WBEZ | teacher quality http://www.wbez.org/tags/teacher-quality Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Push for teacher quality in Illinois takes toll on minority candidates http://www.wbez.org/news/push-teacher-quality-illinois-takes-toll-minority-candidates-108601 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Teacher diversity_130904_oy.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Across the nation, states are considering ways to make teaching a more selective profession. The push for &ldquo;higher aptitude&rdquo; teachers has often come from the nation&rsquo;s top education officials. &ldquo;In Finland it&rsquo;s the top ten percent of college grads (who) are going into education,&rdquo; U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4ykyW4F9q8">said to an audience of educators in Massachusetts</a> last year. &ldquo;Ninety percent don&rsquo;t have that opportunity.&rdquo;</p><p>Education leaders in Illinois have taken up that call, but the way they&rsquo;ve done it has raised some red flags. That&rsquo;s because tougher standards are coming at a cost: fewer minorities are on track to become teachers. The data have state officials talking about whether they should do things differently.</p><p>The issue became a key point of discussion at last month&rsquo;s regular meeting of the Illinois State Board of Education. Though it wasn&rsquo;t on the board&rsquo;s agenda, a handful of outsiders showed up to bring it to the board&rsquo;s attention during the public comment portion of the meeting. Linda Wegner, a teacher in Rochelle, IL, spoke on behalf of the <a href="http://www.ieanea.org/">Illinois Education Association</a>. &ldquo;I want to encourage my minority students to be teachers. I try to, I always have,&rdquo; she told</p><p>Wegner warned the board that unless it intervenes, Illinois&rsquo; teaching force will become whiter. That&rsquo;s because the number of African Americans and Latinos in teaching schools is way down. She and many others attributed this to a change in the <a href="http://www.il.nesinc.com/">Test of Academic Proficiency</a>, or TAP, an admissions test for colleges of education. Anyone who wants to be a teacher in Illinois must pass the TAP.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re seeing a diminution in the number of minority candidates who are passing this exam, so we&rsquo;re worried about it,&rdquo; said Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. Chico told Wegner he is seriously alarmed about data that show that fewer African Americans and Hispanics are passing the TAP. He said the board had feared this might happen when it raised standards to pass the TAP in 2010.</p><p>That year, the board doubled the scores needed to pass each section of the TAP, and also <a href="http://www.isbe.net/licensure/pdf/icts_test.pdf">limited students to five tries</a>. &ldquo;It was really part and parcel of that overall movement to increase the rigor of various standards that affect the entire profession,&rdquo; Chico explained.</p><p>Last year, the board also began allowing teacher candidates to <a href="http://www.isbe.net/licensure/pdf/act-sat-grade-use-notice0113.pdf">submit test scores on other standardized assessments in lieu of the TAP</a>. A score of at least 22 on the ACT or 1030 on the SAT would qualify. However, the state has not tracked whether this has allowed more candidates of color into colleges of education. Both of those cutoff scores are above what African Americans and Hispanics in Illinois average on those exams; they are below what Caucasians average.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Data is in</strong></h2><p>But now, it&rsquo;s been three years, and the numbers are in: the overall pass rate for the TAP is less than half what it was before, and the changes have disproportionately hurt non-Asian minorities. Sixty percent of African-Americans used to pass the TAP; now it&rsquo;s 17 percent. For Hispanics, the pass rate has dropped from 70 percent, to 22 percent.</p><p>Many are quick to warn that this is not because those candidates are less capable, but that they themselves were products of poor schools. &ldquo;If you think about who have we been under-educating in the past, it tends to be low-income and minority students,&rdquo; said Robin Steans of <a href="http://www.advanceillinois.org/">Advance Illinois</a>, an education policy group.</p><p>Steans rejects the idea that raising teacher standards must come at the cost of diversity. She says colleges of education should do more to recruit talented minorities.</p><p>But the reality is, Illinois is seeing a tradeoff. She and many others in the education field in Illinois believe this matters because year after year the white student population in the state has shrunk. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, white students make up 50.3 percent of school enrollment this year. Meanwhile, the share of white teachers in Illinois has barely changed, <a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/State.aspx?source=About_Educators&amp;source2=Teacher_Demographics">hovering between 82 and 85 percent</a>. Many feel the new TAP further exacerbates the mismatch.</p><p>&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t we want kids to have elementary teachers who have a solid grasp of these subjects?&rdquo; said Arthur McKee, of the <a href="http://www.nctq.org/siteHome.do">National Council on Teacher Quality</a>. The NCTQ has become a vocal advocate in pressuring states to raise teacher standards. McKee said Illinois made the right changes to the TAP, and should stay its course. &ldquo;We actually think that it&rsquo;s a good assessment,&rdquo; he continued. &ldquo;We believe that teachers should generally be drawn from the top half of the college-going population.