November 2011 Archives

N.Y. Principals Turning Against New Evaluation System

More than 650 principals in New York have signed a letter protesting the new teacher-evaluation system the state is implementing as part of its Race to the Top agenda, according to an article in the New York Times. Points of contention include the allegedly haphazard way the system was put together, inconsistent applicability across subjects and grades, and a heavy reliance on what the principals consider to be "unreliable" tests. The school leaders also appear to be less than thrilled about the training sessions they are required to take with state-paid consultants—"two days of total nonsense," in the words...

More Students 'Cyberbaiting' Their Teachers

A new study, which looked at the effects of technology on youth and the impact on parents and teachers, found that one in five teachers has either experienced or known another teacher who has been subjected to cyberbaiting.

Thank a Teacher on Nov. 25

StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project, is asking people to give thanks to their favorite teacher on Nov. 25.

Pop Culture's Place in the Classroom

This will be my last writeup on NCTE. Overall, I have to say it was an impressive conference, especially content-wise (the logistics were a bit hectic for me, but perhaps that's to be expected with about 7,000 attendees and 50 concurrent sessions during each time slot). On Friday, three high school teachers from Gresham, Ore., presented on ways to use pop culture in addressing state literacy standards. In their session, "Can Lady Gaga and Hamlet Coexist?," the young teachers began from the premise that the answer to their title was yes. They devoted no time to debating the value ...

Book Notes: Steve Jobs Blasted Teachers' Unions, Planned Digital Textbook Feature for iPad

Apparently Bill Gates isn't the only personal computing pioneer to have expressed strong concerns about the ability of America's public schools to prepare students for the economic future—and to lay a good part of the blame on teachers' union regulations. Toward the end of his ">bestselling biography on the late Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson recounts a private meeting between Jobs and President Obama that took place in the fall of 2010. At one point, Jobs—never one to hold back his opinions—brought up the subject of education. Isaacson writes: Jobs also attacked America's education system, saying that ...

NCTE Pushes Collaboration With New Literacy Education Center

Take a look at Catherine Gewertz's blog post about the new National Center for Literacy Education, which NCTE announced the launch of at its conference. NCLE will offer free Web-based resources for teachers on the Literacy and Learning Exchange starting in 2012, as well as recognize and support schools and districts that implement "communities of practice"—much like PLCs—to conduct inquiries about student learning. It's still a bit hazy how the nearly two dozen partner organizations will all be involved. But Kent Williamson, executive director of NCTE, said the NCLE will be a "network of networks" and act as a...

Formative Assessment Keys: Feedback, Feed Forward

The NCTE conference has ended. Now that I'm no longer chasing presenters between hotels or waiting in crowded lobbies for crawling elevators, I'll catch up on some blogging. At a session titled "Linking Assessment and Instruction," Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, both education professors at San Diego State University and teachers at Health Sciences High and Middle College, gave the best explanation I've heard of how to give and use feedback within the formative-assessment process. Teachers spend hours and hours grading student papers, said Fisher, only to hand all of those "rich data" back to students. "And what do students ...

Have Parents Thrown Teachers Under the Bus?

Recent education reform initiatives have focused heavily on the alleged shortcomings of the teaching profession. But New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman points to new research suggesting that there's considerable room for improvement outside the classroom as well. He quotes from a multi-country study that looked at the relationship between parents' engagement in their children's learning and results on the much-discussed Program for International Student Assessment: Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at ...

Teacher Talk, 'Kids,' and the Power of Advertisement

Live from NCTE in Chicago A few musings from the last two days. • One of my favorite things about being here is listening in on English teacher side chatter. Between sessions, on the shuttle, and at meals, there's talk of allusions, metaphors, and most of all books—from A Tale of Two Cities to Speak. These teachers live up to the fairy-tale image many of us still hold of them as passionate literature devotees. • Yesterday in a session on formative assessment (an excellent one, which I'll write about in a bit), the presenters showed a clip of a 10th grade...

Coupling Math and Writing

Live from NCTE in Chicago In a session called "A Marriage of Math and Reading," two ELA teachers and their math-teacher husbands described the beginnings of a collaborative research study on the effects of incorporating writing into math class. (Despite the title, there wasn't much talk of reading at all.) The four teachers are working with Amy and John Lannin, a husband/wife team of professors at the University of Missouri, Columbia, to conduct their research. Over six weeks, the husbands assigned writing activities in their math classes, such as exit slips in which they asked students to write down ...

Live From NCTE in Chicago

Just a quick heads up that I'll be doing some blogging from the National Council of Teachers of English's annual conference, which is being held over the next couple of days in Chicago. I just got out of the first keynote address by the ever-present Linda Darling-Hammond. In front of a packed ballroom, with teachers even lining the back wall, the Stanford professor spoke about heightened expectations for student learning, inequitable school funding, the perils of over-testing (due to "No Child Left Untested"), and, of course, what we can learn from Finland. She railed against alternative pathways that reduce teacher-preparation ...

Should Your Value-Added Rating be Public?

