Friday, March 27, 2009

The Retention Myth

I think a quick note is in order on the EdWeek Article on the Ingersoll and Perda research suggesting that we are producing plenty of math and science teachers and all we need to do is just retain them and we are set.

The facts are probably correct – though dated – that we produce 2X as many math and science teachers than retire. Thus, retention is the solution. Woohoo - problem solved.

But that ignores the societal reality that we are all job nomads now. We wander from career oasis to career oasis hoping for something better - never settling at one job for more than few years.

I regret to say that I don’t think that education will be the one career that is immune to this current reality. Labor statistics say that 18 to 40 year olds will have 11 job changes of which half will be total career changes.

Now we certainly can do more to retain better teachers through better working conditions, better professional development to help them deal with so many students on so many different levels and career ladders to increase job satisfaction.

But to make the naïve claim that the math and science teacher shortage will magically disappear if everyone sticks around to retirement is to ignore the current reality

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Part 5: What is happening to teaching jobs

For Part 5, the final in our series on teaching jobs, I was hoping to have more information about the billions going to protect teaching jobs but I guess that is going to have to wait for a few months once we see what really happens.

But in the mean time, there is a great interview with the Secretary of Education speaking frankly with the Ed Week Editorial staff. They ask great questions and they get real answers. From the teaching side of things Secretary Duncan "gets it" as evidenced by the following ideas he puts forth:

  1. He understands that some states are saying they are going to move the stimulus money to paying off debt and he basically said that they will be sacrificing the opportunity for the big bucks if they do. The states that drive innovation will get A LOT more money. It is in the states best interest to use the money right
  2. He wants to fundamentally change the staus quo. He knows this an historic, once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a gob of money (my word not his)
  3. Data systems must be put in place to track students back to teachers and track teachers back to their teacher preparation program so that we can use the data to improve education
  4. Talent matters tremendously
  5. Need best teachers to take on the toughest assignments through incentives
  6. Need to understand economic realities and pay math and science teachers more
  7. For the small numbers of states that get it right, they will get the huge dollars available to take their reforms to scale – it will go to the states that do the hard work, demonstrate local courage and challenge the status quo. Let me just say that I love that line
  8. We need new teams of adults if students are failing. I love this – not just blaming teachers but all the adults from the DOE on down that are involved in education. And he does support rewarding great teachers and moving poor teachers out of the classroom
  9. Big believer in alternative certification. Here he reiterates what we have been saying in this series on teaching jobs - there is lots of great talent who just happened to not graduate with an ed degree and we need them in the classroom. Because of the huge numbers of baby boomers retiring from teaching, what we do in the next 4-6 years will determine what happens in the next 30 years. We need to do more now to make sure we have the talent far into the future

For all that are following the teacher employment – this is the money quote. Even if there is a blip in teacher hiring now, because the pipeline into teaching has dried up and because outflows are dramatically increasing, we will be in trouble if we don’t do something now. Secretary Duncan wants more paths to teaching, wants to build more competition in teacher preparation and then hold all the routes accountable for results.

Since he mentioned the 2010 budget details will come out in April, I imagine we will see money put behind these thoughts. And that is good news for what will happen to teaching jobs.

Series on What is Happening to Teaching
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Reasonable Blog

Two nice things going on in Arizona in support of alternative teacher certification - give a read to Lisa Snell at the Reason Foundation to find out more!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Part 4: What is happening to teaching jobs

Layoffs are incredibly difficult for any organization. During a recession it takes true leadership for an organization to make it through to better times and come out stronger. Organizations with weak leadership do not survive, and if they do, aren't able to take advantage of the upcoming economic recovery.

Layoffs damage morale and if they are done wrong, can irreversibly impact your talent pool. The problem for our education system is that performance never appears to have an impact on who gets the pink slip.

