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Saturday, February 25, 2012

NYC's release of teacher ratings could lead to disclosure statewide

New York City’s release Friday of ratings for 18,000 public-school teachers may set the stage for the eventual release of ratings for all teachers in the state, a scenario that would surely heighten parental interest in suburban class assignments.
Under a new statewide system for evaluating teachers, some districts will award grades on a 100-point scale to teachers as soon as the end of this school year. It is increasingly looking like school districts will have to release the grades if faced with a public request under the state Freedom of Information law.
“Absolutely, it’s going to happen,” said Bryan Burrell, executive director of the Rockland County School Boards Association. “The FOI law says that if a rating is quantifiable, if there is an objective number like a 74 or 92, then it is FOI-able. Yes, teachers will have their grades out there. If a teacher has a 75, will parents want their kids in the teacher’s class?”
The New York City schools released teacher ratings and rankings Friday related only to the progress made by their students on standardized tests. The ratings were based on a complicated formula designed to measure how much “value” a teacher adds to his or her students’ performance.
The city began providing this information to schools in 2007-08. In 2010, more than a dozen media outlets filed a request under the FOI law to have the ratings released. The United Federation of Teachers — the main teachers union in New York City — sued to stop the release, but the state Court of Appeals refused Feb. 14 to hear an appeal.
Jay Worona, general counsel to the New York State School Boards Association, said Friday that he thinks teacher ratings under the new statewide system will become public at some point.
“The magical question is that since it’s the same law involved, the Freedom of Information law, why would the result be any different statewide?” he said. “If it’s perfectly acceptable and/or required for the information to be released in New York City, and doing so is not in violation of state law, why would it be more problematic outside of the city?”
The New York City court case was consistent with past rulings that final performance ratings for public employees must be made public, as opposed to subjective, written evaluations, said Robert Freeman of the state Committee on Open Government.
“We public employees, in so many instances, have been found by the courts to enjoy less privacy than others,” he said. “In response to an FOI request, a final teacher performance rating is public.”
Under the new statewide evaluation system, teachers will be graded on a 100-point scale and given one of four overall ratings: highly effective (91-100), effective (75-90), developing (65-74) and ineffective (0-64). Grades will be based 60 percent on classroom observations, 20 percent on how students progress on state tests and 20 percent on how students perform on locally chosen assessments.
This year, only math and English teachers in grades four to eight who work in districts with fairly new teacher contracts are subject to the evaluation system. But all other teachers will be phased in over the next few years.
New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, could not be reached for comment Friday. NYSUT supports the new evaluation system, but a spokesman said last summer that it would oppose making ratings public.
A growing movement of school administrators across New York is publicly opposing the new evaluation system, largely because of its emphasis on student test scores and precise ratings for teachers. As of Feb. 20, 1,359 principals had signed an open letter questioning the system. And groups of principals from Rockland, southern Westchester and northern Westchester/Putnam have fashioned their own statements.
Cheryl Champ, principal of Lakeland High School and leader of the northern Westchester/Putnam group, said she agreed with a column written this week by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in which he wrote that making ratings public would be “shaming poorly performing teachers.”
“There is a lot of fear around the numbers becoming public,” she said. “It will open a can of worms with parents fighting over teachers with the highest scores. But if we have two classes to fill, we can’t put 60 kids in one teacher’s class.”
Andrew Rotherham, a veteran education analyst based in Virginia who writes the popular blog, said that public ratings would level the playing field for parents who aren’t plugged in on the best and worst teachers. And districts might have to address community desires when making personnel decisions.
“Would it help create more incentives to address personnel if you had this sort of pressure?” he said.
The state Education Department has contracted with the American Institutes for Research to develop a teacher rating system based on student progress on test scores. After state tests in grades four to eight are administered this spring, AIR is scheduled to provide teacher ratings on a 20-point scale to school districts by June.
It’s unclear whether the state will make any of that information public itself.
“We are still deciding how to handle that information,” state Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said.
The ratings based on test results will then be folded into the overall teacher evaluations produced by districts for teachers being evaluated this year.

