August 2009 Archives

The findings, which follow on the heels of similar ones from Year I of the study, indicate that this "high quality" teacher induction has no impact on student achievement or teacher retention.


An association of teacher colleges calls for the Obama administration to judge education programs by different standards as part of the "Race to the Top" guidelines.


Parsing the NEA's comments on Race to the Top.


Here's a fascinating story out of Texas about districts gradually getting choosier in who they will accept as substitute teachers. Some districts, the story notes, now require applicants to hold a teaching credential. In the past, a GED or high school diploma and some relevant experience were the only real criteria. The phenomenon appears to be a direct factor of the market right now: There are just so many more applications for these jobs that the bar has gotten higher. I've come across a similar phenomenon in other districts. It didn't make it into my recent story about the math ...


Back in 2006, at the American Federation of Teachers' convention in Boston, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy made an appearance and absolutely electrified the delegates. AFT delegates are, generally speaking, a much quieter bunch than National Education Association delegates, but on this occasion, they leapt to their feet, swarmed the stage, and took pictures. With all the hullabaloo, I couldn't see anything except Kennedy's shock of white hair from where I sat in the press gallery. It took a good 20 minutes or so to get things settled down to the point where Kennedy could actually make his address. There's no ...


Colleague Mary Ann Zehr has a great blog item up about the Obama administration's push for using test scores for teacher-evaluation and -compensation purposes. Several academics are raising concerns about the idea, especially for teachers of English-language learners, she reports. Content exams, especially those given in English rather than in native languages, are not good measures of these students' abilities, they write. This is not a trivial issue, when you consider that perhaps only a third of teachers explicitly teach reading/English-language arts or math. What do you do in all the other content areas? What do you do for ...


Union members object to cost-cutting proposals by the financially beleaguered school district.


In sharply worded comments, the nation's largest union made clear it will oppose many of the core elements of the $4.35 billion fund.


An internal AFT newsletter suggests that AFT officials feel the Race to the Top's criteria are "overly prescriptive."


We're evidently headed to a lot of wrangling on this topic, given the focus on student-teacher data in the Race to the Top proposed criteria. So, once again Teacher Beat provides you with a cheat sheet to help you make sense of it. First off, we must start by assuming, as the federal government does, that it is appropriate to consider student achievement at least to some degree in evaluating teachers. (I fully realize there are people and groups out there who vociferously disagree. If you are one of them, I invite you to leave a comment below to tell ...


That's the subtext of this must-read blog item by colleague Mary Ann Zehr over at Learning the Language. Zehr profiles this GAO report, which found that many teacher training programs devote at least one course to techniques for working with students with disabilities, but far fewer—about one in five&mdash devote similar attention to English-language learners. One hopes that will change in the future, perhaps spurred by new reporting requirements in the Higher Education Act that require programs to set goals for increasing the number of teachers trained to work with SWDs and ELLs....


from guest blogger Lesli A. Maxwell California's budget is busted and school districts have had to let teachers go, but that's not keeping a new organization from pledging to deliver a bevy of new teacher talent to the state's public schools over the next 11 years. Today, an informal network of folks who oversee 70 separate alternative teacher certification programs around the state are launching a formal membership organization that aims to find top-notch professional people who want a second career in the classroom. Called the California Teacher Corps, the organization has one particularly lofty goal: grooming 100,000 new ...


The Gates Foundation has advanced five districts' teacher-effectiveness plans, part of the foundation's commitment to putting $500 million into researching the question of how to measure and promote effective teaching.


This morning I was perusing the comments that have been filed to date on the proposed guidelines on the Race to the Top grants, and was surprised to discover one from an administrator in Washoe County, Nev., who pointed to a section of the state code that appears to put it out of contention for RTTT funds. NRS 386.650 states that information in the state's longitudinal database ... "must be used for the purpose of improving the achievement of pupils and improving classroom instruction but must not be used for the purpose of evaluating an individual teacher or paraprofessional." I ...


The New York Times' Sam Dillon has a write-up of all the state action around changing laws in the hopes of qualifying for Race to the Top funds. There's not a whole lot of new news here if you've been reading this blog and Politics K-12. But buried near the end of the story is the tidbit that a key California state lawmaker is drafting legislative language to "clarify" the state's position on the linking of student and teacher data. Now, does that mean that officials are actively seeking to undo the state prohibitions on the use of the data? ...


From guest blogger Dakarai I. Aarons With the advent of technology, schools now have more data than ever available at their fingertips. That means everyone is jumping in enthusiastically to use it, right? Not so fast! In a brief released this morning by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the group says teachers are suffering from what some educators call the DRIP syndrome--data rich but information poor. The brief says "while student data is becoming more abundant, not enough teachers have access to training, support, and the structures needed to use data effectively." The Alliance's conference this morning on the topic ...


