Monday, September 17, 2012

State education commissioner says teacher quality in Appalachian schools must be improved

This from John James Snidow at the Rural Blog:
State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is concerned about the quality of classroom instruction, especially in Appalachian Kentucky, and he’s ready to shake things up, challenging teachers’ colleges and local education leaders.
Comm. Terry Holliday
Eastern Kentucky colleges are producing too many teachers, and the region’s districts are hiring too many of them, perpetuating low expectations he says too many educators have for their students, Holliday said in an interview.

“Admissions standards are too low” for would-be teachers, he said, citing a report from the global consultancy McKinsey & Co., which found that the world’s best school systems “recruit 100 percent of their teacher corps from the top third of the academic cohort." Holliday says, “We recruit from the bottom third right now.”

Cathy Gunn, dean of education at Morehead State University, says she agrees that the teacher pipeline needs to be “improved and narrowed,” but denies Morehead is recruiting from the bottom third – at least intentionally. She says Morehead recruits “any student who is interested in becoming a teacher, no matter where they are in their graduate ranking,” as long as they meet the minimum requirements.

Before Holliday came to Kentucky three years ago, he was a district superintendent in North Carolina. He said there were colleges in that state “that we just wouldn’t hire from because they just weren’t prepared. That’s happening to some degree in Kentucky.”

If graduates continue to perform poorly or cannot meet the new, tougher requirements of the state Educational Professional Standards Board, he said some of the education schools will likely have to be closed.

Teaching has changed. Decades ago, it was a primary job choice for many talented women and minorities who lacked other opportunities. Today, lucrative and prestigious fields such as law and medicine have opened up their doors, while teaching has lagged behind both in pay and prestige.

The McKinsey report found low admission standards make it difficult for teaching to be seen as prestigious, and “McKinsey is right on target there,” Holliday said.

Encouraging better students to become teachers may be most urgent in Appalachian Kentucky. A recent study by Dr. Eugenia Toma at the University of Kentucky’s Martin School of Public Policy showed that Kentucky teachers who choose to work in Appalachian schools for their first jobs are less academically qualified than their peers who choose to teach in other parts of the state. Toma’s paper is based on data collected by the Educational Professional Standards Board that tracked more than 21,000 Kentucky teachers from 1987 to the present.

Holliday’s worry is that the low quality of teachers exacerbates some Appalachian educators’ low expectations for their students – or even their desires for them.

“I’ve heard this more than once now, that you might not want these kids to get a good education because then they’ll leave,” creating “less ability to fund the local county government,” he says. That kind of thinking “leads to low expectations for education,” he says, creating a “vicious cycle.”

Holliday said some eastern districts “only hire from certain universities and they only hire people from Eastern Kentucky backgrounds.” A joint report by his Department of Education and other state education authorities found that 43 percent of Kentucky districts employed more than half of their teachers from the same teacher-preparation institution, usually one nearby. (Click on map for larger image)
“People are sometimes afraid of hiring outsiders,” Holliday said, but in doing so they miss out on many qualified candidates and diversity in the classroom, which can help prepare students for the wider world.

These issues are most important in rural areas, which Holliday says lack many of the amenities needed to attract talented teachers: “In urban areas, you have places for these young, upwardly mobile teachers to live. In rural areas, you don’t have anywhere for them to live, you don’t have social activities, or any of the things that these young 20-somethings apparently really like,” Holliday says, playfully acknowledging his middle age.

Holliday says reforming teacher education won’t be easy because colleges have a financial interest in keeping class sizes high and admissions standards low. “The highest profit margin for universities is teacher education,” he said. “You’ve got large class sizes, very low cost for professors.” As the state’s public universities deal with budget cuts, “we’re gonna be pushing the presidents and the deans on this to improve candidate quality going into these programs.”

Eastern Kentucky University’s education dean, Bill Phillips, says he “completely agrees with Dr. Holliday” that standards need to be raised, but says state funding cuts force EKU to be “tuition-driven.” Raising standards lowers enrollment, and with it, tuition revenue, but Phillips says EKU has “made the decision to raise standards and to just take the hit on tuition.”

Holliday was interviewed for a report on the entry of Teach for America into Appalachian Kentucky. He said TFA, which he says recruits from the “top 10 percent of the top 10 percent” of college students, is putting pressure on the traditional teacher preparation and certification programs in the state: “Any time you challenge the status quo – ‘the man’ – any time you challenge the man, you’re gonna put pressure on them and get pushback.”

