This article was originally published in the Statesman Journal on April 14, 2012 and can be found here.
Changing the way teachers are paid is a controversial topic. There are a number of reasons for this, but two are primary.
First, the status quo — pay based on years of experience and educational attainment — has existed longer than almost all current educators in the United States have been employed. Second, any suggested change has to be perceived as “fairer” than the current system.
This is not the kind of issue an independent, nonprofit organization takes up lightly, but the Chalkboard Project sees a need not being addressed. In most Oregon school districts, 70 percent to 80 percent of the budget goes toward personnel — the costs associated with the people in the building. (more…)
Current education reform efforts are spread over many different points of emphasis. Prominent among these is the effort to improve teacher quality. By itself, improving teacher quality is a multifaceted, complex program of innovations, including attracting more high performers to the profession, increasing the rigor of teacher education programs, differentiating workplace roles, and varying compensation based on performance. A central pinch point in achieving these goals is teacher supervision. It is a pinch point because all the elements of improving teacher quality rely on teacher feedback that is relevant, accurate, credible and fair. Historically, delivering this kind of feedback has been difficult and largely unrealized.
In thinking about teacher supervision, let’s first consider context. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average public elementary school in the United States serves about 500 students. At a student-teacher ratio of 30:1, about seventeen regular classroom teachers would staff a school this size. In addition, let’s assume that the school has no specialists other than one special education teacher for a total of eighteen professional staff. Let’s work with this configuration as our prototype as the same organizational principles related to teacher supervision scale up or down pretty well for larger or smaller schools. The same principles apply to secondary schools as well, though with more complications due to more differentiated staffing models.
Of the eighteen teachers in our prototypical school, three or four are likely to be master teachers, one or two are likely to be struggling, three or four are likely to be marginally effective, and three or four are relatively new to the teaching profession. Everyone else is meeting expectations pretty consistently. In this school, like most others, there are a variety of performers and a variety of needs for improvement. That’s life. (more…)
The US Department of Education has put out the draft priorities for the next round of the Teacher Incentive Fund and invited public feedback. The Teacher Incentive Fund provides grant dollars to school districts and partners that want to explore ways to recognize and reward effective teaching. More about TIF and the proposed priorities can be found here.
We have learned quite a bit from being part of a Teacher Incentive Fund grant along with six Oregon school districts. You can read our full feedback letter to the USDOE here. Here are the highlights:
Evaluations: Require a minimum of four, not three, categories for teaching proficiency
In the proposed selection criteria, the Department requires a Rigorous, Valid, and Reliable Educator Evaluation System that includes at least three performance levels. However, advice from respected national leaders, including Charlotte Danielson, indicates that a three-level proficiency system leads to “central tendency,” or the notion that most professionals will end up in the middle category because it is safer to mark and easier to defend. This provides less differentiation for informed practice and limits the distinctions needed for improvement. Additionally, we note that every respected national model has a minimum of four levels. We are not aware of any respected, research-based rubrics for teaching proficiency based upon a three level framework.
Sarah Pope is the publications editor for the Arbor Center for Teaching. The ACT is a non-profit organization created to train teachers in the educational philosophy of the Arbor School of Arts & Sciences, an independent elementary school in Tualatin serving grades K-8 in mixed-age classes. ACT apprentices teach alongside master teachers for two years while they earn MAT’s and licenses. The ACT’s mission also includes offering guidance to school leaders and publishing material underpinning the Arbor School curriculum, which is designed to foster active engagement in learning, concrete experiences, and interdisciplinary work. For more information on the Arbor Center for Teaching, please visit arborcenterforteaching.org. We are currently accepting applications for the 2012-14 cohort of apprentices.
Play at school conjures images of raucous playgrounds, of children freed from the constraints of the classroom for twenty minutes of exuberant, noisy fun to burn off steam so they can return to the important work of learning with fewer fidgets and greater focus. Recess is a necessary period of release during the school day, of course. But the faculty at Arbor School in Tualatin recently devoted some energy to considering the ways in which play is embedded in all that we teach in grades K-8. We find that when we bring play into the classroom it provides a means to push for greater depth in students’ development of intellect, character, and creativity. Play in the service of rigorous thinking, of developing the mastery and imagination necessary to improvise and innovate, and of making us better humans permeates our teaching from mathematics to music.
It’s times like these that I really miss my media specialist. A lot has changed at my school and the rock that used to ground me and set me on a steady course was the media specialist. I’m not saying that she could settle the budget, solve discipline issues or reduce class sizes, but when I was puzzled about what book to recommend to a reluctant reader, or needed resources for a unit I was about to teach, I had a consultant on hand. Even more importantly, she provided technology experience and savvy that helped me integrate technology into my lessons.
What we used to label librarians are now media specialists; part tech geek, part bookworm, part cheerleader. Students seek them out when they can’t find the right book to read or the right information on the web. Media specialists teach critical research skills to students in the computer lab and in the library—skills like, how to tell if a website is the most effective way to learn about a topic, how to question the authenticity of information, and how to access general resources available to kids as they explore the vast and ever increasing world of information.