Articles in the Teachers category

The education reform hype

Blogger, E.D. Kain, has a great commentary today on his blog stating “there are no silver-bullets in education reform.”

Kain notes:

School reformers create a seductive narrative for the media and lawmakers alike. Foundations are lured to support radical changes because they promise radical results. It’s much more glamorous, after all, to put money into shiny new charter schools than to give those dollars to school districts. School choice and accountability sound good on paper, and films like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman pull on our heartstrings and paint pictures of selfish teachers lobbying hard against their own students. These films ignore not only the external factors leading to school failure – including poverty, lack of funding, and other societal issues – they also gloss over the many failed charter schools and choice programs across the country. Advocates of choice and accountability and the modern charter-school movement brush off the wildly varying results found from one charter school to the next. Like traditional public schools, charter schools with a higher percentage of white and Asian students and lower numbers of ESL students and other disadvantaged students fair much better than those with more mixed populations.

Top-down reformers demonize teachers, shut down ‘failing’ schools, and attempt to implement reforms without the input or buy-in of teachers, parents, and the community. This is why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty are no longer serving in Washington, D.C. It’s why Alan Bersin, who publicly fired school administrators and whose tenure saw the highest turnover of teachers and principals in San Diego history, was eventually removed in San Diego. And it’s why Mayor Bloomberg fights so hard to retain total authority over all education decision-making in New York City. Without support from the rank-and-file, school reform is impossible.

American public education is inherently democratic and decentralized, and no amount of dictatorial reform efforts will change that. It’s also about more than simply teaching kids how to take tests in reading and math. We cannot constantly compare American schools to those in other nations – American culture is different from Asian culture or Northern European culture. The accountability movement has shifted the focus away from American ingenuity and creativity in favor of strict testing regimes in an attempt to compete with Japan and Finland. This is the wrong approach. As our nation grows in wealth and technology, American public education should be a reflection of these changes. American schools may have been founded along industrial lines, but accountability efforts only entrench this attitude. If anything, we should be looking for ways to make education more creative and diverse, and to make American students more well-rounded and independent. The current reforms achieve just the opposite.

Let us know what you think?

Alexis Rice|February 28th, 2011|Categories: Comparative Education, Conferences and Events, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, Mayoral Control, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The week in blogs

Tripoli aside, the biggest story this week was the same as last: the extraordinary standoff in Madison, Wis., between Gov. Scott Walker and thousands of unionized teachers and other public employees. Pundits of all political stripes agreed that it marked a new chapter in labor-management relations.

For you pessimists out there (or is that realists?), Russell Walter Mead, of the American Interest, says the events in Wisconsin depict a national economy undergoing a wrenching change similar to the one that befell the proverbial buggy whip manufacturers in the early 20th century. But this time, he says, it’s not just laborers who will feel the distress.

“The US manufacturing sector has actually grown since 1973, producing more even as it has shed workers,” Mead writes. “There is no reason why the same thing can’t happen to lawyers, middle managers, government bureaucrats and many more white collar workers as computers get smarter and firms start outsourcing professional work overseas.”

For a more political take on the confrontation, see Understanding Government (“Scott Walker’s Union Dismemberment Plan”) which links to an earlier New Republic article on the efforts of several Republican governors to change the prevailing management-labor dynamic.

Moving further left, we have Mother Jones on how the billionaire,  staunchly anti-labor Koch brothers helped fund Walker’s gubernatorial campaign.

On the right, there’s the Heritage Foundation, with a sit down interview with Gov. Walker himself, and the MacIver Institute blog on how much protesting teachers could be costing taxpayers in missed classroom time. (Nine million-plus, it says.)

Finally, we have some relief in the form of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and his priceless interview with AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|February 25th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers, Week in Blogs|

Rethinking collective bargaining to focus on student achievement

Anne L. Bryant, the National School Board Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director, is part of National Journal’s expert blog on education, and posted a response to this week’s question on labor-management collaboration following attending the Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration.  NSBA was a partner in the conference and Bryant served as a panelist.

Bryant noted, “The collective bargaining process must be focused on promoting our most important educational priority — increasing student achievement.”

Regarding the conference, Bryant said, “we were exposed to 12 school districts with various styles of innovation. All these districts had ‘collaboration’ as their strategy and outcome. Two great examples that should be applauded are Hillsborough County’s (Fla.) and Montgomery County’s (Md.) efforts to advance the effectiveness of their education professionals. Going forward, we need to find ways to replicate throughout the country these successful teacher compensation, incentive, and development models, while taking into account the local circumstances of every community.”

Check out Bryant’s entire National Journal posting.

Alexis Rice|February 25th, 2011|Categories: Conferences and Events, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Robots as instructors?

TechNewsDaily reports on new research suggesting that robots could someday assist in classroom instruction. The article focusing on toddlers notes:

A robot named RUBI has already shown that it can significantly improve how well infants learn words, and the latest version of the bot under development should also be able to wheel around classrooms, too.

