Getting tough on teacher ed programs

Texas will judge teacher-training programs based on graduates’ effectiveness in the classroom, reports the Houston Chronicle. Poor programs could lose state accreditation. Till now, programs have been judged only by the percentage of graduates who pass the teacher certification exam.

The biggest change to the accrediting rules — and potentially the most controversial — involves linking a teacher’s ability to improve student test scores to that teacher’s training. In theory, the state, which still is working on a formula and a long-range data system, should be able to determine which programs produce graduates whose students make the biggest — or smallest — gains.

. . . The programs also will get graded on how often and how well they follow up with teachers during their first year on the job. In addition, school principals will get to weigh in on the programs through evaluations of the new teachers they hire.

On Education Gadfly, Stafford Palmieri thinks the “fortified walls” of teachers’ colleges are ready to crack, battered by “the development and refinement of value-added assessment, the widening use of data-based decision-making in education, and the improvement of state and district data systems,” plus the growth of alternative certification programs.

A growing number of charter schools, as well as the overwhelming majority of private schools, don’t even require certification. A few districts, such as Cambridge, Massachusetts, and some charter school operators, like High Tech High, simply train their own.

More than 90 percent of California principals say teachers from alternative certification programs are as good or better than other beginning teachers, according to a survey conducted by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) and California Teacher Corps.

The American Federation of Teachers hates the new SMHC report on “strategies for attracting, developing, and maintaining an effective teacher workforce,” notes Teacher Beat.

Among the recommendations, the report says states and districts should raise entry requirements for teacher preparation; institute a tiered licensure system requiring teachers to complete an induction program and demonstrate teaching effectiveness before receiving tenure; and overhaul professional development and evaluations to be standards-based and to provide pathways for teacher improvement.

AFT President Randi Weingarten complains that “the proposals don’t pay enough attention to the context in which teachers teach, and that accountability for student outcomes is focused too heavily on teachers, and not on the administrators and other environmental factors that affect working conditions. And finally, there is not enough focus on developing reforms in collaboration, with unions.”

TFA teachers excel in LA

Teach for America teachers in Los Angeles outperformed non-TFA teachers in the same grade levels, subjects and schools, concludes a study funded by the Broad Foundation. From Teacher Beat:

. . . TFA teachers were linked to test scores that were 3 points higher overall than non-TFA teachers, even those who had been in the classroom much longer. And, they were even more effective than other teachers with similar years of teaching experience. (The scores for that comparison were 4 points higher for TFA teachers than for non-TFA teachers.)

Students weren’t randomly assigned, points out Teacher Beat’s Stephen Sawchuk. It’s possible TFA teachers had easier classes. But it’s not likely: Newbies rarely get the easy assignments.

Duncan backs merit pay at NEA

Teachers booed and hissed when Education Secretary Arne Duncan advocated merit pay at the National Education Association convention in San Diego.  They didn’t like “talk of reform to seniority and tenure systems, either,” reports Teacher Beat’s Stephen Sawchuck. 

I wonder if Duncan had prepared his seemingly ad-libbed line for when the booing started: “You can boo, but don’t throw any shoes, please.” And I’m pretty sure most of the delegates had gotten their vocal chords ready, too.

. .  . Also, large parts of the speech seemed to key directly off of the stimulus legislation. When Duncan talked about seniority putting some teachers in schools and classrooms they’re not prepared for, well, that gets to the equitable-distribution-of-teachers language in the stimulus.When he talked about the poor state of evaluations, well, that lines up to the language that will require states and districts to report the number and percentage of teachers scoring at each performance level on local evaluation instruments.

On Flypaper, Andy Smarick gives the speech a good review, with special praise for this: 

A recent report from the New Teacher Project found that almost all teachers are rated the same. Who in their right mind really believes that?

 Test scores alone should never drive evaluation, compensation or tenure decisions. That would never make sense. But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible.

Teachers also booed a mention of Green Dot, says Eduwonk, who compares that to hating Santa Claus.

Education Sector is hosting an online discussion of teachers’ work and teachers’ unions. 

Obama backs merit pay, charter schools

In his first major education speech, President Obama came out for linking teachers’ pay to student performance and expanding effective charter schools, AP reports. He also supported lengthening the school day and year, improving early childhood education and raising erratic state standards in the speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He called for more spending and more reforms.

“The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens,” he said. “We have everything we need to be that nation … and yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us.”

Jay Mathews called it the “largest assemblage of smart ideas” on schools he’s seen, but wonders if Obama can make it happen.

“Provocative,” says Flypaper.

Ken DeRosa calls it “long on lofty rhetoric,” but “short on anything that stands a good chance of working. He was counting on five ponies.

Everybody loved the speech — teachers unions and charter advocates, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans included — reports Politics K-12.  The details will determine whether the teachers’ unions continue to cheer, says Teacher Beat.

Well, Gerald Bracey thought Obama blew it by listening to fearmongers. Here’s Part II of his HuffPo post.

In his obligatory section urging parents to shape up, Obama told this story:

When I was a child, living in Indonesia with my mother, she didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school so she supplemented my schooling with lessons from a correspondence course. I can still picture her, waking me up at 4:30 in the morning five days a week to go over some lessons before I left for school. And whenever I’d complain or find some excuse for getting more sleep, she’d patiently repeat her most powerful defense — “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

I love that story.  Raising your kid to be a functional adult — or president of the United States of America — is no picnic.

Update: The National Education Association unequivocally opposes merit pay, points out EIA Intercepts.

Rethinking seniority, tenure

Principals in Providence will be able to hire teachers based on their qualifications, instead of letting senior teachers “bump” those with less time on the job.

Education Commissioner Peter McWalters, who ordered the change, says he has the power to intervene in a chronically under-performing school district.  He wants to build a common school culture by giving principals the “authority to select teachers who not only agree with the school’s mission but are best suited to the needs of those particular students.”

The teachers’ union hasn’t decided whether to fight the order.

Several states are considering delaying tenure for teachers, reports Teacher Beat.

In Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wants to grant teachers tenure after nine years, rather than the current three. . . . It would also allow tenured teachers to be dismissed for “just cause.” Currently, teachers can only be dismissed for “gross immorality” or “inefficiency.”

. . . In Florida, Republican legislators are preparing to submit legislation to give teachers annual contracts for their first 10 years in the classroom and then contracts of no more than five years after that. Essentially, that plan would make teachers at-will employees for their first 10 years.

. . . And, of course, there’s D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s proposal to push tenure-granting back from two to four years and require current teachers to forgo it for a year in exchange for the opportunity to win bonuses.

No Child Left Behind should provide incentives to keep competent teachers and dump the non-performers, reasons Teacher Beat. But is that really happening?

Teacher Beat also reports on a New Teacher Project study of how teachers are hired and evaluated in San Francisco: From 2005-2007, only five of 1,804 teachers were rated “unsatisfactory,” while  86 percent received one of the top two ratings.