Indiana and gays and religion

Really liked Amy Davidson on the matter

The Indiana law is the product of a G.O.P. search for a respectable way to oppose same-sex marriage and to rally the base around it. There are two problems with this plan, however. First, not everyone in the party, even in its most conservative precincts, wants to make gay marriage an issue, even a stealth one—or opposes gay marriage to begin with. As the unhappy reaction in Indiana shows, plenty of Republicans find the anti-marriage position embarrassing, as do some business interests that are normally aligned with the party. Second, the law is not an empty rhetorical device but one that has been made strangely powerful, in ways that haven’t yet been fully tested, by the Supreme Court decision last year in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. That ruling allowed the Christian owners of a chain of craft stores to use the federal version of the RFRA to ignore parts of the Affordable Care Act. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, argued strongly that the majority was turning that RFRA into a protean tool for all sorts of evasions. As Jeffrey Toobin has noted, she was proved right even before the Indiana controversy…

As Pence put it, “RFRA only provides a mechanism to address claims, not a license for private parties to deny services.” Perhaps it is more accurate, then, to call it a mechanism to discriminate, rather than a license. What it certainly will do is give some people more confidence to discriminate. But is that what Indiana really wants? And is that what the G.O.P.’s 2016 candidates should be looking for?

Mostly, though, I wanted to post this Toles cartoon:

Photo of the day

I had no idea there was a world’s best “water photographer” but thanks to this gallery, now I can see why:

Ray Collins

Retaining teachers

Excellent NPR story on the problems of teacher retention.  Every year, nearly half of all teachers change schools or leave the profession and in a purely financial sense, that’s super costly.  It’s almost surely sub-optimal for our students as well.  Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of research about what retains teachers, but there is some.  And quite importantly, it very much validates what we know are features of the teaching profession in higher-performing countries.  As, I’ve written numerous times before, we need to value teachers as professionals.  That means more pay and more autonomy (autonomy is especially important to job satisfaction and a major reason I have such an awesome job).  It also means more collaboration and more meaningful mentoring.  Some key points from an interview with education researcher Richard Ingersoll:

What are some of the important factors driving the decision to stay or leave?

One of the main factors is the issue of voice, and having say, and being able to to have input into the key decisions in the building that affect a teacher’s job. This is something that is a hallmark of professions. It’s something that teachers usually have very little of, but it does vary across schools and it’s very highly correlated with the decision whether to stay or leave.

I’ve worked with these data a lot going back last couple of decades. Where nationally, large samples of teachers are asked, “How much say does the faculty collectively have?” And, “How much leeway do you have in your classroom over a series of issues?” It turns out both levels are really important for decisions whether to stay or to part. And what’s interesting about this finding [is that] this would not cost money to fix. This is an issue of management…

What can schools specifically do to address the problem of teacher turnover?

One growing genre of initiatives is the idea of supporting beginning teachers. Beginning teachers have the highest turnover rates. We generated data over a decade ago showing somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those that go into teaching are gone within five years.

The term “induction” is often used for beginning teachers in the first couple of years. To help them learn the ropes and get better and survive. The percentage of teachers that get some kind of induction has doubled over the last couple of decades. So that’s one example of trying to pay attention to retention instead of just ignoring it.

And plenty more good stuff.  What’s really encouraging to me, is that more and more people seem to be figuring out what it really takes (i.e., not “accountability” based on student test scores) to improve teaching in America.  Of course, we’re a long way off from doing most of us, but I’m cautiously optimistic that the new generation of education reformers will eventually be moving us in the right direction.

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