June 2010 Archives

Mildly Melancholy, who's had her ups and downs in the profession, has decided that the last day of school this year was also her last day as a teacher. "For real this time." Any policymakers or school leaders out there who are looking into the reasons why young teachers leave the profession might want to ponder her explanation: It's bittersweet, because there are some kids I will miss, and there are some teacher experiences I will miss, and there are some amazing colleagues I will definitely miss (well, not like I ever had time to talk to them). But I ...


When bullying takes place outside of school grounds—online and through text messages—do educators and schools have the jurisdiction to do anything about it.


Mark Walsh, Education Week's school law blogger, has a nice tidbit from yesterday's this morning's Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan: Reflecting on her background, Kagan mentioned that when her mother, a former teacher, died a couple of years ago, she and her brothers had planned a small funeral. But they were surprised when hundreds of people they didn't even know showed up. Soon it became apparent: "They were people who had my mother as a 6th grade teacher decades ago," Kagan said....


If you haven't heard, Oprah is starting her own network, and she's looking for the "next TV star"—someone who will get their own show. Phyllis Tucker-Wicks, a self-described classroom teacher, thinks she might be that person. In an open online casting call that received over 10,000 entries, Tucker-Wicks' "The Days and Lives of a Teacher" is now in second place with 7 million online votes. In her 90-second pitch, Tucker-Wilson describes a couple of unpleasant classroom scenarios: a student who brought a loaded gun to school ("Boy, am I glad I didn't kick him out that day") and ...


Should teachers be required to take performing arts courses?


New York City has announced a pilot program that, with the help of federal funding, will enable select teachers to earn bonuses of 30 percent next year--possibly amounting to salaries of up to $130,000.


Today, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future held a forum in Washington to release its new report, "Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning." The theme of event, and the report, was that teachers working together can accomplish a lot more when it comes to student achievement than teachers working alone. I'll be providing more details on Teacher's website about this study, the components NCTAF considers critical for building successful learning teams, and the event soon. I heard something interesting today that I haven't heard discussed much from one of the presenters, Tom Payzant, former superintendent of ...


On The Huffington Post, Tom Brenner, a laid off art teacher, responds to the apparent public apathy toward teacher job cuts: But understand this—teachers losing their jobs isn't about just teachers, it's about the students. Students don't get laid off—they continue to be required to come to school with significantly shrinking budgets and resources (I taught my art class last year with a $0 operating budget). He then points to the example of 5th grade teacher in Chicago he knows who, owing to layoffs, now has 47 students in her class. ... When I hear anecdotes like that, it's...


A sampling from the teacher blogosphere: Epiphany in Baltimore, starting to see the effects of teaching on his health, is trying to get back in shape. Hobo Teacher is having nightmares about grading. Mei Flower, fresh off a theatrical production set in the 1980s, is giving her hair a vacation. Mister Teacher is conjuring up satirical lesson ideas from his pool. Teacherninja is reading, going to his daughter's swim meets, and checking out what other people are reading at his daughter's swim meets. Donalyn Miller, not to be outdone, is reading a book a day, as often as possible with ...


I received an interesting e-mail today: Teaching Tolerance, which is run by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is looking for teacher bloggers: Teaching Tolerance is looking to expand its corps of bloggers. Specifically, we're looking for teachers who already blog and who want to reflect upon day-to-day classroom experiences. These teachers also need to be familiar with the mission of Teaching Tolerance: To promote respect for differences and appreciation of diversity in the classroom and beyond. The website is associated with the Teaching Tolerance magazine, which was just named the 2009 Periodical of the Year award by the Association of ...


University of William and Mary Professor Paul Manna, guest blogging for Rick Hess, says he doesn't quite understand the concern that teachers haven't been included in Race to the Top process. They've had plenty of chances, he says. I have a feeling this isn't going to go over very well with some people I know. Just a hunch. Update 6/23: Nancy Flanagan responds....


Earlier in the day I was speaking with our book whisperer blogger Donalyn Miller about reading. She's spearheading a book-a-day summer reading challenge for adults, which, by the way, has gone viral. In light of this, Donalyn mentioned University of New Hampshire English professor Thomas Newkirk's "slow reading" movement. Donalyn was discussing the difference between slow reading and fast reading. Fast reading—for lack of a better term—is something you do when you're deliberately plowing through dozens of YA books like she is this summer. Donalyn would agree that fast reading should come with a warning label. Children:...


