Young teachers support evaluation reform

Newer teachers are willing to be evaluated on their students’ academic growth, according to two new surveys, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.

In the Teach Plus survey, 71 percent with 10 years or less in the classroom said student academic growth should be part of their evaluations, while just 41 percent of the more experienced group (11+ years) agreed. Education Sector compared teachers with less than five years of experience and those with 20+ years: 56 percent of newer teachers and 50 percent of older ones supported measuring teacher effectiveness using student growth models.

Sixty percent of the newer Teach Plus survey teachers said they were interested in changing “compensation and tenure systems.” Just 20 percent of the older teachers had that view. The Education Sector survey teachers appeared more supportive of moving in that direction: Ninety-one percent of the newer teachers and 75 percent of the older ones supported unions taking a role in simplifying the process of removing ineffective teachers.

The American Federation of Teachers’ proposal to make it harder to enter teaching will raise teacher quality, writes Marc Tucker in his Ed Week blog.

High-status professions “do a lousy job of getting rid of their worst performers,” but make it hard to get into professional school and to pass licensing exams, Tucker writes. “We will get quality teachers not by firing the worst but by recruiting, training and hiring the best.”

Higher standards mean better performance, which meets the interest of the public.  But higher standards also means that fewer people are able to enter the profession, and fewer members curtails supply, which means higher compensation for those who get in.  The professionals get higher compensation and the public gets higher student achievement. Everyone wins.

The National Education Association also has come out for “national standards for the preparation, licensing and certification of educators,”  Tucker writes.

Younger teachers . . . want to work in a truly professional environment where competence and achievement count for more than seniority, where distinctions in responsibility and authority among teachers are made and made on the basis of their demonstrated accomplishments in the classroom.

The U.S. has “prized cheap teachers over good teachers,” lowering standards whenever there’s a shortage, Tucker writes. “A very large fraction” of would-be teachers today will not be able to meet high-quality licensure standards.

Attracting the young people who could pass the new “bar exams” would require us, the public, to be willing to pay teachers more, invest in our teacher training institutions to make their quality comparable to that of the institutions that train our doctors and engineers, improve the quality of school leadership so that schools become attractive professional workplaces and offer teachers the kind of professional autonomy that high status professionals have.
We could pay for it by training fewer teachers and retaining them longer, Tucker argues.

School dress codes aren’t just for students anymore

School dress codes aren’t just for students anymore, reports USA Today. More schools are adopting dress codes for teachers.

When kids in one Kansas school district return to class this fall, they won’t be seeing cutoff shorts, pajama pants or flip flops — on teachers.

. . . Jeans are banned in at least one elementary school in New York City. A school district in Phoenix is requiring teachers to cover up tattoos and excessive piercings. And several Arizona schools are strictly defining business casual.

Nineteen percent of schools require uniforms for students, double the rate of 10 years ago, reports the National Center for Education Statistics.

Degrees and professionalism

If Ted Purinton is to be believed, there’s some uncertainty about the future of and role of the Ed.D. degree, primarily due to the fact that whither go the Ivies and other preeminent universities, so follow the other colleges. Once upon a time, the Ed.D. degree had an image problem. But then…

Within the field of education, Ed.D. programs had for a long time been assumed to be inferior to Ph.D. programs, and only marginally useful to the improvement of educational practice, policy, and administration. That is, until Vanderbilt University, the University of Southern California, Harvard University, and a few other institutions revamped their doctor in education, or Ed.D., programs within the past decade (with Harvard creating an Ed.L.D. in educational leadership), emphasizing practice over scholarship and school-based improvement over university-level teaching.

And all was well with the world. Until…

Just recently, however, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, home to one of the most influential Doctor of Education programs in the nation, was granted permission by the university to offer its first Ph.D.; further, its Ed.D. will eventually be eliminated. For many decades, the university did not see the field of education as worthy of the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Times have changed, of course; the Ph.D. appears to look better to Harvard applicants, and the university has recognized the need for and the interdisciplinary nature of educational research.

 

The question to be asked, then, is supposedly this:

What impact does the elimination of a practice-related doctoral degree have on the prospects of educational professionalism?

Purinton seems worried that education’s professionalism will suffer as its primary doctoral-level degree becomes more removed from applied practice, that the more practical sorts of degrees (such as the Ed.D.) are part of a structure that generates a sort of working professional knowledge. I suspect that this worry might be misplaced, in part because of the structure of education in this country, and in part because of more philosophic considerations.
[Read more...]

