Thursday, May 26, 2011

Role Of Associations Changing As Internet Age Advances

In an article about the changing role of associations in the US in the digital age, NPR (5/26) reports, "Everybody has heard of the American Bar Association, the National Education Association and the American Lung Association. But there are scads of others - thousands in the United States - including the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, the National Candle Association and the National Gay Pilots Association." The article explores the traditional role of associations as "a clearinghouse for its members," adding, "but in this age of teleconferencing and social networking, the game has changed. Through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other websites, professionals stay in touch with each other - and with advances in their fields - around the clock. If they have a special problem, they no longer need to call the association and be connected to someone else with a similar problem - they can just go to the Internet for a solution."

Recession Impacts School Budgets Nationwide

The AP (5/26) reports on the financial difficulties facing US public school districts, focusing on Stockton, California, where "hard times have spread to the local schools. Last year, the district laid off 100 teachers, gutted its summer school program and raised class sizes from 20 students to 30 in kindergarten through third grade. Now, amid uncertainty over the state budget, the 37,000-student district is laying off nearly 500 teachers, counselors, custodians and other employees. It also is preparing to pack as many as 36 students into elementary school classrooms." The AP adds that the recession led to a cascade of budget cuts and dry revenue streams that are causing layoffs, cuts in programs, and increased class sizes. Deep in the article, the AP quotes NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, "It's not just about the adults who lose their jobs. It's about the students who are impacted because they're no longer there."

Florida District Teachers Union Foregoes Salary Increases To Preserve Jobs

The Miami Herald (5/26, McGrory) reports that the United Teachers of Dade has reached a tentative agreement with the Miami-Dade School District under which "teachers won't receive their annual pay increases known as steps, but their jobs will be safe for next year. 'What this offers us is protection from layoffs,' United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz said. 'People who are doing the job now will be doing the job next year.'" Meanwhile, in Broward County, "school district officials said they would not rehire more than 1,400 teachers. Pasco and Pinellas counties are also considering trimming the number of teachers."

Duncan Attends Advance Screening Of Teacher Documentary

Education Week (5/26, Rebora) reports on a new education documentary titled "American Teacher" which asks, "why are teachers in the United States so undervalued and lately even disparaged?" It was "produced by author Dave Eggers and Nínive Clements Calegari, a former teacher who helped Eggers create the 826 National tutoring centers. The film was shown last night at an advance screening in Washington attended by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and assorted other government officials and policy mavens. ... Narrated by Matt Damon, 'American Teacher' seeks to counteract popular misconceptions about the teaching profession by showing, in a style of close-up realism, what teachers actually do and what their lives are really like-and how continued neglect of the profession may be jeopardizing the nation's future."

Duncan Says Federal Government Will Not Prescribe National Curriculum

Catherine Gewertz writes at the Education Week (5/26) "Curriculum Matters" blog about the debate over whether the Federal government should promote common curriculum standards, adding, "until now, we've had only occasional words on this from federal officials. Most of the volleying on the federalism issue has come from advocates and policy wonks. Today, however, we've got weigh-ins from Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and from Education Secretary Arne Duncan." At the NCEE meeting, Duncan "was discussing lessons that can be learned from higher-performing countries, and he mentioned national standards and curriculum. But he said: 'We have not and will not prescribe a national curriculum. I want to repeat that.'"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

LATimes: "Pay-To-Learn" Violates State Constitution

A Los Angeles Times (5/25) headlined "California Must Keep Free Education Truly Free" quotes the portion of the California Constitution that guarantees a free education to children in the state, adding, "you can enroll and attend class at a California public school without paying an entrance fee or a tuition bill," but many classes require the purchase of extra books or materials. "Charging for instructional materials as well as for art, music and sports programs is increasingly common in the state's public schools, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which last year filed a lawsuit arguing that such fees violate Article IX." The Times notes that the legal issue is still before the courts and legislature, and concedes that budget cuts have adversely impacted schools. "The basic rule, however, is that a public school education is free."

Utah Middle School Students Face Hazing Charges After Duct Tape Incident

The AP (5/25) reports that a pair of middle school students in Logan, Utah, "have been suspended and charged in juvenile court with hazing a classmate," noting that authorities say "the boys are accused of using duct tape to bind the hands and feet of a male classmate on Friday. Cache County jail documents show the boys were charged with misdemeanor hazing, alleging they intentionally subjected the other boy to embarrassment, shame or humiliation. ... Mount Logan Principal Mike Monson says the alleged victim wasn't injured, and that bullying or hazing isn't tolerated."

Gender Diversity Curriculum In California District Stirs Controversy

The San Francisco Chronicle (5/25, Tucker) reports, "A one-hour elementary school lesson on gender diversity featuring all-girl geckos and transgender clownfish caused a stir in Oakland on Monday, with conservative legal defense organizations questioning the legitimacy of the topic and providing legal counsel to parents who opposed the instruction." The piece notes that students at Redwood Heights Elementary School "were being introduced to the topic of gender diversity, with lesson plans tailored to each age group. The lesson on gender differences was one small part of a much larger effort to offer what parents last year said they wanted at the school: a warm, welcoming, safe and caring environment for all children, said Principal Sara Stone."


