Teacher news

Should teachers carry guns on campus?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Are schools safe? Or can we do more to ensure the safety of the students, teachers and staff that work in them?

While opinions vary on what should be done, one discussion has some people asking if teachers can play a bigger role–more than just being educators.

That discussion? Should teachers have guns on high school, middle school and elementary school campuses?

It is a debate that has waged on across the nation for years. Some groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America strongly oppose teachers carrying guns on campus.

“Teachers are there to teach our kids. They shouldn’t have to feel like they are trained sharpshooters,” said Carol Buckley-Frazier, spokesperson for Moms Demand Action.

Some though welcome the idea, like John Harris who is the executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association.

“It doesn’t make them law enforcement, it doesn’t impose on them a duty to go out and be the first responder,” said Harris.

In Tennessee, like many other states, school safety has been a major talking point with Governor Bill Haslam even setting aside funding to make schools safer, but opinions on what exactly should be done vary.

Harris doesn’t believe teachers who don’t want to carry should be forced to, but instead only those who are trained and willing. For Harris and the Tennessee Firearms Association, allowing teachers to carry could save lives.

“Armed administrators, armed faculty would have the ability to resist if it happened whereas otherwise, they are just victims trying to avoid getting shot,” said Harris.

Buckley-Frazier with Moms Demand Action says there are a number of reasons why schools should not allow teachers to carry guns. She said there are liability issues, as well as funding issues, but other issues arise as well.

“We believe the solution is not more guns in schools, but it is lowering the risk of people being confronted by gun violence, but especially in such a sensitive area,” said Buckley Frazier.

At the moment, school resource officers remain a priority and when it comes to arming teachers, Candice McQueen, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education, said the majority of teachers are against the idea.

“I heard from many teachers that indicated that this would not be something that would be their role,” said McQueen. “They have so many other things they are taking care of during the day and the complexity of taking on that role.”

In April, some lawmakers drafted HB 2208. The bill would have given school boards and school directors the power to adopt a policy allowing select school staff to carry concealed firearms on school property. The bill did not pass legislation, but Governor Bill Haslam said we could see similar legislation in the future.

“Obviously the legislation to do that didn’t pass this year,” said Governor Haslam. “I think you are right. It will come back up next legislative session. I think the vast majority of teachers will tell you that is not what they want to do and that is not the reason why they are teaching. I personally don’t believe that that is the answer around school safety it is more around the physical improvements increasing the number of SRO’s and taking that approach.”

For more information about past bills click here.

Moms Demand Action said they are not against the Second Amendment, but they don’t believe guns should be in a place where students and teachers are learning and teaching.

News 2 is your official back-to-school station. We’ve got special reports every day leading up to the first day of class. See our stories on air and in our special stories on wkrn.com

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Why ineffective teachers rarely get low ratings

While kids enjoy their summer vacations, most teachers are still working. Why? Because many across the U.S. are struggling to make ends meet.

In fact, the amount teachers make can vary greatly by state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of high school teachers earn less than $38,180 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $92,920.

That’s one reason why Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, decided to move to Texas, where teachers are paid significantly more. He told NPR, “It feels good because I know I’m doing the right thing for my family, but it also feels sad.”

 

Sheehan and his wife Kaysi, also a public school teacher, bring in $3,600 a month. “After all bills are paid, we’re sitting on about $400-450 per month,” he explains.

When the Sheehan family had their first child, they had to reassess their finances. “Sure, life can be done on $400, $450 a month, but I would challenge others out there to buy diapers, groceries and all the things that you need for a family of three on $400,” he says.

The average salary for a high school teacher in Oklahoma is $42,460. In Texas, the average salary is $55,500, but the Sheehans will be making even more than that. Both have been offered positions that include $40,000 raises.

Oklahoma pays its teachers less than any other state, according to the BLS.

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Hero Images | Getty Images
 

The five lowest-paying states for high school teachers:

1. Oklahoma

Annual mean wage: $42,460

2. Mississippi

Annual mean wage: $43,950

3. South Dakota

Annual mean wage: $44,210

4. North Carolina

Annual mean wage: $45,220

5. West Virginia

Annual mean wage: $45,240

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Jetta Productions | Getty Images

As states compete to best educate their students, they also are vying for the best teachers. Hawaii, a state where the average salary for a high school teacher is $58,480, is currently facing a teacher shortage. The state is having difficulty filling 1,600 open teacher positions.

Barbara Krieg, assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources, told the AP, “Teachers are in such demand everywhere. Every school district is trying to steal from the other’s district.”

