Choosing the Right School (for teachers)

mark tuminello choosing a schoolYou’ve met teachers who love their job. They don’t mind the challenges of student-wrangling, of grading, of ever-changing job requirements. These teachers also appreciate their schedule, complete with plenty of vacation time, and don’t mind picking up other work for the longer periods of break.

But you’ve also met teachers who didn’t enjoy their work. Many of them are probably ex-teachers. They seem perpetually unhappy with their professional life. Unruly students, unrealistic expectations, and political clashes prevent them from ever feeling at ease in their classrooms.

The benefits and challenges of a teaching job varies a lot from institution to institution, and it’s important that you take time to make a decision that will pay off for you (not just financially) in the long-run. The school where you work will also help to shape you as a teacher, which makes the decision of where to work even more important.

It can be difficult to wade through the shiny marketing language you’ll find about on school websites, but it’s the best place to start learning about a school. And after all, having an understanding of the school is paramount to figuring out whether it will be a good fit. Look beyond the language designed to attract parents. Does it seem that the school has a human element? Is the site presenting modern and professional information?

Next stop is the Department of Education, where information is listed for many schools. Here you might be able to find data like performance, absence rates, etc. Just remember that this data applies to your job indirectly. For instance, schools that work with less-than-stellar performing students might have a group of teachers working very hard, which could be an inspiration to you.

Visiting the school in person is the big moment. It’s important not to get caught up on the little things, like the layout of classrooms and hallways or particular interactions between students and teachers. Don’t worry about that kind of stuff…you’d adapt to that quickly.

Instead, look at the general atmosphere, including the way you’re greeted. Are people rushed and stressed? Are there a lot of new teachers, indicating high turnover? Are students generally polite to one another in the hallways? Do they seem eager to get to class? What’s the general feeling of the social environment between teachers?

More than anything, trust your instincts. After you’ve asked yourself plenty of hard questions, you may already know whether or not you would thrive at a particular school.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

Students Want More

What happens when a brilliant person, a leader in their field, just isn’t a great teacher? It’s a problem if they’re teaching an important university-level class. Students in England have been complaining about just this situation, and it seems like academic institutions are making changes to deal with it.

One of the more common reasons students believe teachers aren’t doing their best is their work outside of the classroom. When a teacher is writing a book, conducting major research, or managing some other important project, they cut back on attention to students. Feeling that their tuition is the source of teacher wages, students are dismayed.

PhD students, who make up a large portion of one-day teachers, usually participate in a mandatory three-day training program. There they learn about different learning styles, how to manage a classroom, and general education. More recently, PhD students are presented material pertaining to their particular subject. It is generally believed, in academic circles, that teacher training gets better and better with each passing year.

But the students have a perception that the teaching isn’t all that great. While they need to develop as learners, their perception is ultimately very important for academic institutions to survive. It’s ultimately an issue of consumer needs – when students pay so much for their education, their expectations are high. One wonders how sustainable that is.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

Tech Education

mark tuminello tech classroomImprovements in technology and information systems are transforming classrooms on all collegiate levels. Unlimited online resources, software programs and social media websites are improving the way we do research and the efficiency in which we communicate with one another, from the classroom to the entire globe. The opportunities to gain and access rich content for research and assignments gives students quite a competitive advantage. In order to keep up with these changes, universities are developing strong technological foundations in which students can learn the necessary skills and gain an edge in today’s job market upon their graduation.

One huge trend that has been adopted by most educational institutions is the introduction of online classes or hybrid courses. These hybrid courses are hosted and taught online and streamed in classroom lectures. Computers and advancements in information systems allows students to access online courses whenever and wherever they are, without missing a beat. A recent study conducted by the Ambient Insight Premium Report, found that since August of 2012 more that 30 million college or graduate students have attended one or more than one class online. Courses online are not only beneficial to full time students, but also for professionals who like the flexibility of working and still continuing their education. As technology infrastructures continue to improve, universities are able to offer their students and professors a wide variety of applications that can increase the efficiency of online and virtual classrooms. However, the frequency in which technology rewed itself makes it difficult for most schools to keep up with these changes and in many cases fall short in delivering these resources.

Social media web sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are also being used more frequently by professors and students in order to communicate more efficiently with one another outside of the classroom setting. Given that students are always “plugged in”, professors will post assignments, share lecture materials and ultimately reach their students faster and more efficiently though social media. Universities themselves are using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to students on a larger scale, gain feedback on programs and establish a market base for their products and upcoming events. Establishing strong relationships between professors and students is extremely important for universities in reaching the highest levels of success for their heir graduating classes. Employers seek recent graduates that are well educated and up to date on current technology, which is why it’s extremely beneficial for universities to invest in information systems and update their technological infrastructure as much as their funds will allow.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

Higher Education Act Moving Forward

Wednesday, the U.S. House unanimously passed legislation to overhaul the manner in which the Education Department discloses college data. The new legislation will boost competency-based education.

