November 2009 Archives

A Washington superior court judge has backed Chancellor Michelle Rhee in a dispute with the Washington Teachers' Union over layoffs. The union sought a preliminary injunction that would essentially have required Rhee to reinstate teachers who were laid off supposedly due to budget cuts while other legal claims worked their way through the District of Columbia school system. In essence, the union said that Rhee hired hundreds of young teachers over the summer, more than the district could pay for, thus forcing a later need to make cuts. Because of a series of administrative rulings in the late 1990s, layoffs ...


Betsy Hammond at the Oregonian turns in a great story about how the state legislature plans to take up a measure to overturn a 1923 law that prohibits teachers from wearing religious clothing or symbols, such as yarmulkes, crosses or headscarves, in the classroom. I'll admit to not knowing that this was prohibited in Oregon, much less anywhere else in the United States. But as it turns out, two other states also disallow teachers from wearing such symbols in the classroom, Hammond writes. Clearly, the lines between freedom of expression and freedom of religion are thin and difficult to negotiate ...


I'm a bit behind in writing up this report on teacher evaluation. But as this topic is likely to be on the national scene for a while, I expect you won't hold it against me. The report, from the Hope Street Group, was put together with input from teachers, not just policy folks, an important thing to keep in mind as these new systems are developed. It has a great overview of the different issues at play, and ultimately, it recommends that both objective measures (value-added data, student work, teacher-generated growth goals a la Teach For America) and observational measures ...


U.S. Secretary of Arne Duncan has been praising Louisiana's model for using "value-added" data to gauge the strengths of its various education programs, but it looks like a bunch of other states are coming on board, too. First, we heard that Texas had plans to do something similar, also using value-added data. And now there's this story from Ron Matus in the St. Petersburg Times that says that Florida is using data from the state test to gauge whether at least 50 percent of each training program's graduates are helping their students to grow a year or more on ...


Just 20 days after its previous contract with New York City expired, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew is signaling that he doesn't think the union will easily reach agreement with the city on a new one. The union's delegate assembly agreed to his request to declare impasse if talks don't improve, GothamSchools reports. After impasse is declared, the contract moves toward mediation. If that fails, it moves to "fact finding," in which an independent board makes recommendations for reaching a pact. GothamSchools notes that fact-finding has backed the union on a couple of issues in the past. In ...


This story by the Boston Herald brings up a lot of relevant issues about the structuring of incentive-pay programs. In essence, the program in question would give AP teachers bonuses based on the number of students who earn passing scores on the test. But the union thinks that all teachers should share in the payout. There is a lot of requisite finger-pointing on both sides, and the reporter refers to "union grinches." (Bet you didn't know that even journalists are getting into the Christmas spirit early, too.) One of the things that I hear a lot from my union sources ...


Federal legislation would expand a program that encourages ex-military officials to shift into the classroom.


You may remember that I moonlight as Education Week 's assessment reporter in addition to covering teacher issues. Right now, I'm in Boston covering the U.S. Department of Education's first public forum on the $350 million that it'll be putting toward consortia of states that create common assessments aligned to common reading and math standards. The panelists are having very rich conversations on everything from how to use technology to improve what cognitive skills can be measured to how to structure consortia that work together effectively (do you need an executive director?). Yesterday, though, much of the conversation focused ...


The final Race to the Top guidelines are here! There are some interesting new details on the effective-teacher policies. And of the four pillars or "assurances" in the economic-stimulus legislation, teacher effectiveness, it turns out, gets the most weight (28 percent) in the scoring process. Let's dig in. The first thing I noticed here is that it is not an absolute requirement that states gain teachers'-union approval of the state RTTT proposals. As colleague Michele McNeil writes in her story this morning, teachers' unions are just one of a number of stakeholders that states are supposed to get to sign ...


Some critics think Wisconsin's effort to tear down a data "firewall" is too timid.


I'm swamped again on some long-term stuff but my wonderful colleagues have some important teacher-related stories. • Read Lesli Maxwell's write-up of the Strategic Management of Human Capital report here. • Catherine Gewertz highlights the lack of research about high school instruction in this story. • And Debbie Viadero has a must-read item up about new research on a Texas performance-pay program. Second, the mail has been pouring in on this blog item about the SHMC report. (Reminder: I love getting direct mail from readers and I encourage you to send it. But don't forget that your thoughts get out to a lot ...


The Strategic Management of Human Capital initiative released a report today outlining new strategies for attracting, developing, and maintaining an effective teacher workforce, and in doing so, has managed to really tick off Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers. She calls the report "top down" and "disrespectful" of teachers and unions. UPDATED: Here is the link to the report. Among the recommendations, the report says states and districts should raise entry requirements for teacher preparation; institute a tiered licensure system requiring teachers to complete an induction program and demonstrate teaching effectiveness before receiving tenure; and overhaul professional development ...


Two recent news stories illustrate nicely two ways of looking at teacher preparation: an "output"-oriented view of teacher preparation that focuses on student achievement, and an input-oriented one that focuses on credentials and curriculum. Texas is looking to institute a state system for approving schools of education that puts a heavier focus on teacher effectiveness. It sounds very similar to Louisiana's system, which tracks graduates of teacher-training programs into their classrooms to gauge their ability to boost achievement. Indiana officials, on the other hand, are duking it out over proposed regulations that would allow for more alternate-route teaching programs, ...


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