Over-exaggeration from TRAGIC

Over-exaggeration from TRAGIC

Last week the group TRAGIC –Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes shared their thoughts with Governor Deal’s Education Reform Commission on potential changes to teacher pay models. 

TRAGIC

I have a few qualms with some of their statements:

These are the teachers whose voices have been silenced for the most part on the work of the Education Reform Commission by the direct exclusion of professional education organizations from the commission. I speak for all of these educators today, since lawmakers are not asking professional educators who are currently in classrooms, nor the parents of children who are attending public schools for any suggestions on how to improve education.

I thought there might be a case to say that educators weren’t being included in the commission. Granted, maybe unofficial teacher associations weren’t included but that doesn’t mean that educators aren’t on the commission. Maybe there aren’t individuals with TRAGIC’s specific point of view, but you can’t say that “lawmakers are not asking professional educators who are currently in classrooms.”

K-12 Educator related commission members:

Robert Avossa Superintendent Fulton County Schools
Kent Edwards Superintendent Carrolton City Schools
Hannah Heck Attorney, Vice Chair and Founding Board Member Westside Atlanta Charter School
Kylie Holley Principal/Superintendent Pataula Charter Academy
Noris Price Superintendent Baldwin County Schools
Elizabeth Rhodes Retired Teacher Educators First
Will Schofield Superintendent Hall County Schools
Anthony Townsend Principal Locust Grove Middle School, Henry County
Alvin Wilbanks Superintendent Gwinnett County Schools
Pam Williams 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year Appling County High School

Could you have more teachers on the list? Sure. But its incorrect to state that educators aren’t represented.

Any pay scale that fails to incentivize experience and education can only be construed as an attempt to drive teachers out of the profession before they reach retirement.  While the state budget might benefit from paying fewer retirement benefits and lower health-care costs from fewer retirees, the children of Georgia will certainly not benefit from a revolving door of teachers.

Any pay scale that ONLY considers experience and education can only be construed as an attempt to play the role of employment agency to potentially ineffective teachers – which take valuable learning days away from students everyday when they provide ineffective instruction.

The teaching crisis that is just now being seen in Georgia is a result of fewer teachers entering the profession, and is also a result of more teachers leaving Georgia’s schools.  You must have a mix of new and experienced teachers in every school.  New teachers bring energy, vitality, and new ideas to education, while veteran teachers bring wisdom, experience, and knowledge gained through years of interacting with children.

Maybe fewer teachers are entering the profession because the “veteran” teachers who we can’t confirm are even effective, are holding up all the jobs. There are hundreds of thousands of education professionals who can’t get a job because of nepotism and no open positions. I believe most new teachers are interested in learning from effective veteran teachers, but I can’t say I know many veteran teachers who are willing to learn about the new ideas and strategies the new teachers are bringing in.

 

GA may overhaul teacher pay

GA may overhaul teacher pay

I’ve always wondered how teacher pay scales started and were implemented. I understood that with a teacher’s union contract it is all laid out in the contract. But in states where there is no official union and it is a right to work state, I’ve often wondered how teacher pay scales got involved.

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

As it turns out, these teacher pay scales have usually been entered as a law through the state legislature and the contract process is somewhat unnecessary. Here in GA teachers are paid by number of years on the job and educational level of attainment. That’s all. This generally creates an uneven balance where veteran teachers are making a lot of money while newer teachers are making much less. Quality of teaching has nothing to do with the pay.

Under the current system, in place for decades, teachers are paid based on their years on the job and their education level. Their salaries rise according to a fixed state schedule that specifies minimum pay, though some districts pay above that.

Deal wants to free up money so teachers can be paid more if they perform better or if they are teaching subjects — science, math — in which there is high demand for their talents.

But Deal also doesn’t want a formula that costs more, and the money for high performers would have to come from somewhere, like lower-performing teachers.

It sounds like the process will be a slow one IF implemented at all, because the new salaries are only effective to new teachers and those who opt into this system.

Some suggest that it may not help with recruitment and retention, if the teachers feel the system isn’t working on their behalf. But the Governor wants us to be able to take some of the money from an ineffective tenured teacher and provide it to a newer teacher who is performing at the proficient and exemplary stage.

This new proposal is only in the incubation stage and far from being enacted into policy. It would have to win approval of the General Assembly, and before that it would have to emerge as a formal recommendation from Deal’s Education Reform Commission.

Charles Knapp, who chairs both the full commission and the funding subcommittee, was careful to describe the subcommittee’s support for this proposal as only a “preliminary consensus.”

Next, officials will calculate the effect on each district, which could alter the debate. Also important is the reaction of teachers, whom Georgia is working to recruit and retain. (One of the commission’s other subcommittee’s is tasked with figuring out how to do that better.) Hames and other officials have said current teachers will be grandfathered under the current pay structure if they choose, but they acknowledge the state can’t make an ironclad promise.

