Articles in the Teachers category

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|

Evolving approach to teaching evolution, undermines scientific rigor

science-laboratory-work_w523_h725It’s a tad disturbing when science teachers don’t teach science.

Yet, according to a survey of 926 high school biology teachers, that’s exactly what’s happening. Most survey respondents admitted they’re not doing a good job teaching evolution.

The findings, published by two Penn State University professors in the January 28 issue of Science magazine, reveal that 13 percent of biology teachers admit they “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.”

Another 60 percent of teachers skirt the controversial issue and are “neither strong advocates for evolutionary biology nor explicit endorsers of nonscientific alternatives.”

So what should school board members make of this? Well, for one, suggest Penn State professors Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzar, if teachers give any weight to theories without a strong scientific foundation, “this approach tells students that well-established concepts can be debated in the same way we debate personal opinions.”

Naomi Dillon|February 10th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Educational Research, Governance, Teachers|Tags: , |

Former U.S. President wants to “transform and improve” America’s middle schools

The George W. Bush Institute today announced a plan to “transform and improve” American’s middle schools. Read the press release below:

HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nearly one-third of America’s young people fail to graduate from high school in four years.

“Middle School Matters will dramatically transform our partner middle schools and create an environment where students enter high school ready to do the work.”

To address that need, the George W. Bush Institute today announced Middle School Matters, a landmark education initiative to increase the number of children who complete middle school at grade level and go on to graduate from high school ready for college or a good job.

Former first lady Mrs. Laura W. Bush announced the program at Stovall Middle School of the Aldine Independent School District in Houston.

“Middle school is the last and best chance to prepare students for a successful high school career,” Mrs. Bush said to a crowd of 400 students, teachers, parents, education policy experts and city and school leaders. “Research shows with systematic, intensive interventions that students who started middle school behind can catch up.”

Middle School Matters is the most comprehensive research-based program to be applied to middle schools. The Institute has partnered with the nation’s top researchers to integrate, for the first time, proven practices that yield significant advances in middle school student achievement and readiness for high school. Implemented as a total package, Middle School Matters provides the proven mix of interventions to guarantee success.

Researchers developing Middle School Matters have identified 11 elements as critical for middle school success. These elements include concepts such as “school leadership” and “reading and reading interventions.” Middle School Matters incorporates key benchmarks, such as the ability to read for learning, write to communicate and perform complex math equations at grade level. Under each of the 11 elements, a research team convened by the Bush Institute prescribes five to eight data-driven specifications that include practical examples of how to best implement the research in the classroom.

“At the Bush Institute, we think big, work together, and get results,” said James K. Glassman, executive director of the Bush Institute. “Middle School Matters will dramatically transform our partner middle schools and create an environment where students enter high school ready to do the work.”

Middle School Matters will be implemented in three phases. The program is currently in Phase One, which includes building the platform and ensuring that all components work together cohesively. Phase Two will pilot the program in 10-15 schools. Each pilot school will undergo a tailored needs assessment and will be matched with a support team to assist in the implementation of the Middle School Matters specifications over two years. Phase Three will evaluate the pilot programs and scale the initiative to engage more schools.

Initial funding for Middle School Matters has been generously provided by a $500,000 donation from the Meadows Foundation.

“The Meadows Foundation has long believed that middle school is a critical transition period for young people and we must provide special attention to these students to ensure their academic success,” said Bruce Esterline, vice president for grants at the Meadows Foundation. “We applaud the Bush Institute for taking the lead to develop effective strategies to improve middle school students’ outcomes and appreciate the opportunity to partner with them to focus on this effort.”

Other collaborators include America’s Promise, Civic Enterprises, Southern Regional Education Board, Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas, and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.

“America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University are excited about partnering with the Bush Institute,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises. “Middle School Matters is addressing a very critical part of the pipeline in helping students stay in school and be successful once they leave. The Institute’s focus on research-based strategies is an excellent one and we look forward to working in tandem with this initiative.”

