From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Today marks the close of a weeklong field trip for 80 British teachers who were chosen to participate in the British Council’s Teachers International Professional Development (TIPD) program. Since its inception in 2000, the government-funded U.K. program has been sending up to 15 groups of educators per year to study alternative-teaching methods in U.S. schools. This year, groups went to districts in Los Angeles, Houston, and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., among other places, to meet with state and district-level officials, observe classrooms, team-teach lessons, and trade ideas with their host teachers. They focused ...


The always thoughtful Sherman Dorn thinks I jumped the gun in this post. I disagree. Although the examples I point to are proposals and may not amount to anything concrete (and they certainly wouldn't be the first), the bigger picture is that the conversation about tenure does seem to be changing. Why? Well, districts and unions in particular are under pressure to rethink how teachers are paid, developed, and managed. Tenure falls under the last category. Secondly, Dorn goes on to write: "In collective bargaining agreements, there are provisions for gathering evidence that a teacher has problems in the classroom, ...


The Washington Teachers' Union is going on the charm offensive for its contract counter-proposal to that provided by Chancellor Michelle Rhee. It is running a series of radio advertisements promoting the contract, and at this new Web site calls its own proposal "progressive, bold and comprehensive." You've got to at least give WTU points for confidence, given that the details are still so sketchy. The site provides just a few additional tidbits: The contract will include a "fair and expedient" process for dismissing ineffective teachers. The red- and green-tier proposal is gone, replaced with a schoolwide performance-pay model. And it ...


The folks at the New Teacher Project have put out a district-level analysis of staffing policies in San Francisco. There are a lot of interesting findings to pick through, but the section that most struck me concerns teacher evaluations. Let's start with the actual figures: According to the report, only 5 out of 1,804 teachers received "unsatisfactory" performance ratings between 2005-07, while 86 percent of teachers earned one of the top two ratings. Now, take this finding: In a survey of 90 principals, 38 percent said that they assigned higher evaluation ratings to tenured teachers than their performance warranted. ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin All this buzz about the possibility of creating national standards (see Stephen's post on Weingarten) has me thinking: How would national standards affect students with special needs? Could they improve the IEP writing process for teachers? The laws governing special education are federally mandated, as you know. Every student who qualifies for services must have an Individualized Education Program with specific required components. Yet from district to district, the IEP documents can look completely different. The length, order of components, physical layout of each page, and style of writing student objectives seem to vary indiscriminately. ...


Think performance pay is the biggest teacher-policy controversy going on right now? Hold on to your hats, because it looks like the issue of teacher tenure is poised to leap onto the national scene, with at least three states considering changes to their systems for granting tenure, which grants certain "due process" rights to teachers before they can be dismissed. In Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wants to grant teachers tenure after nine years, rather than the current three. (I wonder how many teachers would actually stay around long enough to earn it.) It would also allow tenured teachers to ...


Over the weekend, Randi Weingarten supported national content standards in a big Washington Post op-ed. Andy Rotherham offers a commentary on it here. The American Federation of Teachers has supported national standards for some time but never quite this vocally. And it's interesting that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has intimated lately that he wants to move in this direction, too. Like most other policymakers who have endorsed national standards, Weingarten doesn't mention anything about a national assessment. A national test that could be used for accountability is controversial but it seems like a topic that for pragmatic reasons needs ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Last year, the superintendent of public instruction in Arizona, Tom Horne, implemented a host of regulations concerning the instruction of English-language learners. Students not proficient in English were to have four hours a day of direct English instruction: an hour each of grammar, reading, vocabulary, and conversation. During this time, they would remain in a self-contained classroom with a "highly qualified" teacher and other students at their proficiency level. In order to institute these new requirements, schools with a high number of ELLs (mostly urban schools) had to find and train ELL teachers, create new ...


Earlier this week, education leaders from the District of Columbia honored 20 new teachers who successfully earned advanced certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. That figure is quadruple what it was last year. Both D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, were in attendance. (It's reassuring to know that the two women can actually be in the same room together without spontaneously combusting.) Both made what sounded like conciliatory remarks about the D.C. contract situation. "Regardless of all the issues we may have, hopefully we can find ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin In Curriculum Matters, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo points out that reading coaches, many of whom were hired with now-depleted Reading First funds, are being dropped from school budgets. It’s hard to say exactly how big a role coaches play in increasing student achievement, but they’re given much credit in places like Warren County, Ky., where reading scores have shot up. Teachers there receive "spot training" on a daily basis, during which coaches observe small-group reading instruction and jump in when help is needed. As noted in this Herald-Tribune story, coaches assist instruction in a ...


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