The AP (5/25) adds that the "conservative Pacific Justice Institute is questioning the legitimacy of the topic and legal counsel is being provided to parents who opposed gender diversity lessons." However, "Principal Sara Stone says the lessons are part of a larger effort to offer children a warm, welcoming, safe and caring classroom environment."

New Jersey Supreme Court Overturns Governor's Education Funding Cuts

The AP (5/25, Santi) reports, "After New Jersey's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state spend more on low-income school districts and Gov. Chris Christie agreed not to stand in the way, it's up to state lawmakers to figure out how to do it. The Democratic-controlled Legislature has just over five weeks to figure out how to reallocate $500 million in the state budget, knowing that the Republican governor is threatening a veto if lawmakers increase taxes to comply with the school funding ruling." The piece notes that the case stemmed from the allocation of education funding in low-income districts.


CNN (5/25, Burruss) adds that the court ruled Christie's "controversial 2011 budget to be unconstitutional. 'Today's ruling by the state Supreme Court is disappointing, but not unexpected,' Christie responded in a press conference." The court ruled that "Christie's budget fails to meet the funding requirements set forth by the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, a spending formula that guarantees financial support for all New Jersey public school districts. Particularly problematic to the court was his failure to fund the so-called Abbott school districts, 31 New Jersey districts located in poor communities that are constitutionally guaranteed adequate funding levels because of historically bad performance records." (5/25, Levinsky) calls the ruling "a rebuke of the $1 billion in cuts handed down by Gov. Chris Christie and the state Legislature last year, but was well shy of the $1.7 billion in additional state aid sought for all school districts. Instead, the court decided that the additional money should be given solely to the state's 31 poorest districts, also known as Abbott districts, which previously have been awarded extra funding to ensure their large populations of disadvantaged students get a quality education."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The ABCs of BYOL

A bring-your-own-laptop pilot program puts an Ohio district closer to its goal of getting a computer into the hands of each of its students.

Twitter Lesson Plan

By Kenneth Beare

Using Twitter is becoming more and more popular in the English learning world, as well as amongst all the social media lovers. The best thing about Twitter for learning English is that English learners practice using English in bite-sized bits so it's not too overwhelming.

If you would like to learn to use Twitter to improve your own English, this learning English with Twitter guide will help you get started. For teachers, this Twitter lesson plan will help you understand how to use Twitter as a great way to encourage English learning outside of class.

Reading Comprehension - Social Networking Sites

By Kenneth Beare

If you or your class are on this site, you're interested in the internet (who isn't?)! Here is a reading comprehension with key vocabulary and follow-up quiz focusing on Web 2.0 and social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut, MySpace, etc. It's a great opportunity to improve your understanding of current internet jargon.

There are many reading comprehension and dialogue resources on this site. Incorporate any of these resources into a lesson plan to help focus on specific grammar or subject areas for your class. Here is a blueprint to using these resources for your classes.


How To Use DVDs to Improve Your English

By Kenneth Beare

Just watching a film or sitcom in English or with subtitles doesn't take full advantage of the learning opportunity DVDs provide. Here is advice on how to use DVDs to improve English for you or your students. Here are some more ideas on how to use technology to improve English in class, as well as on your own via the internet.

Computer Use in the Classroom
Use the Internet to Improve Your English


ESL English Learning Resources, Schools, Courses, Software, Products

English learning resources including English language schools, top Internet ESL EFL sites, English learning software, books, teaching materials, audio cassettes and other reference.

Bilingual Ed (13)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oregon Education Chief Pans Legislature For Proposed End To Writing Test

The Oregonian (5/20, Melton) reports that Oregon Superintendent Susan Castillo is criticizing a move in the state legislature "to further reduce the Oregon Department of Education budget for 2011-13, taking issue with a proposal to cut the state writing test." In addition to budget cuts currently proposed by the governor, "some state lawmakers say they must identify more cuts, including scraping the state writing assessment, a move they say could save the state nearly $3 million. Writing is the only state assessment not required by the federal government." However, Castillo made dire predictions about the impact of cutting the test, including reduced graduation rates and complicated Common Core efforts.

Illinois Officials Tout Online Tool To Keep Students Reading During Summer

The AP (5/20) reports that Illinois state officials "hope a new program that locates books based on children's reading levels will encourage them to keep reading when school lets out for summer vacation. The free 'Find a Book' tool provides a list of options for children based on reading ability. It also informs people which local libraries carry those books." Officials touted the tool's utility for underprivileged students, adding that "it is imperative for children to continue reading during the summer to maintain academic success. Studies show a drop in standardized test performance at the end of summer compared to just before the school year ends."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Connecticut Teachers Stage Public Awareness "Grade-In."

