U.S. teachers feel undervalued

From National Center on Education and the Economy:

How Society Values Teachers

Teachers: We have no say in policy

Teachers’ voices are ignored at the district, state and national level, say public school teachers interviewed for Center on Education Policy survey. At the school level,  53 percent of teachers said their opinions are considered most of the time.

A majority of teachers believe they spend too much time preparing students for state and district tests and 81 percent said students spend too much time taking required tests.  Most math and English teachers said they’re using data from tests to improve their teaching.

While most teachers received a performance evaluation in 2014-15, only about half found the feedback they received helpful.

It’s the same old teacher shortage

Despite what you hear or read, there is no national teacher shortage, asserts Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality. A few districts are having real problems, but the real shortage is nothing new: “All schools, as they have for decades, continue to struggle mightily to find certain kinds of teachers (STEM, ELL, special education).”

Why? Schools refuse to pay more “to attract people who have skills which are marketable elsewhere, to live in an undesirable location or to work in tougher environments,” writes Walsh.

Teacher-prep programs have been over-enrolling students for years, “routinely graduating twice as many new elementary teachers as public schools hire each year.” she writes. Now programs are graduating fewer surplus elementary teachers.

Teacher-prep programs have been over-enrolling students for years, “routinely graduating twice as many new elementary teachers as public schools hire each year.” she writes. Now programs are graduating fewer surplus elementary teachers.

Some districts have begun to panic, Walsh writes.

They’re used to having to sort through a pile of resumes to find a single good hire. They are not nimble or flexible enough to adapt their recruiting and hiring practices to a tighter job market.”

What is a reasonable response to a downturn in teacher production?  It’s not to open the floodgates and let anyone teach. We need to continue to encourage teacher prep programs to become more selective and do a better job preparing new teachers, so that districts don’t have to count on 20 resumes to find a single qualified teacher.

There’s a huge pool of credentialed teachers who left — or never got a chance to enter — the profession, she writes. “And we encourage districts to pay teachers in chronic shortage areas or who are willing to teach in really tough locales more than others.”

Who’s the best bad teacher?

Who’s the best bad teacher in literature? asks the National Association of Scholars, which is inaugurating a Books With Spines feature.

“The portrait of Thomas Gradgrind in Dicken’s Hard Times as the architect of a deadening just-the-facts school staffed by Mr. M’Choakumchild is deservedly the most famous in the gallery of literary mal-teachers,” writes NAS.

Dickens also gave us the abusive Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby and Mr. Creakle in David Copperfield.

Shakespeare created “the Latin-epithet-spouting tedious pedant Holofernes in Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

Fielding gets his revenge on the fraternity of classroom oppressors in his dual depictions in Tom Jones of the rival tutors, Mr. Square the philosopher and Mr. Thwackum the divine.

. . . Maybe Aristophanes should be credited with the first and most wicked portrait of a teacher in his send-up of Socrates in The Clouds. And Voltaire, of course, gave us a portrait of a tutor so misguided as Dr. Pangloss in Candide that his name has become a byword for foolish counsel and risible rationalization.

Muriel Spark’s Miss Jean Brodie promotes fascism to her select students, who are “the creme de la creme.”

What about bad teachers in American lit? NAS is looking for “the best of the bad, not just the bad-enough, ordinary hacks.” Nominate the best book depicting the worst teacher by April 10.

A reader nominates Dolores Umbridge, a Ministry of Magic bureaucrat turned teacher, who persecutes Harry Potter at Hogwarts.

Home visits build teacher-parent links

Stanton Elementary School teacher Sheryl Garner (right) on a home visit with the Colbert family in Washington D.C.

At both charter and district schools, home visits are helping teachers engage with parents, writes June Kronholz in Education Next.

Washington D.C.’s Flamboyan Foundation “trains — and pays — teachers to visit their students’ homes” in hopes of improving achievement, she writes.

“I had expectations of what the parents were supposed to do,” says Melissa Bryant, a math teacher and dean of students at D.C. Scholars Stanton Elementary, a novel partnership between the Washington, D.C., public schools and Scholar Academies, a charter operator. “I never heard what they wanted me to do.”

“No one ever asked me my goals,” adds Katrina Branch, who is raising six children in D.C., including the four children of her murdered sister.

Flamboyan is a partner of the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project, which has 432 participating schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Sacramento boys welcome their teachers for a home visit.

Sacramento boys welcome teachers.

It started in the late 1990s in Sacramento when a church-based community action group that launched a pilot home-visit program, writes Kronholz.

Last year, Jessica Ghalambor, a 7th-grade teacher at Sacramento’s Fern Bacon Middle School, visited the home of a shy, silent girl with reading problems named Yoveli Rosas. “The very next day,” the teacher saw an “incredible” change, she recalled. “I could tell she knew I cared.”

