What the Obama administration’s signature reform got wrong
Collectively, states face $1.4 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities, and $500 billion of that is due to teacher pension debt.
Here are my best arguments for why education advocates should invest their time and political capital in pensions, as opposed to everything else they might want to work on.
Here are my 11 reflections on what this means and predictions for what might happen.
We may just be employing more teachers who fall into career stages with high turnover.
Earlier this month the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) released a report with the worrying title, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.”
Somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of all new teachers are hired after the school year begins.
School is back in session in many places. And yet, state test results from last spring are still trickling out.
Policymakers have few useful tools to screen out “bad” teachers from the profession. The current screening tools are doing little more than unnecessarily limiting the supply of new teachers.
Our next President will be forced to make a number of important education policy decisions almost immediately upon taking office.
Research conducted by Marcus Crede suggests that grit is barely distinct from other personality traits and that standardized test scores, attendance, and study habits are much better predictors of long-term success than grit.
Cars, colleges, neighborhoods, restaurants, you name it — if there’s some sort of choice that people can make, there’s probably a rating system to help them decide.
Colorado has done the right thing in making the teaching profession at least somewhat contingent on performance. The state should create a retirement system that matches that expectation.
The fragmented teacher labor market has implications for how we think about improving teacher preparation, not to mention how school districts go about hiring new teachers.
Teacher retirement plans have real clout with Wall Street hedge funds, and the unions that staff the boards deciding how to invest that money also have clout.
Advocates of today’s defined benefit teacher pension plans claim that these plans encourage workers to stick around and devote their lives to the profession, but there’s not much evidence that this is the case.
Pensions are eating further and further into state and local education budgets, eating up dollars that could be spent on lots of other things, especially higher education.
How should public policies address inequities across schools and districts? American Federation of Teacher President Randi Weingarten says we hold schools accountable for how much money they have and the types of programs they build with that money.
If states continue to preserve their existing pension systems at any cost, teachers will see the Pension Pac-Man eat further and further into their take-home pay.
Despite the conventional wisdom, there’s very little evidence that current education policies are driving teacher turnover.
As is true for the state as a whole, Chicago is spending a lot of money to preserve a pension plan that isn’t serving its teachers very well.
Current teacher retirement systems require teachers to stay 20, 25, or even 30 years before they qualify for adequate retirement benefits.
Under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act, all states will be responsible for designing their own statewide accountability systems.
Our report, which finds that we don’t actually know very much about how to prepare teachers or help them improve, has generated a lot of feedback.
How much do we know about a teacher before they enter the classroom? What about after they’ve been teaching a few years? Is any of this information strong enough to act on?
Nationwide, the public sector offers more than 400 Montessori programs which now enroll more than 100,000 students. Those numbers are growing as more places offer Montessori programs and more families opt into it.
With NCLB reauthorization taking another step forward, I’m again hearing the refrain that states won’t back away from school accountability when they’re not forced to by the feds.
Pension debt alone now eats up to about 10 percent of the average teacher’s compensation. This is money that is spent on teachers but isn’t actually going to them now or in the future; it’s money just to pay down debts that were accrued in the past.
She could learn about his work linking value-added measurement (VAM) scores of teachers to their students’ long-term life outcomes
Teacher turnover rates don’t change all that much over time, but we see higher turnover during economic expansions than during recessions.
In anticipation of new NAEP scores coming out this week, I thought it would be useful to spend some time reflecting beforehand on what we know on a macro scale.
What do new assessments aligned to the Common Core tell us? Not much more than what we already knew.
Schooling Isn’t Learning, the Rewards to Better Schools Are Enormous, and Other Observations from Eric Hanushek
An interview about accountability, attainment, and more
Some folks are claiming that news that House Speaker John Boehner will step down at the end of October makes an ESEA reauthorization more likely this fall. That’s just crazy talk.
Teachers suffer from low salaries while they work in exchange for the promise of better retirement savings when they leave, but for most teachers, that promise never becomes a reality.
SchoolGrades uses the results of state tests to create a comparable, A-F grading system for all public elementary and middle schools in the U.S.
In the midst of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s controversial 2011 budget bill, many warned that the state’s public employees, including teachers, would retire in droves.
Teachers are much more likely to move within a state than to cross state lines.
The data simply don’t support the notion that teachers are leaving schools in droves in response to recent education reforms.
A new study finds that when recessions hit, both men and women are less likely to want to become teachers and instead turn to fields like accounting and engineering.
Graduation rates don’t tell us very much about whether students are prepared for life after graduation.
American adults in the 1940s had about the same odds of being a high school graduate as today’s Americans have of being a college graduate.
And how do we kickstart achievement for high school students?
Something amazing is going on with high school graduation rates.
North Carolina has a new “Educator Quality Dashboard” with some fascinating data on teacher preparation in the state.
Data suggest that some states should be investing much more heavily in teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
Big trends in the economy like unemployment rates and wages have at least as big an impact on teacher mobility as specific education policy changes.
If you read this list and think it doesn’t quite square with why you went into teaching, your pension plan may not be working in your best interests (or the best interest of schools and students).
The achievement scores of black, Hispanic, and low-income students have increased dramatically.
As evidence mounts showing how poorly structured pension plans fail to meet the needs of today’s workforce, let’s hope more politicians make it a trend.
Although 11 educators were convicted of cheating on state tests, the city made remarkable improvements on low-stakes measures of educational progress such as NAEP.
A move away from annual testing would leave many subgroups and more than 1 million students functionally “invisible” to state accountability systems.
Since the Obama Administration has quietly transitioned to a normative accountability system, where schools are compared to each other rather than to some pre-determined “proficiency” benchmark, it doesn’t matter if all students appear to perform worse this year.
