Live from the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference in New York Greetings from the Big Apple, where thousands of educators have convened for the 6th annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning, hosted by WNET. At a session known as the "Teachers Town Hall," led by PBS' Alison Stewart, a roomful of educators voiced their thoughts on expanded learning time, dropouts, and turnaround schools. The discussion on why students drop out of school—the only portion of the session with no panelists—was perhaps the most insightful. It was certainly the most contentious. A young teacher in the audience...


Two reports released in conjunction with the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York highlight the lessons the United States can take from other countries' reform efforts.


Heather Wolpert-Gawron, who was among the estimated 19,000 school employees in California who received lay-off notices this week, offers "The Ten Commandments of a Pink Slipped Teacher." No. 5 seems particulary important: Thou Shalt Not Dwell on How The System is Broken to the Point of Avoiding Your Own Reality. Heather is an award-winning middle school language arts teacher who has written widely on education and instruction, including for Teacher. Somewhat ironically—or would presciently be a better word?—she published an article with us last spring questioning the indiscriminate nature of seniority-based layoff systems: Much as we might...


Amid the ongoing debates over collective bargaining and the power of unions, teachers were (yet again) a focus of major newspaper op-ed pages yesterday: In the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof (apparently taking a breather from the revolutions in the Mideast), blasted the "pernicious fallacy" emanating out of the nation's air waves that teachers are somehow overpaid and responsible for the nation's budget problems. In fact, he argued, if our schools are to be competitive, we need to pay teachers more—albeit at differentiated rates based on performance: Teaching is unusual among the professions in that it pays poorly...


At a White House conference yesterday, President Obama gathered parents, teachers, bullying victims, and researchers to discuss anti-bullying efforts. The president recounted that, as a kid, he was a victim of bullying himself. "With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn't immune," he said (in what's become a much-quoted sound bite from the event). But in a subsequent Huffington Post op-ed, psychologist and addiction expert Stanton Peele responded that that the conference "failed to hit the mark" and "will have zero impact." According to Peele, warnings and admonitions against bullying don't work. Kids don't usually bully people ...


Daniela Fairchild, a policy analyst for the Fordham Institute, lauds state legislative efforts to limit teachers' collective bargaining rights, but cautions fellow proponents that the resulting changes to educators' benefit packages could dramatically reduce teachers' overall compensation, thus making the profession less attractive. If we stop at altering fringe benefits, without appropriately reassessing teachers' entire salary scale and structure, we'll relegate teaching to a purgatory with neither compensation that is competitive with the private sector nor the career stability that may attract some. NYC teacher Miss Eyre responds by saying, in effect, "um, yeah": Thank God that this author reminded ...


Single-sex classrooms in public schools have been on the rise for a decade, but middle schools in Kansas are testing out single-sex lunch and recess, reports The Wichita Eagle. At several middle schools in Wichita, Kan., boys eat lunch while girls have recess and then the two groups switch. Principals told the paper the policy was put in place to eliminate "inappropriate smooching and boy-girl drama" and also to get students to finish—or at least eat—their lunches. "It seemed like 80 percent of our students were throwing away whole lunches," Michael Archibeque, principal at Pleasant Valley Middle School,...


Michael Winerip at The New York Times has a detailed yet intelligible explanation of the failures of the value-added assessment model. He uses a persuasive example: Stacey Isaacson, a University of Pennsylvania and Columbia-educated third-year teacher who works 10 ½ hour school days and gets rave reviews from her principal, fellow teachers, and students. In her first year teaching, 65 of Isaacson's 66 students scored proficient on the state's language arts test. And dozens of her students have gone onto New York City's most competitive high schools. But as Winerip explains, "According to the [value-added] formula, Ms. Isaacson ranks in the ...


In California, State Senator Mark Leno—who is one of the first openly gay men elected to the legislature—introduced the country's first bill to integrate gay people and events into school curriculums, reports the New York Times. The bill would require all history textbooks to include figures and events in gay history portrayed "in a positive light." Citing recent suicides by gay teenagers, many educators are advocating for a gay-friendly curriculum; but conservative groups have vowed to protest, according to the paper. "The homosexual activists have repeatedly been pushing for more and more in sexual curriculum when our kids...


Both Reading Is Fundamental and the National Writing Project are in jeopardy of losing federal funding permanently, after President Obama signed a temporary spending law this week that axed support for the literacy programs. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Teach for America, and New Leaders for New Schools also suffered cuts, but are (luckily for them) not as reliant on federal funds as RIF and NWP. As Alyson Klein at Education Week explains, "Technically, the cuts are only in place for the two-week time period covered under the bill. But their restoration is considered extremely unlikely, given the ...


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 ...


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