The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Financial Failure Encourages Teacher Training

A recent USA Today article asserts that the financial downturn is responsible for more applicants to teacher ed. programs, specifically Teach For America.

Eh, their arguments on the causes are pretty flawed, and we could discuss whether the growing numbers are good or bad, but they have some interesting stats about the growth of TFA. I thought I'd share:

2000 4,068


Tough Times for Good Teachers

I am a big fan of the American Enterprise Institute. When I was in DC, I attended at least one conference there, and my institute worked closely with them on a variety of projects.

One of their scholars, Charles Murray, writes an essay about some of the factors that run good teachers out of the classroom. He recently wrote a book about education in America, and included the stories of three of the best teachers he could find. Those three teachers have left the public schools where they taught for three different reasons.

Now, Murray has a controversial history, and his recent book raises some points that are sure to cause lively discussion, but his story of three good teachers leaving the classroom speaks for itself.

You know, the goals of our education system are different today than they were 15 years ago. Our schools don't do the same job now that they did then. Teachers don't do the same job they did then. I don't know if it's good or bad (it's probably at least a little of both).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Restoring the Right to Fail

I am amazed that sometimes I can disagree with a reasonable person, and disagree so greatly that we both find the other's position incomprehensible.

This is how I sometimes feel in the midst of debates over grading policy. We're not talking about curriculum or teaching practices, but rather what constitutes "Mastery." While I understand how we could differ on the definition of mastery, the spectrum of definitions is so broad, that I do find some positions hard to understand.

The Seattle Times reports in this article, that Seattle public high schools are going to allow teachers to give failing grades for the first time since 2000.

Previously, students were issued "No Credit" and the score did NOT affect their GPA. I don't get it, but feel free to post your comments.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Increase in Questionable Education Degrees

A Washington Post article discusses an increase in educators with higher degrees from "diploma mills."

It's such an interesting topic with soooooo many facets. Here are some of my quick takes:
  • The education profession does not reward merit, but overemphasizes calendar experience and degrees. This means degrees are overvalued to begin with. Further, Districts award stipends for advanced degrees. This means all degrees are equally valued. A Master's from Yale is paid the same bonus as a Master's from Walden University Online.
  • There is a big gap between the theory of education degrees and the practicality of the classroom. Degree applicants know this, and so they do not respect their own degree enough to put too much effort into them. Some programs emphasize mentorship and practicums, but those are rare.
  • Educators work hard at their jobs, and CANNOT put too much effort into their degrees.
  • Dissertations are often stat-driven. This is a weakness for many liberal arts majors. Resulting in comments like these:
    Other experts said the quality of education-related dissertations is often poor.

    "Oh, it just gets so bad," said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president of the Teachers College at Columbia University. "People writing dissertations in which they ask, 'How do you feel about this? How do you feel about that?' They run statistical tests that you can't run. They pose questions that you can't answer with the research you've done."
  • My most important comment: You get out of a program whatever you put into it. Some programs encourage/guide/require their students to put more into a degree than other programs do. It is possible to get an outstanding, effective education from most any program.