Teachers

It’s a good-news-bad-news state of affairs for Ohio’s teacher-preparation programs. Let’s start with the good: the Buckeye State is the proud home to five of the nation’s best elementary and secondary programs, according to new rankings by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Ohio State’s graduate along with University of Dayton and Miami University’s undergraduate programs earned top-ten honors out of the 1,167 elementary-teacher programs that NCTQ examined. Meanwhile, among the 1,137 secondary-teacher programs, Miami University’s undergraduate and graduate programs earned top-ten recognition. On the other side of the coin, twenty Ohio programs—out of seventy-one in the state that NCTQ was able to rate—fell into the bottom half of NCTQ’s ratings. (Programs rated in the bottom half did not receive a numerical ranking.) Unfortunately, sixteen Ohio colleges refused to participate in the analysis. Caveat emptor: in Ohio, as elsewhere, we see that some programs provide a stellar training while others are mediocre or worse. Discerning employers—and college-goers—would be wise to consult this report when making their decisions.
 

SOURCE: Julie Greenberg, Kate Walsh, and Arthur McKee, 2014 Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs (Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2014).

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Mainstream media and advocacy groups often portray teachers as an embattled, even embittered, ensemble. Tougher policies are sometimes accused of contributing to their stress. But has accountability actually led to deteriorating work conditions and lower morale among teachers? This new study shatters that popular conception. A team of researchers discovered that teachers have been reporting increasingly positive attitudes about their job since the enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001. The study examined the responses of nearly 140,000 public school teachers from four rounds of the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS): two waves occurred prior to NCLB, and two occurred after the law took effect (most recently in 2008). Happily, the researchers found that, post-NCLB, teachers are more likely to perceive support from their colleagues, administrators, and parents than prior to the law. The study also found that teachers report a greater sense of “classroom control” (e.g., autonomy over curricula, textbooks, discipline, etc.), greater job satisfaction, and a stronger commitment to the profession. In addition, the researchers attempt to tease out the causal effects of NCLB on teachers’ attitudes. (One cannot necessarily attribute the positive trends to NCLB per se.) To do this, they compared teachers’ responses in states with accountability regimes prior to NCLB to teachers in states that implemented systems as a result of NCLB. The researchers discovered that the onset of accountability positively impacted teachers’ feelings of classroom control and administrator support. The researchers, however, did not discern a similar effect on job satisfaction or...

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The results of the second edition of NCTQ’s evaluation of teacher-preparation programs aren’t that much more optimistic than last year’s much publicized and contentious findings. This years’ study examined the same programs, for the most part, but expanded the scope of the work by analyzing them more comprehensively. In total, over 1600 elementary and secondary programs were evaluated on all “key” standards, which include selectivity and admissions practices; subject-area preparation; student teaching; and classroom management. Out of this universe, only twenty-six elementary and eighty-one secondary programs made the list of top ranked programs, which is roughly 6 percent. Overall, elementary programs are weaker than secondary ones: 67 percent of the former landed in the lowest tier of scores. Further, coursework in just 17 percent of programs prepares elementary and special-education teachers in all five fundamentals of scientifically based reading instruction. The analysis also included an evaluation of alternate route programs, which now account for the education of one in five teachers in America. They don’t appear to be doing much better than traditional programs. Of the eighty-five programs reviewed, just one—Teach For America, Massachusetts—received top marks.

SOURCE: Julie Greenberg, Kate Walsh, and Arthur McKee, 2014 Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs (Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2014).

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In which Michelle admonishes Governor Jindal

Michelle and Brickman discuss pausing accountability while states transition to the Common Core, the perils of playing politics with Eva Moskowitz, and Governor Bobby Jindal’s Common Core bluster. Amber schools us on teacher prep.

Amber's Research Minute

2014 Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs by Julie Greenberg, Kate Walsh, and Arthur McKee, (Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2014).

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most awesome dudes on the planet right now, using his skills as a communicator to take science into primetime television. Tyson hopes to bring the general public from their small place on Earth into the wonder of the Cosmos again.

I was reminded of one aspect of Tyson’s personal journey last week; specifically, this excerpt from a profile of him which appeared in The New Yorker back in February:

Not long ago, Tyson’s elementary school, P.S. 81, invited him to give a commencement address; he declined. He recalls telling the administrators, “I am where I am not because of what happened in school but in spite of it, and that is probably not what you want me to say. Call me back, and I will address your teachers and give them a piece of my mind.”

Evidently, Tyson was discouraged from pursuing an interest in science, because he was an “undistinguished” grade-school student, among other impediments he describes. More than once, he was on the receiving end of active dissuasion from pursuing his passion for science. Such discouragement might stymie most students. Luckily, he was an extraordinary individual determined to succeed. Tyson would overcome the odds stacked against him, attending Harvard as an undergraduate and the University of Texas for postgraduate work in astrophysics. As he tells it, the efforts to divert him from his lofty goals continued all the way through his time in higher education.

A recent...

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The World Cup vs. Underwear Models

Amber and Michelle talk teacher tenure, selective high schools, and the stunning upset of Eric Cantor. Dara takes over the Research Minute with a study on whether vouchers "cherry pick" the best students.

Amber's Research Minute

Contexts Matter: Selection in Means-Tested School Voucher Programs,” by Cassandra M. D. Hart, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 26(2), June 2014: 186–206.

Asking whether teacher tenure should be abolished in public schools is like asking whether the Tampa Bay Rays (18 games below .500) should sack their shortstop. Sure, that might be a good start, but that’s not going to be enough to turn things around.

First, the argument for eliminating tenure: As Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on Tuesday, any benefit that tenure provides to teachers is far outweighed by its costs to children and society by keeping grossly ineffective instructors in the classroom. Defenders often say that tenure is all that limits principals and school boards from terminating teachers for innumerable bogus motives. Yet in the decades since legislatures put tenure laws on the books, legal protections for all employees have grown dramatically, particularly in the public sector. Dismissal under tenure requires a far more onerous due process procedure. But even without it, anyone who believes that he or she has been discriminated against or fired for “arbitrary and capricious” reasons can sue, and will often win. That goes for teachers, too.

Tenure reform is no education game-changer. Tenure is just one part of a dysfunctional approach to human resource management in U.S. schools that needs a complete overhaul. Our public education system is among the only institutions in the land still pretending that professionals will spend their whole careers in a single job. The teacher compensation structure heavily favors lifers, what with its mix of low pay with generous, back-loaded retirement benefits. This is an...

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For this year’s “Diplomas Count,” an annual Education Week special issue, researchers surveyed teachers and administrators for their opinions on student engagement in their schools. The results were unsurprising and straightforward: the educators overwhelmingly agreed on how to identify engaged students (they’re the ones with good attendance, who participate frequently in class, and who get good grades).  Yet just 40 percent believed that the majority of the students in their school were engaged. Perhaps that’s because the educators themselves don’t know how to engage their students; fewer than half reported receiving any pre-service training on the topic, and only 58 percent reported learning about student engagement via in-service training While none of this is particularly shocking, the accompanying commentary by Ed Week’s journalists, informed by the survey results, is thoughtful enough to deserve your engagement.

SOURCE: Education Week, Diplomas Count 2014: Motivation Matters: Engaging Students, Creating Learners (Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education, June 2014).

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On Tuesday, a California superior court judge tentatively overturned five state laws related to the employment of teachers. The plaintiffs’ attorney called the decision “a victory for students, parents, and teachers across California.” The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said, “This decision today is an attack on teachers.” The court ordered a stay on the decision, pending appeal. Here are ten things worth knowing as the case moves on.

  1. The plaintiffs, a group of students and school districts, argued that several state statutes stood in the way of all students receiving the education guaranteed to them under the California constitution. “Plaintiffs claim that the Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.”
  2. The judge agreed. He found “that the Challenged Statutes impose a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”
  3. This was essentially a civil-rights case, and the court underscored that point, starting its opinion by referencing Brown vs. Board of Education and then quoting the famous passage that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
  4. State courts have, in recent years, frequently
  5. ...
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The Senate and House finally reached a compromise over changes to Ohio’s teacher-evaluation system (OTES), which, in its first year of statewide implementation, has drawn criticism from school leaders arising from what they say is its administrative burden. Some felt that, as a result of its classroom-observation mandates, principals may not have time to properly support any teacher, let alone those who struggle.

This journey began with a Senate bill passed back in December (Senate Bill 229), which continued with the House Education Committee proposing major changes—followed by weeks of debate on the competing versions. (A comparison of the two bills can be found here, and our analysis of the House bill is here.)

The compromise ended up in House Bill 362, which originally dealt with STEM-school matters. It now awaits Governor Kasich’s signature. Major changes include giving districts the option of changing the percentage of an evaluation tied to teacher performance and student growth from 50 percent to 42.5 percent each; providing districts with several different ways to make up the remaining 15 percent, including (but not limited to) student surveys; and allowing districts to be flexible with the observation frequency of top-rated teachers.

Everyone loves a happy ending. But as a former teacher, this bill leaves me with several lingering questions, as does OTES itself.

First, this has been the first year of OTES implementation for most Ohio districts. End-of-year test results won’t even be published until later this summer. So why were...

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