A recently rejected Virginia bill to give tax breaks to businesses for funding poor students' tuition to private schools—and the larger issue of school choice—has the state's black community divided, reports the Washington Post. According to the paper, members of older generations remember how Virginia avoided desegregating its public schools by closing them and giving vouchers to white children to enroll in private schools. They oppose the tax-credit bill, saying it would re-segregate education—by class. But younger generations of single parents and working-class African-American families see the bill as a way for their children to receive the...


Kevin Huffman—spokesperson for Teach for America, winner of the Washington Post's inaugural America's Next Great Pundit competition, and ex-husband to Michelle Rhee—has been named Tennessee's new education commissioner, Governor Bill Haslam's office announced. Huffman has not been shy about expressing his views on the need to pay effective teachers more and hold teacher prep programs accountable for their graduates' performance. Stephen Sawchuk has a bit more on this over at Teacher Beat....


A dedicated Oregon teacher of 35 years, worn down by accumulating pressures and degradations, realizes suddenly that she doesn't want to be a teacher anymore: It wasn't a single thing that gave me this feeling. I'm hoping it doesn't last. Maybe it was the severely autistic boy who showed up at my door the first day with no notice, but I don't really think so. Maybe it was the rigid schedule the principal passed out for everybody to be doing the same subject at the same time of day, or the new basal reader we have to use that we ...


Responding to the Bill Gates-generated class-size kerfuffle, education writer Dana Goldstein allows that there is little proven correlation between small class sizes and student performance. But, she notes, there's more to the issue than just test scores: The problem [with increasing class sizes] is that American parents are concerned not only with their children's test scores, but also with their day to day experiences at school. Parents want their children to have meaningful personal relationships with educators—the sorts of life-changing experiences many of us remember fondly when we think back on our favorite teachers, whether they helped us score...


Here's a gem of a headline from the Star-Telegram, which could have you crying or cringing: Fort Worth 2nd-Grader Hopes Sack of Change Will Save Teachers' Jobs The eight-year-old in the article is quoted as saying, "I thought I would bring some of my money from my college fund to my school so more teachers wouldn't get fired because I don't want anyone to go away." From there, the school office staff weeps and the superintendent vows to do everything she can to avoid teacher layoffs. Worth a read, especially if you haven't gotten your daily dose of looking at ...


Earlier this year, teacher Natalie Munroe sparked a national debate when she was fired for blogging about her students and claimed her First Amendment rights were violated. Now, an English teacher in Arizona is making the same claim after being let go for refusing to part with a bumper sticker, reports Care2. After a handful of parents at Imagine Prep complained about one of Tarah Ausburn's bumper stickers—which asks, "Have you drugged your kids today?"—administrators told her to remove it or park her car off campus. Ausburn refused both options and was consequently fired, according to Care2. The...


Just months after being diagnosed with cancer, Francisco Mendoza—who has earned several teaching awards throughout his 25 years in the classroom—lost his job and his health benefits, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Last spring, Mendoza spent five months in a hospital undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. Upon his return home, he was greeted by a termination letter from Chicago Public Schools, according to the Sun-Times. "He read it and just broke down crying. He put in 25 years as an art teacher, and that was the thanks he got," Mendoza's nephew, James Larralde,...


Yesterday, the New York City Department of Education released a list of the number of teachers each school in the city would dismiss if the state's seniority-based layoff policies persist, according to the New York Times. In all, 4,675 teachers, or 6 percent of the city's active teaching staff, would be laid off. Eighty percent of schools would be affected, and nine schools would lose half of their teaching staff, reports the Times. The list appears to be more of a publicity stunt than an immediate threat. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is attempting to garner parents' support for his call ...


In an op-ed published in the Washington Post this morning—and addressed to the nation's governors, who are gathering in D.C. this week for their annual meeting—Bill Gates points to the impact that excellent teachers have on student achievement and argues that tight education budgets would be best spent on leveraging their expertise and creating more of them. Saying that other popular school-improvements initiatives (e.g., class-size reductions, increases in teacher pay for advanced degrees) have proved to be expensive dead-ends, he offers a sample policy prescription: What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students...


The majority of teachers throughout the U.S. have students who consistently come to school hungry, according to a recent survey, and most say the problem is getting worse, reports USA Today. Sixty five percent of the 638 public elementary and middle school teachers polled say that for many of their students, school meals are their primary source of food and nutrition. "It's not isolated to certain urban and rural areas, but it's really happening across the board," said Bill Shore, founder and director of the survey's sponsoring organization Share Our Strength, which aims to end childhood hunger. Former elementary ...