This is the first time that Congress has influenced the Higher Education Act. The act, which expires at the end of the year, governs federal student aid.

Reauthorization, however, is still a long ways away. The differing opinions within Congress over key parts of the law reveal that it is unlikely the act will be renewed at the end of the year. Currently, House Republicans are planning on rewriting the law into smaller sections – something that they hope will attract support from both parties.

The Democrats were concerned with many aspects of the bill, such as the steadily-rising student loan debt as well as the rate at which college education prices are increasing. John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat, proposed a bill to provide students who have taken a loan within the last year to restructure the loan, giving them a rebate and offering a lower interest rate. The House rejected the proposal.

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa is also trying to find a better solution for the Higher Education Act. Harkin recently put together a 700-page rewrite of the law and is seeking comments from both Democrats and Republicans.

Congress is looking to implement revisions to the Higher Education Act that will lower the cost of a college education.

Congress is looking to implement revisions to the Higher Education Act that will lower the cost of a college education.

Although we are making little progress on a rewritten law, the vote on Wednesday provided a huge win for competency-based education. Thirty academic programs are now allowed to experiment with competency-based education; this could affect thousands of students across the country.

Lawmakers – both Democratic and Republican – have praised competency-based education due to its ability to lower the cost of a college education as well as providing non-traditional students with an avenue of study.

The new legislation also provides an overhaul in the information provided for students. This includes things such as the number of courses taught by part-time and full-time instructors. It would also go into greater detail about the part-time instructors’ background in the field – such as the mean and median years of employment.

The new legislation also appointed a federal panel to spearhead efforts at deregulating higher education. It is aiming to reduce amount of federal regulation that is placed on colleges; this leads to cheaper education for students.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

Starbucks to Fund College Education for Employees

mark tuminello starbucks collegeStarbucks has been making headlines after their announcement of their bold plan to pay for college education for their employees. The program is a partnership between Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the president of the online degree program Arizona State University Michael Crow. Both men came from underprivileged beginnings; Schultz was raised in the Bayview housing project in Brooklyn.

The program was born out of the fact that children raised in situations similar to them are much less likely to complete a four-year degree. The pair said as much during the presentation of the program recently at the New York Times Center.

The fact of the matter is that employees of Starbucks do not have a college education. It is reported that a full 50% of students drop out of college mostly because of the high costs of attending.

Here’s the plan: Starbucks employees who work 20 hours a week will be eligible for the Starbucks College Achievement plan, which offers full tuition for juniors and seniors to complete a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University. 50% reimbursement is available for freshmen and sophomores.

The hopes for the plan are two-fold. The central mission is to make a dent in the growing situation of class-based education. Low-income students have less than a 10% chance of finishing college. The second mission is to shine a light on the situation, perhaps in the hopes that more programs like this could be initiated at some of the other major employers in the country.

The presentation was given to 170 employees of Starbucks, each picked by their managers as excellent employees who are in need of the program. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was present to answer questions. He later thanked Schultz for fostering such a positive, employee-focused culture.

A 17-year old employee raised in Bushwick projects by a single mom was particularly moved by the announcement. She told the crowd that she ‘only committed to one man in [her] life, and that’s you.’ Schultz jumped out of his seat to give her a big hug.

Schultz later remarked that he doesn’t believe that the primary role of a for-profit business is to make money. To truly create value for shareholders, a business must create long-term value for people. The full tuition reimbursement joins a similar plan for part-time employees for health insurance, a program started in 1988.

While there are risks in providing these kinds of programs to employees – Schultz admitted he had no idea how many employees would take advantage of the program. Nobody expects this to damage the future of the coffee company.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

NYC Arts Education Lacking In Poor Neighborhoods

mark tuminello arts educationNew York City has a well-earned reputation for being a home for the arts. Thousands of artists live there, the city boasts the world’s largest performing arts center, and citizens are hungry for music, visual art, film, performing arts, etc. Considering all of this, I was surprised to read an article in The Atlantic about the serious lack of arts education in public schools in the city. In fact, the city’s comptroller just announced that New York received a failing grade in terms of providing access to arts for students.

The recently released State of the Arts report finds that low-income schools are severely lacking access to arts education, refreshing the discussion of the benefits of arts education on overall learning. Mastering soft skills in the arts is generally seen as a way to be better prepared for a career these days. So much of the economy is now a ‘creative economy,’ and this kind of economy demands original thinking. It may be that New York is only setting up wealthy students with these kinds of skills. Some have argued that lower-income students need the most exposure to creative subjects.

Data that was analyzed to create the rating includes how many full or part time certified arts teachers employed, if there were any formal partnerships with cultural or arts organizations, and if there was a space dedicated specifically for arts. Mapping out the schools that don’t have much to show in any of these categories basically runs right along income trends, with over four hundred middle schools and high schools in the city falling short of the legal minimum (yes, the minimum is mandated by state law). 42% of the failing schools are in the south Bronx and central Brooklyn.

