Monday, June 08, 2009

Bits, Pieces and Questions

Last week—an early morning reading of the New York Times led me to Next Test: Value of $125,000-a-Year Teachers”

-- An article about the new teachers for The Equity Project Charter School that also asked:

“Is a collection of superb teachers enough to make a great school? Are six-figure salaries the way to get them? And just what makes a teacher great?”

Unsettling, not sitting right with me, wondering what learning theory underpins the decisions, wondering about the organizer, about the premise that top money equates with quality educators and about the standards they employ in evaluating great teachers, about the pedagogical beliefs they seek--

Later that day at ASCD,The American Idol* of Education”, some description of the teacher selection process quoted from the TEP website:

“Expert Subject-Area Knowledge demonstrated through

· undergraduate and/or graduate coursework and excellent grades in the relevant subject area

· an original piece of writing on any topic in the subject-area

· a written analysis of a pedagogical issue related to the subject area

Teaching Expertise and Experience demonstrated through

· the submission of TWO of the following three items

· an unedited video clip of a lesson, accompanied by a written narrative that analyzes and reflects upon the teaching and learning that occurs in the lesson

· a portfolio of student work that demonstrates the progress of 2 specific students, accompanied by a written narrative that analyzes the progress that each student demonstrates

· assessment data for at least one entire class of students accompanied by a written narrative that provides background on the assessments and analyzes the data

· the submission of one additional piece of evidence of any form demonstrating student learning

· an essay describing personal pedagogical beliefs and approach

· a day-long teaching audition (either in the candidate’s classroom or in a TEP classroom)

Strong Curriculum Development Ability demonstrated through

· one originally developed and refined curricular tool of any form (e.g. written materials, instructional methodology, technological innovation)

Outstanding Verbal Ability demonstrated through

· the quality of the written work submitted in the application

· communication skills demonstrated in the day-long teaching audition”

My initial reaction-- similar to National Board Certification but-- where are the standards? My personal experience-- those standards explicitly stated a belief in social learning, respect for diversity, and a student centered pedagogy that was expected to be evident in each of the four areas that TEP and research acknowledge are attributes of teacher quality.

For some reason, perhaps this lack of standards and what I believe is a questionable premise for the creation of a school, seemingly missing the point of learning, I couldn’t let this go and looked farther. I wonder how these bits and pieces strike you?

The organizer:

“The school’s founder, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, 32, a Yale graduate who founded a test prep company” --source

Zeke M. Vanderhoek at Zoominfo Under education-- no mention of Yale, just Columbia Teachers College

“Mr. Vanderhoek spent three years teaching at Intermediate School 90 in Washington Heights through Teach for America, which places recent college graduates in challenging schools. He started tutoring to supplement his salary and created a test preparation company called Manhattan GMAT in 2000.” -- source

Teacher selection process:

“There will be telephone and in-person interviews, and applicants will have to submit multiple forms of evidence attesting to their students’ achievement and their own prowess; only those scoring at the 90th percentile in the verbal section of the GRE, GMAT or similar tests need apply. The process will culminate in three live teaching auditions.” --source (emphasis is mine)

TEP, Summer Institute, Sabbatical

“The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School believes that teacher quality is the most important factor in achieving educational equity for low income students.” --source

“Summer institute of 6 weeks teaching challenge: One example of a Teaching Challenge & Tangible Deliverable is as follows: How can technology be maximized to collect student data that informs and improves teaching? Deliverable: Create or identify an exemplary piece of data-collection technology and integrate it into the TEP student and teacher experience.” --source

“Required sabbatical: In addition, TEP teacher sabbaticals are not “sabbaticals” in the usual sense of the word, since they will typically occur every fifth or sixth year, instead of every seventh year. TEP believes that the intensity of the teaching profession mandates a shorter duration between sabbaticals. TEP teachers are expected to begin researching sabbatical opportunities at least one year in advance of their sabbatical year. Teachers may use their sabbatical year for employment (e.g. a position at a think tank), education (e.g. a one-year art-history masters program), or travel (e.g. a travel fellowship). Teachers are not paid by TEP during their sabbatical years; however, TEP attempts to assist teachers in securing funding for their sabbatical-year project.” --source