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News Clips

News from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future


1   Holding onto Teachers That Flee
2   Failing City Teachers Face a Faster Ax
3   Denver Performance-Pay Plan Yields Student Progress
4   Rigor Disputed In Standards for Teachers
5   Striving to Improve Those at the Head of The Class
6   Teaching Talent May Be On the Way
7   Failing Schools Underreported
8   Gov. Bush Unveils Reading Plan
9   Paige Announces New Initiative to Support States



Holding onto Teachers that Flee

District Administrator Magazine, January 2004

Full Article: When more teachers leave the field rather than stay, it poses a big problem. Experts say that specialized professional development, mentor teachers and formative assessments for beginning teachers are just some ways districts can retain more new teachers. The U.S. has plenty of teachers, they're just not in the classroom, mainly because they fled after two to five years, according to Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future. About one-third of new teachers leave after three years and 46 percent leave after five years, national statistics show.

The biggest hit came in the late 1990s when those leaving the profession outpaced the entrants--primarily due to school conditions, Carroll says. Teachers felt no support from school leaders, had little time to collaborate with colleagues, and faced disruptive students. They also complained of a lack of control in the organization and instruction in school. "Teachers need a stronger voice and a strong principal leader who works with teachers on effective instructional strategies, clear goals, and school environments around teaching and learning, and to end disruptive environments," Carroll says.

Strong teacher preparation is also key to keeping teachers. A teacher from a four-year program is more likely to stay in the profession than those certified in a four-week alternative program. School districts must process resumes for teacher vacancies quickly so qualified candidates are contacted on time. A recent report shows that large urban districts were missing out on qualified math and science teachers because the hiring process was so burdensome, Carroll says.

And mentor teachers, which are common in Columbus, Ohio, and Rochester, N.Y., are key. Mentor and novice teachers can discuss instructional strategies, give feedback and observe each other's classes to address weak links and improve instruction. It might cost a district $3,000-$5,000 for a mentor teacher bonus, but it costs a lot more if the new teachers leaves, Carroll says. In the Santa Cruz New Teacher Project at the University of California, more than 10,000 beginning teachers in the past 16 years have reaped benefits, according to Ellen Moir, executive director of the New Teacher Center. The center grew out of the project. "We release exemplary teachers on a full-time basis to support a caseload of 15 beginning teaches," Moir says.Scientific research shows the project's work is paying off, Moir adds. Studies show a district that uses the intensive mentoring model has 74 percent of its new teacher classes make achievement gains, compared with 47 percent and 41 percent in two districts with a less intensive novice teacher support model.


Failing City Teachers Face a Faster Ax

The New York Times, 01-15-04

Excerpt: The New York City teachers' union proposed yesterday cutting to six months the time it takes to remove incompetent teachers, speeding up a process that can now drag on for years. As part of a broad overhaul of the disciplinary process and evaluation system for teachers, the union president, Randi Weingarten, also called for ending so-called rubber rooms, where more than 200 teachers facing charges of malfeasance are sent to languish, some for years, while still receiving full pay. She proposed the appointment of a special master and a task force of pro bono lawyers to clear the backlog of cases.

"Yes, this is a union president who is going to talk about removing teachers who should not be teaching," Ms. Weingarten said in a breakfast speech to the Association for a Better New York. "And I do that without hesitation, because this a union that is not about just keeping people. We are about keeping qualified people."

Ms. Weingarten's proposal calls for expanding an existing peer intervention program for troubled teachers. Under her plan, a teacher in danger of being fired would enter the intervention program for up to 90 days. If the teacher was still ill-equipped to return to the classroom, Ms. Weingarten said, union representatives would counsel the teacher to leave the school system.

If the teacher refused, an existing 90-day grievance and arbitration process would begin. Currently, city officials say they must spend at least two years building a case, with a principal giving the teacher two annual unsatisfactory ratings, to stand any chance of dismissing a teacher through the 90-day arbitration process. In her speech, Ms. Weingarten also said that retaining good teachers was even more critical to the future of the public school system than removing the few bad ones. She cited statistics showing escalating retirements among older teachers and high numbers of resignations among new teachers who leave after one or two years.


Denver Performance-Pay Plan Yields Student Progress

Education Week, 01-14-04

Excerpt: A compensation system designed to provide Denver teachers with monetary bonuses for their extra efforts to improve student performance has produced considerable achievement in many classrooms, the final report on the nationally watched pilot project says. What's more, researchers suggest that the pay plan served as an engine for positive change throughout the district. And yet the nation's first so-called pay-for-performance endeavor is difficult and expensive to implement, the report says. School districts that hope to accomplish similar goals would be wise to evaluate whether they have the resources and commitment to try such a plan, it suggests.

