20 February 2009

Talking Teachers

What do you think about these apples?

Science Daily is reporting "a study of 18,000 biology, chemistry and physics students has uncovered notable gender bias in student ratings of high school science teachers. Researchers at Clemson University, the University of Virginia and Harvard University have found that, on average, female high school science teachers received lower evaluations than their male counterparts even though male and female teachers are equally effective at preparing their students for college...'The importance of these findings is that they make it clear that students have developed a specific sense of gender-appropriate roles in the sciences by the end of high school,' said Geoffrey Potvin, assistant professor of engineering and science education and the department of mathematical sciences at Clemson."

At the high school I taught at, we always had equal numbers of men and women in the science department...and far more girls enrolled in upper level science courses than boys. But what happened in college in terms of pursuing studies in the sciences is unknown. Does the prevalence of white male tv scientists (Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye, Mythbusters...) reinforce a long held social stereotype? Is it important that we change things?

Some teachers in Washington state are upset by a bill introduced this legislative session which would remove the traditional salary schedule for teachers---the one that includes more pay for more education. I haven't read the bill, but the idea is interesting. So is the proposal by Alabama's governor to divide the teaching profession into levels: apprentice teacher, classroom teacher, pro­fessional teacher, master teach­er and learning designer. The idea is to "afford ex­cellent teachers with profes­sional pathways that advance their careers without making them leave the classroom." Quality over longevity (although the two can easily co-exist)? Is this opportunity for teachers to grow in their practice over the years...or a slap in the face to the tenure system?

Speaking of teacher quality, there's this article in Education Week:
A push in national circles for states to align their human-capital management systems strategically with goals for recruiting and retaining effective teachers hasn’t yet trickled down to the states, an analysis of state teacher policies reveals.

Released today by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality, the analysis contends that many states have set compensation policies that may actually work at cross-purposes to building a strong teacher workforce. Additionally, by putting into place vague guidelines around teacher-evaluation and tenure-granting processes, states are complicit in allowing poor teachers to remain in classrooms, it says.
The analysis is the council’s second annual “yearbook” of state policies. Last year’s review focused on a broader set of teacher-quality criteria.

It comes as a number of policy experts argue that districts need to better align compensation, professional development, and other aspects of the teacher-quality continuum to student-achievement goals. The topic was the subject of a national conference last fall.

And earlier this week, the Center for American Progress, a think tank headed by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff, John Podesta, released a position paper urging the federal government to establish incentive programs for states and districts willing to experiment with systems of compensating teachers, supporting them, evaluating their performance, and awarding them tenure.

The NCTQ paper found little evidence of such experimentation. It found, for example, that only 15 states require districts to take student learning into account when evaluating teachers, and only 13 allow districts to dismiss a teacher after two unsatisfactory evaluations.

Because such evaluations are also tied to the system of granting tenure, many districts can grant tenure without consideration of teaching effectiveness, the analysis indicates. Tenure prohibits the dismissal of a teacher without “just cause,” a status that must be documented through a lengthy, typically costly due-process procedure.
Alabama, by the way, scores a "C" in the NCTQ report. Perhaps they're attempts at being proactive at growing teachers is a good thing. Washington, by the way, scores lower in many areas of the report. In fact, it's rather interesting to see that Right-to-Work states score higher in most cases than those with teachers' unions. Hmmm. (As an aside, it has been wonderful this year to discover that wherever I go, I find many many others who are tired of the union sheeple that dominate conversations in this state. We just need to find a legislator willing to take it on.)

FYI...I'm posting from a previously populated queue for now. A great big Thank you! to all of you who sent me link to the recent NYT article about grading. I'm away on some personal business this week, but am looking forward to reading and writing when I return.

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