Teachers

GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due in part to the involvement of his campaign chairwoman, State Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, he has fostered a relationship with charter advocates and Randi Weingarten. We’ll see how he handles this balancing act.

Chris Walters, a Virginia native and newly minted Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD, has...

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In which Terry celebrates cheating (sort of)

Terry livens up the airwaves, bantering with Mike about NCTQ’s blockbuster report, the Blaine Amendment, and Philly’s budget woes. Amber waltzes through the dance of the lemons.

Amber's Research Minute

Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers and Teacher Performance: Examining Equity and Efficiency,” by Jason A. Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Nathaniel Nakashima, NBER Working Paper No. 19108 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2013).

GadflyNew York City’s graduation rate dipped very slightly in 2012—information that was hailed as a win by Mayor Bloomberg, given that the class of 2012 was the first cohort not given the option to graduate with an easier-to-obtain “local diploma.”

The United Federation of Teachers has announced its support for former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s bid for mayor of New York City—the union’s first endorsement in a mayoral election in more than a decade. But have no fear, ye other candidates—Mayor Bloomberg has derisively dubbed the union endorsement a “kiss of death” (to which the union responded by likening Bloomberg’s approval as “worse than a zombie attack”). And Gotham politics continue.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Superior Court judge John Lewis bucked U.S. Supreme Court precedent and ruled that the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program directed public money to religious schools, in violation of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—a provision banning government aid to “sectarian” schools that has its roots in the anti-Catholic bigotry pervasive in the late 1800s. (Blaine Amendments still exist in thirty-six other states.) Judge Lewis’s ruling marks the first time a tax-credit-scholarship program has been struck down on these grounds. Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court had determined that tax-credit-scholarship money never reaches the state treasury and thus cannot be considered public. An appeal in the...

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Teacher Prep ReviewEight years ago, Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” was Billboard’s top song, Pluto was still a planet, and the National Council on Teacher Quality began work on its comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s 2,400 educator-preparation programs housed in 1,130 higher-education institutions. This Tuesday marked the culmination of that gargantuan effort (a partnership with U.S. News and World Report). Of the secondary programs evaluated at more than 600 higher-education institutions, just four—Ohio State, Lipscomb, Furhman, and Vanderbilt—received top honors (four stars); zero elementary programs earned the same accolades. Across both levels, 14 percent of programs were placed on a “Consumer Alert” list for earning zero stars. Appallingly, 64 percent of California’s seventy-one elementary programs earned the lowest rating. Why? In 1970, in an overwrought effort to strengthen teachers’ content knowledge, California “all but prohibited the traditional education degree,” requiring candidates to obtain subject degrees as undergraduates and limiting their pedagogical coursework to a maximum of one year—to disastrous results. NCTQ based its rankings on eighteen criteria in four main areas: rigor of candidate selection, quality of content-area preparation, amount of professional skills the program teaches, and the impact of a program’s graduates. Along with the overall rankings, NCTQ provides detailed data on how programs fare across each of its eighteen criteria, offering page after page of sobering analyses in an attempt to bring order to the “Wild West” of teacher-preparation programs....

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In this new NBER working paper, Jason Grissom and colleagues explore the implications of involuntary teacher transfers (or those in which educators are shuffled from one school to another without say) in Miami Dade County’s public schools. Specifically, analysts examined which types of schools made use of—and accepted teachers from—the transfer policy, “the characteristics of transferred teachers and their replacements, and whether the transfers affected productivity, at least in terms of teacher absences and value added. First, they examined involuntary transfers from 2009 through 2012, finding that seventy-three (of 370) of the district’s schools transferred at least one teacher in at least one of those years, totaling 375 teacher transfers. Schools that used the policy tended to be far lower achieving and tended to serve higher percentages of African American students and those with free-and-reduced-price-lunch than schools that did not. The involuntarily transferred teachers were sent to higher-achieving schools than those they left (on average, they were moved from D to B schools on Florida’s A–F grading system). With regards to teacher characteristics, the booted educators were relatively experienced, with 60 percent having five or more years of teaching under their belts and only 8 percent having one year or less. They were absent more often than other teachers—and in mathematics, they had significantly lower value-added scores than those who were not transferred. Importantly, their replacements tended to be younger, less experienced, and generally higher performing (though the sample size for this particular analysis was small). Finally, the authors found...