The Center for Arts Education, led by executive director Eric Pryor, notes that this is the result of a number of factors. Local politics have hurt arts programming in schools. Giuliani established the Project Arts program, which allocated money for arts partnerships and programming. Bloomberg’s approach was different, giving principals automony to allocate their own funds. During this time, struggling schools gutted arts projects. Money was still coming to the school as a result of Project Arts, but schools could spend it on whatever the principals saw fit.

No Child Left Behind also had an impact. Standards-based teaching became a priority for schools, with test results being monitored closely in order to rate a school’s worth. Testing rarely included anything concerning the arts. In this way, arts education was slashed along with physical education and foreign language education.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

Personal Finance – Required Curriculum

mark tuminello personal finance high schoolOklahoma is going to see a strict new financial literacy law go into effect in May, requiring all high school students to pass a personal finance class before graduation.  Subject matter includes banking, investing, taxes, loans, insurance, and identity theft.  The scarily low levels of financial literacy makes this seem on the surface like a terrific idea.

But what if teachers lead students astray?

Daily Finance recently ran an article about the matter, and they take a decidedly firm stance that this law is a bad idea.  The fear is that in order to give enough information to make the course meaningful, the teachers run the risk of teaching beyond their qualifications.  Math teachers, English teachers, shop teachers – these professionals all have certifications, degrees, or relevant experience that gives them the proper insight to properly instruct.  Are high school teachers becoming certified in financial disciplines?  Will high schools hire financial instructors?  This all, ironically, brings about a real cost issue to the matter of instructing students about finance.

The director of the Economics Center has found that 82% of teachers do not feel qualified to teach these concepts.  It’s a real dilemma – who will teach a course if nobody knows about it?

With tightening budgets in school systems, teachers already feel that they aren’t receiving professional development for their existing work load, let alone an entirely new curriculum.  And there is the very real scenario where a teacher could be tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt and teaching students how to plan for their financial future.

Some Oklahoma schools are battling these fears with integrated courses.  Required course material is being embedded into their existing class offering – math, home economics, science, and other subjects will all be taking a bit of the workload.  In this way, they hope to require less training for each individual teacher, while highlighting the importance of personal finance in a greater way than a one-semester course would allow.  This integrated approach also allows students to see how the lessons of personal finance can be applied to a variety of real-world scenarios by a variety of teachers – this does seem to be a much stronger approach than a simple course with a final full of memorizable information.

Some schools are outsourcing expertise from professionals in their community.  The teacher, in these cases, serves more as a facilitator, bringing experts in to teach.  In this way, the community is utilized and a variety of approaches could be discussed.


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Education Job Skills Gap

Mark Tuminello unemploymentIf you’re a young person entering the job market, this has probably happened to you.  You’re applying for jobs that require job experience, and so can never get the job experience required.  This catch-22 is all too common these days, and it’s a result of an education system that isn’t truly supplying students with appropriate experience and skills to get hired.

This gap between education and job readiness was addressed in a Huffington Post editorial.  Gone are the days when your college degree means there will be jobs waiting for you.  Only 27% of graduates are reporting being hired for positions related to their main course of study.  There is now a growing population of indebted grads accepting employment below their level of education.  So why is the return on investment for a degree so low at the moment?  Part of the reason is certainly the lack of new jobs being created coupled with an increasing number of college grads entering the workforce…or at least trying to.

But there’s something else going on here.  Employers are reporting skepticism to hire recent college graduates.  Recruiters are finding that recent graduates are not prepared for a job related to their major.  And you may have heard recent news about entire industries reporting extreme difficulty finding available, qualified workers.  5% of jobs in the country are unfilled due to a lack of capable candidates!  It’s a paradox, and one that requires attention.  Failing to meet the education needs of industry could become a major impediment to the national economy, as well as all the other problems that arise when unemployment remains high.

Much of the disparity, the unrequited need for skilled labor, is in the manufacturing industry.  The energy industry is also facing a wall, with a large percentage of their workers about to retire, booming new alternative energy jobs about to open up, and a set of required skills seldom addressed in the typical liberal arts program.

One of the solutions on the table is a marriage of two educational styles.  Vocational training is valuable in the direct application of skills for industries that are hiring.  Online education is convenient and inexpensive.  Together, these two styles may provide a solution that could have a major impact.  What needs to happen before we reap the benefits of this idea is for an entire educational industry to be developed around it.  There is currently no infrastructure for marking, curriculum, enrollment, etc.  There is also a negative perception to fight against.  Vocational programs are often viewed as gritty and purely mechanical.  Communicating the creativity, the problem-solving, the teamwork will be necessary to attract young professionals looking for a sense of fulfillment from their education and work life.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello