California rejects teacher tenure

A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprived students of their right to an education under the State Constitution and violated their civil rights. imgresThe decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The decision, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, brings a close to the first chapter of the case, Vergara v. California, in which a group of student plaintiffs backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place.

Both sides expect the case to generate more like it in cities and states around the country. David Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate, spent several million dollars to create the organization that brought the Vergara case to court — Students Matter — and paid for a team of high-profile lawyers, including Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who helped win a Supreme Court decision striking down California’s same-sex marriage ban. While the next move is still unclear, the group is considering filing lawsuits in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho and Kansas as well as other states with powerful unions where legislatures have defeated attempts to change teacher tenure laws.

More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/us/california-teacher-tenure-laws-ruled-unconstitutional.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 Continue reading “California rejects teacher tenure”

On valuing teaching

How do you change academic culture? One reason that question gets asked a lot is that it’s so hard to answer. Another reason is that so much of academic culture needs changing.images

How might we create a culture that actually esteems effective teaching? The value of such a thing ought to be clear, if only because it would blunt some of the frequent public criticisms of universities for a too-narrow focus on research. But creating a teaching culture hasn’t proved so easy. It’s not that campuses don’t harbor great teachers—even the most research-intensive universities do. But those professors usually tend their personal classroom gardens on their own. They don’t labor as members of a community—or culture—that rewards their teaching and propagates their best ideas about it.

The challenge of how to make good teaching into a communal value has been the subject of the Teagle Foundation’s academic philanthropy for some years now. Last month the foundation convened a meeting, “Community of Scholars, Community of Teachers,” to showcase the efforts of some of its grantees. Professors and administrators described what they had done to create “teaching-positive” environments in the liberal arts at their institutions.

Every one of the grant programs centered on the teaching of undergraduates by graduate students. That’s not surprising. Graduate students do an enormous amount of that work at most universities, so they’re necessary members of any university’s teaching community. But the programs on display at different institutions employ graduate students differently, and at different levels.

Cornell University is working from the bottom up. The university’s teaching center recruited graduate students (in both the humanities and the sciences) for a new fellowship program that leads to a certificate. Fellows studied technology, assessment, and related topics, and did independent research on teaching. Continue reading “On valuing teaching”

Rethinking tenure

It’s no secret that tenured professors cause problems in universities.

As the New York times puts it: “Some choose to rest on their laurels, allowing their productivity to dwindle.

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 Others develop tunnel vision about research, inflicting misery on students who suffer through their classes.

“Despite these costs, tenure may be a necessary evil: It offers job security and intellectual freedom in exchange for lower pay than other occupations that require advanced degrees.

“Instead of abolishing tenure, what if we restructured it? The heart of the problem is that we’ve combined two separate skill sets into a single job. We ask researchers to teach, and teachers to do research, even though these two capabilities have surprisingly little to do with each other. In a comprehensive analysis of data on more than half a million professors, the education experts John Hattie and Herbert Marsh found that “the relationship between teaching and research is zero.” In all fields and all kinds of colleges, there was little connection between research productivity and teaching ratings by students and peers.

“Currently, research universities base tenure decisions primarily on research productivity and quality. Teaching matters only after you have cleared the research bar: It is a bonus to teach well. Continue reading “Rethinking tenure”

Tenure and incompetence

Want your colleagues to remain effective teachers and researchers after tenure?

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Then prioritize quality over quantity in publishing during the tenure process, avoid collegiality as a tenure criterion and make sure your administrators aren’t rubber-stamping faculty tenure recommendations.

As InsideHigherEd puts it, “That’s according to a new study out in this month’s PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association.

“When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs” (an abstract of which is available here), is based on results of a survey of 361 responding political science chairs at doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate institutions regarding faculty incompetence and tenure. The author, John Rothgeb, a professor of political science at Miami University, in Ohio, said in an interview he was inspired to explore the topic in light of recent state-level debates, including in Ohio, about the value of tenure and whether or not it made faculty members less effective as researchers and educators. And most of those debates happen without empirical data to support arguments on either side, he said – partly because data are hard to come by.