Hat tip to KSBA.


Anonymous said...

Wow this guy really fancies himself the insightful rebel. Seems like he takes a potshot about everyone in this interview. Colleges of Education recruit and produce inferior teachers, local governments encourage low academic performance in order to maintain tax base numbers, zenaphobic districts don't hire anyone from beyond the region and parents do not encourage students to perform well in schools. So I am confused now, which one of these is "the man"?

From what I can tell, all this guy can do is created overbloated plans which can't be maintained and then blame everyone else after half a decade of his leadership hasn't resulted in any real or significant changes in student performance or opportunities - just pretty window dressing programs that require too much work for the limited benefit and millions of dollars sent out of state to pay for assessments which are only telling us what we already knew in the classroom.

Don't expect any thing different under this renewed contract except for backpedalling and more finger pointing.

Anonymous said...

Take a hit on tuition? That's not what I am hearing. I am hearing that we need to follow up with students when they miss class. Call prospective high school students to try to recruit them. At the same time we are being undercut by other institutions in the institutional tuition game. Insructors are being expected to carry more of a load with less compensation and sometimes even no compensation. There is no long term plan, just reactions to immediate conditions.

Anonymous said...

So the commisioner wants to impart his high and mighty reflections about Eastern Kentucky. My question to the Dr. Holliday is this, what have you done to create conditions which would draw high quality teachers to the profession and region?

Following the Commissioner's line of logic, local communities need to spend their dwindling resources to create social and market structures which will encourage 20 somethings to relocated to isolated areas and that districts should specifically select these individuals because they are non natives. At the same time College of Education should only accept the top quartile of university students, even if it means closing their program and these bright university students are all going to pursue this profession for 30 grand and the realization that this guy is only going to make their duties of teaching more difficult and convuluted.

That sounds workable to me, wish I had thought of it. Dang he is smart!

Anonymous said...

What a pompus, self-righteous tone. The nerve to call Appalachian natives who go to college and then return to serve their communities not only inferior but the root of poor student performance. His comments and perceptions are not "shaking things up" they are rude and condesending. As usual, the commissioner fails to take any responsibility or offer any real solutions, but instead pushes stakeholders back with his litany of blame when anyone challenges his unilateral directives or one-size-fits-all stereotypes. How ironic that he points to Appalachian folks' lack of trust in outsiders, then proceeds to sit on his high-and-mighty, Johnny-come-lately, federally-funded-pimp-mobile and lambast parents, educators, community members and students as basically creating the conditions which are resulting in low student achievement. Wonder how much more time teachers could be spending with students if they weren't spending time doing things like program reviews (23% of a school's supposed accountability score is now going to be based on teacher's ability to write reports?)

Anonymous said...

After reading these last two stories, I think we have probably ridden the Holliday horse far enough. He has spent the federal funds but not on instructional resources or teacher in Kentucky, then has the nerve to blame Appalachian folks for their circumstances. (Where has this guy been the last five years, did he suddenly discover there is another part of our state east of I-75?)He has created an accountability system which even his own department can't be accountable for supplying on time much less offer meaningful interpretation because no effort was ever made to figure out where the reform plane was going while they were building and flying it simutaneously. Now all that is left is to make excuses when the expensive numbers come in and don't add up to the promised progress. Then there will be the finger point which we premptively see in this case and finally there will be his departure with all Kentuckians and their children left with nothing to really show for all the money spent and the commissioner landing his next job in another state, touting his self perceived accomplishments in KY but blaming those darn backward Kentucky folks for not implementing his grand plan correctly.

I think his next assignment should be a failing innercity district where he can accuse teachers of being too diverse so as to confuse children, parents of not endorsing more rural values and civic leaders for having too many social and commerical activities in the city so as to distract young teachers from their jobs. Or perhaps he could work with a Native American school system and explain to them that their attempts to maintain traditional culture was close minded and not preparing their children to be 21st Century citizens or that their leadership needed to build casinos in order to attract teachers and their parents possible reluctance to trust the federal government was without any historical merit.

Anonymous said...

How does he figure college of education folks present the highest profit margin? I would like to see the data on that. Seems to me that gen ed requirements would make college of arts and sciences survey courses which are required of most all students the university's cash cow.