Will Richardson responds to the question,"If you were a principal of a new school and you were hiring teachers, what would you look for?" Above all, he says, he'd look for candidates who ask "why" instead of "how": I think that's one of the first things I'd look for, people who are asking why. Why are we using blogs in the classroom? Why is this in the curriculum? Why are we making this decision? So much of the "how" stuff is figure-outable on our own that I wonder why we spend time on it. Incidentally, the mysterious "someone" who ...


A first-year, second-career teacher suggests how to make test-based accountability fairer for teachers.


A teacher in British Columbia cut a student's picture out of all but one copy of their school's yearbook after discovering the student made a disparaging comment about the principal.


Interesting point: On ASCD's edge blog, teacher Jason Flom notes that Steven Brill's much talked about, 8,000-word New York Times Magazine piece on Race to the Top and the current thrust of education reform did not quote a single teacher: It's outrageous! When an editor from one of the world's most powerful newspapers does not insist that a teacher's voice be included in such a premiere education piece we learn a lot about the esteem teachers are held in. It's the The-emperor-has-no-clothes moment of truth. Finally, we see and we should be livid! After all, we have the most ...


Following up on a big Washington Post story on interactive whiteboards, Bill Ferriter—noted IWB scourge—amplifies the case that, for all their 21st-century allure, the digital displays essentially preserve an outmoded form of instruction: Our schools have always been defined by a culture of presentation: I'll stand in front of you and give you the information that you need to learn. You sit in front of me and absorb it. While IWBs might make the presentation a bit more flashy, it still doesn't change the fact that we're presenting and our kids are absorbing. ... When you drop kids who...


From the late 18th century through the 20th century, government-run Indian boarding schools attempted to assimilate and Christianize Indian children and, in the process, often left them feeling degraded and abused. But the United States is not the only country with this painful history. Education Week has posted a story about how Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is encouraging its indigenous population to speak out about the horrors they experienced in Canada's government and church-run schools. Stories of sexual and physical abuse, much like those we've read and heard about in this country, are emerging—150,000 Canadian children were...


Two Massachussetts high school teachers have been put on paid leave after holding up an anti-war sign during a year-end school assembly, according to the Cape Code Times. The teacher's silent protest reportedly took place at a point in the assembly when the school was honoring seniors who are entering military service—a ceremony the teachers involved saw as abetting military recruitment in schools. "I think we're supposed to open the door for differences of opinion," said Marybeth Verani, one of the teachers. "We're not all in lock-step agreement on everything." Many parents and students, however, didn't see it that...


In an op-ed published today in the Philadelphia Inquirer, James Sando, a teacher with more than 30 years of experience, argues that education policymakers these days seem to be fixated on reforms designed to hurt rather than help public education. UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: In his piece, Sando quotes approvingly a remark by the Dean of Drew University to the effect that "It has got to stink being a teacher these days." This popped into my mind when I was reading a post by Doug Noon in which he reflects on hitting the 25-year mark as a teacher. Noon ...


A Washington Post opinion writer suggests that the "300,000 impending teacher layoffs for next year" figure has been skewed by teachers and media pundits alike.


Today the Memphis Daily News is reporting that, during recent visit to Memphis for the National PTA Convention, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the paper the current standardized assessment formats do a poor job of challenging students. "Our [student] tests have to become much less simplistic, much less fill in the bubbles," he said. "We have to stop lying to children. In far too many states around the country, we are lying to children. You tell a child that they are on track to meet an arbitrary benchmark, and in fact they are woefully underprepared. We do them a ...


A prosecutor in Wayne County, Michigan, which includes the city of Detroit, is pressing for jail time or fines for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences.


A teacher blogger uses three examples from a recent standardized test to demonstrate the disconnect between a test's stated objective and what a test actually measures.


Newsweek has released its list of the top high schools in the United States, based on how much a school's staff challenges its students.

With standardized tests gaining increased importance in education policy, experts say teachers have increasingly been helping their students cheat on the tests.


Having weathered some 540 teacher job cuts—with more possibly to come—some educators in Clark County, Nev., are wondering why their district still needs Teach for America, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Why are they still coming here?" asks Justin Brecht, a Las Vegas elementary teacher in his sixth year who is—interestingly enough—a TFA alum himself. "If I find out that a Teacher For America [teacher] was placed in the 5th grade and I lose my job as a 5th grade teacher, I'm thinking, 'How is that OK?'" A local TFA official notes that,...


Hobo Teacher describes the scene at his high school on the last day of school: Everybody is rushing around like the last helicopter is about to leave Saigon....


The National Education Association plans on giving its 2010 Friend of the NEA Award to...Diane Ravitch.


A disgruntled Brooklyn teacher blows the whistle on questionable scoring practices on standardized tests in New York.


I've been having an ongoing conversation with a teacher friend about Race to the Top. Her take is that the competition for school reform "violates the idea of equality": Since not every state has applied for the money, not every state has access to the money. And, my teacher friend has noted, that even of the states who've applied, most won't be selected. (There were only two winners in round one, but there could be anywhere from 10-15 in round two.) In an interesting op-ed in the New York Times late last week, columnist David Brooks, a self-described "moderate conservative," ...


Former (as of a few hours ago) White House correspondent Helen Thomas for Hearst publications was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Walt Whitman High School, in suburban Maryland, a week from today, but the school has rethought its decision, according to a number of sources, including the Washington Post. Thomas' offensive comments about Israelis, following the country's attack on the Turkish flotilla—"[They] should get the hell out of Palestine." "[They] should go home [to Poland, to Germany, and America, and everywhere else.]"—which she shared with a rabbi caused enough of a stink that not only did...


My colleague over at Education Week, Debra Viadero, wrote about an interesting teacher quality study in her Inside School Research blog today. In "Opportunity at the Top: How America's Best Teachers Could Close the Gaps, Raise the Bar, and Keep Our Nation Great," researchers at Public Impact explored what it would take to boost the number of high-quality teachers in the classroom. The researchers concluded that tripling the number of firings of poor-quality teachers from 2.1 to 6.3 percent would mean, after five years, that 70 percent of students across the nation would still lack access to high-quality ...


Epiphany in Baltimore has become so frustrated with his school that he's having a hard time blogging about it anymore: I'm at a point now where I'm increasingly feeling like I can't write about the issues facing an urban high school teacher in Baltimore City, where it seems more and more like "getting the numbers" is more important than educating the children. I posted some things over the weekend that I took down, just because of fears of repercussions. Incidentally, this is just an impression, but it has occurred to me lately that—outside of edutech area—there seem to ...


What if students were the ones teaching teachers about new technologies to be used in the classroom?


In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, author and educator Mike Rose encourages new teachers to stand fast against the "push to define teaching in technical and managerial terms." He writes: You hear little from the federal Department of Education or the local school board about engaging young people's minds or about teaching as an intellectual journey. You don't often hear about the values that brought you into teaching. They are the mind and heart of the work you will be doing....


Thirty-three states across the nation have proposed cutting K-12 spending in the 2011 fiscal year.


After a three year wait, District of Columbia teachers approved their new contract today. The new five-year agreement grants 21.6% raises to teachers, raising the average salary from $67,000 to $81,000. The contract, which is said to be the first of its kind in the country, is being supported by $60 million in foundation money. It will give Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee the ability to award performance pay and fire underperforming teachers, reports Education Week staff writer Dakarai Aarons. At the same time, the New York Times is reporting that New York City's Mayor Bloomberg is freezing ...


Ever wonder why exactly African-American students who do well in school are seen by some of their peers as "acting white" (as Michelle Obama among others has testified to)? According to Stuart Buck, an author and University of Arkansas doctoral candidate, the disparagement actually derives from the school-desegregation movement in the 1960s: Although desegregation arose from noble and necessary impulses, and although desegregation was to the overall benefit of the nation, it was often implemented in a way that was devastating to black communities. It destroyed black schools, reduced the numbers of black principals and teachers who could serve as ...


On Wednesday, Harlem's Apollo Theater—where the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Billie Holiday once performed—will host New York City's first Teachers' Night! as part of its Amateur Night series, reports the New York Times. Seventeen teacher acts are expected to perform in an event where, according to Apollo tradition, the audience will determine who lives and who dies on the stage. Among the acts will be a self-described "explosive" hula hooper who has performed in Las Vegas and Off Broadway, a band called the Suspensions (rejected names included the Hall Passes and Detention), as well as comedians,...


An education professor argues that efforts to tie teachers' professional status to student test scores could stifle good instruction. Is he right?


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