• New evaluation rules affecting educators’ focus
    Both the Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City school boards have sent letters to state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman asking him to reconsider portions of the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model, which took effect July 1. The process involves combining scores from classroom visits by an administrator or other certified evaluator with student achievement data.
  • Tennessee Education Department outlines school district strategies
    Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said the state will seek to expand students’ access to effective teachers and leaders; improve access to good schools; expand educators’ access to resources and best practices; and provide better access to information and data. “Everything we do in this department should be focused on making sure Tennessee kids learn more every day, and Tennessee educators are supported in the important work that they do,” Huffman said. “The goals we set out in Race to the Top are our department’s goals, and we will work diligently to become the fastest-improving state in the nation.”
  • Williamson schools may teach Chinese in K-12
    The Williamson County School District’s strategic plan calls for implementing a second-language program for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. School officials have not yet decided on which language, though they have narrowed the choices to Chinese, Spanish, French and German.
  • Local organization selected for national initiative to develop STEM teachers
    Local teaching initiative TEACH/Here has been selected as a partner in a national initiative started by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. TEACH/Here is a 2-year-old urban residency program in Chattanooga with the goal of equipping young teachers with valuable experience and solid tools for teaching in STEM-related fields. The initiative, called 100kin10, is a collaborative movement designed to create and place 100,000 STEM teachers in classrooms across the country over the next ten years.
  • Education Notebook: Rewriting NCLB with Waivers and Conditions
    Instead of accepting strings-attached waivers, states should demand genuine flexibility from Washington.
  • Teachers: New evaluation system time consuming: Some question whether extensive lesson plans, increased observations are necessary
    Jackson-Madison County principals and teachers say a new teacher evaluation system is time consuming and stressful, but they are adjusting.
  • Herenton submits applications to start charter schools
    By next fall, former mayor Willie Herenton intends to be running Orleans Elementary, Manassas High and a significant hunk of Booker T. Washington as charter schools, based on seven applications he submitted Friday. With Texas-based Harmony Schools as advising partner, Herenton and his newly formed W.E.B. DuBois Consortium of Charter Schools expect to be the first private company to take over an entire public school here. Most charter firms start with one grade and add a grade per year, eliminating the risk of failure while also giving them time to build school culture.
  • A Push to Improve Teachers’ Colleges
    The Obama administration announced a new $185 million competition Friday that would reward colleges for producing teachers whose students perform well on standardized tests. The competition would require states to provide data linking collegiate teaching programs inside their borders to the test scores of their graduates’ students. Under the proposal, to be eligible for the money, states would have to ratchet up teacher-licensing exams and close persistently low-performing teacher-training programs. In a sign of consensus among often warring camps in education, the administration’s proposal received vocal support from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, as well as from Teach For America, a Peace Corps-like nonprofit that inspires many of the nation’s top college graduates to commit to inner-city teaching stints. The prospect of using student test scores to grade the colleges that trained their teachers doesn’t sit well with one teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers. Evidence is mounting that teacher quality is the biggest in-school determinant of student achievement. Yet the nation’s colleges of education are a patchwork of programs that vary in quality. Each state sets its own admissions, graduation and licensing requirements. Also problematic is that the profession isn’t attracting many of the nation’s best students. One recent study found that only 23% of teachers come from the top third of college graduates. The U.S. requires states to identify low-performing teacher-prep programs. But in the past 12 years, 27 states haven’t found even one program lacking in quality, Mr. Duncan said. As part of the package of overhauls unveiled Friday, the administration plans to evaluate the teacher-college programs on whether their graduates are hired, particularly in shortage areas such as math and science. The Education Department plans to ask Congress to approve its proposal, but ultimately doesn’t need lawmakers to impose requirements on colleges.
  • Teachers are being rewarded for things unrelated to good teaching
    But a compensation system for teachers based on additional academic credit and experience makes sense only if those factors are actually related to classroom effectiveness. They aren’t. It’s easy to see how the system developed to compensate teachers for credentials and experience. Those things are tangible achievements, and it wasn’t illogical to suppose that more experienced and better-credentialed teachers would be more effective. But modern research findings have made that supposition indefensible.
  • The Latest Crime Wave—Sending Your Child to a Better School
    In case you needed further proof of the American education system’s failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That’s the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father’s address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher’s license she had been working on.

    Ms. Williams-Bolar caught a break last month when Ohio Gov. John Kasich granted her clemency, reducing her charges to misdemeanors from felonies. His decision allows her to pursue her teacher’s license, and it may provide hope to parents beyond the Buckeye State. In the last year, parents in Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri have all been arrested—and await sentencing—for enrolling their children in better public schools outside of their districts.

    These arrests represent two major forms of exasperation. First is that of parents whose children are zoned into failing public schools—they can’t afford private schooling, they can’t access school vouchers, and they haven’t won or haven’t even been able to enter a lottery for a better charter school. Then there’s the exasperation of school officials finding it more and more difficult to deal with these boundary-hopping parents.

    From California to Massachusetts…

  • What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules?
    Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.Let’s face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

    No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn’t get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.

    Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: “They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans.” The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn’t help.

    If you haven’t figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system. Teachers’ salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn’t rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they’ve been teaching. That’s it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you’re demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation’s children.

    Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the United States has nearly tripled since 1970. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we spend more per student than any nation except Switzerland, with only middling results to show for it.

    Over the past 20 years, we’ve been told that a big part of the problem is crumbling schools—that with new buildings and computers in every classroom, everything would improve. But even though spending on facilities and equipment has more than doubled since 1989 (again adjusted for inflation), we’re still not seeing results, and officials assume the answer is that we haven’t spent enough.

    These same misguided beliefs are…

  • A federal takeover of education
    any Americans, having grown accustomed to Caesarism, probably see magnanimity in that front-page headline. Others, however, read it as redundant evidence of how distorted American governance has become. A president “gives” states a “voice” in education policy concerning kindergarten through 12th grade? How did this quintessential state and local responsibility become tethered to presidential discretion? Here is how federal power expands, even in the guise of decentralization:

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