Survey: Today’s teaching force less experienced, more open to change

More inexperienced teachers are in today’s classrooms than ever before and they are more open than their veteran colleagues to performance-driven options for how they’re evaluated and paid, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Boston-based nonprofit Teach Plus, says the Hechinger Report. For the first time in decades, more than 50 percent of the nation’s teaching force is comprised of teachers who have been in the classroom under 10 years, Teach Plus found in “Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession,” which looks at the changing demographics of U.S. teachers. The national survey asked 1,015 new and veteran teachers their views on some of the most contentious issues in U.S. public education, like teacher evaluations and class size, to see if attitudes are shifting with an influx of newer teachers. Despite differences in experience, teachers are generally united when it comes to working conditions…

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First ‘parent trigger’ moves to a crucial vote after court ruling

About nine months ago, at a small park playground a few hundred feet from their children’s struggling school, a group of parents chanted, cheered and delivered passionate speeches about their growing frustration with Desert Trails Elementary, says the Hechinger Report. That Jan. 12 park rally — which drew a throng of camera crews and reporters from around the state to the tiny desert city of Adelanto, Calif. — marked the beginning of a bitter battle in the national spotlight. That was when the Desert Trails Parent Union announced its petition to use the so-called “parent trigger” law to force a major overhaul of a school. They hoped to become the first parent group in the nation to do so. On Thursday, that same park is set to become a makeshift polling place where those parents will make history. With a court ruling last week permitting the vote to go forward, parents who signed the petition last winter now have the chance to cast a ballot on the charter school operator they want to take over their neighborhood school next fall. As permitted by law, the vote won’t include parents who opposed the charter conversion or declined to be part of the petition process…

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No Hollywood ending for real-life ‘Won’t Back Down’ school

Doreen Diaz left the red carpet movie premiere of “Won’t Back Down” in New York City last week feeling encouraged, says the Hechinger Report. But then the 47-year-old mom, a figure in the unfolding education movement that “inspired” the feature film, headed back to the tiny desert city of Adelanto, Calif., and her tract home near Desert Trails Elementary School. That’s where the real battle over the so-called “parent trigger” law drags on, with no tidy Hollywood ending in sight.

“The movie makes it look a lot easier than it really is,” said Diaz, who started drumming up support to overhaul her local public school more than a year ago. “It definitely didn’t happen by just one mom wanting change.”

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Not all private schools parallel Romney education plan

Expanding school choice is a central piece of Mitt Romney’s education platform. But allowing more public dollars to follow low-income and special-needs children to private schools — one of Romney’s main proposals for reforming American education- does not guarantee those schools will open their doors to them, says the Hechinger Report. For example, a private school not far from the convention center — highlighted on the GOP Convention website as one of Florida’s best independent schools — did not take part in Florida’s first voucher program, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2006. And Tampa Preparatory School — founded in 1974 by a group of Tampa citizens, including Al Austin, chairman of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee for the Republican convention — does not participate in the state’s current school choice programs…

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Rhee at GOP convention: Reform will require ‘getting ready for a fight’

Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee called for classroom teachers unhappy with the system to brace themselves for battle, says the Hechinger Report. She spoke during a panel following the showing of “Won’t Back Down,” a film to be released this fall about a parent and teacher fighting to take over a failing school.

“There is a difference in my mind between teacher union leadership and rank-and-file teachers,” she said, adding that most teachers got into the profession wanting to have a positive impact. Fixing problems, she said, is “going to require teachers steeling themselves up and getting ready for a fight.”

“Won’t Back Down” features Maggie Gyllenhaal as the parent of a dyslexic daughter with a clearly incompetent teacher, and Viola Davis as a teacher who is convinced to try to shake up the system……Read More

‘Flipped classroom’ model’s promise eludes poorer school districts

When Portland, Ore., elementary school teacher Sacha Luria decided last fall to try out a new education strategy called “flipping the classroom,” she faced a big obstacle, says the Hechinger Report. Flipped classrooms use technology—online video instruction, laptops, DVDs of lessons—to reverse what students have traditionally done in class and at home to learn. Listening to lectures becomes the homework assignment so teachers can provide more one-on-one attention in class and students can work at their own pace or with other students. But Luria realized that none of her students had computers at home, and she had just one in the classroom. So she used her own money to buy a second computer and begged everyone she knew for donations, finally bringing the total to six for her 23 fourth-graders at Rigler School. In her classroom, students now alternate between working on the computers and working with her. So far, the strategy is showing signs of success. She uses class time to tailor instruction to students who started the school year behind their classmates in reading and math, and she has seen rapid improvement. By the end of the school year, she said, her students have averaged two years’ worth of progress in math, for example…

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Improving teachers: Millions spent, but little done to make sure it’s working

Helping struggling teachers improve has become a big concern–and a big business–across the country, especially as more states, including New York, introduce more rigorous teacher evaluations, says the Hechinger Report. The federal government gives local districts more than $1 billion annually for training programs. New York City schools spent close to $100 million last year just on private consultants. Yet even as districts increase accountability for teachers, few are checking on the companies, universities and in-school programs that are supposed to help them get better. On-the-job training for teachers, known as professional development, encompasses everything from day-long seminars, coaching provided by in-school specialists, courses in subjects like math and reading, and teachers working with one another to improve their skills. New York City even offers Yoga and dance classes to its teachers. Yet little reliable, independent research exists on what kind of training for teachers actually works…

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Social media and video games in classrooms can yield valuable data for teachers

Social media, video games, blogs and wikis are playing increasingly important roles in classrooms across the country, according to the Hechinger Report. Some worry that incorporating more social media and other technologies into education is leading to too much computer time, as well as to a generation of students deficient in the face-to-face social skills needed to survive in the workplace. Proponents say schools need to find ways to use these technologies to improve teaching and learning, or else risk losing the attention of digital natives. A paper released earlier this week by the Brookings Institution addresses how social media, blogs and video games are improving education by increasing access to people and information in various forms, including Twitter feeds, blog posts, videos and books. These tools are also increasing people’s ability to share information with networks and contribute their own thoughts…

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U.S. to fall short of 2025 college grads goal–by 24 million degrees

Despite persistent appeals from policymakers and politicians to increase the number of college graduates in the United States, a new report projects a shortfall of nearly 24 million degree-holders by 2025, according to the Hechinger Report. The cost to the U.S. economy in lost wages and income taxes? About $600 billion a year. They’re the most dramatic figures yet in the ongoing debate about the need to improve the rates at which Americans successfully complete a higher education. In order to reach the goal of having 60 percent of adults with college degrees by the year 2025, the United States would have to confer an additional 24 million degrees beyond what it is already producing–but it is projected to award only 278,500 more degrees, the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems reported Thursday…

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Teaching software flooding into New Jersey classrooms

A computer voice guides 12-year-old Amir Accoo to spell the words he hears through his headphones: emergency, bulldozer, minutes. Accoo spells “minutes” wrong and is asked to try that one again, several times. Later, he clicks on a proofreading button, according to the Hechinger Report.

“You check what you have wrong out of the spelling words I just did,” Accoo explained as he looked at different spellings of the word until he spotted the correct one and moved the cursor to it, “and you just click on it, like this.”

Accoo is in the sixth grade at Asbury Park Middle School, but because he is so far below grade level when it comes to reading, he goes to a new type of reading class each day instead of a traditional one. Computer-driven classes are now spreading fast across the country to help bottom students catch up. Already more than 400 schools in New Jersey are using Scholastic Inc.’s Read 180 program that Accoo is learning from……Read More