The five highest-paying states for high school teachers:

1. Alaska

Annual mean wage: $82,020

2. New York

Annual mean wage: $81,410

3. Connecticut

Annual mean wage: $76,260

4. New Jersey

Annual mean wage: $75,250

5. California

Annual mean wage: $74,940

In order to best recruit talented educators, some states are paying up.

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Why heroin and classroom sex aren’t enough to get teachers fired anymore

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The city’s bad-apple teachers have a surprising new ally these days — Manhattan judges.

The jurists are increasingly refusing to side with city education bigs to punish rogue educators fired for drug- and sex-related offenses, according to a review of recent cases by The Post.

At the heart of the troubling trend is a legal standard that requires the courts to defer to the city’s Department of Education when it terminates a teacher — unless the judge believes that the firing “shocks the conscience,” experts said.

Given the growing number of overturned punishments, it is clear that the “shock” threshold is “getting easier and easier to meet,’’ a court source noted.

Some legal observers insist that the judges aren’t to blame, arguing that it is really the fault of city education officials for leveling overly harsh punishments against bad teachers in the first place because they don’t want to be criticized in the press.

But disgusted education advocates aren’t buying it.

“To me, this just exemplifies the lack of common sense that permeates our legal system,” said James Copland, director of legal policy at the nonpartisan education think tank the Manhattan Institute.

“We worry about the quality of our classrooms, the quality of education we’re providing our children.

“But the legal system seems bent on protecting the rights of teachers to extraordinary degrees and leaves the students vulnerable.”

The controversial “conscience’’ standard has been around since the 1970s, when it was established by the state’s highest court.

The Court of Appeals wrote in Pell v. Board of Education that judges should typically defer to education officials because they are ultimately responsible for their 77,000 employees.

For decades, the ruling meant that judges rarely second-guessed DOE arbitrators’ disciplinary rulings. But experts, citing several overturned high-profile cases in recent years, say that way of thinking is rapidly changing.

For example, trial and appeals courts alike found it “shocking” that a Brooklyn high school teacher was canned for bringing heroin to court in a backpack.

The courts also were “shocked’’ at the firing of two female romance-language teachers over a topless tryst in a classroom.

Last month, the city was forced to appeal a court ruling that sent a Queens elementary school teacher back into the classroom even after she flunked three of her four previous performance ratings.

Veteran PS 2 teacher Lisa Broad had been fired in 2014 after “three different senior administrators found that Broad poorly planned and executed lessons, failed to implement key teaching strategies, confused students, and wasted lesson time,” city lawyer Ryan Mangum argued in the appeal.

Not only that, “the record is also replete with instances of Broad’s professional misconduct, which included her fabrication of grades, flouting of deadlines, and violations of school policy by bringing a knife to school, having physical contact with a student, and leaving school premises during the school day without telling anyone,” Mangum wrote.


Judge Alice SchlesingerRick Kopstein

Still, lower-court Judge Alice Schlesinger — the same Manhattan jurist who found it “excessively shocking and severe” that two Brooklyn teachers were canned for the topless classroom romp — said Broad should keep her job because she was a “beloved teacher who had 27 years of experience under her belt.”

Mangum wrote in his appeal that Schlesinger misread the law, arguing that it only gives her “extremely narrow” grounds for overturning the DOE’s decision to fire Broad.

“The disciplinary process is a crucial aspect of DOE’s operations, because it is the process by which DOE identifies poorly performing teachers, makes efforts to help them improve, and dismisses those who frustrate DOE’s operations or are beyond reasonable remediation,” Mangum wrote.

“This process becomes unworkable when courts freely second-guess an independent arbitrator’s findings regarding disciplinary decisions,” he said.

But the fight to fire the teacher may be an uphill battle.

Cindy Mauro, Alini Brito

The same Manhattan appeals court currently considering Broad’s case upheld Schlesinger’s 2012 ruling reinstating the infamous tryst teachers, Alini Brito and Cindy Mauro.

In 2009, a janitor caught Brito and Mauro half-undressed in a darkened classroom at Brooklyn’s James Madison High School while students performed in a talent show in the auditorium.

The Manhattan appeals panel reasoned in 2014 that the women should not have been fired because the sexual shenanigans occurred after hours and were not witnessed by any students.

Their lawyer, Michael Valentine, said the case has now been widely cited by other teachers in fighting their own ousters.

“The Appellate Division decision in our case really gave the New York County judges some flexibility. I believe the courts are starting to rule against the DOE on the imposition of penalties,” Valentine said.

