Articles in the Teachers category

The week in blogs

It’s the good elementary school teacher who tells her students: “It’s Okay to ask questions if you don’t understand.” It doesn’t mean you’re dumb; there could be many reasons why you’re lost.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., a strong advocate for public schools, seems to have taken that axiom to heart. In a sometimes darkly humorous video clip posted on This Week in Education, he shows that sometimes you can’t follow what someone is saying (in this case, someone testifying before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce) because, well, she isn’t making any sense.

“What are you telling me?” proclaims a somewhat exasperated Miller, after a witness attempts to explain that all those ill-defined private Education Management Organizations (EMOs) that are increasingly running public charter schools really are accountable to their public boards (even though they typically withhold the most basic information from them) because, well, they should be accountable — and, doggone it, it’s just the right thing to do. (Or something like that; I didn’t get it either.)

“I don’t understand what you’re telling me.” the congressman deadpans.

Watch it. Laugh. And maybe — weep.

Speaking of accountability, in a provocative Op-Ed in the New York Times, author and education historian Diane Ravitch says that a lot of the dramatic short-term gains of charters “reconstituted” schools, and other highly touted programs “are the result of statistical legerdemain.” That drew a sharp response by Bloomberg’s Jonathan Alter called Don’t Believe the Critics Education, Education Reform Works.

And what do the kids think about this whole accountability thing? We can’t speak for all of them, of course, but the blogger “Miss Malarkey” has provided a helpful Top Ten list of “comments made by my third graders” during their first ever New York State tests.

My favorite: “Wait, is this the real test?”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 3rd, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Governance, Policy Formation, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Say what you will about Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (and we know you talk about him all the time) the man could turn a phrase.

Among the bon mots coined by the 19th century English aristocrat:

The pen is mightier than the sword….

Pursuit of the almighty dollar

The great unwashed

And, most famous of all, (thanks, in part, to a certain cartoon beagle)

It was a dark and stormy night

Why are we talking about Bulwer-Lytton? Because in the fifth installment of a seven-part series in Education Week, Frederick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, and co-authors Greg M. Gunn and Olivia M. Meeks, use another well known Bulwer-Lyttonism to begin their commentary on how to improve teacher quality, something about the folly of squeezing square pegs into round holes.  However, Hess and Co. asserts, when it comes to searching for good teachers, plucking a few square pegs isn’t such a bad idea. And, yes, it makes more sense when they say it.

Lawrence Hardy|May 27th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Diversity, Educational Research, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

The week in blogs

Living in the Washington, D.C., area can make you feel like a real mover and shaker — even if the only moving and shaking you do is on the dance floor. Case in point, watching my 9-year-old daughter’s soccer game one weekend, I couldn’t help but overhear a parent from the other team talking rather loudly and importantly on his cell phone, saying something about “our position regarding the European Union.”

Which, of course, made me think: “What’s my position regarding the European Union — and do I need to phone that in?” No, actually, it made me think: “What a cool place to live — a place where Big Things are being decided.”

In truth, most of us here spend more time talking about those Big Things than deciding them — or being around the people who decide them. An exception occurred last December, on the deadest of Friday afternoons before the Holidays, when I attended a small seminar in a nondescript building off Dupont Circle in the District.

The subject: common core standards.

Lawrence Hardy|May 20th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

New on

Much research and most stories on school reform focus on how underperforming schools have made dramatic improvements, typically through partnerships and collaboration between the school board, district employees, and community.

In his latest installment, ASBJ contributing editor Douglas Reeves argues the same approach and attention should be placed on high performing schools that challenge themselves to be even greater.

Reeves take’s a look at Wisconsin’s Hudson High School, where remarkable gains have been achieved without sweeping changes in personnel, a windfall of funds, or watered down student expectations.

Rather, Reeves writes, Hudson focused on the essence of teaching: curriculum, assessment, feedback, and hard work.

To read more about this good to great story, go here. But hurry, it’s available for free viewing only for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|May 19th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, Leadership, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Have you heard the news? Well, it’s all over the Internet, so it must be true.

Here’s the headline:

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money to Properly Educate Students

The story “quotes” prominent Washington politicians, falling over one another to apologize for the error.

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said a House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) – but not really. His “quote” and the headline – along with statements from chagrinned Democrats as well – appear in The Onion, the satirical daily that seems to get all its facts wrong but still manages to come up with the truth.

Would that a little budget “slip up” could fix everything regarding school funding, but in the real world of public education it was not the case, as battles raged on over just how to define equity in education and in society.

In the Fordham Institute’s “Flypaper” blog, Peter Meyer charged that protesting New York teachers and their sympathizes, who marched this week on Wall Street to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to cut more than 6,000 teaching positions, were fomenting “a class war.”  (Yes, we’re horrified too.)

“Even if one sympathized with  these folks’ sentiments about the financial ‘inequality crisis’ or believed for a second or two that it was the big banks that ‘crashed our economy,’” the question is where the big unions – and their contrail of sympathizers — have been during the inequality crisis in education the last thirty years,” Meyer writes. “Their silence in the face of crushing inner city educational failures has been deafening.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 13th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Curriculum, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Teacher layoff policies questioned across U.S., as pink slips are doled out

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Naomi Dillon|May 10th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers|Tags: , |

Colorado attorneys talk tenure reform

The winds of tenure reform are blowing across the nation as at least seven states — Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Wyoming — consider amendments to state laws that would dramatically reduce teachers’ rights. But the state that has showed what’s possible is Colorado, according to Colorado attorneys Martin Semple and M. Brent Case, both of Semple, Farrington & Everall, P.C.

Speaking at Council of School Attorneys session entitled, “Tenure Reform in Colorado: Practical Lessons for Other States,” Semple and Case described a new Colorado law that makes bold changes:

• Probationary teachers must earn tenure with three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness, rther than just three years of service.

• Teachers with tenure automatically lose that status and return to probationary status if they are evaluated as ineffective for two consecutive years. They can regain tenure if they are rated effective for two consecutive years.

• 50 percent of teacher evaluations will be tied to student growth as measured by standardized tests.

• The so-called “dance of the lemons” will end ; no school need accept a teacher transfer if the principal and a faculty committee give a thumbs down.

• Every teacher will be evaluated every year. In the past, tenured teachers were evaluated only once every three years.

The Colorado legislature didn’t define what effective teaching is. The state board of education is empowered to do so. The law is expected to be fully implemented by 2014.

Part of the motivation behind the bill was positioning Colorado to be a more viable candidate for federal Race to the Top funds.

The attorneys noted that the bill was sponsored by a former principal — a Democrat — and that the Colorado governor, Senate majority and House majority are all Democratic. While the teacher unions affiliated with the National Education Association opposed the bill, the American Federation of Teachers endorsed it.

– Eric Randall

Erin Walsh|April 8th, 2011|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2011, School Board News, School Law, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Education headlines: Fewer students pursue teaching careers

Vice President Joe Biden discussed new guidelines for public school districts, colleges and universities about their responsibilities under civil rights laws to prevent sexual violence, part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to draw attention to sexual violence and ways to prevent it, the New York Times reports…

Teacher layoffs and other education spending cuts are thinning more than the current ranks of California’s classroom instructors, the Los Angeles Times writes. The number of people training to be teachers also is plummeting, and that trend is likely to continue, according to the newspaper…

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered the Prince George’s County, Md., school district to pay $5.9 million in back wages and penalties to foreign instructors that school officials recruited to teach hard-to-staff classes such as math and science. The school district illegally required that the teachers cover thousands of dollars in expenses related to getting temporary work visas, according to the Washington Post

And following previous stories on state efforts to curb collective bargaining and teacher tenure, the Idaho Statesman reports that the governor has signed a bill that eliminates tenure for new teachers and restricts collective bargaining while introducing merit pay. Tennessee’s legislature has approved a plan put forth by the governor that increases the time for new teachers to gain tenure and creates a tougher new evaluation system, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 5th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Teachers|

The week in blogs

Ready for today’s “Week in Blog Question?” Here goes: “How are those weird Easter Island statues like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition?”

“Say what?”

Sorry, time’s up.  But because this is our inaugural, occasional, semi-monthly-on-average Week in Blog Question, the Judges have graciously offered to give you another try.  “Now take the eraser end of your pencil and open the test  booklet…” No, actually, just think real hard.

Question #2: “So. About those statues: How is the fact that their construction is said to have totally devastated Easter Island civilization as we know it (or think we know it – it was, after all, hundreds of years ago) analogous to what RTTT will do to the public schools?”

Yes, it’s a toughie, and, yes, I’m poking fun at Yong Zhao’s blog on these seemingly disparate topics (“I can’t help but make the connection between Easter Islanders’ race to erect the statues and the Obama’s Race to the Top program…” he writes) because it’s a little, well, out there; but the fact is, the University of Oregon professor writes some of the most original and provocative analyses of K12 education on the web today.

Here, to be as brief as possible, is his point: Just as Jared Diamond’s argues in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed that the Easter Islanders exhausted their human and natural resources in a misguided competition to build ever-grander icons, so is RTTT exhausting our schools’ resources in a misguided competition for the best test scores.

“Test scores have no doubt become American’s stone statue in education…” Zhao writes. “Just like the Easter Islanders’ obsession with building statues damaged their ecosystem, America’s obsession with test scores have already begun and will continue to damage its education ecosystem.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 1st, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

Evaluating teachers on student performance

If you try to keep up with whether teachers should be evaluated based on their students’ performance by using value-added models your head is probably spinning from all the conflicting conclusions. On one hand, researchers say value-added results are too imprecise to accurately evaluate teachers. While on the other had, another group of researchers claim using value-added results are better than how we evaluate teachers now.

So what are school board members and other policymakers to make of these conflicting findings?

Well, a report released today by NSBA’s  Center for Public Education helps makes sense of it all even for the non-researcher. Their report– Building a Better Evaluation System: Can value-added models be used in evaluations? –delves into the limitations of current teacher evaluation systems as well as into the conflicting research on using student achievement to evaluate teachers to help school board members and other policymakers make more informed decisions on how to best evaluate teachers. The report came to these general conclusions:

  • Current teacher evaluation systems are lacking: Research shows that less than 1 percent of teachers nationwide earn ‘unsatisfactory’ ratings even though by all accounts more teachers fall into this category.
  • Value-added models have their flaws but they are better than what are in place now: Value-added results may misidentify some effective teachers as ineffective and vise versa but they are more accurate than the current system that identifies both effective and ineffective teachers as ‘satisfactory’.
  • Similar statistical measures are used effectively to evaluate employees in other industries: Other professionals are evaluated based on similarly imprecise statistical measures.
  • There are ways to improve value-added models: There are tools available to make value-added results more accurate such as averaging results over multiple years.
  • Multiples measures that include value-added results provide the fullest picture of a teacher’s actual effectiveness: Value-added measures should be just one tool in determining a teacher’s true effectiveness. Other measures of teachers effectiveness should also be used as part of  comprehensive evaluation system that is not only used for personnel decisions but to help all teaches improve as well.

Of course the report provides a wealth of information for school board members when considering including student results in evaluating teachers so be sure check out the full report on the Center’s website at

Jim Hull|April 1st, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|
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