Search results for: "teacher training"


Friends of public schools are pleased with the recommendations of Superintendent Thurmond Charter School Task Force.

Now it is up to the Legislature to act.


Florida has a large teacher shortage, about 10,000 at last count. Under the tutelage of Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature has made testing and privatization the centerpiece of state education policy, while treating public schools and their teachers as enemies for almost 20 years. Florida holds public schools to strict accountability, based on test scores, but imposes no accountability for the religious schools that get vouchers, and showers state money on charters. The Legislature seems to be intent on replacing public schools with charters (half of which operate for-profit) and vouchers and replacing teachers with computers.

This teacher from Polk County has had enough. 

Shanna L. Fox writes:

Stand Up and Fight – An Open Letter of Resignation
There is no business model that can fix education. Students are not products and services that can be quantified. They are living, breathing human beings and their complexity cannot be reduced to cells on a spreadsheet.
Each child comes with their own set of needs, strengths, and abilities. Teachers must be provided the freedom to address those in the way that they professionally know is best based on their training and education.
My expertise is in a Language Arts classroom, so this is what I see most clearly. Students can analyze the hell out of a text. But testing has chipped away at the time teachers have to help their students write to inspire, write to express, write to create, write to change the world. Because what matters, in today’s education system, is one single way of writing. The thing is, our students are whole people, and this only provides them a chance to show a tiny sliver of who they are.
It’s not only Language Arts, though. This toxic testing nightmare has stripped students of the opportunity to foster their creativity in every single subject area. Children are being denied the right to express themselves in their own unique ways. They yearn for the chance to be artistic and imaginative, to be inspired and inspire others, and to innovate and build and solve. They are capable of more than simply working toward a test score. They deserve more.
And it is time for me to stand up and fight for them and the profession I love.
After twenty years, the decision to resign did not come easily. In fact, it has taken me two months to process and collect my thoughts and to muster up the courage to share them here.
Leaving my stable, secure career as a classroom teacher was risky. I was willing to risk everything because giving it all up feels like freedom in comparison to the restriction in which I was living.
My decision to walk away was not impulsive. It was years in the making. I almost walked away last year. I almost walked away two years ago. When I finally gained the courage, it wasn’t the administration, the school, or the students. And it certainly wasn’t my wonderful colleagues. None of those things drove me away. Instead, I was battle weary from years of working in a broken system. And honestly, I could not face another testing season.
I thought this transition would be more difficult than it has been. I thought I would be devastated and depressed. But I haven’t been. Now, I realize why. The truth is, I have been grieving the loss of my profession for years. I was grieving the time I used to have to foster meaningful relationships with my students. I was grieving a time when I was trusted to teach well, based on my training and knowledge. I was grieving a time when student creativity was valued over a test score.
But that simply isn’t the reality anymore. 
Over the past six years, I changed grade levels, campuses, and roles. I even returned to the school that felt like “home” with the people who I consider family. I searched tirelessly for the thing that would reignite my passion for teaching and renew my sense of hope for the future of the public school system. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find it. 
And I’m not alone. This has been called a silent strike – teachers exiting the profession prematurely or retiring early. But I, for one, will not leave silently. Although I can no longer work within this broken system, I will stand and fight from where I am now. I will work to fix it.
I am not writing to encourage others to leave teaching. This was a personal, individual decision that I made to preserve my physical, mental, and emotional health. But if you do decide to walk away, as I did, please do not be silent. If you’ve already exited or retired early, for your very own unique reasons, please speak up. This shouldn’t be a silent strike. It should be the loudest protest of all time because speaking up for public education is speaking up for our children and, quite frankly, for the foundation of our democracy.
To my colleagues who continue to work for change within their classroom walls, I am standing by your side. I support you. I know you are doing what is best for your students, even with mounting pressures, longer task lists than ever before, and mandates upon mandates. I applaud your strength and dedication. I can’t wait to meet Bella’s amazing teachers during her upcoming journey as a public school student. I hope they are just like you.
To my former students, you are the reason I stayed for twenty years. As a teacher, I learned so much from you. And now, I marvel at your continued success, your ability to achieve your dreams, and your capacity to tackle the obstacles of life. I was proud of you then, and I am proud of you now – every single day. 
To the Polk Education Association, I thank you for your tireless efforts to quell the overwhelming tide of negativity. I know that you fight tooth and nail for every single right, benefit, and dollar that PCPS employees get. I am proud to have been a member of the union. I may not be working from the inside anymore. But I will be here, battling right alongside you. After all, you’re the ones who taught me how.
I’ll be honest. When I was a Polk County Public Schools employee, I didn’t take a stand each time there was an opportunity to do so. But I know that I did not take this career risk to sit on the sidelines and watch.
I’m standing now.
I am standing for our students.
I am standing for our teachers. 
I am standing for public education.
In solidarity,
Shanna R. Fox