Some Thoughts On What Is Wrong With Compulsory Arbitration

Mandatory Arbitration Clauses:

Undermining the Rights of Consumers, Employees, and Small Businesses

Public Citizen



Today most Americans are bound by at least one mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration clause. Buried in the fine print of a billing insert, employee handbook, health insurance plan, or dealership or franchise agreement, these clauses waive one’s right to access the courts, diverting cases to a costly private legal system that favors defendants. Arbitration clauses are achieving their intended purpose—undermining consumer protection, civil rights, and other laws that level the playing field between big businesses and individuals. The individual is left with no choice but to waive these rights, because arbitration clauses are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
How Individuals Are Disadvantaged by Arbitration:
Arbitration was conceived as an informal, expedited process for resolving routine disputes between businesses. But when it is imposed on a weaker party, such as a consumer, arbitration can be used to defeat valid claims. Arbitration has several unique characteristics that make it harder for individuals to prevail in a dispute with a business:
High costs: A claimant must pay steep filing fees just to initiate a case—seldom less than $750. These fees do not cover the arbitrator’s hourly charges, which are generally in the range of $200 to $300 per hour, split between the parties. All these fees must be deposited in advance, and almost always amount to thousands of dollars. Because the claimant has usually sustained a serious loss in the dispute with the business—foreclosure on a home, firing from a job, termination of a franchise or dealership—most individuals covered by an arbitration clause cannot afford these costs and are forced to drop their cases.
Bias: Arbitration providers are organized to serve businesses, not consumers. Their marketing is targeted entirely at businesses, and their panels of arbitrators consist primarily of corporate executives and their lawyers. Since only businesses will be repeat users of an arbitrator, there is a disincentive for an arbitrator to rule in favor of a consumer or employee if he expects further retentions. There is also a long-standing custom among arbitrators to “split the difference” between two sides’ positions. The result is that arbitration awards to consumers and employees are substantially lower than court awards. Comparisons of average awards by arbitrators and courts in employment cases and medical malpractice cases show that arbitration claimants receive only about 20 percent of the damages that they would have received in court.
Limited discovery: Discovery is the process by which litigants obtain information and evidence in the possession of their opponent or third parties. In arbitration, discovery is a privilege, not a right, and many businesses draft arbitration clauses to severely restrict the claimant’s ability to obtain necessary evidence. Moreover, since arbitrators do not have the power to enforce subpoenas, claimants must sometimes file lawsuits to get compliance—defeating the purpose of arbitration.
Prohibition of class actions. Nearly every arbitration clause prohibits participation in class action lawsuits. Class actions are the only effective remedy for wide-scale scams that rip off individual consumers or farmers in small amounts. Individuals do not have the time or resources to recognize, investigate, or prove the existence of such fraudulent practices.
Inconvenient venue.   Arbitration clauses often require that hearings be held in a location inconvenient to the claimant. Individuals may have to bear the cost of long-distance travel to have their case heard.  For example, the Internet auction site e-Bay requires its customers to travel to its home turf of San Jose, California, to arbitrate any dispute.
One-way requirements.   Most arbitration clauses require only the weaker party (the consumer, employee, or franchisee) to arbitrate its claims, while allowing the dominant party (the corporation) to sue in court on its claims. Thus, a sexual harassment victim can be forced to arbitrate a discrimination claim against a former employer while litigating identical issues in court if the employer sues to stop her from joining a competitor.
No public record. While proceedings and records of the courts are open to the public, most arbitration clauses and provider organizations require that proceedings be kept confidential. As a result, only the businesses that impose arbitration can track past decisions and know which arbitrators have ruled for them. Public discussion of the fairness of an arbitration ruling is discouraged, even if the case raises policy issues of wide concern. Moreover, arbitration sets no legal precedents to guide a company’s future conduct.
Limited judicial review.    Parties are allowed only limited judicial review of an arbitration award. A decision may only be overturned when there is fraud or “manifest disregard of the law.” This is a high hurdle, because arbitrators need not issue written findings of fact or legal conclusions. Oddly enough, courts will refuse to hear appeals of arbitration decisions even when both sides have agreed to let a court do so!
Limited remedies.   Courts can provide a range of remedies that are not available to a claimant in arbitration.  Injunctive relief—a court order compelling the offending party to do something, or prohibiting that party from taking some action—cannot be obtained through arbitration.  Punitive damages, which may be awarded by a judge or jury to “punish” particularly egregious behavior, are also not available in arbitration.

And then there is this:

San Francisco Chronicle
On Corporate Influence: An unbalanced justice

What began as a noble concept -- using arbitration instead of the courts to settle many disputes -- has developed into a grossly unfair commercial justice system.