With plans for massive teacher layoffs in New York looming, a recent Quinnipiac University poll reveals that 90 percent of public school parents in the state think performance—not seniority—should be the basis for such firings, reports the Buffalo News. Eighty-five percent of all registered votes polled agreed, compared with just 12 percent who favored the seniority-based system. "Voters, especially voters with kids in public school, want to keep the best teachers on the job, and to heck with seniority," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, told the paper. And some politicians agree. New York City...


Over at Education Week, Diane Ravitch, with an eye on Wisconsin, defends teachers' right to collectively bargain: From the individual teacher's point of view, it is valuable to have an organization to turn to when you feel you have been treated unfairly, one that will supply you with assistance, even a lawyer, one that advocates for improvement in your standard of living. From society's point of view, it is valuable to have unions to fight for funding for public education and for smaller class sizes and for adequate compensation for teachers. Rick Hess, in response, argues that collective bargaining for ...


We were remiss in failing to note that influential Texas educator Harriett Ball died earlier this month. An elementary school teacher for more than 30 years before becoming a star speaker and trainer, Ball was widely known for inventively mixing rap and song into her instruction. According to an excellent 2001 Teacher Magazine story, Ball advocated what she called a "multisensory, mnemonic, whole-body teaching technique." Children, she once wrote, "learn most naturally and best through play, songs, patterns, movement, imitation, imagination, and rhythm." She was said by many who observed her to be utterly captivating in the classroom. She sounded—in...


A mother in Florida experimented with a new form of dropout prevention, according to FOX 13 News: publicly humiliating her son. Last week, Ronda Holder of Tampa Bay, Fla., forced her 15-year-old son, James Mond, to spend a week on street corners holding a sign that said he had only answered four questions on a state assessment and has a 1.2 grade point average. The sign also asked passersby to "honk if I need an education," reports the station. Many local parents and psychologists have criticized Holder for her parenting methods, but she told reporters that nothing else had ...


According to the New York Daily News, the Union Federation of Teachers' lobbyist, Paul Egan, was upset by more than just flawed evaluation systems this past week: His dinner bill exceeded what he thought his meal was worth. After racking up a more than $1,800 bill at a swanky bistro in Albany, N.Y., with a couple dozen other UFT members, Egan refused to pay, arguing that the quail he ordered wasn't large enough, reports the Daily News. He shouted and demanded to see the manager, who was unable to calm him down—at which point restaurant staffers called...


No doubt many of you—our savvy teacher-readers—caught the typo in the Teacher Update subject line this morning. We'd like to convince you that was just our way of offering a fun, end-of-the-week editing pop quiz (rather than an oversight on our part). Are you buying it? Thanks for understanding, faithful readers. We'll do our best to avoid making such mistakes from now one. :)...


For years, New York City parents have paid as much as $1,000 for "kindercramming" boot camps and tutoring sessions to prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten entrance exams, reports the Chicago Tribune. And now, parents in Chicago are starting to do the same. Since many of Chicago's public schools are underperforming and private schools are often cost-prohibitive, many parents apply to get their children into classical and gifted kindergarten programs, which only accept a select number of students based on test scores. Kids are tested on skills such as sounding out words, identifying continents, and recognizing patterns. With more than ...


After an elementary school teacher in Maryland was recently charged with several counts of assault for choking, punching, kicking, and/or scratching eight of her first graders, Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss recalls the failure of Congress to pass a bill to end corporal punishment in schools. In June, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) introduced the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act—which would do just what it says—but the bill never made it out of its assigned committee, reports the Post. Although almost half of school corporal punishment cases occur in Texas and Mississippi, it's still legal in...


Attention all teachers with blogs: Be careful with your words. A high school English teacher in Pennsylvania has been suspended for writing what she really thinks about her students on a personal blog, according to CBSPHILLY. More than a year ago, Natalie Munroe of the Central Bucks School District in Pennsylvania expressed her frustrations with her students on her blog, using phrases like "seems smarter than she actually is," "I hate your kid," and "am concerned your kid is going to open fire on the school." It's unclear whether Munroe specified which students she was referring to, and the blog ...


There's been a recent surge of chatter about Teach for America, what with 10,000 corps members and alumni gathering in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the organization's 20th anniversary summit. Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham picked up on the trend, writing a short piece in Time on the five myths about TFA that persist after 20 years. He debunks the following: 1) TFA is a "résumé booster for Ivy League dilettantes who want to become bankers or lawyers." (Rotherham says TFA accepts corps members from many state schools as well.) 2) The research on the effectiveness of TFA teachers is "mixed."...


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