On one end you have districts trying to save money by pushing for early retirement of the most expensive employees and on the other end you have layoffs strictly by seniority meaning the most junior will suffer. Unfortunately, neither option does anything to strengthen the performance of our education system because they don't focus on keeping the most talented teachers in front of our students.

The McKinsey Quarterly has a great article on how organizations can come out of a recession stronger by focusing on building the absolute best team.

First, “head count reductions provide a powerful incentive to use existing resources better”. Job redesign can increase job satisfaction and save money. Look for efficiencies in the system and look for ways to reduce overhead to improve customer focus. School districts have the opportunity to reduce overhead now and also try to find efficiencies through technology and innovative staffing models. Unfortunately – they are mainly just cutting overhead to the bone so not much is being done to improve performance.

Second, is to implement better training. There is a growing understanding in education that professional development is neither. And there certainly isn't any money to send teachers to so called "professional development". One idea that education can implement is to use your most talented teachers to help develop other teachers. This is a great time to tap into your most successful teachers and increase the performance of all your classrooms.

The third idea offered up by McKinsey is to conduct thorough performance assessments of all staff. “Companies that conduct disciplined, meritocratic assessments of performance and potential are well placed to make good personnel decisions.” Education cannot comply with this recommendation for three huge reasons. One, we don’t have great performance assessments of teachers that have been shown to directly impact student achievement. Two, we don’t have principals who are thoroughly trained in performance assessment and three, it wouldn’t matter anyway because you can’t layoff by performance because of most teacher contracts.

The fourth recommendation is to grab talent now while it is available. This is something that some school districts will be able to do to make themselves a stronger organization. The recession will not last and when things turn around, school enrollments begin to increase and the tsunami of boomer teacher retirements begins, there will be a severe shortage of talent – especially in math science. Job stability has replaced huge bonuses and pay as the organizational brand that people are searching for in a career today. Throw in retirement pay, summers off and helping students, and your pitch suddenly tops most careers out there. Recruiting career changers and displaced younger teachers now will ensure that your district is ready two years from now.

In every recession some organizations die while others come out so well positioned that their long term success is guaranteed. Charter schools are the best position to take the McKinsey recommendations and come out of this recession as some of the best schools in our country. Unfortunately, most schools will not and will lose a great opportunity to excel.

Series on What is Happening to Teaching
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 5

Friday, March 20, 2009

Part 3: What is happening to teaching jobs

Interesting bits of news from around the states on hiring and firing of teachers. First is to keep your wits about you as reported by EIA. In 2003 California issued 20,000 pink slips to teachers and ended up only firing 3,000. Contracts in most states and districts require ample notice for layoffs which means that many teachers will be understandably upset now – but when the stimulus dollars start to trickle out, may ultimately be saved.

Hell of a way to do business. That kind of upheaval has a lasting effect on a person. The “safety” of an education career will not feel safe at all after this roller coaster ride. Give credit to Arizona which is trying to slide the date of pink slip notification in hopes of having a much clearer picture in June. Much less stress for teachers.

But things are still a guessing game for states and districts. No one knows what will happen with the stimulus dollars. And we are still getting concerns of the Governor control aspect of the funding. As we reported, Gov. Sandford from SC was going to use it to trim so debt and now we hear that Gov. Strickland from OH might also restrict what school districts receive. The article makes it very clear to me that the stimulus dollar distribution is anything but clear.

Meanwhile, back on the recruitment side of things we continue to see a dramatic increase in people attending our recruitment events. Since the Utah school board unanimously approved all ABCTE certifications, we are doing our first big recruitment push there and the results continue to be amazing. If you watch the video on this you can see the packed room. AP even gets into the act with their article on career changers moving into teaching.

So the question is: Do you go into teaching now or not?

