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Virginia Journal of Education


Working Conditions
Affect Achievement,
Teacher Retention

HILLSBOROUGH, NC-Teacher working conditions do indeed have a powerful impact on student learning, say teachers in the 2006 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey. More than 75,000 North Carolina teachers took part in the survey, according to the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), comprising about two-thirds of the state's teaching force. Here are some of the Survey's findings, according to CTQ's analysis:

. Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. In schools where leadership can help empower teachers, create safe environments, and develop supportive, trusting climates, teachers will have greater success improving student learning.

. Teacher working conditions affect teacher retention. The key to lowering teacher attrition is an environment that provides teachers with positive conditions such as support, planning time and trust.

. Teachers and administrators view working conditions differently. There are significant discrepancies between teachers and administrators on the perception of how well school leadership addresses teacher concerns. While some differences in perception are to be expected, the discrepancies are large and need to be considered when reforms are proposed.

. Schools vary in the presence of positive working conditions for teachers. Teachers in schools with lower percentages of economically disadvantaged students reported better conditions in crucial areas such as trust and school safety. However, teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely to say they had adequate class sizes and resources for professional development.

Federal Spending on Children
Is on the Decline: Report

WASHINGTON, D.C.-When it comes to putting together the federal government's budget, where do children's needs rank when compared to other national priorities? In Kids' Share 2007, the Urban Institute looked at over 100 major federal programs, tracked federal spending from 1960 through 2006, and made projections for the next decade.

Here is some of what their researchers found:

. Since 1960, federal spending on children, adjusted for inflation, has grown from $53 billion to $333 billion. However, as a share of federal domestic spending, children's spending has declined from 20.1 percent to 15.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

. Over time, the money spent on children's programs tends to lag behind growth in the economy and, often, inflation. By contrast, money spent on programs for the elderly, such as Social Security and Medicare, tends to outpace economic growth and prices, driven by rising wages, medical costs and the aging of the U.S. population.

. Federal spending on children has become increasingly targeted to programs for the poor. Of the total spending on children, the share spent on low-income children grew from 11 percent in 1960 to 61 percent in 2006. One effect of this shift is the creation of benefits that phase out steeply with increases in household income, which can discourage additional work effort by individuals or marriage, both of which often mean new income.

. By 2017, if current trends continue, federal spending on children will decrease from 2.6 to 2.1 percent of GDP, while Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will rise from 7.6 to 9.5 percent.

. Also by 2017, children's programs should gain about $36 billion while other domestic programs should expand by about $609 billion. Outside of the growth in the children's portion of Medicaid, children's programs are scheduled to see an actual decline in spending.

American Public Strongly Backs
Writing Instruction

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Americans feel that learning to write is just as important as learning to read, and 70 percent think that students should be given daily writing assignments, according to the 2007 Survey on Teaching Writing, conducted for the National Writing Project.

Over 80 percent of those in the nationwide survey say that students should learn to write well as a requirement for high school graduation, and two-thirds believe that solid writing skills are essential to success in college. Three-quarters think that writing should be taught at all grade levels and in all subjects.

The public also thinks it's more important to help teachers become better writing instructors than it is to test students on their writing ability. By a two-to-one margin, they prefer putting more resources into professional development for better writing teaching than to put those resources into student testing.

"The survey clearly demonstrates that the public understands writing is a critical skill, one that must not be ignored," says Richard Sterling, executive director of the National Writing Project. "The word is out: writing must be an integral part of the curriculum."


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