Week of December 8, 2014

See all posts

There has been no shortage of coverage of the challenges teachers are facing as the nation’s classrooms transition to college- and career-readiness standards. But what about new teachers, who don’t have to make this transition?  Are they ready to teach to these standards?
The 2014 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, released today, finds that most states have yet to make the critical changes this alignment necessitates. With such profound changes occurring in K-12 standards, it would stand to reason that requirements for new teachers would be changing, too. Looking across states’ requirements, we found just five states – Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas – that are on the right track for ensuring new teachers are ready. Arkansas is also noteworthy, having done more than most other states to revise its standards for teachers to reflect the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards.
But most states have considerable work to do. The Yearbook offers each state full analyses, state-specific recommendations and best practices examples to help ensure that new teachers will be ready for the higher standards their students are expected to achieve.  Search our dashboard or download a report here.
Teacher Prep
Usually, tests are seen as a way to measure learning. However, as Benedict Careyexplains in the New York Times, tests also can help students learn. By forcing students to recall information, tests strengthen the brain connections that store information and increase the odds that the information will be available in the future. Well-designed quizzes and homework can have the same effect. Of course, to take advantage of this principle, teachers must know about it, and the rest of a small but instrumental set of principles that describe how students learn. An upcoming NCTQ report, to be released this spring, will examine whether teacher candidates are taught “fundamentals of instruction” that reveal how students learn and what teachers can do to maximize learning. Stay tuned.
New, tougher teaching certification exams were rolled out with the Common Core standards, and would-be teachers in New York began taking the tests in the spring — but they’re not doing too well. The Observer Dispatch shares that now, candidates must pass four exams, including a new test called the Teaching Performance Assessment, or edTPA rather than the previous three. The edTPA asks for a full portfolio of work, including a video of the candidate teaching.
District Matters
Teacher pay was in the news this week with the release of our latest district policy paper: Smart Money: What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them.US News showed the difference in the time it takes teachers to reach top earnings compared to other professions. The Baltimore Sun pointed out that starting salariesdon’t always tell the whole story. Read the report here
Contentious contract talks continue in Los Angeles between the teachers union and LAUSD. The LA School Report notes that the district upped its pay proposal this week and sought a deal that would have settled compensation for this school year. But, according to the United Teachers Los Angeles president, the union will not settle for the offer on pay only; they will continue to negotiate around a package of issues including a 10 percent raise.
In New York City, the pool of excessed teachers shrank to its lowest level in five years but still included 505 teachers without full-time positions (compared to 560 last year). According to Chalkbeat New York, 97 teachers took the district up on its buyout offer. The buyout and the absence of new school closures resulted in lower numbers in the pool; increased hiring of existing teachers in the pool by schools did not seem to be a factor.
State Matters
Missouri state Senator Ed Emery filed a bill that, if passed, would eliminate teacher tenure and require districts to base a teacher’s pay on student performance. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Senator Emery filed similar legislation last year that was never brought to the floor and he filed again this year despite the failure of a state ballot measure to remove tenure in the most recent election.
The state of New York is increasingly attracting more academically capable individuals into the teaching profession, a new report shows. Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week writes that these gains are largely due to an increase in the percent of teacher candidates who are in the top third of the SAT score distribution and the decline of the percent of candidates who are in the bottom third. 
In Other Ed News
Be sure to check out ConnCAN's revised teacher and administrator contract database, the Connecticut cousin to NCTQ’s Teacher Contract Database. ConnCAN’s database compares teacher and administrator contracts in over 100 districts across the Nutmeg State and they’ve revised the website with new key findings, trends and an analysis of contracts from Connecticut's "Big 3" districts (Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven). The database allows users to access individual contracts, compare up to four contracts, search information related to key contract provisions and access highlights of state trends and notable contract provisions.