He claimed that Schlesinger “may have prevailed upon the hearts of some of her colleagues to take a closer look at some of this instead of just blindly rubber-stamping the [DOE] decisions,” Valentine said.

“It’s good precedent,” he said.

Copland, the Manhattan Institute scholar, disagreed.

In addition to Valentine’s two clients, he said it was outrageous that the courts reinstated teachers such as Park Slope educator Terrell Williams — who pestered his students for dates with their relatives — and heroin-holding Williamsburg instructor Damian Esteban.

Terrell WilliamsFacebook

“It’s patently absurd that teachers who are soliciting dates from their students’ moms or having sex in classrooms or carrying around heroin can’t be fired from their jobs,” Copland said.

“But that’s what the courts are doing, and they’re overriding the common-sense decision-making of administrators who are trying to run the schools to help the students learn.”

As with the sex-romp teachers, Manhattan’s appellate court said Williams should not have been booted from the classroom.

Williams, an eighth-grade gym instructor at PS/MS 282, did “not violate any specific rule or regulation,” the panel found in September.

Five female students testified at a DOE hearing in 2013 that Williams approached them at a volleyball practice and asked “whether they had older sisters, how old [their siblings] were, what they looked like and whether he could have their phone numbers,” according to court papers.

The questioning made the students feel “uncomfortable,’’ and one mother filed a complaint when Williams texted her daughter, according to court papers.

But Williams’ ouster “shocked” the judges — while their ruling horrified parents at PS/MS 282.

“I don’t feel like he should be allowed to teach again,” dad Corey Settles told The Post when the decision was released in September.

With Esteban, the appeals judges ultimately found him unfit to teach, despite what a lower court ruled.

‘As a political matter, [the DOE] would rather see a judge slammed in the New York Post than the DOE slammed in the New York Post.’

 – CUNY Professor David Bloomfield

The higher court rejected the 2013 ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Manuel Mendez, who decided that termination was too harsh a penalty for having heroin.

The teacher lost his job at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design after he was caught with the illegal drugs during a routine security check while he was serving on a jury in Manhattan Criminal Court in 2012.

The higher court reversed Mendez’s decision in 2015, saying that it was “not irrational or against public policy” to fire Esteban for “public possession for heroin.”

Benjamin Dictor, the lawyer who represented Esteban, said that while his client ultimately lost his bid to be reinstated, the courts’ recent trend to back embattled educators is just backlash against an overzealous DOE.

“To the extent there is such a trend, I think it may be a result of the disciplinary process within the Department of Education becoming more punitive,” Dictor said.

CUNY Professor David Bloomfield contends that the DOE would rather be harsh on teachers than be criticized by the press.

“As a political matter, [the DOE] would rather see a judge slammed in the New York Post than the DOE slammed in the New York Post,” Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said judges also “are really reluctant to fire someone from their job and their career. It’s the individual before them, and not the children who may be affected by this.”

Still, he said, “great deference to administrative decisions is a judicial tradition that makes sense.”

The state Legislature, with the support of the teachers union, created the independent arbitration system to handle such disciplinary issues.

Those arbitrators hold full hearings on the allegations, as opposed to judges who are looking at a record.

Dictor said the department, taking its cue from the judges, might now finally be softening up on teachers.

He said he has cited pro-teacher rulings by Schlesinger and the Appellate Division to recently beat back departmental charges against his clients.

“We’ve had a couple of cases in the past year that we’ve gotten very favorable results from arbitrators on,” Dictor said.

Still, Bloomfield predicted that too many rulings favoring questionable teachers could cause the pendulum to swing the other way.

In its first set of decisions in 2017, Manhattan’s Appellate Division refused to toss out an arbitrator’s termination of a Bronx elementary school teacher named Janet Levy-Napoli.

The PS 146 teacher refused to improve her skills after three years of unsatisfactory ratings.

Termination for her stubbornness “does not shock the court’s sense of fairness,” a five-judge panel wrote in a Jan. 3 ruling.

 

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Amazon Unveils Online Education

Service for Teachers

Just ahead of the back-to-school season, Amazon plans to make a major foray into the education technology market for primary and secondary schools, a territory that Apple, Google and Microsoft have heavily staked out.

Monday morning, Amazon said that it would introduce an online marketplace with tens of thousands of free lesson plans, worksheets and other instructional materials for teachers in late August or early September.

Called Amazon Inspire, the education site has features that may seem familiar to frequent Amazon shoppers. Search bar at the top of the page? Check. User reviews? Check. Star ratings for each product? Check.

