Town Hall with Teachers: Join the Discussion!

In last week’s major speech about the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Secretary Arne Duncan urged stakeholders to “build a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators – who should be valued as skilled professionals — rather than mere practitioners, and compensated accordingly.”

To help advance that discussion, Arne will engage teachers across the country in a national town hall in a special edition of the department’s television program, Education News Parents Can Use, on  October 20 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  Live from Public Broadcasting System station WETA, he will take comments and questions from teachers in the studio audience and via telephone, email, and video.

Throughout the hour-long program, teachers will have a chance to offer the secretary their suggestions and their hopes about reforming education. The conversation will cover ways to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; better methods for recruiting, preparing, and rewarding teachers; ideas for elevating the teaching profession; and much more.

Details about the special town hall for teachers on Education News, including directions for viewing the webcast of the program live, online, are at www.ed.gov/edtv.

Teachers can contribute to the conversation right now by submitting a question or posting answers to one or more of the questions below.  We’ll feature as many responses as we can on the October 20 live broadcast.   You may also call the show during the live broadcast at 1-888-493-9382, between 8:00 – 9:00 PM Eastern.  Or submit original video comments and questions by Wednesday, October 14, 2009.  (To learn how you can submit an original video, visit: www.dropio.com/ENPCU.)

Here are the questions:

  • How can we recruit, support and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?
  • What are the best ways to measure and reward excellence in teaching?
  • How can we ensure that our most challenged schools have the most effective teachers?
  • In what ways does No Child Left Behind need to change in order to support effective teaching?

ED Staff

107 Comments

  1. I am a recently retired elementary school teacher. I have just read all the posts here by my fellow teachers and I first must say ‘Thank You’ for what you have written. Your stories validate what I have seen, experienced, and struggled with in my 24 years of teaching. These struggles are the reason I left teaching…and the school and students I loved.

    I am only going to re-post my thoughts on two of Secretary Duncan’s questions…and I do VERY MUCH appreciate that Secretary Duncan is asking for more teacher input. I hope that is a good sign. :)

    *How can we recruit, support and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?

    Recognize that teachers are not the problem with public education and stop scapegoating them. In 2001, under the Bush Administration’s Education Secretary, Rod Paige, teachers (unions, specifically) were called terrorist organizations. For the last eight years, NCLB has done nothing but blame public school problems on ineffective teachers. There has been almost NO recognition for eight years of the job teachers do. The general public has NO IDEA what the job entails and our leaders have worked to make that WORSE for eight years. A better start would be a HUGE and LOUD apology to the teachers of this nation who have dedicated their lives to teaching kids. Most with little support, either financial or in respect.

    And then ask teachers what they think, and make THAT public. (Wow..that’s happening!) What a difference that would bring! Much of the public and many politicians, who rightfully want to improve public schools, have no real idea of what is wrong with them. So they try ‘canned solutions’…like merit pay…most of which are the wrong thing to do. Merit pay is divisive, just like NCLB was. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a tool for improvement if done in the right way, but it HAS to be done fairly.

    Example: NCLB has good things in it, but it became bogged down because it used AYP to pit schools and districts and teachers against each other, instead of helping us to work together toward a goal we all share: Improving education for kids. I think ANY workable solution will require input and support from teachers…not just unions…teachers. In all the talk of fixing public education and schools…which I wholeheartedly support…the idea of involving teachers in this process is never brought up by anyone in a position of authority.

    *In what ways does No Child Left Behind need to change in order to support effective teaching?

    My reform ideas, with the underlying prerequisite that teachers MUST be involved in designing a program in order for it to be successful:

    1. For teachers, stop demeaning them and start treating them professionally. Create career paths for them. Very few exist now, because teaching used to be a ‘traditional woman’s job.’

    2. Integrate curriculum. Learning makes more sense to kids when connections to other knowledge can be made. We have lost that in the era of NCLB. And we can still keep standards to meet…just not in isolation.

    3. Create multiple pathways/goals for students’ graduation…all of them rigorous. Have it kick in at about age 10 or so…be flexible until age 12 (to be sure the child has made a good personal choice)…and then be the student’s committed choice after that. Some kids may choose science/math, others may go into writing/journalism, others to a third choice. It’s important to design these pathways well…for areas students will need to work in in the future. When they finish, they are job-ready or college ready…but THEY have some buy-in to their future goal (not just their teacher or their parents).

    4. Ungraded schools at the elementary level. As some have said here, mastery of concepts should be required to move on. It’s WAY more complicated than that…but clearly passing kids from grade to grade does not work.

    5. Find ways to involve parents in their child’s education…ie. Student Led Conferences, Curriculum Fair, technology, etc. The list is endless.

    6. Less testing and test preparation. If the only test given was for NCLB, once a year, I’d cheer. But, in my county, tests are given three times a year…in reading, math and writing (to be sure state standards are met) in addition to NCLB. We start the school year…we test. We get to Christmas…we test. We return in the spring…we do test prep and test NCLB. After NCLB, at the end of the year…we test again. That’s what I mean. And anyone who has taught knows you don’t just test one day…you have all the hassle because kids are absent/makeups, etc. And then there’s the focus on scoring. Teacher energy needs to be on the kids and teaching.

    Thank you, Secretary Duncan, for the opportunity to be heard. I agree with you that it is CRITICALLY important that we fix public education. We, as a country, have talked about it the whole time I have been a teacher…but we haven’t done the right things. Politics always gets in the way.

    THIS TIME, I want President Obama to do it right. If all he does is ‘fix teachers’, he will…sadly…learn what teachers already know: WE are not the #1 problem. And we will have wasted more time and more money and we still won’t be educating our kids for THEIR future. THAT is no longer acceptable…at least not to me.

    I voted for President Obama. I think he is a smart man, and the person we need now to lead. I want him to make good decisions for our country. On education, I believe he can only do that with ALL the information out there…and that includes the point of view and experience of TEACHERS. I have great hopes for what he may be able to accomplish. My hope comes from knowing he is intelligent enough to understand and find solutions for the problems we face, seeing that he has great empathy for all people (even those who don’t agree with him), and observing that he is willing to learn from what has gone before (both in politics and policy) and always builds a strong foundation for the things he proposes.

  2. Secretary Duncan,

    Thank you for addressing this important issue. I feel school districts are caught in a terrible loop. We have too many underqualified, poor quality teachers. To address this, districts add layers of accountability and documentation in order to identify these teachers and plan interventions. However, it is this same accountability and documentation system that is crushing the spirit and vision of highly motivated, creative, inspiring teachers. You can hear the level of discouragement in many of the posts to this blog. By trying to protect schools against the lowest common denominator, districts drive away the very teachers they need to retain.

    Improving teacher education programs is certainly an important step. I gained ten percent of my professional knowledge and skill through my teacher preparation courses and the remaining ninety percent on the job. Mentoring, collaboration, and high-quality, relevant professional development have helped me continue to improve as a teacher.

    One effective model for on-the-job teacher support and professional development is the implementation of Magnet and Magnet Cluster programs like we have in the Chicago Public Schools. When a school has a specialized curricular emphasis, professional development becomes more cohesive and focused. Administrators, teachers, and students work together to create purposeful learning communities around a theme or content area. I believe this sense of school identity and focus supports and motivates teachers. It builds a sense of professional community and shared practice, and the collegiality at our school is a direct result of our Magnet Cluster focus on Literature, Writing, and Technology. I feel this model builds teacher skill while increasing effective instruction and teacher retention.

    Thank you for your time,

    Carolyn S.
    Chicago, Illinois

  3. Have every administrator from the Secretary of Education down to the school level required to teach at least one regular level class every year. This will reduce class size, save money, and keep them in touch with the classroom situation in their schools.

  4. How can we encourage all schools to meet the needs of children with severe special needs? Given the current trend for test scores to determine a school’s overall quality, few accommodations are given to show the quality of special education programs. In fact, charter schools are often discouraged from serving the most severe population because those students will bring down the school’s overall test scores and make it appear as if the school is not “succeeding” or meeting AYP. As a result, many schools are discouraged from finding ways to meet the needs of students with more severe special needs and will try to find alternative placements. How can we find a way to examine overall school programs that include special education and go beyond test scores?

  5. Dear Secretary Duncan,

    I am the Founding Principal of a high performing charter school in the state of NY. I am an alumni member of Teach For America, and I’ve taught in the inner city of Baltimore, MD and the South Bronx of New York City.

    1. How can we recruit, support and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?

    RECRUITMENT: The hardest part. You have to get the right people on the bus. They have to be a mission fit, have content knowledge, and understand that education is the civil rights movement of our time. They have to be prepared to put in long hours, understand that they’ll never be paid in proportion to the gift they provide, and still walk into work everyday with a smile.
    MOST IMPORTANTLY…Principals need to have the ability to recruit from more than a resume. I have every well qualified candidate teach a sample lesson, then I give them feedback to see if they can handle it.

    SUPPORT:Provide quality professional development, and the tools that they need to plan and execute their lessons.

    RETAIN: Provide room for growth, teacher leadership, pay increases, and the opportunity to earn a bonus.

    2.What are the best ways to measure and reward excellence in teaching?

    MEASUREMENT: If students don’t grow academically, there is no achievement. When I was a teacher, I prided myself in being able to move students academically. I still teach one period a day, and I use a variety of different assessments to measure their growth. Urban education is in a crisis, we are not rewarding smiles, and warm fuzzy feelings, we’re closing the achievement gap! I believe in standardized testing! I had no problem with it as a classroom teacher in the Bronx, nor do I have an issue with standardized tests as an administrator. .

    REWARD: Excellence is it’s own reward, but a bonus check always helps. You can throw in a certificate or something as well.

    3.How can we ensure that our most challenged schools have the most effective teachers?
    (SEE QUESTION #1)

    4. In what ways does No Child Left Behind need to change in order to support effective teaching?

    FUND IT PROPERLY!

    *EXTENDED DAY/EXTENDED YEAR:
    My school goes from 7:40-4:45, and the staff day goes from 7:15-5:15.
    If we are working to close the achievement gap, then we have to spend more time on task. Urban education is the civil rights movement of our time, and we’re not going to make strategic gains by doing the same thing. We need more time on task! Imagine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying ” I can’t work longer days.” We do whatever it takes, because these are our students lives, their chance for equality, and their opportunity for change.
    This places even more emphasis on teacher recruitment. We need to restructure the concept that people have around becoming a teacher. I’m not sure how to do it, but perhaps you have a TV show/reality show on a new teacher, or “America’s Next Best Teacher!” People will stand outside in line in the rain for the chance to be a model, they should be pitching tents for the opportunity to become a teacher! There is no profession more rewarding, but then again…I’m biased.