&rdquo;</p><p>Nationally, that&rsquo;s where things are going. Many states are considering policy changes to make teaching more selective. Some would weed candidates out after they finish their education degrees, but others like New Jersey and Nebraska are thinking of doing what Illinois does: narrowing the pool at the front end. In most of these places, there are debates about whether changes might limit diversity in their teaching pool. Illinois is the early adopter that shows those fears are well-founded.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Teachers of their own culture</strong></h2><p>Practitioners on the ground agree that we need smart teachers, but many also believe students do better with teachers of their own culture. &ldquo;I just think it&rsquo;s so important for children to see people that look like them in positive situations,&rdquo; said Shalonda Randle, principal of Roosevelt Junior High and Elementary School in south suburban Riverdale, &ldquo;so that they can see that African Americans are teachers, are principals, are in positions of power and authority.&rdquo;</p><p>Randle started at the school as a teacher in 1996, and said she saw the student body change. &ldquo;When I first started, the demographics was pretty much, I would say 50 percent Caucasian, 50 percent African American,&rdquo; she remembered. &ldquo;Within the course of 3 years, by 1998 until &nbsp;2000 the demographics went to 100 percent African-American students.&rdquo; Meanwhile, Randle recalled being one of only two African American teachers at that time.</p><p>When Randle became principal in 2003, she said she made it a priority to hire more teachers of color. Today, more than half her teachers are African-American. She said she doesn&rsquo;t compromise the quality of her teachers for race, but she worries that the TAP may be locking out people who might make really good teachers. Randle said Illinois should keep high standards, but it should measure teacher aptitude in a variety of ways.&nbsp;</p><p>Joyce Jackson agrees; she said by any other measure, she&rsquo;d be deemed worth to teach. Jackson returned a phone call to WBEZ just hours after she had taken the math portion of the TAP. &ldquo;You can hear the shakiness in my voice, because I&rsquo;ve just come from taking the Basic Skills math portion of the new TAP exam,&rdquo; Jackson said in a recorded voice message, &ldquo;and as you can hear I am so upset because I have yet not passed it again.&rdquo;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>A rigorous test</strong></h2><p>My editor had me take the TAP, to see what it&rsquo;s like. It&rsquo;s a five-hour, computer-based test, geared toward a college sophomore level. My experience was that the test is doable, but certainly rigorous.</p><p>Jackson has taken the math portion of that test seven times. She is board president for Randle&rsquo;s school district, and decided to go back to school herself to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. But after years of trying to pass the TAP, and hundreds of dollars in test preparation and test-taking, she&rsquo;s reaching the end of her tether. She has not been able to move forward in her coursework at Governor State University to complete her teaching credits.</p><p>&ldquo;I also have enough credits to switch a major and go maybe into sociology or social work or psychology,&rdquo; said Jackson. Officials of colleges of education at UIC, NEIU and Governor State University all said that many of their minority teaching candidates do what Jackson is considering: switch to other majors after failing the TAP. Jackson says it breaks her heart to think of this, because all she wanted was to teach students that they could be whatever they want.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 07:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/push-teacher-quality-illinois-takes-toll-minority-candidates-108601 Teachers feeling 'beat down' as school year starts http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-10/teachers-feeling-beat-down-school-year-starts-90388 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-11/Classroom Teacher_Getty_Sean Gallup.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As students prepare to begin another school year, their teachers are hopping mad. They're facing layoffs and deep budget cuts and many say they're tired of being blamed unfairly for just about everything that's wrong in public education. They're so mad that many are bypassing their unions and mounting a campaign of their own to restore the public's faith in their profession.</p><p>Betsy Leis, a middle school teacher in Florida, is one of these angry teachers.</p><p>"I give my heart and my soul to every single student in my classroom and all I see on the news is that we aren't doing our job. We're constantly beat down. That's why I'm angry," Leis says. "I don't make any money and part of me is OK with that because I don't do it for the money."</p><p>And it's not enough that people don't appreciate teachers, they've become punching bags, says <a>Claudia Rueda-Alvarez</a>, a high school counselor in Chicago.</p><p>She says if people believe this country is going down the tubes, why don't they single out the people on Wall Street who are still getting million dollar bonuses?</p><p>"But everybody seems to be talking about a teacher making $50,000 to 60,000 a year — 'Oh my God, greedy teachers!' — so that passion that I feel for my profession will not be taken away by fear. If anything, it energizes me more," Rueda says.</p><p>This energy and need among teachers to speak out is not just in a few places. It's all over the country.