The idea to develop RUBI came to Javier Movellan, director of the Machine Perception Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, when he was in Japan for research involving robots and his kids were in a child care center.

BoardBuzz finds it interesting that robot instructors in the future may improve the student learning experience.

Alexis Rice|February 23rd, 2011|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Share your ideas on labor-management collaboration

This week’s Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration, which the National School Boards Association was a partner in, showed that when school boards, administrators, and teachers work as a team to improve student achievement, they can greatly strengthen the quality of education we provide to our students and our communities.

Through the conference and online resources now on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, school districts across the country will now be able to share information about their collaborative success and have the resources to design teacher compensation, incentive, and development programs that meet their unique local needs to reach their goals for raising student achievement. You can also “share your ideas” on how to transform the relationship between teachers and school management on the website.

Alexis Rice|February 18th, 2011|Categories: Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Teachers|

The week in blogs

Library of Congress photo

Library of Congress photo

What a week of contrasts for labor unions. On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other education leaders praised school districts and teacher unions that have largely put aside their differences and worked together for higher student achievement.

“It takes trust between administrators, school board members, and teachers,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, one of the participants at the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration in Denver.

Now move to Madison, Wis., specifically, to the state house, where nobody was talking “collaboration.” That’s where hundreds of public employees (including teachers) and their supporters gathered this week to demonstrate against Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to sharply curtail their collective bargaining rights.

None other that President Obama came to the workers’ defense, calling the governor’s actions an “assault” on unions. Said the National Journal’s Matthew Cooper: “Collective bargaining is the infrastructure – the essential core of labor’s rights and power – and so attacks on that right go to the heart of the union movement. That’s why the president weighed in…”

Lawrence Hardy|February 18th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers|

State associations support governors’ moves to curb tenure, union influence

(updated to include letter from Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Ohio governor’s plans to scale back proposal).

As school board members, administrators, and teacher representatives met in Denver on Feb. 15 and 16 for the  first-ever conference on labor-management issues, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, lawmakers in several states were proposing plans to end or rework teacher tenure, collective bargaining, and other measure designed to curb the power of the unions. CNN reports that “States, GOP go after teachers unions in budget crisis.

Some of the most notable actions include:

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie’s education commissioner announced a plan that would grant tenure only after a teacher had been judged effective for three years in a row, and revoke tenure after two consecutive years of poor ratings, The Record reports. The plan would also base a portion of teachers’ evaluations on student performance.

The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the plan. “Tenure now serves as nothing more than a lifetime system of job protection that makes removal of an underperforming teacher difficult, time-consuming and expensive,” said NJSBA Executive Director Marie S. Bilik in a press release.

The Tennessee School Boards Association is supporting a move by the state legislature to repeal the state’s collective bargaining law for educator unions. The bill is expected to clear both chambers of the GOP-led legislature and has the support of new Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, The Commercial Appeal reports.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a “budget repair bill” that would remove most of the collective bargaining rights of public employees, including teachers. The measure would remove the ability of unions to bargain over pensions, health insurance and working conditions. Employees would be required to contribute significantly to pension funds and school districts would have more control over health insurance and Increases in wages would be limited to increases in the Consumer Price Index, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

“Gov. Walker’s proposal will provide school boards with flexibility in containing benefit and wage costs. Together, these measures will assist school boards to ensure limited resources are going to the classroom to provide the best classroom experience for our state’s students,” WASB Executive Director John Ashley wrote in this statement. However, in a Feb. 15 letter to leaders of the state legislature, Ashley indicated that the state’s school board members were “deeply divided” on the issue of curtailing collective bargaining, as many were concerned that it could erode local control and established relationships between board and union leaders. While many WASB members appreciate the flexibility the measure could give them in crafting budgets, it “goes well beyond anything the
WASB’s members have requested in terms of altering the employer-employee relationship,” Ashley wrote.

In what could best be described as a volatile and political landscape, Gov. Walker threatened to lay off more than 12,000 state employees on Feb. 25, while union supporters in New Jersey and Indiana rallied to support the Wisconsin workers and stave off similar efforts in their states, the Washington Post reported.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, has also laid plans to dismantle most of the state’s collective bargaining laws for all public employees as part of his budget plan.  Republicans say the plan is needed to prevent the state from going bankrupt, but the state legislature made some modifications to allow negotiations over wages, the Associated Press reported.

And Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to restructure the state’s pension system and require teachers and other public employees to make contributions. FSBA Executive Director Wayne Blanton explains the proposals and potential impact for school boards in this video:

Joetta Sack-Min|February 18th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, School Board News, Teachers|

Labor management conference calls for cooperation, leadership

School board members, union representatives, and administrators — as well as state and national associations representing all three groups – came together this week in an extraordinary call for more cooperation among labor and management in schools.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the host of U.S. Department of Education’s Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration, said the 150 districts that attended the two-day conference in Denver are the leaders of what will become a nationwide effort to strengthen schools and raise student achievement.