An issue brief from the Center for American Progress argues that publicly identifying teachers in connection with their value-added student test-score ratings (a la The Los Angeles Times) may actually undermine efforts to improve teacher quality. By giving too much weight to one, not entirely perfect measure of performance, the brief argues, public value-added ratings could alienate teachers from more holistic evaluation efforts and possibly ward off others who are interested in the profession. "The bottom line is this," the brief's authors write: "Teachers need to be part of reforms but releasing names this way only leads to conflict and ...

Tearing Down Writing Instruction

Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews argues that writing instruction in most schools today is "academic and lifeless." Nor does he think the new common core writing standards—redolent, in his view, of "clerical work"—will help matters much. So what's a language arts teacher to do? Matthews agrees with educator Paula Stacey that teachers should scrap all the prescriptive writing models and process-oriented approaches and, in essence, just let kids express themselves and give them feedback on their work. This, he says, is how people learn to write: The professional writers I know got excited not in class but...

Study: Readers Use 'Visual Dictionaries'

A new study finds that skilled readers do not rely on sounds at all when reading but rather retrieve words purely from a "visual dictionary."

Note to Principals: Don't Leave Talent in the Parking Lot

The Harvard Gazette has a report on a panel discussion marking the 30th anniversary of The Principals' Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The discussion was titled "The Future of Leadership: Perspectives on the Principalship." Among the takeaways: • Education leaders need to take action to curb the punitive learning atmospheres now prevalent in schools. • Principals would be well-advised to share more leadership responsibilities with teachers, in part—in the words of one participant—to "unlock the tremendous overabundance of underutilized talent that gets left in the parking lot every day." • Principals need to get behind efforts,...

Celebrating International Education Week

Need an excuse to take your students on a cultural outing or to organize a multiethnic potluck lunch for the class? This would be the time to do it. International Education Week, an annual initiative of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education that started back in 2000, runs through the end of this week.

What Not to Say as a Teachers' Union Leader

In a recent keynote address, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, made some unsavory remarks about Education Secretary Arne Duncan, including a joke about him having a lisp.

A Status-Conscious Profession?

In a satirical "guide" to foreign tourists about the nature of inequalities in the U.S.--those that are socially acceptable vs. inacceptable to call attention to--David Brooks eventually picks on the teaching profession.

Should Teachers Take on Secretarial Duties?

NYC Educator is appalled by the way teachers in New York's absent-teacher reserve pool (that is, teachers who've lost their permanent positions and are reassigned to fill in at other schools) are being treated by the higher-ups. A female ATR was instructed to do secretarial duties. For those unfamiliar with the concept of contract (for example, the administrators who issued this instruction) secretarial duties are to be performed by secretaries. The teacher declined, saying she was a teacher and wanted to teach. The administrator's conclusion? "This is why none of you guys are able to get a job." NYC Educator ...

Teaching: The Hand-Me-Down Profession

Hobo Teacher takes offense when his school, with air of magnanimity, informs teachers that they can have their pick of some old desks that have been salvaged from a renovation project: I've always been a little sensitive about this, but I feel like the perception of teachers is that they will take anyone's crap. It's like we're grateful for anything as long as it is free. I can't help but to think that the conversation at Admin before the e-mail that was sent out went some thing like, "Hey these desks won't fit into the dumpster. What should we do?" ...

Teacher Wins $10K Classroom Grant

Yesterday, a 3rd grade teacher in Galloway, N.J., walked out of what she had assumed would be a regular school Veteran's Day assembly with a $10,000 check, according to Galloway Patch.

What 'NBCT' Means to Teachers

Cindi Rigsbee at The Dream Teacher recalls the moment she found out she'd become a National Board Certified Teacher.

Are Single-Sex Schools Better for Girls?

An article in Slate recently looked at differing feminist views of single-sex schooling, and concluded that co-education is more beneficial for girls.

Tenn. Teacher Evaluation Is 'A Bit Like Vegas'

Seems like things in Tennessee are far from settling down over the new teacher evaluation system. Michael Winerip follows up on the controversy in a recent New York Times piece.

Could Teachers Be Displaced by Technology?

Will Richardson says that teachers urgently need to redefine their professional role in light of advancements in technology and prevailing expectations for schools. If teachers' main purpose is seen as improving student achievement as reflected in test scores, he argues, they will soon be displaced, for all practical purposes, by technology. To punctuate his point, he highlights a new data-driven personalized learning program being developed by Pearson. "Technology," he adds ruefully, "will soon provide a better 'learning' experience to kids needing to pass the test than a classroom teacher with 30 (or 50) kids." Thus, to avoid being reduced to ...

National Board Names New President

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the independent nonprofit organization that bestows advanced certification on qualifying educators, has named Ronald Thorpe as its new president and CEO. Thorpe, who is a well-known education advocate, began his career as a private school teacher and administrator working under Theodore R. Sizer, and was later a program director at education foundations. Since 2003, he has been vice president for education at WNET, New York City's public television station. In that position, he helped create and direct the annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning conference. Thorpe joins the NBPTS at a complex juncture in ...

Report: Calif. Schools Lack Time for Science

California schools feeling the accountability squeeze are spending less time teaching science, despite the fact that educators say they recognize the importance of science instruction, according to a new report.

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