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Education scheme yet to cover all – 1 lakh plus out-of-school children in Assam

MHRD, Teacher performance

Guwahati, July 14: More than one lakh out-of-school children in Assam are yet to be covered under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told the Assembly today. He was replying to a question by All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA Sirajuddin Ajmal.

“According to the district information system for education (Dise) 2010-2011, altogether 1,24,577 out-of-school children are yet to be covered under SSA as on March 31, 2011,” Sarma said.

Dise, which is a key database on information about schools, enrolment, teachers and other school-related data, is compiled at the state level and then sent to the Union ministry of human resource development.

According to the district-wise list of out-of-school children in the state for 2010-11, Sonitpur is at the top with 14,892 such children followed by Dhemaji and Nagaon with 14,272 and 13,264 children respectively. Jorhat, Bongaigaon and Dima Hasao districts fare better than other districts with 732, 1,295 and 1,659 out-of-school children respectively.

Sarma said from 2008 to June this year, Assam had received Rs 80,670.89 lakh as central grant for the SSA and added that for the academic session 2011, altogether 3,56,71,366 free textbooks in 17 mediums and languages had been printed and distributed among 64,62,447 students.

Responding to another question from AIUDF MLA Majibur Rahman, Sarma said there were 7,691 single-teacher lower primary schools in the state. He also furnished the district-wise list of vacancies in the posts of upper primary and lower primary schoolteachers as on May 31, 2011, in reply to a question by Hafiz Bashir Ahmed of the AIUDF.

According to the list, a total of 7,800 posts of lower primary schoolteachers and 4,499 posts of upper primary schoolteachers are lying vacant in the state.

The Telegraph, July 15, 2011

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Union Shifts Position on Teacher Evaluations

Teacher education and training, Teacher performance

CHICAGO — Catching up to the reality already faced by many of its members, the nation’s largest teachers’ union on Monday affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country.

In passing the new policy at its assembly here, the 3.2 million-member union, the National Education Association, hopes to take a leadership role in the growing national movement to hold teachers accountable for what students learn — an effort from which it has so far conspicuously stood apart.

But blunting the policy’s potential impact, the union also made clear that it continued to oppose the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core part of the federally backed teacher evaluation overhauls already under way in at least 15 states.

“N.E.A. is and always will be opposed to high-stakes, test-driven evaluations,” said Becky Pringle, the secretary-treasurer of the union, addressing the banner-strung convention hall filled with the 8,200-member assembly that votes on union policy.

The union’s desire both to join and to stand apart from a White House-led effort to improve teacher performance represents the delicate situation it finds itself in as it confronts what Dennis Van Roekel, the union president, called “the worst environment for teachers I’ve ever seen.” Amid deep budget cuts and layoffs, the union has lost more than 30,000 members this year, and is fighting back against legislative efforts to curtail its collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arizona and other states.

In response, union leaders, who spent last year’s Fourth of July weekend challenging the Obama administration’s promotion of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing, spent this year’s trying to close ranks and encouraging even those union members who are furious at those policies to embrace calls for change — if on their own terms.

On Monday, the assembly voted by secret ballot to give Mr. Obama an early endorsement for his 2012 presidential run, a move that will allow the union to begin channeling its considerable political resources to the campaign. The strong showing in favor — 72 percent — was foreshadowed by the standing ovations that greeted Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who gave an impassioned pro-union speech here Sunday.

“There is an organized effort to place the blame for the budget shortfall squarely on the shoulders of teachers and other public workers, and it is one of the biggest scams in modern American history,” Mr. Biden told the educators. In contrast to that threat, the differences between the White House and the union, he said, were like disputes within the same family.

Bertha J. Foley, a middle school teacher from Fort Myers, Fla., said: “All of the Republicans are worse on education than Obama. I’m not saying I agree with everything, but you have to pick the least evil, the one who will do the least harm.”

The union’s new dual role as defender of union protections and promoter of reform created some unlikely tableaus. At one point an angel-voiced folk singer with a guitar took to the stage to lead the thousands of teachers in a sing-along called “Solidarity Forever.” At another point, the narrator of a video projected on the hall’s multiple Jumbotrons began his report about inspiring teachers with the following sentence: “We have a huge problem of teacher quality in this country.”

