LAEP NewsBlast 6.24.14

June 24, 2014 – In This Issue:
Vergara as a blank-slate opportunity
What Vergara ignores
Vergara is right and wrong
Rebooting teacher prep
Teacher prep nationwide
The rich potential of a student-centered approach
The SPED gap in charters
The latest in NYC’s charter wars
BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
BRIEFLY NOTED
GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Vergara as a blank-slate opportunity
A system that benefits educators based solely on time put in and not performance leaves little room or incentive for teachers to grow, writes Jonas Chartock in The Hechinger Report. Educators and others across the country should seize the chance offered by the Vergara ruling to recreate policies that support teachers in professional growth. A key piece should focus on ways that teachers can and should lead peers to better student outcomes. For too long, Chartock says, teaching has been conducted behind closed classroom doors, where some excel but where most work with untapped potential. To realize the schools called for by Vergara, great teachers must be given incentive to stay, so their talents can be replicated across many more classrooms. High-poverty schools aren’t only losing great teachers to “last in/first out” policies. They’re losing them to frustration and more attractive opportunities. Right now, the only professional milestone for most teachers, particularly those who want to stay in the classroom, is tenure. Teachers should have opportunities to embark on careers where they are recognized for and able to leverage their impact. Their success in these roles, ensured by strategic investment in their skill-development, will shift focus from whether or not we’re able to fire ineffective teachers to whether we’re doing everything we can to keep our best. More

What Vergara ignores
Judge Treu’s opinion in Vergara v. California ignores the important balance between dismissing ineffective teachers and attracting and retaining effective teachers, writes Jesse Rothstein in The New York Times. Eliminating tenure won’t address the real barriers to effective teaching in impoverished schools, and may worsen them, he says. The challenge is increasing the number of high-quality applicants. Job security recruits good people into teaching. Rothstein’s own research points to “three salient facts”: First, firing bad teachers makes it harder to recruit new good ones, since new teachers don’t know which type they’ll be. This risk must be offset with higher salaries — but that in turn increases class size, harming student achievement. Second, early tenure actually improves student achievement, partly because stable faculties are better for students, but also because an attentive district knows which teachers are good and bad after two years. Finally, the freedom to fire experienced teachers is valuable only when dismissal rates are high, 40 percent or more. Such rates come with costs: possibly firing good teachers, and a detrimental impact on a school’s culture. While “clearing the stables” of bad teachers seems attractive, Rothstein feels it’s nearly impossible in practice. No system can eliminate all “grossly ineffective” teachers, and efforts to do so are more harmful than good. More

Vergara is right and wrong
Is Judge Rolf Treu’s premise correct? asks Dana Goldstein in The Atlantic. Will axing tenure and seniority lead directly to better test scores and higher lifetime earnings for poor kids? Goldstein agrees that California’s teacher-tenure system makes no sense: Research shows most first-year teachers are mediocre, but many make huge jumps in effectiveness by the end of their second year. California evaluates for tenure in March of year two, before full student-teacher data are available. Once a teacher earns tenure, it costs thousands of dollars to permanently remove him. And with budget cuts or school closings, California law mandates least experienced teachers be laid off first. But Judge Treu is mistaken that simply eliminating these laws will systemically raise student achievement. For high-poverty schools, hiring is as big a challenge as firing, and Vergara does nothing to help schools attract or retain the best teachers. Too few excellent teachers will work long-term in racially isolated and impoverished neighborhoods, for reasons ranging from racism and classism to higher principal turnover that makes for chaotic workplaces. And poor schools are more likely to focus on standardized test prep, which teachers dislike. Educational equality is about making schools that serve poor children attractive to the smartest, most ambitious people. This is more difficult, it turns out, than overturning tenure laws. More

Rebooting teacher prep
In statehouses and universities across the country, a few farsighted Americans are pursuing what high-achieving countries have found is the most efficient education reform: making it harder to become a teacher, writes Amanda Ripley for Slate. Over the past two years, 33 states have passed meaningful laws or regulations to elevate teacher education in ways much harder to game or ignore. Instead of trying to reverse engineer teaching through complicated evaluations leading to divisive firings, these changes would reboot teaching from the beginning. A 2014 review by the National Council on Teacher Quality of 836 education colleges found only 13 percent earned its top rank; Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas have the highest number of top-ranked programs. This summer, the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation will finalize new standards. And Rhode Island, once with one of the lowest entry-bars for teachers, by 2016 will require its education colleges to only admit students with a mean SAT, ACT, or GRE score in the top half of national distribution. By 2020, the average score must be in the top third, putting Rhode Island in line with nations like Finland and Singapore. No one gets respect by demanding it, Ripley writes. Teachers and their colleges must be the same kind of relentless intellectual achievers they’re asking America’s children to be. More

