Teacher Quality News: Week of April 13

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image by Samantha Marx

Teacher Prep

New York’snew budget, which Gov Cuomo is expected to sign, sends more money to education - but pairs it with tighter restrictions for teachers. A new rule will affect those hoping to enter the profession; graduate level prep programs must require a 3.0 GPA to enter and a minimum entrance exam score for at least 85 percent of each incoming class. And if a program consistently produces students who can’t pass licensing exams, it will be suspended.

While New York is making it harder to get into teacher prep, Missouri is making itharder to get out. The new exit exam, the Missouri Content Assessment, is causing concern for teacher candidates nearing graduation who have taken coursework meant to prepare them for the previously required Praxis II rather than the new test. Perhaps these teacher candidates are learning firsthand about the dangers of teaching to the test?

District Matters

Chalkbeat New York analyzed teacher evaluation data in New York City and found that students at low-performing schools identified as part of the city’s school renewal program aretwice as likely to have a low-rated teacher as their peers in an average-performing school. In addition, they were less likely to have a teacher with a highly effective rating. Teachers at these schools were more likely to receive below average scores on both the observation and state testing portions of the evaluation.

Curious about what the recommendations inSmart Money might look like in action?Kittery, Maine’s new contract is a great example. Teachers agreed to a new three-year contract that includes changes to the pay scale and larger pay increases at key points for retention. Steve Crowley, co-president of the Kittery Education Association, believes the new pay scale is a step in the right direction, noting that it makes the district more competitive with surrounding districts. “While the top number might be the same, it would take someone in Kittery seven more years to reach that number. The difference between a 30-year career here and in York is hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Crowley said of the old pay scale. The new pay scale decreases the amount of time it takes for a teacher to make the maximum salary from 19 years to 16, reports Seacoast Online.

State Matters

A secondlawsuit over union dues has been filed in California. According to the Washington Post, four teachers are suing their unions for the use of dues for political activities, arguing that it violates their right to free speech. Teachers can choose to opt out of the portion of dues that is used for political activities, but if they do so, they can no longer vote in union elections and are not eligible for some benefits including disability and life insurance.

A new report from the Tennessee Department of Education concludes that the state’s teacherevaluation system is improving as evidenced by greater alignment between value-added scores and observation scores. The evaluation system was implemented in the 2011-2012 school year and has been modified each year in an effort to make it as accurate as possible, Chalkbeat Tennessee reports.

In Other Ed News

As the proportion of minority students in the U.S. grows and some research shows thebenefits of same-race teachers, finding minority teachers continues to be a struggle, theNew York Times reports. White teachers comprise more than 80 percent of the teaching force, and while districts are actively trying to recruit a diverse corps of teachers, getting them in the door is just half the battle. Retention of non-white teachers could prove to be just as big a challenge.