Monday, December 17, 2007

Math Problems

The question that I sometimes ponder is how our deteriorating national rank in math and science will manifest itself in everyday life. What effect will this have on the economy here in the U.S. and in the rest of the world?

Watching the interviews of the many people caught up in the sub-prime mortgage mess may just be that first indicator. These people are stunned to find out what is included in their mortgage. They had no idea that their interest rate would go up so much and what that would mean to their monthly payment. They believed the greedy mortgage lenders and real estate agents because they didn’t know any better and couldn’t figure it out on their own.

Many of these complex mortgages didn’t exist just a few years ago. This is a very interesting case where stagnating in math expertise hurts our overall economy. Twenty years ago, there were only two types of mortgages – standard and adjustable rate. You didn’t have to have advanced math skills to figure out what was going on and what was going to happen to your payments – it was nicely laid out for you. The mortgages available that are causing so much trouble were so complex with so many different options that it couldn’t be simply laid out for you.

The world today is so much more complex that your grasp of numbers and math concepts (in addition to having a grasp that a 1.5% interest rate on a mortgage is not real) has to be much higher than 20 years ago.

Now I understand that there is no hard evidence of a causal relationship between math knowledge and the mortgage mess – but this is a blog allowing me to infer that relationship based upon the anecdotal evidence of those who were put on the news for others to think about.

The skills necessary to succeed today - from home buying to retirement - are so much more involved than 20 years ago that stagnating math scores will continue to adversely affect our economy. The mortgage mess could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Business of Education

A few weeks ago, AEI held their annual education entrepreneurship presentation where they have the usual suspects (TFA, KIPP, TNTP, Edison, New Leaders etc – it seems they are required for every education panel) present and talk about how difficult it is for entrepreneurs in education. Attending this annual event, you would feel that these are the only companies working in education and that there is no hope for business in education.

You would be wrong. I do some investing in the markets and the conventional wisdom is to invest in what you know. So six months ago I started researching education companies starting mostly in the postsecondary arena. I started following Apollo, Capella, Corinthian and DeVry. They are doing extremely well and I learned some interesting things.

Apollo – which owns Phoenix University now has over 300,000 students. The are now leveraging that knowledge and success and venturing into the K-12 space through the purchase of Insight Schools – an online high school.

DeVry now has close to $1B in revenue and owns a Medical School in the Caribbean. Caribbean med schools attract many US students who can’t get into schools here. As long as they pass their med boards – they become physicians in the US. (hmmm – do some preparation, pass rigorous exams and enter the profession through an alternative route to help solve shortages – seems like a good idea).

American Public Education recently went public – it was supposed to come out at $18 per share the first week of November 2007. It came out at $30 and is now at $42 (disclosure – I did buy some at $30 and still have those shares). And the owners are not even using the proceeds of the offering for expansion – they are using it to pay themselves!!

Kaplan Education is now a $2B company and continues to expand.

The point is that business follows the money – and education is rapidly becoming the place for big money. The owners of the companies listed above are now making huge bucks and took away millions in their stock offerings.

Digging further – check out Knowledge Universe. The Milken brothers have put together a dream team of business management and are creating a PreK through Post Secondary super-company. They own a large slice of K12, KinderCare and a pretty solid mix of other education companies. K12 is going public in the next few weeks which should provide some pretty hefty capital for Knowledge Universe and K12.

Digging even further – Sterling Partners bought out Educate Inc (Sylvan and others) back in June and now have an impressive portfolio of education companies. They have committed to investing even more in education.

The point: when business makes money, more money will flow. Business is starting to make big money in education and that will create the opportunity for more money to flow into education. This will change provide incredible changes in education over the next few years.

Hopefully – AEI will break from the usual suspects and get some of these companies that are taking education entrepreneurship to the absolute highest level.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Clock offically cleaned.

A stunning day today. In DC, pretty much on any given day, there is a panel discussion about some study with the usual suspects doing the discussing with alarming regularity. The results of the myriad of panel discussions is not startling and usually have enough error that both sides can still argue their case. And the day after these weekly panel discussion - nothing ever really happens. You could seriously get discussion panel poisoning in this city.