Rather than having regular check-ups on student progress, with relatively low stakes on those results, we’d have much higher stakes attached to a smaller number of test scores.
As the edu-intelligentsia anxiously anticipates another attempt at updating the law, it’s worth revisiting how we got our last reauthorization.
In the fantasy world that the National Institute on Retirement Security has created, state pension plans do a bang-up job of delivering benefits to workers. That’s just not the reality of the world we live in.
A court ruling is potentially very problematic for new teachers and those who aren’t yet teaching.
Teachers might prefer a different arrangement than current state pension plans, but they don’t really have a voice in those decisions.
If teachers are the most-important in-school factor for student growth, we certainly don’t act like it.
Teachers are forced to forego their own retirement savings in order to pay down a debt accrued over many years. It harms their future retirement security and, by forcing districts into painful budget decisions, it harms the quality of education delivered to Colorado’s students.
A common perception about how we pay public sector workers is fundamentally flawed.
Pension plans have not made much of a dent in their long-term unfunded debt. How could this be?
Charter schools and their teachers pay the same high employer and employee contribution rates as all other schools, but higher turnover rates mean their teachers will get much less in return.
No one is seriously advocating for reducing the pensions of any individual teachers or retirees.
When the public is led to believe financial issues are the only problems with today’s pension plans, financial issues will be the only problems legislators seek to address.
Despite state policy changes, many districts still don’t factor student growth into teacher evaluation ratings in a meaningful way.
Over the years, legislators increased pension benefits significantly, but they have not distributed those increases evenly to all teachers.
As states revamp their teacher evaluation systems, they continue to search for that magic number: the percentage of a teacher evaluation rating that should be based on student academic performance.
Elizabeth Green’s story for Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” is a must-read. But for all the time Green spends documenting the ways Americans stink at math, she never mentions that we’ve gotten much better.
Rachel Aviv’s article about a cheating scandal involving teachers at one middle school in Atlanta is very well-written, but the sources of the pressure on Atlanta teachers and principals to improve and the threat behind it are more complex than NCLB alone.
Are state pension plans a recruitment or retention incentive for teachers? It’s complicated, but many of the claims about the value of pensions don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Are Maryland Teachers Leaving Because of the Common Core or New Teacher Evaluation Requirements? Probably Not.
There are a number of factors that may affect teacher retention in any given year. We should be wary about trying to pin down any one reason.
Instead of hiring more teachers or paying them more money, districts are devoting an increasing share of finite resources to employee benefits.
In the median state, teachers must wait 24 years before their pension is finally worth more than their own contributions.
Faced with a budget crisis, Illinois offered teachers a generous early retirement package. Large numbers of older, more experienced teachers took the offer, Here’s what happened next.
California discovered a $2.4 billion budget surplus from what it projected in January, but that money won’t be going to any new, exciting program.
Under a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind Act called “safe harbor,” states must set different standards for different groups.
States have responded to their pension funding gaps by cutting retirement benefits for new hires and increasing the amount of time workers need to serve before qualifying for a pension, raising the normal retirement age, and reducing benefit formulas.
Teachers need leaders willing to have courageous conversations about how to modernize and improve retirement security for all of our nation’s teachers.
High mobility rates and a 10-year service requirement for teachers to qualify ensure that less than half of Michigan’s new teachers will remain long enough to earn a pension
No, or at least not very much
Teachers should insist that all forms of compensation—including retirement benefits—are paid for upfront and that benefit promises are matched by real contributions.
For the average full-career state worker, traditional defined benefit plans are working quite well.
Most states are living up to the promises in their waiver, but Washington over-promised in this case, and failure to fix it may force them back under No Child Left Behind.
The unpredictable nature of pension contibutions has a real consequence on school district budgets and, therefore, on teachers.
The majority of teachers in these cities do not remain in the same district long enough to qualify for even a minimal pension, and only a very tiny fraction of teachers stay long enough to receive a pension that would be sufficient for a stable retirement.
Will states and cities facing skyrocketing costs find a way to protect the retirement benefits that people have already earned while making changes to the way benefits are earned in the future?
Empirically, pensions appear to have no effect on early- or mid-career teachers.
Pension plans need to estimate how much money they’ll need in order to pay the benefits they’ve promised in the future. They also need to estimate how many employees will qualify for a benefit in the first place.
Illinois recently passed pension reform legislation with robust bipartisan support. Here’s how and why it happened.
Cities and states faced with rising pension costs have begun to search for the most effective way to balance retirement promises made to workers with the need for fiscal sustainability and employer flexibility.
If you follow news about the District of Columbia Public Schools closely, you could be forgiven if you thought teacher turnover had increased since the schools were handed over to mayoral control in 2007.
Teach for America is not doing harm to our nation’s schools or our low-income students. In fact, TFA seems to be out-performing not just other beginning teachers but veteran teachers as well.
The majority of teachers stand to significantly benefit from two cost-neutral pension reforms
Way back in March of 2010, President Obama released his blueprint for reauthorizing NCLB. Three years later, we’re still operating as if the blueprint never happened, as if three years of policymaking hasn’t happened.
We have a lot more commonality in standards and assessments than we did five years ago
Instead of hiring even more teachers or paying them more money, districts are devoting an increasing share of finite resources to employee benefits.
The next time you read a proposal about halting the Common Core, keep in mind all the time and money that’s already been spent.
If an employer can’t differentiate between their employees, they’re likely to treat them all as interchangeable widgets when it comes time to decide on how to help them improve, how much to pay them, or which ones should be retained.
The research field of teacher pensions has been a relative backwater, but lately it just keeps getting more interesting.