Too nice?

Teachers share a common goal — student success — but have trouble working together to achieve it, writes Cole Farnum, a beginning teacher in New York City who’s guest-blogging for Rick Hess. Collaboration is stymied by fear, Farnum observes. Teachers don’t want to upset the status quo, even if they dislike it. They don’t want to be perceived as criticizing a colleague’s teaching ability or effort.

Are teachers too sensitive to criticism — or convinced their colleagues are too sensitive? “How might we allow ourselves more when working together as professionals?” Farnum asks.

Building the future of school reform

The Futures of School Reform blog with a cast of researchers, teachers and policymakers has debuted on Ed Week. Harvard Education Prof. Jal Mehta introduces the blog, which will include commentaries:

. . .  one seeks to make a data-based case for the need to integrate schooling and social services; another challenges “factory model” schooling and asks for a transformation towards a “knowledge profession”; a third seeks to challenge our current desire to find more teachers who are “superpeople,” and instead suggests we should “unbundle” teaching into a more manageable job.

Mehta and Robert Schwartz, a Harvard colleague, launched the futures project three years ago.

Our premise was straightforward: If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re not going to get there. We have some amazing schools, but few if any districts that consistently produce strong results for all of their students, particularly for high poverty students. We have some exceptionally strong charter schools and charter networks, but even the staunchest members of the entrepreneurial movement would acknowledge that there are serious questions about scale. We have many, many, talented and committed people across the sector, but we would submit, that if they continue to do their work in the same ways in the same institutions, the collective result is likely not to be too different from what it is today.

I like the idea of making teaching a job that can be done well by people who aren’t “super” or saintly or destined to burn out in a year or two.

The “future” looks a lot like the past, writes Alexander Russo, looking at who’s who.

Teacher suspended for dissing students

The young English teachers’ students were “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners,” she wrote on her blog. But 30-year-old Natalie Munroe wants to keep teaching the unmotivated brats at a suburban Philadelphia high school. She was suspended with pay after students found her blog, which did not identify the school or students but called her “Natalie M.”

“My students are out of control,” Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. . . . ” They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — writes: “Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.” She also comes up with a colorful list of comments that she felt should be available on student report cards.

“Parents are more trying to be their kids’ friends and less trying to be their parent,” Munroe told AP. “They want everything right now. They want it yesterday.”

A former student, now in college, Jeff Shoolbraid told AP that much of what Munroe said was true and that she had a right to voice her opinion. But she’s not fit to be a teacher, he said in an e-mail.

 ”I just thought it was completely inappropriate. As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything. .. It’s a teacher’s job, however, to give students the motivation to learn.”

And what is the student’s job?

The comments were “tongue in cheek” caricatures of students, Munroe told ABC News. Apparently, she made the rookie error of thinking that only her friends would read the blog. Now she’s hired a lawyer to defend her free-speech rights — the school has no online policy for teachers — and demand her job back. I suspect she’ll be accaused of violating the “professionalism” clause in her contract, but I can’t predict how the case will play out.

Many teacher bloggers criticize students’ motivation and work ethic. Some fantasize about what they’d like to say to parents. Few teacher bloggers write only about their frustrations, but I’ve run across some very frustrated people out there.

I’d hate to see teacher bloggers feel constrained to write only happy talk. But it’s wise to assume  your students, their parents, your colleagues and administrators will find your blog eventually.

Update: Natalie Munroe’s new blog is here.

Ed Week’s Teacher has a forum here.

Not the NFL

Education should emulate football teams’ zeal to improve, says American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten in her joint interview with Bill Gates in Newsweek.

Football teams . . . look at the tape after every game. Sometimes they do it during the game. They’re constantly deconstructing what is working and what isn’t working. And they’re jettisoning what isn’t working and building up on what is working, and doing it in a teamlike approach.

The NFL is ruthlessly meritocratic, responds Eduwonk. Performance is everything.

Four NFL coaches have already been fired this year, fairly or not, and you didn’t hear a lot from them about how their players were the problem. 

. . . As to the players, it’s hard to find an institution more at odds with how schools are generally operated than the NFL – and the players are unionized.  The union rules cover basic protections but don’t guarantee players more than minimum salaries.  If, for instance, the NFL operated the way school districts generally do it would have been difficult for Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb as he did a few weeks ago.  And, even if he succeeded, McNabb presumably could have “forced transfered” his way into another offense somewhere where he had more seniority than the existing quarterback.

