was newsier than the talk of performance pay, which dates way back to the campaign.) "The point he's making, that there needs to be better evaluation systems, is spot on," Weingarten told me. "The reason we see default to individual student test scores [to judge teachers] is because of the lack of reliable ...


More on 21st-c Skills and Teaching

It's the debate that won't die! Robert Pondiscio at the Core Knowledge blog takes issue with Ken Kay's rebuttal to the 21st-century skills smackdown of the other day. Despite Mr. Kay's contention that the argument isn't about content v. skills but how to provide students with both, the P21 Web site doesn't include examples of units that simultaneously integrate 21st-c skills and engage students in rich content, he asserts. I took a look at the groups' skills map in core content areas, which can be found here. Here's one example for 12th grade English from the map: "After reading a ...


Obama Knits Together a Teacher-Policy Narrative

In his big speech this morning, President Barack Obama reached back to grasp various threads that he's laid out—on the campaign trail, in his election platform, in his speech to a joint session of Congress, and most recently through the FY 2010 budget request—and knit them together to provide what's probably the clearest statement so far of his priorities for education and for teacher policy. As my colleague Alyson Klein points out in this post, nothing here really should come as a surprise if you've been paying close attention to Obama since the campaign. National Education Association President Dennis...


21st-Century Skills and Teaching

By now, I hope you've had a chance to check out this story on the 21st-century skills movement and a group of individuals who are raising questions about it. Ken Kay, the president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the main group that advocates the incorporation of these technological, communication, and analytical skills into the curriculum, offers a lengthier explanation of his group's stance on the group's Web site here. The argument from naysayers with respect to teachers isn't really so much one of content versus skills, it's that "project-based" instruction is an incredibly difficult kind of teaching to ...


NEA and AFL-CIO: A Steep Hill to Climb?

More news from The New York Times here on NEA possibly joining a larger labor coalition with the AFL-CIO. The union's president, Dennis Van Roekel, is supposedly involved in the talks. "We have a good chance to have a basic outline to create a unified labor movement for the first time ever,” the story quotes Larry Cohen, the president of the communications workers’ union, as saying about this. “The NEA was founded more than 100 years ago and has never been an explicit part of the U.S. labor movement.” Mike Antonucci, over at the Education Intelligence Agency, recalls the ...


Teacher-Data Reports in New York City

Lots of divergent reactions to the teacher-data report cards in New York City, see here and here. Per Elizabeth Green over at Gotham Schools, the city wants to extend the initiative for another year. (Hat tip to Elizabeth for breaking this and following it up on her blog.) These reports are based on teachers' individual "value-added" contributions to student learning. They aren't supposed to be used for accountability purposes, merely to help the teachers improve. (The United Federation of Teachers has OK'd the use of test score data in the city's schoolwide performance-pay programs, but not for use in judging ...


Cellphones in School: Who Makes the Call?

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin As cellphones become a universal accessory among students, policymaking about their use in schools is quickly transitioning from the district to the state level. According to the Des Moines Register, 16 states now have laws restricting the use of cellphones and other devices in school. Iowa state Rep. Deborah Berry hopes to add her own state to the list of those with legal restrictions, citing concerns that the phones are both a distraction and a safety risk. "I've seen in my district where they're organizing fights" through text messages, she said recently. "It's a serious ...


The Big Island in Big Trouble over HQTs

According to this story Hawaii's licensing board was illegally extending licenses, meaning that nearly 4,000 teachers probably don't meet the federal definition of a highly qualified teacher. Oops. (Officials with the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, and apparently the attorney general, dispute the charges.) The story suggests the state could lose federal funding for this error, if indeed there is one. I doubt that will happen for a couple of reasons. First, the state's going to need the money to get these teachers properly certified, and second, the U.S. Department of Education, under the Bush administration anyway, usually redistributed ...


The Great Class Size Debate

Washington Post veteran Jay Mathews dives into the great class-size reduction debate here (check out the thoughtful comments, too.) He points out that in the recession, many districts preserve class size and make cuts elsewhere, which may not be the most cost-effective solution. The long-cited STAR study in Tennessee found lasting benefits from class size reduction, particularly for poor and minority students in grades K-1. The problem, as Mathews alludes, is that most states and districts aren't in a position to reproduce the stipulations in that study: class sizes between 14 and 17 students. So, the argument goes, should you ...


Follow-Up: Improving Alternative Certification

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin The Center for American Progress held a panel discussion on Friday regarding its paper on how states can improve alternative-certification programs (see Stephen’s post). In addition to Robin Chait and Michele McLaughlin, co-authors of the paper, there were three other ed experts on the panel: Alex Johnston, CEO of a nonprofit advocating for public schools known as ConnCAN; Richelle Patterson, a senior policy analyst for NEA; and Scott Cartland, principal of Webb/Wheatley Elementary School in northeast Washington, D.C. Although most of the panel members were in agreement about the efficacy and necessity ...


UFT: "Principals in Need of Improvement"

I'm on the mailing list for a lot of teachers' union trade papers, which are useful for gauging issues of importance to local affiliates. The New York Teacher, a publication for the United Federation of Teachers, contained a bit of a surprise in the Feb. 19 edition: a new feature, called "Principals In Need of Improvement." "When a principal gravely mismanages a school and makes life impossible for the staff, it tends to happen in the shadows. Many staff members are intimidated and afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals. But for the sake of the staff and of ...


A New Beginning for NEA and AFL-CIO?

The National Education Association is getting cozier with the AFL-CIO and its rival Change to Win, two umbrella labor coalitions that are themselves thinking of reuniting, according to this AP story. The American Federation of Teachers is a longtime member of AFL-CIO but the NEA has always been a bit aloof about its status as a cross between a professional organization and a labor union. NEA did grew closer to AFL-CIO in 2006, when NEA and AFL-CIO struck an agreement allowing NEA officials to sit on local AFL-CIO labor councils. Now, it looks it's considering joining the larger labor movement. ...


Follow This Blog

Advertisement

Most Viewed on Education Week

Categories

Archives

Recent Comments