“I was concerned about tenure because of the many claims you read about all the time [that] tenure is destroying higher education, and blah blah blah,” Rothgeb said in an interview. “And if you serve on tenure committees, as I do at Miami University, we’re always talking about what tenure means, but I wondered, do you really know what you’re talking about what you say all these kinds of things?” Continue reading “Tenure and incompetence”

Teaching with social media

A growing number of faculty members are using social media in the classroom and are finding technology to be both a help and a hindrance, according to a new survey, reported in InsideHigherEd.images

“About 40 percent of faculty members used social media as a teaching tool in 2013, an increase from 33.8 percent in 2012, according to a report by the Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson Learning Solutions. Likewise, more faculty members used social media for professional communications and work in 2013 (55 percent) than in 2012 (44.7 percent). In both years, faculty members most often used social media for personal purposes.

“Faculty members’ use of social media has been steadily increasing since the survey was first conducted in 2010, said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group.

“They’re very good at picking which site for which purpose and they’re aware of the advantages and disadvantages of all of them,” he said. “They seem to be thoughtful adapters and well aware of the risk.”

“Faculty members listed their top two concerns about social media in the classroom as technology’s impact on the integrity of student submissions and privacy in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 surveys. In 2013, the top privacy concerns were that others outside of the classroom would be able to participate in or view class discussions, and personal privacy risks for students.

“Though the survey has been conducted since 2010, only the last two surveys are comparable. A report was not compiled from the 2010 survey and the 2011 report is incomparable to the 2012 and 2013 surveys because it asked different questions, Seaman said. The 2011 survey included video as a social media tool and found that nearly two-thirds of faculty used social media in the classroom. Video is no longer included when looking at faculty members’ social media use because video use is passive, not social, Seaman said. Continue reading “Teaching with social media”

On teaching style

Professors who want to establish classroom connections with their students receive lots of advice. And some experts have over the years advised the use of “self-disclosure,” telling students stories about themselves, using self-deprecating humor as a way to make students feel comfortable and to view the instructor as an ally. InsideHigher Ed discusses the finer points of this:

“Ignore that advice. That’s the recommendation of a study being published today in Communication Education, a journal of the National Communication Association. imgresThe study was based on surveys of 438 undergraduates at a Southeastern university. The students — from across disciplines — were asked about the class they had attended just before taking the survey. And for that class, they were asked both about their instructors and about whether they engaged in certain “uncivil” behaviors, such as packing up books before class was over or texting during lectures. The researchers then compared attitudes the students had about professors and the students behaviors.

“The study notes that professors’ styles only go so far in predicting whether students will be posting status updates on Facebook or actually paying attention, but they do matter.

“Although it is clear that a range of factors outside of instructors’ control contribute to uncivil behavior in the classroom — such as societal shifts toward student entitlement and students’ being raised in homes where manners are not adequately taught — results of this study indicate that there are at least some things instructors can do to minimize uncivil behavior,” the study says. “This model, taking into account only instructor-related factors, explained 20 percent of the variance in self-reported uncivil behaviors among our participants — not a huge proportion, but enough to make a noticeable difference to a frustrated teacher.”

“Based on the surveys, the paper argues that students are least likely to engage in uncivil behavior when they view the instructor as having high levels of “credibility,” meaning that through actions and nonverbal cues, the instructor conveys command of the material and the class, a sense of knowing what should be going on in class, and so forth. When students have that confidence level, they are more likely to pay attention. Continue reading “On teaching style”

The end of caring in teaching

“Teaching is a caring profession–a humane profession about human beings engaging with one another,” imgres-1says Brian Jones, a former New York City public-school teacher now pursuing a PhD in urban education. “Relationships between the teachers and the learners are an important part of the whole process.”A recent article in from In These Time, reports how this may be changing, as excerpted below:

“Jones and other teachers worry that the new system of teacher evaluations slated to be implemented this fall in New York’s public schools will take caring out of the equation.

“The new system, which was imposed by state education commissioner John King after the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration could not negotiate a deal, willbring millions in federal “Race to the Top” funds to the city’s schools.

