Teachers

Thank goodness for Fordham's Peter Meyer, a master at turning policy gibberish into plain English. But can it possibly be true, as reported in his recent post, that the Regents and the New York State Department of Education went to court with the teachers union over whether test scores would count as 20 percent or 40 percent of a teacher's annual evaluation? And, after losing, that they are planning to use additional public funds to appeal?

Set aside the fact that New York's evaluation law (passed to prime the Race to the Top pump) clearly set the ratio at 20 percent. There's a larger point: WHO CARES?

We are at the very beginning stages of teacher evaluation reform. For the first time in history, states and school districts are aiming to take the evaluation of teachers seriously. But when it comes down to the details, we've got little more than educated guesses about what might work best. Yes, tying 40 percent of an evaluation to test scores might make it easier to dump a teacher who gets terrible results. But it might also create unhealthy pressure for ALL teachers in the state to teach narrowly to...

The Education Gadfly

If memory serves, the old TV show Hart to Hart used to begin with the narrator intoning, ?And when they met, it was murder.? Well, earlier this week AFT honcho Randi Weingarten and I engaged in a hard-hitting but genial debate at the Fordham Institute. Within a couple hours, we experienced the most severe East Coast earthquake in sixty-plus years. A coincidence? You decide. The Oprah-style affair, titled ?When Reform Touches Teachers,? was adeptly hosted by Fordham's Mike Petrilli. You can catch the video online here or when it shows on C-SPAN.

In my experience, these kinds of ?union leader v. ?reformer'? conversations tend to go in three unfortunate directions. The first is that everyone engages in vague ?it's for the kids? banalities, agree that the kids must come first, and pledge vague, meaningless collaboration going forward (e.g. see the Denver labor summit that the U.S. Department of Education hosted in February). The second is that the self-styled reformers beat on the union leader to concede on this or that, or the unionists squeeze the reformers to utter reassuring things about how much they love and respect teachers. And the third is when everybody just...

The Education Gadfly

In case you missed it or were distracted by, say, the D.C. earthquake, the video of yesterday's thought-provoking ?When Reform Touches Teachers? discussion between American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess is up on our website. ?Fordham's Mike Petrilli moderated the discussion and posed some tough questions about whether reformers and educators could find common ground.? A peek at some of the lively conversation about teacher compensation, evaluation, and collective bargaining, and you watch the whole conversation or check out some of the highlights below.

How teachers are perceived and the negative tone in some education debates was a point of contention.

Weingarten: New poll says teachers are respected more than ever, but 2/3 of reporting on education is negative.

Hess:? Republican governors are making measured cases for reform and are threatened or compared to tyrants.

...

It was hardly a surprise that Indiana took home the Education Reform Idol trophy today. Pundits from across the ideological spectrum have lauded the Hoosier State for its comprehensive reforms enacted this spring?including a best-in-the-nation teacher bill, an expansive private school choice program, and a serious effort at collective bargaining and benefits reform.

But why 2011? Mitch Daniels has been in office since 2005; Tony Bennett since 2009. While they haven't been twiddling their thumbs (last year, Bennett enacted new regulations revamping teacher professional development, for instance), legislators didn't get religion on reform until now. How come?

The answer is obvious: The 2010 elections, which gave Indiana Republicans control of the House and a super-majority in the Senate. The same thing happened in Ohio, where the House and governor's office both switched from blue to red. Big GOP victories in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and other states led to similar dynamics. Though it's not an ironclad law, it's still generally true that when Republicans take power, reforms take flight.

This point might be obvious, but it bears repeating, because so...

Guest Blogger

Which of the five states competing to be America's next Education Reform Idol did the most to advance teacher effectiveness during the 2011 legislative session? Consider our analysis below, and attend our event Thursday morning (8:30-10:00AM) to see key players in all five states defend their records in front of a panel of ed-reform celebrity judges?Jeanne Allen, Richard Lee Colvin, and Bruno Manno. And click here to cast your vote for Education Reform Idol.

Florida

Florida made important strides toward ensuring teacher quality in the state this year. Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 736, which ties teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests for the first time, using a ?value-added? model. The new evaluation system (which bases 50 percent of evaluation scores on student growth) will be used to inform decisions regarding pay raises and dismissals?these decisions will no longer be based on number of advanced degrees and/or last-in, first-out policies. Salary increases and bonuses will be awarded to teachers demonstrating high levels of performance, and to those who work in low-performing schools or high-need subject areas. Although the new law doesn't circumvent...

The latest Education Next poll results are packed-full of interesting findings on topics ranging from choice to merit pay, from NCLB to tenure reform. But particularly timely, in this era of fiscal austerity, are new insights about the public's views on school budgets. And guess what: On education, like everything else, Americans don't want to make tough choices. They want to keep taxes low while boosting school spending. Sound familiar?

Let's start with taxes. Question 25a asked: ?Do you think that local taxes to fund public schools around the nation should increase, decrease, or stay about the same?? Sixty-five percent of the public wanted taxes to remain steady or drop. The numbers were a little lower for African Americans, Hispanics, and parents, but not by much. (Half of teachers even expressed this view.) Interestingly, even more people (73 percent of the public) opposed raising local taxes, even if they were to be targeted to local (instead of national) schools.

OK, Americans don't want higher taxes. So they must want school spending to remain flat, right? Wrong. Question 3b queried: ?Do you think that government funding for public schools in your district should increase, decrease, or stay...

Pages