Search results for: "teacher training"

John Merrow learned about the latest trending idea in teacher training. Give a teacher a script, put a “bug” in his or her ear, and let the teacher follow instructions.

This is what he calls “insect-based” teacher training.

He decided to visit some schools to find out how it was working.

Part 1 begins like this:

The latest development in the never-ending struggle to improve teaching involves “A bug in the ear” AND “A fly on the wall.”  This insect-based approach has a highly-trained but distant observers watching (on closed circuit video) teachers at work and giving them instructions and suggestions in real time, so the teachers can modify methods and instantly improve their instruction. 

According to Education Week, what’s called ‘Bug in the Ear Coaching”  is being used in about a dozen states. “The premise is simple: A teacher wears an earpiece during a lesson, which is being live-streamed for an instructional coach who is somewhere else. Throughout the lesson, the coach delivers in-the-moment feedback to the teacher, who can add something or switch gears based on what she’s hearing in her ear.”

I reached out to some of the sources I developed in my 41 years of reporting for a closer look. One enthusiastic superintendent, who requested anonymity, said that the system would pay for itself in higher scores on standardized tests. “While the initial investment of $500,000 per school for cameras and directional microphones for every classroom, a dedicated room of monitors, the cost of a half-time tech person, and the salaries of the instructional experts who monitor the teachers, looks like a lot, once those standardized test scores go up, it’s smooth sailing.”

Are there other costs, I wanted to know?

“Our experts wanted all the teachers to wear identical loose-fitting shirts and blouses to minimize sound interference.  I had a great deal worked out with the company that makes the uniforms they wear at the federal penitentiary in the next county.”  He chuckled, “But without stripes, of course.” However, he explained, the teachers union shot the idea down. 

He (and some educators cited in Ed Week) say that most teachers like the immediacy of the system, saying that instant feedback is really the only kind that sticks.  “It was really nice to feel supported and get direct feedback in the moment,” a special education teacher in Washington State told Ed Week.

However, when I reached out to some veteran teachers I respect, I found no support for the approach.  (Stop reading here if vulgar language offends you.)

I stopped reading right there, but you don’t need to!

Then he posted Part 2, where he continued his investigation. 

Last week in this space I took a poke or two at what I called “Insect-Based Teacher Training,” specifically the practice of wiring teachers so that remote observers can hear and see what they do in their classrooms.  What they call “Bug in the Ear training” enables experts to interrupt teachers and tell them what they are doing wrong. In theory, that allows teachers to improve on the spot.  You may remember that the expert I observed in action wasn’t particularly effective.

(Full disclosure: In last week’s essay I took a small liberty with the two veteran teachers whose opinions I cited: neither of them actually referenced ‘ants in underpants’ or ‘ticks on dicks.’   I owe my readers an apology because the teachers did not say that.  I made that up, just for the fun of it. 

Why would I do that?  Well, after so many years of reporting for public broadcasting, where the emphasis is on truth, making stuff up gives me a huge adrenalin rush.

However, everything else in that essay  is 100% accurate.  You can take that to the bank.)

But I digress. What I want you to know is the morning after “Insect-Based Teacher Training” was published, I received a call from the School Superintendent whose district I had visited.   He was upset about my portrayal of the process, saying that the observer had a bad day.  Moreover, he said, I had failed to grasp the subtle, significant ways that technology improves education.  Would I come back and learn more, he asked?

I rushed out the door, and a few hours later the Superintendent and I were in the school’s monitoring room, staring at the 30+ video screens that showed all the school’s classrooms.

I wanted to hear his defense of the “Bug in the Ear” approach.  Would he have wanted to have a bug in his ear when he was teaching, I wanted to know?

“I actually never taught,” came his response. “I came up the ranks through coaching.”

Then he chuckled.  “That’s an old joke, superintendents starting out as coaches.  I was never a coach either.”

What was his background, I wanted to know?

“I studied organizational behavior in college, and then, for my MBA, I focused on management.”

He continued:  “But that’s not why I asked you to come back,” he said. “I want you to see another way that monitoring and advanced technology improve teaching and learning.”

Go on, I said.

To get the inside scoop on “insect-based teacher training,” this is a must-read.

