The Education Report: An unwise cut: help for new Oakland teachers

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Source: http://baynewsnetwork.org/site/287/By Katy Murphy
May 29, 2013

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and occasional blog contributor, writes about a cut to a program that supports hundreds of new teachers each year.

Since my retirement I have stayed involved with the district by providing coaching and mentoring to new teachers as part of the district’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. Last week those of us who provide that help were told that the program will suffer a huge budget reduction for the coming year, with only about 70 new teachers receiving mentoring support instead of the 320 receiving that help today. Since each coach receives a $1,300 stipend for each teacher supported, this reduction will save the district about $400,000 next year.

The coaches in the BTSA program meet once a week with each new teacher. The coach observes the new teacher in the classroom several times during the year. Together the coach and new teacher discuss lesson planning, classroom control, the needs of English language learners and special needs students and methods to assess student progress and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Together they review and evaluate student work. The new teacher reflects upon how various approaches are working and learns to continually revise his or her practice to become more effective.

As part of the process, the new teacher also completes and turns in to the New Teacher Talent Development Office a series of forms and reflections demonstrating his or her growth over the two years that he or she is involved with the BTSA program. These forms and reflections form the basis for the Talent Development Office certifying that they have completed “induction,” a state requirement for converting a preliminary credential (which lasts only 5 years) to a clear credential.

New Oakland teachers would still have to complete all the forms and reflections, but most of them would not receive the coaching that is now provided. Coaches were told that the Talent Development Office was hoping that subject area specialists and consultants working from the central office, along with school administrators, would assist the teachers without coaches. It appears, however, that those individuals haven’t actually been consulted about this increase in their responsibilities and workloads.

No one presenting this new plan could say who decided that the budget should be cut in this way, or why budget cuts were required in a year when funding for the district should be increasing.

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