What parents and teachers say
March 14th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

'I'm not your enemy': 10 things parents and teachers want each other to know

By Nicole Saidi, CNN

(CNN) - Teachers and parents share a common purpose: educating children.

But differing beliefs, expectations and methods can make collaboration more challenging.

A 2011 story published on CNN.com by author and teacher Ron Clark, entitled "What teachers really want to tell parents," looked at reasons why educators give up on their field.

He asserted that negativity from parents places undue pressure on teachers and advised greater cooperation.

"We are educators, not nannies," Clark wrote. "We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it."

His opinion consistently resonated with readers over the next couple of years, which made it one of CNN's most-shared stories on Facebook. The story has been recommended more than 898,000 times.

Clark founded the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and was named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and a "Phenomenal Man" by Oprah Winfrey.

But even Clark's status as a leader in his field didn't fully explain why this story captivated people, so CNN revisited the idea with Facebook users last week by asking them to finish this sentence: "The one thing parents/teachers really need to know is _____."

Read the full story

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My view: I would trade tenure for better teaching
Teacher Aadina Balti has tenure, but says it's no reason for her, or any other teacher, to stop innovating.
December 12th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

My view: I would trade tenure for better teaching

Courtesy NAMEBy Aadina Balti, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Aadina Balti is a veteran teacher and math coach in Boston's public school system. Balti is certified in moderate disabilities and elementary education. She is also a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.

(CNN) - I've been in the classroom for 11 years - that makes me a minority in the teaching profession, as more than half of all teachers have taught for a decade or less. But I'm still striving to be a better teacher.

A recent report from national nonprofit Teach Plus shows that veteran teachers like me tend to be less receptive to the growing emphasis on teacher performance than our less-experienced colleagues.

The report, "Great Expectations: Teachers' Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession," highlights data from Teach Plus' recent national survey of teachers, showing that 42% of earlier-career teachers (called the "new majority" in the report) support more performance-based tenure and compensation systems, compared to just 15% of my fellow veterans.

As a teacher who has just crossed the line from new majority to veteran status, I understand how experienced teachers feel about the protections afforded them by the tenure system.

I understand because I’ve put in the time and effort necessary to establish myself in the school system. I understand because I, too, value my job security. Sometimes I even understand that it's easy to get comfortable and fall into doing the same old thing.

But the current lack of accountability is bringing our profession down.

While I value the tenure I've been granted, I would be willing to give up that protection to move our profession toward one that emphasizes performance.

I got into this profession because I want to have a positive impact on society and because I feel confident that all children can learn. As an educator, it's my job to make that happen. I ask my students to push themselves for excellence every day. If I’m not pushing myself for excellence, too, then I’m not just failing myself, I’m failing my students.
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Filed under: Policy • Research • Teachers • TeachPlus.org • Voices
December 5th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Longer school day coming for thousands of students

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - School's going to be a little longer for about 20,000 U.S. students next year.

On Monday, The U.S. Department of Education, the Ford Foundation and the National Center for Time and Learning (NCTL), announced the formation of the TIME Collaborative. This initiative will support more than 40 selected schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee that will be open an additional 300 hours during the 2013-2014 school year. For schools on a 180-day calendar, that would add more than an hour and a half of instruction per day.

The TIME Collaborative, a partnership between NCTL and the Ford Foundation, is funded by federal, state and private funds. NCTL will provide technical support for schools, while the Ford Foundation is offering $3 million in grant funds.

One of the group’s goals is to reduce achievement gaps for children who live in impoverished communities. "More learning time was simply necessary to close opportunity and achievement gaps," David Farbman, senior researcher at NCTL, wrote on the organization’s official blog.
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My View: Inspiring students to put their stories 'on the record'
Actress Hilary Swank, author Erin Gruwell and Maria Reyes, who inspired the character of Eva in ‘Freedom Writers,’ arrive at the movie’s premiere.
December 3rd, 2012
04:05 AM ET

My View: Inspiring students to put their stories 'on the record'

Courtesy Freedom Writers FoundationBy Erin Gruwell, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Erin Gruwell is the inspiration for the film “Freedom Writers,” starring Hilary Swank. She helped a group of disengaged students in Long Beach, California, turn their lives around by reading stories of people whose struggles they could relate to. She encouraged them to pick up a pen and put their stories on the record. She is the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation and author of a new nonfiction reading and writing program from Scholastic called On the Record.

(CNN) - When I reminisce about my first day as a teacher, I can remember walking into my classroom in polka dots and pearls, with the hope that I could change the world – or at least the worlds of the students assigned to my ninth grade English class. Then I discovered that my students hated reading and hated writing, and complete and utter panic set in. Quickly, my idealism turned to doubt—and I doubted my decision to be a teacher and my ability to reach my students.