But today was different. The Alliance for Excellent Education sponsored a panel discussion of the 2006 PISA Results. It was sad as it was fascinating and OECD is offering some actual action items based upon observing the nations that are getting results. I strongly encourage people to read this – and act.

The Problem: the United States has slipped further down the ladder of expertise – we are now 25th in math and 21st in science. They were quick to point out that we didn’t really get all that worse, just the rest of the world continues to improve while we stagnate.

When looking at the successful countries and their teachers, Andreas Schleicher from OECD said we need to have clear expectations of our teachers and schools, we need to have teachers that understand the expectations and work towards the goal and we need to have teachers who are motivated to perform at a higher level. Also, the performing nations had a much higher level of selectivity in their teaching profession which elevated the profession.

To recap what we keep saying: you cannot be selective unless you have a group to select from. Using a certification program that screens out over 50% of the candidates BEFORE they get to the classroom sure is a vast improvement over many of the education schools who accept all that apply. Principals cannot be selective in their math and science teachers when they only have one applicant.

We have a long way to go and while we sit around having numerous panel discussions with no activity, the rest of the world is collectively cleaning our clock. If their 15 year olds continue to be that much smarter than ours now, their 25 year olds will be dominating the economic world ten years from now.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Not here. A recent study in the Bay Area confirmed what most people know: elementary students are not getting the science basics they need. Forget high school reform - if you don't develop a love of math and science early in life, you are not going to suddenly find it in high school. From the study:

  • Eighty percent (80%) of K-5th grade multiple-subject teachers who are responsible for teaching science in their classrooms reported spending 60 minutes or less per week on science, with 16% of teachers spending no time at all on science
  • 41% say that are not adequately prepared to teach science -
  • Fewer than half of Bay Area fifth-graders scored at grade level or above on last spring's California Standards Test in science.

Teachers in the study claim that they don't have time to teach science. But other teachers responding to blogs on this topic clearly state that you can teach science while teaching reading and writing - so blaming NCLB is a cop out. The more important point is that if you are not prepared to teach science - how can you teach it and will you teach it if your not comfortable?

We cannot compete as a nation without scientists and we will not have scientists if we don't create a passion for science at a young age. We need more science expertise at the elementary level to create that passion. Focusing just on high school science won't change a thing if the students don't have a solid base to build from.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Math: there is no substitute

Schools continue to use long term subs as a way to mask the critical issue of a shortage highly qualified teachers – especially in math and science. The latest is from Michigan which hired 20 long term subs even as they close schools and teachers graduating from schools of ed are leaving to find jobs in other states.

The quote from the Dominque - the student representative on the school board in Flint Michigan highlights the issue:

"That was my most difficult year of math," she wrote in an e-mail to The Flint Journal. "The long-term sub made the learning experience very challenging because the class was not understanding him. Sometimes he made it clear that he didn't understand himself."

Wow. Here is a school district in a state that has a teacher surplus yet they cannot find enough math teachers. It also highlights that having good teachers, who don’t know the math, try to explain complex math concepts does not work.

In Clark County, we heard from one person that some schools have more than 50% long term subs teaching. It is time to crack down on the use of long term subs and open up the certification routes to accept more qualified math and science teachers.

With teachers like this – no wonder we are falling behind the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Ugly. I have two daughters and if they had a teacher that had made suggestive comments towards them – and he didn’t get fired and didn’t lose his license I would be outraged.

That is what happened in Houston and a reporter there called to ask me what I thought.

I think it is outrageous that we have a system that would allow this teacher to slink away to possibly teach again. I strongly believe that because of the teacher shortage, and groups that fight against new methods of recruiting and certifying teachers, the problem will only get worse.

We don’t usually have HR professionals in districts and schools that are trained to deal with this. We have former teachers in these jobs doing the best that they can. We don’t have a way for states, districts and schools to share issues with teachers. We don’t have a standardized method for performing background checks on teachers and there are too many vendors providing this service. (Hint to principals: in addition to doing a background check - google the name of the teacher BEFORE hiring as the cheapest way to see if they have made the news lately). And we don’t have enough teachers fighting for jobs in the schools.

Until principals have enough teacher candidates to select the right one for their schools and until we get a standardized background check process and until we have districts that take and stand and revoke licenses of teachers making sexual advances towards students – we will have this problem.

