September 2009 Archives

Rep. George Miller and the NEA: Round Two

The education committee chairman puts the union on notice that he believes it has shifted its position favorably toward a federal performance-pay initiative and contract waivers on teacher distribution.

Ga. Cuts National-Board Certification

Here's a story that could be a portent of things to come: Georgia is starting to cancel pay bonuses for teachers who have earned advanced certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The story does a good job of laying out the various issues, including the recent debates about the effects of the credential on student achievement. But there's another, broader issue lurking in all of this. When compensation bonuses—whether the National Education Association-friendly national-board certification or some other measure based on test scores—are layered on top of an existing salary schedule, rather than integrated...

Unions Differ On "21st Century Skills"

In this blog item, colleague Sean Cavanagh noted that the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are on opposite ends of the "21st-century skills" debate. (NEA is one of the partnership's founding members; AFT challenges the effort, per this letter.) This is a curious split, and it's even curiouser when you consider that AFT was initially on board with the notion of 21st-century skills. In early reports from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, or P21, the main advocacy body promoting such skills, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese was listed as a P21 board member. Now, she's on ...

Roundup of Teacher-Related News

Roundup of last week's major teacher-quality stories.

Teacher Beat Goes on Vacation, But Will Be Back Sept. 28!

I'll be taking a few days off to visit family, so you probably won't hear too much from me next week. While I'm gone, keep up the great commenting on teacher effectiveness (which I've decided is such a complex issue that trying to make sense of it runs second in difficulty only to trying to make sense of airline frequent-flyer rules). Additionally, the Teacher Beat page will be down on Saturday, Sept. 19, as the tech folks move us over to a new system. It should be back up on Monday. While I'm out, I'll be sitting in on some ...

Study Examines Fla. ABCTE Candidates' Impact on Achievement

A study on a small group of teachers who earned ABCTE certification in Florida found that students taught by these teachers held their own in English language-arts, but were weaker in math.

UPDATED: Unionized Boston Charter Will Decide New Pay Structure

Here's another feather in American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten's cap: A Boston school and the union's Massachusetts affiliate have approved the state's first charter school contract. And in an example of the innovative labor-management ideas Weingarten asserts such arrangements can breed, the contract will allow teachers and administrators in the Conservatory Lab Charter School, in Boston, significant autonomy over how pay decisions are made. The details of the differential pay program will be hashed out during the 2009-10 school year by a committee of teachers and administrators formed to come up with the pay plan. Teachers will get ...

NEA to Spend $6 Million for Teachers in High-Needs Schools

The National Education Association plans to put $6 million over six years into "comprehensive strategies and policies to increase teacher effectiveness in high-needs schools." The funds will be focused on four strategies outlined in this paper, authored by Barnett Berry, the president of the Hillsborough, N.C.-based Center for Teaching Quality. Among Berry's major recommendations, states and districts should focus on comprehensive initiatives to lure teachers to hard-to-staff schools and ensure that they grow in effectiveness while there. In other words, don't just stick performance pay in alone and expect it to work. Berry puts it this way: "Pay ...

Teachers and Common Standards

With all the chatter about common standards, I've been wondering how a set of agreed-upon standards would affect teachers and assessments, my primary coverage areas here at Ed Week. I wrote a little while ago about some possible implications for testing. But I'm really in the dark about what it will mean for teachers. So, teachers, tell us, what's it like to go through the process of having your state standards overhauled? Were you supported in helping to make sense of them? Were you given updated tools and curricula? And what do you make of the conversations around common standards? ...

Abusive Practices in Recruiting Teachers from Abroad

You may have heard heard of districts that hire a good portion of teachers from foreign countries like India and the Philippines. Many of these teachers come seeking the opportunity to win higher salaries here than they could in their native countries, and many have proven to be successful teachers. The Baltimore Sun did quite an interesting story a few years back on the large influx of Filipino teachers to that metropolis. But there's a seedy side to this practice, too, and the American Federation of Teachers brings it to light in a deeply disturbing report on the practice of ...

Ed. Dept. Official Says Teacher Evaluations Shouldn't Rest on Test Scores Alone

The language in the draft Race to the Top guidelines is fairly vague on this point.