“They’re just shifting back and forth,” said Jana Wells, 53, a teacher from Glendale, Calif., who called herself one of the few Republicans representing the California caucus. “And on the endorsement of Obama, it’s scare tactics — it’s like if we don’t do this right now, our enemies will win.”

The debate over the new teacher evaluation policy largely focused on the concern that by even mentioning test scores, the union would further open the door to their use. Some teachers also balked at another section of the policy — the proposal that failing teachers be given only one year to improve, instead of the standard two. But in the end a clear majority voted yes.

Segun Eubanks, the director of teacher quality for the union, said the new policy was intended to guide, not bind, state and local union chapters. It tries to close the disconnect between the many local union chapters that have already assented to using student test scores in teacher evaluations, and the union’s national policy that explicitly opposed their use. Now the union can offer those chapters support, and conduct research on the impact of standardized tests.

“What it says is, now we are willing to get into that arena,” Mr. Van Roekel said. “Before, we weren’t.”

The policy calls for teacher practice, teacher collaboration within schools and student learning to be used in teacher evaluations. But for tests, only those shown to be “developmentally appropriate, scientifically valid and reliable for the purpose of measuring both student learning and a teacher’s performance” should be used, the policy states, a bar that essentially excludes all existing tests, said Douglas N. Harris of the University of Wisconsin, a testing expert.

Mr. Eubanks said, “We believe that there are no tests ready to do that,” though he added that with the new national Common Core curriculum standards being rolled out, new tests might be created that could meet the bar.

The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, with 1.5 million members, has already stated that student test scores “based on valid assessments” should be a part of improved teacher evaluations.

But how much these new national policy statements will actually shift state and local union practice remains to be seen, experts said, assessing the work of both unions.

“At the national level, what they are proposing really lacks much specificity at all,” said Sandi Jacobs, the vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Washington. “There really isn’t much to hang your hat on. And with so many states and locals already out of the gate, it’s hard to see what new proposals they are bringing to the table at this point.”

Priscilla Savannah, a seventh-grade science teacher attending the convention from Shreveport, La., said, “It’s already too late.”

Ms. Savannah’s state is about to start using teacher evaluations that give standardized test scores heavy weight. “It’s going to take a major fight, and a lot of money, to change anything now,” she said.

The New York Times, July 4, 2011

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Where are the principals?

Higher Education, Teacher performance

CHENNAI: Government Arts and Science colleges are struggling to compete with private colleges run professionally across Tamil Nadu. To add to the woes of the government institutions, there are no officially-designated principals in 61 out of the 62 arts and science colleges run by the government.

As the senior most professor has been thrust upon the duty of ‘principal in-charge’, the colleges have not been able to function to their potential. In many cases, the principals in-charge, without cooperation, struggle to take important decisions, resolve student issues and carry out administrative work efficiently. Out of fear, the principals in-charge most often refuse to take any decision.

The vacancies create a lot of problem which not only affects the teachers but also the student community. “For any demand we put forth to the principal in-charge, the standard answer we get from the principal is that he was not authorised to take decisions as a principal in-charge,” says a student union leader in a Chennai college.

After litigation over the merit of the seniority list prepared by the government, the Madras High Court ordered that the Directorate of Collegiate Education prepare inter-se seniority list on or before May 31 and only on the basis of the said seniority list, the principal posts which are lying vacant have to be filled up. “We are still in the process of trying to reach a consensus on the seniority issue with the parties that are insisting on different eligibility criteria for appointment following which the appointments will be made,” says R. Umarani, director of Collegiate Education.

Even when the case was pending before the Madras High Court, the government promoted two as principals. Four senior professors went to the court after the promotions to the posts of principals in Krishnagiri and Dindigul following which the High Court restrained the government from appointing principals.

The Tamil Nadu Government Collegiate Teachers’ Association (TNGCTA) insists on taking into account certain issues before finalising the seniority list. “As per the Government Order dated 3.10.2005, those having more than six years of service by 2011 should have acquired Ph.D for appointment to the post of principal. It is not yet clear if this clause will be incorporated in the appointments, as there are chances of the issue being challenged in which case the appointment will become futile,” says K.G. Palani, president, TNGCTA. The post of principals involves financial transactions as well as administrative work which are entirely different from teaching in the classroom. Therefore the government should be careful in preparing the seniority list, he insists.

