Teachers

Alex Russo at This Week in Education is calling Teach For America's 20th summit celebration ?premature,? ?unwarranted,? and an ?expensive-seeming birthday part/slick celebration,? among other things. As a TFA alumna one who attended this ?revival? with a ?sense of accomplishment? that Russo calls ?immodest and premature ? reminding [him] of the kid who expects praise for doing his homework for a few days in a row or the football player who starts celebrating before he's reached the end zone? ?I'm inclined to feel defensive.

I'll admit some of his post is funny; I can be as self-deprecating as the next person and point out the quirks and oddities and intensity and weird inflection of TFAers -- the oversized teaching bags, hipness of how they dress, etc. (as one tweeter said, many female teachers can be identified by their ?flats? and ?mustard-colored sweaters?).?

But here's the thing about TFA teachers or alums. Being compared to kids who expect praise for doing homework isn't that insulting. Anyone who's been a teacher in a poor urban or rural classroom will be the very first to admit that celebrating the small successes, the day-to-day victories ? including cheering on a student for homework completion -- is what keeps you going. It's part of the formula for success. I don't care how arrogant or na?ve or stupid Russo thinks the TFA community looked/acted/came across this weekend. Perhaps to some, celebration ? especially when achievement gaps persist -- seems like a waste.? But...

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As Bianca noted yesterday, legislators in Ohio are pushing major changes to the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions in the state, among them teacher unions. Many of the proposed changes, like eliminating step-and-lane salary increases, would be very positive.

One change struck me as odd among the proposals: a ban on districts paying more than 80% of teachers' health care costs. I get where the proposal is coming from ? when state and local tax coffers are full, politicians (school board members among them) love to win points with unions through huge giveaways to teachers. It's not a response to demands in the labor market, but blatant vote mongering. We see the fruits of these popular but irresponsible moves when tax revenues dry up.

If onerous state mandates like step-and-lane are removed, one hopes some Ohio districts will step up to develop better, more effective human capital policies that drive student achievement and attract high performing teachers. What if the part of the labor market those districts target demands benefits covering 85% of health care costs in exchange for smarter accountability and better instruction? Why tie districts down in new ways while cutting old mandates?

Perhaps the bill's sponsors feel like this is the best tool they have at the state level for reining in exploding benefits costs. I can appreciate that. But in the end, local control in the US needs to be re-examined and re-invented. If school boards exhibit dysfunctional behavior...

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Last night lawmakers in the Ohio House Education Committee heard testimony regarding House Bill 21 ?legislation that would, among other things, grant a professional educator license to Teach For America alums teaching in Ohio. For the second week in a row, the conversation steered into interesting territory about the merits of TFA (last week, Terry and two teachers from Fordham-authorized, high-performing charters testified on the bill's behalf). This week the bill was amended so that the provision would not only let alums get licensed here, but would also open up alternative licensure pathways so that the actual program could take root in Ohio, something which Fordham has been pushing for years. This piece of legislation would finally bring it to fruition.

As an alumna of the program and someone who's lived in other states and cities not only amenable to TFA but actually thrilled about it, these conversations among lawmakers continue to shock me. Many lawmakers admitted that prior to last week's testimony (during which bright alums like Abbey Kinson and Jenna Davis wowed them with stories of their kids achieving stellar academic results), they'd never heard of the program. Others illustrated glaring ? if accidental ? misperceptions about the program.

Ohio's battle to bring TFA here is a long one. Attempts to lock them out are probably not unlike what goes on in other states, though the fact that Ohio is one of just a handful of states without the program exemplifies the...

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Liam's post yesterday about Malcolm Gladwell's critique of U.S. News & World Report's college rankings ? ?one wonders,? wondered Liam, ?why the same education-policy types [who don't like the college rankings] can be so obtuse when it comes to identifying the just-as-glaring weaknesses in other sorts of education-related rankings and comparisons? ? was propitious.???

According to Trip Gabriel* ?in today's New York Times, the one-time third leg of the weekly news magazine industry (after Time and Newsweek) plans to take on schools of education ? with underwriting support from the likes of the Carnegie Corporation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.?

Already under fire from just about every quarter, the nation's teacher training schools are not happy about U.S. News piling on.

Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, told the Times that ?We have serious skepticism that their methodology will produce enough evidence to support the inferences they will make? and advised her Association's 800 member schools not to cooperate.?

Kate Walsh, head of the National Council on Teacher Quality, on whose board Checker Finn sits, calls the methodology complaint a red-herring. ?What they want us to do is hold off until a perfect assessment is in place,? she tells the Times.

The accountability movement marches on. And I hope kids are paying attention to the grading protests from their teachers' teachers.?

?--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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*Not Sam...

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Nobody deserves tenure, with the possible exception of federal judges. University professors don't deserve tenure; civil servants don't deserve tenure; police and firefighters don't deserve tenure; school teachers don't deserve tenure. With the solitary exception noted above?and you might be able to talk me out of that one, too?nobody has a right to lifetime employment unrelated either to their on-the-job performance or to their employer's continuing need for the skills and attributes of that particular person.

Tenure didn't come down from Mt. Sinai or over on the Mayflower. Though people occasionally refer to its origins in medieval universities, on these shores, at least, it's a twentieth-century creation. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) began pushing for it around 1915, but tenuring professors didn't become the norm on U.S. campuses until after World War II (when the presumption of a 7-year decision timeframe also gained traction) and it wasn't truly formalized until the 1970's when a couple of Supreme Court decisions made formalization unavoidable.[pullquote]Tenure didn't come down from Mt. Sinai or over on the Mayflower.[/pullquote]

In some states, public-school teachers began to gain forms of job protection that resembled tenure as early as the 1920s, but these largely went into abeyance during the Great Depression and were not formally reinstated until states?pressed hard by teacher unions?enacted ?tenure laws? between World War II and about 1980.

The original rationale for tenure at the university-level, articulately set forth by the AAUP, was to safeguard academic freedom by ensuring that...

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Ohio Education Gadfly Biweekly

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Liam Julian

Man the battle stations. The Miami Herald reports that ?the chairman of the [state] Senate's education policy committee filed a measure this week that would partially base teacher salary increases on student test scores.? The bill would not effect current teacher pay plans but would create merit-based contracts for educators hired after 2014, who ?would only see raises if they are deemed highly effective or effective? (deemed thus, that is, by a not-yet-created system of evaluation). The Herald notes that ?how the bill will be received by teachers, particularly the teachers' union, is yet to be seen.? But one can guess.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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Now it's an AP report, via the Wall Street Journal, telling us that Mayor Bloomberg will have to lay off lots of teachers ?unless teacher seniority rules are changed.?

According to the AP, which said it heard the Mayor say this at a meeting at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn,? ?the city could have to lay off nearly every teacher hired in the last five years? because of the proposed ?deep cuts? in state aid to education by the new governor.

In fact, it makes sense, as Bloomberg obviously knows. The more senior teachers cost more than new hires, so any seniority-based layoffs means eliminating the lower-paid teachers first, thus cutting more teachers, increasing class size. ?Bloomberg is pushing the obvious: ?the system can keep more teachers in these hard times if doesn't have to keep the most expensive ones.

Let the negotiations begin.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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*See here

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