While this is not perfect, and is nowhere near ready to be implemented, I think it is a good conversation to have. We need to have more incentives and opportunities for newer teachers who may be as good or better than some of our veteran teachers. I have seen plenty of veteran teachers who aren’t effective in today’s environment and we need the tools to make appropriate adjustments.

This shouldn’t be seen as an “attack” on teachers – it’s about making sure ALL of our kids have an effective teacher. Our public schools are not an employment agency, we need to make sure our kids receive a high quality education. They need to be able to grow into productive members of society, because right now too many are not.

Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Just read this great article by a parent who works in a public charter school. Charter schools are not immune to the problems of traditional public schools – But you also can’t

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

read this article and proclaim traditional charters are superior. Please focus on the content of the article, about parents making choices for their own kids.

These are two former blogs about this very topic – what parents decide for their own kids:

When the only option is a failing school & Sounds good in theory, but not in practice

This article is written by a parent working in the same school her own child attended.

My 8-year-old daughter’s class was chaotic after her first-year teacher got married in Chicago and then relocated to Texas after Christmas break. It was hard enough to bring on a new teacher in the middle of the year, but the situation was only exacerbated when the replacement teacher was also brand new to the profession. (In fairness, my daughter’s class of 28 students was difficult to manage even for more experienced teachers. Teachers had to tap into their inner guru each and every day.)

My administration was trying to work with the replacement teacher, but it was painful for me to watch professional development attempts being made for a novice teacher who was in full crisis mode. Assurances from my school leaders that, with more instructional coaching, the class would gradually get better in time, fell flat with me. It was now February—how much more time could my child afford?

The complacency that the administration goes through in keeping this teacher, or hiring her in the first place. I talked a little bit about how teacher education needs to be improved in this blog but I am tired of administrations doing what they can to help (even if it’s ineffective) and settling for that being the best they can do. We need all of our kids to have an excellent education and large part of that is a great teacher.

My kid wasn’t ambivalent; she knew what she wanted. In fact, she begged me to transfer her out of the school that she had once loved. Even at 8, she was willing to say goodbye to all her friends to gain a sense of emotional safety and sanity.

I love my school and count many of my colleagues as my friends. The teachers (including my daughter’s former teachers) work extremely hard, and it’s obvious that they care about the students. And since it’s a charter school, parents like me feel fortunate that our kids’ names were pulled from the lottery and granted admission. I’ve often lamented that all kids and parents don’t have access to good schools like this one, district or charter.

But now I found myself contemplating the unthinkable—transferring my little girl out.

Parents are dealing with these struggles every day. Charter or traditional public school we need to make sure that every child has an effective teacher. I keep saying that our kids aren’t going to get those days of lost education back. We need to care right now about getting the best kids in the classroom.

The mom continues…

Last week, a colleague passed on a powerful article about the author Doug Lemov, who wrote “Teach Like a Champion,” to my principal, who then passed it on to me. These bits from the article gave me peace about the decision I made:

The evidence suggests that a child at a bad school taught by a good teacher is better off than one with a bad teacher at a good school. The benefits of having been in the class of a good teacher cascade down the years; the same is true of the penalty for having had a bad teacher.

In 1992, an economist called Eric Hanushek reached a remarkable conclusion by analyzing decades of data on teacher effectiveness: a student in the class of a very ineffective teacher—one ranked in the bottom 5 percent—will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year, whereas if she was in the class of a very effective teacher—in the top 5 percent—she would learn a year and a half’s worth of material. In other words, the difference between a good and a bad teacher is worth a whole year.

Here you go. Evidence that our kids are literally loosing out by not having a great teacher. Parents are left with very few options if they feel their child is not getting an adequate education. And sometimes they choose another school, yet they shouldn’t have to. While education theorists and unions and the media are criticizing themselves daily, our nation’s kids are sitting in classrooms with ineffective teachers. We need to spend more time “on the ground” with kids and teachers and less time in the ivory towers of “theory” and “rhetoric.”

The mom ends:

It means that if any one of my students’ parents were to have insight into the day-to-day happenings in the school or classroom the way I am privy to it as a staff member, would they trust that their child was getting the absolute best education possible?

In other words, it means that educators need to approach our practice with the same diligence we would have if our own biological child sat in every single class.

My household operates on a tight budget, so the $700 a month private school tuition bill I now have to pay really hurts. But now that my little girl is excited about learning again and is able to focus in class, I realize that the cost of the status quo was way more expensive.

Education system must change to put the best teachers where they are needed most.

Education system must change to put the best teachers where they are needed most.

Huffington Post reported on a Superintendent’s Summit this past May. The writer proposes 3 ideas that would change our schools. The first is one I am very much a fan of – changing teacher education programs.

Ok, that is not exactly what he says, he says there is a paradigm where the gifted students have all the resources and great teachers and the new teachers usually start with the most challenging students and fewest resources and support.