Ghalambor visited Yoveli again this year, along with her 8th-grade teacher and a school counselor, who acted as translator with the girl’s Spanish-speaking mother.

Josefina Rosas, Yoveli’s mother, offered to bring tamales to the school’s Heritage Festival, and promised that her husband, a landscaper, would attend a meeting about the upcoming class trip to D.C.

Finally, Ghalambor asked about Rosas’s hopes and dreams for Yoveli. To go further in school than she and her husband had so Yoveli will “have more chances,” Rosas quickly answered. Yoveli, whose reading has improved but still lags, had a more immediate goal: to read a 300-page book. “You remember last year when you came, the bookshelf was half full?” she reminded Ghalambor gaily. “This year it’s overflowing.”

“There’s not much research” on home visits’ affect on learning, writes Kronholz. However, a study for the Flamboyan Foundation found better attendance, which is linked to better reading scores, for children who received home visits in 2012-13.

Teacher prep lessons: Bad teachers stay bad

Good teachers are made — not just born, writes Michael Dannenberg on Education Reform Now.

The recommendations by Deans for Impact, leading teacher preparation program providers, jibe with what we know about teacher preparation, he writes.

It’s impossible to predict who will be an effective teacher by looking at inputs such as “SAT/ACT score, postsecondary education subject matter training (beyond secondary level math), program length, master’s degree attainment, institution selectivity, or even certification,” Dannenberg writes.

“The single greatest predictor of future teacher effectiveness by a factor of sevenis how effective the teacher is in his or her first year, as reflected by value-added measurement, he writes.

Furthermore, “the average low-performing teacher, measured by year one results, never catches up in effectiveness – in years two, three, or four – to the level of effectiveness of a median first-year teacher.” The chart shows that ineffective teachers improve — but remain relatively ineffective.

Why principals inflate teacher ratings

New teacher evaluations are a lot like the old evaluations, concludes a new study that includes interviews with 100 urban principals. Very few teachers receive poor job ratings, notes Emma Brown in the Washington Post.

In 19 states with new teacher evaluation systems, the median proportion of teachers deemed below proficient is up from less than 1 percent to less than 3 percent, researchers found.

At the start of the year, urban principals estimated that 28 percent of their teachers were performing below the proficient level, but planned to assign low ratings to 24 percent. At year’s end, fewer than 7 percent of teachers received “below proficient” ratings.

Some principals felt uncomfortable delivering bad news to teachers. Others told the researchers that they didn’t have adequate time to deal with all the documentation and support that comes along with giving a teacher a poor rating.

Principals also said they didn’t want to discourage teachers with potential to improve or didn’t think they could hire a better replacement teacher. Some said it was easier “to urge a teacher to find a job elsewhere than to go through the process of assigning and justifying a low rating.”

Focus on effective teaching, not effective teachers, writes Timothy Shanahan. It’s not about people. It’s about what people do.

For example, effective teaching employs instructional time more wisely.  It is teaching that gets started right away—no 30-minute circle times, no large portions of class time devoted to getting a head start on the homework—and such teaching keeps kids productively engaged throughout the day. Observational studies have long showed that effective teaching avoids long wait times by the kids; avoids disruptions; encourages more interaction per instructional minute; follows a sound curriculum intelligently; gets a lot more reading into a lesson; explains things better; notices when kids aren’t getting it and does something about it.

“I can’t teach you to be an effective teacher,” he writes. “But I can teach you to do the kinds of things effective teachers do.”

‘Teachers’ debuts on TV

TV Land’s new series, Teachers, is “really funny at times” and “a little bit raunchy,” writes Mark Walsh in Education Week.

The Katydids, an all-female improv group (all are named some version of Kate or Caitlin), based the show on a series of shorts called Teachers, a Web Series, set in a suburban elementary school.

Hollywood Reporter calls Teachers “wonderfully loose.”

However, the New York Times says the show “mistakes crass for cutting edge” and was better as a web series.

Do special-ed kids need teacher-cams?

Credit: LA Johnson/NPR

Texas will require schools to videotape classrooms with special-ed students, if a parent or teacher requests it.

The law applies to any self-contained classroom in which at least half the students receive special-ed services for at least half the day, reports NPR.

Last year, an NBC-5 investigation exposed “calm rooms” — padded closets — at some North Texas schools.

Some of these rooms had cameras. In one cringe-worthy video recording, a teacher forced an 8-year-old boy with autism inside a room, forced him to the floor and held the door shut despite his protests.

Parents protested. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Texas, sponsored legislation to “give a voice to someone who could not speak up when they were abused at school.” He says videotaping also will protect teachers from false accusations.

It’s not clear how many cameras will be required or how much it will cost to record and store footage.

If one parent requests camera, other students’ parents can’t block the videotaping.

Who’s F is it?