Gary Rubinstein has the answer here. 

Which state pays $20,000 for each recruit TFA sends to work in its schools after a five-week training course?

Can you guess?

How much does your state pay TFA to send young teachers who agree to stay for two years?


Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! If you believe that teachers are important and that they change lives, become an advocate for higher pay for teachers.

The Economic Policy Institute is one of the very few think tanks in D.C. (maybe the only think tank) that is not funded by billionaires. It focuses on economic issues affecting working people and issues of economic justice.

In this post, Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel document the wage gap between teachers and their peers with similar education.

Teachers are not paid equitably. They have good reason to strike for higher wages. In most states, teachers are unlikely to get higher wages unless they strike.

Providing teachers with a decent middle-class living commensurate with other professionals with similar education is not simply a matter of fairness. Effective teachers are the most important school-based determinant of student educational performance.1 To promote children’s success in school, schools must retain credentialed teachers and ensure that teaching remains an attractive career option for college-bound students. Pay is an important component of retention and recruitment.

The deepening teacher wage and compensation penalty over the recovery parallels a growing shortage of teachers. Every state headed into the 2017–2018 school year facing a teacher shortage (Strauss 2017). New research by García and Weiss (2019) indicates the persistence and magnitude of the teacher shortage nationwide:

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought. When indicators of teacher quality (certification, relevant training, experience, etc.) are taken into account, the shortage is even more acute than currently estimated, with high-poverty schools suffering the most from the shortage of credentialed teachers. (1)

García and Weiss explain why the teacher shortage matters:

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children…

Teacher wage and compensation penalties grew over the recovery since 2010

  • The public school teacher weekly wage penalty grew from 13.5 percent to 21.4 percent between 2010 and 2018.
  • Teacher benefits improved relative to benefits for other professionals from 2010 to 2018, boosting the teacher benefits advantage from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent. Despite this improvement, the total compensation (wage and benefit) penalty for public school teachers grew from 8.7 percent in 2010 to 13.1 percent in 2018.

The wage penalty is a result of state policy, not the recession of 2008. Legislators cut taxes and revenues.

Teacher weekly wage penalties vary across the states

  • We report teacher weekly wage penalties for each state for the period 2014–2018. State wage penalties are based on regression-adjusted analyses using a sample of college graduates in each state. Teacher penalties range from 0.2 percent to 32.6 percent.
  • Four of the seven states with the largest teacher wage penalties—Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Colorado—were, unsurprisingly, ground zero for the 2018 teacher protests, helping to draw national attention to the erosion of teacher pay. In these states, teachers earned at least 26 percent less than comparable college graduates.
  • In 21 states and D.C., the teacher wage penalties are greater than 20 percent.


Bob Shepherd is teaching in Florida after a career in education publishing. He left this comment on the blog about his teaching experience in Florida. His contributions to the blog are consistently brilliant. On a personal note, Bob reached out to me and offered to edit my new book. We have never met. Knowing how amazing he is, I happily accepted his offer. For weeks, Bob and I exchanged chapters and emails, sometimes in the middle of the night. His edits were excellent. His sensibility, his deep knowledge of education, and his feel for language are incomparable. He made the book much much better. Publication is scheduled for January. I am in his debt forever and in awe of his knowledge and skill.


Bob Shepherd wrote:

Life as a Teacher in the Age of the Ed Deform Hamster Wheel

Many years ago, I got a degree in English from Indiana University (Phi Beta Kappa, with High Honors) and completed the education requirements, including student teaching, to get my certification to teach English in that state. I also took the Graduate Record Examination in English and received a perfect score on this. I was awarded a “Lifetime Certificate” to teach English in Grades 6-12. I taught high-school English for three years.

