For your child’s sake, don’t hate on math

Admit it – given the choice between reading a book and solving some algebraic equations, you’d pick the book, according to this Teach for American blog post.  How about a technical journal vs. a fashion or sports magazine? At a dinner out with multiple parties that ends up dividing up the bill,  are you relieved when someone else offers to “do the math?” Have you admitted to not understanding the details of your stock portfolio, your income taxes, your mortgage refinance, or even your paycheck? And yet – you probably compare prices on groceries, cell phone plans, and airline tickets.  You regularly look for sales and discounts.  You can mentally inventory the contents of your refrigerator and estimate if you need to buy that extra pack of sliced cheese for lunches next week…

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Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America

Family income is one of the most accurate predictors of how well a student will perform. The federal government and private investors are betting that TFA can help overcome poverty, but others aren't so sure.

In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami’s gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students’ reading and math scores.

“These are the lowest performing schools, so we need the strongest performing teachers,” said Julian Davenport, an assistant principal at Holmes Elementary, where three-fifths of the staff this year are Teach for America corps members or graduates of the program.

By 2015, with the help of a $50 million federal grant, program recruits could make up one-quarter of all new teachers in 60 of the nation’s highest need school districts. The program also is expanding internationally.…Read More

Editorial: How to improve teacher education now (and why Teach for America isn’t the answer)

A bill recently introduced in Congress, the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act, would designate programs based outside of universities as special academies for preparing teachers and principals, says Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president of Teachers College, Columbia University. This misses the fundamental problem: a number of the nation’s teacher education programs are failing. It makes more sense to close the weak programs than to pay to create bandaids over them…

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A ‘highly qualified’ gift from Congress to Teach for America

Should teachers still in training programs be considered “highly qualified” to teach kids? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that they aren’t, but some members of Congress think so, reports the Washington Post. Senators have included in key legislation language that would allow teachers still in training to be considered “highly qualified” so they can meet a standard set in the federal No Child Left Behind law. In an era when the education mantra is that all kids deserve great teachers, some members of Congress want it to be the law of the land that a neophyte teacher who has demonstrated “satisfactory progress” toward full state certification is “highly qualified.”

Teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer. In California alone, nearly a quarter of such teachers work in schools with 98-100 percent of minority students, while some affluent districts have none. Half of California’s teachers still in training teach special education. Allowing non-certified teachers to be considered “highly qualified” would be a gift to programs such as Teach for America, which gives newly graduated college students from elite institutions five weeks of summer training before sending them into low-performing schools. Teach for America participants, who commit to staying in the program for two years, then continue education studies while they are teaching.

Under No Child Left Behind, all students are supposed to have a highly qualified teacher. School districts are supposed to let parents know which teachers are not highly qualified, and they are supposed to be equitably distributed in schools. But the federal government issued a regulation in 2002 that included in the definition of “highly qualified” those teachers–called interns in some states–who are still participating in alternative route preparation programs. A lawsuit–opposed by Teach for America–challenged the regulation, and a lower court ruled in favor of the Education Department, but last September, the appellate court reversed the ruling. So language to make the regulation law was inserted into one bill, an omnibus Senate bill that was pulled by Sen. Harry Reid. But it’s back, this time in a continuing resolution unveiled today, and hammered out behind closed doors by legislators who ignored pleas from student advocacy groups to drop the measure……Read More