In a three-part series that concluded Tuesday, Chronicle staff writer Reynolds Holding provided compelling evidence of serious problems in a system of mandatory arbitration that has become dominated by corporate interests.
The series showed case after case in which workers and consumers with legitimate grievances had no chance of getting a fair remedy in arbitration. It spelled out how "arbitration agreements" in small type often force Californians to give away significant legal rights as a condition of getting a job, obtaining medical treatment or even buying something as simple as long- distance phone service.
While we generally like the idea of reducing costly lawsuits, the shift to arbitration at this magnitude -- and with its lack of basic rules -- has come at a severe price to the concepts of justice and fair play. 
These are among the most serious shortcomings of the arbitration system:
  • Lawless process: Arbitrators do not have to be lawyers, follow the law or even justify their decisions -- which, unlike court verdicts, are not open to public inspection. The absence of rules are especially disturbing in view of the next three items . . .
  • Conflicts of interest: The arbitration system allows conflicts that would not be permitted by the court system. The American Arbitration Association invests in major corporations whose legal disputes the firm's arbitrators hear; companies are allowed to buy "memberships" in the association, and their executives sit on its board of directors. Arbitration firms often court clients by touting their small awards and perfunctory procedures. Also, arbitrators face an inherent conflict to "please" companies to keep them coming back for repeat business.
  • Compromised judges: Arbitrators can make $10,000 or more a day, in comparison with a Superior Court judge's $133,000-a-year salary. This leads to the temptation for sitting judges to impress arbitration firms with their ability to get quick settlements of complex cases. Judges may also feel pressure to uphold disputed arbitration decisions.
  • No oversight or alternatives: Arbitration decisions are not appealable and are subject to judicial review in only a few narrow circumstances. Also, many people with serious complaints -- such as racial discrimination, sexual harassment or denial of medical care -- have no choice but to have their case heard by a arbitration firm selected by the company that is the target of the grievance. 
In plain terms, the arbitration system stacks the deck in favor of corporations.
And they are determined to keep it that way.

Even modest attempts to reform the arbitration system encounter stiff opposition in Sacramento and Washington. The reason is no mystery. The big corporations -- who have the coziest relationships with arbitrators -- also have the most clout in the capitals. They invest heavily in campaign contributions and lobbying fees, and defeat of any sort of worker or consumer rights measure is a perennial priority.
An example is state Sen. Martha Escutia's SB458, which would keep HMOs from forcing patients into mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of coverage. California is among the few states that allow HMOs to impose such clauses. Escutia, D-Whittier, steered her bill through the Senate, 21-14, but it stalled in the Assembly, where a bloc of self-proclaimed "Business Democrats" has been extremely hostile to consumer issues this session. Escutia hopes to revive her bill next year.

Similarly, state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, proposed SB410 to prohibit employers from forcing workers into arbitration agreements as a condition of hiring or continued employment. Her bill ran into fierce resistance -- most notably, an implied veto threat from Gov. Gray Davis -- and she withdrew it from consideration until next year.

Will the climate for arbitration reform be any different next year? Not likely, unless Californians send a strong message to the governor and their legislators that workers and consumers deserve a level playing field when they bring grievances against corporations.

If the arbitration system really were fair, then HMOs and other companies would have nothing to fear about making it voluntary.

Right now, they're having their way, at the expense of your legal rights

 Private Justice: Can The Public Count On Fair Arbitration?

 Judges As Arbitrators: A Conflict of Interest

US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Attacks South Carolina's Anti-Common-Core Push

UPDATED: U.S. Ed Secretary Lambastes S.C. Anti-Common-Core Push

Remember that bill we told you about yesterday in South Carolina? The one that would block implementation of the common standards? The one that got voted down in a state Senate subcommittee, but was still going to move on to the full education committee anyway?
News of its progress zapped up to Washington, where none other than U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement that appears designed to dismantle support for the proposed legislation, S. 604.
Duncan takes a swipe at some of its supporters for seeing the common standards as a conspiracy, and invokes the names of Republican leaders who support the standards. He takes a swipe at South Carolina itself, too, saying that the state was particularly egregious in lowering its own performance standards for students.
This morning, the state's superintendent of education, Mick Zais, issued a statement agreeing with Duncan's accusation that South Carolina watered down its expectations for students.[UPDATE (2:15 p.m.)] In a statement to the local news media yesterday, Zais said he is opposed to the common standards, but will "faithfully" implement them, as decided by the state board of education, unless lawmakers reverse that decision.
It will be interesting to see what further effects Duncan's move will have on the debate in South Carolina. As we mentioned yesterday, Gov. Nikki Haley supports the bill to block the standards.
One of the strains of the common-standards dialogue most often cited by skeptics and opponents is the federal overreach argument. They note the incentives in the Race of the Top program for state adoption of the common core, and the federal investment in state consortia to design tests for the standards. With the No Child Left Behind waiver program in full swing, they also note another round of federal incentives to buy into common standards and assessments: the chance to get out from under some of NCLB's toughest requirements. (See a recent white paper on this.)
Where the bill goes from here will prove worth watching. The subcommittee could have killed it, but also had the option of allowing it to move to the full committee with an unfavorable recommendation, Sally Cauthen, the K-12 research director for the South Carolina Senate education committee, told me. That's what it did.
Stay tuned.