And the answer is - - yes - - especially in math and science. Even though there may be some short term layoffs due to the economic crisis, the fact remains that we have still have ever increasing retirements and less people going into teaching. The NCTAF Policy Brief on the BabyBoom Tsunami clearly shows the looming retirement crisis that will hit teaching in the next few years. 1.7 million teachers approaching retirement is not to be taking lightly and most alternative teaching certification programs take around a year to complete. And news flash - - 2007 broke the record for the number of births in the US – the highest ever. In three years those kids head to school and I am pretty sure are going to need teachers.

So teaching is still a great place to be. And even though this is a tough year, the need for teachers will turn around quickly. If we don’t have some great people in the pipeline, our shortage will become a crisis fast.

Series on What is Happening to Teaching
Part 1
Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Paper on Alternative Teacher Certification

Great paper that concludes that alternative teacher certification can help states build a world quality teaching workforce from Dan Lips at Heritage:

Find it here

Monday, March 16, 2009

Part 2: What is happening to teaching jobs

Guest Blog by Jessica Morris, ABCTE Teacher Preparation Manager

I have the honor of moderating ABCTE’s forums [link], where I get to hear the personal stories from our driven and dedicated teachers from all over the world. In contrast to the negative economic news from the media, the forums are a fascinating look at what is happening in districts and schools. Many new teachers are scared that there will be no jobs in September and backup their posts with stories of district layoffs. Yet, others post that nearby districts are in fact growing or that, thanks to ABCTE, they have been hired full time as a fully certified teacher after working first on a temporary certificate.

There is a “ying/yang” that occurs on our forums. Someone will post good news to counter the bad news and there is always a post of hope or support to balance the messages of economic uncertainty. While everyone knows that times are tougher in some places, the forums contain real life stories showing that it may be better than the streams of bad news indicate. Some people are still finding opportunities out there and no one yet knows how the federal stimulus money will affect job openings and new leadership roles for teachers.

Our prospective teachers on the forums have demonstrated that in order to get hired you have to go the extra mile. For those that are currently teaching and find themselves surrounded by shrinking or consolidating school districts, now is the time to boost their teaching portfolios and skill sets to show that they are vital to their students’ and schools’ success [some recent evidence of this here from a Florida teacher]. Yes, teachers already have too much to do and too little time. But by finding even just an hour or two in their schedules, teachers can find new opportunities for increased efficiency and growth. The first rule in a recession is to make yourself incredibly valuable to any organization.

As a starting point, below are a few suggestions of some free professional development resources:
• Annenberg Media’s
Offers free professional development workshops and courses which consist of video, print, and Web components that can be used for study groups or independent study.
• Electronic Field Trips from Ball State University
This site is a result of partnerships between Ball State University and museums, national parks, and historic sites across the country. Teachers can become technology leaders by using electronic resources to expose their students to faraway locations for a more rich and active learning environment.
• MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT has made a variety of its courseware, including lecture notes, videos, and syllabi, available for free. There are even suggestions for how to incorporate this content into the high school classrooms:
• Teacher Development from Edutopia
This site features videos and articles related to teacher development and its connection to interactive learning environments and overall best practices.
• Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook from An interactive directory of K-12 products and services for professional development organized into categories. EdWeek also keeps an archive of its ongoing free webinars: .

Whether you are new to the profession or a veteran, using internet resources, books, peer learning groups and other materials, you can build on your credentials and show your administrators that you are invaluable staff members that are able and willing adapt to the evolving knowledge, skills and demands of the K-12 classroom.

Series on What is Happening with Teaching Jobs
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Friday, March 13, 2009

Part 1: What is happening with teaching jobs?

Today will begin a 5 part series on the state of teacher employment in the US and what we are hearing from around the nation. We will initially focus on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund because that is supposed to be the critical element that will help states and districts prevent teacher layoffs.

I was invited to listen to the U.S Department of Education phone call that talked about what states had to do to get these funds and it is fairly simplistic. They need to submit a request and they get two thirds of the money. This money is supposed to do two things – stimulate the economy in the short term and improve education for the long term. After the states receive the initial push, they have a few months to put together an application for the final one third of their money.