And it is outrageous.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Distinguished Teachers

There is an outstanding paper about pay for performance written by Joan Baratz-Snowden, formerly of AFT and who now sits on our board of directors. She clearly states the issues with current pay programs for teachers in saying; “it has not produced competitive salaries in the current job market, it does not respond to market forces, and the evidence linking teacher education and experience to improved student performance is weak.”

She has nailed it. But she also nails current pay for performance plans, with the exception of Denver, as weak and struggling. Reading this paper you should be able to see why we asked her help us.

We are currently creating the Distinguished Teacher program for veteran teachers that can be a part of a pay for performance program. Like many things at ABCTE, this has undergone extensive changes by listening to people, like Joan, who were very critical of the first iterations. The program now includes a live observation by trained veteran teachers using UVA’s CLASS observation system, recommendation letters from the school, scoring at the distinguished level on our subject matter exams and demonstration of student achievement through value added analysis.

As Joan points out, development of a solid program takes time. Having constructive criticism instead of political posturing has helped us create a much better program. People criticized Joan for joining our board but working together from the inside gets things done a lot faster than working against someone from the outside.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Reg, that is just offensive

I cannot believe that any professional, yet alone an education professional, would say what Reg Weaver said in Oklahoma. It is truly offensive – and not the thinly veiled reference to ABCTE.

As for the ABCTE part – how about looking at the research instead of just criticizing something new for a change.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

To persevere

Today, after 43 years of being beaten by Notre Dame, Navy won in triple overtime. As a Naval Academy graduate, I cannot tell you how good it feels to end this streak. It was truly inspiring to watch guys who weigh half of their opponents, try on every play and never, never give up. They are not playing for a future NFL spot, they are playing for their team and for their school. By June, many will be stationed in Iraq. But today, they battled hard and won.

It was amazing and I am more inspired then have ever been in my professional career.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Challenges of Teaching

Outstanding look at classroom management over at the New Teacher Hotline. Also a really good snapshot of what teachers have to go through in the classroom today. Any letter that ends in “God please let him be absent today” pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Only the best need apply.

The Economist article on successful schools is certainly eye-opening. There is always a danger in extrapolating data – but there are some solid lessons that McKinsey has developed from their research. First – we must be more selective in getting teachers and we must provide more ongoing training and collaboration for teachers when they get into the classroom.

It is interesting that they did not draw upon Teach For America as an example of selectivity – they currently accepted only 16% of the applicants this year and continue to pull the best into classrooms. Stark contrast to many ed schools who, because of dwindling applications are not so selective.

Selectivity is the key to establishing the profession. Only 38% of the candidates who start our program graduate. In a recent paper, NCTQ noted that in many alternative certification programs - who applies is accepted.

In the face of severe shortages, it is difficult to become more selective. But we must improve the quality of our teachers if we are ever going to improve the quality of the education system as a whole. It has got to start with better overall candidates entering elite programs and receiving better training throughout their careers – but more on that on Thursday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Carnival of Education is UP

Over at History is Elementary you can get the latest on education blogging!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Shallow Pool

When the pool gets shallow, you are going to end up with some of the sludge.

This is my analogy for the AP report on sexual misconduct plaguing schools. It is the unfortunate consequence of not having enough applicants for all the job openings in our schools. When the talent pool gets shallow, school districts end up hiring whoever is available. When HR spends the bulk of their time running around filling jobs at the last minute, the wrong people are going to slip through and get into a classroom.

It is going to get worse and that is an outrage. I was presenting at AASPA and met with numerous district HR people. Some are hiring from overseas and end up being immigration lawyers, housing specialists and cultural integrators – which sucks up so much time that they cannot do the rest of their jobs and the teachers don't work out and leave anyway. Others are venturing far from their state to recruit – costing time and money. For math and science teachers they are lucky to have one qualified applicant for the job and when you only have one applicant you don’t have a choice. They are desperately seeking ways to fill jobs and taking what they can get. Is that what our students deserve – or do they deserve a teacher selected from many great applicants.

