Category Archives: Teachers

Full Day Kindergarden – Advocacy and Cost

I have been quite open to full day kindergarten (FDK) as research indicates it supports children academically, socially, and emotionally. My approach to an issue like this is to confirm the objective, and then work to figure out how to fund it.

Newton’s FDK task force, working under past superintendent Jim Marini, suggested steps to advance this discussion a couple years ago but no further action has been taken. So step one is to do followup. Continue reading Full Day Kindergarden – Advocacy and Cost

Should we be making changes to early release time?

Early release in Newton has been here for a long time and is firmly embedded in our teacher contracts. Rodney Barker, a former School Committee member and former Alderman, has fought about this in the past and he wrote an article to the TAB in January 2011 about them. Although his math is off his sentiments are true; still he made little headway in reversing this trend to add early release days. See his piece here:

Barker Op-Ed on Early Release

Comments from a followup TAB blog thread were recently lost in a technical glitch, but these provided additional commentary from the community on this topic. Continue reading Should we be making changes to early release time?

Top 2 challenges for our School Committee this year

Top Two Challenges:

1. Completion of a fair and sustainable teacher contract. Signs are that we are close, and a contract that is long-term affordable while respecting our teachers as bargaining table partners is a very good thing.

For years, contract growth has been the largest cost driver in the school budget; keeping this in check leaves more money to maintain student/teacher ratios, pilot and finance technology initiatives, strengthen early learning, and preserve breadth-of-program, for starters. Continue reading Top 2 challenges for our School Committee this year

Co-Taught Classrooms Pilot

I was fascinated by the presentation given at the February 14th School Committee meeting on co-taught classrooms for students with special needs who previously received one-on-one aides. An alternative being piloted at Countryside and Mason-Rice involves structuring a classroom with two full-time teachers each trained in elementary education and special education. These teachers lead blended classes with up to 1/3 special need and 2/3 mainstream students. Continue reading Co-Taught Classrooms Pilot

Trees in the Contract Negotiation Forest

Former Newton mayoral candidate Tom Sheff, commenting on contract negotiations with our teacher union recently stated: “… It’s possible to give a 1-2% payraise if the city gets back in return a 75-25% split on healthcare. It all depends upon the party’s priorities.”

Yet those details are the trees. The forest is the question “What can Newton both justify and afford to pay our teaching professionals?” Continue reading Trees in the Contract Negotiation Forest

Our math program and teacher compensation

Poor quality math curricula hurts the educational outcomes of our children, and compromises the work environment so important to retaining top quality teachers.

I have been concerned for some time about the quality of our Everyday and Impact Math programs being used in our elementary and middle schools. Personal exposure via my children, anecdotal commentary by fellow parents, discussions with Newton’s teachers, and a study of national literature and reviews strongly suggest that these two math programs are compromising the math education of Newton’s children.   Continue reading Our math program and teacher compensation

Hiring, developing, and retaining top-quality teachers

I take a few things as givens right now:

  1. The factor that dwarfs all others in impacting the achievement level of our students is teacher quality. Which means that in order to return to the top level school system we once were, we must hire, develop, and retain top-quality teachers.
  2. Although class size has only been shown to be a meaningful factor in educational outcomes for the first few grade levels, Newton is not yet ready to grow class sizes across the board.
  3. The rate of teacher compensation growth in NPS is too high, and this is why the CAG has called the economics of our school system “unsustainable.”
  4. New revenue from overrides, new growth (development), closing tax loopholes for telecommunications companies, etc. is only a stopgap – cutting the growth rate of compensation is the only way we will get there, until our national health system costs are contained.

We are therefore left with this series of objectives – maintain the number of teachers we presently have, slow the growth rate of teacher compensation, and identify and implement all of the non-monetary features of a teacher’s work experience that will allow us to hire, develop, and retain top quality teachers as a means of taking pressure off of our budget.   Continue reading Hiring, developing, and retaining top-quality teachers