Teacher Beat’s Top 10 for 2011

By Stephen Sawchuk — December 29, 2011 3 min read
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Just in case you didn’t get enough with our list of EdWeek’s top ten teacher stories for 2011, all scrupulously reported by yours truly, I’m presenting here a list of the most-read blog items at Teacher Beat for the 2011 year.

Several of these rivaled “full” EdWeek stories in popularity, so getting on this list is nothing to sneeze at.

Teach For America, as always, shows up several times, as does our very popular coverage of the National Education Association’s convention. In an ironic twist of fate, the not-very-PR-friendly soap opera between those two organizations also showed up.

Items on professional development also cracked the top ten list twice, and for once I have a hunch as to why. The word must be out that much of what passes these days for on-the-job training is ineffectual, and readers are hungry for information about what they can do to improve this important aspect of the profession.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

1. TFA Selection Criteria Linked to Student Gains:
Say what you will about TFA, it’s hard to dispute that the organization has learned some interesting things about recruiting strategies—findings that may even influence the accreditation process for teacher education.

2. NEA Delegates Take Swipe at TFA & 10: Teach For America Elaborates on its Response to NEA Criticism:
NEA delegates took a hardline stance against the alternative-route program during the union’s annual meeting; TFA wrote to its constituents shortly after, offering its take. In the meantime, both NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and TFA head Wendy Kopp seem eager to end this kind of back-and-forth stuff. (After having to write about various permutations of this battle for the better part of six years, you can count me right behind them.)

3. State Case Studies Offer Professional-Development Insights.
The study suggests, though can’t prove conclusively, that a handful of states do better by their teachers in offering professional development.

4. Common Standards Supports for Teachers Eyed:
Just as with professional development, readers want to know how to get teachers on board with the fewer, clearer, higher expectations called for in the common standards. Expect more coverage of this topic from me and common-standards whiz Catherine Gewertz in 2012.

5. NEA Adopts Resolution Criticizing Arne Duncan:
NEA’s representative assembly passes a barn-burner of an item listing 13 different criticisms of the U.S. Secretary of Education. Shortly thereafter, the union pledged its support for his boss, President Obama, for the 2012 presidential election. Translation: Plenty of hold-your-nose voting next fall by teachers.

6. Teacher Coaching Boosts Secondary Scores:
The second PD item to make this list, a study shows that coaching linked to a teaching framework can boost student achievement. It’s one of only a few studies that can claim to make this link.

7. Effectiveness Drops in Early-Career Teachers’ Departure Year:
This fascinating study showed that teaching performance tended to drop off among those early-career teachers’ final year, compared to teachers who stayed in the profession. It generated a lot of comments—thoughtful, nasty and everything in between. Read those, too.

8. Teachers Paid Less in Higher-Minority Districts:
This is one of two studies the U.S. Department of Education has released to push its agenda on the salary comparability issue.

9. NEA Passes Teacher Evaluation Resolution, With a Catch-22 On Test Scores
NEA formally entered the teacher-evaluation discussion with this salvo, though it insists current tests are not high-quality enough to be used in reviews of teachers.

11. States’ Education Schools Backing Out of NCTQ Review:
Yes, I’m sneaking in an 11th item! Many public education schools (and private ones, too) are not participating voluntarily in a review of every education school that is being conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality. It promises to remain a hot teacher-education story in 2012, when the review is due out.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.