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First and Foremost Summer 2016

California appeals court upholds teachers’ due process rights, Jahana Hayes named 2016 National Teacher of the Year, reports of fewer education majors, and more.
Published: 06/17/2016

California Appeals Court Ruling Upholds Teachers’ Due Process Rights

On April 14, the California Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, overturned the deeply-flawed lower court ruling in Vergara v. State of California issued in 2014, which held that laws governing so-called teacher “tenure” were unconstitutional.

“Today was a win for our educators, our schools, and most importantly, our students,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said responding to the ruling. “Now we must return to working on real solutions to ensure all of our students succeed. Only when teachers, school boards, and administrators work together can we ensure that there is a great public school for every student.”

“Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection,” Justice Roger Boren wrote, “primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students.”

Although the plaintiffs have already announced they will appeal, review by the California Supreme Court of the unanimous and decisive ruling is unlikely. 

“Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students.”

—Justice Roger Boren, 
California Court of Appeal

Jahana Hayes Named 2016 National Teacher of the Year

At a White House ceremony coinciding with National Teacher Day on May 3, President Barack Obama honored the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes and public school educators everywhere.

Obama saluted Hayes, a social studies teacher in Waterbury, Conn., not only for her talent but also for her perseverance. Being a teacher was the furthest thing from her mind when she was growing up. In fact, there were times when Hayes didn’t even want to be a student. As a teenager, Hayes became pregnant and probably would have dropped out of school, but thanks to her teachers she finished her studies.

Throughout her career, Hayes has been honored time and time again for her unwavering dedication to her students inside and outside the classroom—a commitment Hayes inherited from the teachers who saw in her the potential to overcome the abject poverty that surrounded her childhood.

“Teachers exposed me to a different world by letting me borrow books to read at home and sharing stories about their college experiences,” said Hayes during an interview with “CBS This Morning.” “So many things that [teachers do] fall outside of traditional teaching responsibilities. It is those times when I am transformed into an advisor, counselor, confidant, and protector.”

One of Hayes’ proudest accomplishments is her students’ enthusiasm for community service. Although she initially didn’t expect her work and influence to extend beyond the classroom walls, Hayes has always encouraged students to be active players in making their neighborhoods a better place through multi-faceted service projects for Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, and the American Cancer Society. The satisfaction that comes from watching “students take ownership of their community is unmatched,” said Hayes.

As the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Hayes, whose career as an educator goes back 13 years, will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers. Hayes looks forward to sharing her belief in the importance of service learning, and in making the teaching profession more attractive and appealing to young people across all demographics.


Fewer Education Majors

Where Are They?

In a 2016 national survey of college freshmen, the number of students who say they will major in education has reached its lowest point in 45 years. Just 4.2 percent intend to major in education—a typical first step to becoming a teacher—compared to 11 percent in 2000; 10 percent in 1990; and 11 percent in 1971, according to data gathered by the UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

Year Percent of incoming college freshmen likely to select education as a chosen field of study
2005 9.9%
2007 9.2%
2009 8.2%
2011 5.9%
2013 5.2%
2015 4.2%

The Myth of the Average Student

In his book The End of Average, Todd Rose of the Harvard Graduate School of Education argues that the longstanding practice of drawing conclusions about individuals using statistical averages is flawed and damaging, especially in education. There is no such thing as an average student, according to Rose. Yet our schools, tied to one-dimensional assessments, scripted curriculum and other constraints, operate on a premise that often ignores the complexity and potential of individual students.


Todd Rose: One, it’s perceived simplicity. If you could really understand a student’s potential in one-dimensional terms, like a test score, we should do that! It’s way easier, but it’s just not true. Also, averages are really useful in understanding groups, even today. But over time averages went from being a useful but fictional way of thinking about society to being the fundamental way to think about who you are. 

Everything about the education system is structured around average and rank—from the physical design of a classroom to the way a curriculum is structured to the way we assess students. The system shouldn’t be about constantly comparing you to other people.


TR: It’s about having more flexibility in design so we’re not just locking kids out because of their individuality unnecessarily. When schools aren’t responsive to them as individuals, the students don’t know who they are and the teacher has the wrong lens to think about the kids and we’re all constrained by these narrow metrics of success.

We need to be more competency-based. I don’t care how you compare with the student next to you. I want to know whether you are mastering the things you need to master. Grades, for example, are too one-dimensional. You cannot collapse what a student knows or is capable of knowing or doing into a letter.

Many people tend to confuse standards and standardization. It’s good to have common standards even in a more personalized learning environment, but how we measure them has to be responsive to individuality. There are a lot of good efforts in portfolio-based assessments that provide a better way than standardized tests in understanding what kids are capable of doing. 

When you think of technology and “personalized” learning, it’s easy to conjure up a nightmare scenario of a student alone in a room being instructed essentially through a computer. It’s a real concern—the loss of a common learning experience and face-to-face interaction with teachers and students. Will what you’re advocating put us on this slippery slope? 

TR: We’re keenly aware that the second you talk about individuality, some might think of “individualism.” What I’m interested in is a system of education that meets kids where they are as individuals and has a goal of developing them to their fullest potential. The principals of individuality that I lay out in the book, almost paradoxically, show us that by really understanding individuality and supporting it, we bring that one person closer to the group. It’s freeing up more time for the high-value relationships between the teacher and the student and that student with other students. You can best facilitate those deep social interactions by having a system that understands each person as an individual and is responsive to that. So to be really clear: This is not rugged individualism. This is not a kid learning in isolation, which is a basic violation of the principles of individuality.

The 10 Most Literate Countries

John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, has been studying literacy for more than 40 years. In early 2016, Miller analyzed several indicators, including library resources, newspaper circulation, literacy scores on standardized tests, and computer availability to determine which populations were the most literate around the world and published his findings in the book, World Literacy: How Countries Rank and Why It Matters. According to Miller, here are the 10 most literate countries:

  1. Finland
  2. Norway
  3. Iceland
  4. Denmark
  5. Sweden
  6. Switzerland
  7. United States
  8. Germany
  9. Latvia
  10. Netherlands

Low-Graduation-Rate Schools Concentrated in Charter and Virtual School Sectors


(Public Schools vs. Charter vs. Virtual)

Public High Schools

Charter Schools

Virtual Schools

Percent of Schools Graduating Less Than 67 percent

7 30 87

Percent of Schools Graduating 85 percent and above

64 44 4

Average Graduation Rate

85 70 40

The State of Arts Education

Many subjects, other than math and reading, were marginalized during the high-stakes testing era of No Child Left Behind. Still, despite the pressures, art programs in U.S. schools have emerged in fairly good shape. According to the Arts Education Partnership, as of spring 2016, 27 states identified the arts as a core academic subject. And 49 states and the District of Columbia have adopted elementary and secondary standards for the arts.

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