The Hartford Courant (5/19) reports that a group of roughly 25 public school teachers "set up a work station in the center of the food court" at a mall in Manchester, Connecticut. "It was a 'grade-in,' orchestrated by the Connecticut Education Association to show that a teacher's work doesn't end when students go home for the day. The National Education Association says teachers spend an average of 50 hours a week on instruction duties, with about 12 hours of those devoted to non-compensated activities such as grading and extracurricular activities for students."

Duke Study: Lead Ingestion Leads To Poor Standardized Test Performance

The AP (5/19, Reitz) reports that according to a study of Connecticut students conducted by Duke University researchers, "children who ingested even small amounts of lead performed poorly later on school tests compared to students who were never exposed to the substance." The study "also found that black children were much more likely to have experienced lead poisoning from paint residue, dust or other sources by age 7 than the state's white children. Educators worry that factor might be among many contributing to Connecticut's status as the state with the largest achievement gap between the races." The Duke study observed the Connecticut Mastery Test results of some 35,000 children "whose blood tests showed lead exposure before age 7" and "concluded that the greater their exposure, the lower the children tended to score."

San Francisco Giants To Produce Anti-Gay Bullying Video

The AP (5/18) reports that the San Francisco Giants have agreed to "produce a YouTube spot for the 'It Gets Better' campaign," joining other prominent citizens "and more than 10,000 others who have made videos for the anti-suicide campaign geared toward gay youth, the team said Tuesday." The program "provides messages of hope to counter the despair of bullied or rejected teens." President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many others "have contributed videos to the 'It Gets Better' effort."

California Group Publishes Report Defining "Blended Learning."

Education Week (5/18, Ash) reports that amid confusion over the definition of "blended learning," "which describes a mix of face-to-face and online learning," a California group called Innosight Institute is issuing a report intended "to clear up the confusion and provide a working definition of blended learning, along with a framework for mapping and defining blended-learning models. The report also profiles 40 different blended-learning organizations that are currently supporting 48 different models of blended-learning environments, and it describes six different models that such programs fit into."

ED Officials Working To Spread Word About ELLs

Education Week (5/18, Zehr) reports, "The leaders of the office of English-language acquisition of the US Department of Education haven't been churning out new federal policies regarding ELLs, but they're working hard to raise awareness about the needs of ELLs within the department and to build links with school districts across the nation." The piece relates portions of interviews with director Rosalinda B. Barrera, and deputy directory Joanne H. Urrutia, noting that "Barrera has focused on building an infrastructure (that means stepping up collaboration between her staff and the staff in other divisions of the department and getting a place at high-level meetings) so that ELLs are included in Education Department initiatives, and conducting 'national conversations' on ELL issues in the five states that educate the most English-language learners: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas."

Districts Looking To Use Virtual Technology To End Snow Days

The AP (5/18, Hollingsworth) reports that districts are "experimenting with ways for students to do lessons online during bad weather, potentially allowing classes to go on during even the worst blizzard. 'Virtual snow days' would help ease pressure on school calendars and offer students more time to learn in the winter before taking standardized tests in the spring." The piece notes however that the concept won't work for families unable to afford computers or internet access.

Federal Law Increasing Instruction Time May Overburden Districts

KXTV-TV Sacramento, CA (5/18, Freedburg) reports that despite being "well-intentioned," a proposed Federal law to "reward school districts that increase instruction time" "is emblematic of the mismatch between expectations emanating from Washington and the realities facing California school districts struggling to stay afloat. It is consistent with calls by President Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for children to spend more time in the classroom, despite California schools' struggle just to keep their doors open for the same number of days as last year." However, states and districts may not be able to afford such measures.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Several California Teachers Arrested During State Capitol Budget Protest

The AP (5/13) reports that roughly two dozen teachers and California Teachers Association President David Sanchez "were arrested at the state Capitol Thursday night as part of a protest over education funding in the state budget. The California Highway Patrol began arresting the teachers shortly after the building was scheduled to close at 6 p.m. Thursday." The piece notes that earlier, Sanchez had "led a group of about 75 protesters singing and chanting outside the office of Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga."


The San Jose Mercury News (5/13, Williams) reports that the protests in Sacramento stem from teachers' frustrations with steadily increasing class sizes and workloads. Meanwhile, "Amid frustrations over past and potential budget cuts, another reality has been emerging for many of those in the profession: Teaching has never seemed less appealing." Moreover, "Teachers face increasing expectations from the state to boost student performance and must deal with a growing population of non-English speaking students, yet classrooms are being hit hard by the state's ongoing fiscal woes."