Being desperate creates a perfect situation for some of the people listed in the AP article. We have got to fill the talent pool so that our districts do not end up getting the sludge from the bottom.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Teaching: eating their young

Great post over at Joanne Jacob's site on some TFA teachers struggling to survive. As is usually the case, people find their political point in the article and in the comments use that point to push their case instead of looking at the big picture presented.

Here are the key points as I see it:
  1. We don’t have enough teachers coming through standard routes (here)
  2. Therefore we have to have TFA and other recruitment programs or use long term subs with no training
  3. First year teaching is physically and mentally exhausting no matter what route you went though
  4. Adding course work and other requirements in addition to all the other first year teaching work can push someone over the edge.

Every time we partner with a state to set up an alternative certification program, the specter of course work inevitably comes up. We are constantly battling the desire for states to have their Alt Cert route become a regular route done at night after teaching all day. The TFA blogs point out that adding 3 hours of study on a Monday night after working all day in a school is cruel and unusual punishment.

The solution:

  1. Offer course work should only 1 or 2 Saturdays a month – max
  2. Require course work that research has shown to be effective in helping teachers in the classroom with student achievement - practical and useful

If you prove in #2 they need more course work then can fit on every other Saturday – then provide it during the summer between the first and second year of teaching.

We have to stop doing everything in our power to force out new teachers by making the job so overwhelming that no one could survive.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Belaboring the numbers

Let’s do the math. Great chart up at the Department of Labor on back to school statistics

Point #1: the chart shows that over the next 10 years we need 413,000 more teachers to accommodate the growth in population and schools. That means 41,300 per year MORE – not even counting those that leave the profession due to retirement etc. Our Ed Schools confer education degrees on 105,000. That leaves only 64,000 to cover retirements. But 8% of the 3.2M teachers leave the profession each year – that’s 264,000 per year leaving PLUS 41,300 to cover growth or 305,000 each year.

Point #2: general and operations managers have the second highest job growth with an average pay of $99,000 vs $49,000 for teachers. Looking at the growth or decline in number of degrees conferred over the last 7 years. Business degrees are up 25% - Education degrees are down 5%.

Point #3:
if you were to take point #2 and say we need to pay as much, we would have to raise teacher pay an average of $50,000. Multiply that by the 3.2M teachers and you just need to find $160 billon per year.

So we can wait for our fearless leaders to find $160 billion and throw a whole generation of kids under the bus who have to learn from long term subs, or we can find ways to get more teachers now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Talent Competition

There is a limited pool of talent in the United States. In an expanding economy, recruiters are competing with each other for that talent. In most companies, these recruiters are savvy, experienced talent scouts who are trained for this role and know the tools that help them succeed. They have only one role – recruit the best possible talent for the company.

In our school districts, the recruiter is usually a former teacher who is not trained in these tools and usually has many other jobs on top of recruitment such as mentoring coordinator, professional development coordinator etc.

Yet they are both competing for the same people. This may explain why our schools do not have the math and science teachers they need.

One part of the solution – go where the technical types are to find the talent for our schools – the web:
  • Web site: most district/state websites are way too hard to figure out. Here is a great test – invite your non-teaching friends over and have them go to your website and try to find out how to become a teacher. Odds are they will leave your house in frustration before figuring it out – just like some potential teachers.
  • Web seminars: cheap, easy and you can run them whenever you want. Potential teachers can watch from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Google Ads: can be focused to your state and can be pretty cost effective. If a math/science person is looking to teach – their first stop is going to be a search engine.
  • Capture their interest: have a spot on your website for people to request more information. Becoming a teacher is a big decision – sending more information might get them to finally take the step. You can then send email updates to people about upcoming web seminars as well.

We have had over 60,000 people inquire about the ABCTE program – top search words that have attracte people to our website: jobs, teaching, teacher, school, become a teacher, teacher certification, teachers and teaching jobs. Bid for those google ad words and you are on your way to recruiting more teachers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Evolution of Teaching Knowledge

Top secret test development stuff revealed: we are at the 5 year point in the life of our professional teaching knowledge examination. Therefore it is time to reassess the assessment and make sure it covers the material teachers need to know in order to be great teachers. We assembled our panels of experts and have had a series of meetings over the last 6-9 months and some great work has come from those meetings.

