July 2009 Archives

From guest blogger Dakarai I. Aarons: When an angry teacher confronted Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman about a "secret" job fair the district was having today, he laughed it off and said every job fair was public. "I can dispel the rumor,'' schools CEO Ron Huberman told the giggling crowd. "There are no secret teacher fairs. Any teacher fairs are public. Everyone is invited, and they are advertised.'' Turned out the joke was on Huberman. Those invited, who included Teach For America teachers and members of the district's teaching fellows program, were told not to share the information ...


The city's absent-teacher reserve pool has grown since April.


It's probably the oldest narrative in our field: A program or intervention works really well in one site. Then a district tries to implement it across multiple schools and it just ... doesn't seem to take root. Whether you term this problem a lack of fidelity of implementation, a failure to integrate reform into school culture, or my personal favorite, "scaling up is hard to do," it's particularly a problem with professional development. The research on PD suggests that teachers do benefit from school-based approaches, such as professional-learning communities, rather than workshops and the like. This type of professional development identifies ...


The blogosphere is absolutely buzzing about the data-firewall issue in the Race to the Top Fund. The administration's position seems pretty clear, and certainly Duncan has been vocal about it over the last few days. But we're seeing stakeholders in the three states that this seems to apply to—New York, California and Wisconsin—offer arguments for why their laws aren't really firewalls and why they should be able to compete for the funds anyway. I fully realize not all of you may be as fascinated by the complete geekiness of this topic, so I'll give you the Cliffs' ...


The alternative-certification program makes plans to sustain itself as its federal funding sunsets.


Perhaps no one but Teach For America will care about this, but a district court last week threw out an appeal in the Renee v. Spellings lawsuit over the "highly qualified" teacher provisions in the No Child Left Behind Law. The law requires teachers to be fully certified to be deemed highly qualified, but the U.S. Department of Education's subsequent regulations allowed teachers in alternative-certification programs to be deemed highly qualified if they were making progress in their program and were on track to hold a teaching certificate within three years. A California group sued ED, lost the first ...


The Education Department's approach makes it clear that effectiveness, not qualifications, is the new standard.


See Michele McNeil's story here. There are tons of juicy teacher-policy elements in the proposed application criteria that need to be analyzed, so keep with us tomorrow right here at Teacher Beat as we pick through it all. In brief, the application contains implications for policies on teacher-preparation program accountability, on the equitable distribution of teachers, and on using test scores as part of the criteria for making pay, promotion, tenure and evaluation decisions. The teachers' unions were hesitant to comment without seeing all of the details, which will appear in tomorrow's Federal Register. We'll update you as we get ...


Detroit schools financial manager is requiring 2,600 teachers at 41 schools being reconstituted to re-apply for their jobs—and gave them less than a week to do so.


Teacher Beat is now on the Twitterverse @TeacherBeat...


There are times when you know a story is going to upset a lot of people, such as this one I wrote this week on the cost of paying teachers more for earning master's degrees in education. Read the comments for a taste of the reaction, which ranges from anger (i.e., "The studies that show this are bunk because they're based on test scores"), to defensiveness, (i.e., "I paid for this degree and it made me a better teacher"), to frustration, (i.e., "OK, if ED master's don't correlate to improved student achievement, what does?!"). And it's true ...


The Baltimore Sun has an important story up about a dispute over teachers' pay and working hours in one of its Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools. In essence, the story examines a conflict between local law and the KIPP culture. In Baltimore, teachers in charter schools must belong to the local collective-bargaining unit. KIPP teachers, though they made about 18 percent more than other teachers, were working enough hours that they were eligible for about 33 percent more than their peers under the terms of the district contract. Now, the Baltimore Teachers Union is demanding that the district pony ...


Some interesting staffing changes out there in the many Washington-based teacher organizations. Over at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which administers the National Board Certification program, former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise (now of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a high school reform organization) will serve as the chairman of the board of directors. According to the release, Wise supported bonus pay for teachers who earn the advanced credential from the National Board, so this appointment makes some sense given that states are scaling back on such bonuses as a result of the financial crisis. And at the ...


