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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Let teachers control training, classroom $

Choice is good for teachers too, argues Mike Goldstein, founder and former CEO of Match Education in Boston, and former Chief Academic Officer of Bridge International Academies. Mike’s subbing for Rick Hess in Education Week.

As it is with charter schools, teacher accountability should be linked to flexibility, he wrote six years ago. He proposed letting teachers control “100 percent of his/her share of the professional development budget.”

In some districts, we’re talking about $4,000 per teacher per year. Why not let each teacher control it? He can hire a coach. He can attend a conference, take an online course, visit other schools. He can pay another teacher in the same school for help. He can pool his $4,000 with other teachers—15 teachers could combine to hire one $60,000 per year full-timer. He could “bank” the $4,000 for another year—i.e., spend nothing for two years, then $12,000 on a PD experience in the third year.

No one type of professional development helps teachers improve, Goldstein writes. Furthermore, teachers will “tune out” one-size-fits-all training they see as irrelevant.

Goldstein helped New Schools for New Orleans experiment with “Permission-Based Teacher Coaching,” which was a qualified success, according to a Brown study.

Particularly promising was that “coached teachers scored 0.59 standard deviations higher on an index of effective teaching practices comprised of observation scores, principal evaluations, and student surveys.” One of the interesting bumps, however, was that while we tried to emphasize true teacher permission, school leaders kept wanting to assign teachers to the coaching.

Goldstein dreams of going further, giving teachers the cash to pay for “curriculum, computers and software, and supplies.” That could give teachers $10,000 or more per year for classroom-level buying.

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What would be lost in economies of scale would be gained in teacher buy-in, he believes. In addition, “enterprises would spring up to serve decision-making teachers well (like Teachers Pay TeachersClass Dojo, and others who already do this), instead of a few big companies trying to kiss up to superintendents and commissioners in order to win the giant orders.”

A new Senate tax plan would double the deduction teachers could take for spending on school supplies.

“The bill’s changes would allow teachers to deduct $500 from their taxable income for purchases they make out of pocket for their classrooms, from pencils to software,” reports Education Week. “Current law allows individual teachers to take a $250 deduction for those purchases.”

However, the House GOP tax bill would eliminate the deduction.

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