Teachers

If you caught your pediatrician Googling "upset stomach remedies" before deciding how to treat your child and home-brewing medications over an office sink, you might start looking for a new pediatrician. So how would you feel if you learned that Google and Pinterest are where your child's teacher goes to look for instructional materials?

Well, brace yourself, because that's exactly what's happening. And no, your child's teacher is not an exception. A new study from the RAND Corporation finds that nearly every teacher in America—99 percent of elementary teachers, 96 percent of secondary school teachers—draws upon "materials I developed and/or selected myself" in teaching English language arts. And where do they find materials? The most common answer among elementary school teachers is Google (94 percent), followed by Pinterest (87 percent). The numbers are virtually the same for math.

But don't blame teachers. These data, for reasons both good and bad, reveal a dirty little secret about American education. In many districts and schools—maybe even most—the efficacy of the instructional materials put in front of children is an afterthought. For teachers, it makes an already hard job nearly impossible to do well.

Expecting teachers to be expert pedagogues and instructional...

The whole point of the Every Student Succeeds Act was to revert financial and regulatory authority back to states after No Child Left Behind’s era of federal supremacy. In addition to rolling back the Education Department’s manifold oversight powers, though, the law also takes affirmative steps to grant states more flexibility to achieve their desired educational ends. Case in point: The good folks over at Chiefs for Change have released a paper zeroing in on an unsung ESSA wrinkle that allows states to set aside up to 3 percent of their federal Title I funding for so-called “Direct Student Services.” These funds, which must be earmarked for districts with large percentages of underperforming schools, can include online course access, tutoring, school choice programs, and the like. If every state availed itself of this perk, it could free up $425 million per year. That buys an awful lot of state autonomy.

Last week, we told you about “School Money,” NPR’s ongoing examination of educational finance in districts across the country. In addition to long, national entries, the organization has also filed evocative dispatches from its affiliate stations in different states. Boston’s WGBH featured a gloating segment on how Massachusetts...

A new report from the Hope Street Group examines the quality of states’ teacher preparation programs.

The authors, all teachers themselves, conducted in-person focus groups and administered online surveys over six weeks between September and October 2015. Their sample included 1,988 certified educators in forty-nine states and the District of Columbia whose teaching experience ranged from one to thirty-one years across all grades and subjects. Authors conducted qualitative and content analysis to identify, categorize, and present reoccurring themes from the teacher’s responses.

Respondents were asked the same questions: If your state was going to evaluate teacher preparation programs, which measures should be included? Did your preparation program offer any specific courses related to serving in areas of high-need or persistently low-achieving populations? As you reflect on your teacher preparation experiences, what do you wish you’d had more of in terms of pedagogy? How have new college- and career-ready standards changed your instructional practices? And what would you change about teacher preparation for the next generation of teachers?

Over half the teachers reported lacking instruction about serving high-needs or persistently low-achieving populations; they also noted that their only exposure to college- and career-ready standards came through on-the-job experiences or in-service professional...

The cause of school choice took a major step forward in Florida last week when Governor Rick Scott signed a bill codifying open enrollment and increasing funding for charter schools. The new law directs $75 million toward capital projects for the state’s 650 charter schools, weighted especially toward those that serve disabled students or those from low-income families. (In addition to the funding carrot, legislators introduced an accountability stick: Charters will now submit compulsory financial statements on a monthly or quarterly basis, and those that receive F ratings for two consecutive years will be automatically shuttered.) But the headline result is undoubtedly the introduction of open enrollment, which will allow students—with particular preference given to highly mobile kids in military families and foster care—to attend any public school in the state with slots open.

Scant weeks after their narrow victory in the Supreme Court’s Friedrichs case, teachers’ unions have won another critical battle—this time at the state level—with a friendly ruling in Vergara v. California. A three-judge appeals court panel overturned the original ruling from Judge Rolf Treu, which invalidated state laws around teacher tenure and due process rights. The case, which hinges on guarantees of equitable education...

Now that New York’s students are heading into another year of Common Core-aligned standardized testing, it’s probably time to start taking bets on exactly how many kids will actually show up. With last year’s opt-out numbers reaching a staggering 20 percent and a new Regents chancellor claiming that she’d keep her own kids from taking the exams, assessment boosters might be wondering if anyone’s willing to speak up for the joy of filling in tiny bubbles. If so, they’ve found perhaps the least surprising champion in Success Academy honcho Eva Moskowitz, who gave a stridently pro-assessment interview last week following a pre-test pep rally in Harlem. “We need to know how the most affluent communities are performing and whether our kids can do as well as those—and you can’t do that with internal assessments,” she noted. Her arguments were later echoed by old pal Al Sharpton—you remember, the guy who memorably roasted her for protesting Mayor de Blasio’s charter policies. The good reverend is now on the record imploring students to take the tests and expose gaps in achievement. See? Testing was always meant to bring people together.