In case you wondered, the first time I ever heard of the bug-in-your-ear approach to teaching, it was in the description of the methodology of Bridge International Academies, the private sector effort to take over schooling in certain African nations. The BIA approach was to give each teacher an iPad (or similar device) with a curriculum written by TFA teachers located in Boston. Then each teacher got a bug-in-the-ear to make sure that they were delivering the curriculum precisely as directed by the device. BIA charges a fee and was engaged in trying to turn a profit by enrolling hundreds of thousands of students in the world’s poorest countries. Its investors included Bill Gates, Pearson, Mark Zuckerberg, Pearson, and the World Bank. The problem with its approach was that it had the effect of discouraging the government from taking responsibility for building a universal, free public education system. Furthermore, if students couldn’t pay the fees, they were kicked out. BIA says it gets higher scores, which is not surprising since it accepts students only if they can pay. Strange that BIA’s methods crossed the ocean back to where it was started.

Idaho just recently approved Teach for America as a “state sanctioned vehicle for the preparation of teachers in Idaho.”

At first I thought this was an April Fools joke but it isn’t April.

The weakest aspect of TFA claims is its “preparation” of teachers in only five weeks. If that is all it takes, then teaching is not a profession but a job for temps.

Travis Manning, a high school English teacher in Idaho explains why this is a very bad idea.

Gary Rubinstein was one of the earliest members of Teach for America.

In this post, he looks at what has and has not changed in those years.

You’d think that after 29 years, TFA training would have improved.  But since they are supposed to be so data-driven, they should look at the most telling statistic about their quality of training.  The quit rate for TFA has not changed from 29 years ago until this day, approximately 15% don’t complete their two-year commitment, or roughly 1 out of 7 corps members…

We rarely get to see or hear from actual TFA corps members.  I don’t know if they now have to sign some kind of non-disclosure agreement but I find it strange that this group of ‘leaders’ produces not one person live-blogging or live-tweeting their experience.  When pictures of corps members in action are posted, I like to glance at them and see what I can infer from them.  Sometimes I’ll notice that they are student teaching a class where there are only 5 students in the class and I’ll write about how unacceptable it is that TFA has not figured out a way to pack the student teacher classes with actual students.

 

Well, here is a creative alternative to arming teachers, which most teachers oppose.

“The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools recently brought on YouTactical founder, Dave Acosta, to conduct training sessions around the state, centered around a program that teaches educators to, among other things, defend their students from active shooters with their bare hands…

”Friday, roughly two dozen administrators and teachers gathered at Thomas Edison Charter Schools South, in Nibley, to learn from Acosta.

“How many people can a bad guy shoot in 5 minutes if nobody interferes?” Acosta asked the group. “If nobody interferes, it’s a lot of people. Let me just say that.”

“The educators also watched and practiced techniques to disarm would-be active shooters in scenarios that featured handguns and AR-15 rifles.”

 

Jeff Murray is the Ohio operations manager of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s offices in Columbus. He read an essay by a high school English teacher who was offended by Governor John Kasich’s proposal that teachers should be required to shadow business people if they wanted to be rectified. Murray was disturbed when a high school English teacher objected. The teacher wrote: “I believe, as a professional English teacher that vocational training is neither my role nor my responsibility to my students.” Murray wrote in reply: “But I want to tell him that he’s wrong.”

Murray says the high school teacher is wrong. Every course he took in high school, he says, taught him job skills. Is that the same as “vocational training”? I don’t think so.

Murray wrote:

Everything about my high school and college experiences helped me to become a successful employee. Math teachers gave me the skills to measure work areas and assist in computing price quotes. History professors helped me understand why a developer was converting this former manufacturing plant into apartments. Communications instruction helped me hone marketing pitches to boost business. And, yes, I used every ounce of wordcraft I had studied and obsessed over in Brit Lit and Sonnet Seminar to write newsletters, clarify job specs, and interact with customers. It wasn’t Fitzgerald, but it was clear and direct and helpful to business. They didn’t know they needed an English major until they got one.

Maybe he actually is agreeing with the high school teacher. Maybe he doesn’t think he is wrong, after all. Surely, Murray didn’t want vocational training in his English class instead of reading Fitzgerald or Ellison. I assume he would have preferred reading and writing about “The Great Gatsby” to learning how to write a business letter. He realizes now that studying literature and writing prepared him for whatever career he chose. Does he really think that his English teachers and his history teachers would have been better if they had been required to spend a week in a factory or a department store?

My most beloved teacher taught us adolescent ruffians to read and appreciate Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare, and Blake. The only job skill I learned from her was the importance of accuracy.

A friend of mine, a lawyer who won a Supreme Court case knocking down voter suppression in Georgia in the 1970s, once told me that he met the Chancellor of the Exchequer in London, the highest financial official in the government. He told my friend that once a boy has mastered “the greats,” he can do anything.

Teachers do not need to shadow people in business. People in business need to shadow teachers. Kasich’s bill, by the way, was dead on arrival.

