Week of April 27, 2015

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District Matters

Chicago teachers are going back into contract negotiations with the district facing a more than $1 billion deficit and no easy way forward. Writes the Chicago Tribune, “After decades of poorly planned borrowing and delaying pension payments, the district faces crushing bond and pension debts that are diverting more and more funding away from its educational mission.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants a state bailout, but Gov.Bruce Rauner is saying no.

It's that time of year. From Camden, New Jersey to Los Angeles, districts are giving teachers notices of potential layoffs. While these districts are cutting back, others are finally in hiring mode after years of tightening their belts. The Sacramento Bee reports, "California school districts have emerged from the recession with plans to hire 21,500 teachers for the 2015-16 academic year. . . ".

State Matters

Chalkbeat Colorado reports that Colorado school districts with large numbers of students opting out of standardized tests could be hit with sanctions, even loss of federal funds. The U.S. Department of Education denied that state’s request to effectively not count students who decline to take the tests. Some districts are not meeting the federal 95 percent minimum threshold. “In Boulder, for instance, district officials estimate that 47 percent of high-schoolers, 14 percent of middle-schoolers, 9 percent of students in K-8 schools, and 6 percent of elementary schoolers did not participate in the first round of spring tests,” Chalkbeat said.

Teacher Prep

Missouri’s new and tougher teacher licensure test is angering some teacher prep programs and teacher candidates, according to the Kansas City Star. Since last fall, the state has required teachers to  pass the Missouri Content Assessment tests in order to become licensed. Pass rates aren’t available yet, and state officials remain unapologetic. “They knew this was coming,” Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner for educator quality at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, told The Star.

Sandra Santiago Pickett, a 20-year veteran of the classroom, calls for better and more practical teacher prep in the MinnPost. She writes, “We need to be able to measure the quality of teacher preparation programs because prospective teachers should know and understand what kind of teaching program they are getting into.”

The Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune has two opinion pieces supporting pending legislation that would make course syllabi at public colleges and universities a public record. NCTQ sued for access to syllabi as part of its research to prepare the Teacher Prep Review, its national rankings of teacher prep programs.

In Other Ed News

The Center for American Progress' new report, Teacher leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success, looks at the ways in which teachers are involved in the implementation of the Common Core in six districts. Leadership roles and collaboration take center stage showing some new and some tried-and-true approaches to elevating teachers' roles in the process of adopting of new standards.

Check out this review of Sandra Stotsky’s book Teachers Cannot Teach What They Do Not Know. Writes the reviewer: “Stotsky reminds readers how rigorous America’s education standards used to be. She cites a Michigan teacher-licensing exam in history from 1900, in which sample essay questions asked future grammar school teachers to, for example, ‘describe Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth’ or ‘briefly state the result and effect of the Battle of Waterloo, naming the leading general.’”