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A groundbreaking new report conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality and published by U.S. News & World Report has delivered a scathing review of the majority of our nation’s teacher-education programs. It gives just four college programs top marks and places 160 on a "consumer alert" list.

"You just have to have a pulse and you can get into some of these education schools," said Mike Petrilli to the Associated Press. "If policymakers took this report seriously, they'd be shutting down hundreds of programs."

For Terry Ryan’s take, visit the Ohio Gadfly Daily. And stay tuned for a short review in Thursday’s Education Gadfly Daily.

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Don't jump the NGSS bandwagon yet

Don't jump the NGSS bandwagon yet

Chester E. Finn, Jr. breaks down why Fordham does not support implementation of the NGSS.

Leaking all of our education-reform secrets

Mike and Kathleen catch the whistleblower spirit, giving the goods on NGSS, sparring over ability grouping, and decrying the latest Common Core distraction. Amber goes easy on Ed Sector.

Amber's Research Minute

The New State Achievement Gap: How Federal Waivers Could Make It Worse—Or Better by John Chubb and Constance Clark (Washington, D.C.: Education Sector, June 2013).

GadflyAccording to the Times, ability grouping is back, after being unfairly stigmatized in the late 1980s and 1990s by misguided ideologues. We hope it’s true, because such grouping enables teachers to tailor their instruction to individual students appropriately—and can be used to match learning styles as well as achievement levels. (Free speech endures at Fordham, however, and not everyone concurs.)

Following school-board squabbles and the subsequent implementation of a new but compromised governance structure (by which the county executive appoints the district CEO and three school-board members), the Prince George’s County public schools have a new board chairman: NEA Director of Teacher Quality Segun Eubanks. We know and respect Eubanks and wish him the best of luck—but can’t help but smirk. What a classic case of the union sitting on both sides of the negotiating table.

To help close its $304 million budget deficit (brought on in large part by skyrocketing pension costs), the school district of Philadelphia announced that it has pink-slipped 3,783 employees: 676 teachers, 283 counselors, 127 assistant principals, and 1,202 noontime aides—a move that Superintendent Hite called “nothing less than catastrophic.” We hate to say, “I told you so”…...

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The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) school board will vote tomorrow night to approve the hiring of up to nine Teach For America (TFA) members. These new hires will begin teaching in fall 2013, and will be the first year in which TFA teachers are placed in CMSD classrooms. During the past school year, fifty TFA teachers were placed in Cleveland-area charter schools and another 34 TFA teachers taught in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas. The past school year, 2012-13, was the first year TFA operated in Ohio.

This is more encouraging reform news for Cleveland, whose school system has and continues to struggle mightily. Within the past month, the Cleveland Teachers Union and the Board of Education agreed to a new teachers’ contract that, most significantly, stripped away the seniority- and college-credit-based salary schedule and replaced it with a “differentiated compensation” system that awards salary bumps mostly based on how a teacher performs on the state’s new teacher evaluation rating system. This change was required as part of Ohio's recently-enacted law, House Bill 525 (cf., Ohio Revised Code section 3311.78).

The new contract also changes lay-off rules so that performance is now the dominant criteria, rather than seniority, and also calls for 40 minutes of additional instructional time. Cleveland’s teachers will also receive a 4 percent raise in the first year of the contract and a $1,500 bonus when they enter the new compensation system.

Finally, a new 15-mill levy, passed last November, will inject roughly $85 million into the...

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