NFL pay is based on performance: Stars make much more than journeymen players.

What happened to the teacher bloggers?

What Happened to All the Teacher Bloggers? asks Anthony Rebora on Ed Week’s Teaching Now.  He thinks fewer teachers are blogging regularly, except for ed-tech bloggers.

Are would-be teacher bloggers (a la Epiphany in Baltimore) just too frustrated or burnt out to write? Do they fear professional repercussions? Or has recreational blogging lost some of its cache with the rise of Facebook and Twitter?

Teacher bloggers often start strong, have their say and then decide to devote their energies to teaching rather than blogging. Are fewer newbies starting blogs? That could be.

In the Philadelphia suburbs, a Catholic school teacher was fired after she criticized a student’s anti-Obama speech for its tone and viewpoint on her blog, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Elizabeth Collins, an English teacher, writer, artist and “activist,” admitted her “annoyance” at the girl’s politics and posted her own model speech, which defended Obama’s policies. She encouraged students to move “beyond knee-jerk joining of their parents’ political party, and not become one-issue voters, to open their minds and consider the ramifications of their votes.”

The student’s parents, James J. White IV and Megan White, read the post and asked: “If this had been an overly liberal paper, would our daughter have been the subject of your blog?” When the Whites pressed their complaints, Collins used her blog to complain about provincial, intolerant, ultra-conservative parents. Eventually Academy of Notre Dame de Naumur fired Collins.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association says on its website that teachers should not blog about their “job duties, colleagues, supervisors, or students,” notes the Inquirer.

Mandy L. Fleisher, a PSEA staffer who gives workshops about blogging, said, “We recommend that people be safe rather than sorry.”

Others don’t go that far, but Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia and a blogger, said he liked guidelines set down by a fellow education blogger, which include: “If you wouldn’t say it in a faculty meeting or yell it down the hallway during a passing period, perhaps you need to rethink posting it.”

Collins’ unprofessional conduct is the issue, writes Christine Flowers, a former English teacher, in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Collins had every right to have a blog, although it might have been better to keep a private journal instead of presuming that anyone cared about the minutiae of her job. What she didn’t have a right to do is drag into public view something that was a private matter between teacher and student. If she felt the student’s work was mediocre, she should have given her a C. And if she disagreed with its viewpoint, she should’ve sucked it up. It’s not for a teacher to shill for a specific political or social philosophy.

Teachers have to separate professional duties from personal prejudice, Flowers writes.

College grads unprepared for workforce

Many college graduates aren’t prepared for the workforce, concludes a York College study. So the Pennsylvania school is trying to teach professionalism as well as liberal arts, reports NPR.

Business leaders and human resources managers told researchers what qualities they look for in new college graduates.

Those qualities include the ability to communicate and listen respectfully, motivation to finish a task and attention to appearance.

But (York Professor David) Polk says researchers did find one area where recent graduates stand out:

“There’s a sense of entitlement that we’ve picked up on. Where people think they’re entitled to become, let’s say president of the company, within the next two years. They’re entitled to five weeks of vacation.”

After hearing a talk on professionalism, senior Evan Smrek tells NPR he’s learned not to start an interview by asking how many weeks of vacation the job includes.

Half of college degrees are useless, writes Flypaper’s Mickey Muldoon, citing a New York Times’ story on a slight improvement in job prospects for new grads: “51 percent of college graduates under age 25 [are] working in jobs that require college educations, down from 59 percent in 2000.”

Why Florida's SB 6 isn't 'anti-teacher'

Florida teachers passionately oppose SB 6, which would end tenure and base teacher pay, in part, on student performance. But the “game-chaning” SB 6  is not anti-teacher, Rick Hess writes.

It promises to shift teaching in Florida from an industrial-era profession in which teachers are treated as largely indistinguishable assembly line workers swaddled in the guarantee of lifelong employment into a 21st century profession that recognizes performance and expects professionals to merit their keep.

Public employees are protected against capricious treatment without the stifling effects of tenure, Hess writes. And “advances in assessment and data systems now make it increasingly possible to gauge teachers on the quality of their work,” rather than than on seniority and graduate credits.

Hess worries that teacher performance metrics are imperfect gauges of teacher quality and concedes that “cementing narrow, test-based measures of teacher effectiveness into state law” could be problematic.  However, nuance isn’t an option: The choice is between SB 6 and the status quo.

That choice is now in the hands of Gov. Charlie Crist.