Colorado

Today’s teachers less experienced, more open

More inexperienced teachers are in today’s classrooms than ever before and they are more open than their veteran colleagues to performance-driven options for how they’re evaluated and paid, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Boston-based nonprofit Teach Plus.

For the first time in decades, more than 50 percent of the nation’s teaching force is comprised of teachers who have been in the classroom under 10 years, Teach Plus found in “Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession,” which looks at the changing demographics of U.S. teachers.

The national survey asked 1,015 new and veteran teachers their views on some of the most contentious issues in U.S. public education, like teacher evaluations and class size, to see if attitudes are shifting with an influx of newer teachers.

Despite differences in experience, teachers are generally united when it comes to working conditions. The majority of both newbies and veterans agree that class sizes should not be increased, even if doing so would provide districts with more funding to raising salaries. The two groups are also in agreement about keeping the school day shorter and said that increasing pay is key to elevating public respect for the profession.

Learn more

In partnership

  • The Hechinger Report is a nonprofit news organization that is focused on producing in-depth education journalism. It is an independently funded unit of Teachers College, Columbia University.

On the topic of teacher evaluations, though — one of the most highly debated issues in education reform — the two demographics have mostly differing views. They agree that current teacher evaluations are ineffective at improving instruction, but 71 percent of less experienced teachers say their evaluation should be tied to student test score growth, compared to only 41 percent of veteran teachers.

Those who began teaching in the last decade are also more supportive of changing compensation and tenure systems, and more likely to think the use of student data is important to teach more effectively.

Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus, said a new generation of teachers has been exposed to the magnitude of the achievement gap, which may influence their attitudes and their belief in the importance of data.

“Closing gaps among racial groups and across income levels motivates the commitment to teaching for so many,” Coggins said.

In 1987, the majority of teachers had 15 years of experience, according to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, with about half of new teachers leaving urban classrooms within three years, teachers with just one year of experience are the most common in U.S. classrooms. And each year, 200,000 new teachers enter the profession, 65 percent of whom are recent college graduates.

Mark Teoh, director of research and knowledge at Teach Plus, said that these new teachers were most likely students during or after the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, and said their attitudes show they are more accustomed to testing and accountability than their more experienced colleagues.

At a time when states are introducing the Common Core standards and new evaluation methods, Teoh says these shifting teacher attitudes could influence education reform, as policymakers hear “what kind of profession these teachers want to see, and what kind of workforce they want to be a part of.”

The report also highlights problems that come with a younger, less experienced teaching force. Teach Plus recommends including teacher opinion in policymaking and encouraging newer teachers to take on leadership roles.

“There’s definitely room and a hunger for these teachers to be part in the policy process itself,” Teoh said. “They’re the ones who are there all the time, and they can provide the feedback, guidance and perspective that [are] needed.”

Charting change: Numbers of teachers, years of experience

Chart from “Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force,” by Richard Ingersoll and Lisa Merrill, May 2012. Click on image to enlarge.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.