NYTimes: Textbook Publisher's Pro-Coal Materials Inappropriate

An editorial in the New York Times (5/13, Subscription Publication) sharply criticizes textbook publisher Scholastic for publishing "a fourth-grade lesson packet called 'The United States of Energy,' a treatise on coal that was paid for by the American Coal Foundation." The materials, the Times notes, proclaim "the benefits of coal" but forego "mention of minor things like toxic waste, mountain-top removal and greenhouse gases," to which the Times objects because given the publisher's "captive audience of children" in some "90 percent of the nation's classrooms," it "has a special obligation to adhere to high educational standards." The Times adds that Scholastic's protestations that the packet "was never meant to serve as a comprehensive curriculum" is "beside the point given that the lessons carried the company's imprimatur and were misleadingly touted as complying with national fourth-grade learning standards."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Summer School Teacher Quality Under Renewed Scrutiny

Education Week (5/12, Sawchuk) reports that with increased nationwide focus on teacher quality, the question of "which teachers get recruited for summer school, and how well does their instruction align to the knowledge and skills children need to master" is receiving increased consideration. "A hefty body of evidence documents the phenomenon of 'summer learning loss,' but consensus on the attributes of effective summer intervention, especially when it comes to access to high-quality teaching for students most at risk of falling behind, is only starting to emerge." However, "a handful of districts are beginning to wrestle with the topic, thanks in part to an emphasis on both teacher quality and expanded learning in the federal economic-stimulus legislation."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

California Teacher Protest Results In 65 Arrests In Sacramento

The Los Angeles Times (5/11, Goldmacher, Mishak) reports that California police arrested "65 protesters in the state Capitol on Monday evening when they refused to leave after the building had closed," after "the first day in a week of statewide protests planned by the California Teachers Assn., which is opposed to cutbacks in education funding." A police spokesman said that most of those arrested "appeared to be college-age students who passed the time by dancing." He added that "most teachers exited before arrests began."


The Sacramento Bee (5/11, Oritz) reports that the union "revved up its faithful Monday to lean on state lawmakers to extend current tax rates – and eventually increase them. The daylong rally by the California Teachers Association kicked off a week of budget lobbying, press events and teach-ins by the union." The protest came amid "concerns that some activists might stage Wisconsin-style sit-ins at the Capitol or commit other acts of civil disobedience. Although law enforcement officials said the crowds were generally peaceful, they arrested about 65 protesters after warning them to leave the Capitol rotunda after the building closed at 6 p.m. They were charged with misdemeanor trespassing." The Bee estimates that around 1,000 protestors "began in the morning, urging lawmakers to immediately pass a tax extension to avoid deeper cuts to education budgets around the state. After that, they want a tax hike put before voters." The Ventura County (CA) Star (5/11) runs a similar report.

White House Panel Releases Report Pushing Arts Education Funding

The Los Angeles Times (5/11, Boehm) reports on a new report with which the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities hopes to "reverse a decades-long decline in arts education" un US public schools. The report, titled "Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools," is "intended to help advocates press for more money, better teaching approaches and a fresh mind-set that doesn't treat arts learning as a frill or an afterthought, readily cut when school budgets grow tight." The Times notes that First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to discuss the report-which touts "success stories" about arts curricula in schools-at a Wednesday White House event. The piece notes parenthetically that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in the foreword to the report, "writes that the report 'shows us the link between arts education and achievement in other subjects.'"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ESL Class Activities Need. Know. Accomplish.

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Quick Activities for the ESL Classroom - Last Minute Activities

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Action Verb Idiom Interactive Worksheets

Are you trying to climb / drop / kick a bad habit?

By Kenneth Beare

If you answered Yes, I am! to the above, congratulations! The correct verb choice is 'kick a bad habit'. Test your knowledge of action verb idioms with these two quizzes. Each quiz is followed by answers as well as definitions.

Action Verb Idioms #1
Action Verb Idioms #2


New Film Argues For Higher Teacher Pay

The Los Angeles Times (5/10, Klein) reports on the screening of a "quieter school documentary" in this "Year of the Education Documentary," adding that "'American Teacher,' co-produced by acclaimed author Dave Eggers, does the usual job of weaving shots of classrooms and homes with interviews conducted with teachers, parents and experts. It carefully tiptoes around issues of school reform as it argues, with strong justification, that US teachers are paid far too little. It shows how many of them get outside jobs to make ends meet; the 12-hour days; the money spent out of pocket to make sure their students have necessary supplies."

DC Schools Official Says District Will Use Value-Added Modeling In Evaluations

Meanwhile, in a posting on the Washington Post (5/10) "DC Schools Insider" blog, Bill Turque presents a partial transcript of an interview with "Jason Kamras, chief of human capital for DCPS and the principal architect of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system" about the potential use of value-added modeling in that program "holding teachers accountable for students reaching or exceeding predicted growth on standardized test scores." Kamras predicts that the number of teachers who are evaluated with such methodologies will rise in the coming years.

Mathematics Expert Rejects Use Of Value-Added Modeling In Education

John Ewing, president of Math for America, writes at the Washington Post (5/10) "Answer Sheet" blog about the "misuse" of mathematics historically, noting that the "most common misuse of mathematics is simpler, more pervasive, and (alas) more insidious: mathematics employed as a rhetorical weapon-an intellectual credential to convince the public that an idea or a process is 'objective' and hence better than other competing ideas or processes. This is mathematical intimidation." He adds that value-added modeling is "the latest instance of the phenomenon," noting that it is "touted as the modern, 'scientific' way to measure educational success in everything from charter schools to individual teachers. Yet most of those promoting value-added modeling are ill-equipped to judge either its effectiveness or its limitations."

