Articles in the Teachers category

Does the “Billionaire Boys Club” help?

Diane Ravitch coined this phrase in her latest book, and  The Washington Post today has a front page article on the Gates Foundation’s impact on education in the last few years.  BoardBuzz can’t ignore the fact that many of the nation’s ills when it comes to education really mean urban education, and the efforts of the Gates Foundation and the other “boys club” participants (Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton are also card-carrying members) are very focused on changing the way urban schools conduct business.

BoardBuzz applauds Gates Foundation for trying to do good among those who are under-served and need the help.  In today’s education/economic crisis, most of the funds that are getting spent are being spent in urban and large districts.  With the infusion of money, many of the critics say, “stop throwing money at the problem,” but we can see that the money does have an impact.  The models that the “boys club” come up with may be worth noting for other districts, urban, suburban, and rural, down the road.  But questions arise. 

When private funding was promised for the D.C. Public Schools to help pay teachers up to 20% more, questions started popping up about who teachers would be accountable to, the chancellor (since there is no school board in D.C.), or the funders?  If the billionaires don’t agree with the plans or progress in some of the large districts where they pump in millions of dollars, will the money disappear?  And more importantly, what happens to those students if it does?  

Everyone wants education reform, turnarounds, and accountability, but it’s also very easy to chase money in today’s economy.  Pragmatism has its place in the world of education, and BoardBuzz hopes those with deep pockets and decison making power see it that way as well.

Kevin Scott|July 12th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Improving teacher quality

The New American Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) unveiled a new online guide dedicated to giving a complete overview of the current  15 federal programs devoted to teacher development and training initiatives. The guide breaks down the programs in detail, complete with the specific appropriation of funds.

The President’s budget for FY2011 would consolidate a number of these federal programs and revise or terminate others. The anticipated reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) could further revise programs regarding teacher quality.

BoardBuzz will be monitoring the potential changes in federal funding and authorizing bills in order to keep school board members informed of how emerging policy could affect them. The existing programs detailed by the FEBP’s guide seems like a step in the right direction towards improving and rewarding teacher quality. What arguments can be made against allocating funds to give teachers more training and compensation for increased performance? Obviously critiques of the process of teacher evaluation are warranted, but in BoardBuzz’s mind it makes sense to reward more effective teachers with more money, especially when teachers have the option of professional development available and the incentive based pay programs have the simultaneous approval and support of the members of their respective school districts.

To learn more about issues involving teacher quality, check out NSBA‘s advocacy resources on teacher quality.

Michael Long|July 9th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Increasing our social capital

BoardBuzz attended a forum held by the FEA (Forum on Education Accountability) on Capitol Hill earlier this week which provided an excellent opportunity for the public discussion of current issues facing educators. The forum hosted several key educational experts and was aptly titled, “Enhancing School and Family Capacity to Support Student Success.”

The speakers diagnosed some of the problems in the present educational climate, before laying out potential changes to help to rectify them. Striking BoardBuzz was the emphasis placed on reform measures necessary to be made outside of school walls. Too often the debate starts and ends with teachers. If children are not performing, teachers are held accountable. But clearly there are many factors outside educator’s control that must be taken into account when analyzing the underperformance of certain schools. The speakers stressed the differences between the performances of children from impoverished verses more affluent communities and the results were telling.

The fact that children from areas of high poverty do not perform as well as their more fiscally advantaged peers should not come as a shock to anyone. The schools are just not as good, the educators are just not as inspired, qualified, and capable, right? We fill these same schools with gutsy principles like Morgan Freeman’s character in “Lean on Me” and teachers with the bravado of Robin William’s in “Dead Poet Society” and we can sit back and watch those kids test scores soar.

Flawless as this logic seems, BoardBuzz was shocked to hear interesting statistics at the forum suggesting otherwise. Low student performance was correlated to other factors besides teacher inadequacy.  Particularly standing out was the correlation of low school performance in areas with weak social capital. Factors such as the safety of the community and positive community activity such as involved religious groups and family participation in their children’s learning can all be linked to better educational results.

The significance of this cannot be overstated, education reform requires holistic community measures be taken.  It seems obvious then that the discussion must move beyond just educator’s use of class time and teacher accountability to a wide scale collaborative effort on multiple fronts.  In order for educational progress be made cooperation is required between several community entities to increase social capital. BoardBuzz hopes this community approach will provide students the robust structural support they need to excel.  In short, it takes a village to raise a child.

Michael Long|July 2nd, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Diversity, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Funding education

Last night the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to provide $10 billion to save K-12 educational  jobs.

But there is opposition from the Obama administration, which could veto the measure because while it provides funds to save education jobs,  the legislation would also cut $800 million for some of the Obama administration’s key K-12 initiatives.