“We have a whole set of districts that are, frankly, going to lead the country where it needs to go,” Duncan said, adding later: “This is going to be a movement.”

Both Duncan and NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant emphasized that such a movement must come from the ground up. “[It's] the opposite of one size fits all,” Duncan said.

They also emphasized that the Denver conference is only the beginning.

“This stuff takes time,” said Bryant, who was joined at the conference by NSBA President Earl C. Rickman III and the leaders of 10 state school boards associations.  “It takes trust between administrators, school board members, and teachers.”

Some of that trust has frayed recently amid the national debate over issues such as using student test scores in teacher evaluations. But during a news conference, Bryant said that groups representing key groups in these discussions — NSBA, the American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association, and the American Association of School Administrators – have signed onto a document pledging to work together on any incentive pay plans proposed. She said these 11 points – the Guiding Principles for Teacher Incentive Compensation Planswill become a model for how school districts deal with this difficult issue.

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech agreed that collaboration is essential. Find a high-performing school district, he said, and “invariably, you’re going to find a situation where you have an outstanding relationship between labor, management, and the board of education.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA president Dennis Van Roekel, noted the contrast between the atmosphere at the conference and the mood in state houses in Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, and other states where anti-teacher tenure bills are being written.

“You can’t help but note the disconnect between here and in the state houses,” Van Roekel said.

Added Weingarten: “When we actively work together and find common ground, we transform not only schools, but school districts. This conference shows what’s possible — but it’s a toxic time.”

No one suggested that tackling controversial issues such as tenure or teacher compensation would be easy. But at a forum later Wednesday, Bryant said that focusing on student achievement is the place to start.

“Once you focus on the main issue, many of these sub-issues go away,” Bryant said.

However, she said that in order to truly concentrate on student achievement, school districts must have community support — something that is not a given, considering that 75 percent of adults don’t have children in the public schools.

“We’ve got to bring along the public,” Bryant said.

Lawrence Hardy|February 16th, 2011|Categories: School Board News, School Boards, School Reform, Teachers|

Watch live the Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration

Leaders from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and state school boards associations are participating in the Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, taking place in Denver today and tomorrow. At this first-of-its-kind conference, national and local school leaders will hear from other superintendents, school boards, and teacher union leaders who are working together to redefine the labor-management relationship in their communities.

Earl C. Rickman III, President of NSBA, and Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director of NSBA, will represent NSBA at this conference. Rickman also represents Michigan’s Mount Clemens Community School District Board of Education, which he serves as board president. Mount Clemens is one of the 150 school districts from across the country participating in the conference.

Bryant will be part of the session tomorrow on “Leading a Movement to Advance Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration” which will be featured below live from 2:15 – 3:15 PM EST.

Several leaders from state school boards associations will be represented at the conference, including Ken Delay, Executive Director, Colorado Association of School Boards; Randy Black, Director of Member Relations, Colorado Association of School Boards; Kelly B. Moyher, Senior Staff Attorney, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education; C. Ed Massey, Board Member, Boone County Board of Education in Kentucky and Secretary-Treasurer, NSBA; Carl Smith, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Boards of Education; Andy Sever, Director of Personal Services, Montana School Boards Association; Patrick Duncan, Senior Consultant/Negotiator Labor Relations, New Jersey School Boards Association; Van Keating, Director of Management Services, Ohio School Boards Association; and Timothy Duffy, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Committees.

NSBA joins the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service as partners in this conference.

View live video streaming of the main sessions.

Schedule of Sessions Being Live Streamed:

February 15 4 – 4:30 pm EST
Welcome, Framing, and Overview
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

February 15 4:30 – 5:30 pm EST
The Principles in Action: Structuring Labor-Management Collaboration for Student Success
The plenary will feature the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, the president of the Hillsborough (Florida) Classroom Teachers Association and the president of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Board of Education.

February 16 11:30 am – 12:30 pm EST
The Difference You Can Make: The Positive Impact of Reform From the Perspective of Students, Parents, Teachers and Principals
The plenary will feature participants from Denver and Douglas County (Colorado) Public Schools.

February 16 2:15 – 3:15 PM EST
Leading a Movement to Advance Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director, National School Boards Association
Michael Casserly, Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools
George H. Cohen, Director, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators
Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Note: Video will only appear during the time of the live sessions.

Free Videos by Ustream.TV

Alexis Rice|February 15th, 2011|Categories: Conferences and Events, Federal Programs, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Rural Schools, School Boards, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Obama’s budget plan focuses on education

This morning, President Barack Obama traveled to Parkville Middle School and Center for Technology in Maryland’s Baltimore County to unveil his budget plan and disscussed the need to invest in education.

See the video from the Associated Press:


Alexis Rice|February 14th, 2011|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Technology, Federal Programs, Middle Schools, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|
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