"The pilot has demonstrated that the focus on student achievement and a teacher's contribution to such achievement can be a major trigger for change— if the initiative also addresses the district factors that shape the school," concludes the Community Training and Assistance Center, a nonprofit organization based in Boston that has been studying the project for four years. The initiative, it says, "can provide a basis for improving the entire school system by tying district activities to core classroom needs."

The two entities that designed the plan and are now overseeing it— the school board and the local teachers' union—see the report as praise for their work. The school board will vote later this month on expanding the pay program; members of the union, an affiliate of the National Education Association, will cast ballots on the measure in early March. If both agree to the idea, the program will be expanded to include all schools in the 72,000-student district. Currently, 13 percent of schools take part in the program, which began in 1999.

Denver's innovative plan rewards teachers who craft, then meet, two principal-approved objectives related to student achievement. For each goal reached, teachers receive a bonus of $750 annually. An algebra teacher, for example, might set the goal of having 70 percent of her class show 40 percent growth from a pretest to a post- test.


Rigor Disputed In Standards for Teachers

Education Week, 01-14-04

Excerpt: States have fashioned wildly different ways of judging whether teachers already in the classroom meet the federal standard of "highly qualified," raising the possibility that teachers in some states will not face the high hurdle that Congress intended. Critics say that many states are giving veteran teachers too easy a pass on whether they know their subjects well enough to teach them effectively, as the No Child Left Behind Act specifies.

"Few states distinguish themselves in terms of the rigor and comprehensiveness" of their evaluation systems, said Ross Wiener, the director of policy for the Education Trust, a Washington- based group that pushes higher achievement for poor and minority students. The Trust released a report last month criticizing states for designing evaluations that depend too much, for instance, on existing licensing or professional-development requirements that may or may not reflect subject knowledge.

State officials, for their part, have taken advantage of the flexibility offered by the law while sometimes lamenting the uncertainties that go with it. Still, it's hard to envision how both Arkansas' standard and New Mexico's, for example, could fulfill the same mandate. Arkansas permits teachers with five years of experience to be considered highly qualified on that basis alone.

New Mexico, meanwhile, insists that teachers have five years' experience, two successful job evaluations, and college coursework in their fields before progressing to a second set of requirements. Those include being observed in the classroom by two peers who teach the same subject, as well as compiling a satisfactory portfolio of lesson plans, student-achievement data, and more. Finally, the two judges must agree on whether the teacher has met the standard of highly qualified.



Striving to Improve Those at the Head of the Class

The New York Times, 01-14-04

Excerpt: The deadline looms. Under federal law, by 2006 every classroom must have a highly qualified teacher, and Louis V. Gerstner, the former I.B.M. chairman and an architect of the school standards movement, has a prediction. "We don't have a chance," he said flatly. At least, not unless states follow his commission's advice, he added. For the last year, Mr. Gerstner and a panel of marquee figures in the fields of politics, business and education have been kicking around an intractable problem: how to entice the best and brightest to a profession woefully ill equipped to compete for them.

"For the cost of 15 B-2 bombers, we can give three million teachers real incentives to raise student achievement and stay in the classroom," reads the press release for Mr. Gerstner's teaching commission. It calls for an overall spending increase of $30 billion to raise teacher pay - not necessarily a scientific number, but something to get the debate started. "For long-term national security, well-educated workers - and not just weapons and bombers - are crucial," the release continues.

As Mr. Gerstner will happily admit, the commission's report is largely a compendium of proposals that have made the educational rounds for years. It proposes higher pay for teachers who work in needy urban areas, who teach understaffed subjects like science and math, and who manage to push up students' scores. There is also a demand for more stringent certification standards, a challenge to university presidents to herd honor students toward teaching, and a potentially dicey insistence that principals, not union contracts, decide who works for them.

Mr. Gerstner closes the report in very large, very bright type promising that "the commission will not measure its success by its recommendations, but through its ability to mobilize key stakeholders, and through subsequent changes in policies and practices nationwide."


Teaching Talent May Be On the Way

Las Vegas Sun, 01-13-04

Excerpt: Several of Clark County's most at-risk and low-income schools may receive an infusion of talented young teachers this fall to help bridge the gap in education caused by socio-economic differences. The national nonprofit organization Teach For America plans to place 100 top graduates from the country's best universities in Clark County schools, if it can raise the $2.8 million needed to recruit, train and provide ongoing development for the Las Vegas area site over its first two years, founder and president Wendy Kopp said.

The school district is primarily interested in the program because it provides teachers trained in specific subjects, Associate Superintendent George Ann Rice said. "They are recruiting subject-matter experts that have the heart to be a teacher and want to work at at-risk schools," Rice said. Most of Teach For America's recruits did not major in education, but their expertise in areas such as English, math and science better qualify them to address some of the proficiency needs of the district's at-risk students, Rice said. The school district is meeting with Teach For America officials this week to work out logistics, but Rice said the partnership all depends on whether the organization raises enough money.