Unconscionability And The UFT Contract

by Betsy Combier, Editor,

It is a fact that anyone who has gone through 3020-a arbitration - or even a grievance - can see the procedure is not fair or neutral. The CBA, collective bargaining agreement, between the UFT and the NYC Department of Education, has whittled away at the rights of tenured teachers until currently there are few rights available any more to anyone.

Some people say this reduction in substantive and procedural due process rights is deliberate "bad faith", others say this act is negligence and not unconscionable.

Whichever motive you want to give the UFT President who is the collective bargaining agent at the CBA negotiations, the fact remains that there is no fair and/or equitable forum for members at this time to object to anything. Indeed, UFT Representatives tell members all the time "We are not going to grieve this, you have no right to grieve this, you can't grieve this, you better resign because you will never win your 3020-a, etc". Reps also dont want you to exercise the single most important right that you still have, namely to have an open and public arbitration hearing. NYSUT Attorneys and the UFT representatives in fact tell their members and clients going into 3020-a, that he or she cannot have an open and public hearing,  if the member knows to ask for it. NYSUT Attorneys do not bring up the clause in the UFT contract that specifically gives members the right to have an open and public hearing, and do not mention it as an option. I have written about open and public hearings before, but here is the bottom line: if you have a hearing, and the door into the hearing is closed to anyone you who you might want to be there to observe the process, then the bad guys can do whatever they want to you, and no one will see this. What do cockroaches do when you turn on a light? They run for somewhere to hide. Same thing.

All of the information in the public domain now points to the coordinated effort by the officers, personnel and Attorneys of the UFT, NYSUT and New York City Department of Education to remove, by any means possible, tenured teachers and probationary teachers approaching tenure, from the public school system in New York City. This information is sometimes covered up by NYSUT taking a case to the Supreme Court, by Randi Weingarten making a telephone call for someone who needs to file a grievance or lawsuit, or by some other ineffective jab at looking like something is being done to help a member when indeed, nothing valuable or effective is done. The process is to get rid of the tenured "dead wood" in favor of the "acceptable" cadre of people, those individuals who drink the education policy kool aid and do anything that Mayor Mike Bloomberg dictates.

California may be ahead of New york State in terms of stopping unfairness and rectifying the unbalance in the procedures used atarbitration.
Under California Civil Code § 1670.5(a):
If the court as a matter of law finds the contract or any clause of the contract to have been unconscionable at the time it was made the court may refuse to enforce the contract, or it may enforce the remainder of the contract without the unconscionable clause, or it may so limit the application of any unconscionable clause as to avoid any unconscionable result.Under this section, however, a court may, in its discretion, “refuse to enforce the contract as a whole if it is permeated
by the unconscionability.” Legislative Committee Comment on § 1670.5. 

"Unconscionability" in Black's Law Dictionary (6th edition) reads as follows:
A doctrine under which courts may deny enforcement of unfair or oppressive contracts because of procedural abuses arising out of the contract formation, or because of substantive abuses relating to terms of the contract, such as terms which violate reasonable expectations of parties or which involve gross disparities in price......Basic test of "unconscionability" of contract is whether under circumstances existing at the time of making of contract and in light of general commercial background and commercial needs of particular trades or case, clauses are so one-sided as to oppress or unfairly surprise party. Division of Triple T Service, Inc. v Mobil Oil Corp., 60 Misc.2d 720, 304 N.Y.S.2d 191, 201. Unconscionabilitry is generally recognized to include an absence of meaningful choice on the part of one of the parties, to a contract together with contract terms which are unreasonably favorable to the other party. Gordon v Crown Central Petroleum Corp., D.C.Ga., 423 F Supp. 58, 61.

