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Marsha Ratzel: Taking My Students on a Classroom Tour

Marsha Ratzel on Teaching Math

David Ginsburg: Coach G's Teaching Tips

The Great Fire Wall of China

As my regular readers know, I am writing from China these days, and have been doing so four years so far. Sometimes the blog becomes inaccessible to me, making it impossible to post regularly. In fact, starting in late September 2014, China began interfering with many Google-owned entities of which Blogspot is one. If the blog seems to go dark for a while, please know I will be back as soon as I can get in again. I am sometimes blocked for many weeks at a time. I hope to have a new post up soon if I can gain access. Thank you for your understanding and loyalty.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Last Hired, First Fired Punishes Expert Teachers

Steve Owens has posted quite a fine article about the single salary schedule used by most districts to determine teacher salaries.

I'm afraid Mr. Owens' article leaves out some important information about how most schools actually implement their single salary schedules.

The single salary schedule rewards only teachers who stay in the same district their entire career. A teacher who moves to a new district is deemed an out-of-district teacher. IF such a teacher can even be hired ( and the more years of experience, the more unemployable), that teacher will have to take a pay cut to the level of 5 years since most districts will give credit for no more than 5 years of experience.

Pity the teacher who returns to the US after decades of experience overseas as a DODDS teacher. They are out-of-district for every district in America. They have to be willing to take a steep pay cut relative to their education (most have Masters degrees) and experience. They are bargain basement teachers, but most schools consider their extra pay too high when compared to a new graduate with no experience “because we have budget cuts, doncha know?”

Mr. Owens states, “Seniority is "last in, first out" which prevents veteran teachers from being terminated in favor of younger, cheaper workers.” Last in, first out guarantees that newly hired expert teachers will also be the first let go, in favor of younger, cheaper teachers, never mind the expert teacher is a bargain to begin with.

He also states, “A large population of career educators has stuck around, and has acquired additional training and education.” It is exactly those teachers, who instead of being rewarded, get punished by the way the single salary schedule is implemented in most districts.

Many private schools have similar single salary schedules and implement them with the same deleterious policies and effects.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Data Drives (Instead of Informing)

According to Justin Baeder, “Data is merely one tool at the disposal of skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals.”

The crux of the matter is no one is confident that our classrooms are indeed staffed by “skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals.” In fact, just the opposite. Districts routinely reject expert teachers in favor of novices, whether traditionally or alternatively certified. Even more unbelievable, it is possible for expert teachers to encounter insurmountable obstacles to certification in other states.

No wonder expert teachers end up selling insurance.

No matter how much we debate teacher accountability and the control, or lack thereof, that teachers have over the variables which affect academic achievement, it is beyond dispute that teachers have a huge impact on quality of instruction. The first thing our society needs to do is value education, not only in word, but in deed, by ascribing to teachers the highest esteem. Only then will schools of education be able to become way more selective. Then our most able students might be attracted to a career in teaching.

Right now, about half our education students are idealistic and highly able, and the other half are pragmatically looking for a job. There needs to be a lot more of the first group. Nevertheless, Mr. Baeder's points about the role of data are well-taken. Data is in the driver's seat because teachers are not.