But the money still has to get out to the school districts and that is a major concern. This Friday is supposed to be the big Friday the 13th in California as 10,000 teachers are expected to be told they don’t have a job next year. Will this money prevent that bloodbath? On a smaller scale in Massachusetts, they are trying to hold off in anticipation of state funds.

But what I have not seen is actual plans on how this will actually work. Also looming on the horizon is that the website from which all money flows may not be able to handle the stress. That could create an even bigger mess as states scramble to keep people employed yet can't actually get access to the money.

Last but not least is Governor Sanford of South Carolina who, like most Americans today who get a windfall, want to pay down debt using 30% of his stimulus dollars. The problem is that South Carolina has the second highest unemployment rate at 11%. Does that mean that schools will get shortchanged that 30%.

Probably the most interesting part of the US Department of Education call the other day was that the SFSF dollars are there to make states whole when it comes to education funding. So the question came up but was not really answered - because the funds are to help states maintain spending, if states didn't actually cut their education budget because they cut deeper in other areas, can they still get the money? The answer seemed to be no - which would really stink for those states who made education a priority in their budgeting process.

So with those types of questions out there, it seems like a worthy enterprise for me and my staff to keep a watchful eye on what happens over the next week or so. Hopefully you will tune in to see.

For Monday – did California get hit on Friday the 13th? Will the money machine crash? Are all the teaching jobs gone? Tune in to find out!

Series on What is happening with teaching jobs:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If it doesn't work - stick with it

"When you have a 2-year-old car, and maybe it's sputtering a little bit, you don't get a new car. You get a tune-up." Prince William School Board member Michael I. Otaigbe in a recent Washington Post article.

OK – and in the mean time, thousands of “cars” will never master the basic concepts of math. I love analogies in education and this one may be my new favorite. The discussion is over the math curriculum used in Prince William schools. Currently they use “math investigations” which has some controversy as to whether it is an effective way to teach math but they decided to stick with it.

Right now there is a petition from 1,500 Prince William parents to dump the “investigations” and there is a study that shows it is not as effective as other text books. But Prince William doesn’t care – it would cost too much to replace the text books and they want to see if improving the program helps. It seems that they just need more parent training, more teacher training and some changes to the material and then it might actually raise the program to somewhere near “average”.

What about the students? I can see making a ton of effort for a program that shows a lot of promise and has community support – but they are going through all this effort for a sub-par program that emphasizes feeling good about math over actually learning math that doesn’t show promise and is hated by the community.

In the real world if your customers hated your product, your employees didn’t understand it enough to “sell it” and your results were mediocre – would you really “tune up” the product or would you go back to the product that actually works?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Heed the Call!!

From President Obama's education remarks today:

"America’s future depends on its teachers. And so today, I am calling on a new generation of Americans to step forward and serve our country in our classrooms. If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make the most of your talents and dedication; if you want to make your mark with a legacy that will endure – join the teaching profession. America needs you. We need you in our suburbs. We need you in our small towns. We need you in our inner cities. We need you in classrooms all across our country."

So very true and exactly the reason for ABCTE.

Closing Ed Schools

When practicality wins over tradition in education it is a noteworthy event. So I want to take the time to applaud the University of the District of Columbia President Allen Sessoms for taking a stand to close their education school. He is analyzing all aspects of UDC to create a much better performing university. When he looked at the ed school he found that it had a graduation rate of less than 8% after 6 years.

The reason for this is that the students cannot pass the basic skills test that is required to graduate. Essentially 4-6 of the 150 students in early childhood education graduate each year. That is beyond dismal.

Yet there are people fighting him because they want to uphold the tradition of having an education school at UDC. And by “they” we of course mean Marion Barry who would rather have dismal teachers in DC Schools than no ed program at UDC. (and still can’t pay his taxes).

In difficult economic times all organizations must take a hard look at everything they do and continuing doing the things they do well and eliminate those areas that perform poorly. It is great to see that UDC is finally moving in the right direction.

