Articles in the Teachers category

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|

Education headlines: Record-setting teacher layoffs looming, Ohio limits collective bargaining

The Associated Press reports that the Ohio legislature voted Wednesday to severely limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers, including teachers. The measure, which is expected to be signed by the governor, would allow unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits; bans workers from striking, and replaces automatic pay increases with merit raises or performance pay.

America’s public schools may see the most extensive layoffs of their teaching staffs in decades, the New York Times says, as school districts across the country have given layoff warnings to mass numbers of teachers… The AP also finds that many principals removed from low-performing schools as part of the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program are quickly finding new jobs, often in the same districts or schools where they previously worked.

And, according to the Washington Post, former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee admits “that some cheating may have occurred” after vehemently denying such claims made by USA Today as part of its ongoing investigation on cheating. That story asserts that teachers changed answers on student tests at some D.C. schools.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 31st, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Teachers|

CPE report reveals concerns with teacher evaluations

NSBA’s Center for Public Education has released an analysis of the push to change teacher evaluation systems, especially the inclusion of statistical measures of teachers’ effect on student learning.

That report, “Building a Better Evaluation System,” finds that the current teacher evaluation system is lacking—and most evaluation systems now fail to identify truly effective and ineffective teachers.

“Current evaluation systems identify less than 1 percent of teachers as unsatisfactory even though by all accounts there are many more teachers that fall into this category,” said Jim Hull, the Center’s senior research analyst and author of the report. “This also means that our very effective teachers are lumped in with average and below average teachers and not recognized for their exceptional performance.”

Many states are looking for ways to tie teacher performance to their pay and to use teacher evaluations as a factor in determining layoffs. And the number of states that are linking teacher evaluations to student performance data is growing: In 2005, 13 states were able to do so; currently, 35 states are able to do so and the number is expected to grow.

“The push to change teacher evaluation systems, and especially to include statistical measures of teachers’ effect on student learning, is here,” Hull said. “Clearly, this is a fast-moving train that will likely affect many, if not most, school districts eventually.”

The Center has prepared a summary to help school board members prepare:

1. The current system is lacking. Current evaluation systems fail to identify the true variation in teacher effectiveness by rating all but a few teachers as “satisfactory.” One study of teacher evaluation systems nationwide found that only 1 percent of teachers are evaluated as “unsatisfactory.” Other research proves that there’s huge variability among teachers, even within schools, but it’s hidden by inadequate evaluation tools. A recent quote by Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, sums it up: “As important as evaluation is to assessing teacher performance, what passes for teacher evaluation in many districts frankly isn’t up to this important task.”

2. Improving teacher effectiveness can dramatically impact student learning. Research has shown that teachers have the single greatest impact on students’ performance, more than family background, socioeconomic status, or school.  By improving teacher effectiveness, districts could improve student achievement and save money at the same time, because they would be able to identify ineffective teachers early and provide them with appropriate support, rather than having to replace struggling teachers who leave the profession because of a lack of assistance.

3. Value-added models have flaws, but are much better than the system we have now. The fairest way to identify strong teaching is through a system that looks at student gains. Value-added models, which work to isolate the impact a teacher has on his or her students’ achievement from other factors, are the latest refinement of such a system. However, value-added models have come under intense scrutiny and criticism because the scores can be imprecise, and this criticism needs to be considered. However, while imprecision is a concern, the variation in scores should be considered against the current evaluation system, which almost certainly misidentifies many ineffective teachers as “satisfactory.” As long as they are used in concert with other methods of evaluation, value-added scores provide a useful insight into teachers’ impact.

4. Statistical measures are used to evaluate people in other industries effectively. Using imprecise statistical measures in evaluations is a generally accepted practice in fields outside of teaching. Major League Baseball, for instance, bases its million-dollar salary decisions largely on a player’s statistics, which can vary from year to year about as much as teachers’ do in value-added models. Other professions evaluated on similarly imprecise year-to-year measures include realtors; investors’ rate of return; utility company repairmen; and others. Value-added models should not be compared to a criterion of perfection, but whether including value-added models as part of a comprehensive teacher evaluation system would be an improvement over what is in place now.

5. There are ways to improve value-added models. The more years of data are used, the more precise value-added models become. For instance, the chance of misidentification drops by 10 percent when three years of data are used instead of one.  Better state assessments, and aligning the assessments to what is taught, could also improve value-added models.

6. Multiple measures are the way to go. Virtually all researchers advocate using value-added data as one of multiple measures when making decisions about teachers.  Using traditional measures, such as classroom observation, along with value-added data will present a fuller, more accurate picture of a teacher’s true effectiveness. In current formulas that use value-added models, the value-added score generally accounts for 25 to 50 percent of the total rating. Which measures to use and how much weight to put on each are decisions best made locally based on data, resources available, and the district’s goals for the teacher evaluation system.

Rebecca St. Andrie|March 31st, 2011|Categories: School Board News, Teachers|

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|
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