April 2009 Archives

Brad Jupp, the senior academic adviser for the Denver Public Schools, will be heading to the department to serve as an adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, according to this news story. In 2004, Jupp helped broker the ProComp differentiated-pay system in Denver while an employee of the local teachers' union, and he continued to help oversee the program when he moved to DPS. He'll be on loan from Denver during this time, the story says, and will be advising Duncan on teacher quality and teacher-effectiveness issues. I think this is a pretty good sign that the Obama administration is ...


The private-foundation contributions, in addition to the AFT's down payment of $1 million, bring the fund's total to $2.8 million. Funds are available for local affiliates to "incubate promising ideas to improve schools," AFT President Randi Weingarten said.


If you were a confident, highly effective educator, would you agree to take on a class size of 25 rather than 20, if you got a significant pay boost? How about 30 students? 35? That's basically the idea behind a new white paper released by the Phoenix, Ariz.-based Goldwater Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank. (The paper doesn't appear to be on the Web site just yet, but it should be soon.) Some of the ideas it raises you've probably heard before: Using "value-added" test-score growth as the basis of a merit-based pay system for teachers, with both schoolwide and ...


My colleague Sean Cavanagh has a great item up on Obama's speech at the National Academy of Sciences. Here's Obama on the idea of attracting science professionals into the classroom: “Let's create new pathways for experienced professionals to go into the classroom,” the president said. “There are, right now, chemists who could teach chemistry, physicists who could teach physics, statisticians who could teach mathematics. But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of these folks–-folks like you–into the classroom.” He could be referring to "career-changers" who decide to enter teaching full time. ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin In outlining how schools should use stimulus aid, during a speech at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on Friday, Secretary of Education Duncan emphasized extra pay for teachers who help with staff development and an extension of school time. "You can identify your best teachers and pay them to coach their colleagues who are having trouble," said Duncan, according to the Associated Press. But while standout teachers will organically emerge in any school, identifying and labeling “the best” becomes thorny when money is involved, as the never-ending debate over performance pay has ...


The Oklahoma legislature just OK'd (sorry, I couldn't resist) the certification of teachers through the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, a national alternative-route program. Nine states now support the credential, which is granted after candidates pass content-area and pedagogy tests. (The candidates get help and coaching from a pool of experienced teachers prior to taking the tests.) The states are Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Utah. The bill, in fact, passed the Oklahoma House unanimously, 99-0. I'm told that's the first time legislation to approve the program has ever passed without some ...


The Los Angeles Daily News has this story up about the school board's efforts to take a look at tenure, evaluation, and seniority-based bumping. Although these endeavors aren't expected to go anywhere, merely the fact that they have come this far seems to indicate a restlessness with how the current system works. The story says that parents have voiced concerns about the tendency of seniority-based layoffs to target young and probationary teachers. But at least one parent agreed that teachers had a legitimate concern about the changes. "Many parents feel the seniority should be revised but teachers need protection against ...


Remember that big hullabaloo in New York City last year when chancellor Joel I. Klein wanted to tie teacher-tenure decisions to student test-score growth? The union successfully lobbied the state legislature to prohibit the policy for two years while a study could be done on this data and its appropriateness for being included in these types of decisions. Well, as it turns out, lawmakers aren't even going to give the issue serious examination now, according to this AP story. I have requests for comments out to the New York City Department of Education and to the United Federation of Teachers. ...


At The Quick and the Ed, Chad Aldeman has an interesting post up about how steep salary schedules affect the ebb and flow of teachers into and out of the profession. I wrote a story not long ago about how most pay systems are "backloaded," with teachers earning degrees for longevity and for earning degrees, neither of which is particularly well correlated to teacher effectiveness. In other words, these systems reward veterans and those teachers who hold advanced degrees, regardless of whether those teachers are the most effective. They also exert pressure on teachers to stay in order to get ...


Just what kind of say will teachers and teachers' unions have on how the various stimulus dollars are spent, especially the $5 billion in competitive grants meant to spearhead new reform efforts? That was one of the main themes at a seminar held yesterday by the Albert Shanker Institute, a think-tank affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. For many of the union leaders, superintendents, and academics who attended the seminar, this was their first opportunity to hear about the stimulus directly from an Obama administration representative, Marshall "Mike" Smith. A few of the guests wondered aloud if the stimulus ...


Sharon Robinson, the president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, had some follow-up comments on this post, in which I wrote about how some states "gamed" the teacher-college accountability requirements in the Higher Education Act. Robinson has a different take: "Under the previous law, universities had to report passage of all graduates on state licensing exams, even candidates for licensure that had not completed the program. Under the new law, universities must report scores for those who have completed required course work. This change ... makes the implications of pass-rates more directly related to program quality and accountability. ... ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin A messy (and bizarre) certification case in Texas is fueling the fire for opponents of alternative-pathway programs with flexible requirements. See a previous article about this ongoing debate here. Lisa Ashmore received her bachelor's degree from Louisiana Baptist University—a school that is not accredited by the Texas Education Agency. She was, however, accepted by iteachTexas, an alternative-preparation company, and recommended for state certification after completing her required training courses. In 2003, the TEA approved her teaching certification. TEA recently discovered Ashmore’s unaccredited degree (in what was likely part of an audit of the ...


D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker just announced that a mediator will help settle differences over the shape of their contract. Kurt Schmoke, Dean of Howard University School of Law and former Baltimore mayor, will work to resolve "outstanding issues" on the table, according to an AFT statement. No word yet as to whether this means that that either the district or the AFT has declared a formal impasse—an event that triggers an arbitration process—or whether this is more of an informal conflict-resolution kind of ...