</p><p>The group of 2,000 to 3,000 teachers who participated in a rally in Washington, D.C., late last month was tiny compared to the protests earlier this year in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states where lawmakers have curbed teachers' collective bargaining rights. But organizers of the "Save Our Schools" event in D.C., say they're different. They say they speak for classroom teachers who are not being heard on the issue of tenure, for example. Karen Klebba, a teacher from Illinois, says the unions' defense of tenure is wrong.</p><p>"If you're doing your job and you're doing a great job and you have an evaluative process that works, then there really should be no reason to have tenure and there really should be no reason to hide behind it," Klebba says.</p><p><strong>Education Reform</strong></p><p>The consensus though is that the Obama administration's education policies are no less prescriptive or punitive than the much maligned No Child Left Behind law. And high stakes tests are undermining quality instruction and good teachers, especially if test results are used to evaluate teachers or decide how much they should be paid.</p><p>"Testing is a more of a means of addressing the accountability issue despite the way it's been portrayed," says Joe Williams, who heads the Democrats For Education Reform, a liberal lobbying group that focuses on teacher quality issues.</p><p>Williams says no one is trying to punish teachers or make testing more important than children. The problem is that this discussion is taking place in a very polarized political climate.</p><p>"The notion that education reform could get wrapped up so closely with attempts to eliminate collective bargaining has made it very difficult to have this conversation all over the country," Williams say.</p><p>But it's not just about politics, says Mike Petrilli of the conservative Fordham Institute.</p><p>"The reason that these debates are happening now is because of the economy. You see policymakers seeing that this crisis is an opportunity to fix some things that have been broken for a long time," Petrilli says.</p><p>Petrilli says tenure and seniority policies are good examples. With teacher layoffs on the horizon, how do you decide who to let go?</p><p>"It has never made sense to say that when layoffs are necessary, we're going to get rid of the youngest teachers, regardless of effectiveness. How that could possibly be good for kids? That's crazy," Petrilli says.</p><p>And yet, at the beginning of the year, Petrilli says, 14 states mandated that layoffs be based on seniority, not effectiveness. The other huge issue that doesn't get nearly as much attention is the teacher pension crisis.</p><p>"Many teachers teach for 30 years and then retire for 30 years and for those 30 years, they're making 60 or 70 or 80 percent of their salary indexed to inflation. This is like the Social Security debate. At some point the numbers just don't add up," Petrilli says.</p><p>That's why state lawmakers are asking teachers to put more of their own pay into their pensions and health care benefits, which teachers view as attack on their profession.</p><p>As for the broader education debate, Petrilli and others agree that Washington will remain in gridlock and the big education battles on the horizon are going to play out in the states.</p><p>"This is where teachers unions are at their strongest and this is where you've got some of these bold Republican governors who are ready for a fight," Petrilli says.</p><p>Just in time for the 2012 election. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-10/teachers-feeling-beat-down-school-year-starts-90388 Quinn signs landmark education bill http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-landmark-education-bill-87764 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/Classroom Teacher_Getty_Sean Gallup.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a sweeping education overhaul into law Monday morning, paving the way for longer school days for Chicago students and making it harder for teachers to go on strike.</p><p>The law also changes the so-called "last hired, first fired" teacher seniority policy that districts used in deciding which educators to lay off. It also makes it easier for districts to fire chronically underperforming teachers.</p><p>The bill-signing ceremony at an elementary school in suburban Maywood was more grandiose than usual, complete with a marching bands colorguard team.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been a vocal supporter of the bill, touted a provision that would allow him to lengthen the day for Chicago public schools’ students, who he said now have one of the shortest &nbsp;[school] days in the country.</p><p>"We are now gonna have the ability to do what we have denied the kids of Chicago for generation after generation," Emanuel said. "When the governor signs that, that is going to end."</p><p>State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, the Maywood Democrat who sponsored the measure, touted the spirit of cooperation between unions, administrators and reform groups during negations.</p><p>Lightford acknowledged the new law makes it more difficult for teachers to go on strike, but she cautioned unions and management that such friction isn't good for students</p><p>"Transparency is there so all your dirty laundry will be aired out publicly," Lightford said. "No 'behind closed doors.'"</p><p>Officials and education reform advocates repeatedly praised the law as a national model, particularly because it was negotiated with relatively little acrimony, even as fights over collective bargaining for public workers have raged in other Midwestern states, such as Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.</p><p>But notably absent from Monday’s signing ceremony was Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who had characterized parts of the bill as an attack on teachers' collective-bargaining rights. Lewis did not attend the event because she was "busy focusing on the budget" ahead of a special school board meetin Wednesday, said union spokeswoman Liz Brown.