Failing Schools Underreported

Washington Times,01-14-04

Excerpt: Many states and local school districts are underreporting the number of schools failing to teach children to read and do mathematics at their grade level as required by the 2-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, fearful of ultimately losing control over poorly performing schools. ducation Secretary Rod Paige says the problem of districts and states "playing games" to avoid accountability for poor teaching and learning in their schools is not yet "under control" and is anticipated with "any big change like this."

"In fact, there's a level of expectation that there will be those that will push the envelope and try to game the system," Mr. Paige said in an interview with The Washington Times, two years after President Bush's education-reform law took effect. So far, more than half the states have reported a combined 2,513 fewer low-performing schools than they did last year, according to data from initial state reports issued Friday by Education Week. Some states did report a rise in the number of low-performing schools over last year, and some have yet to report.

"The idea is not to be on any list that a school needs improvement," said Rob Weil, director of education issues for the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second-largest teachers union. But Mr. Weil said because standards are stiffening, the number of low-performing schools should be going up, not down, in the second year of the 12-year duration of the law.


Gov. Bush Unveils Reading Plan

Miami Herald, 01-13-04

Excerpt: Gov. Jeb Bush used the success of a project at Carver Middle School in Orlando as a backdrop Monday to unveil a proposed $13 million initiative that could put reading coaches in 240 low-performing middle schools statewide and require individual improvement plans for low-performing sixth-graders. Bush said Monday that if students are not continually exposed to reading instruction, especially after elementary school, they fall behind. Many of those, he said, eventually drop out of school.

In 2001, only 14 percent of the students at Carver were reading at or above grade level. But with the help of teachers who volunteered and worked overtime even on Saturdays, students prospered. In 2003, 29 percent of Carver's students were reading at or above their grade level. Schools usually stop teaching reading after sixth grade, said Carver Principal Marilyn Doyle-Patterson. In the program Bush wants the Legislature to fund, reading coaches would teach middle-school instructors how to teach reading along with their other subjects. History teachers, for example, would teach reading strategies along with history.

The details of the plan have not been worked out by the state Department of Education, Bush said, but he wants schools to adopt ''best practices'' such as those at Carver, where teachers have built up a network of mentors to work with low-performing students. The reading-coach program is part of a proposed $21 million boost in ''Just Read Florida,'' bringing Bush's favorite education project to $46.4 million if it gets legislative approval in the session that starts in March. ''Reading has got to be the highest priority in our state,'' Bush said, ``not just in our schools, but in our businesses, our family lives. Reading needs to be an enduring cultural value for our state to prosper.''


Paige Announces New Initiative to Support States

US Department of Education, 01-07-04

Excerpt: U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced that a national initiative will be launched to help improve students' reading achievement. The new National Center for Reading First Technical Assistance will offer free training and support to states and districts that have received Reading First grants to improve children's reading achievement through scientifically proven methods of instruction. Reading First is the centerpiece of President Bush's sweeping education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act. The department has awarded a five-year, $36.8 million contract to RMC Research Corporation to run the Center.

"Reading is critical to success in today's society, and research tells us that reading well in the early years is especially critical," Secretary Paige said. "The key to helping all children learn is to support teachers by giving them the tools that have been proven to work. And that's what the president's Reading First program is all about: helping states and schools establish high-quality, scientifically based reading instruction for children in kindergarten through third grade. This new national center will enhance our efforts to increase reading achievement for all students and will help ensure that every child learns to read at grade level so they don't have to play catch-up later, which is much more difficult."

The contract is the result of a competitive bid process. The national center will include three regional centers that will be operated by Florida State University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oregon. The regional centers will provide expertise on improving reading programs using instruction based on proven teaching methods. States and districts will receive training in scientifically based reading research and instruction; assistance in reviewing programs, materials and assessments; critiques of Reading First sub-grant applications and scoring rubrics; and training in using assessment data to improve student reading performance.

Technical assistance will be provided through a range of learning opportunities, including: national and regional conferences, institutes and seminars; training and professional development; on-site, telephone and e-mail consultations; new materials; and links to national reading experts.

President Bush launched the Reading First initiative to improve all children’s reading achievement. Studies show that when children fail to learn how to read during their early school years, every aspect of school success is affected. Academic achievement can be enhanced through early diagnosis and intervention. Reading First was designed around an extensive knowledge base of the essential skills children must have to learn to read. The program reflects the findings of an extensive congressionally mandated review of scientifically based research on how students learn to read, completed by the National Reading Panel in 2000.






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