California Teachers Rally For Tax Hike Extension

The AP (5/10) reports, "Hundreds of teachers from around California descended on the state Capitol Monday to make the case for extending tax hikes as a way to stave off deep budget cuts to public education." The piece notes, "The California Teachers Association and other interest groups are calling on lawmakers to vote on the taxes outright before they expire, rather than waiting for a special election the teachers say would take too long and imperil about 20,000 public school jobs. That's about the number of layoff notices that were issued to teachers and other staff for the next school year."


The Orange County Register (5/10, Leal) reports, "Nearly 300 educators, parents, students and rallied on Monday outside the Orange County offices of state Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton to support proposed tax extensions they said will prevent billions in cuts to public schools."

AVID Program Combines Academics With Life Skills

The Record and Herald News (NJ) (5/10, Fabiano) reports, "Englewood's AVID program - an intense, voluntary curriculum that targets middle achievers - is creating an increasing number of success stories, largely by combining academics with life skills." The program serves "15 schools across New Jersey and some 4,600 schools nationwide," and "focuses on the least-served students - those who have the desire to go to college, but are falling short."

Education Experts Argue Against ED National Curriculum

In a piece appearing at The Hill (5/10) "Congress Blog," Bill Evers, who served as US Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, and former ED officials Kent Talbert and Robert Eitel, write that ED is pushing for "a national K-12 curriculum for English and mathematics," but is "acting at cross-purposes with existing federal statutes, and, as their initiative becomes better known, it may bring out a multitude of opponents." The writers argue that there is no obvious legal mandate for such a national curriculum from ED, adding that "federal control of what students learn in school certainly does not comport with the balance between national and state responsibilities in America's federal system." The writers lament that when Education Secretary Arne Duncan "announced the Department's grants to the testing groups on September 2, 2010, he pointed enthusiastically to one group 'developing curriculum frameworks and ways to share great lesson plans' and the other group developing 'instructional modules.'"

ED Tells Districts Not To Regard Students' Immigration Status

The AP (5/7, Armario) reports on the letter sent last Friday from ED OCR and the Department of Justice to districts across the US "reminding them that all students - legal or not - are entitled to a public education. The letter comes amid reports that schools may be checking the immigration status of students trying to enroll, and reminds districts they are federally prohibited from barring elementary or secondary students on the basis of citizenship status." The letter adds that districts are barred from seeking immigration status information in an attempt to deny service. The piece quotes ED's Justin Hamilton, "We put this letter out now because we know school districts are in the process of planning for the next school year, and wanted to make sure they had this in hand."


Education Week (5/10, Walsh) reports that the "administration is reminding school administrators nationwide of their obligation under federal law to enroll children regardless of citizenship or immigration status," citing "cites Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, among other factors, by public schools. It also cites Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 decision by the US Supreme Court that held a state may not deny access to a basic public education to any child, whether that child is present in the country legally or not." The piece notes that ED's Russlyn Ali and Charles P. Rose are signatories. "The Education and Justice departments stress in a fact sheet and a question-and-answer document that schools may require proof that a child lives within school district boundaries...but schools may not ask parents about a child's immigration status to establish residency."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Autism Experts

Ball State Hires Autism Expert To Train Student Teachers.

Reporting on the plight faced by parents of autistic children trying to ease their children's symptoms, the Indianapolis Star (5/9, McFeely) reports that "Ball State University, hoping to take a lead role in autism research and education, has hired a nationally known autism expert to help teachers, parents and service providers weed through the maze of dietary, medical and behavioral therapies. Susan Wilczynski is leaving her post as executive director of the National Autism Center to become Ball State's first Plassman Family Distinguished Professor of Special Education, focusing on autism." The piece notes that Wilczynski will be joining "a teachers college that churns out 450 teachers every year -- only about 45 of whom enter the workforce certified to work with children with autism."

Advocates Want All New Jersey Schools Equipped To Teach Autistic Students.

The Press of Atlantic City (5/9, D'Amico) reports that as the number of New Jersey students diagnosed with autism has grown in recent years, "so has the debate about how and where to best educate children with autism." Citing a drop in autistic students "sent to specialized schools" in the state, the Press adds, "While advocates and experts support keeping the children in their hometown districts, they say many schools are still not equipped to offer the specialized programs autistic children need to learn to interact with others. ... 'We want children to be included (in regular programs), but not if they won't benefit from it,' said Linda Meyer, executive director of AutismNJ."

Los Angeles To Release More Value-Added Data On Elementary Teachers

The Los Angeles Times (5/9, Song, Felch) reports that it is "releasing a major update to its elementary school teacher ratings, underscoring the large disparities throughout the nation's second-largest school district in instructors' abilities to raise student test scores." The Times is releasing "value-added ratings for about 11,500 third- through fifth-grade teachers, nearly double the number released last August," stating that the data "reflects changes in the way the scores were calculated and displayed. ... The initial release of teacher ratings last summer generated intense controversy - and some praise - across the country, and this round has already met with some opposition."

