Week of February 23, 2015

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Teacher Prep
In a nod to NCTQ’s Easy A’s paper, Nancy Zimpher, the chancellor of the State University of New York, and Thomas Lasley, have penned an Inside Higher Ed piece in which they indicate there should be No Easy A’s in teacher prep. In highlighting two points on which we agree — that teacher education programs are vital to teacher quality and improving teacher quality is accomplished through more rigor in teacher prep — they make a clear call for programs to “hear critics’ legitimate complaints” and “provide and demand more rigorous clinically-based teacher education.”
Two recent pieces by deans from Deans for Impact caught our eye: In a Shanker Blog piece, Dr. Frank Hernandez and Dr. Corinne Mantle-Bromley join forces with Benjamin Riley to lay out the “hard truth” that in order for students of color and those who live in rural communities to receive a high-quality education, we must “elevate the expectations” for every teacher preparation program and change the incentives within the field. In aWashington Post piece, Dr. Robert Pianta touches on draft Department of Education regulations for teacher preparation programs and calls for his colleagues in teacher prep programs to take responsibility for both the “mission” and “outcomes” of programs. Both are worth a read.
District Matters

Teachers in Los Angeles are one step closer to a strike — but don’t get out your picket signs just yet. Ed Week reports that LA Unified joined the United Teacher Los Angeles in declaring an impasse last week. Pay and evaluations are high on the list of issues still under discussion. A mediator will work with the two parties and, if that doesn’t result in an agreement, a fact-finding panel will hear arguments and prepare a report on their conclusions. Only after that process can a strike (or the imposition of the last, best and final offer) occur legally.

Districts in and around Sacramento, California are facing a substitute teacher shortage that makes scheduling as tricky as a chess game, the Sacramento Bee reports. Low pay, a shrinking pool of substitutes, and increased professional development requirements which take teachers out of the classroom are making it hard to find a teacher for every class, especially in higher-need schools, they report.
State Matters
The Arizona Department of Education recently released a report on teacher retention and recruitment. The report was issued in part to help develop a response to a teacher shortage. Some Arizona districts are finding it difficult to fill positions in areas like special education, with rural districts facing particularly difficult recruitment hurdles, according to the Arizona Education News Service. Among the report’s recommendations are increasing teacher salary, developing a multi-year induction program for new teachers and streamlining certification requirements.
In Other Ed News

In recent months, the concept of teacher leadership has been in the spotlight. As Ruthanna Buck, senior advisor to Arne Duncan, explains in this Education Week story, “[Policy] implementation has been most effective in the places where it has been teacher-driven and teacher-led, collaborative change.” The Department of Education has embraced the concept, as illustrated by the recent Teach to Lead initiative which strives to elevate and include teacher voice in policy. Advocates for teacher leadership note that for broad change to occur, state and district policymakers will have to exhibit the same level of interest and pursue structural supports for teacher leadership systems, including offering genuine professional development opportunities and making space in school culture to accommodate teacher voice.