Teacher prep nationwide
The latest review from the National Council on Teacher Quality of teacher-preparation programs finds that of 1,668 programs in 836 institutions, only 26 elementary and 81 secondary programs got its top ranking. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia lack a top program in either elementary or secondary education. Among the top programs, 68 are housed in public institutions that offer opportunity to enter the profession without overloading on debt. The report also notes the list is dominated by institutions not traditionally considered elite. Elementary programs continue to be far weaker than secondary, with 1.7 times as many elementary as secondary programs found to be failing. Their poorer performance speaks to the specialized training elementary teachers need, and its continuing neglect. Moreover, 23 states lack even a single program that offers math preparation resembling practices of high-performing nations. Nearly half (47 percent) fail to ensure teacher candidates are capable STEM instructors. Three out of four programs don’t insist applicants are in the top half of the college-going population. Student teaching is the least-met standard, particularly around ensuring student teachers are placed with effective mentors. The most promising sign of progress is in training around managing classrooms. The report deems Dallas Baptist University (TX) the top elementary program, Western Governors University (UT) the top secondary program.  More

The rich potential of a student-centered approach
A new research brief from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) documents practices and outcomes of four urban high schools that, through student-centered approaches, are providing building blocks of knowledge and skills students need as adults. These schools are non-selective and predominantly serve low-income students of color. Their vision shapes what students are expected to know and do when they graduate, how students are assessed and taught, and ways they are supported to achieve these goals. Personalization enables adults to know students and tailor interactions to meet individual strengths, interests, and needs. This includes advisory programs, a culture of celebration, student voice and leadership opportunities, and connections to parents and community. Each school supports student leadership capacities and autonomy within the classroom, emphasizing connecting with and applying what is learned through culminating performance-based assessments. The schools draw on relevant curricula, inquiry-based instruction, collaborative learning, student-directed learning, a focus on mastery, and flexible uses of time. In-class and out-of-class strategies support ongoing academic development through advisories to provide academic support, differentiated instruction, tutorial and after-school support, and additional resources for English language learners and special education students. This all requires substantial investment in developing and supporting staff capacity. Student-centered instruction is challenging to enact effectively, but states and districts can support these rich environments by balancing common goals and local opportunities for invention and innovation tailored to the needs of students and schools. More

The SPED gap in charters
A new report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) analyzes factors driving the special education gap between Denver’s charter and traditional public elementary and middle schools. Using student-level data, the report finds Denver’s SPED enrollment gap is 2 percentage points in kindergarten but triples by eighth grade, though not through charters pushing students out; instead, the gap stems from student preferences for different types of schools, how schools classify and declassify students, and the movement of students without disabilities across sectors. Students with special needs are less likely to apply to charters in kindergarten and sixth grade, gateway grades, which explains the gap in middle school, particularly for certain categories of disability. Forty-six percent of the gap’s growth occurs because charters are less likely to classify students as special education, and more likely to declassify them; and 54 percent is due to new general education students enrolling in charters rather than students with special needs leaving. Also, students with special needs in charters change schools less often: Five years after kindergarten, 65 percent of charter students with disabilities remain in their original schools, contrasted with 37 percent of traditional public school students with special needs. These findings are consistent with CRPE’s earlier study of New York City, suggesting common features driving this gap in systems nationwide. More

The latest in NYC’s charter wars
A New York state law passed in April gives New York City two options to meet expansion of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter network: It can offer free space in public or private buildings, or give money to find space, reports Al Baker for The New York Times. The first option has led to angry protests in schools that must share space; the second comes with spiraling financial and political costs. With 22 schools serving 6,700 students, Moskowitz’s network is larger than many districts. She has approval to open 10 more schools in the city, and intends to apply for permission to open 14 more, resulting in 46 Success Academies by 2016, in every borough but Staten Island. The schools, known for a hard-driving work environment and high test scores, are popular among parents in poor-performing districts, and unpopular elsewhere, where they are seen as taking resources from regular schools. Under law, the city cannot make its offer of space conditional on Success Academy’s opening its doors to certain numbers of students with disabilities or limited English proficiency. If the city is compelled pay rent or an amount equal to 20 percent of what taxpayers pay charters for tuition, $13,877 per pupil, the school must find its own space, not a simple task in New York City.  More

BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA

Money well spent

California’s general fund spending package passed by the state legislature includes $264 million for expanding education before kindergarten, and would add 11,500 preschool spots for low-income families. More

Welcome news

The number of Californian districts in financial jeopardy has dropped significantly in the past year, according to a recent state fiscal report. More

Vergara’s (purported) financial angle

California’s public schools will benefit financially if the recent Superior Court ruling that struck down teacher tenure laws is upheld, according to Moody’s credit rating agency. More

Minor problem

No students are taking SAT, ACT, or Advanced Placement exams in 14 percent of California’s high schools, a surprising statistic for the committee considering whether to incorporate those measures into the Academic Performance Index for schools. More

Common sense

Home to one-quarter of the nation’s immigrants and a top destination for incoming refugees, California must significantly improve educational outcomes for immigrant youth if the state — and the nation — are to stay economically competitive, according to a new report. More

BRIEFLY NOTED 

Common huh?

A new MSN/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 47 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed have not heard of the Common Core. More

Minor adjustment

The District of Columbia, one of the first districts in the country to evaluate teachers using student test scores, has announced it will suspend the practice while students adjust to new tests based on the Common Core standards. More

Leeway

Bowing to pressure from the teachers union, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature reached a tentative deal that delays the use of state Common Core student test results to grade teachers who’ve been rated “ineffective” or “developing.” More

Burdensome

The Hawaii Department of Education has announced more than a dozen changes to its teacher-evaluation system amid growing angst from teachers and principals about the workload required to prepare for and perform the reviews. More

Unswerving

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed a bill that many saw as an endorsement of the Common Core academic standards. More

Refreshing

The Wyoming Association of Churches announced it supports the Next Generation Science Standards because science should be taught openly and not be based on any belief system. More

Quality time

Kentucky officials are expanding a program that seeks to help parents turn everyday life into learning experiences for their preschool-aged children. More

Expect a counter suit

A lawsuit brought by public school teachers seeks to block a Missouri vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit state teacher-tenure protections. More

Pricey

An Indiana Department of Education report shows that changes to the state’s private school voucher program are costing the state roughly $16 million. More

Excellent move

New York City will spend $52 million in state grant money to transform 40 schools into “Community Schools,” which will include extra services for students and families, such as health clinics, dental care, and family counseling. More

Kind of a problem

About 12 percent of third graders in Ohio can’t read well enough to move on to fourth grade under the state’s Third grade Reading Guarantee. More

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Thomson Reuters/ASIS&T: Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award

The Thomson Reuters Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award recognizes the unique teaching contribution of an individual as a teacher of information science. Maximum award: $1,000; $500 towards travel or other expenses to the grant recipient, contingent upon the recipient’s attending the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) annual meeting, and $250 to ASIS&T Headquarters towards administrative fees. Eligibility: individuals directly engaged in teaching some aspect of information science on a continuing basis, in an academic or a non-academic setting. Deadline: August 1, 2014.

NCTM: Using Mathematics to Teach Music

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Using Mathematics to Teach Music grant encourages the incorporation of music into the elementary school classroom to help young students learn mathematics. Any acquisition of equipment must support the proposed plan but not be the primary focus of the grant. Proposals must address the following: the combining of mathematics and music; the plan for improving students’ learning of mathematics; and the anticipated impact on students’ achievement. Maximum award: $3,000. Eligibility: individual classroom teachers or small groups of teachers currently teaching mathematics in grades PreK-2 level who are also (as of October 15, 2014) Full Individual or e-Members of NCTM or teach in a school with a current (as of October 15, 2014) NCTM PreK-8 school membership. Deadline: November 7, 2014.

NSTA/Vernier Software & Technology: Vernier Technology Awards

National Science Teachers Association Vernier Technology Awards recognize the innovative use of data collection technology using a computer, graphing calculator, or handheld in the science classroom. Maximum award: $1,000 towards expenses to attend the NSTA National Conference, $1,000 in cash for the teacher, and $1,000 in Vernier products. Eligibility: teachers of science grades K-College. Deadline: November 30, 2014.

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“It is outside the bounds of both our state’s laws and our state’s aspirations for its children to think that we would turn back now.” — Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, regarding his governor’s public disavowal of the Common Core.