Education Week’s blogs, Politics K-12  shares the details about the $800 million in cuts:

The legislation takes aim at three of the administration’s most prized education priorities. That includes cutting $500 million from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, which rewards states for making progress on certain education redesign initiatives.

It also would cut $200 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund, which doles out grants to support pay-for-performance programs, and $100 million intended to help start new charter schools. The TIF received $400 million in fiscal year 2010, plus $200 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed last year. The charter program received $265 million in federal funding.

The money cut from the education programs would go toward a $10 billion fund aimed at helping states keep an estimated 140,000 teachers on the job and toward providing nearly $5 billion to help close a major shortfall in the Pell Grant program, which helps low-income students gain access to college.

The legislation now heads to the Senate.

Alexis Rice|July 2nd, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Educational Finance, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The week in blogs

Today’s New York Times tells a story of qualified success in the turning around of troubled Locke High School in south central Los Angeles. It’s a success because school leaders have restored a sense of order and purpose to a huge high school in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. But it’s qualified, the Times says, because of the tremendous cost — $15 million, much of it from private foundations. How useful a model is it for districts that don’t have that kind of money to spend, even with federal turnaround funds?

However, in his This Week in Education blog, Alexander Russo makes two good points: Locke High has many more problems than the typical low-performing school; and, considering cash-strapped California’s meager support of schools (about 46th place among the states in per-pupils spending, according to one estimate), the high school had a lot of ground to make up.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Get Schooled blog covers a troubling development in Memphis, Tenn., where school officials are considering bringing back corporal punishment.

NSBA’s own EDifier blog describes an interesting study that shows states can have more meaningful tests – and have them at a fraction of the cost of the current bubble-in kind.

Finally, a “you be the judge” kind of post on Education Tech News about a Philadelphia area English teacher who was fired from her parochial school after writing a blog about a class assignment. A Philadelphia Inquirer poll found overwhelming support for the teacher, but after reading the paper’s story, which appeared some time ago, I have to believe she crossed the line in a couple of serious ways. What do you think?

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 25th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, School Security, School Climate, Student Achievement, Budgeting, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

The week in blogs

duck_soup_1933When I heard that the Alliance for Excellent Education has a new blog titled High School Soup, I couldn’t help but think of the classic Marx’s brothers comedy, Duck Soup, the irrepressible Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho), and the ridiculous football game between Darwin and Huxley colleges, during which Quarterback Chico gives the signal: “Hey diddle diddle, the cat with the fiddle, this time I think we go through the middle.”

Appropriate, too, because the film is about the absurdities of college life — and High School Soup is all about high school graduation rates, preparing students to succeed in college, etc.

Except that …. well, that movie was called Horsefeathers. (Duck Soup was great too!)

In one of its first posts, High School Soup has a more sobering story to tell: According to the latest issue of Education Week‘s Diplomas Count, the national graduation rate fell by nearly a half a percent – to 68.8 percent – for the class of 2007, the last year for which statistics are available. This is a “cohort” graduation rate, one that basically looked at the on-time graduation percentage of students who were ninth graders four years earlier. Like all graduation measures, it has its problems. Many students, especially ESL students, do indeed graduate, but take more than four years to do so. And, in some urban schools with high student mobility, defining an accurate “cohort” is difficult.

Lawrence Hardy|June 18th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Diversity, Educational Research, School Climate, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Homeless People, Leadership, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

Experience counts, but not always in immediate test scores or evaluations

stockvault_7718_20070525So here’s an interesting study from the world of higher education that I think has some merit for K-12 systems, especially as debate continues over whether teacher quality is reflected and can be measured in student achievement—- and ultimately teacher evaluations.

The answer, according to Econ professors Scott Carrell of University of California, Davis, and James West of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is yes— and no.

In the study, the researchers found Academy students who took Calculus I, a mandatory course, under professors that were more experienced and credentialed did better in subsequent mandatory math courses than students of newer professors who possessed fewer credentials. All of the 91 professors, by the way, use identical syllabi and exams.

But here’s the really interesting part: the students of veteran profs tended to post lower grades in the Calculus I class, while students of newbie profs performed better on the midterm and final exams, each of which are graded by several different professors.  

What gives?

Naomi Dillon|June 16th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Assessment, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

We need to save jobs in education

BoardBuzz was proud to see NSBA President Earl C. Rickman III speaking out today on the need to save educational jobs.  Rickman, who is additionally the President of the Board of Education of Mount Clemens Community School District in Michigan, had an op-ed on the Detroit Free Press’s website concerning educational funding where he noted:

My fellow board members and others across the nation are now in the final stages of crafting our budgets for 2010-11, and it’s been one of the toughest years I’ve seen in my more than 25 years as a school board member. It’s especially true in Michigan, where we’ve had years of trimming that has left us with no fat and mere bare-bones budgets. This year, any cuts we make will impact classroom instruction and, ultimately, academic achievement.

