On the Outside Looking In: Teacher Training

Via Ed Week

In a way, what's most discouraging about the news from this National Council and associates is the continued emphasis on the relatively (in comparison to other countries) low standards of admission at some (many?) schools of education. The saddest thing is that the cause-and-effect here is so blurred, and the cycle it sets up so clear. We dis our teacher ed programs for being unselective, but there's a certain thing about selectivity: you can only select from the applicants you have. When a profession is regularly subjected to criticism, even humiliation, in the public forum, when a profession is demonstrably underpaid and offered increasingly lower levels of job security, how, then, I ask, is it going to attract all those top-flight applicants that NCTQ/USNWR would like to see in the pipeline? Simply put, as a society we're not going to inspire vast numbers of our top college students to enter the field of teaching until we've figured out a way to make teaching as attractive as financial services or engineering.

The voices, at least in the political and economic arenas, that seem to enjoy slagging teachers and the teaching profession are often enough the same ones that can't wait until we make college into a solidly specialized pre-vocational experience (leavened by football games and beer-pong, perhaps) aimed at producing the "innovators" and entrepreneurs that our society so urgently needs. I get the value in innovation and entrepreneurship, but don't we also need podiatrists, yoga instructors, graphic designers, social workers, farmers, philosophers--and teachers? Sure, we're all humbled by boy geniuses who make zillions with their software ideas while the rest of us toil for our daily bread, but we toilers are necessary as customers for their software and to keep the boy geniuses fed and healthy. (And isn't there an irony in that so many of the boy geniuses have tended to be college drop-outs?)

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Education News for 05-15-2013

State Education News

  • Legislators try to combat school-standards rumors (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Tom Gibbs has reluctantly watched conservative commentator Glenn Beck and is up to speed on the criticisms of the new Common Core…Read more...

  • Columbus school district’s staffs being interviewed a 2nd time (Columbus Dispatch)
  • State investigators started a second round of interviews with dozens of teachers at most of the Columbus school district’s high schools yesterday…Read more...

  • School board urged not to arm teachers (Newark Advocate)
  • Top state law enforcement officials urged members of Ohio’s state school board Tuesday not to support arming untrained teachers with guns in response to recent school shootings…Read more...

  • School board members hear ideas on school safety, but seem to be rejecting arming teachers (Ohio Public Radio)
  • School safety was the top topic for the state board of education, which hoped to learn about how to make buildings, staff and students more secure…Read more...

  • Brookfield in fiscal emergency (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • The Brookfield Local School District is in a state of fiscal emergency, according to a report released Tuesday by Auditor of State Dave Yost…Read more...

  • State Board Hears Ways To Boost School Safety (WBNS)
  • Ohio’s top law enforcers addressed members of the state school board as it considers how to best update its school safety polices…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Cleveland school board OKs new teachers contract (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • The Cleveland school board Tuesday night approved a groundbreaking contract with its teachers, while also picking a new home for district offices…Read more...

  • No one told teachers they would lose jobs (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Less than two weeks before the May 7 election, Groveport Madison schools announced $2 million in cuts if voters turned down…Read more...

  • Treasurer’s mistake cuts up to $1.5M off Jonathan Alder’s budget (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Officials in the Jonathan Alder school district in Madison County don’t know how much money they have to operate on next school year…Read more...

  • Lorain School Board hears high school update, approves busing contract (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • The new Lorain High School has stayed within budget during its design development phase and few changes have happened since the initial design…Read more...

  • Lorain City Schools reassessing its 'Success for All' reading program (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • Lorain City Schools is reevaluating its “Success For All” reading program and could switch to a new system by next year…Read more...

  • Some Youngstown school principals to be in new posts (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Some positions are being reshuffled to align with the new city school building configuration…Read more...

Bill Gates Dances Around the Teacher Evaluation Disaster He Sponsored

No one in America has done more to promote the raising of stakes for test scores in education than Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Mr. Gates published a column that dances around the disaster his advocacy has created in the schools of our nation.

You can read his words there, but his actions have spoken so much more loudly, that I cannot even make sense out of what he is attempting to say now. So let's focus first on what Bill Gates has wrought.

No Child Left Behind was headed towards bankruptcy about seven years ago. The practice of labeling schools as failures and closing them, on the basis of test scores, was clearly causing a narrowing of the curriculum. Low income schools in Oakland eliminated art, history and even science in order to focus almost exclusively on math and reading. The arrival of Arne Duncan and his top level of advisors borrowed from the Gates Foundation created the opportunity for a re-visioning of the project.