When I started a family, the pay simply wasn’t enough, so I took a job in educational publishing. In the course of a 25-year career in educational publishing, I planned, wrote, and edited over 50 highly successful textbooks and online instructional programs in reading, 6-12 literature, grammar and composition, and African-American literature. I also wrote a widely used book on writing the research paper, designed standardized tests, and wrote tests in ELA for many of the large textbook houses. I worked for a while as educational director for a major foundation and ended my publishing career as Executive Vice President for Development at one of the country’s largest textbook houses. At one time, it was almost impossible to find a K-12 English program, anywhere in the country, that wasn’t using one or more of my books. Throughout my career, I immersed myself in studies in my field. When I wasn’t working at my job, I was studying linguistics, rhetoric, literature and literary criticism, prosody, stylistics, educational statistics, assessment theory, the cognitive psychology of learning, pedagogical approaches, the history of education, and so on.

Then, at the end of my career, I decided that I wanted to go back to teaching, my first love, for a few years. I had spent a lifetime designing, writing, and editing materials for teachers, and deepening my knowledge of my subject, and I wanted to finish my working life sharing the accumulated knowledge of that lifetime with kids in class. So, I decided to renew my certification, in Florida this time, and go back into the classroom. Little did I know the insane hurdles I would have to go through to make this happen.

In order to get my certification in Florida, I had to pay $750 to Pearson and take seven different tests:

General Knowledge Test, Essay
General Knowledge Test, English Language Skills
General Knowledge Test, Reading
General Knowledge Test, Mathematics
Professional Education Test
English 6-12 Test, Multiple Choice
English 6-12 Test, Written

The Professional Education Test, in particular, was an obscenity. Basically, it was written from the point of Ed Deformers, and to get a good score on it, I had to adopt the Ed Deform point of view and pretend that the Common Core wasn’t a puerile joke and that standardized testing in ELA wasn’t an unreliable, invalid scam. I did that and passed. The reading test was also a complete joke. The questions were so poorly written that one had to choose the answer that the test preparer thought was correct, not one that actually made sense, if there was such a thing.

Then I had to complete 400 pages of documentation, over the course of a year, as part of something called the TIP program, that contained samples from my teaching showing various kinds of compliance (that I diversified my instruction, that my instructional appealed to multiple intelligences, that I used ESOL strategies, that I analyzed my students’ data, and so on. An enormous amount of busy work.

I also had to complete 300 hours of online ESOL instruction. The instructional materials were riddled with errors in grammar, usage, mechanics, sense, and fact and appeared to have been put together by remedial students with no education in linguistics or in English. In my responses to the materials, I took to writing long lists of the errors in grammar and usage and fact in the instructional materials. They passed me anyway. All this busywork taught me nothing that I didn’t already know. 300 hours! Mind you, in most undergraduate programs, 60 hours of instruction is sufficient to graduate with a major in a given subject.

I also had to complete a number of state-mandated “trainings” (roll over, sit up, good boy) on gangs, drugs, medical emergencies, and much else, from which, again, I learned nothing that wasn’t common knowledge.

Twice a year, I had to complete a lengthy Individualized Professional Development Plan, an inane, useless exercise in educational gobbledygook and bs.

I was required to sit through countless “professional development trainings” (roll over, sit up, good boy) of such mind-numbing stupidity that one would have thought the presenters were talking to second graders about My Little Ponies.

I was required to submit Byzantine two-page lesson plans for every class that I taught and to have a copy of these plans available for inspection at all times. One year, I had five preparations and had to prepare 15 of these (30 pages total) every week.

Each day, I had to write on one of my whiteboards, for every lesson, for every class, an enormous amount of material that included bellwork, student outcome, vocabulary, higher-order thinking skills addressed, an essential question, and homework. This alone took between half an hour and 45 minutes each day. In the year when I had five preps, I had to use two whiteboards for this.

I had to submit to three separate formal evaluations and countless informal pop-in evaluations every year, each involving a lot of paperwork. (In my nonteaching career, I always had one formal evaluation per year.)

