Week of November 10, 2014

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Teaching is tough, no doubt about it. Yet the word on teacher prep is that it's an easy -- not a tough -- major. Why the disconnect? NCTQ's latest report, Easy A's and What's Behind Them, confirms that teacher candidates in most prep programs earn higher grades than their campus peers. Just as importantly, the report takes a close look at the assignments given to undergraduates across teacher prep and other majors and finds that the training teacher candidates receive is less valuable than it should be; the preponderance of assignments have a particular form of weakness we call "criterion-deficiency." Criterion-deficient assignments don’t focus on critical content and skills, making it difficult for instructors to measure and provide productive feedback about candidates’ mastery. (Sounds complicated, but we're so confident that you'll be able to make this distinction yourself that we’ve included a do-it-yourself quiz on identifying criterion-deficient assignments in  the report.) Because these characteristics mean that criterion-deficient assignments can often only be evaluated primarily on more superficial grounds such as completion, they also drive higher grades. Find the full report here.
On Thursday, November 13th at 4:30pm EST Kate Walsh (@nctqKate) will host a policy-oriented twitter chat on #easyAs. We’ll follow that up with another chat specifically for teachers on Monday, November 17 at 8pm EST.
Teacher Prep
In an analysis of more than 500 undergraduate teacher preparation programs, reportsU.S. News & World Report, researchers found education majors were significantly more likely to receive high grades than students with other majors. "You’re not doing anyone any favors … by handing out meaningless A’s that send a signal that says you’re prepared, and you get into a real classroom and it’s like hitting a brick wall," says Kate Walsh. "Every piece of evidence points to the fact that teachers aren't getting prepared adequately to enter the classroom, by and large." 
"Teaching is probably the hardest thing in the world to do, but we're making it so easy to get in and out of, in terms of prep," shared Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ, with theHuffington Post. She said the Easy A’s report shows, "Yes, teacher education does give out way many more A's than other majors."
The Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTEP), a new project initiated by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, is bringing together 38 teams of university,and community college faculty and K-12 educators from across the country to adapt secondary-math training programs to the Common Core. Ed Week takes a look at how the project tries to harness collective expertise to address the complex challenge by piloting approaches in five areas: developing effective clinical experiences, refining courses, instilling active learning, attracting teacher hopefuls and deepening assessments.
District Matters
What goes down must go up? This year 60 percent of New York City teachers wereawarded tenure on their first shot, up from 53 percent last year according to WYNC. For the first time in four years, less than 40 percent of teachers had their probationary period continued. Two percent of teachers were denied tenure altogether compared to 3 percent in recent years. Time will tell if this change is the result of a strong group of teachers up for tenure or a change in approach by Chancellor Fariña.
State Matters
The Basic Education Program review committee in Tennessee, which reviews public education funding in the state, recommended that the state address a widening disparity in teacher salaries across the state for the eighth consecutive year. AsChalkbeat Tennessee reports, 45 percent of education funding comes from local sources with only 39 percent coming from the state. This dependence on local funding contributes to the disparities in teacher pay across the state. The review committee recommends that the state change the funding formula to address the gap.?
Last week, Proposition 104 was approved by voters in Colorado. The initiative requires school districts to bargain contract in full view of the public. In addition to holding actual bargaining sessions in public, it’s somewhat unclear what other meetings must be held in public. The president of the Colorado school board’s association notes, “The sense was that if we can't at least develop our bargaining positions privately, that's going to be a real detriment to the district and put the district at a disadvantage in relationship to the union."
Ed Research
In a new research paper, the Center for Education Data and Research analyzes the relationship between two teacher selection rubrics that are used during the teacher hiring process in Spokane Public Schools (SPS) and three teacher outcomes: value-added measures of effectiveness, teacher absence behavior, and the likelihood of attrition. Their findings show that teachers hired by Spokane are more effective (as measured by value-added) than applicants who end up employed by a different school district in Washington. Wonder why? Read here to find out.
In Other Ed News

On Monday, shares the Wall Street Journal, the federal government asked states to do their homework on teacher quality, giving them until June 2015 to produce plans to ensure all students have high-performing teachers regardless of race or income. “We want great talent in the classroom regardless of where the classrooms are,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education.

Do value-added estimates identify causal effects of teachers and schools? Thomas Kane, professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, believes the answer carries huge stakes—not just for teachers. Read his piece, published in Education Next, here.