When a UFT member is charged with 3020-a, his or her reliance on the UFT, and then NYSUT, to preserve and pursue the due process rights that he or she is supposed to have, is misplaced. So sad that so many members have had to become garbage. NYC's education activists need to remove the NYC Panel For Educational Policy, (PEP) - the fake school board - and we need to have an independent School Board whose members are elected by NYC voters, i.e., all people registered to vote in New York City (not merely parent association officers or "selectors"). All current members of the PEP should resign and/or be sued for fraud,  ten years of wasted human capital in their backs.

Career Teachers Are No Longer Staying In The Public School System

Career Teachers Are No Longer In The Public School System
Teacher Amy Esmay, 23, helps students Noah Galen, left, and Meghna Shankar in her classroom at Redmond Elementary School in Redmond, Wash., on Sept. 14, 2011. "I had replaced a veteran teacher who had all the wisdom in the world. I had big shoes to fill," Esmay said of her new position.


Classroom 'crisis': Many teachers have little or no experience
By Sevil Omer, Senior writer/editor, MSNBC

Odds increase that public school teachers are new to the job, raising quality concernsAs children around the country settle in for the new school year, millions of them are sharing more than desks, sandwiches and sniffles. Chances are good that they are being taught by teachers with little or no experience.
The odds that a child will be taught by a new teacher have increased dramatically over the past two decades. In 1987-'88, the most common level of experience among the nation's 3 million K-12 public school teachers was 14 years in the classroom. By 2007-'08, students were most likely to encounter a teacher with just one or two years of experience.
Experts attribute the experiential decline to numerous factors, including the widespread retirement of Baby Boomer teachers, added demands due to programs like “No Child Left Behind” and teachers leaving to pursue better-paying opportunities in other fields.

The nonprofit National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) estimates that 300,000 veteran teachers retired between 2004 and 2008 alone.

'The crisis is upon us'

But finding replacements for the departing educators only addresses part of the problem. Unlike their predecessors of a generation ago, nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, according to NCTAF.

That has created a situation comparable to "trying to fill a bucket with a huge hole in the bottom," it says. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that U.S. schools will need at least 1.6 million new teachers in the next few years.

"The crisis is upon us," said Brad Jupp, a senior program adviser on teacher effectiveness and quality at the U.S. Department of Education. "The mode of experience being one to two years should be the most alarming thing we have come upon."

While education experts caution that lack of experience isn't necessarily an indication of a teacher's ability, student achievement scores do show that on average a first-year teacher is not as effective as a third-year teacher, said Susan Moore Johnson, an expert on teacher recruitment and retention at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Sharon Abraham, whose two children attend schools in the Riverview School District in Carnation, Wash., has seen that first-hand, as both have had new teachers through the years. She said teachers who entered the profession right after college seemed to have the hardest time.

"The ones who had other life and professional experiences were much better off in making the transition smoother into teaching," she said. "They weren't as burdened as the ones who were straight out of college."

Too many demands?

Schools around the nation are trying to cut down on the churn, an effort that begins by trying to determine what is it about this profession that sends so many teachers fleeing so quickly.

"It's the demands," said Jamison, who is beginning her third year in the classroom. "There are state demands, district demands and parental demands. We haven't even mentioned the needs of the individual student. It's tough."

Isolation from other teachers and staff, requirements of the "No Child Left Behind Act," more homework, more rigorous testing, larger classes due to budget cuts, time scarcity and inadequate working conditions are among the complaints most commonly mentioned as heightening pressure on teachers.

Despite such challenges, Jamison said she won’t abandon her chosen profession.
She stands a good chance of surviving her trial by fire as a participant in the Lake Washington School District's new teacher support program. The three-year mentoring initiative was created based on research showing that new teachers who work in a collaborative environment are more likely to remain in the profession.

The program, which pairs classroom newbies with experienced teachers, works, according to Jamison.
"I've talked to my friend who is a teacher, and she said she was finishing up her year and leaving," Jamison said, contrasting that with her experience. "I am shocked at how much I love teaching. I am excited and being able to gain the support and experience from experienced teachers not only helps my teaching, but improves the quality of the experience."

More work, less pay

But getting a teacher through the critical early years doesn’t necessarily translate into a long career in the classroom – at least not in the U.S.

Stephanie Olson, a high school English teacher in Arizona for 10 years, for example, has had enough.
"I'm doing more work, but I'm getting less money every year," she told NBC News. "Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health, but on your family."

