How much autonomy do teachers want?

Nearly three out of four teachers say they have a “great deal” of control over how and what they teach, but that’s down from 82 percent in 2003-04, concludes a U.
S. Education Department survey,  Public School Teacher Autonomy in the Classroom.

Teachers were asked about their control over “selecting textbooks and other classroom materials; content, topics, and skills to be taught; teaching techniques; evaluating and grading students; disciplining students; and determining the amount of homework to be assigned.”

Teacher autonomy is a mixed blessing, writes Robert Pondiscio.

As a new fifth-grade teacher in a South Bronx elementary school, I spent countless hours planning lessons and writing curriculum—hours that would have been far better spent practicing and mastering my craft. Sure, I had plenty of “autonomy,” but I lacked the time to exercise it.

“Creating curriculum and lessons from scratch each week took prodigious amounts of valuable time,” he writes. Autonomy meant “frustration and dissatisfaction.”

“The question is where to strike the balance of accountability and autonomy so as to maximize teacher satisfaction and student outcomes even while fostering innovation,” he concludes.

At the very high-scoring Success Academy charters in New York City, “every teacher teaches the same content on the same day,” writes Morgan Polikoff, a USC education professor, after a visit to a Harlem school. Curriculum, which is created in house, is the same across all schools in the network.

Teachers “get tons of training” in curriculum and instruction and two periods of common planning time with grade-level colleagues each day, plus an afternoon to work together. The principal “interjected with pedagogical suggestions for the teacher in almost every class we visited.”

Teachers sell lessons online

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Teachers are selling their lesson plans and learning materials online, reports Madeleine Cummings on Slate. With teachers seeking ways to achieve Common Core standards, sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers are booming.

Seven years ago, when Erica Bohrer, a first-grade teacher from Long Island, New York, started selling her lesson plans on the website Teachers Pay Teachers, she just wanted to make a few extra bucks here and there. Items on the site, a kind of Etsy for educators, go for an average of $3.50.

Good decision. To date, Bohrer’s sample classroom decorations, reading comprehension cards, and lesson plans have earned her nearly $450,000—and she now makes more money each year on the site than as a full-time classroom teacher.

Teachers trust other teachers far more than they trust textbook publishers, writes Cummings. In a national survey, 87 percent of teachers polled said they trusted other teachers’ claims about whether curriculum materials are aligned with the Common Core. Less than two-thirds trusted independent panels of experts and only 38 percent said they trusted curriculum providers and publishers.  

Jessica Jung's Summer Writing Journal sells for $2. The San Diego teacher has 95 products in her store.

Jessica Jung’s Summer Writing Journal sells for $2. The San Diego teacher has 95 products in her store.

Teachers Pay Teachers, which started in 2006, has doubled its active users, sellers and products in the past two years. Some 3 million teachers are buying 1.5 million products from 50,000 sellers.

Other sites include Teacher’s Notebook, BetterLesson.com, and the American Federation of Teachers’ ShareMyLesson.com.

Bohrer sells a 125-page Common Core-linked packet that shows teachers how to use picture books to teach letter-writing, writes Cummings. “Asking children to write letters to the tooth fairy can help teachers work toward the kindergarten writing standard that students be able to use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose ‘explanatory texts’.”  The packet costs $10.

NEA offers lessons on racial profiling

The National Education Association has released Racial Profiling Curriculum and Resources in response to the death of Michael Brown.

It was developed by a group including the NAACPNot In Our Town/Not in Our SchoolTeaching Tolerance/Southern Poverty Law CenterThe Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under LawAmerican Federation of Teachers (AFT), Human Rights Educators of the USA (HRE-USA) Network and Facing History and Ourselves.

Lesson plans include “tips for youth on how to interact during encounters with law enforcement.”

Racial profiling is defined as “the suspicion of people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or other immutable characteristics, rather than on evidence-based suspicious behavior.”

. . . in schools, profiling is evidenced by the disproportionate number of Black and Latino students who are suspended and expelled. Frequently, Muslim students and their families are profiled as “terrorists;” and Spanish-speaking students and their families are profiled as “illegals.”

“The NEA and its fellow travelers are presenting a one-sided, propagandistic view of an exceptionally complicated issue,” writes Checker Finn.

The NEA has developed lesson plans on everything from Black History Month to National Popcorn Month, Finn writes. “When they stray into hot-button adult controversies, let the user beware.”

The $2 million teacher

A Georgia kindergarten teacher has earned $2 million selling her lesson plans and ideas online to other teachers.

Board wants to own work by teachers, students

If a high school student writes an app for a class assignment or a teacher develops great lesson plans, who owns the copyright?  In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the school board proposes claiming ownership of all work created for school use by students or teachers — even if it’s done on their own time with their own resources.

There’s a growing online market for teacher lesson plans, Kevin Welner,  director of the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center, told the Washington Post.  “I think it’s just the district saying, ‘If there is some brilliant idea that one of our teachers comes up with, we want be in on that. Not only be in on that, but to have it all,’ ” he said.

Claiming the right to students’ work is unlikely to hold up in court.

For Adrienne Paul and her sister, Abigail Schiavello, who wrote a 28-page book more than a decade ago in elementary school for a project that landed them a national television interview with Rosie O’Donnell and a $10,000 check from the American Cancer Society, the policy — had it been in effect — would have meant they would not have been able to sell the rights to Our Mom Has Cancer.

Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs said it was not the board’s “intention to declare ownership” of students’ work, just to “get the recognition.” The language should be changed before final approval, she said.

If a teacher develops lessons, software, apps or anything else on her own time, why should the rights belong to the school district?

There can be big money in educational apps. An independent developer made $700,000 in two years from an app aimed at homeschoolers.

 

Teacher earns $1 million for lesson plans

Deanna Jump, a 43-year-old kindergarten teacher, earned more than $1 million last year selling lesson plans to other teachers, reports Businessweek.

Jump, who blogs at Mrs. Jump’s Class and teaches in Warner Robins, Georgia,, is the most successful of 15,000 teachers marketing their original classroom materials through the online marketplace, TeachersPayTeachers (TPT). While teaching full-time, she’s created 93  teaching units and sold 161,000 copies for $8 each.

“My units usually cover about two weeks’ worth of material,” she says. “So if you want to teach about dinosaurs, you’d buy my dinosaur unit, and it has everything you need from language arts, math, science experiments, and a list of books you can use as resources. So once you print out the unit, you just have to add a few books to read aloud to your class, and everything else is there, ready to go for you.”

Two other teachers have earned $300,000, and 23 others have earned over $100,000, according to site founder Paul Edelman, a former middle school teacher.

YouTube launches teachers’ site

YouTube.com/Teachers will show ways to use video in the classroom, writes James Sanders, a middle school history teacher at KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy. That includes “lesson plan suggestions, highlights of great educational content on YouTube, and training on how to film your own educational videos.”

I use videos to spark classroom discussions, increase instructional time by assigning videos as homework, and create playlists for each lesson so students can dive deeper into specific areas that interest them. I also found countless educational videos on YouTube that energize and excite my students about a number of topics, such as medieval history.

This summer, YouTube Teacher’s Studio featured award-winning teacher trainers Jim Sill and Ramsey Musallam, who led workshops on “Finding your inner Spielberg” and “FlipTeaching.”  Sanders taught about using YouTube as a powerful educational tool.

Below is “Monster Foam Science Experiment.”