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Interesting piece over on Education Week (registration required) about helping teachers by giving them an income tax break. The author argues this point by saying that teacher pay isn't going to increase, that the country has historically used tax code to reward "desirable social behaviors" (e.g. homeownership and military). Surprisingly, the article mentions that VISTAs and Peace Corps members used to get tax breaks. (The author is chairman emeritus and a director of TFA - a good example of how TFA is about creating change agents, not just excellent teachers.)



In a similar vein of trying to get more qualified educators, this op-ed suggests that we Bust bureaucratic barriers to relieve teacher shortage. The author uses the example of Colin Powell and Meryl Streep - saying that neither could teach social studies nor drama, because the system would consider them "unqualified," yet elite (read rich) private schools would take them in a heart beat. Interesting stats in the article too - we need a 35% increase in the number of people entering teaching to keep student-teach ratios where they are now, that in 1971-1974, almost 1/4 of teachers had scored in the top 10 percent of their high school achievement tests - that's down to just 1 out of 10 now. Apparently, Exeter's faculty includes 85% with advanced degrees, but most don't have certification (an MD teaching bio, Japanese being taught by a former businessman who worked in Japan, and a history teacher who's written five books). Again, references to TFA - "which last year had 17,000 applicants for 2,000 spots teaching in low-income schools. Among the applicants were 12 percent of Yale's senior class and 8 percent of Harvard's and Princeton's."

Having considered teaching (both getting just a initial licensure, or getting an M. Ed. and licensure), the obstacles are pretty high. I'm a solid teacher - when I was subbing I had students laud me and people asking the vice-principal to convince me to stay. Yet, for me to get a teaching certificate would require two to three years more of school, because I haven't taken enough math. (This may be different in MT, and I'm not sure what alternative licensures are available.)

Unrelated to teaching certification/licensure, there's an interesting study on calling on students randomly. The article mentions that "Often, teachers may call on students as a way to keep them on task or stop misbehavior" - something anyone who's worked in a classroom knows. Anyway, the study was done in math classes, and while they didn't find a significant difference in students' performance, student's said that they were more likely to show up to class prepared and to concentrate on the lesson. In other words, it seems that while it was still helping classroom management, it reduced the bias that often occurs in the classroom.

Lastly, we all know the internet has changed how people obtain information, but schools seem to be slow on the uptake. This article looks at some important issues school websites need to address. Tends to be general usability advice that all websites need to address, but something that schools (and many other public/non-profit entities) haven't realized.

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