Columnist Says Inner-City Teachers Should Face Same Standard As Those In Rich Areas

In a column in the Grand Rapids Press (5/9), Dave Murray takes umbrage at "a comment from a Kent County educator who was angry about some of Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed school reforms, including that teachers and districts be held accountable for how much their students achieve." The teacher took issue with the notion that teachers in inner city areas should be responsible for producing the same results as those in affluent areas. Murray expressed the opinion that "Gov. Snyder is calling for the students of inner-city Detroit to get the same level of education as the students attending schools in East Grand Rapids." Murray notes that recently, Education Secretary Arne Duncan "described Detroit Public Schools as 'ground zero' in American education. The worst of the worst. Where was the outrage?"

Students, Parents In Pennsylvania District Seek Preservation Of Arts Curriculum

The Pottstown (PA) Mercury (5/9, Brandt) reports, "A crowd of more than 100 parents, students and teachers filled the seats of the Pottstown Middle School auditorium Thursday night to protest a budget plan that calls for reductions in teaching time for music, arts, library and physical education to close a budget gap that opened when Gov. Tom Corbett proposed his annual budget." Noting that a number of "well-spoken" students were among speakers opposed to the cuts, the Mercury adds, "Affecting a total of 46 full-time positions, many of them full-time teachers reduced to part-time, the proposed 'related arts' reductions could carve $2.3 million from the budget to close the deficit."

Despite Budget Cuts, Ohio Schools Cling To Academic Programs

The Cincinnati Enquirer (5/9, Amos) reports that despite budget cuts at a number of Ohio districts, "many refuse to give up key academic programs and plans for improvement." For example, "Mason City Schools announced last month that it will lay off 21 teachers and education assistants and cut 32 additional jobs. Still, it will expand its Advance Placement and early college offerings." The Enquirer lists a number of other examples, adding, "Across Greater Cincinnati, at least 19 school districts have announced substantial layoffs for the coming school year. Many more districts say they're leaving dozens of positions unfilled after teachers retire or quit. It's all in response to the expected loss of federal stimulus dollars and state education funding."

NEA Urges Support For Obama's Re-Election

The Hill (5/6, Bogardus) reports the National Education Association "has asked its members to support President Obama's bid for a second term in the White House. The move by the NEA -- the country's largest union, with more than 3 million members -- shows that labor, a traditional ally of Democrats, is gearing up for the 2012 election." The Hill notes that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel "cited the new Republican majority in the House as a reason to get the ball rolling for a formal endorsement of Obama."


Politico (5/6, Allen) says the recommendation us "the first formal step toward endorsing" Obama's campaign. This piece quotes Von Roekel, "This is the time to make decisions about the direction of our country, and we have real choices to make. As activists, engaged educators, we should get involved now. Will we allow Congress to gut Medicare, slash education and cut Social Security, and continue to make it just fine for hedge fund managers and corporations to sidestep paying taxes? Or will we act and assert the real American values of hard work and responsibility, a commitment to a vibrant middle class, to college affordability, and the opportunity to reach the American Dream? It is time to stand strong for what we believe in and what is right for students and families, schools and the nation."


The Huffington Post (5/6, Stein) reports "the union's director of campaign and elections, Karen White, explained that the timing of the endorsement was driven out a scheduling necessity." Meanwhile, in similar coverage, the New York Times (5/6, Greenhouse) reports that "over the past year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other sin the administration have moved to improve relations with [NEA and the American Federation of Teachers], including helping to forge a compromise after a Rhode Island school district had fired all the teachers at a failing high school as part of a turnaround effort. The compromise called for rehiring all the teachers as well as a longer school day and mandatory after-school tutoring for every student."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Probation Sentences Handed Down In Fatal Massachusetts Bullying Case

A number of media outlets covered the plea bargains yesterday in a noted Massachusetts bullying case that involved a teen girl's suicide. Coverage focused on the relative lightness of the sentences in the case and on how it has impacted the debate over discouraging bullying in schools. The AP (5/6) reports, "Three teenagers admitted Thursday that they participated in the bullying of a 15-year-old girl who later committed suicide, with one of their lawyers complaining that they had been unfairly demonized as 'mean girls.'" The three "were sentenced to less than a year of probation after they admitted to sufficient facts to misdemeanor charges in the bullying of Phoebe Prince, a freshman at South Hadley High School who hanged herself in January 2010." The AP notes that prosecutors said a group of five teens "hounded" Prince "after she briefly dated two boys. Her death drew international attention and was among several high-profile teen suicides that prompted new laws aimed at cracking down on bullying in schools."

The New York Times (5/6, Eckholm, Subscription Publication) adds that the criminal charges in the case "were largely resolved Thursday when three former students were placed on probation and a statutory rape charge against another was dropped." The Times describes the "emotional hearings" in the case, where "three of the former students admitted that they had harassed Phoebe. ... On Wednesday, another former student...agreed to a similar deal. A fifth...pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal harassment and was sentenced to one year of probation."

The Boston Globe (5/6, Schworm) reports, meanwhile, that "Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan today defended the modest sentences" in the case, "saying the ordeals of being charged and publicly admitting guilt were powerful enough punishments." Reuters (5/6, Howard) and New England Cable News (5/6) also cover this story.


