It’s the end of teacher appreciation week: the DOE's number two guy, Shael Suransky, taught a class, Chancellor Walcott has been visiting schools, Mayor Bloomberg and countless others shared some #thankateacher love on Twitter, and maybe a few students brought apples to their teachers. We wonder, how can we best show our teachers appreciation all year round?
There are several politically charged answers to the that question that have been highlighted in the news lately. But, what about better pay? It’s no secret that teachers aren’t in it for the money. Teaching can be a highly rewarding job but it is not a career path paved with financial gold. A public school teacher in New York City with a BA can expect to earn $45,530 his first year, according to the UFT’s salary schedule.
Still, that’s almost 10K more than the national average: $36,502, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s most recent survey of education from around the world. But the high cost of living in the Big Apple, eats up much, if not all, of the difference.
After three decades on the job NYC teachers with a Master's degree can make over $100,000. Of course if you luck out and get a job at TEP, The Equity Project Charter School, you'll make $125,000 your first year there. But that's the exception.
Average starting pay for teachers in Finland, Diane Ravitch’s favorite place to learn, is actually lower, $32,692 (of course, the Socialist country has much better government benefits, but that’s a blogpost for another day). Teachers in Japan make $27,995 starting out and $30,522 is first-year pay for teachers in Korea. In Poland, on the other hand, starting salary is $9,186 on average. Luxemborg is one of the best places to teach if you’re after some green, starting teachers there make $51,799. (All these numbers are from OECD.)
With that perspective, maybe New York’s not so bad! Then again, teachers are some of the most valuable members of society, should we pay them more? What do you think is a fair starting salary? Take our poll!
New York State’s standardized math and English exams for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades are over, except for the scoring and the remaining four years of Pearson’s $32 million contract to provide tests. Here’s a sample question that should be on a state exam but never will be:
Read the following story. At the end, answer four questions.
It was a sunny Monday morning in the Enchanted Forest, and the animal children happily scurried, hopped and slithered to the clearing where Owl taught 4th grade. As usual, Bunny was first to arrive. “I’m so happy, Mr. Owl,” said Bunny. “Monday has music class, so it’s my favorite day.”
Owl looked at Bunny. “We’re not having music class, remember? Today is the annual Enchanted Forest state math test. Instead of singing songs and playing the recorder, you’re going to sit your little cotton tail at a desk for 90 minutes and answer some questions.”
Anne Stone is Associate Professor of Music at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Jeff Nichols is Associate Professor of Music at Queens College and the Graduate Center. They live in Manhattan with their sons Aaron and Gabriel. As a result of their 3rd-grader's experiences with a test-driven curriculum, they joined with other parents and teachers in Change the Stakes, a committee of the Grassroots Education Movement working on issues related to high-stakes testing in the public schools. They have published two pieces for SchoolBook: "Dear Governor: Lobby to Save a Love of Reading" and "A Lesson on Teaching to the Test from E.B.White".
When people ask us why we are boycotting the standardized tests this spring, we hardly know where to begin. We find it unconscionable that our son's test results can be used to determine whether his teachers keep their jobs, whether his school stays open, and whether he goes on to the next grade. But the "high-stakes" nature of the tests is just the tip of the pineapple.
A group of parents have launched a petition drive to try and reverse the increasing importance of standardized exams in city schools. In particular, they are opposed to a new law that could get teachers fired if their students' state test scores don't increase sufficiently.
"Parents want their children to have the opportunity to learn, to think critically, to engage in meaningful relationships with teachers, and to have positive school experiences," the Brooklyn-based group of parents write.
They also do not want to see a repeat of the Teacher Data Reports, which used state exams to evaluate teachers and then made the dubious ratings public.
They've gotten about 1,000 signatures by tabling outside schools, mostly in Brooklyn. Now there's an online petition you can sign if you want to join their effort.
Sparks flew at the Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies on Monday night as the chief academic officer defended the city's heavy reliance on standardized exams to judge schools, principals and teachers.
Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky was under fire all night from the crowd in the packed school auditorium in Carroll Gardens. The two principals on the panel who said they believed the testing regime had damaged education in city schools.
The former head of the Office of Accountability kept his cool and acknowledged that the current state exams did not do a good job at measuring "critical thinking," but he denied that the exams were overly influential and said that better tests were coming. Why, then, has the Bloomberg administration made such a public spectacle of the A through F grading system, which is mostly based on student progress on the exams, if they aren't very good? Polakow-Suransky never answered that question.
You can read more about the event, which was moderated by Insideschools reporter Meredith Kolodner, on GothamSchools and SchoolBook. Watch a video clip of the meeting from the Grassroots Education Movement:
In an effort to prevent the sexual abuse of children, my daughter’s elementary school now requires parents to wear little white nametags when we visit classrooms. I’m pleased to report that Operation Nametag has been a success: No charges of child abuse have been filed since it went into effect.
Well, no new charges. The school is still reeling from the arrest in February of a paraprofessional who has been charged with attempting to molest an 8-year-old boy. As the criminal case creeps through the legal system, parents at my daughter’s school are sad, fearful, confused and, above all, angry that the school can’t guarantee their children’s safety.
I personally don’t expect such a guarantee. I agree with Helen Keller, who wrote, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.” But Helen and I hold the minority view. Other parents are proposing a number of reforms that they insist will make my daughter’s school a safer place.
Sadly, many of the ideas are terrible.
Anyone who regularly reads Department of Education documents knows better than to expect fine literature. Many DOE memos and letters are so full of the bureaucratic nonsense known as “eduspeak” that they make an IRS 1040 form look like “Huckleberry Finn.” But a letter recently sent home with my 1st-grader set a new low.
The title, “Newly Identified District in Need of Improvement Year 10,” is parents’ first clue they’re in for trouble. Only the DOE could have a school district in need of improvement for 10 years and describe it as “Newly Identified.” But it gets worse.
I give you the second paragraph, as written, with boldface letters as shown in the original:
"During the 2010-11 school year, English Language Arts was designated as a District in Need of Improvement Year 9 (DINI-9) in English Language Arts. Because the District failed to make AYP at the elementary, middle and high school level in English Language Arts in 2010-11, the District has been designated as a District in Need of Improvement Year 10 (DINI-10) in English Language Arts for the 2011-12 school year."
Vasilios Biniarls is a math teacher at a Queens middle school program for gifted students, The Academy at PS 122. He wrote to Insideschools after his name was published in the press as a "Below Average" teacher. Here's his view. Insideschools will not be publishing or linking to the Teacher Data Reports.
The recent release of NYC's Teacher Data Reports (TDR) has stirred up a wide range of responses from all of the relevant stakeholders in our city's school system. As a teacher whose name was published in the local media with a corresponding characterization of "Below Average," I am upset, angry, even demoralized. After a great deal of personal reflection, I feel compelled to reach out to the parents of the students I teach.
For me, it is important for people to know that I teach in the same school that I attended as a child; it is the same school that both of my siblings went to as well. As three children of immigrant parents, we owe a debt of gratitude to our alma mater, and I strongly feel that the experiences that we had at P.S. 122 were instrumental in paving the way to a life of higher education. I would do anything for my school.
The latest serving of data-driven mania from the city Education Department will likely produce screaming headlines about the city's "worst teachers." This virtual wall of shame (and fame) will live online for years to come. But does it actually help parents to find the best schools and teachers? Not really. Here's why.
The ratings are based on a complicated formula that compares how much 4th through 8th-grade students have improved on standardized tests compared with how well they were predicted to do. The system tries to take into consideration factors like race, poverty and disabilities. Teachers are then graded on a curve. It's known as "value-added," because it tries show how much value an individual teacher has added to a student's test scores.
Here are our top five reasons they won't help and why you won't be seeing them on Insideschools. Please add your own, or tell us why you think they will be useful.
The nominating committee for Helicopter Parent of the Year should take note: I recently sent a letter to a 1st grade teacher asking whether my daughter’s homework was too perfect.
Let me explain. Four days a week, my 1st-grader comes home from school with a one-page worksheet in her backpack. The assignments are simple: a bit of math one day, some spelling the next, maybe a quiz to see if she remembers the difference between a reptile and an amphibian. But homework is a regular event at her school.
My 6-year-old daughter is still learning to read, so I help her figure out the assignment and sit nearby while she fills in the blanks. When she makes a mistake, I bring it to her attention and guide her toward the correct answer. The work she turns in at school the next day isn’t flawless (her penmanship is pretty bad, and the worksheet bears lots of eraser smudges), but thanks to my intervention the answers are right and the words are spelled correctly.