Week of January 5, 2015

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District Matters
Two big school districts are moving towards longer school days. In Boston, the new contract adds 40 more minutes to class time in elementary and middle schools. According to the Boston Globe, the plan will be phased in over the next few years, and how schools use the time will be up to them. In Philadelphia, the district has announced its intentions to increase the school day in the next contract, Kevin McCorry reports. Check out our previous analyses of Boston and Philadelphia’s school day length in our district studies.
In an attempt to identify promising teachers before hiring, school districts are increasingly turning to consulting firms to make use of data-driven screening systems. This mirrors a wider revolution in hiring practices in other sectors but is leaving many people wary about just how the algorithms work and which data points they have set to correlate with success. Stephanie Simon explores these reservations and several of the tools in Politico.
State Matters
In the last days of 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York vetoed legislation that would have delayed the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Although Cuomo had previously agreed to the delay, he ultimately vetoed the legislation after seeing the evaluation results from the previous year in which only about one percent of teachers in New York City were rated ineffective. He said that there was no need to “further inflate these already inflated ratings,” according to the New York Post.
Is Indiana’s teacher evaluation system all it was designed to be? Some think not, according to a recent Chalkbeat Indiana article. The results from the latest teacher evaluations are nearly the same from years before the system underwent reform (about 99 percent of teachers rated effective). Supt. Glenda Ritz, who is implementing a system designed by her predecessor Tony Bennett, has allowed a significant amount of local flexibility. But from last year’s results, those variations at the local level make it even harder to find which districts are implementing the system as originally planned.
In Other Ed News
Not quite ready to let go of 2014? Take a look at these two Top Ten posts from 2014. From EdWeek, Stephen Sawchuk rounds up 10 of his most-read blog posts and Ross Brenneman pulls ten interesting charts that may have been overshadowed by the report recommendations and conclusions. We’re proud to see NCTQ’s work highlighted in both lists. Ready to look ahead to 2015? Review Andrew Rotherham’s take on five issues to watch in the new year and Claudio Sanchez’s six education stories to watch out for, including one related to NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review.
“The residency is the hardest part of this program. If you can make it through that year, you will be set,” says  Kevin Chandler, a fellow with the Urban Teacher Residency in Baltimore. The residency, a 15-month program that prepares teaching candidates before they start as full-time classroom teachers, is nothing short of challenging. But it produces some of the best teachers who actually remain in the classroom for the long haul, according to one principal in Marketplace’s recent coverage of the program. As Jennifer Green, the program’s co-founder and CEO, explains it, “One aim of the residency is to make sure that our residents are up for the grueling nature of the task.”