We will be adding more depth and questions to the exam to create requirements on special education, English language learners and gifted & talented students.

What we are saying (and everyone “knows”) is that all teachers will have each of these students in their class and need to know how to work well with those students. It is also saying that the job of the teacher is getting more complex and more demanding – and so will our program.

The test development team will now move through the process of blue print development for the new exam, question writing, field testing, item selection and finally standard setting. Our goal is to complete this over the next 10 months and have an upgrade Professional Teaching Knowledge Exam by next fall for all of our teacher candidates.

The demands of teaching change - and so shall we.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


We are from Washington and we are here to help - that line always gets a chuckle out in the various state leaders I visit. The chuckle comes from a belief that people in Washington couldn't possibly know what is needed in their state.

Yet their I sit confronted by the people who approve certification programs and they are totally disconnected from the reality of what is going on in the classrooms. In Nevada last week, they are trying to uphold the absolute highest standards of teacher certification by keeping things the same. And just a few miles away, Clark County was SHORT 1,163 teachers in June and had to bring over 50 teachers from the Philippines and were still woefully short.

They are keeping out people like Martin Jones, 51, who just completed our program in rural Idaho and is now qualified to teach General Science, Biology and Physics. He is teaching at a public high school that graduated 19 last year - without him, these students don't have a high school science teacher. His knowledge and experience in the sciences have created an amazing classroom experience for his students.

They are keeping out Randolph Messineo of Alabama, 52, an Air Force veteran who is going to retire from the military and teach elementary school. He is going to move to a state that accepts ABCTE because the program worked best for him as he was getting out of the military. Alabama just lost a great male teacher - something very rare in today's elementary schools.

If you don't have enough teachers applying for jobs - the quality you are willing to accept to have a person teaching that class drops significantly.

The rules and regulations designed to raise quality are keeping people like Martin and Randolph out of most classrooms and replace them with teachers from other countries and long term substitutes.

Rome in burning - put down the fiddle and find a plan that works.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Fox Guarding the Hen House

Yesterday in Nevada, I again was subjected to the harsh conflict of interest that exists in Teacher Certification. Many states, like Nevada, have professional standards boards to approve changes to teacher certification that are made up of - SURPRISE - Ed School Deans and professors!! Woohoo. Now, normally they try to take the high ground and not appear blatant about protecting their monopoly – but yesterday was an extreme exception.

The chairman of this task force, Dr. Luft, Associate Dean of Education, University of Nevada Reno, stated that if he voted for approving ABCTE he would be “hung from the elms in the quad” at his school. Later in the discussion he said that they couldn’t vote for this as it would hurt the ed schools financially. Now if your conflict of interest is that deep, don’t you think maybe you should recuse yourself from the proceedings – not preside over them.

If anybody wonders why alternative certification programs end up looking like regular certification programs you only have to look at the make up of state agency set up to approve the programs. I don’t want to be too subtle here so let me explain it in layman terms:


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Exponential vs Glacial

If you have not watched this yet -
you need to.

The rest of the world advances exponentially while American education advances at a glacial pace. And the rate of change is accelerating. It really does spell disaster for this country if we don’t do something to keep up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Alternative Certification Isn't

Obviously we are thrilled with the recent study by Fordham and NCTQ revealing that Alternative Certification in the US really isn't. I remember back a few years when I briefly thought about going to law school and looked into a couple of night schools. I found out that they basically consisted of the day time program crammed into the night - it wasn't spread out or really designed for busy professionals to complete their course work. It was designed to work well for the university.

So to with Alternative Certification programs - and it is not surprising since most states put union members and ed school professors on their certification approval committees. Can anyone really be surprised that the programs they approve all include course work? The sad thing is that most of the course work is done during the first year of teaching. So this new teacher has to learn the craft, create great lesson plans, grade their papers, build their stamina (let's not kid ourselves - this is key) and then go to classes at night?? Gee - I wonder why they don't stay around long.

Also - it gets really annoying out there when everyone thinks that Teach for America, The New Teacher Project and Troops to Teachers are alternative certification programs- they are not. They are recruitment strategies (that work by the way!!). They recruit prospective teachers and help them get through current certification methods accepted in the state.