Advocates Seek To Use Prince Case To Prevent Future Bullying. The Christian Science Monitor (5/6, Khadaroo) reports that in the wake of the court case, "bullying-prevention advocates hope that the work of 'restorative justice' has just begun. Now, they say, the defendants should use their experience to help other young people steer clear of bullying and the deep harm it causes." The piece explains that beyond being punished, advocates say that the teens must "fix what they can. ... While they can't undo Ms. Prince's death, they should take steps to remove from the Internet the hurtful comments they made about her" and "should work to ensure they never engage in bullying again." Sarah Anne Hughes writes at the Washington Post (5/6) "Blogpost" blog that the "the question remains: What can be done to prevent this from happening again?"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

NAEP Civics Test Scores Drop

The New York Times (5/5, Dillon, Subscription Publication) reports that according to the results of the latest round of National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, "fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights...and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches." Moreover, some 75% of seniors could "demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution." The Times quotes former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, founder of the nonprofit civics group, lamenting the results, adding that "Average fourth-grade scores on the test's 300-point scale rose slightly," though eighth- and twelfth-grade scores declined. "'The results confirm an alarming and continuing trend that civics in America is in decline,' said Charles N. Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education." The Times notes however that Hispanic students scores improved.


The Christian Science Monitor (5/5, Paulson) adds that the results show that "America's students have little knowledge about how the democratic process works – including those on the cusp of voting themselves." The Monitor notes that there were "a few bright spots – particularly for fourth-graders and for Hispanic students. But overall they indicated relatively poor civics knowledge by students at all levels, and particularly among 12th-graders," only 24% of whom "scored at a proficient level or above, a slight drop from the last civics test in 2006, largely driven by declining scores for 12th-grade girls."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

Op-Ed Contributor


Published: April 30, 2011

Holly Gressley

Related in Opinion

Op-Ed Contributor: A New Measure for Classroom Quality (May 1, 2011)


WHEN we don't get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don't blame the soldiers. We don't say, "It's these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That's why we haven't done better in Afghanistan!" No, if the results aren't there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

And yet in education we do just that. When we don't like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don't like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.

We have a rare chance now, with many teachers near retirement, to prove we're serious about education. The first step is to make the teaching profession more attractive to college graduates. This will take some doing.

At the moment, the average teacher's pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers' salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and Décor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again. Does this look like "A Plan," either on the state or federal level?

We've been working with public school teachers for 10 years; every spring, we see many of the best teachers leave the profession. They're mowed down by the long hours, low pay, the lack of support and respect.

Imagine a novice teacher, thrown into an urban school, told to teach five classes a day, with up to 40 students each. At the year's end, if test scores haven't risen enough, he or she is called a bad teacher. For college graduates who have other options, this kind of pressure, for such low pay, doesn't make much sense. So every year 20 percent of teachers in urban districts quit. Nationwide, 46 percent of teachers quit before their fifth year. The turnover costs the United States $7.34 billion yearly. The effect within schools — especially those in urban communities where turnover is highest — is devastating.

But we can reverse course. In the next 10 years, over half of the nation's nearly 3.2 million public school teachers will become eligible for retirement. Who will replace them? How do we attract and keep the best minds in the profession?

People talk about accountability, measurements, tenure, test scores and pay for performance. These questions are worthy of debate, but are secondary to recruiting and training teachers and treating them fairly. There is no silver bullet that will fix every last school in America, but until we solve the problem of teacher turnover, we don't have a chance.

Can we do better? Can we generate "A Plan"? Of course.

The consulting firm McKinsey recently examined how we might attract and retain a talented teaching force. The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.

Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don't.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don't.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.

And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it's 1 percent per year. In Finland, it's 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.

McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a minimum of $150,000. Could we do this? If we're committed to "winning the future," we should. If any administration is capable of tackling this, it's the current one. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan understand the centrality of teachers and have said that improving our education system begins and ends with great teachers. But world-class education costs money.

For those who say, "How do we pay for this?" — well, how are we paying for three concurrent wars? How did we pay for the interstate highway system? Or the bailout of the savings and loans in 1989 and that of the investment banks in 2008? How did we pay for the equally ambitious project of sending Americans to the moon? We had the vision and we had the will and we found a way.     


Dave Eggers and Nínive Clements Calegari are founders of the 826 National tutoring centers and producers of the documentary "American Teacher."


A version of this op-ed appeared in print on May 1, 2011, on page WK12 of the New York edition with the headline: The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries.


NEA Calls For Better Teacher Training On National Teacher Day

Maureen Downey writes at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5/4) "Get Schooled" blog that on the occasion of National Teacher Appreciation Week and National Teacher Day, the National Education Association has "sent out a list of education shifts and trends that it says have a critical role in shaping the teaching profession." The list details changes sought in working conditions, school environments, and teacher "training, licensure and evaluation." "'In the US there is a common belief that 'anybody can teach," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.. 'Rather than help dispel this perception, too many colleges of education offer mediocre teacher preparation programs that lack academic rigor and frequently fail to provide real-world, practical experience. Some new teachers are thrust into classrooms with almost no preparation whatsoever.'"

