Articles in the Teachers category

The week in blogs

First, a disclaimer: Our first item is not a blog, and it was not published this week. (Other than that, the headline above is perfectly accurate.)

But this article on high-flying high school students being flummoxed by an SAT essay prompt involving  …. Gasp! TV reality shows! .. was too good to pass up. Yes, it’s from the New York Times. And, yes, I tend to cite them a lot. And, yes that’s because I really like Times. And no, I’m not getting paid by them to say this.

Back to the story: It seems an SAT question on just how real the “reality” is on reality TV shows like American Idol and Real Housewives of New Jersey — which all high school kids know something about, right? — was too much for those high achievers who don’t have time for the tube.  

“I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively,” one frustrated student wrote on the Web site College Confidential, referring to the 19th century reformer. “I kind of want to cry right now.”

The irony, unmentioned in the article, is how for years SAT opponents have criticized the tests for being culturally biased toward affluent white students and against minorities and the disadvantaged. A famous example from years ago was the analogy that required students to know the meaning of “regatta,” which could be tough for children who’ve never seen a sailboat or a racing shell.

I don’t begrudge the high-achieving, non-TV watching students their complaint, but it seems to me that, if anything, the tests favor students with their life experiences over kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

While we’re on the subject of standardized tests, blogger Jennifer Fox writes in the Huffington Post about her campaign “to stop the testing trend.” One suggestion: “Ask teachers to have their classes of students fill out the cards [postcards  to First Lady Michelle Obama asking the president ‘to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!'] and bring in a quarter to mail them as a class.” Don’t think teachers – or administrators – would relish being be put in that position.

Finally, be sure to read Joanne Jacobs on how respondents to the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher say they need more help in differentiating instruction for diverse learners.

“Ninety-one percent of public school teachers say schools need to do more to prepare ‘diverse’ learners for success after high school,” Jacobs writes.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|March 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Educational Research, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Fate of teachers’ unions might play a role in future of school boards

1298464906226271134megaphone77-mdTeachers unions must feel like the proverbial punching bag these days. Across the nation, a lot of state policymakers are attacking tenure, seniority, and collective bargaining rights —and demonizing the unions as an obstacle to school reform.

How badly the unions are under fire—and the potential consequences for local school boards—are the focus of the April ASBJ cover story.

Clearly it’s not the best of times for unions. For one, some governors are showing very little fear of the unions’ still-powerful political influence and sizable financial war chests.

No one has made that more clear than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who once claimed his state’s school reform efforts were being held hostage by “a selfish, self-interested, greedy union that cares more about putting money in their pockets and the pockets of their members than they care about educating our most vulnerable and needy children.”


Then, of course, there’s the recent—and tumultuous—legislative fight in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip unions of collective-bargaining rights led to a walkout by Democratic lawmakers, noisy protests, and ultimately a temporary restraining order from a judge who wanted to sort out the messy legislative process that led to the law’s passage.

Naomi Dillon|March 24th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, School Climate, Teachers|Tags: |

Hiring teachers late in the year works against building a quality faculty

stockvault_7718_20070525Chances are, if you’ve paid even passing notice to the national education debate, you’ve heard some variation of this: “If we could just get rid of bad teachers…”

There’s some truth to that statement. Many times, union contracts (which, it must be added, were negotiated, in most cases, with school board members and/or their representatives) make it difficult to fire bad teachers or reduce staff by methods other than seniority: “Last in, first out,” is the rule, in many cases.

It is a problem, of course, and it’s being debated at the national level and addressed in many districts. But it’s not the biggest staffing problem facing schools. That problem is attrition: nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years.

They leave because of lack of support and guidance, and frustration with a job that, despite our pronouncements, does not convey much in the way of authority or respect.

Now a study by Nathan D. Jones at Northwestern University and Adam Maier at Michigan State provides new information about another practice that leads, inordinately, to attrition: late hiring.

Looking at data from schools in Michigan, they found that nearly 12 percent of teachers were hired after the start of the school year. But these teachers were not evenly distributed.

Naomi Dillon|March 22nd, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Research, Policy Formation, Teachers|Tags: , |

Showcasing edtech innovation

NSBA is showcasing the Newport News Public Schools in Virginia as one of our Technology Leadership Network site visits this April. They are truly using technology to transform “business as usual”…take a peek at their video!

To register, visit:

Alexis Rice|March 21st, 2011|Categories: Educational Technology, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Protocol on pregnancy, maternity leave best delivered before stork arrives

stork_delivery_baby_1I used to grumble about any perceived special treatment my colleagues received when they were pregnant—taking time for all those doctors’ appointments, that afternoon sleepiness and lack of productivity, and complaining about having to return to work full time after only 12 weeks. Just who did they think they were?

Then, of course, I got pregnant.

ASBJ legal columnist Edwin Darden examines what school districts and administrators must know about pregnancy and pregnant women’s legal rights to work and time off. Now that I’m in the “protected” category again, I was relieved to learn that the law in most situations favors pregnant women.

