Here's a sobering story out of Texas with some big education implications. According to the story, the state teacher pension system's unfunded liabilities have tripled over the last six months, to $40.4 billion. Although the system will be able to pay out benefits for current retirees, its future looks grimmer, unless the state can figure out some way to offset the liability. Other states, notably Georgia, are in a similar situation. Lawmakers are considering increasing the percentage that employees have to pay into the system, a move that's sure to be unpopular with the teachers' associations in the state. ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Today in California, 26,000 school district employees will find pink slips in their boxes. Although the massive dispersal of such notices by the March 15 deadline is somewhat of a yearly charade, with most of them generally being rescinded when the budget is finalized in May, teachers are preparing for the worst this year—and rightly so. Education budget cuts are estimated to land between $8.4 and $11.6 billion (the unions are predicting the higher end of the scale) and even some district officials are admitting that the outlook is bleak. "I ...


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just announced the appointment of Jo Anderson Jr., the executive director of the Illinois Education Association, as senior adviser to the department. He'll be in charge of outreach to teachers and teachers' unions. There have been some rumblings about this, so while the appointment isn't exactly a shock, I'm told there was no analogous position under the Bush administration, which had a rocky relationship with the two national teachers' unions. A couple of interesting things here. First, looks like we're going to get a lot of Illinois folks coming to Washington just like ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin Last month, Stephen reported on the NSDC finding that U.S. teachers spend more time in the classroom and less time on collaboration and professional development than their peers in the highest-performing countries. (Many of our readers were right on board with the study’s findings—take a look at some of their insightful comments.) The PD scheduling discussion came up more locally this week when a southeast Wyoming school board, prompted by a parent petition, voted to get rid of its district’s weekly staff training half-days. It’s easy to see how this ...


Talk about good timing: The Anderson, Ind., school district has become the first peer- assistance and -review program in the Hoosier State. Like the Toledo, Ohio, peer-review program, the Anderson PAR will provide targeted assistance to new teachers and to struggling veterans through a combination of peer-mentoring and -evaluation. “PAR is an example of an innovative, successful union-led education reform,” said Dal Lawrence, who helped craft Toledo's program nearly 30 years ago. “It shows just how inaccurate the stereotype is that teacher unions are anti-reform or anti-accountability.” The AFT has promoted PAR for quite some time, and the concept got ...


I had the chance late yesterday to speak to Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers' president, about President Obama's education agenda-setting speech. We talked mainly about Obama's contention that there is "no excuse" for districts to keep severely underperforming teachers in the classroom. (To me, that was newsier than the talk of performance pay, which dates way back to the campaign.) "The point he's making, that there needs to be better evaluation systems, is spot on," Weingarten told me. "The reason we see default to individual student test scores [to judge teachers] is because of the lack of reliable ...


It's the debate that won't die! Robert Pondiscio at the Core Knowledge blog takes issue with Ken Kay's rebuttal to the 21st-century skills smackdown of the other day. Despite Mr. Kay's contention that the argument isn't about content v. skills but how to provide students with both, the P21 Web site doesn't include examples of units that simultaneously integrate 21st-c skills and engage students in rich content, he asserts. I took a look at the groups' skills map in core content areas, which can be found here. Here's one example for 12th grade English from the map: "After reading a ...


In his big speech this morning, President Barack Obama reached back to grasp various threads that he's laid out—on the campaign trail, in his election platform, in his speech to a joint session of Congress, and most recently through the FY 2010 budget request—and knit them together to provide what's probably the clearest statement so far of his priorities for education and for teacher policy. As my colleague Alyson Klein points out in this post, nothing here really should come as a surprise if you've been paying close attention to Obama since the campaign. National Education Association President Dennis...


By now, I hope you've had a chance to check out this story on the 21st-century skills movement and a group of individuals who are raising questions about it. Ken Kay, the president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the main group that advocates the incorporation of these technological, communication, and analytical skills into the curriculum, offers a lengthier explanation of his group's stance on the group's Web site here. The argument from naysayers with respect to teachers isn't really so much one of content versus skills, it's that "project-based" instruction is an incredibly difficult kind of teaching to ...


More news from The New York Times here on NEA possibly joining a larger labor coalition with the AFL-CIO. The union's president, Dennis Van Roekel, is supposedly involved in the talks. "We have a good chance to have a basic outline to create a unified labor movement for the first time ever,” the story quotes Larry Cohen, the president of the communications workers’ union, as saying about this. “The NEA was founded more than 100 years ago and has never been an explicit part of the U.S. labor movement.” Mike Antonucci, over at the Education Intelligence Agency, recalls the ...


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