Posts filed under: By the Numbers
As of mid-November, Memphis City Schools (MCS) has successfully completed over 6,500 teacher observations for the 2011-12 school year, having trained and certified 615 administrators to help accomplish this tall task. This is a tremendous feat for our schools, not only because we have introduced a new teacher-designed observation rubric (the TEM Teaching & Learning Framework) to our instructional staff, but because we have implemented an observation system that is drastically different from anything MCS has ever experienced.
For the past decade, teachers were only required to be observed once every one to five school years (depending on whether or not a teacher had tenure), and principals kept paper records of these observations that were frequently lost or disorganized and next to impossible to explore from a district perspective. Many in the field would tell you this minimalist approach to observations emphasized compliance with state regulations more than a commitment to improving instructional practices.
These days, all teachers are observed a minimum of four times each school year, and observers have been trained to record their observation notes and scores on handheld devices such as iPads. The result? For the first time ever, our district has extensive real-time observation data for all teachers, schools and observers that we can analyze and respond to throughout the year. The implications for teacher support, observer training, and, most importantly, student outcomes are huge. At the onset, here are four things we are already learning from TEM teacher observations:
On a recent school night, a group of teachers from the Memphis City Schools gathered for a screening of "American Teacher." The documentary follows four educators who work twelve-hour days to support their students and three jobs to support their families.
The teachers in the room know what that’s like; those are our stories too. One of us has been teaching in the Memphis City Schools for nine years and has never not worked at least one other job—teaching part-time time at the university, consulting, and until becoming a parent, a further twenty hours or more each week at Macy’s. These experiences are more common than not.
Teachers have long contended that we’re undervalued for our work; even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan agrees that compensation reform is needed. But a controversial new study by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation argues that teachers are actually overcompensated. The authors assert that when fringe benefits and job security are taken into account, teachers make about 52% more than intellectually comparable workers in other fields (using scores on standardized tests like the SAT as measures of cognitive ability).
To say we live in interesting times would be an understatement at Memphis City Schools (MCS) these days. As with all public schools across the state of Tennessee, our district has entered into a year of great challenges and enormous opportunities, all stemming from the increased expectations of teachers and students alike: more rigorous and frequent teacher evaluations, higher testing standards for students, and the introduction of a Common Core curricula that will raise the bar for students’ critical thinking and college/career-readiness skills in unprecedented ways.
Undoubtedly, these demands hold the weight of world to many educators—teachers and administrators alike—in our district and with good reason. Anyone who has watched Memphis morph from the industrial town of International Harvester and Firestone into the shipping, biotechnology and medical hub of today can see how the economic landscape has and will continue to shift over the decades to come. The implications for educational attainment are huge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of job growth for positions requiring a post-secondary degree will double that of all other positions over the next ten years.
We've been searching for a way to say Thank You, and more!
I teach. I am is our new public campaign created to thank, celebrate, and empower our teachers. But what does it mean? And, is it possible for those (few) words to have any impact at all in the real world of urban education?
I will answer my own questions in reverse order.
I teach. I am is a platform for Teacher Voice, the beginning of a powerful conversation with teachers about teaching effectiveness. As we all know, the State has recently raised…