Note: ABCTE is hoping to be accepted in DC soon

Monday, March 9, 2009


The countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.
—President Barack Obama, Feb. 24, 2009

I received my DOE ARRA package of SFSF guidelines. For those new to the stimulus game, that is the Department of Education guidelines for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as it applies to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. It makes for fascinating reading if only because it is very hard to see how Governor’s are going to suddenly, in two weeks, commit to the following:

“to advance essential education reforms to benefit students from early learning through post-secondary education, including: college- and career- ready standards and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students; development and use of pre-K through post-secondary and career data systems; increasing teacher effectiveness and ensuring an equitable distribution of qualified teachers; and turning around the lowest-performing schools.”

It seems like a stretch to me. But governors can get 67% of their share of $48.6 billion of SFSF by applying to DOE and demonstrating a commitment to the above. The 33% will be distributed once the governors submit their plan to demonstrate the commitment above and those funds will be delivered starting July 1, 2009.

I imagine the teaching portion of those plans will look very similar to the plans the states had to submit to the DOE for reaching 100% highly qualified teachers. If you have ever read those plans, they basically repackaged exactly what the state was currently doing and said that those programs were now suddenly going to solve the problem.

My guess is that because the time frame is so short we will see exactly the same thing for these funds. The status quo will be reworded to show that it is now a reform that will create better results for students but in the end wont change a thing.

I could be wrong – but I seriously doubt it.

But just in case, I will make sure we contact the governors of ABCTE states to see if we can help them recruit more teachers for high needs schools.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Teacher Certification Rules Explained

Teacher certification resources are hard to come by, they are difficult to understand and it is very difficult to keep them up to date. So we are pretty glad to see the Rossier School of Education at USC taken on the challenge. They have launched CertMap to help you navigate the difficult terrain that is teacher certification.

We have people on our online forums who do not currently live in an ABCTE state but are taking our program and then planning move to one of our states. This is a pretty new phenomenon and speaks to the issues of our economy. Hopefully, this resource will be great for those willing to move to get the career they desire.

They are still building it out – but take a look.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Props to the Administration

I must admit that I am very impressed with two big statements from the Obama administration this week. It is very refreshing to see such honesty and transparency in public policy especially in the critical area of education.

The first came from Vice President Biden in Delaware while addressing the teacher's union highlighting the need to get results from the stimulus dollars for education:

"I genuinely need your help to make this work because, folks, look at it this way. We've been given all the ammunition. If we shoot and miss, if we squander the opportunity, tell me how long you think it's going to take for another American president to go and ask for more dollars to correct the education system," Biden said to the Delaware State Education Association members at the Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center in Rehoboth Beach.

The second came for Secretary Duncan in an interview with the Washington Post where he reiterates that money is not the answer – especially if you base it on DC School performance:

"D.C. has had more money than God for a long time, but the outcomes are still disastrous," Duncan said

Secretary Duncan advocates for reforms on a grand scale and encourages schools to use the tools that have worked in charter schools. In a tip of the hat to KIPP, he advocates for longer school days for students that are behind and I totally agree. He also eschews politics for performance when he chastises Congress for eliminating the DC Voucher program. He does not want to send these kids back to DC Public Schools when they have a chance to go to great private schools.

Putting students before politics is a huge step forward and making it clear that there has to be accountability for results with the huge influx of money deserves praise and respect.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Male teachers earn more

A most puzzling graph in the New York Times shows that male teachers earn 10% more than female teachers. The exception is special education where they make 3% more than men. It is puzzling because so many teachers are in collective bargaining agreements and those contracts do not distinguish between male and female. A note on the university level says that there are more tenured male professors which is why they make more.

Since teacher pay is not based on performance and only is increased by time in the profession, degrees or advanced certification it must mean that, on average, male teachers have longer time in the classroom than the average female teacher.

No real conclusion or cause to advocate – just an interesting data point.