I went to a roundtable discussion last week on performance-pay programs hosted by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. In attendance were representatives from a variety of programs, including several of the Teacher Incentive Fund grants. The attendees brought up a number of interesting challenges they face as they implement their programs. I've listed several of the key themes below. 1. Transitions. Mark Bounds, the teacher-quality leader for South Carolina, noted that a new pay structure can be hard to swallow for teachers who have put in 20 or 30 years under an old system. The systems must allow for some ...


An Associated Press story this week said the Tucson school district has launched a $550,000 effort to recruit more minority teachers with the hope of diversifying its staff and giving minority students a better chance of seeing themselves as part of the education system. Not surprisingly, the move is spurred by the fact that the district sees a disconnect between the numbers of teachers belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups and students from these groups. Districts have for decades worried about the difficulties of attracting minority teachers, and some have launched aggressive efforts to do so. Many observers ...


A teachers' association that calls itself nonpartisan says it is organizing thousands of teachers to march to the nation's capital this Saturday to protest "teacher abuse" by administrators. Myra Sawyers, who heads the Virginia-based Educators for Progressive Instructional Change, says that teachers are tired of being "not respected and the poor compensation." With the elections around the corner, this appeared to be a good time to draw attention to the topic, she said. "Teachers are being harassed, demeaned, and they are never given serious attention because the powers-that-be shut them down," she said. Now while none of those sound like ...


It seemed inevitable that these tough economic times would eventually affect teachers in cash-strapped school districts. Now comes news that the Dallas school district, facing an $84 million shortfall this fiscal year, has decided to lay off nearly 1,100 employees, including about 550 teachers. More than 400 of the lost jobs, according to the Associated Press, include teachers in the core-subject areas of mathematics, science, social studies, and English. An additional 500 employees—such as teacher aides, hall monitors, and clerks—will also be cut. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has promised a "deliberate and thoughtful" process in determining which teachers ...


New York City teachers have taken to federal court their fight against a school district policy that bans teachers from wearing campaign pins in schools, saying it violates their rights to free speech and political expression. The United Federation of Teachers today filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking a temporary restraining order against the policy, which, according to the UFT, has been on the books but has not been followed for decades. But on Oct. 1, city schools Chancellor Joel Klein asked principals in an e-mail to enforce it. UFT President Randi Weingarten told reporters ...


American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is not too happy about a recent New York Times article on D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's proposed performance-pay plan for teachers, which she says falls way short of a merit-pay plan Weingarten signed off on in New York City earlier this year. In a letter to the newspaper that appeared this morning, Weingarten, who also heads the United Federation of Teachers in New York, says the plan "that you applaud is one that Chancellor Rhee intends to impose upon teachers, not one that she hopes to develop with teachers." Rhee's plan, she ...


Eduwonkette has an interesting post up about the dismissal of a popular Wilson High School teacher. She suggests that this situation shows the weakness in D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's strategy to permit principals more say over the hiring, firing, and remediation of teachers. If principals can't be trusted to make evaluative decisions about teachers, or if those decisions are too subjective, then what should these evaluations be based on? Teachers have some real concerns with supposedly objective measures of their performance, too. For good reason: Researchers are still trying to figure out the best methodologies for using standardized ...


It's a frequent complaint by Washington policy types: Too little is known about local collective bargaining processes and local media don't pay enough attention to negotations until contracts are finalized. In Philadelphia, students are protesting in an attempt to bring attention to the contract's effects on teacher distribution, according to this story. The students say the district and union are not paying enough attention to equitably distributing "highly qualified," experienced teachers across the district. "I've seen students cut class and come to my classroom to avoid bad teachers," the Philadelphia Inquirer article quotes one student as saying. "The system of ...


Like sands through the hourglass, so continues the soap opera of the D.C. teacher-contract negotiations. The contract hinges on a "red"/"green" tier proposal that would give green-tier teachers the opportunity to earn $20,000 annually in performance bonuses, contingent on their forgoing tenure for a year. The red tier resembles the traditional system of salary boosts. The contract also would formally dismantle seniority for teacher hiring and transfers. DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, evidently tired of the stalemate between her district and the Washington Teachers Union, announced this morning her plans to move forward with an alternate "Plan B" ...


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to try for a third term in office. American Federation of Teachers/United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten responds: "Personally, I have always been opposed to term limits, as has this union. I am also, as are so many people, very concerned about the economy, and I am grateful the mayor is willing to step up. That said, I am very concerned, given that New Yorkers have twice spoken about this issue in referendums, and because of that, I think the most democratic way to change term limits is to go ...


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