I had to maintain and regularly update a student “data wall” in my classroom.
I had to update, weekly, a “word wall” in my classroom.

Half of my students had IEP plans, 504 plans, gifted student plans, ESOL plans, or PMPs, and I had to do regular reporting on all of these and to keep an enormous binder of all this material. I also had to attend parent meetings on all these.

I had to maintain a separate binder with paperwork related to every parent contact and yet another binder with paperwork related to any student disciplinary action—even something as minor as marking a student tardy.

I had to keep both a paper gradebook and an online gradebook and post at least two grades for every student every week. In addition, I had to record attendance for every class on paper and online.

I was required to proctor standardized tests and do daily car line duty at no additional pay. (When I taught years earlier, car line was handled by people hired and paid for this purpose.)

All of this was an enormous waste of time, effort, and money. Almost none of it had any positive effects, and the opportunity cost, in terms of time taken from actually doing my job, was enormous. When I taught years before, almost none of this was required, the teachers were no worse, and the kids didn’t learn any less.

The other thing that had changed since I taught years ago was the general attitude that was taken toward teachers. When I taught at the beginning of my career, teachers had a great deal of autonomy in choosing their materials and in planning their classes. Today, they are treated as children, not as professionals, and are continually micromanaged.

Basically, in the job as it exists today, I spent so much time doing administrative crap that I had very little time left over for doing my job. I literally spend all day, every Saturday and Sunday, simply completing paperwork. And somewhere in all this I was supposed to do grading. I taught 7 classes, with an average of about 28 students in each. If I assigned a single five-paragraph them, I would have 980 paragraphs to read and comment on—roughly two large novels’ worth of material.

So how did we get to this place? Well, I suppose that over the years, every time some person at the district or state office got a bright idea for improving teaching, it was implemented, and the requirements kept being piled on until they became literally insane. Hey, you know, we’ve got this state program that provides teachers with $70 a year for buying supplies, but we’re not doing a very good job of tracking that, so let’s create a weekly “Whiteboard Marker Usage and Accountability Report (WMUAR). It will only take a few minutes for a teacher to prepare. Great idea! You know how these teachers are. They will just run through markers like crazy unless you monitor this.

In the teacher’s bathrooms in my school, there were literally posted instructions on how to use the toilet. You know how teachers are, they can’t use the toilet properly without instruction in flushing.

Interestingly, NONE of this crap had anything to do with whether I actually knew the subject that I was teaching. Oh, I forgot. I also had twice-yearly “evaluations” by the District Reading Coordinator. This person approved the novels that we were allowed to teach. She thought that “classical literature” was anything considered a classic and that The Odyssey was a novel. So, one had to deal continually with such people—ones who were profoundly ignorant but a) made the major curricular decisions, b) did evaluations, and c) treated teachers in a profoundly patronizing and condescending manner.

Yes, we need professional standards. But these should start with teacher and administrator training programs requiring that these folks demonstrate, via studies outside those programs, mastery of the materials that they are going to be teaching or that are taught by those whom they manage. A person overseeing English teachers ought to know something about literature, grammar, and so on.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that the secret to getting something done is to hire someone who knows how to do it and then get the hell out of his or her way. The best publishing manager I ever worked under, a fellow with the altogether appropriate name of Bill Grace, once told his assembled employees, “I’m a successful guy. And I’m going to tell you the secret to my success. I hire people who are smarter than I am and leave them alone to do their jobs.”

We need a lot more of that.




John Thompson writes from Oklahoma:

The Tulsa World’s headline nailed the big picture, “‘Staggering’: 30,000 Oklahoma Teachers Have Left Profession in the Past Six Years, Report Shows.” The World’s Michael Dekker cites State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister who explained, “The loss of 30,000 educators over the past six years is staggering — and proof that our schools must have the resources to support a growing number of students with an increasing number of needs.”

These huge losses occurred in a state which employed only 50,598 teachers in 2017-18.

Hofmeister addressed the immediate problem, “Steep budget cuts over the last decade have made the teaching profession in Oklahoma less attractive, resulting in a severe teacher shortage crisis and negative consequences for our schoolchildren.” The analysis, 2018 Oklahoma Educator Supply and Demand Report, by Naneida Lazarte Alcala, also touched on the ways that the lack of respect and the decline of teachers’ professional autonomy contributed to the massive exodus from the classroom.