Both the Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers processes required states and districts to put in place teacher and principal evaluation systems which placed "significant" weight on test scores. This was interpreted by states to mean that test scores must count for at least 30% to 50% of an evaluation.

The Department of Education had told the states how high they had to jump, and the majority did so.

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Education News for 10-12-2012

State Education News

  • Superintendent evaluation process varies (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • While Race to the Top and other education reform movements are putting an emphasis on teacher and principal evaluations, there is no uniform method for evaluating superintendents…Read more...

  • CTC programs take students from classroom to workforce (Portsmouth Daily Times)
  • The Scioto County Career Technical Center has changed faces since its old days as “VoTech,” with a significant growth…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Former Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett to take over top post in Chicago (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard stepped down Thursday after a little more than a year in the post, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said…Read more...

  • Levy failure would result in loss of up to 20 teachers (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • Failure of Amherst schools 4.9-mill levy, Issue 28, would mean up to 20 more teaching positions would be eliminated, Superintendent Steve Sayers said…Read more...

  • Nonstudents enter LaBrae High, triggering a lockdown of school (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • LaBrae High School was on lockdown for 90 minutes Thursday morning after three young men walked into the school who were not students there and were noticed by a teacher…Read more...


  • Access denied (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • State agencies catch grief for layers of bureaucracy that waste time and money. Many times, the problem originates with the General Assembly. Ohio’s Statewide Student Identifier system…Read more...

Mirroring Microsofts failing system

Vanity Fair has a preview of an about to be published expose on the failings of Microsoft, the software company that now corporate education reformer Bill Gates founded

Analyzing one of American corporate history’s greatest mysteries—the lost decade of Microsoft—two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.’s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at the company that “could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success.” Relying on dozens of interviews and internal corporate records—including e-mails between executives at the company’s highest ranks—Eichenwald offers an unprecedented view of life inside Microsoft during the reign of its current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in the August issue. Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.

It's revealed that one of the primary causes of the decline, is related to the evaluation system they implemented, a system which in many aspects is mirrors the direction corporate education reformers are trying (and succeeding!) in taking teacher evaluations

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Teachers will also be under similar pressure to compete against peers, rather than trust their natural instincts and best practices to collaborate.

Like shoving a pig through a snake

Greg, over at has an interesting piece discussing the many, many "top priorities" attempting to be implemented in Ohio K-12 education right now. He lists common core, new state tests, PARCC assessments moving online only, teacher and principal evaluations, teacher retesting and the new report card grading system, 3rd grade reading retention, voucher expansion, to name just a handful.

Having so many "top priorities" with imminent implementation dates, makes their individual success less likely, Greg smartly argues, using business management guru, Patrick Lencioni's writing

Most organizations I’ve worked with have too many top priorities to achieve the level of focus they need to succeed. Wanting to cover all their bases, they establish a long list of disparate objectives and spread their scarce time, energy, and resources across them all. The result is almost always a lot of initiatives being done in a mediocre way and a failure to accomplish what matters most.

When a CEO announces that her company’s top priorities for the year are to grow revenue, improve customer service, introduce more innovative products, cut expenses, and improve market share, she is almost guaranteeing that none of those objectives is going to get the attention it deserves.

Right after reading this, we read this article in the Plain Dealer, titled "Ohio schools prepare for another budget hit"

For the past year, many school districts across Ohio have been asked to do more with less after the state budget suddenly reimbursed them far less for lost business taxes -- called tangible personal property taxes -- than they had been getting. While keeping basic state aid flowing to schools, Gov. John Kasich made the change to help avoid a multibillion-dollar deficit.
The state had set up the reimbursement plan years before when it replaced tangible personal property taxes with a different business tax -- the commercial activities tax. Revenue from that new tax goes to the state instead of directly to districts.

The result will be a fiscal crunch for schools for the second year in a row.

Northeast Ohio's 97 districts will take a harder hit than some other parts of the state.

They'll see an increase of more than $9 million in basic state aid next school year -- about 15 percent of the statewide increase. But they will receive almost $74 million less in business tax reimbursements -- about a third of the loss statewide.

It's challenging enough to continue to provide a quality education in an environment of deep, widespread, funding cuts, but when coupled with a huge list of "top priorities" it is a recipe for disaster.

What is missing from the list of "top priorities", and missing from the legislatures mid biennium review (MBR) is a constitutional school funding mechanism that will prove to be fair, equitable and adequate to implement not only a quality education for all, but fund all these other pet project "priorities".

The Governor and his legislature have placed an incredible burden on school districts and their administrative and teaching staff, and simultaneously failed to provide the requisite support. That needs to change.