April 2010 Archives

Financial Roadblock Stops D.C. Contract

The District's chief financial officer told the city council this morning he can't certify the contract as fiscally sound because the city hasn't been able to prove it can pay for the contract.

Texas Ed School Study Highlights Disparate Preparation

The National Council on Teacher Quality's big review of 67 Texas education schools is finally out. In what will no doubt drive headlines in the Lone Star State, the report says that eight large programs that prepare a significant number of teachers are in need of some serious attention. They are Lamar University, Midwestern State University, Our Lady of the Lake University, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, and Texas Woman's University. Lest you think NCTQ is all about criticism, the council also found four programs it deems worthy of commendation: Dallas Baptist University, Southern Methodist ...

Next Installments in D.C., R.I. Teacher Dramas

Like sands through the hourglass! Here's the next installment in some of the top teacher dramas making their way through the newsfeed: • The Rhode Island Central Falls situation (your favorite noun here, I'm going to go with mess) is going to court, with the teachers' union alleging that the district didn't follow state law and local-bargaining provisions on terminations. • The District of Columbia's chief financial officer may not certify the tentative D.C. contract over concerns that the district has a shortfall and wouldn't be able to cover its share of the cost of teacher raises, and that the private...

Senators Reintroduce Professional-Development Bill

Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., George LeMieux, R-Fla., and Sharrod Brown, D-Ohio, last week introduced a bill to overhaul the definition of "professional development" in the current ESEA. This may seem like peanuts compared with all the wrangling going on about school improvement and accountability, but considering that that definition is supposed to guide spending under Title I (disadvantaged students) and II (teacher quality) in the law, it's a potentially significant move. The new definition would be much more specific than the former one in spelling out that federally funded professional development must take place during the regular school day ...

More Unions Bow Out of Race to Top

You can tick off a few more state-union squabbles about the second round of the Race to the Top. Indiana officials are no longer moving forward, citing the state union's opposition to the program as a factor. The Colorado Education Association, a supporter of the state's previous Race to the Top bid, now formally opposes a tenure-reform bill that lawmakers want to pass to improve their chances at winning. Support from Minnesota's state union seems unlikely, given disagreements over the teacher sections of the state's plan. A lack of "collaboration" is the big term of art for why these unions ...

Minn. Union Head in Hot Seat Over Seating

You'd think that people would've learned by now that appearances are nine-tenths of the game in politics. Strangely, an official of Minnesota's state teachers' union was placed at the same table as legislators at a recent hearing on the state's Race to the Top bid, not with other witnesses. Republicans on the committee flipped out, proclaiming it a sign of the union's undue influence on education policy. Education Minnesota chief Tom Dooher didn't ask any questions of the lawmakers, according to news reports, and claims that he didn't know where he was to be seated until he arrived in the ...

Forthcoming NCTQ Report Already Controversial

The National Council on Teacher Quality hasn't released its big study of education schools in Texas just yet—it's due out later this month—but traditional prep programs in the Lone Star State are already on the defensive. News reports about preliminary ratings have been trickling out since last fall. Now, NCTQ has an FAQ up on its Web site to put out its reasoning behind the report, its standards, and the methodology the council used to collect and analyze the information. "During the process of conducting this study, quite a few schools started to ask questions about about what...

The Incredible Shrinking D.C. Surplus

So just how much cash does the District of Columbia's school system actually have? Good question, and there's a big interagency fight here in town going on to get to the bottom of it. You may remember that last year that the district's school system cited a huge budget deficit to justify the layoffs of over 260 educators. The Washington Teachers' Union claimed that the deficit was being contrived by the district, but lost a court case arguing to have those teachers reinstated. Then, Chancellor Michelle Rhee stunned the D.C. council this week—and incensed the union—by saying...

N.Y.C. to Close 'Rubber Rooms'

The New York Post has the scoop that the city and the United Federation of Teachers plan to announce the closing of the infamous teacher reassignment centers, or "rubber rooms," for teachers accused of malfeasance and incompetence. Teachers will instead report to the central office to perform clerical duties and other assignments. The Post takes some of the credit for the agreement, but the real nail in the coffin may have been Steven Brill's highly critical piece in the New Yorker last year. No word yet on the future of that other pool of not-working-but-still-getting-paid teachers, the absent-teacher reserve pool. ...

Mass., Colo. Teachers' Union Out of Race to Top

So reports the Boston Globe and this Denver blog. Interesting politics going on here. Perhaps the American Federation of Teachers Massachussetts feels emboldened by the fact that the two winning RTTT applications both won support from teachers' unions. But on the other hand, it may cost them some political clout: The story quotes one of the legislature's education committee co-chairs, and a Democrat at that, as being very disappointed in the move. In the first round, Massachusetts had an unusual requirement that all districts get a union signature in order to participate. State leaders are rethinking that requirement this time ...

Analysis: Teacher Pensions Underfunded by $900 Billion

Teachers' pension plans are underfunded to the tune of an eye-popping $933 billion, according to an analysis released this morning by the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for Educational Choice. That's close to three times more than official state government estimates of these defined-benefit plans' liabilities, the paper states. The authors attribute the gap to accounting rules for public pensions that permit actuaries to "discount" future obligations based on estimates of how the investments will fare over time. Unlike in private-sector plans, they aren't required to take into account how risky those investments are, and generally assume a strong stock ...

Rhee, Union Agree to Tentative Contract in D.C.

The Washington Teachers' Union and D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee have reached a tentative agreement on a new teachers' contract.

UPDATED: Colo., La. Politicians Now Pushing Tenure Reform

By now, I hope you've read my story wrapping up some of the action in Ohio, Delaware, Florida and Maryland to overhaul the system broadly known as tenure. The actual terms differ from place to place, but winning tenure generally means that teachers are granted due-process protections that require extensive documentation of poor performance before they can be dismissed. At the end of the story, I noted that it's unclear whether other states will follow their lead. As it turns out, just this week we've seen some additional movement in Colorado and Louisiana. In Colorado, state Sen. Michael Johnston, a ...

Weaker Teachers Leave Tough Schools, Analysis Finds

It's long been known that high-poverty, high-minority schools have higher rates of teacher turnover than other schools. But is turnover in such schools always a bad thing? In a new paper out from the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Eric Hanushek and Steven Rivkin take on the issue and provide some fresh food for thought. The researchers looked at data from an urban district in Texas from 1995-96 and from 2000-2001 in grades 4 and 8, using a matched teacher-student data set. The district has a whopping 30 percent annual "exit rate" among new teachers and 18 percent among ...

NEA Presents Congress With ESEA Wish List

The National Education Association last week presented members of Congress with an extensive packet of legislative recommendations for the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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