The report showed that Oklahoma’s annual attrition rate has been 10 percent during the last 6 years, which was 30 percent more than the national average. This prompted an increase from 32 emergency certifications in 2012 to 2,915 in 2018-19. As a result, the median experience of state teachers declined by 1/5th in this short period.

Given the challenges faced by the Oklahoma City Public School System, it is noteworthy that the highest turnover rate in 2017-18 (almost 25 percent) occurred in central Oklahoma. Over 11 percent of teachers in the central region are new hires.

It should also be noted that charter schools have the highest turnover rate (almost 42 percent), even higher than that of middle schools. 

I kid my colleagues in middle school. But there is a serious point. Choice advocates have had success in their political campaign to defeat traditional public schools, but their turnover rate is another sign that the oversupply of charters shows that privatization isn’t a viable, educational alternative to neighborhood schools. 

But the financial cutbacks were not the only cause of the crisis. Alcala cites a survey of teachers who have left Oklahoma schools; 2/3rds said that increased compensation would not be enough to bring them back to the classroom.  Citing reasons that were beyond the scope of the report, 78 percent said that the quality of the work environment had declined, and nearly half said it had deteriorated a great deal.

On the other hand, the report suggested aspects of teaching conditions that merit further examination. It cited research on the negative effects of teacher turnover on student achievement, especially for low-income students. This stands in contrast with research cited by accountability-driven, competition-driven school reformers who argue that turnover isn’t necessarily bad. After all, they invested heavily in trying to identify and dismiss low-performing teachers.

The SDE study cited the value of low student-teacher ratios in terms of raising student achievement, especially for low-income students. It also noted the national pattern where education degrees have “notoriously” declined, as well as the drop in graduates in Oklahoma teacher preparation programs.

And that brings us to the unintended results of features, as opposed to bugs, in the corporate school reform movement which peaked during this era. Reformers who lacked knowledge of realities in schools misinterpreted research on California schools which supposedly said that class size reductions don’t work, and then ignored the preponderance of evidence on why class size matters. Reformers often blamed university education departments for poor student test scores, and experimented with teacher preparation shortcuts. Some reformers even said what many others felt about wanting to undermine the institution of career teaching.

To understand the decline of working conditions for teachers, the teacher strike in Denver, as well as those in Oklahoma and other states, must be considered. Senator Michael Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver schools, called for incentives in urban schools by twenty-somethings who would work for 7 to 9 years.  His hugely expensive and complicated incentive system provoked the recent strike.

It should have been obvious that teacher churn is bad for students, who need trusting relationships with educators who love them. A decade ago, however, edu-philanthropists and the federal government essentially imposed a rushed and risky experiment on schools in Oklahoma and across the nation. These noneducators praised the gambles as “disruptive innovation.” But they incentivized primitive teach-to-the-test malpractice and drove much of the joy of teaching and learning out of schools.

Evidence that excellent teachers were being “exited” by a flawed statistical model used in these teacher evaluation systems was ignored.  Since these policies incentivized the removal of highly paid veteran teachers during the budget crisis prompted by the Great Recession, Baby Boomers were often targeted.  This resulted in schools such as Upper Greystone, an elementary school with 24 certified staff,  which had 21 teacher vacancies at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

During the 1990s, education experts frequently warned that Baby Boomers would soon be retiring, and sought ways for veteran teachers to pass on their wisdom. During the last decade, however, corporate reform made the staggeringly serious mistake of undermining teachers’ autonomy in order to force educators to comply with their technocratic mandates. Veteran teachers were rightly seen as opponents to their teach-to-the-test regimes, and often they were pushed out of the profession so they wouldn’t undercut the socializing of young teachers into opposing bubble-in accountability. 

Even if we had not made another unforced error and dramatically cut education spending, failed reforms would have wasted educators’ time and energy, damaged teachers’ professionalism, and sucked much of the joy of teaching and learning out of classrooms. When the retirement and the pushing out of Baby Boomers, funding cuts, and drill-and-kill pedagogy came together during and after the Great Recession, this staggering exodus of teachers was triggered.