Teachers Respond To Duncan's Open Letter

Education Week (5/4) publishes a response to Education Secretary Arne Duncan's open letter to US teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week by teacher Anthony Cody, who states Duncan's message is "confusing" because it states that "there is no acceptable dropout rate." Cody writes, "You are clearly aware of what has happened to school budgets in today's economy. What does it mean to say it is unacceptable for a single student to drop out, or for students with disabilities to fail, when the funds that support these students have been slashed to bits?" He continues in this vein to criticize ED for funding "programs that place poorly trained interns in urban classrooms, and [backing] legislation that circumvented a court decision that ruled such interns are not 'highly qualified'?" Cody accuses Duncan of a number of other contradictions, and concludes, "until these issues are resolved, I find it difficult to take seriously your proclamations of support and honor for the teachers of America."


Meanwhile, the Huffington Post (5/4, Resmovits) reports that online postings indicate that "some public school teachers don't feel the love from their employer, the federal government." Upon reading Duncan's letter, "many teachers weren't moved. 'If you truly hear us, you'll recognize the fact that we are not opposed to honing our craft in ways that foster student learning for all students,' one educator, who identified herself as 'Tracie,' wrote in the comments below the letter."

Apple's Wozniak Touts Technology's Role In Education Reform

Reuters (5/4, Gupta, Randewich, Subscription Publication) reports that computer firm Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, speaking at an event for computer engineers in California Tuesday, promoted the use of computers in classroom instruction, quoting him, "We're getting closer to where you can make devices that become a friend and not just a computerized textbook." Wozniak suggested that in the face of budget cuts, computers could allow teachers to reach more students.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Duncan Solicits Teachers' Input On Reforming NCLB

In an open letter to US teachers carried in Education Week (5/3), Education Secretary Arne Duncan expresses his admiration, noting that "most teachers did not enter the profession for the money. You became teachers to make a difference in the lives of children, and for the hard work you do each day, you deserve to be respected, valued, and supported." Duncan states that his goal is to "see that you are treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society. In too many communities, the profession has been devalued. Many of the teachers I have met object to the imposition of curriculum that reduces teaching to little more than a paint-by-numbers exercise. I agree." Duncan expresses sympathy for many of the frustrations teachers express regarding NCLB's impact, and calls on them to give him their views on how best to reform the law. The letter was also related via the Huffington Post (5/3).

Analysis: Charter Schools Adding To Segregation In Florida Schools

The Orlando Sentinel (5/3, Weber) reports that the paper's analysis finds that "segregation is making a comeback in Florida's public schools with the new wave of charter schools springing up across the state. One out of eight charter schools has a student body with 90 percent or more of a single race or ethnicity." This ratio is one out of 12 in "traditional public schools. Those top heavy charters are adding to the list of out-of-balance public schools that have perplexed educators since integration 40 years ago." Despite efforts to integrate schools, "the charter trend is toward segregation, and more of the charters with skewed enrollments may be on the way."

Teachers Ponder How To Address Bin Laden Death In Classroom

As news of the death of Osama bin Laden dominated media reports today and yesterday, several media outlets have run reports focusing on how this story should be handled in the classroom. The Washington Post (5/3, Johnson) profiles Sheryl Robinson, a sixth-grade teacher at Washington, DC's, MV Leckie Elementary, who "tried to explain to her sixth grade class why this was not just another Monday -- why the death of Osama bin Laden was historic. That meant, first, a lesson on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Although her students were toddlers at the time, Robinson explained that the day had a deep impact on their school in Southwest Washington, M.V. Leckie Elementary," because "in 2001, Leckie sixth-graders looked out their classroom window and saw billowing smoke coming from the direction of the Pentagon" and later "learned that one of their classmates and a teacher were on American Airlines Flight 77 -- the plane that hit the Pentagon."


The Chicago Tribune (5/3, Ahmed-Ullah, Dizikes, Malone) runs a report on how parents and teachers are struggling "with a weighty question: how to explain to children when, or if, it is acceptable to kill another human being. Many stepped lightly on the difficult subject, allowing children to ask questions and stating their own mixed feelings about bin Laden's dramatic death. Others tried to connect the CIA-led takedown in purely historic terms - an event directly linked to the 9/11 attacks that bin Laden orchestrated at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Still others avoided it altogether."


WSPA-TV Asheville, NC (5/3, Dill), WTOV-TV Steubenville, OH (5/3), the Huffington Post (5/3, Turner), and Maureen Downey writing at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5/3) "Get Schooled" blog are among other media outlets exploring how to address this story in the classroom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Students Across North America To Participate In "Music Monday."

Reuters (5/2) reports that at some 1,700 schools across the US and Canada, students will simultaneously sing "I Wanna Play" by Aaron Tippin, in the seventh annual "Music Monday," an event designed to celebrate music education.