June 2009 Archives

The University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research has a new study out on teacher turnover in the Windy City, and it's pretty grim stuff, according to this news story. In about 100 of the schools, over half the teaching force leaves every year, the report found. Also, small schools tend to exacerbate turnover compared to larger schools, the story says, in what could portend some problems for the city's Renaissance 2010 initiative in which smaller schools is one key strategy. The report also examines factors such as teacher qualifications, crime and safety, levels of parental engagement, and school ...


The District of Columbia public schools just announced that six teachers have begun a five-week fellowship in the central administrative office. They'll be scattered among a variety of divisions, including special education, data & accountability, and human capital. The press release says the initiative is designed to "ensure teachers' voices are always present in central decisionmaking at the central office." I'll be interested in hearing more about these teachers as they progress through their fellowships. Will they come with some notions about the administration that will be overturned? Or will those notions be reinforced? More than 150 teachers applied for the ...


As a reporter, it's always irritating to discover that another paper has beaten you to a story you've had in mind, in this case following a teacher through the peer-assistance and -review process. Nevertheless, this Washington Post article is a pretty thorough look at things in Montgomery County, Md., and includes a glimpse at the PAR panel that makes the call on whether to renew teachers or proceed with dismissal....


That could have been the title, anyway, of this Web site on peer-assistance and -review programs. Created by the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, the Web site is part of an ongoing research investigation that's being headed up by Susan Moore Johnson. It is probably the most extensive resource in existence on the PAR process, and contains all the research that the team has done. (You can find a summary report in PDF format on the Web page, but if you're interested in just one or two areas, try the tabs on ...


The perspective it offers is going to be challenging for pretty much everyone who's got skin in this particular game.


Finally putting on the record what has to have been just about the worst-kept secret in Washington (and New York City, for that matter), AFT President Randi Weingarten announced yesterday that she'll be stepping down as the head of the union's largest affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, on July 31. I was a bit amused to find that the UFT press release that celebrates Weingarten's tenure (and pending departure) is more than 1,500 words long and quotes from everyone you can think of, while the AFT press release announcing her intention to work full time for the parent ...


From Guest Blogger Lesli A. Maxwell Nine months after opening a charter high school together in the Bronx, Randi Weingarten, the president of the New York City teachers' union and the American Federation of Teachers, and Steve Barr, the founder of the Los Angeles-based Green Dot Public Schools, announced a three-year agreement for teachers that both leaders said should be a model for more union and charter collaboration. Gotham Schools has a copy of the contract here. The tenure-free New York contract is similar to those that Green Dot has with teachers in Los Angeles, though Barr said this week ...


Team R & R over at the Center for American Progress has a primer out on the Teacher Incentive Fund. Worth a look if you're not well versed in this federal performance-pay initiative, especially since the Teacher Incentive Fund is practically guaranteed to be one of the more hotly contested programs in the FY 2010 education budget....


In something of a nail-biter, the Connecticut legislature passed a bill in the waning days of a special session that will broaden some of the state's certification requirements. Like other states, Connecticut officials anticipate retirements in the near future and hope to attract more young teachers, as well as professionals seeking new careers. According to this editorial in support of the changes, there was quite a bit of back and forth on the bill. Among other items, the bill will expand the Teach For America program in the state, allow teachers of math and science to take content tests rather ...


The Washington community is abuzz about the chancellor's http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/18/AR2009061803844.html">latest move, which is to pare another 250 teachers from the city's teaching force. It's already engendered quite a bit of drama. Apparently, some forces within the Washington Teachers Union are seeking pro bono assistance to avert the layoffs. But one interesting thing here, it seems to me, is that these layoffs are not aimed just at veteran teachers. One of the rumors flying around last year during the contract drama accused Rhee of firing veterans to replace them with ...


I'll be hitting the road over the next three weeks to do some reporting out in my home state of California. For the first week, I'll be at the Council of Chief State School Officers' assessment conference, in Los Angeles. Look for some blog items on testing over at Curriculum Matters, in addition to posts here at Teacher Beat. I've even arranged for some guest-bloggers, so fear not: There will be plenty of juicy teacher-policy news for you. Now, with all this recent talk of the American Federation of Teachers and Randi Weingarten, you may be wondering what happened to ...


Five EdWeek reporters sat down with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten earlier this week over coffee for a wide-ranging conversation. I can't say there's any groundbreaking news to report as a result, but it was, nevertheless, a substantive conversation that yielded glimpses into Weingarten's thinking, especially on the Obama administration's recent moves. Overall, she said that she's optimistic that this administration will seek to work with teachers rather than imposing policy on them, a big break from the union's perception of things under George W. Bush. But, as always, these things come down to details, and there are ...


Our guest blogger Liana Heitin has been scooped up by another publication, so we must bid her a very sad farewell. I just want to thank her for all her posts on the blog, including this terrific scoop on the latest on New York City's absent-teacher reserve (ATR) pool....


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin After instituting an out-system hiring freeze, forcing principals to hire from within the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein may now be disclosing that he’s less than optimistic about the candidates available for hire. I recently heard whisperings that the Department of Education has begun the process of assigning ATRs to school placements, where they will be put on rosters as permanent substitutes. Why isn’t the DOE waiting until the end of the summer to see if these teachers find jobs? Since the ATRs are not assuming ...


