Tag: Critical Mass


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The Read: Better teachers edition


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The dropout nation at a glance. Updated continuously throughout the day (new stories and updates marked with an *): Time for alternatives to teacher licensing? So suggests the San Francisco…

New solutions must be undertaken if we want high-quality teachers in the classroom, especially in order to turn around the nation's dropout factories.

New solutions must be undertaken if we want high-quality teachers in the classroom, especially in order to turn around the nation's dropout factories.

The dropout nation at a glance. Updated continuously throughout the day (new stories and updates marked with an *):

  • Time for alternatives to teacher licensing? So suggests the San Francisco Chronicle, which peers into the licensing and test requirements for becoming a teacher in California and find it a tad onerous. The paper’s solution: Audition each teacher to see if they are qualified, something similar to the method teaching guru Martin Haberman uses to determine whether a teacher should be a candidate for his Star Teacher program.
  • Although I agree with the Chron that the licensing requirements are a little much, the test-taking makes sense; you want teachers who have the subject-level competency needed in order to assure that every child gets a high-quality education. The real issue is that so much of teacher recruiting, training, licensing and recertifying in many states (actually, in all states to one degree or another) has little to do with actual instruction and subject-competency in the first place. Fifty-four percent of America’s teachers are trained in schools of education that are generally of low quality, according to former Teachers College president Arthur Levine in a 2006 report; the SAT score requirements are low as are other admission requirements, so the aspiring teachers (and the schools of education) are basically not ready for prime time. And most states don’t require teachers to actually take a subject-competency test before entering a teaching program; this means that many teaching students are coming in without having a strong knowledge base from which to educate students.
  • Then there are the license renewal requirements: Thirty states require teachers to gain a master’s degree in order to have their licenses renewed; this, despite there being no research showing that earning an advance degree improves academic instruction or student academic performance, according to the most recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (disclosure, I am a co-author of the report). Eighteen states require districts to give raises to teachers based on additional graduate work, even though, again, there is no proof that such busywork will improve student learning. So teachers spend less time on improving their instructional skills and knowledge base and more time on gaining paper that will yield them better salaries and keep them employed. And you wonder why the quality of K-12 instruction is not where it should be.
  • Teacher licensing should be focused on assuring that people with strong subject knowledge, polished in instruction and caring about children should be in the classroom. But this means restructuring schools of education, licensing renewal requirements and salary structures in order to make this happen. If you want more math and science teachers — both of which are in short supply — states must structure compensation to include salary differentials that can lure at least some aspiring math and science students into the field. At the same time, alternative teacher training programs that target baby boomer professionals looking for a second career after retirement, must also be part of the teacher supply landscape.
  • *At the same time, the teacher compensation system — which rewards seniority and degree-accumulation over improving instructional method, subject-level competency and willingness to work with the hardest-to-teach students — must also be restructured. Simply raising salaries, as DC schools chieftain Michelle Rhee is attempting to do (in exchange for the elimination of tenure) isn’t enough. The problem isn’t simply a matter of money: There are shortages of teachers in math, science and special education positions; paying more for an indiscriminate number of teachers no matter their subject doesn’t solve the problem. Higher salaries need to be paid in high shortage positions while the entire compensation structure must be aimed towards improving instruction and knowledge base. Until those things are done, students will never get the kind of high-skilled teachers they need.
  • *Speaking of Rhee: Fast Company has a profile of Rhee and her efforts to turn around the nation’s most pervasive academic failure complex. Thanks to Erin O’Connor and Critical Mass for the tip.
  • Adding options for New York children: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg polishes up an otherwise mediocre legacy as mayor with his pioneering work on education; this time, he is expanding the range of school choices for the city’s students and parents. Eighteen new charter schools will open this year, reports the New York Times, adding to the 50 schools currently open for business; 51 charters have been started since Bloomberg took office seven years ago.
  • Who should prevail in accountability: Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act seven years ago, California has insisted on operating two different accountability systems — the federal AYP mandates and the state’s own Academic Performance Index — that don’t fully match up with one another in terms of expectations and performance indicators. The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office takes a look at both AYP and API and find them wanting. It, instead, wants an accountability system that focuses on how school districts actually get the schools they oversee — especially those that are dropout factories and academic failure mills — up to speed. [Update: Link fixed per Jacqui Guzman. Thanks Jacqui.]
  • Why running a school district ain’t easy, Volume 500: The Monitor in the Mexican border town of McAllen, Tx., takes a look at the tenure of outgoing district superintendent Yolanda Chapa. From accusations of forcing out a predecessor to complaints about her not having a doctorate (as if having a graduate degree results in tip-top school leadership) to the programs she started, one gets the sense that Chapa will be happy to get out of dodge and let someone else handle the mess.

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