UPDATED: Some Academics Push Back on Teacher-Student Link in 'Race to the Top'

It isn't just the teachers' unions that are nervous about the draft guidelines for the Race to the Top. I've been making my way through the thousands of Race to the Top comments, and there are a handful from some academics who argue that there isn't a strong enough research base to support the use of "value added" data for decisions involving teachers. The inclusion of such measures in the Race to the Top guidelines appears to fly in the face of the Obama administration's promises to fund research-based approaches in the Race to the Top, these scholars contend. Helen ...

NCTQ Reviews Math-, Reading-Teacher Prep in 3 States

Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico get the National Council on Teacher Quality's green-eyeshade review of their teacher-preparation programs. The Washington-based group rates the programs on their degree of selectivity, exit standards, and how well they prepare teachers to teach reading and mathematics, according to principles laid out in two earlier reports. (Those reports, it should be noted, were a bit controversial in and of themselves. For example, the council asserted that reading pedagogy should align with the 2000 National Reading Panel report findings, better known as "scientifically based reading research.") NCTQ is mostly underwhelmed with what's going on in those ...

Boston's First Union-Run Public School Ready for Business

A teacher-run public school (take note: not a public charter school) is poised to open its doors in Boston this year as one of the few such schools in the nation. The school is run by two teacher-leaders rather than a single principal. According to a release from the Boston Teachers Union, the union agreed with the Boston school board to waive some contract provisions for "greater flexibility," although it doesn't specify what they are. A few other states, notably Minnesota, are also interested in a similar concept, per my earlier blog entry here. In that state's case, the schools ...

UPDATED: Unions Respond to Obama Speech Controversy

I checked in with officials at both teachers' unions to get their sense of the Obama back-to-school speech brouhaha. The National Education Association's director of education policy and practice, Kay Brilliant (who surely has the best surname in the field since Margaret Spellings), said the union supports the thrust of personal responsibility, persistence, goal-setting, and achievement the president will discuss. "I just find this whole thing amazingly curious," she told me. "I think we're disappointed that [the controversy] has taken on a political tone. We think this is an important issue, and as far as we can tell, it's a ...

Philly Teachers Quit Days Before School Starts

There are some things that just make you go "huh?" According to this AP story, a whole bunch of teachers in Philadelphia are quitting or planning not to show up for their first week of school. More than 110 resigned this week; others have put in for long-term sick leave. District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman is not happy, calling the missing-in-action behavior "very unprofessional." Teachers' union President Jerry Jordan said that it's not unusual for teachers to choose among different job offers before school begins. Part of me thinks this must have something to do with Ackerman's intentions to overhaul hiring ...

Indiana Licensure Overhaul Promotes Content, Alternative Routes

With all this wrangling over teacher effectiveness and the best ways to measure it, you'd be forgiven for thinking we'd all moved on from old teacher wars (traditional vs. alternative certification, content vs. pedagogy) to the new ones. Well, think again. In Indiana, the state's professional-standards board advanced a plan to overhaul the state's licensing system. The proposal would require teachers to pass a basic-skills test before entering a preparation program and to take more content coursework. It also would allow mid-career professionals to become teachers and administrators by passing tests rather than completing programs. But it's caught a lot ...

Congressional Black Caucus Pushes for Teacher Equity

Remember those "teacher equity" provisions in No Child Left Behind? If your answer is no, you're probably not alone. The law requires states to put plans into place to ensure that poor and minority students aren't disproportionally taught by out-of-field, unqualified, or inexperienced teachers. The states all submitted the required plans in 2006. But there's been precious little news about their implementation since then. In the economic-stimulus legislation, Congress took another whack at the issue by requiring states receiving recovery dollars to comply with the teacher-equity provisions. Now, nine lawmakers on the Congressional Black Caucus are taking EdSec Arne Duncan ...

Four Must-Reads on Teachers

A potpourri of teacher coverage today from EdWeek.

"Obama Effect" Aids Merit-Pay Push

Education Next has a fascinating new survey on the "Obama effect" (full coverage from Education Week here). About 43 percent of Americans said they supported basing part of a teacher's salary on his or her students' progress on state tests. But, when told about Obama's support for the systems, 13 percent more of the public favor the idea. Increases also appeared among these key groups: • Support increased among African-Americans by 23 percentage points (to 55 percent). • Support among Democrats increased by 15 percentage points (to 56 percent). • Among teachers, support rose 19 percentage points (to 31 percent). Teachers ...

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