One can only hope that people read this and understand that to truly attract more people into teaching, we need alternative certification routes designed to attract professionals who want to work with America's students.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Subject Matter Matters

I have been in 4 different states meeting with 4 different state education chiefs and all of them expressed the same concern - there is a serious lack of subject matter knowledge in their math teachers. Therefore it was with great pleasure that I read the Title II draft and saw the emphasis on STEM professional development for teachers. It is with great sadness that I read that all the money had to go to institutions of higher ed (hopefully this will change).

In my state meetings, there is deep concern about this issue. All teachers must know the craft of teaching, but if the students know more than the algebra teacher, problems will continue in our high schools. We have all got to work together to fix this - and it will not happen overnight based upon the SATs of our current group of teachers.

The ABCTE founders created this program to address this dearth of subject matter expertise in our schools and we continue that charge today. America's schools are in a downward spiral where they produce students with weak math and science skills who are now becoming our next math and science teachers contributing to the death spiral.

We have go to stop the madness and get teachers into our schools who have the math and science knowledge, have the passion for the subjects AND know how to teach.

I can tell you that we are working harder than ever to meet with those states that working hard to reverse this trend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gen X and Gen Y: any teachers there?

Education loves to ignore societal trends – going through time as if nothing could alter the current operation. Finding talent is one such blind spot. In the past, “Education” always found the talent they needed so they ignored the incredible societal shift going on around them. The current teacher preparation, recruitment and certification system is a great system for finding and keeping baby boomers. But that no longer represents the current reality.

So – will that system work for Gen X and Gen Y workers of today and who cares? Because boomers are retiring, Kelly Services reports that in just 4 years, Gen X and Y will make up 70% of the workforce – so you can’t just ignore them. And the gap between labor supply and demand will continue to widen over the next 20 years.

We have an antiquated system competing for talent with private sector recruiters who understand the Gen X and Gen Y characteristics and are heavily marketing to attract top employees. If nothing changes, teaching will continue to get “left behind”.

And the last Pew study doesn’t bode well for teacher education programs since 81% of 18-25 year olds say that being rich and famous is the most important goal of their generation. Sorry NEA – a $10,000, or even a $20,000 raise in starting salaries is not going to attract this generation in ed school programs.

To properly staff our schools we have to figure out how to attract Gen X and Gen Y once they figure out that getting rich is not where it’s at. To do that we have to get career changes by doing the following:

  • Use the web to get their interest - I dare you to figure out the process to become a teacher through the web in almost any state or district – you have to help them become teachers
  • Use the web to advertise – google ads are huge for us right now and one of the main reasons we now have 4,500 candidates
  • Get High tech – our teacher preparation and certification must be high tech in order to attract them into the program – think online and podcasts
  • Get Customized and Flexible– these generations did NOT grow up in a one-size-fits-all society and won’t accept that in their teaching program
  • Understand they are not going to stay in teaching– career/job loyalty is gone – understand it and use that to your advantage to attract talent from other careers
  • Immediate payoffs – they want pay plans and career ladders so these must be in place to attract the right talent
  • Summers off – Gen X and Y work to live and Teaching needs to highlight the opportunity to do just that – leverage this competitive edge over other careers

Gen X and Gen Y have too many choices. If teaching doesn’t understand them, they will go do something else. Teacher recruitment, preparation and certification programs that are designed to attract these groups will be the most successful as the baby boomers head towards retirement.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Title II - No Competition = No Innovation

Dear Chairman Miller, Rep. McKeon, Chairman Kildee, and Rep. Castle:

On behalf of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), I am writing to provide comments on the Title II Discussion Draft of your No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Reauthorization legislation.

ABCTE has two programs that work to accomplish the goals of improving teacher quality, teacher retention, and that address the teacher shortage, specifically in math and science. The first is an initial teacher credential that prepares and certifies career changers for the classroom. The American Board’s Passport to TeachingSM program has certified more than 625 teachers and is prepared to deliver significantly more, as more than 4,500 candidates have enrolled in the program. This program attracts candidates with much-needed diversity and life experience into teaching. ABCTE candidates’ average age is 38, 32 percent are male, and 18 percent are minorities.

