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.