In a bold move to address the state’s teacher shortage (caused by low salaries), the state board of education removed all requirements for new teachers other than a college degree and passing a test in subject matter.

Will Utah soon allow barefoot doctors too, you know, the doctors without training or experience?

“Times have changed” — not everyone wants to return to school for a teaching degree, said Superintendent Sydnee Dickson.

An existing path gives permits to school district employees after one to three years of practice teaching and college classes. The new license, heavily criticized since being approved by the state board in June, is available immediately to applicants with bachelor’s degrees who pass a subject test.

The elected panel over Utah’s school districts and charter schools voted unanimously in favor of the measure at its monthly meeting Friday, but will consider tweaks to the policy that several Utah teachers and their unions have decried as an insult to their profession.

Vice chairman Dave Thomas said the move was made in part to address a teacher shortage and has largely been misunderstood.

“I don’t view this as an attack on traditional teachers,” Thomas said.

Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews urged the board to reconsider, saying the state’s affluent districts could benefit, but low-income students would lose out. The rule could overburden schools without enough time or money to hire more mentor teachers to train the novice instructors, she said.

“It’s a human-rights issue.”

Board member Joel Wright said schools aren’t on the hook to grant the new licenses if they don’t want to. Under the new policy, administrators are allowed to tailor requirements for a license.

“This is a critical step,” Wright said, in giving individual districts control.

The board rejected a proposal from board member Brittney Cummins, of West Valley City, who sought to require that teachers-in-training be hired at a district or charter before receiving a license.

Mercedes Schneider points out that veteran teachers are expected to mentor the newbies for three years, but this may drive the veterans out of the classroom by giving them additional responsibilities without pay.

Utah is on a downward trajectory.

Levi B. Cavener is a special education teacher in Idaho. He recently wrote an article arguing that Teach for America recruits with five weeks of training should not be assigned to special education students. A spokesperson for TFA responded that it was okay because they would be getting the training while they taught.

Levi says that is like teaching with training wheels.

He writes:

It’s not ok for a doctor to tell you that s/he’s qualified to do the surgery because s/he will get training later.  Nobody wants to be the one lying on a table with a doctor who has only recently held a scalpel for the first time.

It’s not ok for a lawyer to represent you because he has great ambition to attend school and pass the BAR exam down the road. Nobody wants to stand in front of a judge with an attorney whose only experience in the courtroom is from watching episodes of Law & Order.

It’s certainly not ok for an individual to be placed at the head of a classroom full of our most vulnerable students because TFA training wheels are attached at the waist. Students and parents have a right to expect a highly qualified professional leading this classroom starting on the very first day of school, and a TFA employee does not fulfill this basic expectation.

 

The author of this email requested anonymity, for obvious reasons.

 

I started reading your blog recently and it has been a lifesaver. I was a participant in the (as I learned) corporate-reform-driven Teaching Fellows program in XXXXX, and I was cut at the end of the their pre-service training.

This was, as it turned out, a good thing, since I wasn’t ready to teach (nor was anyone in the program, if the current experiences of my friends who continued in the program count for anything); I was unwilling to continue using the required behaviorist, authoritarian classroom management methods and scripted lesson plans; and I discovered that the principal that hired me had a policy of hiring only TFA and TNTP participants for the ‘core’ academic subjects.

In the process of making sense of my strange experience, I decided to read Wendy Kopp’s original thesis on her idea for a ‘Teacher Corps.’ In some ways, the original idea is very different from what it is today — she envisioned that corps members would only teach in districts experiencing shortages of fully-certified teachers (and only in high schools — there is no mention whatsoever of charter schools).

In other ways, not so different: “Like the Peace Corps did in its early days, the Teacher Corps will create a level of spirit and mystique which would rival the hype that currently lures so many who have undefined career plans into investment banking!”

But what struck me most was the advice given to Wendy Kopp by the president of the NEA, to whom she wrote about her idea of a teacher corps: “We feel strongly that the core of this Nation’s commitment to education must flow from fully prepared, career focused, and professionally oriented persons. Even a suggestion that acceptable levels of expertise could develop in short termers simply doesn’t mesh with what those of us in the business know it takes to do the job–much less with what our young people need and deserve….We certainly wish you the very best with your idea and hope you choose to devote your energies to a career in teaching. There are few more satisfying or challenging professions you could elect.”

Thanks again for your blog, and I hope I will be able to write to you in the not-so-distant future that I am teaching math, fully certified through a real teacher preparation program.

As part of the Republican effort to eliminate teaching about slavery, racism, and other injustices, the state has banned “critical race theory” and requires teaching “both sides” of controversies.