You can view the rest on our website at:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tier Twos Try Harder

We dropped our oldest daughter at Radford University for her first year and it really is quite impressive how things have changed. Part of this is due to the fact that someone at Radford mistakenly received training in customer service. Gone are the – “look left and look right because only one of you will be here”. It has been replaced by bragging about freshman retention rates, graduate in four years rates and all the things other education pundits are pushing for in the US News rankings.

I have to believe it is because the so called “second tier” schools are trying harder.

Orientation was amazing – they really are trying to ensure that the students succeed and learn. Being somewhat cynical, I thought orientation would be a waste but it was highly informative for parents and students. The students then went with an advisor and sscheduled their freshman classes. I never even met my advisor. The education majors even provide free tutoring to students and the athletic majors provide free aerobics and step classes. And I just received my “test of the emergency text messaging system” – so apparently they already have their system in place for notifying parents and students of any emergency - which really makes me feel kind of good right now.

The only thing I object to is that they take the student schedules and pack all of their books in one neat bundle for them to pick up and it takes about 4 minutes. Gone is the fun of wandering around the book store trying to match your schedule to the book - - how can our students truly be prepared for the real world if their college experience is that well organized.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Teachers Lawyers Doctors

The next few blogs will be about solutions to teacher shortages. Many of the opponents to alternative teacher certification like to play the doctor/lawyer/nurse card when defending the current system of preparing and certifying teachers. They say that you would never allow lawyers or doctors to come into the profession through an alternative certification.

To compare teachers to lawyers – well I really don’t think we want a profession driven by economics where only the very wealthy can afford the very best teachers who went to the very best education schools and the poor students get the teachers who went to lesser schools and have enormous caseloads and lousy working conditions. Oh…..wait……we do have that. But to be perfectly honest, if there was a severe lawyer shortage and they found people who could pass the bar exam without going to law school, I would have no issue hiring that lawyer since he had the knowledge he needed to take my case. But there are way too many lawyers in the world. If you have a lot of people applying for something, you can be much more restrictive in the certification process- - certainly not the case for teaching. In fact, since ed schools have significantly less applicants, their standards are bound to go down.

The medical profession is also experiencing shortages of doctors and nurses. The work they do cannot be compared to teaching as one mistake in their day could mean life or death and the amount of knowledge to complete their work is significantly greater than what is required to teach. In order to respond to shortages they have also gone overseas in search of talent like many school districts. But they have also responded by redesigning the medical care patients receive. Now instead of spending time with your doctor, most of your time is spent with paraprofessionals and nurse practitioners are replacing doctors and rural areas have visiting specialists. There are some ways to borrow from this for teaching – but I will save that for a later blog.

Teaching is different. We have ample proof that alternatively certified teachers are just as effective as teachers coming through standard routes (here and here). With that proof and with the current teacher shortage, decision makers must use the best available resources to the get the teachers they need. Using lame analogies does not put a high quality teacher in every classroom

Thursday, September 6, 2007

More Students & Less Teachers

NCES statistics have been updated and the big story that everyone is covering is the dramatic increase in students - over 1 million new students reporting to schools. And on the teaching front there is barely a sound. Based on an average class size of 20, we would need 50,000 new teachers to handle this new work load and that is only to cover the new students - it doesn't even address the issue of teacher retirements and teachers changing careers.
So how many new teachers came out with brand new bachelor degrees in education? NCES reports that we had 827 fewer new teachers in 2006 than we did in 2005. The number continues to drop. At a time when we need a significant increase in teachers, our main supply continues to decrease. The shortage continues to move toward crisis level in the most critical element in education and the band aids of long term subs, teaching out of certification area and recruiting from overseas continue to keep things on track.
And the only people that suffer are the students.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

STEM needs to start early

Where do young students achieve their passion for math and/or science? It starts from having a great experience in math and science in the early grades. If you have that great elementary teacher who has a passion for math and science, they will pass that on to our young students and ensure they become so proficient that they will actually like math and science in secondary school.

Yet STEM focuses on high school and college. By then it is too late – if students don’t have the basics down, they will fear the math, loathe the science and all the investment in the world won’t change their attitude. People do what they are good at (which should keep me from writing but doesn’t). If you are not good at math and science you are not going to go chose a career in that field. And to be good at those subjects you have to get the basics in elementary school from someone who is outstanding at those subjects.