Jeannie Kaplan served two term on the elected Denver school board. I asked her to explain the issues behind the strike.


She writes:



Posted on by Jeannie Kaplan


On April 24, 2008 the Denver Public Schools agreed to borrow $750 million dollars from some of America’s top financial institutions for its outstanding pension debt. As I write this blog this morning February 12, 2019 Denver’s teachers have entered the second day of their first strike in 25 years. The amount of money being contested is somewhere less than one-half of one percent of the overall DPS budget.  0.04%.  Less than $10 million out of $1.4 billion.  The following tells some of the complicated story that connects these two events.

The $750 million taxpayer debt was divided this way: $300 million was to pay back already existing pension debt, $400 million was to fully fund the DPS retirement fund.  The remaining $50 million went to legal and financial fees. By the time this transaction was “fixed out” in 2013 a veritable Who’s Who in the Wall Street world was involved:  RBC Capital Markets, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citibank, Wells, Fargo, Bank of America. Part of the incentive to borrow this money was so DPS’ stand alone retirement fund could join the statewide retirement fund (Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association or PERA for short) which would in turn allow for more employee mobility into and out of DPS and would reduce DPS’ annual retirement contributions which would in turn provide more money for classrooms.  Because of previous financial miscalculations DPS was paying more per pupil for its retirement fund than any other school district in the state. Had this deal not been executed, the dollars paid to banks and lawyers could have been put directly into the DPS retirement fund itself. The DPS Superintendent at the time:  Michael Bennet. The Chief Operating Officer: Tom Boasberg.

Bennet and Boasberg came from the business world and were heralded as financial wizards. (They were boyhood friends growing up in Washington, D.C. together). Bennet had worked for billionaire Phil Anschutz and had already demonstrated a skepticism toward public pensions.  Boasberg arrived at DPS from Level 3 Communications, “an American multinational telecommunications and Internet service provider” where he was a mergers and acquisition guy.  Long story short they, along with bankers and lawyers concocted this very complicated and risky transaction using taxpayer money.  They were convinced that despite what was happening in the financial world at the time, DPS was going to save millions of dollars in pension costs.

Remember back to 2008. And remember we are talking about public, not private, money.  In February the auction rate securities froze.  In March Bear Stearns went under.  There were many indicators that something big could be going on in the world financial markets.  Nevertheless, in April the DPS board was encouraged to proceed with the high risk transaction which relied on the weekly LIBOR rate (it is the primary benchmark, along with the Euribor, for short-term interest rates around the world. Libor rates are calculated for five currencies and seven borrowing periods ranging from overnight to one year and are published each business day by Thomson Reuters.), swaps, (A swap is a derivative in which two counterparties exchange cash flows of one party’s financial instrument for those of the other party’s financial instrument. The benefits in question depend on the type of financial instruments involved.), bonds that were auctioned weekly.  And here is the headline from that deal.  In 10 years that $750 million loan has ballooned into twice as much debt  ($1.8 BILLION) and only for the past two years has the district begun paying any principal.  And simultaneously,  Bennet and Boasberg were able to convince the Colorado legislature that DPS should get the equivalent of “pre-payment” credit to deduct the PCOPs fees and interest from what would have been their normal pension contributions.  Because of these actions DPS employees have witnessed their pension fund drop about 20% from fully funded (100%) on January 1, 2010 to a little under 80% funded in June 30, 2018. But as Bennet and Boasberg would say as this defunding is occurring, “we are making our legal contributions, ” to which one must add, “Legal, but is it ethical?”

This story has become very relevant today because after 15 months of negotiations the district and the teachers have been unable to reach an agreement. Denver’s teachers have gone on strike over a compensation system called ProComp (Professional Compensation).  And the ProComp fight comes back to the pension.

In 2005 Denver voters approved a $25 million tax  (adjusted for inflation) for teacher pay-for-performance incentives.  A few thousand dollars was awarded for teachers who worked in hard to serve schools and taught hard to teach subjects.  The awarded dollars ($500-$2500) was intended to permanently raise base salaries.  It was reliable raise and it was PENSIONABLE.