95 percent of core academic classes nationwide are taught by highly qualified teachers, Education Department data show.


This just in: The Providence Teachers' Union is suing to prevent Rhode Island officials from implementing a directive for schools to start implementing site-based hiring based on teacher-candidates' qualifications, not their seniority. Former state education Commissioner Peter McWalters made the order in the final months of his term. The lawsuit names new Commissioner Deborah Gist, Providence superintendent Thomas Brady, and school board head Robert Wise, The Associated Press reports. The district's collective-bargaining agreement requires staffing through the seniority process, which critics say leads to the mass "bumping" and displacement of teachers. PTU's lawsuit argues that the directive violates this agreement, ...


At first, I thought Mike Antonucci was reading a bit too far into this recent speech by David Sanchez, the president of the California Teachers' Association: "California law also doesn’t prohibit the use of student assessments in evaluating teachers, but if and how that is done is bargained at the local level. The CTA Board of Directors has already appointed a member and staff workgroup to guide our efforts throughout the reauthorization. CTA will also be making sure [the National Education Association] holds strong and does what’s right around [No Child Left Behind]." Antonucci sees this as pointed ...


The Education Department administers more than 50 programs that provide money to improve teacher quality, and many have never or rarely been evaluated.


Readers, It has been one year since the folks here at Education Week decided that it made sense to have a blog to cover the policy and politics of teachers. And what a year! It's been a huge learning experience for me. I've gotten some great reactions to it and "linky love" from bloggers whom I respect and obsessively read, like Gotham Schools' Elizabeth Green and Eduwonk, but also from teachers, administrators and union folks who write in and keep their own blogs. I appreciate hearing from all my readers, even those who have been critical of certain items (John ...


There was a bit of a mini-controversy in June when the New Teacher Project released its Widget Effect report. But it wasn't the report's overall thrust that did it. Pretty much everyone agreed that our current systems for evaluating and offering assistance to struggling teachers are crummy. The controversy was about the data on dismissals in one particular district: Toledo, Ohio. According to the district's personnel records, Toledo dismissed one tenured veteran and did not renew five novice teachers' contracts, the NTP reported. But what about the district's much-heralded Peer-Assistance and -Review model, a number of sources wrote me afterward. ...


As I travel and talk to teachers, they consistently tell me that one of their biggest frustrations is the testing under the No Child Left Behind Act. Such testing is largely dominated by multiple-choice questions, and teachers feel under pressure to "teach to the test" or prep students for these kinds of questions. As some of you know, in addition to covering teacher issues here at Education Week, I also track and write about the latest developments in student assessment. I just wrote a long story on researchers' ideas about how to improve assessment. The germ of this idea came ...


Over at Inside School Research, colleague Debra Viadero profiles a couple of must-read studies related to teachers. One of them, by Marguerite Roza at the Center for Reinventing Public Education, suggests that it's well nigh impossible to keep class sizes the same, keep all teachers employed, and continue to give all teachers their contractual "step" raises in a budget downturn. Since most districts spend about 80 percent of their costs on personnel and fringe benefits, something's got to give, Roza argues. One solution is to trim teachers' salaries in order to keep all teachers employed. In a second blog item, ...


I've finally had a chance to go through this internal National Education Association review of several affiliates' alternative-compensation models (hat tip to Mike Antonucci). It's worth checking out, although you'll have to read between the lines for the good stuff. Or you can just use this Teacher Beat Cheat Sheet (like, wow!). Solidarity vs. Collegiality: Among the most interesting findings related to the Denver Pro-Comp model. Members felt that the program eroded solidarity by dividing membership between those that opted into the system and those that chose to remain on a regular salary schedule. Yet at the same time, they ...


There was some interesting movement on the Teacher Incentive Fund last week, when the Senate appropriations committee took up the Labor-HHS-Ed bill. The senators inserted some new language that was not in the 2006 appropriations bill that first created TIF, a federal initiative for seeding alternative-compensation systems. According to the new language, grantees must now demonstrate that the performance-pay systems "are developed with the input of teachers and school leaders." That seems like a bone thrown to the teachers' unions, and it also appears to have assuaged some legislators who were on the fence about the program (read Alyson Klein's ...


A Minnesota law will allow teachers to found, lead, and manage new schools in which they'll have significant say over curriculum, budgeting, staffing, and special programming, according to this story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The schools will be authorized by local school boards and will be staffed with unionized teachers, who will establish the governing structure itself. For instance, they won't necessarily have a principal: Teachers might decide to select a leadership team to run the schools. The article quotes an official from the Minneapolis teachers' union, which has been laying the groundwork for such schools there, as saying that ...


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