In the Carroll Independent School District, teachers were told that if they teach about the Holocaust in Europe, they must teach “the other side.” Understandably, teachers were confused. Are they supposed to give equal time to the genocide of millions of men, women, and children, and those who say that the genocide never occurred? When they teach about slavery, must they give equal time to the atrocities of enslavement and to apologists who say that slavery was benign?

Teachers in a Texas city have been told that if they have a book on the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also have one that offers an “opposite” view.

A school head’s instruction to staff in Southlake, which is 26 miles northwest of Dallas, was secretly captured on an audio recording obtained by NBC News.

Gina Peddy, executive director of the Carroll Independent School District, spoke during a training session on what books teachers can keep in classroom libraries.

It came four days after the Carroll school board, in response to a parent’s complaint, voted to reprimand a teacher who had an anti-racism book in her classroom.

In the recording, Ms. Peddy told staff to “remember the concepts” of a new state law that requires teachers to present different points of view when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” topics.

Referring specifically to the Nazi genocide of six million Jews in wartime, he said: “And make sure if you have a book on the holocaust that you have one that has an opposite, that has other perspectives. “

In response, a teacher said, “How do you oppose the Holocaust?”

Mrs. Peddy told them, “Trust me. That has come up.”

Speaking later, a teacher from Carroll told NBC News: “Teachers literally fear that we will be punished for having books in our classes.

“There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposite perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposite perspective’ of slavery.

“Are we supposed to get rid of all the books on those topics?”

Another teacher hung caution tape in front of books in a classroom after the new guidelines were distributed.

In a statement issued following Ms. Peddy’s comments, Carroll’s spokeswoman Karen Fitzgerald said the district was trying to help teachers comply with the new state law and an updated version that will take effect in December.

Subsequently, the district superintendent publicly apologized.

As the Superintendent, I express my sincere apology regarding the online article and news story. During the conversations with teachers, comments made were in no way to convey the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.

This statement does not explain how Texas teachers can teach both sides of every issue. There is no doubt that the purpose of the law is to make teachers fearful of teaching anything about racism or any other atrocities that are matters of fact.

Leslie T. Fenwick is Dean emerita of the Howard University School of Education. She is an eloquent critic of efforts to deprofessionalize teaching. She believes that teachers need more, not less, preparation for the classroom. This post appeared in Politico.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated harmful educational inequalities in the preK-12 public education system. The nation’s poorest students, Black and Latino students, and our disabled students have been the most negatively impacted by school closings necessitated by the pandemic. Black students in high poverty schools have been especially hard hit because of the racialized, historic and ongoing disinvestment in the education of Black children and youth.

One of the most obvious — and dangerous — ways this inequality shows up is by channeling a proportionally larger share of less qualified or alternatively credentialed teachers to schools with higher percentages of Black, Latino and disabled students. Black and Latino students are more likely than their white peers to be taught by teachers in training who are in alternative teacher preparation programs. These alternative route programs differ from traditional teacher preparation programs in at least one significant way: Most alternative route teacher interns become teachers of record prior to completing any teacher training. This means that as teachers in training, they are not profession-ready on Day 1. They are training on the backs of our neediest students — the students who most need a profession-ready teacher.

The pandemic and racial unrest have revealed just how much further the nation has to go to fulfill children’s constitutional right to equal educational opportunity. State constitutions define this right to an education in beautiful and compelling language as a “democratic imperative,” “fundamental value” and “paramount duty.” Yet, despite these powerful phrases, nearly 30 years of research shows that in schools serving students of color where 50 percent or more are on free or reduced lunch (one indicator of poverty status), these students are 70 percent more likely to have a teacher who is not certified or does not have a college major or minor in the subject area they teach. This finding holds true across four critical subject areas: mathematics, English, social studies, and science.

A review of the typical requirements for traditional teacher preparation and alternative programs — especially those that are not based at universities — reveals just how different the programs are in terms of substantive coursework and the length of time spent devoted to reflective and supervised practice under a fully certified and prepared preK-12 teacher (usually with at least three years of successful teaching experience) and university faculty member. It is clear that these two routes are not producing similar calibers of teachers and, even if they did, the alternative route program places an undue burden on the preK-12 students who are assigned a teacher-in-training as their full-time teacher of record.

This trend of placing untrained and uncertified individuals as teachers of record in schools serving the urban poor and disabled students is accelerating during the pandemic as states utilize more back door routes into classrooms through emergency certificates — in some states, these are granted to individuals with only a high school diploma. This practice is generating a new wave of uncredentialed teachers.