In 2008 – hum, is this a coincidence? – the ProComp “bonus” went from a completely base building system to a yearly one-time bonus system.  And to further complicate matters, new bonus criteria (based primarily on high-stakes testing) have since been added. The result has been teachers cannot tell how much they will be making from year to year.  Some have said they can’t even tell how much they will make from paycheck to paycheck. Oh, and of course, these bonuses do not contribute to a teacher’s PENSIONABLE income resulting in…less retirement money  for retiring teachers, and simultaneously smaller demands on a dwindling pension fund.

While all this business bonus mess has been imposed in Denver, surrounding school districts have far surpassed Denver’s base pay scale, resulting in very high teacher turnover for DPS and a dwindling number of long serving professionals. Teachers are retiring earlier, teachers are leaving the district, and sadly teachers are leaving the profession. And because Denver is the quintessential reform district, DPS has been very welcoming to the reform idea of hiring short term, unlicensed educators with non-traditional training.  Think six week training programs.  The result of all this brilliance: fewer long serving employees resulting in less demand on a pension fund.  So the conflation of financial wizardry and education reform has hit Denver: businessmen Bennet and Boasberg take over the finances of a public school district, concoct a complicated and risky scenario during an unstable financial time, get the legislature to allow the defunding of the pension, implement a bonus based pay system to replace base-building, and voila – a strike by Denver’s teachers for a fair, reliable, sustainable pay system.

One more important headline. ProComp bonuses for teachers range from $500-$3000 per category per year. Last month a list of administrative bonuses without a rubric as to how the money has been awarded became available:  the current COO (Boasberg’s first job in DPS) received a $34,000 (!) bonus on top of his $198,000 salary, an “IMO executive principal” got $36,900 on top of his/her $130,000.  An IMO executive principal is the newest layer of reform administration.  He/she oversees a network of innovation schools (non union schools overseen by the district) and makes two to three times as much as a DPS teacher.  There are approximately 10 such positions with each person gathering around $20,000 in bonuses. These bonuses are not part of the ProComp agreement but rather come out of the DPS general fund.  Just imagine.  You could save almost half of the 8 million dollars they two sides are bickering over if you just eliminated these positions and the bonuses.

We must never end any story about Denver Public Schools without a reference to educational outcomes, for isn’t the first priority of a public education system educating its students? After 15 years of education reform brought by Michael Bennet and Tom Boasberg, 42% of Denver’s students are proficient in English Language Arts and 32% proficient in math.  Bennet and Boasberg  financial actions have also contributed to the doubling of the pension debt, and their policies have resulted in the first teacher strike in 25 years in Denver.  Quite a legacy left by the boys from D.C.



Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education at Michigan State University, saw an article that he found alarming.

The article to which he objects appeared in GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly).

The article begins:

As Pam cracks the door to the front office, her hand creeps to the gun strapped at her hip. She’s in her 40s, with dark-rimmed glasses and a ponytail poking through the back of a baseball cap. At five foot six, she is not an imposing presence, but then again, what kindergarten teacher is?

She peers inside and sees a parent—Mr. Brown, who she’d heard was locked in a custody dispute with his ex-wife—shouting at Betsy, the school secretary, something about how he wants to see his son. And then he takes out a pistol of his own and holds it right up to her head.

Pam is lucky; Mr. Brown doesn’t notice her. She draws, her elbows locking out as her eyes settle between the sights. But in the split second before her index finger depresses the trigger, she hesitates. I have to try, right?

“FREEZE!” she shouts.


Mr. Brown murders Betsy and swings the barrel toward Pam, cursing.


Pam sends a bullet into him, and he staggers back; a second round to his chest, and he crumples to the ground. She exhales, unsure what to do next, standing over two lifeless bodies when there could have been one.

Just another day at school for a busy kindergarten teacher.

Robinson’s response:

If you’re a teacher who reads all of this and thinks, “Well, that’s not me. I’m different. I’ve had a gun for years. I’m a hunter, and a responsible gun owner. I’m all about gun safety. I was in the military. I just want to protect my students and colleagues”, then you are precisely the kind of person who should never be permitted to have a loaded weapon in a school. You’re exactly the sort of person that shouldn’t be allowed to carry a deadly weapon into a room full of children looking at you as someone who cares about their learning, and their well-being.