Kansas is one of just a handful of states that have begun to create formal standards for "teacher leaders," pathways for such teachers to earn teacher-leader certification, and preparation programs in its teachers' colleges. Now, the state is pioneering another step in the process: a teacher-leader exam. The state will be working with Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service to develop the exam. It envisions using the test as a capstone of its teacher-leader-certification system. No details yet on what the test might look like, but one suspects it will probably take some cues from the performance-based teacher assessments ...


In this clip, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel gives his take on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's teacher-quality address....


from guest blogger Lesli A. Maxwell Leaders at California State University, which trains a whopping 70 percent of the state's teachers, are launching a new effort to prepare their teacher candidates to work in the most challenging school environments. To do that, the ambitiously-named CSU Center to Close the Achievement Gap, has identified nearly 250 high-poverty, high-performing elementary, middle, and high schools around the state that are achieving solid academic results. Some teacher candidates will be placed in those schools for their student teaching experience to see and try firsthand how to deliver instruction and manage classrooms filled with students, ...


Here's a clip from the National Education Association convention of President Dennis Van Roekel talking about what he thinks accounted for the varied reaction to charter schools among the delegates. (See here for details.) A couple of caveats about the video. First, Dennis' office at the RA was behind the stage and the lighting back there was terrible. Second, you'll have to ignore the "mood music"—a musician somewhere in the hall was playing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on the piano throughout the interview....


If unions are going to be challenged to consider uncomfortable ideas like reforms to teacher evaluation and pay, then Obama and Duncan must make good on their promise to involve unions in any school reforms, the AFT president says.


Providence, R.I., will implement site-based hiring rather than seniority-based hiring and "bumping" in six schools this year, according to this must-read story in the Providence Journal (see here for background.) Superintendent Tom Brady says that the city has over 500 applicants for just 75 positions, and many of the applicants come from private or suburban schools, the story notes. The entire district will move to the site-based hiring system in 2010-2011. Teacher applicants are interviewed by the principal, two teachers chosen by the principal, two chosen by the school improvement team, and a teacher leader. The New Teacher Project, ...


The California Teachers Association is going all out to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to waive Prop. 98, the minimum school funding law, to make up part of the state's $24 billion budget shortfall. See this story for details. The union delivered 10,000 postcards to the governor this week, collected while at the National Education Association's Representative Assembly in San Diego. (Not coincidentally, about that many teachers and educational-support personnel attend the RA.) Watch the press conference that CTA President David Sanchez held on the floor of the RA in this video. This isn't the first time CTA and ...


An Obama administration official has strongly hinted to New York state that it won't be getting any of the $5 billion in discretionary stimulus funding unless it does something about the law, supported by the state's teachers' unions, that prevents student test scores from being a part of tenure or other personnel decisions, reports Elizabeth Green Maura Walz at Gotham Schools (We regret the error.) In other states, this dough is becoming quite a tantalizing carrot for states and districts who are eager to qualify for Race to the Top and Innovation funds. We're seeing some significant state action on ...


A few wrap-up items from the NEA convention. —A reader pointed out that I goofed up on the number of the new business item discussed in this post. It was 69, not 70. (Thanks JB.) —Per this item, a few people have written in with the percentage of Teach For America teachers who go on to teach a third year. According to the folks from TFA, a Harvard study on corps members found that 61 percent remain in teaching beyond two years, 36 percent for more than four years. Find it here. —Per this item on NEA delegations'...


The outgoing general counsel emphasizes that the NEA is a union first and foremost and must represent its members.


The new head of the union's committee on the ESEA (aka NCLB) weighs in on its testing requirements and on the link between the federal law's renewal and the economic-stimulus package.


It's interesting how a huge democratic, deliberative body can take practically anything controversial and render it palatable to the majority. The original language of new business item 62 at this year's NEA Annual Convention would have mobilized the union against the "national standards movement" out of fear that it would lead to a national testing program. The item passed, but only after delegates substituted language that directs the union to engage in a dialogue with stakeholders about the national goals and ensure teachers are part of the dialogue. And who doesn't support that?...


The Stanford professor says she believes the Obama administration is committed to reforms done in partnership with teachers, not to them.


