Week of April 6, 2015

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image by Barbara Krawcowicz

Teacher Prep

Thought avatars were just for gamers? Think again. Many teacher prep programs are experimenting with classroom simulations to help candidates hone skills, such as classroom management, before entering the classroom. The Kansas City Star reports on one such program, TeachLivE. With simulations, candidates can try a scenario, receive feedback and then try again, incorporating the feedback. One candidate is quoted supporting the simulations: “In a real classroom, if I make a mistake, it affects real kids. I can’t press pause, walk out, collect my thoughts and start over.”

District Matters

The Dallas Independent School District will offer effective teachers up to a $12,000 pay increase for working in six chronically underperforming schools. The pay bump is part of a new program that is meant to turnaround underperforming schools by staffing them with highly effective teachers and principals, along with changes to instructional time and other student and parent expectations, according to the Dallas Morning News. In addition to the pay increase, teachers’ evaluation ratings will be frozen for two years.

State Matters

The Minnesota Board of Teaching has been accused of routinely denying licenses for qualified teachers, according to a lawsuit filed last week by four teachers. The lawsuit claims the board often denies licenses to qualified teachers without explanation, particularly for out-of-state teachers, reports the Star Tribune. As this article from MinnPost suggests, problems with teacher licensure in the state are not new; the state has been aware of issues since at least 2011.

Teachers in Idaho will see pay increases over the next few years. Last week the governor signed a bill that increases teacher pay. Mandatory starting salaries will increase by more than 16 percent over the next five years, from $31,750 to $37,000, and more-experienced teachers will also see raises, according to Idaho Education News.

New York’s new budget approved by the legislature last week includes some important changes to the state’s education policies. Among the changes, tenure will now be awarded after four years of experience (instead of the current three), and teachers awarded tenure must have received three ratings of effective or highly effective. Other changes in the budget, as reported by the New York Times, include an increase in school funding and changes to the evaluation process. The bill mandates that teachers should receive low rankings in specific circumstances, but many of the evaluation details will be determined by the state’s education department.