    Yours Truly,

    Stacey

  6. Dear Mr. Duncan,

    Thank you for offering us this opportunity. Here are a few ideas.

    1. Do away with the testing. In my school I would say we spend about 20 to 30 teaching days a year testing. These are days of testing, not test preparation. So yes the students are spending less time learning.
    2. Increase teacher salaries. I would like to spend all of my time doing teacher things, but I have to keep another job to be able to make ends meet.
    3. Make the school year 11 months. Pay the teachers for it, but increase the time. Compromising the curriculum because we only have so little time isn’t worth it.
    4. Create a mandatory high school class that teaches students how to teach children how to read, write and do math. People aren’t born with these skills and unless they major in education at college they may never learn it.
    5. No high school degree, no WIC, no foodstamps.
    6. If the students in China, India and in other nations are excelling, then we need to model our system after theirs.
    7. Disband large urban school systems and make them smaller units.
    8. Allow PTA’s to be part of the hiring board for teachers and administrators at a school.
    9. Make teachers, adminstrators and staff state employees on a state pay schedule.
    10. Keep English as the official language.

    Thank you,
    Stephen

  7. Having taught in a public high school for many years I can say that one major issue that we neglect to address is how the current high school requirements are not serving the needs of all of our students. There can never be one formula for all kids, yet that is the philosophy of our schools. Every student takes the same classes, regardless of the student’s ability and interests. There are higher level classes, however, that are geared toward interested, ambitious students. But what about the students who do not have the interest? The answer, according to educational administrators, is to try to push more of them into AP classes. No wonder we have so much violence among teenagers. Schools fail miserably at addressing the needs of these kids. Why can’t we have classes that teach trade skills to our non college-bound students?

    In terms of evaluating teachers on student performance, the problem with this is that we are living in a society for which education is not a value. Students will not study for exams and rarely do homework. Parents, who are aware of these issues, claim they cannot do anything about it. Teachers cannot monitor what goes on in the students’ homes. How many of us would have made it through high school and college without ever having studied for a test and never having completed an assignment at home? Yet that is what is happening with these students, and teachers are being held responsible. Maybe an extended day would help this situation if it meant the students spent the extra time doing homework and studying. Even when a topic is taught over and over, if students do not try to process it on their own, they do not retain it. They definitely need structured study and homework completion time. Most of us can successfully get students to work in the classroom. The problems occur when they are not in front of us. Perhaps teacher aides can be hired (and trained) for the extra time the students would spend in school. It would be less expensive and, if there were good communication between the teachers and the after-school staff, probably just as effective.

    One thing for sure, however, is the answer is not in changing the way teachers are teaching (with some exceptions of course). Years and years of imposing new practices, best practices, powerful practices, scripted lectures (can’t even begin to comment on that one), reading initiatives, math initiatives, and whatever else they want to call them, have gotten us nowhere because the real issues are never addressed.

  8. I am not a teacher, but I am the daughter of two teachers who have struggled all their lives to educate their students and to help their students grow up to be decent citizens. My father taught history at an alternative high school, my mother worked as a drop-out prevention specialist for elementary and middle school students, and they both taught summer school for years. Some of my fondest memories are of the students who will come up to my parents in a store or a restaurant, and even if they only had them for a semester, or a year, they would remember my parents and talk to them about their lives and show them their kids, and thank my parents for changing their lives.

    So it’s very unsettling these days when I talk to them on the phone and they talk about nasty students angry that they are being made to do work and nasty parents who don’t value education.

    There are a lot of problems with education in this country. Chiefly, the fact that there is no one system… but 50+ education systems, and how can we hope to measure up to other countries when we can’t agree on what and how we should educate our students.

    I think our number one in this country is that we don’t support education, and we don’t respect teachers. It’s not just about the pay, but about simple courtesy and support. If my mother calls a parent and says the child is going to fail, they are not doing their work at all, she shouldn’t get accused of trying to sabotage the child’s education by that parent. She shouldn’t have students coming in telling her that their parents say it doesn’t matter what they do in class because you can get rich without suceeding in school. And yet it happens. There is no support from the administrations or the school districts because every one is more worried about being sued than about educating children.

    You can not recruit and train and retain teachers without respect. And you certainly can not improve education on any level without it.

    The best thing I can think of to start fixing that problem would be to help administrations and school districts stand by their students. Limit lawsuits somehow. The next thing I would do is embark on a campaign to promote the importance of educators and education in the community. Get not just parents but politicians, different companies, community groups more involved in helping schools. I would also pump up teacher appreciation day. More companies do promotions and things for administrative assistants day than they do for teachers.

    And yes, pay is also a big part of respect. But I think it’s the whole compensation package that’s even more important. How about better health care? In some districts in Florida, where I’m from, teachers are forced to pay hundreds of dollars a month for bare bones health coverage for their families. Other perks would be helpful too. Sure teachers get summer vacation and holidays off, but do you know how many teachers are working summer jobs to help make ends meet?

    So that’s where I would start. Hope that’s helpful.

  9. EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS and EFFECTIVE TEACHERS

    I believe student learning gains should NOT be directly tied to evaluations of individual teacher effectiveness for the following reasons: 1) Standardized achievement tests were designed to provide feedback regarding students’ academic abilities relative to peers or to specific learning criteria and were not designed or validated to be used as a measure of instructional effectiveness; 2) Many teachers teach content that is not addressed by standardized tests (e.g.; social studies, music, art, etc.); 3) There are numerous factors which impact student learning that are outside a teacher’s influence and control; and, 4) Learning is not a smooth, consistent continuum but follows a unique pattern in each child, often occurring in fits-and-starts where the impact of effective teaching may be delayed and/or may result in a gradual change in attitude and behavior over time.

    I believe teacher effectiveness is better evaluated by observing teachers in their own classrooms and by regularly assessing professional portfolios. Observations should be conducted by trained field evaluators which could include administrators, peer teachers, and/or teacher educators. Professional portfolios should provide evidence of a commitment to professional development, evidence of the capacity to build constructive relationships with students, parents, school staff, and other professionals in the field, and evidence of the ability to affect and support meaningful learning by all students.

    With regard to current policy trends, I believe accountability needs to shift from teachers to building and district administrators. Administrators, not individual teachers, should be held accountable for student learning gains since administrators control the support systems within a school (e.g.; technology, supplies, support staff) ; administrators assign and monitor new teacher mentors; administrators shape the learning environment by managing the safety and physical resources of the facilities; administrators coordinate professional development efforts; and, since they are the ones responsible for hiring and evaluating “effective” teachers, administrators directly influence teaching and learning within their building or district.

    Respectfully yours,
    A Professional Educator of 28+ Years

  10. The basis for accountability in the teaching profession should be measured gains in how well students perform over time. Teacher accountability should inform how well teachers have prepared students to think critically and solve problems in school, in their homes, in their communities and ultimately, in their country. Student performance and achievement should not be measured by high stakes tests alone; however, teachers should be held accountable for how well their students demonstrate the ability to negotiate modern day challenges that often compromise their ability to lead productive and responsible lives as adults.

    Accountability strategies should inform teaching. Accountability structures should consist of strong and stable leadership at the top and at the local school level. The strategic investment of government and private resources from nonprofit organizations should be considered when holding teachers accountable for student performance. Are there clean and safe schools? Are adequate materials and resources provided? How are teachers trained and deeply prepared to teach? Are they prepared in their content area? Should national tests determine teacher readiness? These are questions that must be asked and considered when determining teacher accountability. I believe that how long one teaches should NOT be the measure for accountability. TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS should be the measure used for accountability.

  11. Education as a professional practice; what would it look like?

    A teacher would work year-round, but much of the time would be spent preparing, learning and analyzing. There would be professional libraries, meetings between teachers of common grade levels or subjects in regions, amazing mentors to bring out the best in the profession and colleges connected to the schools to keep the schools informed on the research and the colleges informed on the practice. There would be much more planning time between units, classes and groups, and when the students were in school there would be much more time spent in first gear. It seems like we pack too much into a teacher’s day (at least we do in the elementary level) to be effective. I don’t even want a whole summer off so that I can run like a mad man when school is in session.

    There would not be ‘busy-work’ given to students because in this new profession teachers were so well prepared that they had every moment planned and prepared. Teachers had time to analyze student work each day to prepare appropriate responses according to the assessment of that work. Students would be given work appropriate to their needs. Teachers would have the appropriate number of students and amount of preparation time to ensure this.

    Teachers would not be rushing to the bathroom far down one hall while being on their way down the other hall for a recess duty and then rushing to prepare a lesson as she/he takes off winter boots and coats. Teachers would be able to refresh and prepare. Teachers would be treated like professionals. Teachers wouldn’t have to get up after sitting down for 12 minutes to eat in order to do a hall duty.

    There would be a state whistle blowers hot-line; anonymous with no strings attached to letting people know what isn’t right that’s going on.

    Teachers would dress like professionals, act like professionals and teach like professionals. They would BE professionals. That is my dream.

  12. I work in a school in the State of Florida. I became a guidance counselor because I LOVE CHILDREN. I wanted to provide for someone else what my high school guidance counselor provided for me a safe space to share my fears with. Last year several guidance counselor, teachers, administrators, and school staff lost their JOBS because of budget cuts. If you look at our class sizes we are overcrowded. We have more students to teach and less teachers. We are expected to do more with less. In my county we are going on year three of not getting a raise. But in the mist of it all I am going to serve my children, my parents and support my staff.

  13. As a teacher after reading many of the comments I am delighted and filled with hope for our society; many people do get it, and understand the complexities and growing political influences that toughen our jobs. However given the events of the past year or so regarding healthcare “the congress & our president are’t listening! Our teacher unions work against us elected and lobby for politicians whose only concerns are being re-elected. Perhaps it is a rather apathetic thought but there is such a disconnect between Washington and public schools that I don’t know if there is a way to turn the current policies around with out completely starting from scratch. Some career lawyer who works for the deptartment of ed has no clue about the ART of educating children; lawyers see guilt or innocnce. I do think more accountability should be put on parents of students that underacheive. The tax-cut suggestion from above was FANTASTIC! Imagine that parents getting motivated to encourage their students’ success, instead of blaiming a teacher that works 60+ hours a week. Politicians need to stop enabling parents to be spectators!

  14. In regards to recruiting and retaining teachers I think we need to remember that teachers make it possible for every profession in the world to exist. It is teachers that prepare our doctors, nurses, lawyers and every one to meet the challenges of our society. Yet teachers are among the lowest paid workers in America. I became a teacher after working in the private sector as a nuclear physicist for 15 years. I had a friend come to me when I began to work as a private consultant to say that the county I lived in was in desperate need for science teachers. My parents are retired teachers so I answered the call. I have not been sorry one day since I answered the call to teach. However, If I were to lose my spouse I would not be able to survive on my income. Teachers spend thousands of dollars to get advanced degrees to become better teachers with no type of program in place to help offset the cost of the advanced degrees that help them become better teachers. Programs such as the Teachers Initiative Programs at Yale provide dedicated teachers a wonderful opportunity to create awesome curriculums for their students and students throughout the nation. However, many inner city school systems such as my own cannot afford to initiate such programs on a local level without serious juggling of funds. Here is a way to inspire teachers to remain in the proffession of teaching, but is limited by funding. We must began to provide teachers with some of the same incentives as other sectors of the business world. We want to look at teachinfg as a business with no child left behind, but we do not provide incentives to those in the classrooms working to make a difference. We further insult teachers by judging their merit by who passes a test. What about the kids we teach that come to us three and four grade levels behind. These kids scores often times come up two or three grade levels. However, what message do we send them for their hard work not job well done but did not pass. We do not make these children feel proud for closing their achievement gaps.Even if that gap is closed by increasing one grade level they deserve to know that we are proud of them as antion not treat them like a failure. Mny of theses kids are in our most challenging schools and every bit of encouragement helps them keep working to get ahead. Instead they are made to feel bad because they could not pass the test. So they feel that all their hard work was to no avail. Why, because they did not pass the test. We must recognize that every gain a teacher helps a child make is keeping that child from being left behind. We must remove the stigma of passing the test as the olny measure for success. Teachers in my school work very hard to close these gaps with children who are extremely low with many social issues. I work in a Title One School, I along with many of my colleagues give out of our personal funds heavily to ensure that our children have the supplies they need so our children can experience success. So if we want school such as my school to maintain our effective teachers give them incentives such as reimbursement for tuition, or reduce student loans for working in challenging schools to make a difference. Why can’t we have scholarship programs to ensure that a teacher’s kid can afford college like other companies. Reward teachers of the year and teachers for going above and beyond the call of duty to help our children. Provide funding for teacher institutes to help train teachers and allow them to be creative and think outside the box, to create curriculums that trully motivate and inspire kids to learn. Elliminate the salary gaps for teachers. It is not fair that a starting teacher can come in making as much as a veteran teacher with ten or more years experience because of the salary structure in most systems. The new teachers are offered higher salaries, while the teachers in the systems salaries are not adjusted to ensure that their salaries are adjusted for the current market. To retain the veteran teachers we must ensure that every ones salaries get an adjustment not just the new teachers we are trying to attract. Who is going to train the new ones if the effective old ones leave for more money.

  15. In my 30+ years of teaching, I have participated in countless staff development sessions and activities. I have repeatedly required to take mandatory trainings that are repetitions of previous training often because a new superintendent, central office administrator or staff development officer has come into the school system. The professional development activities that had meaningful impact on my teaching practice are ones I sought out, i.e., graduate school and National Board certification. I am required to participate in coaching sessions every week for one of my planning times. The math and literacy coaches both admit that they really don’t know what to present that would be meaningful to me based upon my experience and classroom performance. Grade levels are required to met twice a quarter for a half-day with these same coaches. This year I had my fourth training on conducting running records and everyone admits that I know how to do this but no one will authorize exemption from the mandated training. I am pulled out of my classroom repeatedly for all this staff development and my students are losing quality instructional time so I can be trained in that which I’ve already been trained in. If I made all my students do the same level of instruction with the exact same skill instruction irregardless of their individual skills, I would be an extremely poor teacher. The very people who emphasize tailoring instruction to meet students’ needs, strengths, and skills cannot do the same for teachers. One-size-fits-all staff development is a total waste of time and money. I would gladly participate in training that developed teachers’ reflective practices, opportunities to share with colleagues practices that actually work, and was teacher-driven!

  16. Dear Secretary Duncan:

    I appreciate the opportunity to give input to the issues facing education. I hope that these responses you receive will truly be considered when it is time to reauthorize No Child Left Behind and develop stronger educational policy.

    I ask that one of the provisions in any reform proposals be support for high-quality professional development. As a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, I appreciate your support of the NBPTS process. However, if we are to continue motivating teachers to attempt this professional challenge, there needs to be financial support in place, both for the individual candidates and support provider programs. Our state is currently in a special Legislative session to balance the budget deficit, and education cuts are on the table. We are very concerned that the state subsidies which help diminish the cost of candidacy, the salary bonus which recognizes achievement, and district funding for our Candidate Support program will all be cut as “non-essential” expenditures. If the federal government would like to see more highly qualified teachers in the classrooms, the federal government needs to support these ambitious teachers with more than words, and provide financial assistance for the NBPTS program.

    I have also been fortunate to participate in the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools. Whereas the National Boards required and inspired me to become more reflective about my practice, the Yale National Initiative has allowed me to develop high quality learning opportunities by developing collegial, collaborative relationships with inspiring educators from across the country. The curriculum unit I wrote as a result of this year’s National Institute will introduce my students to the fascinating world of brain function and also inspire them to consciously engage in strategies to improve their capacity to learn.

    As I researched this unit, it became clear to me that biological data is now able to support what good teachers have known for years: learning is improved when students feel safe, have opportunities for choice in the classroom, and are able to connect the content with their life experiences. In order to create and maintain these types of learning environments, teachers need professional development opportunities in which they can improve their content knowledge of the subjects they teach and develop collegial professional relationships to support their work.

    Our current and former National Fellows are working to develop our local Teacher Institute, based on the Yale model, in order to provide outstanding, sustained professional development to our local teachers. This model has been shown to enhance teacher quality in ways known to improve student achievement, well documented by the 32 year partnership between Yale and New Haven Public Schools and eleven years in other cities, as well as improve teacher retention rates.

    In order to achieve our goals, we need your support. The provisions of H.R. 3209 and S. 2212, the Teachers Professional Development Institutes Act, which was introduced in the 110th Congress, need to be incorporated in the Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind act in this Congress. Funding to develop the Teacher Institutes approach and support National Board Certification will be investments in opportunities that will become integral and sustained components of teacher and student improvement.

  17. As I watch you, Secretary Duncan, in a pre-recorded conversation with parents and teachers, several ideas come to mind. First, I’m happy to belong to a very successful elementary school community in Federal Way, Washington where my sons in second and fifth grade attend and I teach music. Enterprise Elementary, through the leadership of our amazing principal, Margot Hightower, has stayed focused on kids despite the serious flaws in NCLB that trickle down through our district administration and distract rather than help her and her staff.

    In asking for comments on how NCLB needs to change, your comments on looking forward in education highlight for me some attitudes at the Department of Education that have been particularly hard on the morale of teachers. I understand your comments on the need to recruit young eager minds to the profession, and read and hear that you feel teaching should be more respected in our society, but I feel strongly that at the same time you must recognize that education leadership is not careful to honor experienced teachers as it talks about moving forward. I don’t refer to the occasional award handed out. I’m talking about the amazing educators who give day in and day out for others. Teachers on our staff have given an amazing wealth of energy and dedication to children. Over the past ten years I’ve taught here, I’ve heard so little that honors this from district, state and national administration and I ask you, as our national education leader, to change this. As long as NCLB devalues the great things that educators have done for children, it is fundamentally flawed.

    A second major issue with NCLB in our state is that it has translated to testing without sound scientific follow-through. When schools are labelled failing, without regard to the fact that kids are entered and withdrawn from our schools daily, the testing becomes non-sensical. It doesn’t take a doctorate in educational statistics to see that this kind of testing doesn’t evaluate similar consistent data – apples are not being compared to apples. In our state of Washington a new test will take the place of our WASL this year. How will educators be able to take seriously the long-term validity of testing data when goals, tests and required results are a moving target? NCLB must fix these issues if it is to be successful for students’ lives.

    Of course, the above issues lead us to the broader one of whether families have the resources to support their child’s educational needs. The constant state of transition of our school community occurs because economic resources for families are so scarce. Until the economic well-being of children becomes a real part of NCLB, all the talk of cranking out better numbers will be largely moot.

    On a last and most personal note, as a teacher of the Arts, I am especially distressed to see students leave my elementary school music program and be squeezed out of further arts involvement because of these test results. The students who would benefit the most by having life enriched by the Arts are those most often affected. How can this be good for their lives and for the life of our country? If NCLB administrators know this will happen and accept it as a necessary consequence for better testing numbers, then this too is a fundamental flaw.

    Secretary Duncan, in closing I’d like to offer my support for your ideas about making schools a community center. I believe that, despite the obstacles, my school is doing an exceptional job of this and could do even more with support from administration. Such a strong community can, to a degree, ameliorate the large amount of transition mentioned above. But the flaws in NCLB I’ve cited have seriously handicapped us. I urge you to repair NCLB with a major overhaul, or get rid of it entirely and start with a new fully-funded effort that is serious about helping children succeed.

  18. Dear Mr. Duncan,

    For the past two years I was selected to be a National Fellow representing San Francisco Unified School District. Within this fellowship, I received content from key professors at Yale in which I was able to design curriculum units that are aligned to the San Francisco Unified strategic plan. Within this plan, the three goals are:

    Access and Equity-making Social Justice a reality.
    Student Achievement-engage high achieving and joyful learners.
    Accountability-keep our promises to the students and families.

    Along with this fellowship, I was selected to be the City Representative. This program inspired my voice in sharing and working on a local institute. My duties included the following; working with Yale to communicate with the school district, communicate and recruit fellows within San Francisco, and begin the process of forming a partnership with local colleges to form a local institute. For most cities, funding and partnerships have not come, but for San Francisco with the help and guidance from Linda Buckley from San Francisco State University along with Peter Novak from the University of San Francisco, we were able to get Superintendent Carlos Garcia, President Robert A. Corrigan of San Francisco State and President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., of University of San Francisco to form the partnership.

    As we moved into our second year as participants in the National Yale Initiative, we were able to hire a program director. Betsy Kean, along with identifying Dongshil Kim from San Francisco Unified School District. They began the process of writing the planning document to move this partnership into a reality, a local institute.

    With the deadline set for September 9, 2009 to submit a planning document to Yale, at the last moment, Superintendent Garcia had to walk away from these partnerships. It was explained to me, due to fiscal restraints from the state, local and federal, at this time we will not be able to move forward.

    As a veteran teacher of twenty-two years, I am saddened by these actions. I have seen and participated in many programs that claim to enhance teacher qualities known to increase teacher effectiveness and student achievement. I feel that the Yale National Initiative is a program that needs to be acknowledged by your staff, when looking at funding special programs that are proven to increase teacher effectiveness and student achievement, along with teacher retention in high-poverty schools.

    Even though, I and other Fellows within San Francisco will not be able to continue to participate in this program, I hope that you will help fund this program to other cities within the United States. At the present time, Philadelphia, Houston, New Haven, and Pittsburg have their own local institute, whereas, Charlotte, Richmond, New Castle, Delaware, Dekalb County, Santa Fe, Chicago are waiting in the wings to establish their own. The Obama administration can support effective teachers in high-poverty schools by urging that the provisions of H. R. 3209 and S. 2212 the Teachers Professional Development Institute Act, which was introduced in the 110th Congress, be incorporated in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This action would provide the resources necessary to establish Teachers Institutes in most states. I will continue to be a voice of this program, to help other Bay Area school districts to participate in this program. I truly appreciate the opportunities and experiences that this program has given me. I hope that you and your staff will take the time to have a conversation with the Fellows that have participated in this program and the school districts that this program has impacted to “Strengthens Public Schools”.

    Lisa

  19. I am sick and tired of hearing you teachers/principals crying over doing your jobs. Some of the charter schools are doing it, why can’t public schools do it too. The charters have to same requirements as do public schools. And most are passing these tests. Why? Remember before NCLB our schools were failing. I think, and this is not about all you good teachers out there, maybe you need to change you teaching style. We should be using rescores like the internet, computers, Smart Boards, etc. But if you will not change you wouldn’t know the about these things. And I do agree teachers need to have a little more control to how long they should stay on a skill. The bottom line is we all got to make it work. Not for ourselves but for the children. YOU GOOD TEACHERS ARE TAKING THE WRAP FOR THE BAD. SORRY FOR THAT. WE PARENTS KNOW AND APPRICATE YOU GUYS. THANK YOU FOR CARING FOR OUR CHILDREN. We parents also need to step up our game. (This email is not about bashing you guys). If we would send our kids in ready to learn then maybe you would have more time to teach. Scratch maybe you will have more time to do your jobs. We parents have failed our children too. I ask what can me as parent do to ensure he/she learns all that they should be. Once again thank you for all that you do for us the parent.
    LET WORK AT IT TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE OUR GOAL

  20. I am a high school science teacher in the Philadelphia area. Although this is only my third year teaching, I am already extremely frustrated with the system and am considering a career change (although I love teaching, it seems that I do not get to do enough of it). I agree with many of the posts above, especially those regarding NCLB and extended school day questions/comments. I feel like we are lacking when compared to many countries in our “proficiency” is due to a lack of our societies value of education – it can not all be done a in the school. We as parents and society as a whole needs to read to our children, show them the value of education, and empower students to advocate for themselves.

    On a seperate note – With No Child Left Behind, it seems that no child gets ahead. Enrichment programs, honors classes, etc. are being cut out of the curriculum to ensure all students are proficient. Why can’t we have both? There needs to be more support for educators and a re-evaluation in current special education labeling and practices. This policy seems to have been well intended, but poorly implemented and evaluated.

  21. How can we recruit, support, and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?

    One way to support and retain excellent teachers is to provide them with content rich, relevant to their classroom professional development. I have had the opportunity to participate in the Yale National Teacher Institute twice and both curriculum units I produced have energized my classroom and me as a teacher. Currently, I am participating in a local Teacher Institute and I look forward to attending every seminar and participating in engaging discussions with teachers from different schools, teaching different subjects at all levels of education. Please continue to provide resources to expand the Yale Teachers Institute approach.

  22. Dear Secretary Duncan,

    For the past 6 years I worked at Torch Middle School (Bassett USD) in La Puente, CA. Eight years ago this school was ranked as one of the lowest performance schools in the State of California. Torch is a Title 1 school which serves a 98% Hispanic population and over 30% of the students are English Learners. Most of our parents are Spanish speaking and many did not graduate from high school. You could say that we had every excuse for why we could not be successful with our students. However, this was not the case at Torch. As of 2009 Torch was recognize as a 2007 CA Distinguish School, 2008 Schools to Watch (Taking Center Stage), 2007 and 2008 Title 1 High Achievement School, and just this year we hit “800” in our API. We have also met our AYP with all our subgroups and our decile rankings and similar school rankings are the highest they have ever been. How did this happen and how is Torch closing the achievement gap?

    This is the question that you and many other educators are trying to find the answer for. The solution is simple but at the same time complicated. The change at Torch happened because of one person, our Principal and leader, Mr. Medina. If you want to bring effective change to schools you better have the right people leading those “low” performing schools. You can have the best teachers working at our schools, but without a leader, those great teachers will not know what to do. Many schools have various mission and vision statements for their school. We had one very simple one, “Academic Excellence.” We had a leader who believed in all of us and who gave us the freedom to do what ever we wanted to do for the success of our students. Many of our ideas were what many of you would think to be “outside the box.” But it was this freedom that allowed us to do our job. Our staff had a no excuse mentality and to us failure was not an option. We held each one of us accountable and we did what was needed to bring change to our school. We stuck with what we had started implementing since day one (curriculum, writing program, behavior program, AVID) and we all gained mastery in each of these areas. We did not change our programs because a new thing was coming to education. We also had every area covered in order to ensure the success of our students. We had an on-site YMCA Coordinator, 2 counselors, 1 Marriage and Licensed Therapist, Probation Officer, ELD Resource Teacher, School Nurse, and various other partnerships. We made sure that every need for our students was being met. So it is not only academic but it is also socially/emotionally or taking care of the “whole child.”

    With all this said, change has to start from the top. Change has to come from you Mr. Duncan. Many teachers want change, unfortunately, we do not have leaders that know what they are doing and they are also not being held accountable. School districts are doing what ever they want and with no real accountability. It almost seems that it is best to be a Program Improvement School because the solution from the state and federal government is to give these schools more money. We seldom see schools being taken over by the state or federal government. Why do I say this? Because the school that was doing everything it could to close the achievement gap had 17 of its 24 teachers dismissed due to budget cuts. This Mr. Duncan is what you do to a school that was doing the right thing. You destroy it. It is sad because now you have kindergarten teachers teaching 8th grade Geometry and/or middle school. Mr. Duncan, teachers want change, but please remember to hold everyone accountable and not just teachers. Teachers all over this country are working their hardest for the success of their students. Wouldn’t it also be important to hold principals and districts accountable? In conclusion, I really hope that change or accountability includes everyone and not just teachers. Keep up the great work that you are doing and always remember that our students are our future. Keep those high expectations but please make them realistic and not at 100% like the current goals of No Child Left Behind. Every child deserves a quality education and not just some. Thank you.

  23. We need to measure learning with one national test. We need to do away with the individual state assessments.

    The success of a school should be measured by the growth each child has shown from the previous year instead of how many children pass. It should also be okay to have different children take tests on a different levels. For example, one level of test might be heavy on problem-solving and complexity, while another test might focus more on procedural concepts and simple problem-solving. This level of testing appropriate fot students should be determined by the teacher and parents together along with administration.

    NCLB is great in theory, but it translates into an overwhelming amount of paperwork for classroom teachers-constantly proving what interventions they are providing for struggling students on an indivdual basis. If these are the expectations, then the funding needs to be appropriate. Currently, the expectations are there, but there is not enough funding for appropriate support staff and resources. If we are expecting to leave No Child Behind, then it going to take more tax dollars for teachers to successfully accomplish this goal. I think it is possible if we choose to put our tax dollars to work in the school systems.

    Usually, we are given the demands, but we are asked to be creative when finding the resources and time to implement all the changes. This is not good business.

  24. Secretary Duncan,
    Re: How can we ensure that our most challenged schools have the most effective teachers?

    In addition to the most challenged schools needing the most effective teachers, I believe it is important to understand the role of technology that supports the proficiency of these teachers. As a teacher in Maryland, the technology available to me on a daily basis in the classroom I teach in is the EXACT amount of technology that was in the various classrooms I attended as a child. It is amazing that our young minds have more technology in their pocket than we have available for them to use. If we want to prepare young minds to be proficient in reading, math, science, social studies and the like then we must be able to provide our students with the opportunity to use the most up to date technology to engage them in a way that is relevant to our time. In order to prepare our students to be productive members of society in the 21st century we need to prepare them with the tools of today. There are many great teachers across the nation that are willing to take on the challenges of the day to day classroom in a school that is in critical need, but what service are we doing our young people if we do not prepare them with essential skills and engage them with the useful technology that is absolutely critical to survival in the United States society today?
    Thank you.

  25. We must pay teachers well, and provide benefits comparable to government employees or the military. This will draw good teachers into the system and retain them.

    We must also support them and give them a stronger voice in the decision-making process. There are many complaints and no one, until now, has even asked teachers what they think needs to change. No medical decisions would be made without consulting with a doctor. I don’t know why people insist on fixing the education system without consulting the teachers in the classroom, not lawmakers, businessmen, or administrators. They are the experts. We need to listen. By listening and giving teachers a real voice, we will prevent burn out.

  26. Secretary Duncan,

    In response to the question, “How can we recruit, support, and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?” I would like to respond as someone in the younger generation of teachers, who have been teaching for less than 10 years and in only one “era” of teaching. I am driven by personal and professional development. I attended graduate school immediately following my undergraduate degree, simply because it was a way to set myself apart from other people with whom I graduated. I wanted to get a doctoral degree right away as well, but realize that in teaching, a certain amount of classroom experience adds to one’s qualifications for a doctoral program. I was so excited when I passed the five year mark because I knew I had set myself apart again – I surpassed the high percentage of new teachers who quit within the first five years. As soon as I completed my third year in NC, I began the process of achieving National Board Certification. I am eagerly awaiting those results! During that same year, I learned about an exciting opportunity available in my district – the opportunity to attend the Yale National Initiative in New Haven, Connecticut. This Initiative is currently being proposed under the provisions of H.R. 3209 and S. 2212—the Teachers Professional Development Institutes Act. If these provisions are passed, Teacher Institutes modeled after the Yale-New Haven Teacher Institute will be funded across the country and will join similar Institutes in Pittsburgh, Houston, Philadelphia, and Charlotte.

    When I applied and was accepted to the Yale Teacher’s Institute, I had no idea what to expect besides a professional development opportunity unlike any other being offered in my district. I knew from teachers who had participated and from what I had read online that Teacher Institutes are a collaboration between school systems and local colleges and universities to provide the resources for teachers to develop deeper understandings of specific content material and turn that knowledge into curriculum units designed to meet the needs of their students. I participated in a seminar called “Shakespeare and the Human Character,” along with an extremely knowledgeable Yale professor as our seminar leader, and teachers from a variety of states, settings, and subject areas to develop units that were related only in that they were about Shakespeare and created by teachers who cared deeply about reaching students in whatever ways possible.

    Since returning, I haven’t stopped talking about the Institute Approach with anyone and everyone I can. There are so many teachers that are interested in meaningful professional development opportunities, and the Teachers’ Institutes are more than just “workshops” that we attend that are somewhat related to what we teach. Speaking as a young teacher who is extremely interested in thinking outside of the box in terms of what I teach and how I gather information, the Teachers’ Institutes provide exactly the type of professional development needed to recruit, retain, and support excellent teachers in any position, at any school.

    Thank you for your time!

  27. How can we recruit, support and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?

    One way to accomplish this is to provide excellent professional development. Too many times teachers get the same old thing, repackaged, and presented as the latest, greatest innovation in teaching, but which was probably around ten years ago. True professional development meets the needs of the teacher for their classroom and their students. For all you teachers out there reading this, how would you like to learn more about some aspect of your content? To have the opportunity to learn more about the subject you love and to use that new information to create lessons for your students? Lessons that will meet your schools objectives, but which revolve around a topic that will inspire and energize your students? Just such professional development is being proposed under the provisions of H.R. 3209 and S. 2212—the Teachers Professional Development Institutes Act. If these provisions are passed, Teacher Institutes modeled after the Yale-New Haven Teacher Institute will be funded across the country and will join similar Institutes in Pittsburgh, Houston, Philadelphia, and Charlotte.

    Teacher Institutes are a collaboration between school systems and local colleges and universities to provide the resources and inspiration for teachers to delve deeply into some aspect of their content, and to use that information to create curriculum units designed to meet the needs of their students. Teachers—elementary, middle school, and high school—meet together with professors to discuss topics (selected by teachers) in a seminar setting where there is input from all members of the group. Teachers read, research, and discuss the topic, guided by a university faculty member who is an expert in their field. Teachers share lesson and activity ideas which cross grade levels and content areas. They create curriculum units which are published for other teachers to use, and for which they are compensated.

    I am currently participating in my third seminar. Although this is considered professional development, I never say I have been “at a workshop”. The seminars are so much more! In many ways, I consider it something I do for ME, because I get so much out of them. Teachers, after all, are life-long learners—or ought to be—and the seminars meet the need I have to continue to learn all I can about a subject I love. Writing the curriculum unit gives me the chance to put together that lesson I always wanted to make better, but never had the chance to, or to create something totally new because I was inspired by what I learned from the seminar. The units I have written have added depth and dimension to my teaching. They have enriched the learning experience for my students. That’s what I think teachers want from professional development, and what I think will keep them rejuvenated so they continue to remain in teaching.

  28. It is commendable that you are seeking input from teachers to help direct reform and improve public education for our children. I am a third grade teacher, I am proud of my profession, and I am humbled by the task entrusted to me to educate the future. My students come from an urban background and need enthusiastic, motivated professionals to guide them. My goal everyday is to instill an understanding for the need of a well rounded education and to inspire a life long love of learning in each and every one of my students. The best way to achieve this is through example and my participation in the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has supported my love of learning and enabled me to develop curriculum units that engage, challenge, and educate my students. This Professional Development opportunity has given me the ability to investigate content area knowledge from a university professor on topics I find relevant to my students while addressing state and district standards. A collaborative seminar joins teachers from every level of education to discuss not only pedagogy but also content specific knowledge with peers who educate elementary, middle school, high school, and university students.
    In my opinion, the best way to support and retain excellent teachers is to give us opportunities to develop our personal learning, to make us feel confident in our knowledge of the subject matter we teach, and to enable us to interact with teachers from all levels of education. These suggestions are components of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. An effective way to accomplish this for all teachers is to incorporate the provisions of H.R. 3209 and S. 2212, known as the Teachers Professional Development Institutes Act, which were introduced in the 110th Congress, in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act. These provisions would enable most states to create and develop Teachers Institutes.
    My one true goal is to help my students reach their goals. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has given me more tools that aid me in this endeavor. I feel confident that the curriculum units I developed are relevant to my student’s lives and will someday help them reach their goals.

  29. *How can we recruit, support and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?

    First, let’s define “excellent teachers”. If excellent teachers means someone with a master’s in the field they’re teaching, then you need to be prepared to pay what that person could make elsewhere. A good example would be one of my colleagues who left teaching science at our middle school because she could make twice as much working for Merck. Better benefits, too. Wouldn’t need to take work home. Could go to her kids’ soccer games rather than faculty meetings… you get the picture. ‘Normalize’ what it means to be a teacher; don’t expect teachers as a profession to do things that other similarly educated professions, say, lawyers, aren’t expected to do. Teachers are expected to do 16 hours of work in a 7 hour day. End that if you want to retain top-notch teachers. You also need to hold someone other than teachers responsible for students’ performance: parents. They are equal stakeholders, yet are not held to account when they fail to contribute to their children’s education. That needs to end, too.

    *What are the best ways to measure and reward excellence in teaching?

    A system that takes growth into account, rather than a fixed target for all students. With one finish line to drive everyone over, I’ve already seen what happens with standardized testing in two states in which I’ve taught; consciously or unconsciously, the teacher spends the lion’s share of his/her time with the kids who are close to being able to pass the test. Given a bell curve, that’s most of the students. There are two groups she/he cannot afford to spend any time with: the kids who are advanced, and the kids who won’t pass it regardless of effort. Don’t fool yourself, NCLB leaves as many or more kids behind than the previous schemes. You need to measure growth, and reward teachers for helping students grow, not insist students reach for arbitrary goals.

    *How can we ensure that our most challenged schools have the most effective teachers?

    Because the opposite is true now, right? The most challenged schools have the worst teachers, because someone who’s well educated is simply not going to be inclined to put themselves in harm’s way. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part I think this holds true. By the way, this is also a good reason to take educational research done in affluent districts with a grain of salt (thinking about DuFour here).

    *In what ways does No Child Left Behind need to change in order to support effective teaching?

    The status quo, produced by NCLB, is that we’re teaching to the test. We changed a rubric this year that reflected truly good writing, because if the kids wrote that way, it would not score well on the NECAPS, our regional assessment. So, teaching to the test is causing teaching to not be effective in anything other than having kids pass a limited, unimaginative multiple-choice test. NCLB appears to have been a political statement rather than an actual attempt to improve education, as it does not appear to have been based on the hundred or so years we have of sound developmental psychology, any more than our incursion into Iraq reflected lessons learned in Vietnam. So, go back to the drawing board and design something that actually works, rather than something you simply wish would.

  30. I would like for the education department to discuss the inclusion of a bill that will provide for teacher institute throughout the country. There had been a bill formerly known as H.R. 3209 and S.2212- Teacher Professional Development Act introduced in the 110th congress. Has shown qualities that improve teacher efectiveness and your department will help with economically disadvantaged areas by supporting an act such as this. The model of this began in the New Haven school district more than twenty five years ago. (Yale New Haven Teachers Institute) and has been modeled in Pittsburgh ( Pittsburgh Teachers Institute) and other cities such as Houston. I as a teacher want to provide quality instruction to my students and need stimulating and challenging professional development to challenge my instruction.

  31. I just want to reaffirm what has already been stated numerous times. How can we expect students who have been placed in special education because of a learning disability to pass a grade level assessment? If that student could do grade level curriculum, he/she would not have been placed in special education in the first place. It sounds great to say that we want 100% of our students to pass standardized tests, but it is an IDEAL. Just like a balanced budget in Washington is an ideal. We are talking about human beings. There is absolutely nothing “standardized” about human beings. Some are good test takers, some are not, some have a 140 IQ, some do not. It is proposterous to treat them all equally when it comes to test-taking. We are pounded with the notion of “differentiation” in the classroom. Meet each individual student’s needs, make modifications if necessary, differentiate for your ELL students, your special ed students, your ADD/ADHD students, your dyslexia students, etc. But when it comes to testing all of those same students, we are going to use one measure only. It doesn’t make sense on any level.

    Furthermore, every student in every classroom is NOT college bound. We are doing our students and society a disservice to treat them like they are. Because of NCLB, a lot of schools have done away with vocational programs that at least gave those students skills that could be turned into a way of making a living. Again, we are back to treating every student the same, not taking into account their differencees–expecting that every student is going to college and graduating from college with a degree. What if they don’t? What have we prepared them to do? We are setting some of them up for failure.

    Please take into account that we are dealing with human beings and as complex as human beings are, that is how complex this problem is. There is no “easy” fix or “magic bullet.” We need great teachers in every classroom, we need families that understand and value how important an education is, we need students who are willing to set high standards for themselves and work to reach those standards, we need high expectations for all students– but not unattainable expectations.

    My husband and I are both educators. We have devoted our lives to teaching. We have two daughters who attend public schools. This is an issue that is on our hearts and in our minds continuously. Thank you for taking the time to get feedback from those of us on the “front lines.”

  32. Thank you for soliciting teacher’s opinions on these crucial matters regarding education. I am a HS physics teacher. I submit that the best way to support and retain excellent teachers in the classroom is to engage them in a meaningful continual pursuit of their content knowledge and the empowerment of creatively developing their own curriculum for their students. Both of these opportunities have been provided to me by the Teachers Institute. The Pittsburgh Teachers Institute which is modeled after the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute links the resources of Universities and colleges with high need school districts. The process involves the teachers taking collaborative seminars with university professors on topics determined to be most relevant by the teachers. The teachers create curriculum units that they implement in their classrooms that are also published online so that they can be utilized by teachers nationally. My experience with the Institute over the past 7 years has vastly strengthened my content knowledge about current science, empowered me as a professional to believe that my efforts and enthusiasm make me most qualified to determine how to motivate my students to be successful, intellectually engaged me and convinced me to continue teaching in a challenging urban educational environment, and enriched the quality of my instruction for my students.

    It has been demonstrated by research that Teachers Institutes help to retain teachers in high needs districts and increases teacher effectiveness and student achievement. The Teacher Institute has also improved my effectiveness by enhancing my sense of professionalism by providing me with collegial relationships with university faculty. I invited Secretary Duncan to visit our Teachers Institute during the G20 in Pittsburgh and I encourage the Obama administration to support teachers by supporting the Teachers Institutes. This can be done by incorporating the provisions of H.R. 3209 and S. 2212, known as the Teachers Professional Development Institutes Act, which were introduced in the 110th Congress, in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This action would enable the creation of Teachers Institutes in most states.

    Teaching is a demanding and challenging endeavor. I firmly believe that we must encourage our dedicated teachers to continue in the profession and to strive to stimulate the educator’s enthusiasm to provide the best, most engaging instruction possible. The Teachers Institute has been critical in these regards in my own teaching experience and I hope that more teachers will be given the opportunity to experience this approach to professional development.

  33. A couple of thoughts, Arne. I’ll let you hold me accountable for my students’ performance when you or your proxies deliver to me, in late August, a classroom of kids that are all on grade level. Next, you must guarantee me that, during their tenure with me, none of them will have parents that will divorce, use drugs or alcohol, or physically/verbally abuse them. They must all come to school well fed, well dressed and well cared for by a pediatrician. No family trips allowed other than during scheduled school breaks. If you can do these things to level the field on which you’re asking me to play, I will gladly consent to being held responsible for their progress. But, if you’re going to continue to ask me to parent kids, clothe kids, obtain medical care for kids, AND teach them, don’t waste my time.

  34. I am a Special Education teacher in the state of Florida. My students all have different ability levels. Although they have been making yearly gains, some have not been able to make Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP). Now the pressure is on because the percentage of students that have to meet AYP is increasing. Again, all of my students have made progress, some significant, but have unfortunately not made enough gains. These children are doing the very best they can. Some of them have come to me more than 3 years behind grade level. It doesn’t seem appropriate to expect them to miraculously gain those 3 years in one school year. My principal has expressed to us, the ESE staff that we are solely responsible for ensuring that these students make AYP at all costs. Given the fact that I only spend 1 and 1/2 hours with the students a day I feel that the responsibility should be shared by everyone. After all if we are a team we should work as a team. Never the less the burden has been placed completely on the ESE teacher. I feel that the standards may be unattainable. I fully believe that every student CAN learn but some at a slower pace. Maybe instead of setting an arbitrary number for all students to meet, wouldn’t it make more sense to base AYP on the amount of progress made by each child from year to year? For example, if the students developmental score increases by 300 pts. Even if he does not increase to a level 3 we should say that he has made AYP. The next year that student would be expected to make similar gains. The amount of gains should be determined by the student. Those with more severe disabilities would have less stringent standards than those who are higher functioning. I would like for you to please consider the method by which AYP is calculated and the effects of the current system on the students with disabilities.

  35. It is the system, not the people for the most part. Our children are voting with their feet and leaving our schools. The reasons they give:
    There is nothing there to engage me.
    There is no one there who cares about me or about my success.
    There are schools that are succeeding in truly educating our children. They create appropriate adult-child relationships, and they find away to engage children in their own learning, usually by asking them what they are passionate about learning.
    We might attract a different set of individuals into teaching if we create a different “way” to do the job, or we might really excite teachers to make teaching a two way street. We should not only expect kids to “hold up their end of the learning’, but including them in the conversation.

  36. I have taught for twelve years in public high schools. Through those years I have seen educational change that, while meant well, has negatively impacted our most at-risk students. As such, I would like to contribute my answers to the question “In what ways does No Child Left Behind need to change in order to support effective teaching?”.

    1. We need to move to a growth-based measure of success for students. If a student enters sixth grade reading at a third grade reading level and tests at a fifth grade reading level at the end of the school year, the growth of that student should be acknowledged as success. This continues as the student moves through the system. If that student begins behind and they continue to make progress but lag one or two grades behind in reading comprehension, that child is “failing”. Their progress needs to be noted and rewarded. We need to track longevity data on students and not compare the eleventh graders this year to the eleventh graders next year. Moving to a growth-based measure would give a much better picture of how the schools are serving individual students.

    2. We need national content standards. As it stands now, each state is left to design their own standards and test from those standards. The standards need to be developed by a panel of K-12 educators, higher education educators and professionals within the fields encompassed by those standards. One component of the standards designing process should take into account how much of the content can reasonably be taught in a one school-year timeframe. We must set goals for students that are challenging yet attainable.

    3. We need a national assessment tool–test, work samples…etc. The assessment should be based solely from the national standards. The assessment must NOT be norm-referenced. When an exam has a bell-shaped curve, such as the ACT, there is no possibility that ALL students will meet standards. Again, it is our obligation as educators to ensure that all students have the ability to succeed.

    4. We must reform the NCLB mandate that 100% if ELL students will be grade-level proficient in English. This must be reformed because if a student were to move into the United States one week before testing began, the school would be held accountable for that student’s proficiency on the exam one week later. We need to acknowledge that there will be a continual influx of ELL students in our schools.

    5. We must have an exam that measures growth of our ELL students. We cannot continue to assess them using tools such as the ACT. This is not an accurate measure of their language growth nor is it reflective of their content knowledge. Our schools and students deserve data that reflects how well we have served our ELL students.

    6. We must encourage creative teaching and critical thinking in schools again. While we do need a means of finding ways to measure our success and challenge our shortcomings, we also need to remember that there is more to our profession than a scan-tron test.

  37. Thank you for affording teachers an opportunity to voice our concerns about the educational system today.

    I am a certified middle school math teacher, and I support standardized exams. I am sorry to admit that without accountability some teachers do not focus enough on teaching the skills necessary to provide the necessary math foundation for college or professional trade schools. Currently colleges are burdened with unnecessary algebra remediation classes — skills that should have been learned in middle school and high school. Culinary schools must remediate measurement conversions. One can only conclude then that high schools are graduating students who have not mastered basic mathematics/algebra. The US should be embarrassed by this! The days of individual states controlling public education should soon be dissolved. Most states are doing a horrible job on their own. You cannot blame the students — absolutely not! Federal oversight (not necessarily control) of public schools would keep all math teachers on the same page. We should utilize our wonderful National Standards for Mathematics and share best teaching practices online. Standardized testing should be done at the close of every school year to indicate progress made. Those teachers who are not doing their jobs would be exposed through repeated lower scores on standardized test. Good teachers produce. Lazy teachers, those who teach for a paycheck and benefits, should be exposed and removed. In summary, a federally monitored public school system and performance-proven teachers would allow us to make huge gains in education, enough to be globally competitive once again.

  38. Dear Secretary Duncan,

    I am currently an Education Major in Wisconsin. My area of focus is in Social Studies and I plan to teach at the high school level. Recently, I have been studying “No Child Left Behind (NCLB).” I have heard countless interviews and statements by teachers regarding how NCLB has affected their teaching and classroom. I have been greatly discouraged by what I’ve studied and heard. Many teachers have talked about how the moral amongst teachers within their schools has dropped drastically. Many have even given up teaching because the spark is no longer there. There seems to be no wiggle room for a teacher to be able to adjust their teaching style to meet the needs of a particular class or student. Instead, many are having to teach scripted materials arranged according to a very tight schedule.

    Teachers know best about what is going on and what needs to take place in the classroom. I am concerned that their knowledge and experience is being thrown to the wayside by administrators and politicians that are more concerned about the bottom line (test scores). However, this town hall meeting and recent speeches that you have made have brought me some hope that the effects of NCLB can still be reversed.

    The reason I chose to enter the education field is because of a few select teachers that I had in high school. These teachers engaged me in the classroom. They knew their responsibility was to make sure that I understood the material instead of memorized it. Their unscripted teaching has had a profound impact on my life and career choice.

    My question for you is this: What can be done to insure that teachers have the ability to be flexible in their teaching styles and to be able to engage students on topics that matter to the students, instead of sticking to a tight schedule and lesson plan?

    Thank you for listening

    Sincerely,
    Blais, Concerned Student

  39. PRINCIPALS NEED TO RELY MORE ON PARAEDUCATORS & TEACHER’S AIDES FOR FEEDBACK:
    These support staffers are in the classrooms all day long. They can easily monitor how well — or poorly — the teacher(s) teach. If these support staff
    knew that their appraisal of the teachers’ performance was to be kept confidential by the school’s administrators, they can really be the principal’s
    “eyes and ears” in the classroom.

    The principals are so busy that they can only spend a small amount of time
    in each teacher’s classroom, appraising the teacher’s performance. Since the Obama Administration wants only high quality teaching in the public schools, doesn’t it make sense to use the support staff in the classrooms as a resource in
    achieving this aim?

    In another matter, in high poverty schools, there is a great need for students to receive extra help with their academic subjects. For this reason, more teacher aides are needed in these classrooms. One teacher and one Para educator (or teacher’s aide) is not enough to help the 32 students in the class. I encourage the Obama Administration to include federal monies to the states for the hiring of additional support staff in the classroom. With this extra help, there is no reason a student in a high poverty school should not do as academically well as a student in a school with a wealthier population.

  40. I am a National Board qualified first grade teacher in Northern California.
    If we are moving toward merit pay for teachers, what fair and equitable criteria will you use to determine teacher pay other than student test scores? With cutbacks in our district, we have fewer resource staff to assist children who have learning difficulties. Our district has increased the number of students in grades K-3 from 20 to 21, and may increase it again next year. All of these issues, the quality of instruction in the previous years, as well as family issues influence a child’s test scores. Therefore, test scores must not be the sole determinant of teacher merit pay.

  41. Dear Secretary Duncan,

    I may be in a minority, but I believe that the data collected because of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has been beneficial to many schools, parents, and teachers. It has helped my school focus in on individual students that need additional assistance in meeting our high academic expectations. However, I continue to feel that the measures of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is an inaccurate read of a school.

    If I were to recommend one change in NCLB, it would be that we would compare student scores in a more accurate manner. Under the current law, the test scores of this year’s 8th grade students, for example, are compared to the test scores of last year’s 8th grade class. I believe it would be a more accurate read to measure the growth of the SAME students from one year to the next. Therefore, in order to determine if a school met AYP, we would compare the scores of my 8th grade students to the scores they earned in their 7th grade year. This would let us know if we were truly affecting change amongst individual students.

    Thank you for reading my thoughts.

    Sincerely,
    Becky Taylor
    Silver Spring, MD

  42. Are you listening? Are you truly listening? You’ve extended the invitation. Great! You seem to indicate that you deem teachers an important resource and asset. You said that you want our input. You said that you want us to tell you how we think the problems should be fixed. If you truly want to fix the problems, LISTEN! We’re speaking. The posts are filled with great points, and I would love to address every one of them. They are vast. They are many. They make sense, and they are personal. Education is personal. Education is individual, from each unique student up to the very community within which the school exists. Diversity makes standardized rules for education ludicrous (and thus, standardized tests ludicrous). The posts have a resounding theme that points to a deep need for a return to localized control over education.

    To cite one example, some communities are still agrarian (and more could be if the federal government actually supported, upheld, and followed the Constitution by disengaging its control over areas not expressly granted therein); thus necessitating a system that allows for students to work during planting and harvesting seasons. Some students will never afford college if they are unable to work during the summer months. Some students will never go to college because apprenticing in the family business, farm, or local community affords them the life they desire. The ideas central to this theme of individuality in education and a necessity in downsizing the federal government’s involvement in education are plentiful in the posts, as you will see, IF you listen.

    Similar to teaching, if the government does what it should, it will put itself out of (a portion of) a job. Teachers work to help their students grow into independent thinking members of society (ideally). If a teacher is effective, students cease to “need” the teacher. If the government were effective, it would vote to get itself out of education and give the “power” back to the people at a more local level.

    The federal government needs to (and we (teachers, parents, students) NEED the federal government to) turn control over education back to the people, the local school boards, and the state governments. The federal government, as specified in the Constitution, is tampering in an arena that is constitutionally off limits to them. Quite frankly, the government is contaminating the education system. How did we let loose of the reins at a local level so much so that the President is creating policy for nationwide regulations over such details even as the length of the school day? Where are the checks and balances? Is ANYONE in Washington doing his or her job? We need to get back control of our country; we need to put control over education back where it belongs. “Making” school districts jump through hoops created by people in our federal BIG government, who are so completely out of touch with what teachers want, need, and can do, is ridiculous. Take BIG government out of the driver’s seat of education and education reform, make it localized, and you will see what teachers are capable of accomplishing. This should also have a trickledown effect. If you eliminate the federal government and put control back locally, placing an emphasis back on the actual teacher, elimination of much of the administrative waste in schools is a next logical step in improving schools. Districts in control of their own schools, through local school boards (who have a real stake in the school, be it because they have children in attendance there, or because they value the unique education they can help to shape for the community in which they live) and family involvement are key to improving education as well as saving actual money. Getting government and the BIG BUSINESS of the standardized testing machine out of education will save unfathomable amounts of money (not to be mistakenly spent on extending the school day or some other regulation that maintains federal government control over educational decisions) and can effectively eliminate some of the unnecessary jobs (and thus additional expenses) associated with test production, administration, and evaluation; freeing up money for continued necessities like art education that supports individuality and creativity in our students, which leads to innovative and creative thinking adults.

    If you truly want teachers to be respected and validated, get government out of the classrooms! Giving teachers back some of their autonomy immediately indicates a level of respect that once existed (before compulsory and standardized education and evaluation) in the profession. A profession once (and often in other countries) revered and respected, could regain that level through relaxed regulatory impositions. Giving teachers more creative license, instead of less, speaks volumes to public confidence in them as professionals. Improvements could undoubtedly be made in teacher training facilities, our study of systems that work to accomplish our proclaimed goals of education, as well as the configuration of schools, adequate compensation as well as evaluative measures (input from students, parents, colleagues, and administrators springs to mind). Again, however, the federal government need not waste anymore time laboring over what to improve next…Just remove your influence and manipulation of the system altogether and local districts will likely gladly rise to the occasion and take over improvement steps. Undoubtedly, each teacher has, in his or her back pocket, a plethora of viable solutions to all the problems over which you are deliberating. Let teachers and local school districts work out these issues in the way that best suits the locale unique to each district. Put control over educational decisions back in the hands of the people who do have the expertise; eliminate government involvement! I, too, have many specific ideas about how to improve education, and there are many systems in place (mostly in private schools; LARGELY if not solely because of the government involvement and control over public education) that teach students much more effectively and in a way that is more conducive to actual learning. Still the key remains to eliminate the federal government from its involvement in education, return control to a local level, and let the individuality of states and local populations make the intimate decisions about running and implementing creative, workable solutions to educational debates.

    Testing. Are you serious? LISTEN! Standardized testing has long been, and continues to be a nightmare in education (for EVERYONE in education). Initially used as a tool to assess whether teachers were effective (undeniably a very INEFFECTIVE tool to determine this), standardized testing has become the pivotal point upon which almost every other aspect of education centers. Our aid, our effectiveness, our curriculum, our teaching methods; all center on the results of the standardized tests. As a nation, we continue to test (with standardized tests) more than any other country in the world (and continue to score low in comparison to these other countries) and yet, we continue to base our legislation, funding, and curriculum development on such results and tests. Teachers, parents, students know that standardized testing is an impotent system at best and that there is little or no value in it. Why won’t Washington listen? Because BIG government liked BIG business, and the testing companies have become an astronomically big business? How could they not, with NCLB requiring standardized tests throughout the country? Even while in the midst of an economic crisis, we continue to pour vast amounts of very valuable education dollars into the wasteland of standardized testing.

    Individuality is American. American families are entitled to have input it their children’s education (from what and how they learn, to when and where they attend). American children are entitled to be individuals, to learn and grow and think differently. American teachers are entitled to teach creatively and take risks; to be unique individuals within their unique classrooms, teaching in a way that they (being the professionals) deem best for their individual students and the make-up of his or her student community and the community within which he or she teaches. American schools are entitled to be unique within each community and the individual make-up that comprises that community. American school districts are entitled to reflect the uniqueness of their communities within the policies and requirements, as well as the customs and traditions, school year and length of days, holidays and breaks, curriculum and evaluation consistent with the needs and norms of their unique communities. American states are entitled oversee schools and aid in shaping those that best support and serve the needs of each state and all its individuality. Americans are not the same from state to state, from region to region, from little town to bustling city. We don’t have the same needs, desires, expectations, dreams for our lives or for our children. Americans are not built from a cookie cutter mold. Americans are innovative, creative, unique. Let’s start building a system from the bottom up that adequately supports and reflects that, and then, let’s see what students and teachers can REALLY do.

    If you are listening, changes will be made. If you are listening, you will take back Washington and tell special interest groups that the Constitution will not be compromised; that big government, not good for your citizens, will not be allowed to exploit those citizens and their needs. If this is just lip service, designed to make us believe that we can have an impact on the direction of education in this country, then government will continue to exercise absurd control, ineffective policies; and schools throughout the country (students, teachers, families, communities) will continue to suffer, be unable to compete in the global infrastructure, and Washington will continue to wonder why the system is failing…because you refused to listen to the people who actually have something intelligent to contribute to the solution.

  43. Many parents leave it to television, Hollywood and the internet to teach their children values and ethics. How about adding values and ethics to the curriculum? May be if our children received some of the same values and ethics our parents and grand parents possessed, we might not be dealing so much with the drugs and crimes that plague our country.

  44. Secretary Duncan,

    I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on our schools. After 21 years of working in public schools in a variety of settings, performing a variety of roles, this is the first time that I can recall that the Department of Education has offered me the chance to give my opinion on something.

    How can we recruit, support, and retain excellent teachers in all our schools? This issue is bigger than the Dept. of Ed. We need to make the teaching profession attractive, which will require the cooperation of the legislature and the media. We need to stop talking about how bad our schools are and start highlighting all of the wonderful successes that are happening every day. I’m not suggesting that we ignore problems when they happen, but the negative picture presented publicly of our schools is an exaggeration. Even President Obama gets the facts wrong at times, such as when he spoke to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in March. He said that the high-school drop-out rate had tripled in the past 30 years, when it has actually declined. Why would a talented young person become a teacher, knowing that nearly every time you read the newspaper or watch a news program you’ll hear what an awful job you’re doing? Public schools are too important to be treated as political footballs.

    What are the best ways to measure and reward excellence in teaching? The Teacher of the Year program is an excellent way to recognize teachers and reward them. Any other measures of teacher quality, I believe, should come from the local school districts or the states. If you really want to increase the quality of teaching, you need to work more closely with the teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities to insure that their graduates are prepared for the work they will be required to do in our public schools. Think of it as a K-16 issue, not a K-12 issue.

    How can we insure that our most challenged schools have the most effective teachers? Spend more time preparing and supporting the school administrators. Teachers want to work where they feel their work is actually appreciated and having a positive impact. Good school administrators are key to creating that environment. Principals need much more professional development, training, and mentoring. Schools also need much more money to implement programs that can have an impact on their students. There have been many occasions in my career when teachers and administrators have identified solutions to problems that they could not implement due to a lack of funds. That should never happen.

    In what ways does NCLB need to change in order to support effective teaching? Where should I begin? I could start by telling you about my own daughter’s experience right now, in 5th grade. She is getting no instruction in social studies because it isn’t tested. Now take that experience and multiply it by however many other children are in our public schools and project into the future to imagine what kind of citizens we will have when they are adults. Scary, huh? Or, I could tell you about a very talented young teacher I know who will only teach kindergarten, first grade, or second grade because those grades aren’t covered under NCLB. People will often say that the schools don’t have to make the choice of only focusing on tested subjects, but when there are penalties for not making AYP and there is a likelihood that schools that don’t make AYP will get raked over the coals publicly, that’s not a reasonable argument. More and more testing does nothing to improve teaching and learning. Professional development, smaller workloads, strong administrators, and adequate resources will improve teaching and learning.

    I wish you and the Department of Education all the best in working through these complex issues. I appreciate the need to balance accountability with flexibility, particularly when we still need to come to consensus on what it means to be an educated American. I’m glad that we are finally having these important conversations.

  45. I am a teacher who left a now 5A school in Denton to make a difference in a rural east Texas Title 1 school(85% free & reduced/economically disadvantaged).
    #1 I came to teach to make a difference, it is NOT about the money
    #2 I spent 20 years in the media as a photojournalist & graphic designer, etc before returning to school and moving to education
    #3 I teach 6 – 12 technology, art and journalism related classes
    #4 I am mired in student loan debt and cannot seem to find a way to deal with it and take care of the obligations I have for family …
    #5 NCLB is a failure because it puts pressure on teachers to teach to pass a test, and not on teaching what the students need to know to be successful in life
    EXAMPLE: Who said that creative writing is better than the basic formula for writing a good report? When did we give up conjugating verbs, and diagraming sentences to understand why we write the way we should?
    When did we give up teaching time tables, and flash card games to see who could remember and how fast? Why do we not have our students memorize the Declaration of Independence, or the Gettysburg Address?
    #6 Teaching for incentives is only going to inspire those who came to education thinking it is a decent job for the money and effort you have to expend, and, what is more important, you only have a great teacher if it is someone who truly loves what they are doing and share what they know and why it is important to know it with their students.
    #7 You cannot put a price on knowledge, but you can put priceless on an inspired student. Our children today are raising themselves. Parents are their kids buddies, and the violence they see all around (TV, movies, and other sources like games and the internet, and the “news”) have given them a course crass view of the world. Language is disintegrating, values are situational, and disinterest is rampant. They mostly don’t value education. They don’t see it as a way beyond their existing world. some of us are trying to change the view.
    Please work at giving us the room.
    #8 I also believe that a year-round school program is an effective way to improve our education. I had my boys in the Magnet program which was year round in Denton, and it made a difference for both my Sp.Ed. kid and my Honors student. Samuel graduated and tackled college. Thomas was a National Merit finalist. They had terrific teachers who loved what they were doing and loved the kids.
    #9 The best reward is to have kids who have had their lives touched come back and to thank-you for the difference you made in their education/life path. There is nothing like it.
    #10 Identify the “most challenged” schools and post the job availabilities in the colleges who have education departments. Most graduating college students do not know where to go look for jobs, and, unless someone tells them, many go to something else because the job search is very daunting. Monster.com is NOT a good place for a certified teacher to start looking, but many do not know that each state has a department of education which has teacher resources which contain links to each county in each state, who post opening positions each spring. It is not common knowledge.
    #11 Recruiting teachers is going to be a challenge. The image of teachers portrayed in any form of media has to change. Most of us sacrificed to go to school to get our education, and those following behind us as going to pay even a higher price. Show some value for the profession, and not-the critical … no-one likes to be derided for what they do ( as a job) and not many will choose a job where they are constantly belittled, have more asked of them each year, and not paid a working wage. Starting salary for teachers in texas is 27,320. …and, if you consider that the federal poverty level is considered anything under 50,000 as they espouse on the “news”….where does that put teachers? Capable of receiving food stamps, and not being able to live and pay student loans.
    “We have to be crazy to do this……wouldn’t you think?

  46. We are not doing what is best for children in the lower grades. We have so much assessment in the first 30 days of kindergarten that teachers have to “shoo” children away in order to assess one-one on many items. It takes hours at school and home to hand bubble sheets for reporting purposes. Other forms have to be reported via computer, but never without some time consuming glitch. We are seeing more management problems because we can not spend team building activities with our students. I agree with the comment regarding fine motor skills. We are so caught up in having five year olds being able to read, we are not doing the developmental activities that they need. Some of the so called rewards for teachers and schools are not helping moral but are pitting school against school and teacher against teacher. I love my job, my school, and my students, but I have spent every weekend since school started at school in order to do the work required to prepare lessons and materials. (we have always taken things home, etc.), but I am now doing this at the expense of celebrating birthdays and holidays with my own family.

  47. How to make NCLB better? 1)Scrap it-It IS the problem, as someone posted.2) Reduce the number of bureaucrats in your department.(State DOEs could do that, too.) Obviously they couldn’t come up with a decent law several years ago. We all know many of them have cushy jobs where they sit around and make up new rules for us in the trenches to follow, pretending that their ideas are better than what we already have, just to justify their positions. Thank heavens we here in Charlotte County (FL) have an excellent superintendent who cares about the kids. He has gradually reduced the number of administrators by attrition, and he hasn’t had to lay off anyone yet; that’s saying alot in the SW Florida economy. 3) The executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government need to realize we are NOT working with widgets, but with human beings with all their variables and problems. Therefore, 4) Not every student wants to go to college, the U.S. doesn’t NEED every student to go to college, and we should plan more vocational training accordingly. Also, 5)NCLB’s goal of 100% of students being “proficient” by 2013 is ridiculous, AYP is a ridiculous concept as we now know it, and judging schools by the test results is ridiculous. 6) Regarding your ideas of “highly qualified” teachers and paraprofessionals,I like Michelle’s (post #15) idea of requiring “Highly Qualified” Cabinet members, Senators, and Congressmen. Let the teachers of the country set THOSE rules! 7) I teach at a center school for handicapped kids, and I’ll tell you, I will never recommend to a young person that he or she go into special ed as long as things are the way they currently are. The paperwork is insane! So are the “tests” that we must give to our kids. If you want to recruit good special ed teachers, go back to a simple IEP with it’s goals, and leave it at that-let the teachers teach! 8)Finally,teacher’s aides now must become paraprofessionals and must either take a test or get the equivalent of an AA degree. Many of our devoted teacher’s aides have been at it for many years and have had good evaluations. They should be able to be grandfathered in. Is on-the- job training not good enough for you people sitting in your Washington offices? I’ll bet YOU don’t deal with toileting, wiping runny noses, cleaning up vomit, getting hit, bitten, having your hair pulled, all while trying to educate our special kids, and making about $7.00 or $8.00 an hour. Our teacher’s aides (parapros) deserve more respect than being required to take more tests and classes, thank you very much!
    As you can tell, I’m no fan of NCLB. If you don’t change it drastically, education in our country is going to go right down the tubes!
    Cheryl Lehew
    Charlotte Harbor School
    Port Charlotte, FL

  48. It is sad that education is spinning in the direction that it is going. As a teacher I feel like I am no longer allowed to teach. Our government, whether it be state, local, or national, just keeps adding programs to fix the problems. In my opinion they have basically taken the teacher out of the equation. There are no longer opportunities for teachers to be creative. They fail to add to the equation that people, yes this includes children, are naturallly different. They are failing to challenge those students who could one day go on to be future scientist and engineers. They are also failing to realize that parents need to be held accountable too. I’m not talking about all parents. I mean the ones who play the system (they are able to work but don’t), the ones who can afford to smoke and drink, but can’t buy a $5.00 workbook or send snack money for their child. The ones who don’t want to hold their children accountable for what they do. Government as well does not always seem to hold themselves to the same accountability as is expected of a teacher. It is time we all look at what we are doing, including our work ethic, and start holding ourselves accountable first. I love my job, I love my students, I love teaching. I just don’t care at all for the direction it is going. Let me give you a more specific example.

    Our state has added so much reading instruction to our day that the students who used to love to read now hate it. We have to teach our lessons going strictly by the lesson plans included with a textbook our system adopted. We are on pacing guides, which means we can’t teach for mastery, can’t spend longer on topics that add interest to the subject matter, or bring in literature units, so that students actually read an entire book instead of a short story. We can’t even take stories out of sequence to teach across the curriculum. It is expected that 80% of our students will read on level by the end of the year. They are basing that on the end of the year test that comes with our textbook. Teachers, adminstrators, and our reading coach have taken the test and only make within the 70 – 85% range. Knowing that,every time they take a unit test and do not meet goals, I along with our reading coach and principal have to write an action plan and turn it in to the county. Therefore about every 5 weeks the teachers in 4th, 5th,and 6th grade have to write action plans, on top of all other documentation that has to be done.
    Math, science, and social studies are practically ignored. Before NCLB our students always made acceptable on their standardized test scores, and excelled in other areas as well. We are bringing our students down so much we should name the program All Chidlren Left Behind.

  49. October 10, 2009
    Dear Secretary Duncan,

    The areas that need to be addressed are the following:
    Teaching to the Test – where is real learning?
    States set “Standards” – low or inadequate?
    Address Reasons for Lack of Achievement

    Every child needs to be ready for the next grade level. In doing so, districts are required to spend much more money. Now, the federal government did send districts money but it never seemed to cover all the NEW standards and testing that we needed to do with the kids in the classroom.

    Everything became standards based learning, which is fine, but we lose the character based education. The questions lies, when do kids learn value? When do they have time to share? Learn about friendships? As well as, what it means to have empathy?

    We put so much pressure on teachers and kids with testing and standards based that we forget what we need to do to build citizens and good characters. The NCLB began in 2002 and really didn’t affect us in high school, so something that needs to change.

    It is fine to keep a standards based curriculum, but it is good to have students achieve higher standards in content areas. When it comes to testing in schools, it is fine, but it seems as teachers we are always assessing opposed to teaching the skills they need, because we are so worried to get every child to live up to all of the standard. We need more time to teach the skills to students before assessing them too quickly after a lesson. There needs to be time for students to learn to apply the skills for a while then assess their learning. We also need to build their values and ethics to the YOUNG (like preschool, etc). We also need to have more teachers in school to lower class sizes and have more individual time with students to address the skills and concepts as well as values and ethics.

    Schools today need to emphasize character education and value education. Well, we can teach students values of honesty, and kindness, and understanding how other people feel! Maybe if we have an hour a day that teaches values, we would not have teenagers killing another or killing oneself.

    There needs to be extra CONNECTION time with students and it would not cost much. Kids don’t have time in school with all the standards to just sit in small groups and learn about each other. They only time kids have time to get to know one another is during lunch, but this time does not do justice. We need time in the classroom to mentor students and to go over values and issues.

    The supporters agree with the federal government that accountability to educational standards and emphasis on test results will improve the quality of education for everyone.

    The opponents, which include all major teachers unions, agree that standardized test have had mixed results and has not been effective in improving education. Some people even believe the federal government has no authority in education.

    Sincerely,
    Dr. Rochford’s Class

  50. • How can we recruit, support and retain excellent teachers in all our schools?
    • How can we ensure that our most challenged schools have the most effective teachers?
    • In what ways does No Child Left Behind need to change in order to support effective teaching?
    -Salary: Money plays a key factor in this question. Why would a person choose to teach in a challenging district with high levels of occupational stress when they could make the same amount or more money in a higher performing district? Also, teachers spend a significant amount of their own money to support the education of the students in their classrooms. If a person works in a challenging district, he/she is even more likely to spend more of their own money. Teachers who work in challenging districts should be compensated with higher wages. This would increase the retention of teachers in these kinds of districts.
    -Support the profession: Many high schools offer students the opportunity to explore different career paths (cosmetology, engineering, health care, culinary arts) however, there are few if any programs offered to students who would like to seek a career in education. If schools promoted the field of education and offered students the opportunity to explore this field, then perhaps more students would be inclined to enter the field of education.
    -Professional development: There are many companies who will pay for their employees to receive higher education. However, in Ohio, teachers are required to obtain a Master’s degree to retain their license, without being offered any financial support. Many teachers would love to learn the latest techniques and theories, but they are unable to afford to further their development.
    - Class size: It is very hard to teach in a classroom containing 25-30 students with various needs /developmental levels and expect one teacher to meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of all those students. It is also unfair to hold those teachers with higher class numbers accountable for the students’ performance on standardized tests.
    -Teacher Accountability: Teachers have a responsibility to educate the students in their classroom. It is difficult to hold teacher accountable for student achievement/learning when that child receives no support at home.

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