For more information on Middle School Matters, and to learn more about the education reform initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute, please visit

About the George W. Bush Institute:

The George W. Bush Institute’s mission is to unleash human potential around the world through expanding human freedom, educational reform, global health, and economic growth. In all its programming, the Institute seeks to empower women and social entrepreneurs as proven agents of change in society. The Institute is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which includes the Presidential library, located on the campus of SMU in Dallas. For more information, please visit

For more information about the George W. Bush Presidential Center, visit:

Let us what you think of this plan.

Alexis Rice|February 9th, 2011|Categories: High Schools, Middle Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Insights into education funding in President Obama’s upcoming budget

With the new 2012 federal budget proposal to come out shortly, the Obama administration is revealing information on what education priorities they will have for the upcoming year.

The White House is promoting, “developing new initiatives to improve K-12 education with an emphasis on graduating every student from high school ready for college and a career.”

The administration’s proposed budget will include the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED) to “support research on breakthrough technologies to enhance learning.”

The budget also will support continuation of Race to the Top, with an “expanded focus on school districts prepared to implement and sustain comprehensive reforms.”

Additionally, working with a coalition of private sector leaders called Change the Equation, the administration is “encouraging public-private partnerships that inspire more students – including girls and other currently underrepresented groups – to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).” The administration will also recruit 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade with a down payment in the 2012 budget to start recruiting more STEM teachers and improve STEM teacher training.

Alexis Rice|February 7th, 2011|Categories: Educational Technology, Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

High school quality key to urban communities

A coalition of civil rights and education groups are working to strengthen high school quality—and to ensure that students in urban communities receive an equitable education.

That mission is important because the quality of education received by urban students has a huge impact on their communities, Michael Wotorson, executive director of the Campaign for High School Equity, told urban school leaders at the CUBE Issues Forum Saturday at NSBA’s Leadership Conference.

One million students drop out of school each year—and only about half of minority students graduate on time.

That makes it a civil rights issue as well as an educational issue, Wotorson said. “There are critical supports that school s and districts need to be able to right things for our kids.”

It’s not just a matter of what’s right. Joining Wotorson on the panel discussion was Fred Jones, a legislative associate with the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE). Jones said the nation’s high school dropout rate was an economic and social problem for everyone.

“If you take the class of 2010 droputs—1.3 million—that results in about $337 billion in lost lifetime earnings,” he said.

One goal of AEE is to support the focus on the nation’s 2,000 lowest-performing high schools—so recently labeled “dropout factories,” where 60 percent or less of students graduate, Jones added.

The coalition—working through the campaign—also is supporting efforts at developing effective tools for evaluating teachers, Wotorson said. “We recognize how important it is to come up with a useful metric that allows us to talk about effectiveness.”

According to T. Beth Glenn, education director for NAACP’s Advocacy and Research Department, a value-added formula is appropriate—but “with caveats.” Also needed are observations of classroom practices, a review of student academic work, and other demonstrations of effective teaching.

For school boards, they should be looking at such policies as whether teachers have coaches and there is some means of using student outcomes to “feed back into” professional development, she said.

When an Arizona board member rose from the audience to describe the policies that affect students in her state—some of which she suggested were oppressive and racially motivated against minorities—Glenn said such “urgent and pressing problems need to be dealt with now.”

“Organize, organize, organize,” she said.

Del Stover|February 5th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Leadership Conference 2011, School Board News, School Boards, Teachers, Urban Schools|

Leadership Conference opens with John Merrow

NSBA’s Leadership Conference 2011 kicked off Saturday with a speech from  author, filmmaker, and PBS correspondent John Merrow. 

Merrow took his 14-year-old goddaughter into the depths of the New York Public Library recently and showed her a pod of hulking microfiche machines.

“What’s microfiche?” she asked.

Merrow began his opening general session talk at NSBA’s Leadership Conference Saturday morning with that story. It was a way to show how times are changing, not just for students and how they acquire knowledge, but also for school boards and their many antagonists, whom Merrow said are busy fighting yesterday’s battles.