The National Governors Association just announced that it has selected six states to participate in a "policy academy" to create new methods for compensating teachers. Such methods could include performance-based pay, but also higher pay for teachers who: take on tough assignments; teach in shortage fields such as math and science; and assume "master" teacher roles. They would include a new type of alternative pay I haven't heard about before: "Retention" pay, a one-time boost for teachers that make it through the challenging early years of their teaching careers. A statement from the NGA says that the academy will pair ...


Here we go again. The Washington Teachers' Union/American Federation of Teachers is, apparently, running another poll about the contract D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee proposed last summer, and about the AFT's counterproposal. And, just as it was last summer, the union is being accused of push-polling. Without seeing the poll questions, it's hard to comment on this account of the poll. But, I have to say that I'm starting to really feel for the D.C. teachers that are stuck in limbo in the meantime. The clock is ticking......


My extremely talented colleagues are giving Teacher Beat a run for its money! Sean Cavanagh and Debra Viadero have must-read items about teachers up at their respective Ed Week blogs. Over at the brand-new and already very popular Inside School Research, Debbie looks at an updated study of Teach For America teachers with a comparison group. This study's methodology was questioned when it first came out, so its researchers incorporated a bunch of new data and re-ran the analysis. I won't spoil the results, but I will say that it's good news for TFA. Over at Curriculum Matters, Sean Cavanagh ...


From guest blogger Liana Heitin The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future just released a study indicating that half of our nation’s teachers could retire in the next 10 years and calling for districts to restructure their hiring practices. Check out the article I wrote about it for teachermagazine.org here. Predictions about en masse retirements come up every so often, and I tend to be wary when they are apocalyptic in scope. (NCTAF head Tom Carroll even warns of a “retirement tsunami.”) As Sam Dillon notes in The New York Times, the Department of Education made ...


The Washington Post has this story up about the new teacher-evaluation system that D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her team are devising. The story does a good job talking about the benefits and perils of a "value added" system that uses test-score growth to estimate teacher effectiveness, a model I've written about before. But it doesn't elaborate on one of the most interesting pieces Rhee has proposed: to use a system of "impartial master teachers" to observe and evaluate teachers' practices, rather than a principal. At a recent Washington event, Rhee gave a few more details about how this ...


Elizabeth Green over at Gotham Schools has a great item about a Queens charter school whose leaders say its union didn't give it the heads-up that charter schools are likely to have their funding cut in the state budget. Here's her kicker: "Most charter schools in New York City are not represented by teachers unions. ... But the union has fought to bring charter schools teachers into its fold. Their slow but steady inclusion has put the union in the tricky position of on the one hand lobbying for limits on charter schools, while, on the other hand, representing some charter ...


Andy Rotherham has a thoughtful post on the teacher-evaluation reporting proposal that the Education Department will soon be opening for public comment. Rotherham's worry, and it's a legitimate one, is that this new reporting requirement in and of itself won't have much of an effect: "Federal policymakers have tried that approach on a range of issues from higher education to teacher education to all manner of K-12 issues and it’s had little effect. The states are pretty good at gaming the data ... Besides, is the problem really a lack of information about the problems per se? I don’t ...


Chalk one up for the American Federation of Teachers. Just as things have gotten a bit dicey in AFT's bid to unionize charter schools in New York City, three Chicago charter schools—the Wrightwood, Northtown Academy and Ralph Ellison campuses of the Civitas Schools’ Chicago International Charter Schools—have served notice to state and district officials that they will unionize. Three-quarters of the teaching staff at the campuses signed authorization cards to be represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charters Teachers and Staff, an affiliate of the Illinois chapter of the AFT. The state law allows this "card-check" method of...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin For those who know a little about the Teacher Advancement Program but have had trouble discerning the nuances of the initiative (like me), take a look at Stephen’s recent article, which gives the best explanation I have seen. As poignantly noted, when people hear TAP, they often translate “performance pay”—yet the crux of the model is in the word “advancement.” For some teachers, the open-door policy and constant accountability that enforce the culture of advancement are too much to bear, so they leave—or self-select out. Could this be the answer to President ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin In this climate of rampant layoffs, most people are concentrated on finding ways to keep teachers in the classroom. Yet (and it seems hardly controversial to point out) not all teachers should stay. The St. Petersburg Times reports that when budget cuts are not an issue, firing a teacher can be more than a little difficult. Ron Matus of The Times tells the story of Roy Sachse, a tenured P.E. teacher in Florida with a history of inappropriate behavior. In one 18-month period, Sachse reportedly sent a note to a female student asking her ...


The stimulus guidance is up, and it contains what to me seems like a real jaw-dropper on the teacher-quality front. To receive their second cut of state stabilization funds, states will need to show they are capable of reporting the number and percentage of teachers and principals rated at each performance level under each local district's teacher-evaluation system. The federal government has, in the past, been very hands-off of teacher evaluation. I can see this being a real challenge on a number of fronts. First off, I'm not even sure how many districts keep computerized records of the results of ...


There seems to be a lot of interest these days in on-the-job teacher training provided through professional learning communities, or teams of teachers that meet to review student data and samples of student work and compare teaching strategies. Now some districts in Utah are rearranging their school schedules to give teachers paid time to work this way, according to this story. Two of the districts will start Fridays 60 to 90 minutes late, or end school early, to facilitate the common planning time. The story gives some great examples of how this kind of professional development can be utilized. Teachers ...


The Charleston Daily Mail has this interesting story about a bill in the legislature that would allow counties to conduct detailed interviews with teacher candidates before deciding to hire them. Right now, the story says, districts can only check to verify coursework and training. All other decisions are made on the basis of a checklist of teacher evaluations, qualifications, and seniority. The teachers' unions and a member of the Charleston school board both said the proposal would open the door to favoritism and nepotism by county boards of education. The teachers unions have vowed to fight the bill. But one ...


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