So the Phoenix mother is uprooting her life and moving to Abu Dhabi, where she said will earn better pay and be more highly valued as a teacher. She landed the job through Teach Away, a Toronto-based agency that helps North Americans find teaching jobs overseas.

"Sometimes, the best teachers are the ones to leave," Olson said, adding "they feel like they are mistreated."

Many veteran teachers say the pressures have intensified since the passage of the "No Child Left Behind Act" in 2001 as well as other state programs aimed at improving U.S. students’ academic performance.
At Huffaker Elementary School in Reno, Nev., Anne McComas said such laws have forced districts into a one-size-fits-all model for teaching. The third-grade teacher is in her 21st year at the same school where her own four children learned everything from the alphabet to algebra.

"In teaching to the standards I hope we keep our creativity and sense of each individual child’s personal needs," she said, adding that the amount of paperwork necessary to document the performance of her 22 students also has increased substantially as a result of the laws.

McComas said she perseveres by finding ways to inject creativity into her lessons. She also draws inspiration from some of the new teachers joining the staff at Huffaker.
"It's not to say we can't learn new things," she said of the veterans, noting that she has discovered educational computer software and learned about new techniques for interacting with her students from the newcomers.

Improved economic opportunity for women also has played a role in reducing the number of new teachers, said Harvard’s Johnson, director of the university’s Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, which examines how best to recruit, support and retain an effective teaching force over the next decade.

"Three decades before, teaching had provided a professional path for women when other lines of work were closed to them. It was teaching or nursing," she said. "Across the country, school officials assumed that when these teachers retired the only challenge would be to get a new cohort and that has proven not to be true."

Teacher preparation faulted
Colleges’ preparation of teachers also comes under criticism for the high turnover among young teachers.

The young teachers who do heed the classroom’s call arrive with the same idealistic, hopeful and enthusiastic attitudes. Energetic and tech savvy, they are typically better prepared to use data for classroom preparation, Johnson said.

But they also arrive with higher expectations, desiring teamwork, open doors, pay for performance and the opportunity to have influence beyond the classroom, according to the commission on teaching. And too often, they soon realize that their jobs aren’t what they thought they would be: Teaching to tests and fighting bureaucracies rather than experiencing the thrill of opening up young minds, educators say.

"Teachers leave because they feel they were not adequately prepared for what the classroom is really like," said Elizabeth Foster, the director of strategic initiatives for NCTAF. "Then they don't have the opportunity to work with their veteran colleagues in a meaningful way, so they feel isolated and alone."

Johnson agreed: "Bringing in new blood and working people really hard without regard to what they are doing or whether they are going to stay on is very short-sighted. If you are in bad working conditions you are likely to leave and if that is the case, you have a lot of turnover and the students are likely to suffer."
Johnson said several initiatives are under way to try to address the problem, but no one has a long-term solution.

For now, the best hope appears to lie in programs that enable veteran teachers to partner with newcomers and in energetic young teachers like 23-year-old Amy Esmay, who entered the teaching profession with an idealism she attributes to her mother, Cathy Esmay, a special education teacher of 15 years.
"My mom is my role model," Esmay said. "I watched her passion and love for teaching all my life. I knew I wanted to do the same."

Esmay earned her master’s degree from Whitworth University in July, and was recruited and hired to teach gifted and talented fifth- and sixth-graders at Redmond Elementary School in Redmond, Wash.

She said she couldn't imagine doing it without the district's New Teacher Support Program, which assigns all first-year teachers a consulting teacher — or mentor — to serve as a confidante and coach.
Esmay said that she was terrified the first time she stepped into her fifth-grade classroom, holding a small box of supplies and staring at the empty room. But the support and collaboration she received through the mentor program and from the rest of the staff and students quickly erased her dread, she said.

"I had no idea of what to expect," Esmay said. "I had replaced a veteran teacher who had all the wisdom in the world. I had big shoes to fill. The reception that I got was overwhelming. I was embraced by the students and felt so welcomed by the school."

NBC News' Lee Cowen contributed to this report.

Fast facts
Current teaching trends
Demographics: In 2007–08, some 76 percent of public school teachers were female, 44 percent were under age 40, and 52 percent had a master’s or higher degree.

Salary: Average for public school teachers was $55,350 in 2009-2010.

Moving on: Among teachers who left teaching in 2008–09, about 8.9 percent of public school teachers, compared to 17.4 percent of private school teachers, were working in an occupation outside the field of education, including military service.

(Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics)