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Articles in the Teachers category

The week in blogs

“Teachers in Finland are practically rock stars,” exclaims Robert Rothman in the Alliance for Excellent Education’s blog, High School Soup. And if that sounds like a slight exaggeration  — I can imagine a class of middle schooler holding their lighted Bics aloft after a particularly scintillating lecture — it still shows how far we in America need to go to advance the status of teacher

To be sure, Finland doesn’t pay them like rock stars, Rothman adds. “Teachers salaries are about average. Rather, the country has established its preparation programs and working conditions so that teaching is a highly respected profession.”

The blog is commenting on an article in American Educator that cities the singular importance of great teaching – and a school system that nurtures and supports great teaching – to school improvement.

Should there be more emphasis in high school on vocational training? That’s the question posed this week by the National Journal on its Education blog.  Proponents point to successful apprenticeship programs in Europe and the many good technical jobs that require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. Skeptics include Thomas Toch of Education Sector, who worries that a new generation of vo-tech could lead to  “watered-down expectations for many students who are already getting short shrift in our educational system.”

Board members, are you sick of No Child Left Behind? Guess what, Arne Duncan is too. Read the Education Secretary’s thoughts on ESEA reauthorization in Politico.

Finally, the NAEP History scores are out and they’re not exactly historic – at least, not in a good way. See commentary and analysis by Joanne Jacobs and Jim Hull of NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 17th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Week in Blogs, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

It’s summer — time to break the routine. So, in that spirit, let me begin this column with a subject that is truly dear to my heart:

Interesting Facts About Your Week in Blogs Editor

Readers, did you know that:

A) I’m a champion swimmer*

* in the struggle-across-the-pool category

B) My wife says I have distinctive taste when it comes to home decorating*

* distinctively bad taste

I could go on, but, you get the point: Place a qualifying asterisk (*) after almost any assertion, and you can pretty much claim anything. It doesn’t make much difference when the subject is my swimming ability or home decorating prowess. But if I did the same with, say, a piece purporting to compare the relative advantages of charter school start ups to traditional public school turnarounds, the consequences might be  greater.

To his credit, Mike Petrilli does indeed qualify his assertion in a Fordham Institute blog entitled Charter start-ups are 4 times as likely to succeed as district turnarounds* (Note big asterisk). But that doesn’t stop him from making sweeping policy pronouncements based on data from just 19 schools. That’s the number of schools (in 10 states studied)  in which 1) the start up charter was near a traditional school with state reading and math proficiency in the bottom 10 percent, and 2) either school subsequently increased its performance to above the state average.

Those 19 schools further break down to 15 charters and just four traditional schools, meaning, Petrilli concludes, that serious questions must be raised, “about the wisdom of the federal government pumping $3 billion into school turnaround efforts instead of using some of the money to replicate and scale up successful charters.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 10th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Educational Research, Urban Schools, School Reform, Student Achievement, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

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: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Week in Blogs, School Reform, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

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: Teachers, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|

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: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Educational Research, Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

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: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Educational Research, Board governance, Student Achievement, Leadership, American School Board Journal|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: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Urban Schools, Policy Formation, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

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: Governance, Teachers, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|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: School Law, Teachers, NSBA Annual Conference 2011, School Reform, Student Achievement, School Board News|

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: Teachers, Announcements, School Board News|
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