Week of December 1, 2014

See all posts


What teachers are paid matters. While many factors play a role in making the decision to become a teacher, compensation definitely plays a significant part. NCTQ’s latest report, Smart Money: What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them, examines the salaries of teachers in 113 school districts across the country and considers how quickly teachers rise to the top of the salary ladder, how much money teachers make over the span of 30 years, and which districts provide teachers the most “bang for the buck” by looking at salaries after adjusting for the cost of living.
Here are the big takeaways:

  • When deciding where to work, teachers would be well advised to discount the importance of starting and ending salaries. What really matters is how fast a teacher can climb to the top, ranging from as little as 7 years to over 30 years.
  • Higher salaries awarded early on in a career make a huge difference in lifetime earnings. See the infographic above for an example.
  • Districts should be strategic with the limited resources available. Avoid focusing on providing big pay increases at the end of teachers' careers and invest in teachers earlier when they are seeking to put down roots in a community.

Read the full report here and check out our interactive map.
Teacher Prep
The U.S. Department of Education released their years-in-the-making draft regulations on teacher preparation program accountability last week.  The draft rules stipulate that states use graduate and employer surveys, placement and retention rates, and value added measures to evaluate program quality from “low performing” to “exceptional.” The inclusion of VAM measures that connect programs to the student achievement results of their graduates in the classroom is the big news, along with the denial of access to TEACH grants for low-performing programs, both of which are sure to be controversial. The new regulations also require reporting at theprogram level, versus aggregated across programs within an institution. Steve Sawchuk reportson the details, as well as the reception by teacher prep institutions.
In a conference call unveiling the draft teacher prep regulations, Secretary Duncan highlighted Arizona State University as a model program that is “raising the bar.” Mari Koerner, dean of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has previously testified to a Senate committee that their program uses a “gatekeeper” approach which helps filter out candidates who are not yet ready for the classroom. See this video where NCTQ highlights ASU for its strong student teaching experiences.
The University of Michigan's College of Education will use a $1.1-million grant to continue its work to improve how teachers are trained. "We want to improve the quality of first-year teachers," said College of Education Dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball to the Detroit Free Press. "We think there needs to be a new kind of licensure where students demonstrate clear skills." The goal is to move beyond just knowing the content they are going to be teaching and to develop teacher-specific skills, such as how to talk to a parent at a parent-teacher conference or how to diagnose common difficulties students have with reading. 
District Matters
Thirteen school districts in Kentucky will now homeschool students via the internet during snow days. The policy is partially in reaction to the harsh winter of last year, when some schools were closed for more than a month due to weather. While losing fewer school days due to weather is important, as Education Week reports, the policy is not without its costs. Many students in Kentucky lack access to high-speed internet or computers at home and participating districts will lose some state and federal funding. Virtual learning on snow days has also been adopted by 29 public school systems in Indiana.
While school districts in Colorado have been given a temporary reprieve on evaluation requirements, not all districts are choosing to use it, Chalkbeat Colorado reports. About half of the 20 largest districts in the state will continue to use student academic growth data for 50 percent of their teacher evaluations, with the other half of those districts opting to omit student growth data from evaluations this year. 
State Matters

New York State Education Commissioner John King says that the state is looking for ways to strengthen the evaluation process and suggested that student feedback and other tools might be introduced into the state’s evaluation systems. The Journal News reports that King believes the observation portion of the teacher evaluation system will be a “central issue” in the legislature as the current evaluation formula bases 60 percent of ratings on classroom observation.
In Other Ed News
NPR highlights a new report released by Melissa Tooley and Laura Bornfreund of the New America Foundation which states that schools should focus on the same skills, habits, attitudes, and mindsets covered in high-quality preschool program, with older kids. The authors point to research that shows that listening, sharing, following directions, making friends, managing big emotions and planning for the future are just as important as academics.