Here's a fascinating story out of Pennsylvania about a cyber-school whose teachers will be represented by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate. (The school also happens to be a charter school.) The contract that comes out of all this could be instructive. Will it set an evaluation procedure for teachers that work totally online? What will professional development for these teachers consist of? Will there be a salary structure and due-process for dismissals?...


Cleveland has devised an interesting idea for the stimulus funds with its teachers' union and, apparently, the blessing of Randi Weingarten, who heads up the parent union, the American Federation of Teachers. The district will avoid about 100 layoffs by paying veteran teachers' salaries for two years while they serve as substitute teachers and coaches. They must agree to retire after that to avoid the stimulus "cliff" once the two-year funding runs out. Weingarten approves, the story says, because it's a way of tapping into the expertise of those veterans before they retire. And surely it's better for students, and ...


I'm told there was a bit of pushback on the concept of "comparability" in Title I schools at a recent New America Foundation event. In short, Title I funds are supposed to provide additional services for disadvantaged students, so districts must ensure "comparability" of resources between their schools with low and high concentrations of poverty before the dollars flow. But the Elementary and Secondary Education Act basically lets districts exempt teachers' salaries from this calculation. And since seniority provisions allow higher-paid, more experienced teachers to transfer to wealthier schools, there can literally be a difference of tens of thousands of ...


This story seems to be generating a bit of pushback from a bunch of different sides. Some were confused by the overall thrust of the layoffs. To clarify: yes, the district appears to be prioritizing non-career (nontenured teachers), but since TFA teachers generally have fewer than four years, the amount of time it takes to become tenured in Charlotte, there are some three- to four-year teachers who most likely will be let go ahead of the TFAers. A couple of commentators wanted more details on the cost, number, and breakdown of teachers who will be laid off. I wish I ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Today marks the two-year anniversary of Michelle A. Rhee’s appointment as chancellor of the D.C. public schools by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Take a look back at Alexander Russo’s blog post from this day in 2007. At the time she stepped into the position, Rhee was characterized as an “outsider” because she was entering from the nonprofit sector (also because she was young, female, Korean American, and TFA-bred, but the nonprofit angle was easier to explain away). Today, many would say the characterization still rings true, but for a different reason: Rhee ...


Alyson Klein reports that Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin is one of the top candidates in the running as the ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee now that Howard "Buck" McKeon is headed over to the Armed Services Committee. It's an important pick, because whoever gets the nod will ultimately be one of the key negotiators on the next version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Here's one interesting factoid about Petri: He's been the leading House member pushing for congressional authorization of the Teacher Incentive Fund, the performance-pay program that the Obama administration wants to ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Less than two months after Arizona school districts issued 7,000 pinks slips, in compliance with state regulations to notify employees whose contracts were not being renewed, some teachers are reclaiming their jobs. Though the state budget has not yet been passed, school officials say the budget shortfall will likely be $2.5 million less than expected and that retirements and resignations have opened up positions. The superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, however, interprets the recalls differently: He claims that districts overestimated the budget deficit as a political move to prevent legislators from making ...


Not long ago, I did a story pointing out that some states have passed laws that basically prohibit the linking of student- and teacher-data systems. New York and California are the high-profile examples. Presumably, these data could inform a variety of different initiatives, both low- and high-stakes: performance-based pay, teacher evaluations, tenure decisions, professional development, and the determination of which teacher colleges produce the strongest graduates. Now, it looks as though dismantling these firewalls might be a prerequisite for qualifying for "Race to the Top" discretionary funds, reports my colleague Michele McNeil over at Campaign K-12. Education Secretary Arne Duncan ...


The New Teacher Project had a really interesting study out not long ago on teacher evaluation that found that pretty much all teachers get high ratings on local evaluation instruments. This is something of a portent for things to come, since one of the stimulus assurances will probably deal with this piece of data. See my write-up of the TNTP study for additional details and some feedback from teachers, union officials, and so forth. One interesting element in the report that I didn't include in my story has to do with where these records are kept. Of the 12 districts ...


Columbus has inked a new teacher contract with a pay program that's designed to move highly effective teachers into challenging schools, according to this story (hat tip to Emmy over at Flypaper.) After reviewing student growth data, a principal's recommendation and an application, the district superintendent will invite select teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools and receive a $4,000 annual pay bonus. The story says that the new contract also ties bonuses under a separate performance-pay initiative to the value-added data. I'm a little surprised to see that the local union approved this plan, since the pay raises it ...


The Obama administration just ran into its first major roadblock in its attempts to more than quadruple the $97 million Teacher Incentive Fund program: Soccer-mom-turned-Senator Patty Murray, of Washington.


How about that headline for alphabet soup? I've been getting a lot of mail on two recent blog items about the hiring of teachers in difficult times, and some of the concerns that unions have. Some of the comments are worth additional discussion, so I'm going to share them here. In this item, I asked someone to explain the logic of laying off veterans and hiring Teach For America types. A couple of people, including commentator "Chris" below, directed me to this story out of North Carolina. The story says that Superintendent Peter Gorman plans to cut about 400 teachers ...


Alabama teachers must be cheering. The Yellowhammer State is the latest to discard some of its norm-referenced testing, according to the Birmingham News. I wrote a longer story last month about this trend. Interestingly, though, I found that while states were starting to pare standardized tests that didn't count toward NCLB, districts seem to be hanging on to their "benchmark" tests—tests that they use to determine whether kids are on track to passing the end-of-year NCLB tests. Tell us what's happening with testing in your district. Are you seeing cuts or is testing being preserved?...


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