Today, the Center for American Progress released a paper about how states could work to improve alternative certification programs, and it explores the fundamental tension that such programs face: Ensuring that these programs both fit the needs of people who want to enter teaching (i.e., with flexible hours and a faster pathway to teaching), but also appropriately prepare candidates for success in classrooms. It builds on a 2007 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, which found that many alternative-certification programs are alternative in name only. Such programs, that report found, have similar coursework loads, don't necessarily provide ...


Philadelphia superintendent Arlene Ackerman recently unveiled her Imagine 2014 initiative. Part of this education-reform plan includes closing and restructuring a number of low-performing schools around instructional models with "proven track records" for success. These schools will be deemed Renaissance Schools. One thing you might not have picked up on from local reports on this, however, is that some of these Renaissance schools will be converted to charters. As such, they'll have more flexibility in hiring staff and will not be subject to the seniority and transfer rules in the district's collective bargaining agreement. The president of the Philadelphia Federation of ...


From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Idaho state law that bans local governments from allowing unions to collect political contributions through payroll deductions. Labor unions contended that the 2003 law violated their free speech rights. Following the 6-3 vote deeming the law constitutional, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that, "Such a decision is reasonable in light of the state’s interest in avoiding the appearance that carrying out the public’s business is tainted by partisan political activity." (See more about the case on Mark Walsh’s School Law Blog). The National ...


If you're a teacher-policy geek like me, you'll want to check out all the teacher-related details in the completed stimulus. My colleague Michele McNeil has the scoop at Politics K-12 (disc: I helped a little). In my view, the most important piece of this is the requirement for states to improve teacher effectiveness. The language is pretty much the first toe the government's really put into that particular (swampy) pond. As with much in this huge bill, whether or not it really means anything is going to depend on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's following up on it....


The nation's smallest state certainly can't say it has a timid state education leader: Rhode Island Commissioner Peter McWalters is taking on the controversial issue of "bumping" in Providence schools. Providence, like many other districts, operates under a collective bargaining agreement that handles hiring primarily through teacher preference and seniority: More-senior teachers can request transfers to open positions at other schools. After that, the central office slots the remaining teachers to open positions throughout the district. Essentially, McWalters is directing the district to override this agreement. In a letter to Tom Brady, the Providence superintendent, he indicates that the district ...


Last week, I took a long look at seniority-based layoff policies in this story. But we also have an edweek.org poll on the topic, asking readers to vote on whether or not they agree with such methods of reducing the workforce. Right now, it's in a statistical dead heat. Make your voice heard!...


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. ...


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