Week of March 30, 2015

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Teacher Prep
Have a long commute and interested in learning a little more about teacher preparation in the Great Lakes State? Michigan Radio has just the thing for you: all this week they are airing a special series, "Learning to Teach," focused on how Michigan’s teacher prep programs are doing at graduating effective teachers. The series will look at topics such as classroom management and training teachers for urban classrooms.
TEACH grants, which were created in 2007 to provide $4,000 a year in tuition aid to teacher candidates who teach a minimum of four years in a high-need subject in a low-income school, are the focus of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which found that a third of the grants were converted to loans. Stephen Sawchuk reports on possible explanations and ongoing conversations around the loans, including as an incentive incorporated into the new proposed federal regulations.
District Matters
Next year, new teachers in Duval County, Florida will be paid based on performance. The new pay schedule, approved unanimously by the school board, will allow teachers to make more money based on evaluations and student achievement. Veteran teachers have the option of switching to the new pay schedule or remaining on the traditional pay plan with raises based on seniority. According to NewsJAX 4, the new pay schedule will allow teachers to make more money faster — a recommendation of our recent report Smart Money.
Seven Tennessee school districts are suing the state for failing to provide adequate funding for education. The districts, led by the Hamilton County Board of Education, are asking the courts to make the state address the chronically underfunded education system. Specifically, they argue that the current funding formula fails to provide for the cost of teacher professional development and mentoring, accurately account for the cost of teacher salaries and provide adequate funding for teaching supplies and materials, among other things. Chalkbeat Tennessee has the details.
New York City reported good news about its absent teacher reserve pool: data says its shrinking. The pool is made up of teachers whose positions were eliminated but who never found a school placement through the district’s mutual consent hiring process. Between April 2014 and February 2015, 289 teachers from the pool left the district, more than the previous two years combined. Most of the departing teachers either retired or took advantage of a one-time severance package offer, but 53 teachers were counseled out of the profession and 19 were fired, according to WNYC. For background on the agreement that precipitated this reduction in the pool, read our archived blog entry on NYC’s 2014 teachers contract.
State Matters
If lawmakers give teachers a raise but no one qualifies for it, will it make a noise? Governor Tomblin of West Virginia signed a bill mandating a $2,000 pay raise for teachers in persistently low performing schools. As the Charleston Gazette reports, the law is not universal, as only teachers that are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards who agree to mentor other teachers at low performing schools are eligible for the raise. A current count of teachers who meet those criteria: 0. But there are hopes that this funding will serve as an incentive for teachers to meet the criteria. There is language in the law allowing districts to use their own funds to increase pay or give other incentives to all highly qualified teachers who teach in the lowest performing schools. This opens the door for districts to use differentiated pay to attract effective teachers to underperforming schools, which was not allowed under the previous language.