“In a statement, Michael Mulgrew, the president of the UFT, wrote: “New York City teachers will now have additional protections and opportunities to play a larger role in the development of the measures used to rate them. Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s desire for a ‘gotcha’ system, as Commissioner King noted today, New York City ‘is not going to fire its way to academic success.’” He pointed out that there are additional opportunities for teachers to challenge violations of the process by supervisors before they get their ratings.

“But UFT members now face the possibility that they could lose their jobs if they receive “ineffective” ratings two years in a row. Teachers will be ranked “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” or “ineffective”—or, as John Surico at the Village Voice describes it, “Instead of pass/fail, we now have more of a letter-grade-esque method to grade our educators with more lethal consequences if you earn too many Fs.”

“The deal requires that 20 to 25 percent of the teacher’s rating come from state tests, another 15 to 20 percent from “measures established by the school” (which Jones says are likely to be more tests), and 55 to 60 percent from in-class observations or video-recorded performance assessments by principals.’

“But an “ineffective” rating on the tests trumps the other measures. Jones explains, “Teachers rated ineffective on the tests have to be rated ineffective overall. Even a glowing teacher with great rapport with her students, if the test scores don’t rise at the predetermined level, that teacher has to be rated ineffective. Carol Burris, New York’s 2013 Principal of the Year, criticized this aspect of the system in the Washington Post, calling it a “foolish inequity, with real life consequences.”

 

More at; http://inthesetimes.com/article/15245/taking_the_caring_out_of_teaching_new_yorks_new_teacher_evaluation_system_i/

Facts about artists

Instagram and Etsy have made everyone seem like artistic geniuses, but according to the National Endowment for the Arts, artists make up only 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force. “Last week, we learned a lot more about the roughly 2 million artists in the workforce thanks to the NEA study,  “Equal Opportunity Data Mining: National Statistics about Working Artists.” imgresAs reported bu the Washington Post, “The study, based on Census data, classifies artists by occupation, demographics and region. The NEA also provides this handy interactive map, which ranks states according to artists as a share of the state’s total labor force. Here are five of the more surprising findings.

“Congratulations, California. You’re still an artist haven, with Los Angeles and San Francisco boasting the highest percentages of artists in their workforces, according to the NEA’s city-to-city comparison. Artists make up 4.86 percent of the Los Angeles workforce and 4.3 percent of San Francisco’s. The third-ranked city? That would be Santa Fe, New Mexico, with artists making up 4 percent of all workers.

“New York City is home to more artists than any other U.S. city, with 140,915 people engaged in artistic professions, but with a workforce of 4.1 million people, that’s only 3.4 percent of its total workforce. In fact, New York City has only a slightly higher percentage of working artists per capita than Washington, D.C., where artists make up 3.1 percent of the workforce. (This may seem unlikely, considering that the New York data include Brooklyn. But remember that the New York metro area is enormous. And to count, artists had to report income or be actively pursuing work as a primary profession, which means thousands of aspiring poets in Williamsburg were probably excluded.) Continue reading “Facts about artists”

Wealthy humanities & arts students

Ok, so the humanities and art draw from wealthier student cohorts. How will this shape what knowledge matters in the future?imgres

Money has always given people better options, but for humanities and arts graduate students, money’s now necessary just to get acceptable ones, reports Inside Higher Ed. “Just now becoming noticeable, this “re-gilded ivory tower” looms over a landscape that everyone should consider.

“As one fellow graduate student recently observed, “You have to have a spouse nowadays; that’s how more and more people seem to be doing it.” As is well-known, the economic crash hastened the decline of tenure-track jobs and increased competition for them. Once standard, these stable jobs with adequate salary and benefits have become rarer, displaced by short-term, one- to two-year positions at best, and by piecemeal adjuncting at worst. In turn, entry-level qualifications also rose at some institutions to include a secondary research specialization, at least one article, and attention to pedagogy resulting in the creation of one or more substantive classes, ideally taught at outside institutions. Continue reading “Wealthy humanities & arts students”

Teaching the civil rights movement

Much has changed in the past 50 years, since the height of the Civil Rights movement. But how do you teach the Civil Rights to kids who haven’t ever experienced it? In Jackson, Miss., Fannie Lou Hamer Institute’s Summer Youth Workshop tackles that question, reports NPR today.imgres

“Take 13-year-old Jermany Gray, for instance. Gray and his fellow students are all African-American, and many of them are from Jackson. They’re familiar with the struggle for civil rights — they read about it in text books and saw it in museum exhibits. But for most, it’s a story that ended long before they were even born. Gray has no problem talking about what the Civil Rights movement was back in the ’60s, but when asked what it means to him these days, the answer doesn’t come as easily.

