February 2009 Archives

This has been a tough one to grapple with. I left the classroom several years ago, and although I was recognized as a successful teacher, I did not feel very successful my last couple of years. So when I write about teachers leaving the classroom, my own story lurks behind the broader narrative. This year I am working with young teachers, trying to keep them teaching in Oakland, and that is causing me to revisit the issues I dealt with in my own decision, and trying to think about ways we could make things better. There are things most people ...

Oakland is addicted to low-cost beginning teachers. Ten years ago, the Oakland schools had a big problem. Every summer 400 teaching positions would open up, but only one hundred teachers would be found who were willing to accept jobs in Oakland at the salary offered. When fall came, 300 teaching positions (out of 2,500) would be left unfilled. The new Superintendent Dennis Chaconas thought he had an answer. Raise teacher pay in Oakland by 20%, moving us from way below average to a bit above average for the region. It worked! Over the next two years, fewer teachers left, ...

I have to admit I have been a bit puzzled by the way our world seems to work, especially the latest news from Wall Street. Executives there apparently require bonuses that are several times their annual salaries – already in the millions of dollars – in order to motivate them to perform the duties for which they were hired. It has made me wonder about the reason policy makers seem so fixated on attaching bonuses to teacher pay for the things they value, like student test scores. Frequently we hear teachers being accused of “opposing accountability,” because we are reluctant to have ...

Dennis Overbye wrote in the New York Times last week that “Science is not a monument of received Truth but something that people do to look for truth.” In a comment responding to this column about the resurgence of science under the Obama administration, a reader named Aaron writes: Scientific thinking can and should be practiced by everyone, not just those who do science for a living. I'd love to see logical and critical thinking better integrated into the public school curriculum. I'd also like to see students learn how to formulate clear questions and design good experiments, rather than ...


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