This reality is ill-matched to another circumstance: high stakes standardized tests and graduation examinations are more often used in states with higher percentages of Black and Latino students. How can we continue to educationally malnourish students, raise the bar on what they are expected to know and demonstrate on standardized tests, and lower the standards for the adults who teach them?

Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the teacher pipeline, creating shortages that disproportionately affect Black, brown and low-income students. Are you a teacher or education professional? Tell us how you have seen the pandemic affect teacher training or certification programs and you might be invited to a private discussion with Leslie Fenwick, PhD, and reporter Carly Sitrin.

Teacher quality is clearly tied to opportunity to learn in four categories: the quality of resources, school conditions, curriculum and the teaching that students experience. Yet the data about each of these opportunity-to-learn categories reveal alarming trends. According to the Schott Foundation, which researches and advocates for racial justice in the public school system, Native American, Black and Latino students have just over half the opportunity to learn, compared to white non-Latino students in the nation’s best supported and best performing schools. Additionally, the Schott study found that low-income students of any race or ethnicity have just over half of the opportunity to learn, compared to the average white, non-Latino student. Therefore, the availability and placement of fully credentialed, profession-ready, caring and effective teachers for students of color and poor students is especially acute.

As citizens and leaders, we can certainly tinker around the edges of the current order and attempt to return to a pre-Covid sense of normalcy, but this will not serve the nation well. One reason is that students of color are now the majority of our public school population, which means the majority of today’s public school students have probably not benefited from the prevailing order. In sustained and systematic ways, the new majority of public school students have had their education and life chances stymied by a social contract that consistently ensures lack of access to the best educational resources: namely, teachers.

The federal courts have recognized this reality. Nearly a decade ago, in a case known as Renee v. Duncan, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the practice of disproportionately placing uncertified teachers, teachers in training or teacher interns in classrooms serving poor and minority students is “discriminatory” and “does harm.” Further, the court indicated that the appellants in the case provided evidence that 41 percent of interns in California taught in the 25 percent of schools with the highest concentration of students of color. Further, 61 percent of California’s teacher interns taught in the state’s poorest schools. The court starkly stated: “We conclude that the appellants established injury in fact. This disproportionate distribution of interns … results in a poorer quality education than appellants would otherwise have received.”

Not only is a disproportionate share of students of color saddled with teachers in training, remarkably, nearly 40 percent of special education teachers are coming from alternative preparation routes. This means that while these students come to school ready to learn, their teacher is not fully prepared to teach. They are learning. To teach. On them.

Clearly, the proliferation of ill-credentialed “teachers” and their placement in schools serving the urban poor is linked to a broader issue of the devaluing of public education and the students of color and poor students who have become the majority constituency of public schools. Unfortunately, common sense has not gotten us to equality of educational opportunity and educational equity. Research has not gotten us there. Court decisions and decrees have not gotten us there. State and federal policymaking has not gotten us there. Time has not gotten us there. And, though the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing us to reconfigure and recalculate how to deliver schooling, we should not revert to a “normal” that continues to disadvantage our students who are most in need.

So, what can be done to rectify these problems? There are at least three policy responses that will help:

— Enforce through federal and state statutes and regulations the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Renee v Duncan.

— Incentivize states to approve only those teacher preparation programs — whether they are university-based or not — that meet national accreditation standards.

— Incentivize states to work with districts to develop plans that equitably distribute fully certified, profession-ready teachers.

Ultimately, there are larger questions at stake. Are we as a nation prepared to confront our beliefs about whose children we deem worthy and unworthy of investment? Are we willing and able to dismember the infrastructure, mechanisms and policies that have us ideologically and financially disinvesting from children of color and children from families experiencing poverty? What state, district and school policies and practices routinely privilege white and affluent students and disenfranchise students of color and poor students? How do we move past a deficit perspective about Black and other students of color and create teaching and learning environments that affirm the intellectual capacity and cultural heritage of all students?

In the unfolding pandemic, economic crisis and reckoning on race, governors and mayors are shaping our shared future. Who are the power players, and how are they driving politics and influencing Washington?Full coverage »

The Black Lives Matter movement and protests continue to rightly place structural racism front and center, reinvigorating discussions about diversity in the teacher workforce, the need to change curriculum content imagery and authorship so that it is not exclusively white, and the equitable assignment of teachers so that more students have access to profession-ready teachers.

The Black, Latino and poor children who are languishing in too many under-resourced schools will soon be the majority of adult Americans. They already constitute the majority of public school students. What will it mean for American democracy when these young people — many of whom have been pushed and held at the margins of the social, political and economic order — are the majority of adult citizens? Will their commitment to democracy and public schooling be resonant or absent? What we do now will answer this question in the near future.