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."...


On Feb. 7, a Washington, D.C., arbitrator ruled that 75 public school teachers with probationary status were wrongly terminated under former school chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2008 and should be reinstated, reports The Washington Post. According to the ruling by Charles Feigenbaum, "The glaring and fatal flaw in the process that DCPS used is that teachers were never told why they were terminated, other than that it was based on the input from their principals. They were not told what that input was. They had no opportunity to provide their side of the story." Feigenbaum ordered that the teachers ...


A company that allows teachers to sell their lesson plans online paid out over $1 million to educators last year, according to a recent VentureBeat blog post. But some question whether or not teachers should reap these benefits. TeachersPayTeachers and WeAreTeachers are both websites designed for educators to buy and sell lesson plans. TeachersPayTeachers, which was founded in 2006 by Paul Edelman, has more than 320,000 registered users—nearly 10 percent of all educators nationwide, reports VentureBeat. The best-selling teachers make more than $1,500 a month, said Edelman, a former New York City teacher. One seller even managed...


Mary Worell, an American journalist-turned-teacher who is currently working in the Netherlands, finds it significant that Dutch educators, including administrators, tend to dress very informally: I realized that this casualness toward dress code was indicative of something deeper in the culture of the school and the attitude toward the teachers. They are considered professionals and treated as such. It's as if someone said "Yes, I know you're a professional and I don't need you to wear black pumps and suit pants to prove it."... ...Overall the school culture itself seems to lead toward a mutual respect among colleagues and an ...


Alexander Russo over at This Week in Education writes that about five years into his ed reform coverage, he's had an epiphany: The major difference between "reformy types" and "career educators," he claims, is that the latter believe (not without reason) that reform could actually make things worse. This possibility might seem hard to believe for reformers, many of whom can't imagine things being any worse (and many of whom, it should be said, have yet experienced few major setbacks in their own lives). But for those with a longer perspective (historical, personal, professional) the possibility of things going from ...


Teachers' use of video content for instruction has increased dramatically over the past three years, according to a survey.


Here's something you probably didn't know: February is National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. To commemorate their 28 days, school-based health centers around the nation (of which there are more than 1,900) are inviting local and federal policymakers to tour their facilities, according to the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care. In Maryland, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes visited a school-based health center in Baltimore County and said the expansion of these facilities is the ultimate goal, reports WBAL. School-based health centers resemble any other health center: They have a full team of providers who offer physical and mental ...


While the concepts of rote learning and drill-and-kill instruction have acquired negative reputations, Justin Snider, a doctoral student at Columbia University, seeks to remind educators that memorization—in the sense of "learning things by heart"—can be highly enriching for students. Memorization, he writes, is challenging, exercises the brain, and can give rise to new insights on material. The problem, he allows, is that it has also become too closely associated with multiple-choice tests....


Two months after AFT President Randi Weingarten commented that education can learn a lesson about performance evaluations from National Football League teams, Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham checks in with a couple of experts on the validity of the comparison. In a piece on Time.com, Rotherham interviews Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, and his brother Brendan Daly, a former teacher who is now the defensive line coach for the St. Louis Rams. According to Tim Daly, the highest-performing schools use some of the same techniques as those used by professional football teams—frequent observation, assessing what's working and ...


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