As a first year teacher, fresh out of college, I was confronted with a challenge that so many new teachers face every year—the reality that my students had checked out of school a long time ago. Many of them had never read a book from cover-to-cover. Nor did they intend to. And they didn’t see how school had any relevance in their lives.

In the minds of most of my students, school was not relevant to their daily struggles: poverty, the threat of gang violence, drugs, juvenile hall, or worse yet, funerals. My students looked at me and thought there was no way I could understand what it was like to be hungry, to have a father in prison or a mother who had to work three jobs just to put food on the table.

I remember one of my students, Maria, walking in on the first day wearing an ankle monitor around her leg, and a parole officer by her side. She was throwing up her gang signs in the back of the class, carving her initials on her desk and making it very clear that she was miserable. Her goal was to make me as miserable as she was. I was determined to get her to record her story, in the hopes that maybe she could rewrite her own ending.
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My view: Great teacher evaluation shouldn’t be good luck
November 29th, 2012
03:57 AM ET

My view: Great teacher evaluation shouldn’t be good luck

Courtesy Teach PlusBy Marisol Castillo, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Marisol Castillo teaches at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington. Castillo taught in California’s Bay Area, and then at a small high school in the South Bronx before relocating to Washington, D.C. In 2009, she received her National Board Certification. Castillo is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.

(CNN) - I’m a lucky teacher.

In the nine years I’ve been in the classroom — at three different urban schools — I’ve consistently experienced evaluations that have allowed me to grow as an educator. I’m a better teacher because of that, and my students have benefited.

All teachers should be so lucky as to experience high-quality evaluation. But unfortunately, they’re not. According to a 2012 national survey of teachers conducted by the nonprofit Teach Plus, Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession, nearly half of all teachers say they either had not received an evaluation in the past year or did not find their evaluation feedback useful.

Recently I was able to address these survey results in front of policymakers on Capitol Hill. I told them that, according to the Teach Plus report, teachers who have been in the classroom for less than 10 years support a range of reforms.

The report shows that a majority of teachers across experience levels think clear standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession. Many teachers, including nearly three-quarters of the New Majority, the 52% of teachers with less than 10 years experience, want student growth data to be a component of their evaluations.
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November 28th, 2012
01:30 PM ET

National graduation rates released

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) released a report of state high school graduation rates, which for the first time includes apples-to-apples comparisons among most states. Each state used to determine its own graduation rate; now states are moving toward a common method of measurement.

As Schools of Thought reported earlier, graduation rates for some states have dropped not because students are failing more often, but because the math has changed. The USDOE points this out in a press release on its website: "While 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot." The new data is based on a "four year cohort graduation rate," which also accounts for students who drop out or do not earn a regular high school diploma.

Read "The new graduation rates" for an explanation of these metrics.

In the video, Brooke Baldwin examines the states with the highest and lowest gradation rates. Across the United States, the range of state graduation rates is between Nevada's 62% and Iowa's 88%. The District of Columbia's rate is lower than that of any state, at 59%. Some states, including Kentucky and Idaho, are not using the new method and were not included in the data released by USDOE.

Looking at the data itself another picture emerges – a gap between whites and blacks still exists, but an even wider gap persists between general graduation rates and the graduation rates of children with disabilities and limited English proficiency students. For these subgroups, graduation rates in many states are below 50%, and sometimes even below 30%.

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My View: The lesson in Newark
November 28th, 2012
04:20 AM ET

My View: The lesson in Newark

by Sydney Morris and Evan Stone, Special to CNN

Evan Stone

Evan Stone

Sydney Morris

Sydney Morris

Editor’s note: Sydney Morris and Evan Stone are co-founders and co-CEOs of Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization that seeks to ensure that teachers’ voices are meaningfully included in the policy decisions that affect their classrooms and careers.

School and union leaders in the nation’s largest school districts who are waging epic battles over teacher evaluation, compensation and the future of the teaching profession could learn a lesson from their colleagues in Newark, New Jersey. That’s where the city’s 3,300 teachers  recently ratified a groundbreaking new contract that provides them unprecedented support and compensation.

The issues on the table in this negotiation were similar to those being debated in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere: How should teachers be evaluated? Who should evaluate them? How should the district use the evaluations to hire and promote educators and dismiss those who underperform? How should teachers be paid and how much?