From Guest Blogger Dakarai I. Aarons American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has been gathering the roses as she prepares to step down at the end of the month from her position as president of the New York City based United Federation of Teachers, the largest AFT local. But at least one New York-based group is all too ready to see her go: editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal, who took to the pages today with a strident criticism of Weingarten's 11-year presidency (she's been a UFT staffer since the Reagan administration). The WSJ folks say Weingarten and ...


Those who control language control cultural power, the theory goes. In the long run, though, does the concept of these schools work?


More to come this afternoon, as I post details about an interview with the head of NEA's Committee on ESEA, and chat with the man of the hour himself, Dennis Van Roekel.


You can definitely see NEA President Dennis Van Roekel's inner teacher coming out at this RA. He's kept business running along at a pretty speedy clip, gently shutting down delegates who are meandering at the microphones, just as a good teacher might do to an overeager student. That might not seem like a big deal, but consider that this is Van Roekel's first time running an RA. It is not an easy balance to strike, to keep things moving while convincing a huge democratic, deliberative body that you're committed to open dialogue. We're now on new business item 52, and ...


There seems to be an awful lot of confusion among the 9,000 delegates at the National Education Association's Representative Assembly over how the Teach For America program works.


NEA President Dennis Van Roekel doesn't seem overly fond of the media.


The chair of NEA's committee on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Christy Levings (at right) gave an overview of the committee's 2009 report today. It lists the union's activities in the 2008 campaigns, its public policy initiatives and conferences, its media outreach, and recent analytical reports on the law.You can find it here (scroll down to "ESEA Committee 2009 RA Report.") After Ms. Levings finished, the normally mild-mannered NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, got more agitated than I've ever seen, as he called on delegates to get involved in efforts to lobby federal officials to change the law. "This...


NEA delegates may not always be fully informed about what they're voting on.


Debates over charter amendments reveal fissures between state affiliations, as well as potential conflicts with the Obama administration.


On a day when NEA leaders read from the speeches of civil rights' leaders in celebration of Independence Day, delegates debated bylaws that turned on free-speech issues.


The general counsel's knowledge of the union's bylaws, standing rules, resolutions, and national labor law is legend.


The New Mexico governor has given up on the idea that NCLB will be killed, but wants to see the law become more accommodating toward English-language learners.


He may not have Randi Weingarten's yoga arms, but NEA President Dennis Van Roekel apparently does have a pitching arm. He threw out the first pitch in a Padres game last night. (I'm working on getting you the video now.) UPDATE: Click here for the video....


Despite the California delegation's efforts, the union steered cleared of language that would have gone against Obama and Duncan's attempts to convert low-performing schools into charters.


In his first keynote before the Representative Assembly as president of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel plays up his role as the head of a "union," not just a professional organization.


How do you make sure you don't get lost in a crowd of 9,000 delegates? Wear your state-delegation T-shirt. It's become something of a tradition for each state delegation to wear specially designed shirts over the course of the Representative Assembly, especially on the first day. Some affiliates opt for a political design: This year, the California Teachers Association's shirt says "NCLB: Erase, rewrite, reauthorize" on the front and "Learning is more than a test score ... and so is teaching" on the back. The fun-loving Ohio Education Association picked bright Hawaiian-style shirts. (Given the design, at first I thought "OEA"...


The NEA may speak publicly with a single voice, but delegates have different views on policies, based on their reactions to the education secretary's speech yesterday.


While some saw the speech as "tough love" for the teachers' unions, the Obama administration clearly telegraphed its intentions to push hard on issues like performance pay, seniority, and tenure in the stimulus legislation, and that passed months ago.


The NEA's resolutions do not endorse any type of incentive pay other than bonuses for teachers who earn National Board certification. Delegates are a different story, and their reactions [to Duncan's speech] will be interesting to watch.


Today I head down to San Diego for the National Education Association's Representative Assembly, which begins in earnest on July 3. What will this year's NEA assembly bring? Without a doubt, we'll see plenty of debate on internal NEA policies. We'll probably continue to see the union criticize the No Child Left Behind Act: The union's ESEA Committee expected to make another report this session. We may even get a couple of interesting resolutions that highlight the union's sense of its own purpose and mission, as we did about private pre-K providers last year. This year also marks Dennis Van ...


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