By starting out with a free resources service for teachers, Amazon is establishing a foothold that could expand into a one-stop shopping marketplace — not just for paid learning materials, but for schools’ wider academic and institutional software needs, said Tory Patterson, co-founder of Owl Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in ed tech start-ups.

“Amazon is very clearly positioning itself as a disrupter with this move,” Mr. Patterson said.

Amazon is joining other tech industry giants in a push to expand the use of technology in the public schools.

Last year, primary and secondary schools in the United States spent $4.9 billion on tablet, laptop and desktop computers, according to a report by Linn Huang, a research director at the International Data Corporation, a market research firm known as IDC. Schools bought 10.8 million Apple, Google Chrome and Microsoft Windows devices in 2015, he said.

Because its devices tend to cost more, Apple accounted for the largest slice of school computer sales, amounting to $2.2 billion, Mr. Huang said. By volume, however, Chromebooks — the inexpensive laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system — have taken schools by storm, accounting for more than five million devices bought last year, he said.

Even so, ed tech industry analysts said the growing market for digital educational materials, which Amazon is entering, is likely to prove much more valuable over time than the school computer market.

Already, nursery through high schools in the United States spend more than $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content, according to estimates from the Software and Information Industry Association, a trade group. That spending could grow significantly as school districts that now buy physical textbooks, assessment tests, professional development resources for teachers and administrative materials shift to digital systems.

In a phone interview, Rohit Agarwal, general manager of Amazon K-12 Education, said the new site was intended to make it easier and faster for teachers to pinpoint timely and relevant free resources for their classrooms.

“Every teacher should be able to use the platform with zero training,” Mr. Agarwal said. He added: “We are taking a big step forward to help the educator community make the digital classroom a reality.”

The site for teachers is not Amazon’s first education venture. In 2013, the company acquired TenMarks, a math instruction site. (Mr. Patterson of Owl Ventures is also a partner at Catamount Ventures, a firm that was an investor in TenMarks.)

In March, the New York City public schools, the largest school district in the country, awarded Amazon a three-year contract, worth an estimated $30 million, to provide e-books to its 1.1 million students.

In the school market, however, Amazon is competing not just with rival tech companies but also with established digital education companies and ed tech start-ups.

A number of popular platforms already offer instructional materials for teachers. Among them are tes.com, a site based in London with more than eight million users worldwide, and teacherspayteachers.com, a site based in Manhattan that more than two million teachers use regularly.

Like Amazon Inspire, these sites let teachers search for materials by subject matter, like fractions or mitosis, and by grade level. Like Amazon Inspire, tes.com lets teachers download lessons and edit them to suit their students. (Some resources on teacherspayteachers.com may also be edited.)

Mr. Agarwal said the company’s new instructional resources site would be able to differentiate itself by being more intuitive for teachers who are Amazon users and by offering compelling new features.

“With the technology, content and expertise that Amazon has, we believed we could provide value,” he said.

Amazon timed its announcement to coincide with ISTE, the annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education, which about 16,000 teachers and school officials are attending in Denver this week. Other tech giants also unveiled new education ventures during the conference.

On Sunday, Microsoft said that it was working with ISTE to help schools introduce and integrate technology in the classroom. The project includes training programs for school administrators, online leadership courses developed with edX — a learning platform created by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and services to support schools as they adopt digital learning approaches.

On Monday, Google said it was making Expeditions, a free virtual reality app for students that has been available on a limited basis to schools, generally available. More than one million students tried the app during its test phase, the company said.

Google also introduced two new products for schools: Quizzes, an online form that teachers can use to give tests and automatically grade multiple-choice questions, and Cast for Education, a free Chrome app intended to promote class discussion by enabling teachers and students to share what is on their screens with one another.

 

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Wipe out teachers’ student debt after

seven years, says thinktank

The shortage of teachers if threatening the life chances of a generation, say education experts.Forgivable fees’ for those who remain in profession among ideas for attracting more graduates amid shortage

The shortage of teachers if threatening the life chances of a generation, say experts. Photograph: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

New teachers should have their outstanding student debt wiped out after they have been in the profession for seven years, says a report on attracting more graduates into teaching.

The introduction of a policy of “forgivable fees” could mean a teacher who started work in their early 20s could be free of university tuition fee debt by 30.

The policy is one of a number of ideas put forward in a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute thinktank to help tackle a growing shortage of teachers, which experts warn is threatening the life chances of a generation.

The report, published on Thursday, says the current system of bursaries aimed at attracting graduate talent is not sufficiently effective and calls on the next government to think again about how to make teaching a more attractive option.

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