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March 2010 Archives

Turnaround-Inspired Teacher Firings on Tap in Ga.

It's Central Falls all over again! Savannah, Ga., will remove all the teachers in a high school and hire back no more than half the staff, per the terms of the Obama administration's School Improvement Grants, the Atlanta Constitution reports. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel is pretty worked up about it: "This is a disturbing trend that will take communities across this country down a dangerous road," he said in a statement. "NEA is committed to transforming our nation's struggling schools, but this method is short-sighted and could have disastrous outcomes for students." I'm beginning to think we're ...


Hawaii Gov. Nixes Union-Board Furlough Plan

The Hawaii board of education and state teachers' unions have come up with a plan to end that state's by-now infamous teacher furloughs. But Gov. Linda Lingle will reject the plan, according to this story, because of one major sticking point. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 30 million of them, because that's how over-budget the union-board proposal is, Lingle asserts. Essentially, the union-board plan would bring back all school personnel rather than the bare-bones staff that Lingle is willing to fund. And the governor is not happy that educators have spent time crafting an alternative. "For ...


Stimulus Package Saved Teacher Jobs, Scholars Say

The Center on Reinventing Public Education has an important new analysis out on jobs data and the stimulus. The bottom line: Although K-12 employment dropped by about 1.4 percent from 2009 to 2010, the federal economic-stimulus law paid for about 342,000 jobs over that time period, or 5.5 percent of total K-12 employment. In other words, it appears that the legislation did, in fact, save a significant number of teachers' jobs. In all, the paper says, about 87,000 jobs were lost last year, in what is only the second decline ever in K-12 overall since 1993. ...


Health-Care Reform: Implications for Teachers, ESEA

So what, you ask, are the implications of the health-care reform bill for education? Well, the main one is that as part of the way to lower the bill's overall costs, high-cost health insurance plans, sometimes called "cadillac" or "gold plated" plans, will be subject to an "excise tax." Many unionized employees, including teachers, have over the years traded higher compensation for better benefits, so this provision stands to affect probably a good number of them. The teachers' unions, along with organized labor on the whole, lobbied hard to get rid of this provision. They didn't manage to accomplish that ...


Designing a Data-Friendly Environment for Teachers

Newark, N.J., is moving ahead to try to get information on student performance into teachers' hands in a nonthreatening way. And it's got a partner in the American Federation of Teachers. That's according to a release from the district, where schools are creating a data "urgent care" room in each school. In these rooms, the student data will be displayed prominently, and teachers can meet there to review and use them to plan how they'll shape upcoming lessons. The AFT also helped to craft a training course on the use of data, which the local affiliate will work to ...


Audience Debate Puts Unions in Spotlight

Well, this is interesting. Intelligence Squared U.S., the originator of a live debate series that's aired on NPR and on Bloomberg television, recently had folks like AFT president Randi Weingarten and scholar Terry Moe, a critic of unions, go head to head over this resolution: "Don't Blame Teachers' Unions for Our Failing Schools." The program consists of a debate by several panelists, some who support the resolution at hand and others who don't. The audience's reaction is polled both before and after the debate, and compared to see which "side" made the most compelling case. You can see a ...


Teachers, Unions, and the NCLB 'Blueprint'

As you no doubt already know, the Obama administration finally revealed its blueprint for ESEA reauthorization. Much of what's in the blueprint EdWeek has already reported based on a close reading of the FY 2011 budget documents and stimulus bill. For instance, over a month ago I noted the proposal in the budget for all states to create a definition of an "effective teacher," based partially on student scores. Second, you can read all about the new teacher-quality programs in this story, including the plans to put revamped teacher evaluations at the center of the Title II state grants program. ...


Experts Urge Creation of 'America's Teacher Corps'

A high-powered panel of teacher-quality experts released a paper this morning proposing a new federal program called America's Teacher Corps that they claim would recognize the best teachers, reduce interstate barriers to teaching, increase access of students in high-poverty school to highly effective teachers, and make the profession more attractive to newcomers. The paper's authors include some of the biggest names in teacher-effectiveness research and evaluation: Steven Glazerman, an analyst with Mathematica Policy Research; Dan Goldhaber, a researcher at the University of Washington; Susanna Loeb, a professor at Stanford University; Douglas Staiger, from Dartmouth University; and Grover Whitehurst, former director ...


Florida Advances Bill on Tenure and Pay Reform

Legislators in Florida have advanced a bill that, if passed, would make aggressive changes to tenure law and would shift the entire state away from teacher pay based on credentials and longevity. Rather than a formal tenure law, the state has a rather odd distinction between annual contracts for teachers that must be renewed every year and continuing contracts for teachers after year three, at which point it's harder to dismiss teachers. The bill would put all teachers on annual contracts and, after a teacher's fifth year in the district, would award such contracts only to teachers in the top ...


NEA Co-Opts AFT's "Collaboration" Mantra

So is it just me, or has the National Education Association been banging the labor-management "collaboration" drum a lot these days? After all, that's Randi Weingarten's line! Or at least, it's been one of the AFT president's most consistent themes over the last year and half of her tenure at the helm of the national union. Now take a look at this recent NEA press release: "Educators must have a say in what it takes to improve low-performing schools. ... When all education stakeholders are involved in the decisionmaking process, it spells success for students. This combination of collective responsibility and ...


Lessons on Teacher Evaluation From Charter Schools

The Center on American Progress released three papers yesterday on different aspects of teacher effectiveness. I'll be writing a bit about them over the course of this week (We Read So You Don't Have To!), but they're all worth checking out. First up is a fascinating look at charter school evaluation policies, written by Heather Peske, formerly of the Education Trust and now at Teach Plus, a group that works to connect teachers to education policymaking, and Morgaen Donaldson, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut's Neag School of Education. Charter schools typically have fewer rules and constraints and ...


Calling All Teachers: Your Voice Wanted on Common Standards

So reports Catherine Gewertz over at Curriculum Matters. Apparently, the groups leading the common-standards effort particularly want input into whether the new grade-level standards, which will be released this week, are "teachable." Catherine makes a good point, however, in noting that teachers' comments on the proposals will be summarized rather than made broadly accessible, as they are for the federal-regulatory process. Why is that? Good question....


Better Educated Teachers Needed for Early Ed., Study Suggests

The early-ed initiative PreK Now, a project of the Pew Center on the States, just put out this report on early-childhood education and teacher preparation. Studies suggest, it says, that teachers with bachelor's degrees and specialized training in early education are more effective than those educators who don't hold such credentials. In other words, it's not enough to be good with kids or to like working with them; teachers benefit from specific training. Another finding: States are all over the map in terms of how much training they mandate. Some states require no more than a high school diploma, while ...


R.I. Teacher Drama May Be Nearing Conclusion

It looks like the teachers and administrators in Central Falls, R.I., are back at the bargaining table to work out a plan for transforming the school. Jay Mathews at the WaPo apologizes for missing the 50 percent teacher-rehiring clause in a recent column. But he's not the only one who made this error; it's been missing in a lot of the national coverage. It took me three posts on the R.I. situation before I brought it up, an omission I made out of the (incorrect) assumption that it was common knowledge that staff-reconstitution policies, including these federal school ...


L.A. to Lay Off Teachers, as Seniority Questions Mount

Everyone is all a-twitter (ha!) over the Race to the Top Finalists. But there's another approaching phenomenon that has the potential to affect as many teachers as RTTT, if not more: Layoffs. Exhibit A: Los Angeles has sent out pink slips to 5,200 teachers. Some of those jobs could be saved if the district and the union reach agreement on alternatives, like furloughs or salary cuts. But it looks likely that some teachers will get the axe. Unsurprisingly, analysts are taking a closer look at last-hired, first-fired layoff policies. The National Council on Teacher Quality, anticipating a flurry of ...


AFL-CIO Backs R.I. Teachers; Union Files Labor Complaint

The local teachers' union, meanwhile, has filed an unfair labor-relations complaint with the state labor-relations board, saying that Superintendent Frances Gallo didn't bargain in good faith with the union.


UPDATED: Obama Gets Involved in R.I. Teacher-Firing Drama

This Central Falls, R.I., situation just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Here's a new petition organized by the union protesting the situation. Now President Obama has gone and waded into the controversy by saying he supports Sup. Jane Gallo and State Sup. Deborah Gist in their bid to fire all the personnel in the struggling high school. "So if a school is struggling, we have to work with the principal and the teachers to find a solution. We've got to give them a chance to make meaningful improvements. But if a school continues to fail its students year after ...


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