Chicago kids looking to enjoy a...

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth post in a series on improving teacher preparation programs. See here, here, and here for prior ones.]

Millions of families in America depend on education as a pathway toward upward mobility. We owe it to these families and their students to provide highly trained teachers who are ready on the first day. Unfortunately, way too many teachers learn how to teach during their first year in the classroom instead of before it. For example, of all the preparation programs examined in NCTQ’s most recent Teacher Prep Review, not a single one met the standard for effectively training teachers to plan lessons. Only 11 percent of programs met the standard in classroom management techniques. Student-teaching is the only real clinical experience that many teacher candidates receive, yet only 10 percent of programs met NCTQ’s standard for a strong student-teaching experience. In short, most preparation programs are doing a lackluster job of teaching their candidates how to teach.

Education schools are often hesitant to focus on clinical training because it seems too similar to vocational training. Instead, they spend considerable amounts of time on education theory, philosophy,...

If a Supreme Court case yields an outcome that virtually every observer predicted, it’s tempting to dismiss the underlying legal issues as predetermined. But what if the result also confounds the expectations of those same prognosticators from just six weeks prior? Something extraordinary must have taken place, right?

That’s exactly what happened in the closely watched case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which concluded in a 4-4 split on Tuesday after initially dangling over public sector organizers like the sword of Damocles. When oral arguments were heard in January, the battle lines were familiar: four liberal justices clearly in sympathy with public employee unions, five conservatives set to rule against them. Archconservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who had previously been mentioned as a possible swing vote, gave every impression of siding with his ideological confreres. Headlines from that period were getting a lot of mileage out of words like “bleak” and “brutalized.” And “doomsday.”

And then…well, I guess you know what happened then.

It’s difficult to overstate the effect of Scalia’s death on the court’s deadlock—and, indeed, on the future of organized labor in America. A broad ruling on philosophical lines may have functionally transformed...

We are all familiar with the "hero teacher" narrative from books and movies: A plucky young (inevitably white) teacher ends up in a tough inner-city classroom filled with "those kids"—the ones that school and society have written off as unteachable—and succeeds against all odds, through grit and compassion, embarrassing in the process those who run "the system." Ed Boland's The Battle for Room 314 is the dark opposite. It's a clear-eyed chronicle of first-year teaching failure at a difficult New York City high school, vividly written and wincingly frank.

Reading the book brought back a flood of memories of my own struggles as a new teacher at a low-performing public school in the South Bronx. Like Boland, I had my share of defiant and difficult students. If I'd been teaching high school, not elementary school, I likely would have made the same decision he did: to abandon ship and return to my previous career after one year, shell-shocked and defeated.

Two things saved me. First, midway through my first year, another fifth-grade teacher was called up from the army reserve to active duty. I asked my principal to reassign me from my two-teacher "inclusion" classroom to take over her class....

Back in 2008, the Ohio General Assembly mandated the creation of a “clearinghouse of interactive and other distance learning courses delivered by a computer-based method.” In 2013, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (then known as the Ohio Board of Regents) announced a “new online distance-learning web portal” that aimed to provide a “wealth of digital education tools, standards-based resources, curricula, texts, and Web-based courses.” Known as ilearnOhio, the clearinghouse offers standards-aligned, peer-reviewed digital media from multiple content providers, instructional support materials, assessment items, and professional development resources. Teachers can search for lessons and materials based on grade level, discipline, resource type, or Common Core standard. A recent piece in the Columbus Dispatch states that since July 1, more than 475,000 users have visited the site. The Dispatch also reports that Ohio State University—which operates the clearinghouse—estimated in a report last fall that approximately 82 percent of Ohio’s schools and districts have used the clearinghouse in some way, making it a “valuable component of the state’s educational infrastructure.”

So if the clearinghouse is a valuable tool for Ohio educators, why will it cease to exist this summer? The answer is a bit complicated. For...

A new study by Brian Jacob and colleagues examines the relationship between teacher hiring data and subsequent teacher performance in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS).

Analysts focused on information gathered between 2011 and 2013 through TeachDC, the district’s centralized application process that collects data on applicants’ education history, employment experience, and eligibility for tenure (the study includes over seven thousand applicants). TeachDC winnows down applicants based on their performance on subject-specific assessments, interviews, and teaching auditions. Those who pass all three stages are put in the recommended pool to be seen by principals (though new hires can also be hired outside the pool). Data also included IMPACT, D.C.’s teacher evaluation system, for all district teachers between 2011–12 and 2013–14.

There are four key findings. First, applicants with no prior teaching experience are less likely to be hired by DCPS schools than those with prior experience. Second, teachers with better academic credentials (e.g., ACT or SAT scores) appear to be no more or less likely to be hired. Third, for those who are hired, achievement measures (undergraduate GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and college selectivity) and some screening measures (such as applicants’ performance on mock teaching lessons) mostly did not predict hiring...

Pages