Articles in the Teachers category

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: Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Now Hiring

Sure, it’s a welcome sign to see posted around America as we recover from the Great Recession.  In Massachusetts, a new relationship is being introduced that will marry the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary and local school districts in order to hire teachers in areas that need high quality teachers.  35 schools have been identified within the state and unlike previous incentives that involved money, this time the funding will come in part from turnaround grants.  Using websites, foundation dollars, Twitter, and Facebook, the strategy is to help improve achievement levels in those schools that are most in need in the state.

Many edu-minded readers may remember previous attempts at getting teachers to move schools and/or states by offering large signing bonuses.  With a very different economic situation facing us now, the attempt by Massachusetts is based more on pride and the hopes that many districts will encourage teachers who want to make the biggest impact possible on their students.  The question we’re wondering at BoardBuzz today is–will this work?  Will other states and local districts follow their lead?  Or are teachers looking for more than just a change in scenery?  We’ll be waiting to see the results, and hope urban students in Massachusetts districts reap the benefits.

Kevin Scott|May 11th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

New on

While the federal government has wagered billions of dollars that pay for performance will lead to improved student results, a chorus of researchers and policy analysts claim that teacher merit pay, as it has traditionally been practiced, is ineffective and counterproductive.

What should school leaders and educational policymakers do? In his latest installment, ASBJ governance columnist Doug Eadie with help from a New Hampshire school board member and practicing attorney, provides five practical ideas to make pay for performance work in your system.

Read their advice here for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|May 11th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation, Teachers|Tags: , |

(Last) Week in Blogs

Photo courtesy of

Editor’s Note:  We had a problem posting this blog on Friday, so here it is today in its entirety.  As you’ll see, the issues discussed are still highly relevant and will remain so for a long time.  

Disappointed that your state didn’t get picked for Race to the Top? Maybe you shouldn’t be.

Sure, the money would be nice. But would you really want to have the assessment systems of states like Tennessee or Delaware, the two first-round winners? In a blog on the subject, education writer Joann Jacobs, suggests that you wouldn’t.

Jacobs cites two reports that are highly critical of RTTT’s selection process. In an article in Education Next, Paul Peterson, a Harvard government professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Xabel Lastra-Anadon, a Harvard research fellow, say that Tennessee and Delaware have mediocre state standards — or worse.

Lawrence Hardy|May 10th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Educational Technology, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Education headlines: What could prevent 275,000 educator layoffs?

In a report released today, the American Association of School Administrators says that 275,000 school jobs are on the chopping block this year… USA Today is also writing about efforts by the American Federation of Teachers, actress Megan Fox, and others to save teachers’ jobs… (and NSBA is supporting a Senate bill to help save educators jobs, read more here). A profile of Arne Duncan in today’s New York Times casts him as one of the most assertive secretaries of education in history… And the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog features a column by scholar and historian John I. Goodlad, who reflects on the past 50 years of education and the future of education.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 4th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Teachers|

Learning from Catholic schools

We all know the stories.  Whether you experienced it yourself or you’ve heard it through friends or family members, most Americans have a perception of Catholic schools and how tough they can be.  While entertaining at times, is there something to be learned from the experiences of Catholic schools  for urban school leaders?  An article in the religion section of The New York Times raises some good ideas, and got us thinking about what could be replicated for America’s urban schools.

Citing Diane Ravitch’s popular new book, “The Death and Life of a  Great American School System,” the article discusses the success that minority students have had in urban Catholic schools, while in public schools educating this population of students seems to be one of the biggest challenges.  There are several theories on why minority students in Catholic schools seem to do better than their peers in urban public schools, and it’s not just on tests.  Yes, Catholic schools can be selective on who they take in, and perhaps that’s the biggest difference because they are not charged with teaching ALL students, just those that get in.  But there is something to say for the fact that Catholic school teachers and leaders aren’t chasing every educational trend, and changing educational philosophy with presidential administrations or an expert’s new books.  Perhaps the Catholic school’s basics are just very simple, tried, and tested techniques that work (and do not involve a ruler to the knuckles).  Dedicated teachers.  More parental connections.  Structured classrooms and high expectations. 

Is there anyone in America who would disagree with these simple ideology for all schools?  Maybe we should all be paying a little more attention to help our public schools succeed in urban communities.

