May 2009 Archives

NEA on the Attack Against TFA

Andy Rotherham has the scoop on an e-mail that the NEA reportedly sent out to its affiliates. Here's a sampling: "In all of the independent studies, more than 80 percent of TFA recruits have left teaching by year 4, just as they are beginning to become effective, costing districts about $20k apiece to replace them and adding to the high turnover rates in urban districts—which itself negatively affects school performance. The only studies that have found TFA recruits to be as effective as other teachers (including the recent Urban Institute North Carolina study they are touting—which was conducted...

Teacher Loan-Forgiveness Programs Curbed by Recession

So reports The New York Times in this article. The cuts apparently mean that young professionals who took out loans expecting them to be forgiven as they completed their first four or five years of teaching are basically stuck with them. The article also suggests that the Obama administration's move to end lender subsidies and to originate most student loans in-house could effectively shut down these types of teacher-loan programs. As I read this story, I couldn't help but wonder about the federal TEACH grants, which I wrote about here. Although called "grants," some experts say they really ought to ...

And in Other News...

Which of these two teacher-related stories is more bizarre: this gag one from the satirical paper The Onion, or this real-life one about Mary Kay Letourneau, who went to prison for the statutory rape of a student (whom she later married) hosting "Hot for Teacher" night at a Seattle nightclub?...

Has the Research on Formative Assessment Been Oversold?

Over the last decade, the teacher practice of using "formative assessments" has become a huge topic of interest. Though called assessments, in practice they're more like exercises teachers use to gather immediate feedback on whether a student is responding to an instructional technique, with reference to a particular curricular objective. Proponents say the practice has a strong research base showing it can dramatically improve student achievement. (And now that testing companies are labeling a lot of products as "formative," it's a big moneymaking endeavor, too.) But recently, some experts have suggested that it may be time to take a closer ...

Union Presence and Student Achievement

Over at Flypaper there's a bit of a debate going on about the presence of teachers' unions and student achievement. I've been to enough education policy discussions to recognize two common tropes on this topic. One argument runs along these lines: Student achievement tends to be lowest in the South, which has many right-to-work states that don't allow collective bargaining for public employees. The other argument, which is at the center of the Flypaper debate, notes that the nation's highest-performing state on national tests, Massachusetts, has laws and policies that are generally favorable to unions. Although such observations make for ...

Is N.Y.C. Prioritizing TFA for Hiring?

That's basically what American Federation of Teachers prez Randi Weingarten indicates in this letter to the district, reports Elizabeth Green at Gotham Schools. Although principals are supposed to be hiring new teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve pool of excessed teachers, schools can hire from other sources if they can't find a teacher of a high-need field from the ATR. In her letter, Weingarten intimates that the district is prioritizing teachers trained through alternative routes such as Teacher For America and New York City Teaching Fellows over traditional ed. school graduates. But a source just passed along an e-mail the ...

More Thoughts on TIF

Washington sources offer their take on the Obama administration's prioritization of the Teacher Incentive Fund over other federal teacher programs.

Weingarten Wants TIF Grants to Be Bargained

AFT leader Randi Weingarten is calling the bluff of President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan, who say incentive-pay programs should be developed with teachers.

AFT Affiliates, Districts Do "Mad Men"

Various AFT affiliates, as well as districts, are investing in advertising their services these days, especially in big cities where union and management alike have had their fair share of critics. And I'm not entirely sure I understand what the point of this advertising is.

A Kerfuffle in Seattle Over Reduced Teaching Days

Looks like the federal stimulus package may not be the cure-all for staffing flexibility that some thought. Tough talk is coming from both Seattle's superintendent and the teachers' union as the district proposes ways to cut expenses.

Klein Puts the Kibosh on Out-System Hiring

In an effort to trim the budget and avoid layoffs, New York City schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein is forcing principals to hire teachers from the controversial reserve pool.

The Unions and the Teacher Incentive Fund

I keep bugging Duncan's peeps about whether they're going to require these incentive-pay plans to be collectively bargained. Jo Anderson, a senior adviser at the Education Department, said that issue hasn't been worked out or decided on yet.

The FY 2010 Budget: The Teacher Elements

Lots of interesting teacher details in the Obama administration's newly released FY 2010 budget request. The biggest surprise here is a $517 million request for the Teacher Incentive Fund, which would give the program more than $700 million in all for next year if you include the stimulus funds. That's way more than the Bush administration was ever able to secure for the program. It looks like Obama is pretty serious about his calls for paying higher salaries to what he defines as excellent teachers. And the actual budget language contains a few additional tidbits. For one, it would expand ...

A Bundle of Performance-Pay Joy

Ed Week is beginning a new service: Packages of articles, commentaries, and chats on some of the top issues in education. The first one is on the hot-button topic of teacher performance pay. For $4.95, you'll get seven articles and two commentaries that our staff who are most knowledgeable about the subject put together. There's a great variety of material included. You can read about the latest research on whether performance pay works; what teachers think a good plan should incorporate; and what features proved successful for the Teacher Incentive Fund grantees as they set up their programs....

Teacher Effectiveness Debate in L.A. Heats Up

Questions about teacher tenure and the removal of ineffective teachers in Los Angeles are heating up, following this weekend's Los Angeles Times story. The story found that removing ineffective teachers in California is lengthy and extraordinarily costly (upwards of six figures in some cases), and that much of the time, a panel reversed decisions to let go of teachers anyway. Most teachers were fired only for egregious conduct, the story found. Now, school board officials are renewing efforts to get state legislators to review the laws that govern teacher removal. They face some opposition from Sacramento, where lawmakers say such ...

"Lost" in D.C.

Wow! There's no reason to watch "Lost" when you've got the D.C. contract situation, which is quickly becoming as byzantine and bizarre as the popular TV program. DCPS officials have detailed Washington Teachers' Union Vice President Saunders back to his school over some kind of paperwork snafus with the leave of absence union officials take when they work full time for the union. The rumors are flying fast and furious about who's to blame, with Saunders and others claiming that WTU President George Parker and D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee are both behind the transfer. Though you wouldn't know ...

Two Birds, One Stone

Arne Duncan weighs in on unions and charter schools. From his speech at the Education Writers Association: "Twenty-six states cap the number of charters and 10 other states have no charters. The President has called on every state to lift charter caps. And where unions are behind these efforts to impede charters we should certainly call them out but we shouldn’t demonize unions or blame them for all of the problems in education."...

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