Vacancies at DCE

Not just in colleges, the vacancies of top posts are piling up in the Directorate of Collegiate Education, the governing body for collegiate education in the State. The posts of two Joint Directors and four Regional Joint Directors are waiting to be filled. At present, the posts of the two JDs and the Chennai Regional Joint Director are being held by Ms. Umarani, apart from her position as the director.

While the RJD-Tirunelveli holds Vellore RJD post, Coimbatore RJD is in charge of Tiruchi RJD as well. “How can someone from Vellore manage the administrative work in Tirunelveli or someone from Coimbatore manage Tiruchi? Appointments to these posts should be made without further delay,” says S. Tamilmani, general secretary, TNGCTA.

This pathetic state of affairs in government institutions has been brought to the attention of P. Palaniappan, Higher Education Minister in the new government, and R. Kannan, principal secretary, Higher Education Department. According to sources, the government has decided to put up a tentative seniority list on the website to which objections can be raised following which the final list will be issued.

The Hindu, June 7, 2011

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Research Paper: Incentives Work: Getting Teachers to Come to School

Performance Pay, Teacher performance

Esther Duflo, Rema Hanna, and Stephen P. Ryan

Abstract

We use a randomized experiment and a structural model to test whether monitoring and financial incentives can reduce teacher absence and increase learning in rural India. In treatment schools, teachers’ attendance was monitored daily using cameras, and their salaries were made a nonlinear function of attendance. Absenteeism by teachers fell by 21 percentage points relative to the control group, and children’s test scores increased by 0.17 standard deviations. We estimate a structural dynamic labor supply model and find that teachers responded strongly to the financial incentives, and that this alone can explain the difference between the two groups. Our model is used to compute cost-minimizing compensation policies.

For more read this

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Research

ICT, Teacher performance

Encouraging Teacher Attendance through Monitoring with Cameras in Rural Udaipur, India

Esther Duflo , Rema Hanna, Stephen Ryan

Abstract

Over the past decade many developing countries have expanded primary school access, energized by initiatives such as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which calls for achieving universal primary education by 2015. However, these improvements in school access have not been accompanied by improvements in school quality. Poor learning outcomes may be due, in part, to high absence rates among teachers, who often lack strong incentives to attend work. There have been relatively few rigorous studies evaluating successful interventions to address absenteeism, so little is known about how reduced absenteeism impacts other educational outcomes. If teachers are incentivized to show up to school, is that all they do- or once there do they teach? Do financial incentives undermine their other motivation to teach well?

For more read here

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Teacher layoff policies a lesson in union survival

Teacher performance

It looks increasingly likely that organized labor will manage to cheat death in Wisconsin. But where does that leave unions? Merely near death, that’s where. Only 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized, down from about 25 percent in the 1970s. Public-sector unions are doing better, but a movement restricted to public employees is one that has lost its soul. I’m not going to join the chorus of pundits dismissing the need for public-sector unions – there is no reason a group of janitors at city hall should not be able to join together and demand better wages and working conditions – but they’re clearly less necessary than private-sector unions.

So the fact remains: A win in Wisconsin does nothing to reverse the decades of losses that unions have suffered everywhere else. Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, put the problem to me bluntly. Unions “seem like a legacy institution and not an institution of the future,” he said. “And legacies get shed.”

Here’s an example of what he means: State budgets are in worse shape than Charlie Sheen. With federal aid running out and local economies still struggling, the next few years will require deep cuts in spending. And where do states spend much of their money? On education – which is to say, on teachers.

The prospect of firing tens of thousands of teachers is bad enough. But, as a chilling report from the New Teacher Project explains, about 40 percent of the nation’s teachers work in states where their contracts don’t allow administrators to take performance into account when making layoffs. That is to say, they cannot try to lay off the bad teachers while saving the good ones. Instead, they’re forced to use the “last-hired-first-fired” mechanism. The newest teachers get the pink slip, no matter how good they are. This will turn a crisis into a catastrophe. And let’s be clear, it’s the fault of the teachers unions.

That’s not just a problem for schools, children, taxpayers and teachers. It’s also a problem for the labor movement as a whole. Americans don’t care what most unions are up to. But Americans do care, a lot, about what their child’s teacher is up to. And if they think that teachers unions – which are public-employee unions, for the record – are standing in the way of good schools and good teachers, then their verdict will be much worse than “not an institution of the future.” They will see unions as hurting our future – and their children.

