Thomas Friedman wrote of golfer Tom Watson's run at this year's British Open, "Watson makes us feel like 59 is the new 30." I read this inspiring piece about Watson's near victory over the world's greatest golfers, many of whom are half his age, while travelling back from a truly depressing - but incredibly important - conference innocuously titled "Educator Staffing, Quality, and Teacher Retirement Benefit Systems." The conference, the brainchild of economists Mike Podgursky and Bob Costrell , was sponsored by the Southwest Regional Education Laboratory Regional Education Laboratory - Southwest and examined how teacher retirement systems might be used to improve educator retention and recruitment.

Costrell captured the perverse incentives facing teacher pension systems with his slide that showed:

  • Pension "spike" "pulls" some teachers to stay on the job into their 50s, to receive enhanced benefits (an incentive to "put in your time").
  • Pension "valley" (or "cliff") "pushes" some teachers out, by mid to late 50s (Tom Watson's age) to begin first draw (losing pension payments by staying on the job).

Tom Carroll , President of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, took this issue further, noting that 53 percent of teachers in America are baby boomers and we face a "tsunami of teacher retirements" in the next five years. It is damaging to America's students and age discriminatory, he argues, that states are encouraging waves of relatively...

Alex Klein


"Am I optimistic that they can avoid it? I am not." --Ray Graves, a retired bankruptcy judge who has been advising Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools' emergency financial manager

WSJ: Detroit Schools on the Brink


1554 : The number of New York City public school teachers given the rating of "unsatisfactory" this year. The 2005-2006 school year saw 981 get that rating. Overall, about 2 percent of the teachers, both tenured and not tenured, received a "U" rating this year.

GothamSchools: More than 500 extra teachers rated "unsatisfactory" this year

Ohio's legislature agreed this week to a $50.5 billion biennial state budget and Governor Strickland is expected to sign the bill by week's end.???? When it comes to education policy, there is a lot to dislike about this bill, from the adoption of an "evidence-based" model of school funding to the mucking up of the state's academic content standards with so-called 21st Century skills.???? But when it comes to teacher tenure and retention policies, the Buckeye State's leaders got something right.

The bill moves teacher tenure decisions from the third year of teaching to the seventh.???? According to the National Council on Teacher Quality's TR3 database, when this bill becomes law Ohio will have the longest time before tenure of any tenure-granting state. ????The budget also raises the bar for dismissing teachers to bring it in-line with that of other public employees. Currently, tenured teachers can only be let go for "gross immorality or inefficiency," a hard thing to prove that results in either costly, drawn-out litigation or teachers remaining in the classroom who just shouldn't be there. The budget bill will allow districts to fire teachers for "just cause," the same as their fellow unionized public employees.

As I said before, these changes alone aren't going to rid Ohio's classrooms of bad teachers, but they are smart and fair improvements that should enhance educator quality in Ohio....

Alex Klein


"I have been a principal for 11 years and I've never had the ability to pick my own candidates. There's nothing more exciting than seeing the lines of teachers waiting to be interviewed." --Michael Lazzareschi, head of the new Nathan Bishop Middle School in Providence, RI

Providence Journal: Providence schools implement new approach to hiring


6 of 114 : The number of Boston elementary and middle schools that meet national physical education standards--125 and 225 minutes per week for elementary school and middle school students, respectively. About 25 percent of the city's students received no formal P.E. instruction last year.

Boston Globe: Boston's schools go lacking in phys-ed


A plan unveiled today in Australia tackles a popular suggestion that's been thrown around in the US: putting "super teachers" (as the Aussies call them) in the worst schools, and compensating them with higher pay, a smaller class load, and the opportunity to mentor other teachers. This attempt to address the issue of teacher quality, long realized to be the number one determinant of student success, with realistic organizational reforms, sounds reasonable. It takes on numerous problems at once: staffing hard to staff schools, staffing hard to staff schools with good teachers, who typically escape to greener suburban pastures as soon as possible, shifting the compensation scale to reward excellence, and providing career advancement without moving quality educators from classrooms to administrative roles.

The one thing missing, at least from what I can find out, is how these "Highly Accomplished Teachers" will be determined and chosen. As we've seen with American forays into determining teacher excellence with government metrics (i.e., the Highly Qualified Teacher provisions of NCLB), it's difficult to measure something so amorphous as teacher quality with the tools available to a huge sprawling bureaucracy. Piloting of the measure will begin this fall.

It's got to be a good story when the sub-head reads thusly: "Editor's Note: Some of the language in the following story may be offensive."

That's because the words contained therein, those of NEA retiring general counsel Bob Chanin, are peppered with profanity. "Why are those conservative and right-wing bas***ds (read: not nice way of saying fatherless children) picking on NEA and its affiliates?" He gave a farewell speech to the same NEA annual conference that hosted (and booed and hissed) Arne Duncan. Guess Obama's era of postpartisanship is over, at least in that forum.

Read the story and watch a video (from an admittedly very conservative--and obviously offended--website) of Chanin's remarks.

Alex Klein


"When inflexible seniority and rigid tenure rules that we designed put adults ahead of children, then we are not only putting chidren at risk, we're putting the entire education system at risk." --Education Sec. Arne Duncan

EdWeek: Duncan Presses NEA on Merit Pay, Tenure


200 : The number of schools in Philadelphia, out of 270, that serve universal meals, which are given in schools where at least 75 percent of the student body meets the low-income threshold.

AP: In Philly schools, most students get a free lunch


The New York Times's Samuel Freedman provides a great introduction to the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program???basically a Teach For America for parochial schools. Never heard of it? You're not alone:????

Teach for America has become a virtual brand name on elite college campuses and a coveted item on graduate-school applications and corporate r??sum??s. Programs like [one at Seton Hall] have received far less public acclaim, and yet they are vital to the almost literally lifesaving role that Catholic schools play as an affordable alternative to chronically failing public schools in many low-income areas.

Big funders, including the NewSchools Venture Fund and the Gates Foundation, are said to be looking at targeting future investments toward ???human capital??? initiatives. May I suggest that expanding ACE be on their list?

Liam Julian

Britain's largest teachers' union will vote, at its upcoming annual conference, to determine how many students the ideal class should enroll. What bosh! Perhaps I should take an office poll about the appropriate number of employees at an education-policy think tank? One may argue that teachers manage their own classrooms and therefore have a darn good idea about how many students they can adequately teach, but that's at best an unsettled claim. It is settled, however, that taxpayers, not teachers, are footing the bill for public education, and scant are the data showing that pupils in smaller classes learn more.Therefore, it seems a poor investment of the public's money to lower class sizes when little to no educational improvement will result. Furthermore, Checker Finn has written:

Over the past half-century, the number of pupils in U.S. schools grew by about 50 percent while the number of teachers nearly tripled. Spending per student rose threefold, too. If the teaching force had simply kept pace with enrollments, school budgets had risen as they did, and nothing else changed, today's average teacher would earn nearly $100,000, plus generous benefits. We'd have a radically different view of the job and it would attract different sorts of people. Yes, classes would be larger-about what they were when I was in school.

The obsession with lowering class sizes has kept teacher salaries stagnant--not a good thing for teachers but a wonderful thing for their unions, which have rapidly added to their...

Liam Julian