Week of October 20, 2014
The upside of down? With teacher prep programs seeing enrollment numbers drop in recent years, some are beginning to worry whether more parts of the country will see teacher shortages. EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuk examines the possible reasons for the decline, which range from recession-induced layoffs to concerns potential teachers have about evaluation. Even with these declines, programs still produce more new teachers than are hired, particularly in the elementary grades. And lower enrollments in Teacher Prep do have an upside:
it makes it easier for programs to find effective cooperating teachers for student teachers.
In another trip to the courthouse, the The Times-Picayune reports that the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Act 1 does fall within the scope of the state's Constitution, reversing a lower court's ruling. The law gives principals more leeway to hire and fire teachers, weakens tenure and shifts some decision-making responsibilities from the local school board to superintendents, among other changes. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers had argued that the law violated a constitutional requirement that all parts of legislation be tied to one object, but they now indicate they’ll seek changes through the legislative process.
Programs that incentivize experienced teachers to go to a district’s lowest performing schools by offering higher salaries and leadership opportunities are beginning to take hold in districts across the country. In Boston, Teach Plus and Boston Public Schools partnered to implement the Turnaround Teacher Teams Initiative (T3), and in Nashville, a similar initiative is getting off the ground. As Chalkbeat Tennessee reports, “Initiatives like T3 and Nashville’s new recruitment project are part of a growing trend that recognizes that teachers often crave leadership opportunities even more than salary increases, and that when they’re granted them, achievement goes up.”
Not so fast -- a judge in Philadelphia granted the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' request for a preliminary injunction to stop the School Reform Commission from imposing changes to teachers' health-care benefits. The changes, which require teachers to contribute to the cost of health care premiums, are projected to save the district over $200 million over the next four years and cost each individual teacher between $21 and $200 a month. The next stop for this ongoing battle is the Commonwealth Court. Stay tuned.
Philly’s not the only place with health care woes. To say the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) is unhappy about the district’s decision to switch health insurers may be an understatement. According to the Sacramento Bee, SCTA claims they were not aware of the district’s plans to make the switch. The district says the change in health insurers could save between $6 and $8 million in reduced premium costs and will not adversely affect teachers’ benefits or choice of doctors. Supt. José Banda (who joined the district in July) says the decision was made before his time. He asserts that he is open to negotiating with the SCTA but that, “This is the decision that was made, so we’re going to have to live with the consequences.”
In Other Ed News
What do successful teacher leadership programs do right? According to a new brief on teacher leadership released by The Aspen Institute and Leading Educators this week, they marry form (having clearly defined teacher leadership roles) with function (said roles are designed in line with other pressing priorities). The paper highlights a few key components that system administrators should consider in creating transformative teacher leadership. One component is called "designing for impact" and requires defining the goals of the initiative clearly and engaging all stakeholders in its development so that the form does in fact, match the function.