Kevin Scott|May 3rd, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Take time tomorrow to show teachers your appreciation

teacher_13113_mdHave you shown appreciation for your teachers lately? If not, tomorrow is your chance–it’s National Teacher Day, brought to you annually by the National Education Association.

This year, though, marking the day seems a bit ironic, given the threat of mass layoffs, widely hailed firings at underperforming schools, and budget cuts that are increasing class sizes and workloads.

Still, the NEA has offered a list of things school board members, administrators, and other community members could do to honor their teachers (no, they didn’t go so far as to name job security). Here’s some of their suggestions:

  • Invite all teachers to a reception in their honor, hosted by the mayor, school board, school administrators, Chamber of Commerce or other group.
  • Invite teachers to a before-school “coffee, juice and pastries” salute at a local grocery store or other business – or even in a school parking lot (think tailgate party!).
  • Hang a sign on each classroom door saluting, by name, the teacher within.
  • Give teachers candy, apples or other food gifts with appropriate notes attached.
  • Provide balloon bouquets and flowers for every teachers’ lounge.
  • Set up a lunchtime “Relaxation and Rejuvenation Spa” on Teacher Day, where teachers are treated to hand, foot, back and neck massages.


Naomi Dillon|May 3rd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, School Climate, Teachers|

Education headlines: New campaign teaches students to understand advertising

A teachers’ union in Rhode Island is suing the school district that fired all its teachers and is now requiring them to reapply for their jobs, the Washington Post reported. Superintendent Frances Gallo told the teachers they would have to reapply and give a five-minute lesson if they want to be rehired… Florida State University released a study showing that a good teacher is the most helpful tool for kids learning to read. The study used identical twins in first and second grade, and found that 42 pairs out of 280 pairs showed significant differences in reading improvement, according to USA Today… Speaking of reading, the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission are sponsoring a federal effort to teach students in grades four through six how to “read” advertising and make informed consumer choices. A New York Times report said readers can start their “ad-ucation” at

Erin Walsh|April 29th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Teachers|

Charlotte-Mecklenburg leads the way

While much of the attention in North Carolina centered around the visit by President Barack Obama over the weekend, another story about North Carolina caught our attention from The New York Times.

In an editorial, The New York Times recommends that urban districts around the country look closely at Charlotte-Mecklenburg as a model.  One of NSBA’s CUBE (Council of Urban Boards of Education) districts and a perennial presenter at our conferences, we’ve known about their innovative ways for quite some time.  But to have The New York Times call attention to some of their improvements, and encourage districts nationwide and the U.S. Department of Education to take note, is worth a special mention.  The editorial points out:

  • The district puts the best principals in the schools with the biggest challenges.
  • Principals are given bonuses when the school make academic gains and are able to recruit their new leadership teams.
  • Principals are allowed to remove up to five teachers who are considered “hostile to reform.”

Schools have already seen improvement in the short time the plan has been in place, and the district’s principals are wearing the opportunity to serve in difficult schools as a badge of honor.  In fact, the district was also recently named as one of five finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education.  As many urban districts search for ways to improve student achievement, take a close look at Charlotte-Mecklenburg for an urban success story.

Kevin Scott|April 26th, 2010|Categories: Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Leveling the field

Adams County School District 50 started a revolution of sorts last fall when it eliminated grade levels for its elementary school and middle school students and will move the reform to the high school this fall.

Grouping students by skills level instead of by age allows the district, which serves 10,000 students just north of Denver, to give extra help to students who need more time to master skills. Students who master the skills and concepts more quickly can move on to more challenging levels.

Adams 50 Superintendent Roberta Selleck and school board President Vicky Marshall discussed their district’s journey through standards-based education reform at an early morning session today at NA Central. The session was sponsored by American School Board Journal, the monthly magazine published by NSBA.

Adams 50 is following what had been referred to at the Chugach Model and is now the Re-Invention Schools Coalition (RISC) model, created by former Chugach, Alaska, school superintendent Rich DeLorenzo.

 Explaining the basics of the reform, Selleck and Marshall put their district’s transformation in context. They also discussed how to lay the ground work for reform, as well as getting the all-important buy-in from their teachers, parents, administrators, and community members. The model calls for 80 percent of teachers to agree to the reform–a percentage that Adams achieved through meetings, training, and even a school-sponsored trip to Chugach for a handful of teachers.

Read ASBJ’s March cover story on Adams 50, Leveling the Field

Kathleen Vail|April 12th, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, Governance, School Board News, School Climate, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|
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