Over the past two years, about 6,500 teachers in Michigan schools have lost their jobs. This year more jobs are at risk. In a recent survey, 96% of Michigan school officials said they anticipated layoffs or job cuts. Nationally, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimates that 300,000 educators could lose their jobs.

Whether we ask our most experienced teachers to retire or let go of some of our young, bright, most enthusiastic teachers, our children will suffer. Their classes will become more crowded, and courses such as advanced placement, art, band, orchestra and vocational training are most likely to be eliminated.

The teachers who remain will have less time for individualized instruction and their own professional development – both of which are central to closing achievement gaps and preparing our students for college and careers. These severe budget cuts come at a time when our economy is demanding more 21st Century skills and a postsecondary education to achieve and sustain a globally competitive workforce and individuals’ quality of life.

Is this how we want to prepare our next generation?

BoardBuzz encourages school board members to take action and contact their members of Congress urging them to vote in favor of the Education Jobs Fund.

Alexis Rice|June 4th, 2010|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Educational Legislation, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA, NEA, and AASA offer guidelines on incentive pay

Joining with the National Education Association and American Association of School Administrators, NSBA is offering guidance for school leaders who plan to apply for grants under the federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) or try other incentive compensation programs.

The 11 guiding principles center on collaboration and support, between school boards, administrators, and teachers representatives, at the local level. If a local district decides to create an incentive plan as part of its school improvement efforts, such a plan should be in line with the district’s mission and strategic plan, and should be integrated into other components including evaluations and training.

School-wide plans often have the best results and are easiest to implement, according to the guidelines.

It was important that the national organizations work together to offer recommendations, said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. She added, “A successful incentive compensation plan must foster collaboration with a broad base of support among teachers, school staff, administrators, school board members, and within the community.”

On May 20, the U.S. Department of Education announced that $437 million in TIF grants would be available to support projects that reward teachers, principals and other school personnel who improve student achievement. Requirements for the program include fair and transparent assessments that use multiple ways to measure growth, a high level of local support and involvement, and a plan for financial sustainability.

“As superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, I learned firsthand how TIF grants can prompt districts to create ways to reward success and drive reform,” Duncan said at the announcement at a Maryland elementary school. “We want to scale up this promising program so we can recognize great teachers, principals and other school personnel who are working hard and raising student achievement.”

Applications for the program are due July 6, and the Education Department says it plans to award 40 to 80 grants totaling $5 million to $10 million each.

The guidelines include:

  • School boards, administrators, and unions/associations should review various models of incentive compensation plans including research about their effectiveness before developing a plan at the local level.
  • School boards, administrators, and unions/associations should work together to build ongoing community and stakeholder support for both the incentive compensation plan as well as the necessary funding.
  • School boards, administrators, and unions/associations should work together to develop and implement the plan utilizing collective bargaining where it exists.
  • In the implementation of the incentive compensation plan, teachers should be provided assistance including time, curriculum, and professional development to increase student achievement.
  • The foundation of incentive compensation plans shall be professional-level base salaries.
  • Funding for the plan must be adequate and sustainable.
  • The plan and its requirements should be transparent, easily understood, and uniformly implemented.
  • A detailed implementation plan, with agreed-upon benchmarks and timelines, should be developed.
  • The incentive compensation plan should be based on a multi-factor approach (teacher evaluations, student performance growth, specific goals set by the teacher and/or management, increased responsibilities, assessments of student learning, etc.) that is research-based and improves student achievement.
  • All employees who meet the criteria for the incentive compensation plan should be compensated accordingly, and incentive compensation plans should foster collaboration not competition.
  • Evaluations, if a factor in incentive compensation plans, should be fair, of high quality and rigorous and take into account multiple measures of student progress.
Joetta Sack-Min|May 21st, 2010|Categories: Teachers, School Reform, School Board News|

Summer’s calling

In today’s The Washington Post’s  “KidsPost” there is a feature that answers some age old questions when it comes to why we have summers off from school.  While many edu-wonks know exactly why schools are off in the summer, the idea of giving students (and teachers) months off in the summertime in the age of air conditioning and creature comforts still drives many non-educators bonkers. 

This got BoardBuzz thinking, in the days of increasing budget cuts and the reality of the costs it would take to keep schools open year around, not to mention changing the pay scale for teachers and administrators, will we ever see year round school? 

While some urban districts started changing their schedules, but many have had to resort back to the traditional calendar to save money.  Should we be more flexible with school schedules?  Will parents cry foul if their summer vacations are thwarted by a school system’s attempt at educating students year ’round?  With Memorial Day just around the corner, it won’t be long until American students act like it’s summer, even if their teachers are trying to keep them focused.

Kevin Scott|May 17th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Educational Finance, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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