But instead of the paralysis that has marked those other negotiations, Newark leaders were able to rationally discuss these points without the bluster and polarization we’ve seen elsewhere. They found a way to blend their demands in a way that will truly elevate the teaching profession. The two sides agreed to:

A comprehensive evaluation system based on multiple measures including student growth, observations and peer reviews. Teachers will receive one of four rankings from highly effective to ineffective. Superintendent Cami Anderson was vocal about the need for more effective evaluation, while NTU President Joe Del Grosso won peer reviews as a way to give the voices of teachers more weight in their colleagues’ ratings.
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Chinese flock to elite U.S. schools
Students celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Shanghai Jiaotong University in June 2005.
November 26th, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Chinese flock to elite U.S. schools

By Alexis Lai, CNN

(CNN) - Jay Lin is the embodiment of the American dream - and what is increasingly a Chinese dream.

Originally from Wenzhou in eastern China, he moved to New York City as a teenager. After earning degrees from Ivy League universities - Cornell and Columbia - he secured a comfortable job in a bucolic town in Connecticut.

Now he is helping others in China follow his path, where the desire for elite U.S. education is alive and well.

In the last decade, mainland Chinese have reshaped the international student body at U.S. colleges and universities, notably at Ivy League institutions. In the 2009-2010 academic year, China surpassed traditional "study abroad" heavyweights like Canada, India and South Korea, to lead international enrollment across U.S. higher education, according to the Institute of International Education. The U.S.-based institute's most recent figures reveal that mainland Chinese students increased 23% to more than 723,000 in the 2010-11 academic year.

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Students give thanks
November 22nd, 2012
05:38 AM ET

Students give thanks

by Tomeka Jones, CNN

Editor's note: This post examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the CNN Student News community. Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.

(CNN) - Thanksgiving is more than a succulent turkey with all the fixings and a slice of sweet potato pie. At least that’s what some middle and high school students believe when it comes to a day of giving thanks. Many students shared with CNN that they’re most thankful for family, friends, and much more.

Read some of their heartfelt messages of gratitude:

Asia: I’m thankful that someone adopted me and that my sisters are able to get the proper TLC (tender loving care) that they need and I’m also thankful for my awesome civics teacher, Mr. Plyler.

Robert: I am thankful for my mom for keeping food on the table and keeping a roof over my head. I am also thankful for my father; he has passed away but he’s still here with me. I am grateful to have a caring mother and a loving father.

Angel: I have a lot of things to be thankful for. I'm thankful for everything that has entered my life, even the bad times. Without the bad things, something good after that would've never happened. I'm also thankful for my family and friends, they’re always there for me when I need them. And, for having life of music!
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Overheard on CNN.com: Should you hold your child back?
November 19th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Should you hold your child back?

by John Martin, CNN

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.

(CNN) - Donna McClintock, the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. wrote last week's op-ed on redshirting kindergartners. You may have heard the term applied to college football players, but this isn't a sports story. Academic redshirting means holding a child back from school until he or she is ready. In the U.S., most kindergartners are five-year olds, so a redshirted kindergartner is usually six. McClintock says that when asking whether to redshirt a young child, "parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend."

Some readers questioned whether any child should ever be redshirted:

Rob Breisch: I can honestly say by my own example that it's far better not to redshirt your children – you are causing a life of issues from being not good enough for anyone's standards,and your children will face ridicule all their lives about it. So do them and yourself a favor – advance them and if required spend more time helping them learn.You can destroy a child by just setting them back like it's no big deal. Your child is not a toy nor a rat – so treat them with more respect and dignity and reach out and help them along – but don't make them repeat any grade!

Scott B: I know holding my kid back would be a very last resort. Regardless of what the article says, I went to school and remember how some of those held back kids were treated. About the only time it was a good thing was when they had a car before most of the class. Also, unless the kid simply can't cut it, I'd rather they be in a learning environment that challenges them more than I would want them to get better grades.

Amy: Everyone says "each child is different," and that's certainly true to some extent; however, there is a tendency for some parents to think that their child is particularly unique, different, special, etc. and must be treated differently (i.e. holding him/her back) because of that dazzling uniqueness.... With respect, I think some parents (especially moms) need to stop obsessing about this. Kids are more capable than many parents give them credit for.

Jeanne: What really annoys me is the parents who hold their kids back, so their kids are more than a year older than my kid, and then they claim that the curriculum isn't challenging enough. That is because your 7 1/2-year-old is supposed to be doing second grade work, not first grade.... So then the kid needs differentiated instruction, special trips to the library, and reading enrichment. Meanwhile my age appropriate 5-year-old summer birthday learns at the pace of the curriculum, because that is the age it is designed for. No, she's not special or advanced like your kid, but hey, she's a year and a half younger, and would have gone nuts being stuck in preschool another year. I still think my kid is getting the better end of the deal.

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