Darden outlines several lawsuits where relations between women who were pregnant or new mothers and their school administrators went bad—recent cases include a woman who underestimated the toll her pregnancy would take on her finances and wanted to return to work earlier than planned and cases where school officials did not know how to handle the pregnancies of unwed teachers. Some of the examples were clearly discriminatory, others were well into the gray area.

Darden’s column gives a good overview of the legal landscape for anyone who does not want to be caught off guard. Here are some of the questions he suggests you ask:

Naomi Dillon|March 21st, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Next month marks the 28th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, notes University of Oregon education school dean (and blogger) Yong Zhao, so it’s only appropriate that we quote from that ground-breaking document:

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the insane policies that threaten democracy, turn American children into robotic test takers, narrow and homogenize our children’s education, reward grant writing skills instead of helping the needy children and stimulate innovation (e.g., Race to the Top), value testing over teaching, and scapegoat teachers that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Not the Nation at Risk you knew? That’s because Zhao has taken it upon himself to edit the document in ways that more accurately reflect the state of education, and education politics, these days. Very clever — and revealing.

So how’s that risky nation doing these days? Surprisingly well, writes Robert Pondiscio in the Core Knowledge Blog — not exactly a font of giddy enthusiasm for American schools.

Speaking of how education is taught, Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Maureen Downey quotes from a piece called “The Failure of American Teachers.” It’s not what you might expect.

And finally, this:

A Cinderella choice if there ever was one, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy topped Pride and Prejudice, The Grapes of Wrath, Anna Karenina and a little yarn called Moby-Dick in David McCandless’ illustrated “consensus-cloud” of books mentioned most often on “Top 100 Must-Read Books” lists.  If only my bizarre March Madness picks were so lucky.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|March 19th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

Video: NSBA speaks out on school bullying

NSBA’s General Counsel, Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Saturday discussing school bullying.

Here is the video:

Last week, Earl C. Rickman III, President of NSBA, joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and called for a united effort to address bullying in our schools.

Alexis Rice|March 14th, 2011|Categories: Diversity, Federal Programs, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The week in blogs

This week, education researcher Richard Rothstein takes Bill Gates to task for claiming in a recent Washington Post column on teacher development that student achievement has remained “virtually flat” in recent decades while per-student costs have “more than doubled.”

 Looking at NAEP tests since 1980 and 1990, Rothstein concludes that “American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally.” As far as a doubling of K12 funding is concerned, yes that’s true, he adds, but the statistic begs to be qualified.

“The biggest single recipient of new money has been special education for children with disabilities,” Rothstein writes. “Four decades ago, special education consumed less than 4 percent of all K12 spending. It now consumes 21 percent.”

What can high schools do to help community colleges and their astronomical drop-out rates? Blogger Dana Goldstein offers a thoughtful analysis.

 ”Why are people dropping out of community colleges en masse?” Goldstein asks. “In part, it’s the frustration of being academically under-prepared and thus being forced to pay tuition for credit-less remediation classes. But national surveys of community college drop-outs find that the most cited reasons for leaving school are work and family responsibilities.”

(Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for leading us to Goldstein’s commentary.)

Recent stories in the Washington Post have questioned zero tolerance policies in the Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools. Read a sobering post by the Post’s Valerie Strauss on common myths about zero tolerance’s effectiveness.

 Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|March 11th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Budgeting, Curriculum, Discipline, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Special Education, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Week in Blogs|

Video from the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

Yesterday, Earl C. Rickman III, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and called for a united effort to address bullying in our schools.

Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers attended the conference and discussed ways they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students.

“School board leaders and school officials are committed to safe educational environments for all students,” said Rickman. “With the right guidance and resources school leaders can meet the challenge of ensuring schools are a safe place for all students, free of bullying and harassment.”

Here’s the White House video from the conference:

As announced at yesterday’s conference, NSBA will launch a series of student conversations between school board members and students in middle and high school about the climate in their schools. The sessions will be guided by questions from the research-based school climate surveys developed by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) and by the Pearson Foundation’s Million Voices project.

“As school boards across the country develop policies and initiatives to combat bullying, it is important they hear from students about the current realities they face in their schools,” said Rickman.

Alexis Rice|March 11th, 2011|Categories: Federal Programs, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools, Wellness|

More opinions than facts in debate about teacher impact in education reform

IMG_8381Many excellent points are made in “Why Blame the Teachers?” this week’s “Room for Debate” forum in The New York Times.  But a lot of these are just opinions, the kind of thing you would expect from this type of discussion.  

An exception is the essay by author Diane Ravitch, who spoke last month at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. She backs up her argument that, yes, teachers are being unfairly targeted, with two disturbing facts.

#One is that No Child Left Behind’s goal of having every child rated “proficient” – truly proficient — by 2014 is, by nature, unattainable.

In a world where students come to school with differing backgrounds, abilities, and challenges, the only way to deem them all “proficient” would be to make the tests easy enough for all to pass.

Naomi Dillon|March 8th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , |
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