</p><p>The union did have problems with the original proposal, but they were resolved when the General Assembly later passed some amendments, Brown said.</p><p>"We're glad to be looking forward to actually improving schools as well through lower class sizes and equitable funding," she said.</p></p> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-signs-landmark-education-bill-87764 Ed Programs Assail 'U.S. News' Survey http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-05-09/ed-programs-assail-us-news-survey-86295 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//0" alt="" /><p><p>Amid criticism from education reform advocates who say many teacher preparation programs provide poor training, a national organization is conducting a review of more than 1,000 programs to help aspiring teachers choose from the best. This consumer guide for prospective teachers — conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality — will be published in <em>U.S.</em><em> News and World Report </em>next year.</p><p>But many schools of education say the effort is misguided, and they are threatening to scuttle the project.</p><p><strong>Compiling The Stats</strong></p><p>Teacher training programs have similar goals, but they vary tremendously. Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality, who's spearheading the effort, points to requirements for middle school biology teachers.</p><p>"In some places it means that teacher has to take nine biology courses and some places it means that teacher has to take one biology course," Walsh says. Walsh says her staff is combing through course syllabi and entrance requirements and examining the rigor of in-classroom training.</p><p>"We want to know how prepared they are to teach reading, the mathematic preparation of elementary teachers. We're looking at whether they're at all selective," Walsh says.</p><p>It may sound like another harmless rating system for higher ed, but in the world of education, it can be impossible to get people to agree on standards. And that's exactly what's happening here.<strong> </strong></p><p>Lynne Weisenbach, vice chancellor of the University of Georgia, says her state's institutions are doing fine. They have already been vetted by a state review board.</p><p>"The professional standards commission has high standards and all of our institutions are accredited" by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Weisenbach says.</p><p>Weisenbach says the <em>U.S. News</em> survey relies too heavily on documents like curriculum content. Some teachers use materials that may not show up in a syllabus, she says. For that and other reasons, she thinks the survey<strong> </strong>will be misleading and a waste of time. So the University of Georgia is refusing refused to participate in the <em>U.S. News</em> review of teacher training.</p><p>"Given the time and resources we have we really feel that we're putting them in the right place," she says.</p><p><strong>'A Very Strange Metric'<br /></strong></p><p>A number of other institutions have similar problems and may not help supply data.</p><p>Walsh says this won't stop her. She will get the information through open records requests if she has to. "These are publicly approved programs preparing public school teachers. This is information the public has a right to know," she says.</p><p>But Walsh admits that open records requests will not let her peek inside private preparation programs. And even with public programs, filing all those requests will be expensive and will make it tougher to get a complete picture.</p><p>Many schools say they feel the <em>U.S. News</em> ratings are just looking at the wrong indicators.</p><p>Deborah Ball is dean of the education school at the University of Michigan.</p><p>"For example most of the indicators people are discussing have to do with inputs like the quality of the entrance requirements. That's a very strange metric," Ball says. "If I was a person looking for a program, I'd want to know what I'm going to learn while I'm there, not how selective the program is."</p><p>Nevertheless, Ball says the University of Michigan will produce the data that's been requested.</p><p>People behind the review project say the feel teaching programs are just reluctant to have outsiders looking in. But they say, a view from outside is just what's needed if teacher prep is ever going to make the improvements that are needed. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Mon, 09 May 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-05-09/ed-programs-assail-us-news-survey-86295 What makes a good teacher? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/what-makes-good-teacher-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2010-November/2010-11-08/chicago_school resize.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>So how exactly do schools identify good teachers? What are realistic expectations of teachers when they work in overcrowded and underfunded schools? And what are the barriers to improving teacher quality locally and around the country?</p><p>Eight Forty-Eight spoke with two people who have spent a lot of time thinking about good teaching: Alicia Winckler is the chief human capital officer for <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/home.aspx" target="_blank">Chicago Public Schools</a> and&nbsp;John Luczak is the education program manager at the <a href="http://www.joycefdn.org/content.cfm/home" target="_blank">Joyce Foundation</a>.</p><p>The Joyce Foundation recently released a <a href="http://www.joycefdn.org/teacherquality/" target="_blank">guidebook</a> for parents on teacher quality.</p><p><em>Music Button: To Rococo Rot, &quot;Bells,&quot; </em>Speculation<em> (Domino)</em></p></p> Mon, 08 Nov 2010 16:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/what-makes-good-teacher-0