I don't profess to know what, if any, contribution the commissioner has made toward enhancing teacher education programs in the state, but I do know the guy has some pretty narrow blinders if he is going to paint universities as focused on high class sizes and low admission standards in order to fill their coffers. Next time Comm. Holliday looks over the budget trends during his time in KY he should take note of the percent of cuts taken from state universities versus K12. Don't forget Doc legislators were considering allowing districts to sell advertisements on the sides of school buses in order to generate revenue.

Anonymous said...

One key element that no one's mentioned yet: teachers' working conditions are really bad. When so many veteran teachers stop recommending to students that they pursue teaching as a career, that speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

What a mean spirited prejudiced comment!! I'd like to see the so called data. Fighting this attitude from someone who is supposed to be a supportive leader of Kentucky teachers, what a sad joke!

Anonymous said...

Most kids like to go to college somewhere near their homes. And a lot of kids like to return home after college. I have always believed that local school districts should give preference to local kids over outsiders because those families have funded the local school district with their tax dollars for years. And if local kids go to a nearby college, so be it. I hear a lot of animosity toward the commissioner from a lot of sources, and it appears that much of it is justified. It's a shame that the pepole in Frankfort can't seem to find a Kentuckian who understands Kentucky people to run things, and they go out of state, especially to North Carolina where they've had a superiority complex for years.

Anonymous said...

If you have a degree and you know the right politician, you get hired!! There are many educators that were once instructional assistants and have a lot of experience working with a teacher in the classroom but when they get their degree, they are overlooked. No teacher should be hired as soon as she graduates when there are many that have been subbing and working as instructional aides. We all have heard that Perry County doesn't always hire the most qualified.

Anonymous said...

After being selected as a Governor's Scholar in the first year of the program, earning a 4.0 GPA in high school, posting magna cum laude at my NEARBY state university, and serving 24 years as a Kentucky teacher and administrator, it is nice to know my life has been reduced to the stereotype of country bumpkin.
I have two daughters and have vowed to get them through college. However, their mother and I have voiced vehemently that we will not pay the first dime to help them earn a teaching degree. Doc Holliday? Well done. Two Appalachians who will not dilute your educational gene pool.

Anonymous said...

How does that explain Jefferson County being the worst performing school district with some of the worst performing schools in the state?

C.G. Fugate said...

What a slap in the face for all teachers from their "leader"!
How condescending and how disturbing for someone who is supposedly an educated, diverse individual to sterotype Kentucky teachers. This is very disappointing. Why would you, Mr. Holliday, not try to lift up your employees rather than beat them down?

Anonymous said...

I too teach in Eastern KY, graduated at the top of my class, a Governor Scholar, had a 32 on my ACT. I could have been anything that I wanted to be gone anywhere I wanted to go. I went to Morehead because it fit me. I had an international roommate, I went to Europe twice for study abroad opportunities. I came home to teach because this is my home. I think that stereotyping Eastern KY teachers such as this is a bunch of bologna! If he looks closely at some these schools several of these have progressing ratings and many more schools are becoming Proficient. Check your facts Dr. Holliday. There are good and bad teachers in every district.

Anonymous said...

I was in college for several years in Ky. in the 60's. It was well known then, if you were having trouble making the grade with your major, that transferring to the college of education would bring your grade standing up because it was easier. I don't know if that is still the case, but I do know that teachers of my own children in MO could not spell, often printed out wrong information on subjects like science and government as study guides. They didn't like it at all when this was brought to their attention, with facts. That was 25 years ago, but, honestly, with some of the things I see put on line, I cannot help but to think it is still somewhat true. I've traveled to over 20 countries and most have been bilingual, well informed and much more aware of the world than we are here.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that I once bought into the notion that Eastern Kentucky was somehow inferior. I grew up here. I stood on my front porch dressed in my Sunday best when President Johnson visited my home county because we were the poorest " all white" county in the nation. That certainly communicated the message that we were somehow inferior. I later attended Morehead State University where I received my bachelor's degree and a master's degree. When I decided to pursue a doctoral degree I chose to attend Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized my Morehead State education had better prepared me for success in that program than many Ball State graduates were prepared. I NEVER looked at MSU or Eastern Kentucky the same way again. Go MSU!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I can take this seriously when "Institutions" is misspelled in the title of the map.