As his godchild’s story illustrates, “Today knowledge is 24-7. Information is 24-7.” Merrow said. “By contrast, schools remain a monopolistic place where children are expected to answer questions, not ask them. I call it regurgitation education, and it’s at its apex as the tests approach.”

Schools must change, but not in the ways the Michelle Rhees of the nation would have it: by firing scores of supposedly bad teachers (as the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor famously did) and tying the salaries and job security of the rest to students’ scores on bubble tests, Merrow said. But neither can school districts maintain what Merrow dubbed the traditional “trade union” concept of teaching, which defines a job as one that guarantees employment for life and bases salaries on years spent in front of a class.

“Neither side says much about school boards, which are being ignored,” Merrow said.

School board members accept this position on the sideline at their own peril, Merrow said. Instead, they need to embrace new ways of teaching with technology and a more vital conceptualization of the teaching profession, one that allows for more autonomy, collaboration, and personal initiative.

What should school boards do to improve the teaching profession and stem the loss of 40 percent of new teachers within their first four years — the kind of human capital loss that few professions could tolerate?

“Make it rewarding,” Merrow said. “Make it attractive. Make it a job worth fighting for.”

Change the bureaucracy so principals can hire the teacher they want, Merrow said. Create schools in which teachers and other staff members, from custodians to secretaries, are encouraged to work together.

That kind of transformation is critical, but it is not for the faint-hearted, Merrow said.

“Be bold. Take risks. Recognize that the world has changed,” Merrow said. “Or don’t.”

Earlier, NSBA President Earl C. Rickman III, who introduced Merrow, talked briefly about the serious challenges facing school boards, ones “that threaten our very existence.” Among them are mayoral takeovers, increased federal control, and commentators and pundits who mistakenly believe that schools could do better without school boards in charge.

“As state association leaders, we need to fight this battle,” Rickman said.

Lawrence Hardy|February 5th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Leadership Conference 2011, School Board News, School Reform, Teachers|

The week in blogs

Ask an 8-year-old this Sunday what he wants to be when he grows up and you might hear “a star running back for the Green Bay Packers” (or the Pittsburgh Steelers). Or maybe, if he or she is more focused on the halftime show: “A rock star like the Black Eyed Peas!”

How would you respond? Probably something on the order of, “Aww, isn’t that cute.”

But get the same response from, say, a 13-year-old – and I did once, when I visited an alternative school in Brockton, Mass., and talked to a 5-foot, 98-poundish student who wanted to be a pro basketball player — and your reaction would be more like:  ”Isn’t that sad and deluded.”

Truth is, schools need to do a better job of preparing students for careers as well as higher education. And this week the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report outlining just how it thinks it should be done.

One big supporter is Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“I start with the basic premise that it is the responsibility of K-12 educators to prepare all students for both college and a career,” Duncan said in a speech this week.  ”This must be ‘both/and,’ not ‘either/or.’ High school graduates themselves – not the educational system – should be choosing the postsecondary and career paths they want to pursue.”

A great idea, but what’s the track record for schools in preparing students for careers? A mixed one, notes Education Week‘s Catherine Gewertz in the Curriculum Matters blog.

What’s another way to improve career education – and, indeed, all education? “Stop driving out good teachers,” says University of Georgia Professor Peter Smagorinsky, quoted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Get Schooled blog.  In this witty and quite opinionated piece, Smagorinsky muses about how today’s test-crazy education leaders would have reacted to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Speech.  Hint: Think multiple choice.

“I suspect that neither (here he’s referring to Jesus and Socrates) would last long as the test-administering functionary required by Duncan.”

I think “Ouch” is the proper (and clichéd) response.

Finally, thank Alexander Russo’s “This Week in Education” for alerting us to the return of Patrick Riccard’s satirical “Edu-Pundit” on YouTube. Very clever. Very funny … but scarily close to reality? See for yourself.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|February 4th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Teachers, Urban Schools|
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