Friday, October 31, 2008

Notable school: Noble Street College Prep

A highly successful Chicago charter network was highlighted on NPR today - check out the story here.

The charter network, Noble Street College Prep, has a website at

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book review: "Teachers Have It Easy"

Over the past week, I've been reading Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers by Daniel Mouthrop, Ninive Clements Calegari, and Dave Eggers. The book is one of the most powerful arguments for paying teachers more that I've read, but it has the potential side effect of scaring readers away from the profession of K-12 teaching.

The case for paying teachers more is relatively easy to make, and the authors make it very well. However, whether the book overstates the severity of the monetary challenges K-12 teachers face is a debatable question. It is indeed a crime that public school teachers in some districts have starting salaries in the low 30s, but in other metropolitan areas, the median salary for teachers is in the 60-70k range, and that is a different story. The reader is left with the impression that it is nearly impossible to make a decent living as a teacher, and that doesn't seem accurate to me.

According to the U.S. government's Bureau of Labor Statistics' May '07 occupational outlook data for secondary school teachers, the top five metropolitan areas for teacher salary at the secondary level are:

1. Nassau / Suffolk, NY - 78k
2. Ann Arbor, MI - 75k
3. Lake County / Kenosha County, IL/WI - 71k
4. Chicago / Naperville / Joliet, IL - 69k
5. Santa Ana / Anaheim / Irvine, CA - 68k

The top five states for secondary teacher pay are New York, Illinois, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey.

Of course, these numbers mean little without factoring in the cost of living; CNN Money has a useful cost of living comparison calculator here.

With that caveat, I highly recommend Teachers Have It Easy. You can order it online here.

Thinking within and beyond K-16 education

K-16 (K-12 schooling plus higher education) is understandably the core of American educational life and the focus of most educational scholarship. But even as we work to study and improve the quality of K-16 education, it is also important to realize that education is something that occurs outside of schools as well as within them. We need to think about the word "education" in broader terms.

What public policy consequences might a broader definition of "education" lead to?

Perhaps: Policies designed to increase the overall health of communities through improved social capital and social networks (see Charles M. Payne, So Much Reform, So Little Change). This might entail increased funding for museums, libraries, public infrastructure and parks, cultural offerings and the arts, and after-school programs.

What consequences for the profession of "educator" might a broader definition of "education" lead to?

Perhaps: Educators - teachers, administrators, counselors - might come to identify themselves not only as transmitters of knowledge, but as cultivators of the personhood and character of individual students and of the academic and cultural atmosphere of the communities where they teach.

Any thoughts?

Education Week on the Presidential Campaign

Education Week has some great online resources available to help voters learn where the presidential candidates stand on education issues; check out their Campaign '08 page here.