Teaching Profession

Ed Week Turns 35: Teaching-Profession News From Issue One May Sound Familiar

By Madeline Will — September 07, 2016 2 min read
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Today is Education Week‘s 35th anniversary.

And some of what was covered in Ed Week’s inaugural issue on September 7, 1981, may seem strikingly (maybe even depressingly) familiar to educators today. Here’s a look at some of the stories on the teaching profession back then—and what’s changed and stayed the same.

In 1981, Philadelphia teachers were mulling a strike. After 3,500 teachers were laid off and the school board reneged on a promised 10 percent pay increase, the teachers union threatened to strike unless the cuts were rescinded. (Spoiler: That strike did happen, and it closed schools for 50 days. A fascinating Philadelphia Inquirer article from 2000 talks about how the effects from the strike still lingered at least 20 years later.)

Today, teacher strikes are still prevalent. Just this week, the teachers union in Yuba City, California announced that 700 teachers would strike on Thursday to protest low pay. And a teacher strike is looming in Chicago, where the union is battling with the district over teachers’ pay. A Teaching Now post counted at least 15 strikes in 2015.

About 50,000 teachers across the country were facing layoffs. Certain areas were expecting significant teacher layoffs due to shrinking education budgets. At the same time, other school districts were facing a shortage of math, science, bilingual, and special education teachers.

Today, this is a recurring theme. There are teacher shortages in the same areas—STEM, special education—as there were in 1981. Several states are battling shortages, even as they face education budget cuts that may lead to layoffs. A recent Oklahoman story perfectly illustrates this paradox: Districts are cutting teacher positions while still requesting emergency teacher certificates to fill vacancies, because you can’t necessarily move an English teacher to a science position.

Increasing teacher diversity was on the nation’s mind, at least somewhat. The Educational Testing Service made some major revisions to the now-defunct National Teacher Examination (replaced by Praxis tests) for teacher candidates. The changes, which moved away from simple recall to a focus on everyday knowledge and analysis, were a response to critics who said the test had a cultural bias against black candidates.

Today, building a more diverse teaching workforce is a much more prominent goal—albeit one that will take a long time to reach. Education schools and programs are trying to encourage more people of color to enter (and remain in) teaching, through active recruitment and supports like mentoring. And the Educational Testing Service is still trying to make teacher assessments more relevant—the ETS is working on a new exam to measure teacher-candidates’ ability to execute key aspects of instructions, like leading a class discussion. Meanwhile, a recent study had mixed results on whether new teachers who pass the edTPA licensing test are better teachers.

See other stories from the inaugural issue here. And for more on the internal and external changes facing Education Week on its 35th anniversary, see this post on the blog Education and the Media.

Other Retrospectives:

Follow @madeline_will and @EdWeekTeacher on Twitter.



A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.