Daily News Roundup, February 2, 2012

Perspectives: News You Can Use
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Some of the News Fit to Print


University of Michigan’s TeachingWorks is the new university-led program that aims to develop the first set of widely used national standards for producing competent new teachers, something many training programs now fail to do. More than 60 percent of teachers say they’re unprepared for their first jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Many elementary school teachers don’t learn how to lead a lesson on fractions. English teachers arrive in a classroom without knowledge of Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar, mainstays of almost every school’s curriculum. Deborah Ball, dean of Michigan's School of Education and director of TeachingWorks, said the idea that teachers can learn on the job is outdated and dangerous."People think teaching is an easy thing," Ball said. "People haven’t tended to think kids are as at risk when teachers are underprepared." The article is in Inside Higher Ed.

The success of the “completion agenda” may hinge on whether community colleges set more mandatory requirements for students, and drop their reliance on making academic support offerings optional. That’s the oft-stated argument of Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement, who likes to say “students don’t do optional.” Now a new study from the center, which draws on research from four surveys of the community college sector, lends evidence to the case for mandatory. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.

Jonathan Weissman writes in the Atlantic: If shrinking education spending is behind higher prices, the White House has a clear first objective: Do everything possible to keep states from cutting their budgets. That's especially the case with community colleges, which are already starved of resources. The $1 billion college sweepstakes fund might help. The program it's based on, Race to the Top, was successful in encouraging states to adopt a whole host of education reforms using a fairly minute amount of money, just $4.35 billion, as an incentive. Whether a smaller pot of money will have the same influence isn't clear, especially since it would require cash-strapped states to look for savings elsewhere.


In a recent interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined his view that teachers who perform well deserve great salaries. Merit pay is currently a hot issue for lawmakers and education stakeholders, with both sides of the political spectrum having ideas on how much and where government funding should be dispensed and to what extent teachers’ unions should have a role in making these decisions, writes Jeff Poor at the Daily Caller. Mayor Bloomberg has recently suggested that one of the ways to reward great teachers and encourage excellence in the field is to offer huge bonuses of up to $20,000 for teachers in public schools who perform well over two years. And Duncan, who is a self proclaimed radical on the issue of teacher pay, believes that this may be a good place to start. The article is in EducationNews.org

States that have seen big explosions in population—including Nevada, Utah, and Arizona—also would see a big jump in federal funding for teacher quality under a little-noticed provision of a draft bill to renew the No Child Left Behind Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee. But other states that have lost people in recent years—including New York, Michigan, and Kline's home state of Minnesota—would see a dip in funding, according to an analysis Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington that champions progressive policies. The reason? Kline's proposal would change the formula for distributing about $3 billion in Improving Teacher Quality State grant money, or Title II, in Washington-wonkspeak. The funds help states provide professional development, reduce class size, and generally boost teacher quality. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.

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