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 ...


Lots of divergent reactions to the teacher-data report cards in New York City, see here and here. Per Elizabeth Green over at Gotham Schools, the city wants to extend the initiative for another year. (Hat tip to Elizabeth for breaking this and following it up on her blog.) These reports are based on teachers' individual "value-added" contributions to student learning. They aren't supposed to be used for accountability purposes, merely to help the teachers improve. (The United Federation of Teachers has OK'd the use of test score data in the city's schoolwide performance-pay programs, but not for use in judging ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin As cellphones become a universal accessory among students, policymaking about their use in schools is quickly transitioning from the district to the state level. According to the Des Moines Register, 16 states now have laws restricting the use of cellphones and other devices in school. Iowa state Rep. Deborah Berry hopes to add her own state to the list of those with legal restrictions, citing concerns that the phones are both a distraction and a safety risk. "I've seen in my district where they're organizing fights" through text messages, she said recently. "It's a serious ...


According to this story Hawaii's licensing board was illegally extending licenses, meaning that nearly 4,000 teachers probably don't meet the federal definition of a highly qualified teacher. Oops. (Officials with the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, and apparently the attorney general, dispute the charges.) The story suggests the state could lose federal funding for this error, if indeed there is one. I doubt that will happen for a couple of reasons. First, the state's going to need the money to get these teachers properly certified, and second, the U.S. Department of Education, under the Bush administration anyway, usually redistributed ...


Washington Post veteran Jay Mathews dives into the great class-size reduction debate here (check out the thoughtful comments, too.) He points out that in the recession, many districts preserve class size and make cuts elsewhere, which may not be the most cost-effective solution. The long-cited STAR study in Tennessee found lasting benefits from class size reduction, particularly for poor and minority students in grades K-1. The problem, as Mathews alludes, is that most states and districts aren't in a position to reproduce the stipulations in that study: class sizes between 14 and 17 students. So, the argument goes, should you ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin The Center for American Progress held a panel discussion on Friday regarding its paper on how states can improve alternative-certification programs (see Stephen’s post). In addition to Robin Chait and Michele McLaughlin, co-authors of the paper, there were three other ed experts on the panel: Alex Johnston, CEO of a nonprofit advocating for public schools known as ConnCAN; Richelle Patterson, a senior policy analyst for NEA; and Scott Cartland, principal of Webb/Wheatley Elementary School in northeast Washington, D.C. Although most of the panel members were in agreement about the efficacy and necessity ...


I'm on the mailing list for a lot of teachers' union trade papers, which are useful for gauging issues of importance to local affiliates. The New York Teacher, a publication for the United Federation of Teachers, contained a bit of a surprise in the Feb. 19 edition: a new feature, called "Principals In Need of Improvement." "When a principal gravely mismanages a school and makes life impossible for the staff, it tends to happen in the shadows. Many staff members are intimidated and afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals. But for the sake of the staff and of ...


The National Education Association is getting cozier with the AFL-CIO and its rival Change to Win, two umbrella labor coalitions that are themselves thinking of reuniting, according to this AP story. The American Federation of Teachers is a longtime member of AFL-CIO but the NEA has always been a bit aloof about its status as a cross between a professional organization and a labor union. NEA did grew closer to AFL-CIO in 2006, when NEA and AFL-CIO struck an agreement allowing NEA officials to sit on local AFL-CIO labor councils. Now, it looks it's considering joining the larger labor movement. ...


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