Week of March 23, 2015

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Teacher Prep
In the midst of finalizing new regulations requiring states to rate the quality of their teacher preparation programs, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has provided anhonest self-assessment of his agency. The Washington Post quotes Duncan as saying the Department of Ed deserves a “low grade” and has “light years to go” in making the necessary changes to regulations for teacher prep programs. He is particularly concerned with how no one, including the Department of Ed, has yet figured out how to get the best teachers in the most difficult schools.
New teacher certification test data out of New York show substantial achievement disparities based on race. Chalkbeat New York reports that while pass rates for all students dropped due to more rigorous tests, the 2013-14 data indicate 48 percent of black candidates, 56 percent Hispanic candidates and 75 percent of white candidates passed the new literacy exam.  These data provide additional fodder to the debate around how to attract, prepare and retain more teachers of color. Minnesota, for example, has only 4 percent of teachers that are not white and districts are looking into ways to “grow your own” teacher prep program to address the lack of racial diversity. In both cases, NCTQ cautions that expectations for admission and achievement should remain high – increasing racial diversity and maintaining a high bar need not be mutually exclusive endeavors.
District Matters
Denver Public Schools is temporarily changing its accountability ratings for schools,Chalkbeat Colorado reports. A school’s rating is an important component in decisions about the allocation of financial and staff resources and it influences employee compensation and school management. In the upcoming school year schools will not be rated on one aggregate scale and will instead receive ratings in several categories. The switch is due to the change in state tests occurring this year. The district is also planning to make a set of more permanent changes next year.
From California to West Virginia, school districts around the country are facing substitute teacher shortages. Although there is no national data on substitute teacher demands, many districts and states report difficulty finding enough substitutes. To address the issue, some districts are raising substitute pay or requiring administrators to fill-in when substitutes are not available. The Associated Press has the full story.
In Shelby County, Tennessee, the district’s superintendent has scrapped a proposal to move towards a performance pay system. The proposed plan would have given salary increases to teachers of up to $1,200 for scoring in the top three levels in the evaluation system. In terms of what the pay system will look like next year, the district may revert back to payment based on experience and additional educational attainment, according to Chalkbeat Tennessee.
State Matters
In New York, Governor Cuomo has been fighting for a series of education reforms including changing the teacher evaluation system. Across the state, 96 percent of teachers were rated as effective or highly effective, yet only 38 percent of students graduate high school ready for college or careers. The governor says that these results are simply unbelievable. The New York Times covers his proposal and the reaction to it.
What does the public think of last in, first out layoff policies? In Minnesota, the answer is not much. A poll conducted by the Star Tribune found that 68 percent of the state’s residents believe layoffs should be based on teacher performance while less than 20 percent believe that seniority should continue to be the primary factor.
In Other Ed News
Check out what 550+ young education professionals across the country have to say about their career and professional development needs in Young Education Professionals’ (YEP) second annual report – YEP Voices: Mapping the Young Education Professional’s Career Pathway. There’s a little bit for everyone. If you’re a young professional, the report can be used as a tool to learn from peers. If you’re a mentor, supervisor, hiring manager or just someone in the education community, the report can help you understand the goals, needs and overall career pathways of young education professionals so you can better support and retain them over time.