That puts the fate of organized labor in the hands of Randi Weingarten. Elected to head the American Federation of Teachers in 2008, Weingarten has systematically worked to put her organization on the right side of the school reform wars. That November, she pledged that “with the exception of vouchers, no issue should be off the table.” In January 2010, she set out five principles that should govern teacher evaluation – a necessary precursor to a better process for firing bad teachers and rewarding good ones. On Thursday, during a speech in Washington, she laid out the AFT’s opening bid for that process. Teachers rated as “unsatisfactory” by administrators would be given a detailed improvement plan written by their supervisors and other teachers. If a year later they were still rated as unsatisfactory, then termination proceedings would begin within 100 days.

For teachers, this creates a clear and transparent process for evaluation. It ensures that instructors will know why they’ve been rated poorly and be given a supervised opportunity to improve. It means that decisions about hiring and firing will have to fit into some clear definition of what good teaching is and how it can be achieved – an important comfort at a time when ambitious school supervisors with budgets to balance see a political upside in doing something, anything, that makes it look like they’re improving schools without spending money.

That isn’t to say the AFT’s proposal goes far enough. “It’s still cumbersome, and it doesn’t offer the accountability we need,” says Andy Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, a reform-minded education consultancy. And it’s many, many years overdue. But it’s a start. “There is value when the president of the AFT recognizes that these things are actually problems,” Rotherham says. “A few years ago, the debate was about whether these things were problems.”

If unions are to not just survive, but to actually flourish again, they need to create an identity beyond being a protection service for people who aren’t very good at their jobs. For too long they’ve been defending individuals at the expense of the collective. Every time an incompetent teacher or overly aggressive cop hides behind a union, unions in general become a bit less attractive to everyone else. Next year, when a slew of beloved and decorated teachers are fired not because they were worse than the teachers who kept their jobs but because they were younger, good people everywhere will find themselves that much less sympathetic toward organized labor.

Scott Walker’s overreach in Wisconsin has done unions a great favor. The public may not hold them in the highest esteem, but it doesn’t want to see them destroyed. That is, however, a low bar to clear. The question now is whether unions can persuade the public of something altogether more difficult: that it has reason to want to see them thrive. If in five years the words “education reform” make you think of teachers unions rather than the people who tangle with them, my guess is organized labor will be well on its way to making a comeback.

Washington Post, March 1, 2011

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Research Paper

Government run schools, Learning Achievements, Teacher performance

Highly Successful Schools: What Do They Do Differently and at What Cost?

Maria Perez, Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice, Stanford University, & Miguel Socias, American Institutes for Research, February, 2008.

An underlying premise of many resource adequacy studies is that reaching a specified set of educational outcomes is directly dependent on the level of resources. This article analyzes resource allocation practices among successful schools, low-performing schools, and average public schools in California.

For more, read here

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Research Paper

Teacher performance, Teacher salary

Does Performance Related Pay for Teachers Improve Student Achievement? Some Evidence from India

Geeta Kingdon and Francis Teal

In this paper data from a school survey in India is used to ask if there is evidence for the payment of performance related pay and whether such pay structures do impact on student achievement. It is shown that – after controlling for student ability, parental background and the resources available – private schools get significantly better academic results by relating pay to achievement; government schools do not. We discuss possible interpretations of this result.

For more click here

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Coming soon: a code of ethics for teachers

Teacher performance

Like the legal eagles and medicos, lakhs of school teachers across India will soon be bound by a stringent code of ethics in a bid to instil professionalism among them. A four-member committee of the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) has mooted a mechanism for registration of persons eligible for teaching in schools. Freshly-appointed teachers will be administered an oath to observe a 23-point code of professional ethics to enhance the dignity of their profession.

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Hurdles Emerge in Rising Effort to Rate Teachers

Teacher performance

For the past three years, Katie Ward and Melanie McIver have worked as a team at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, teaching a fourth-grade class. But on the reports that rank the city’s teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores, Ms. Ward’s name is nowhere to be found. Melanie McIver, a teacher at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with Elizabeth Phillips, background, the school principal. Both women have seen issues related to the city’s system of ranking teachers, which is at the heart of a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

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