If you really and truly believe that the best way for you to protect your students is with a gun, then please quit your job immediately, enroll in a police academy, get properly trained and prepared to use a weapon in live-action situations–not by a 1 day “professional development seminar,” like we pretend to train and prepare teachers to do all sorts of things we don’t really value enough to do the right way (like “blood borne pathogens training,” and “sexual harassment prevention training,” and “court-mandated reporter training.” ProTip for Teachers: if the PD session you’re sitting through has the word “training” in its title, no one in the Central Office really cares if you actually learn how to do the thing you’re being trained on–it was either an unfunded mandate from the state education department and/or legislature, or your superintendent thought it would “look good” if parents and other school budget voters saw teachers were being given that training.)–and get out of the classroom.

Linda Lyon, recent President of the Arizona SchoolBoards Association, describes the low funding and legislative hostility that has created a teacher shortage in Arizona. The legislature’s answer to the teacher shortage: lower standards to fill empty classroom.

Pay is not the only reason teachers are fleeing classrooms. They also cite inadequate public respect and increased accountability without appropriate support. In Arizona specifically, contributing factors include 25% of our certified teachers being retirement eligible, a grading system for schools that still relies heavily on standardized tests, a GOP-led Legislature that is very pro-school choice if not openly hostile to public district education and their teachers, and the lack of respect for the teaching profession demonstrated by the dumbing down of teacher qualification requirements.

Arizona began this dumbing down in 2017. According to, since the 2015–2016 school year, “nearly 7,200 teaching certificates have been issued to teachers who aren’t fully trained to lead a classroom. In just three years, the number of Arizona teaching certificates that allow someone to teach full-time without completing formal training has increased by more than 400 percent according to state Department of Education data analyzed by The Arizona Republic. For the 2017–18 school year, that added up to 3,286 certificates issued to untrained teachers and by 47 days into the 2018–2019 school year, 1,404 certificates had been issued to untrained teachers while 3,141 were issue standard certificates.”

That last 1,404 certificates issued for the current school year is probably the most instructive, because this is after the 10 percent raises for teachers the #RedforEd movement garnered in 2018. So, less than one-third of the way into the school year, the state has issued almost half as many certificates to untrained teachers as the entire previous year. In other words, despite the 10% pay increase, Arizona districts are having even more difficulty attracting professional teachers into their classrooms.

You read that right. Kansas is a state that has cut taxes and cut its education budget repeatedly and whose teachers are paid poorly. It is under court order to finance its schools adequately. You may recall that former Governor Sam Brownback imposed a far-right policy of cutting taxes to “grow the economy” while starving the schools and other public services. The experiment failed. Trump appointed him the
“Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.”

So now, because of low salaries, Kansas has teacher shortages. The remedy? A lavish contract with TFA to bring in temp teachers.

The Kansas Legislature agreed to pay education nonprofit Teach For America more than $500,000 this year for a pilot program to recruit 12 teachers to the state.

But the national organization only recruited three teachers for the state in 2018. All of them were placed in Kansas City, Kansas, where the local school district pays their salaries and benefits on top of another $3,000 per teacher per year to Teach For America.

Meanwhile, the state is still on the hook to pay the nonprofit $270,000 for training and recruiting teachers with no guarantee they will work in Kansas schools.

Mischel Miller, director of teacher licensure and accreditation at the Kansas State Department of Education, said the contract was intended to help fill a teacher shortage in the state.

“Our intention,” Miller said in an interview, “is that those dollars would be used for Kansas teachers.”

Yet the Kansas City, Kansas school district says it only hired three Teach For America instructors this year. Two other recruits started teaching in the district last year before Kansas hired the organization.

The state education department says Teach For America told the department it recruited all five of those teachers this year. The department is currently drafting a $270,000 contract to pay the organization.

A budget document from the Kansas Legislative Research Department dated Oct. 10 states, “Teachers will be paid a salary of $36,000.” But that money actually goes just to recruiting, training and placing each teacher.

That totals $180,000 from the state for recruiting five teachers, plus $80,000 to pay for the salary, benefits and travel expenses of a recruiter and $10,000 for one day of professional development. The rest of the money appropriated during the legislative session, totaling $250,000, will go back to the state’s general fund to be appropriated for the next fiscal year.