Are elementary teachers proficient at math and science? Not really. Our own certification demonstrates this time and time again as potential teachers and current teachers struggle with the rigorous math and science sections. Looking at the annual College Board report shows that the only majors with lower math SAT scores of college bound seniors are home economics and public affairs. If we are ever going to regain “the competitiveness”, we have to have elementary teachers who are passionate about math because they have outstanding knowledge - and they will generate that passion in the next generation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Standards Alignment

We are talking with many states right now and one of the big questions we get concerns teaching standards. Do the ABCTE preparation and testing standards align with the state standards? So, we hire an independent firm to go line by line between our standards and the state standards to ensure that they are properly aligned.

But the greater question that should be asked concerns the actual alignment of the total educational system. Are the student standardized tests aligned to the student curriculum in the state and are the teacher standards aligned to that student curriculum and, ultimately is the student curriculum aligned with the university requirements and/or job requirements. In a perfect world, if students needed to know quadratic equations to succeed in life, that requirement would be in the student curriculum, they would be tested at the grade level required and the teacher for that grade level would be expected to have a thorough knowledge of the subject and how to teach that subject.

I am not making the case for national standards as I firmly believe that it would take way too long and cost way too much money. But I do believe that part of any NCLB legislation should include rewards (not punishment) for states that demonstrate true alignment between their university/job skill requirements, teaching standards, student curriculum and annualized testing standards. No small task – but would certainly create a more focused and functional educational system.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

History vs Social Studies: we lose

Two years ago, our test development team began the lengthy process of creating our history exams. Our quest started in a time that now seems like a totally different world. It was a time when the Highly Qualified Teacher aspect of No Child Left Behind had yet to be neutered and (to properly mix metaphors) still had potentially scary teeth. So we listened and were told by “experts” and DC thinkers that “social studies” would not be tolerated. In order to be highly qualified, you needed to be an expert in your subject and therefore we should create separate certifications for U.S. history, world history, civics and geography.

Our History experts whole-heartedly agreed. They told us there was no way that you could possibly test someone’s knowledge of world and U.S. history, civics and geography in 100 questions. In order to create great minds in our schools, we absolutely had to have separate exams.

And so with clear minds and the focused vision of being on the right path, we created the absolute best U.S. history certification - - and right now, there is not a state out there that will use it.

The states know that they are now free to ignore HQT and can just submit innocuous plans each year to DOE demonstrating their road-map to become fully staffed with HQT teachers. If you read these plans, and I have, they are basically a narrative of what each state is currently doing and has been doing for quite some time. Social studies certifications will flourish and in-depth knowledge of history will not be a reality any time soon.

Lesson learned: it doesn’t really matter what the experts and those in DC say - - the only thing that matters is what states are willing to do.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes" - Airplane

We had the ABCTE South Carolina launch last week with full press coverage and teacher recruitment events in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia. We had over 1,000 people request information from South Carolina – that is a pretty large group wanting to become teachers PLUS over 300 people attended the events and so far 40 have enrolled! Not a bad start and the Gov is doing a signing ceremony with me next week.

The irony – while I was in my hotel in Columbia, I ran into over 40 Pakistani teachers with varying degrees of English proficiency who have been brought in to teach in South Carolina schools. While this is an excellent exchange of cultures that could help with greater worldly understanding, the reality is that it just makes it that much harder to learn math and science.

Obviously, from our initial foray into the state, there are many South Carolinians who want to teach – they just needed to be recruited, have the right program and the right support to get them trained and ready to teach. And it seems like we are on the right track.

What drives us

Gone are the days of political rhetoric at ABCTE. We exist for one reason – to help states recruit, certify and retain quality teachers. Much has changed here and those changes are radically changing the way we are perceived. Bottom line from NCES numbers:

  • 1972: 25% of degrees earned were in education
  • 2004: 14% of degrees earned were in education

Labor statistics say that 18-40 year olds will hold 10 different jobs during that time frame of which just over half of the job changes will be career changes

Not enough people are going into education and no one stays in careers for life anymore.