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.