“What does it mean? I’ll have to think about that question,” he said. “Maybe I can answer that at the end of the week.”That’s the typical challenge, according to Michelle Deardorff who is the chair of political science at Jackson State and who also helped found the Hamer Institute. “The image I give when I talk about this is a tree, and the tree is democracy. And a chain link fence was around it,” said Deardorff, who used the idea of the fence to represent racism and slavery. “And as the tree grew, it grew around the fence. We’ve now pulled the fence out… but the tree is shaped by it forever.” Continue reading “Teaching the civil rights movement”

And now, credit without teaching

Earlier this year Capella University and the new College for America began enrolling hundreds of students in academic programs without courses, teaching professors, grades, deadlines or credit hour requirements, but with a path to genuine college credit.

The two institutions are among a growing number that are giving competency-based education a try, including 25 or so nonprofit institutions, reports Inside Higher Education. Notable examples include Western Governors University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

“These programs are typically online, and allow students to progress at their own pace without formal course material. They can earn credit by successfully completing assessments that prove their mastery in predetermined competencies or tasks — maybe writing in a business setting or using a spreadsheet to perform calculations. Continue reading “And now, credit without teaching”

The myth of the tenured academic job

Who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work five hours a week, you get summers off, your whole job is reading and talking about books, and you can never be fired? As Rebeca Schulman writes in this week’s Slate.com, “Such is the enviable life of the tenured college literature professor, and all you have to do to get it is earn a Ph.D. So perhaps you, literature lover, are considering pursuing this path.images

“Well, what if I told you that by “five hours” I mean “80 hours,” and by “summers off” I mean “two months of unpaid research sequestration and curriculum planning”? What if you’ll never have time to read books, and when you talk about them, you’ll mostly be using made-up words like “deterritorialization” and “Othering”—because, as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out recently, the “dusty seminar rooms” of academia have the chief aim of theorizing every great book to death? And I can’t even tell you what kind of ass you have to kiss these days to get tenure—largely because, like most professors, I’m not on the tenure track, so I don’t know. Continue reading “The myth of the tenured academic job”

Not teaching to the test

Increasingly these days, testing and “data” are them main drivers of so-called “education reform.”

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Once a term for progressive change in education, “reform” now means turning back the clock in many ways. And quantifiable results from standardized assessments now determine everything from a student’s graduation to a teacher’s employment status to the fate of whole schools and entire school systems.

“But across the country, a growing number of parents are exercising their legal right to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, in favor of other assessments (such as portfolios) that are more organically connected to genuine teaching and learning,”reports TruthOut in a bracing essay by Brian Jones, excerpted below:

“Courageous teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle have voted unanimously to refuse to administer the district’s standardized tests this semester.

“’Our teachers have come together and agree that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,’ said Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator Kris McBride yesterday.

“’Students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.’ Garfield teachers were scheduled to administer the district-wide Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) to ninth graders in the first part of January. It is supposed to measure progress in reading and math, but teachers report it only wastes time and resources.

“’What frustrates me about the MAP test is that the computer labs are monopolized for weeks by the MAP test, making research projects very difficult to assign,’ said history teacher Jesse Hagopian.’This especially hurts students who don’t have a computer at home.’ The teachers also objected to a conflict of interest: when the district purchased the test for $4 million, the superintendent sat on the board of the very company that marketed it. Students are told the test will have no impact on their grades, teachers said, so they tend to hurry through it.

“Yet district officials use the test results to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness. ‘Our teachers feel strongly that this type of evaluative tool is unfair based on the abundance of problems with the exam, the content, and the statistical insignificance of the students’ scores,’ said McBride.”

 

For more, see: http://truth-out.org/news/item/13901-when-teachers-refuse-the-tests