Teacher Shortage: Why Are We Surprised?

Across the country, districts are struggling with shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science and special education — a result of the layoffs of the recession years combined with an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers …

In California, the number of people entering teacher preparation programs dropped by more than 55 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Nationally, the drop was 30 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to federal data. Alternative programs like Teach for America, which will place about 4,000 teachers in schools across the country this fall, have also experienced recruitment problems …

“There are not enough people who will look at teacher education or being a teacher as a job that they want to pursue,” said Carlos Ayala, dean of the school of education at Sonoma State University.

Read the NYTimes article here.

The Need for Sleep

Fewer than 1 in 5 middle and high schools in the U.S. began the school day at the recommended 8:30 AM start time or later during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Too-early start times can keep students from getting the sleep they need for health, safety, and academic success, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Read the CDC press release here.

What do you do when you come to a hurdle? You jump.

How much do I love Neal de Grasse Tyson’s response to a young girl’s question: Do you know scientists who are dyslexic? So much …

Tyson doesn’t just say “yes,” he explains that he knows many scientists with issues — but that those are not barriers to their success as scientists. His response reflects a critical aspect of learning: mindset. Dyslexia (or dyscalculia, autism, ADD, etc.) will not prevent your success if you believe in yourself and give yourself time to learn.

You can’t just cherry-pick data and choose what is true about the world and what isn’t.

Promoting his new show StarTalk, Neil deGrasse Tyson said:

So what does it mean to complain about what politicians do? We should complain about what the electorate does. I’m an educator, so I see it as one of my duties, especially as a science educator, to alert people of what science is and how it works. About what it means for there to be an objective truth that we would then act upon.

Yes! Read the entire interview.

Now we are 6. Ready for college!

Things that make you go hmmmm.

It wasn’t so long ago in our history that kids were expected to go to work at a young age to help support their families. It has been considered a hallmark of an enlightened and progressive culture that we provide schooling as a time for childhood.

Is it no longer okay to just be a kid?

Check out this video from the NY Times

Funny, It Doesn’t Feel Like June

Sure it’s cold outside and the end of the year feels far, far away. But believe it or not, it’s time to be thinking about your summative evaluation.

No matter which teacher practice evaluation model your district is using, there is a standard or domain that deals with professional responsibilities (Standard 1 in McREL, Domain 4 in Danielson, Domains 3 and 4 in Marzano, Standard 6 in Stronge, Standard F in Marshall).

This is the “backstage” work of teaching — very little of it can be seen when visiting a classroom to conduct walk-throughs or observations. This is an evaluation area dealing with participation in the professional community, leading and collaborating, and practicing in an ethical manner. For many years, teachers have been evaluated on these criteria in a binary fashion: satisfactory or not. Now part of the teacher evaluation process, professional responsibilities criteria must be examined and rated on (minimally) a four-level rubric.

Most of the evaluation models are rather generic when it comes to describing a teacher’s professional responsibilities. In school districts where the rubrics have not been further developed to provide concrete local exemplars of effective and highly effective practice, both supervisors and teachers are understandably perplexed about what constitutes enough data for analysis and exactly what those data represent.

This has resulted in something I like to call “Shopping Bag Syndrome.” Just prior to the summative evaluation conference, teachers frantically grab documents that represent their professional practice throughout the school year. They haul reams of documentation into their evaluation conference. It’s time to change this practice: the issue is not quantity, but quality.

Consider the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It houses millions of works of art spanning all of human history. It can’t possibly display everything! Instead, the curators choose a small percentage of its available artwork to exhibit in order to tell a specific story.

If you gathered every piece of paper or digital artifact that represents the work you do all year, it might fill a museum gallery as well! But this is both impractical and burdensome. Instead, you should curate — just as the Metropolitan Museum does — and carefully select a few items that represent the high quality of your professional responsibilities throughout the year.

If a supervisor tells you it’s not enough “stuff,” ask for a specific description of what is needed. If it’s just about collecting paper, you can easily do that. But how does that translate into effective and highly effective practice? Insist on clear exemplars for each of the professional responsibilities.

Why think about this in February? To avoid frantically scrambling through your files in June. This work is too important to be reduced to dumping reams of paper in shopping bags. Allow plenty of time to curate and gather a few exceptional examples of your practice that demonstrate your highly effective professionalism.

This article appeared in the February issue of the NJEA Review.


The tension between teacher evaluation and professional growth

In Evaluating America’s Teachers, W. James Popham writes:

Formative teacher evaluation describes evaluation activities directed toward the improvement of the teacher’s ongoing instruction … summative teacher evaluation refers to the appraisal of a teacher …

… a teacher who needs to improve must honestly identify those personal deficit areas that need improvement. Weaknesses can’t be remedied until they’ve been identified, and who knows better what teachers’ shortcomings are than those teachers themselves? But if the teacher is interacting with an evaluator whose mission, even partially, may be to excise that teacher from the teacher’s job, do you really think most teachers are going to candidly identify their own perceived shortcomings for such an evaluator? Not a chance!

Suggesting a major overhaul to the way we are doing things.

Truth from Richard Elmore

Richard Elmore says:

…the weight of politics and public policy upon the institutions of schooling is making schools less and less likely to be the privileged place where learning occurs in the future.

and then …

While learning has largely escaped the boundaries of institutionalized schooling, educational reformers have for the past thirty years or so deliberately and systematically engaged in public policy choices that make schools less and less capable of responding to the movement of learning into society at large.

Standards and expectations have become more and more literal and highly prescriptive in an age where human beings will be exercising more and more choice over what and how they will learn.

Testing and assessment practices have become more and more conventional and narrow as the range of competencies  required to negotiate digital culture has become more complex and highly variegated.

Teacher preparation, hiring, induction, and evaluation practices have become more and more rigid and hierarchical in an age where the teaching function is migrating out into a more individualized and tailored set of learning environments.

and finally …

…it would be hard to imagine an institutional structure for learning that is less suited for the future than the heavily institutionalized, hierarchical world that education reformers have constructed.

The entire post is here and well worth your time.

Arguing against “coding for all”

Nathaniel Calhoun writes:

If I have the attention of a classroom of young, poorly educated, low-income citizens of the world for three hours a week over the next six months, what is the absolute most important thing that I can teach them?

I’m a pragmatist, so I might rephrase that question: Is there anything I could teach this class of students that will actually confer an advantage upon them, which helps them to become more secure and better able to meet their needs and those of their families?

I think there is. But it isn’t trying to anticipate what professional skills will be in demand four years later.

This is an interesting and cogent argument against the “coding for all” movement. In the end, I believe it’s most important to teach problem identification and solution skills using content that resonates with the learner. If that’s learning to code, fine. But it might not be …

Full article here.

Thanks @yonkeltron!