New teachers should first start with gifted students and the best-behaved classes in order to prepare for more challenging classrooms. Teaching the gifted students should not be a reward that educators are able to cash-in after many years of service, but rather the education system must change to put the best teachers where they are needed most.

How does he propose that would occur? In union run states it’s near impossible to fire a teacher, let alone reassign veteran teachers to underperforming students and slide the new teachers in. Even in states like GA where there are no unions, the teacher step system and nepotism rule over the system to the point where the writer’s suggestion is virtually impossible to implement.

Secondly, I am not sure that working with gifted, well behaved students would prepare a teacher to work with challenging students. There are certain mindsets, behavior management strategies, educational learning practices, patience and caring for EVERY student that a teacher must possess to succeed in challenging classrooms. Those are not skills learned in teacher education and not gained working with well behaved students. The right teacher education program and the right learning experiences through student teaching must be obtained at a minimum.

I would also argue that sending veteran teachers to work with challenging classrooms proves part of my point. They may not have gained those skills necessary to manage the behavior of a challenging classroom and if they believe they have, they may operate like a prison or the military instead of instilling hope and opportunity to our students. This is also because the description of challenging classrooms has evolved over time to a much different environment than any of our veterans teachers ever grew up with. School is much different than when I attended and I am only 30 years old.

Also, who says those veteran teachers will even agree to teach those students? They may retire or quit if they are forced out of their cozy advanced students classes. I really don’t see logistically or practically how this would work.

Right now, teacher education programs are short maybe 30 credits, about one year. Student teaching programs run from a couple of weeks, to a 6 month stint, sometimes one year (first time I saw this was Clark University in Worcester, MA). While they have classes on pedagogy, they rarely cover psychological, social-emotional skills or education learning disorders. My ability as a school counselor to assist students and teachers with student learning is derived from my ability to understand psychology first and implementation of curriculum second. Then a teacher can come from a place of understanding “why” a child isn’t learning and not just managing their behavior to gain compliance on school work.

I recently wrote about how we need to have the right teachers in the right place at the right time. I am hopeful that this was the essence of his statement. Also maybe we could have the student teaching performed at challenging schools, so where ever a new teachers teaches he/she may have some of the experience they need. But, with so many ineffective teachers in challenging schools, I am not sure I want our student teachers learning from those teachers either.

 

Seniority has zero to do with educational quality

Seniority has zero to do with educational quality

Appeal

Appeal

I’ve discussed some of the points of the Vergara case in this post: Education Fallacies: Correlation does not equal causation. This month, The California Teachers Association & California Federation of Teachers formally filed their appeal to the ruling in Vergara v.California, which ruled that teacher tenure was unconstitutional in terms of protecting teachers who were not providing quality instruction to students.

SFGate.com writes:

The state and teachers unions have launched a frontal attack on the June 2014 ruling, arguing that neither the judge nor the nine student plaintiffs in the well-funded suit presented any evidence that the laws have harmed students or violated their constitutional rights.

In written arguments filed this month with the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers said the laws are based on sound policies — tenure protects experienced teachers from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals, and basing layoffs on seniority is an objective process that promotes educational quality.

But the unions said those policy questions are legally irrelevant, because the students who filed the suit never showed that the laws affected their education. They showed no evidence that they were taught by an incompetent teacher who would have been fired or laid off had it not been for tenure or seniority protections, the unions said.

“Tenure protects experienced teachers from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals and basing layoffs on seniority is an objective process that promotes educational quality”? There are labor laws in place to protect from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals. But how can you explain to me that lay offs by seniority “promotes educational quality?” Seniority has zero to do with educational quality. Length of time in a job does not ensure that you are performing at a high level. Evaluations do that.

The ruling in June by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu was the first to strike down a teacher tenure law in any state. The appellate court will hear the case late this year or early next year. If its ruling is appealed further, the case could reach the state Supreme Court by the end of 2016.

Treu’s ruling followed an eight-week trial that included testimony by four students, one parent and competing groups of experts. He found that the laws violate the right of students to educational equality and “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.” The latter finding was based on a 2007 state report that found that students at “high-poverty, low-performing schools” were more likely than others to be taught by inexperienced and unqualified teachers.

We’ll see what the appellate review says of this case.

 

PA could start laying off teachers through evals, not seniority

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Rep. Steve Bloom Discusses His Bill That Eliminates Seniority-based Furlough Decisions

The Pennsylvania legislature is primed to vote and pass a bill that would allow schools to initiate layoffs (as needed) through teacher evaluations instead of seniority, which is currently the case. Rep Steve Bloom discusses his bill in the video above.

Pennlive.com reports:

Gov. Tom Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the administration is reviewing Bloom’s bill but said the governor believes issues relating to seniority should be part of collective bargaining.

Hmm, I wonder if that means the governor may not sign the bill. We’ll if it comes down to contract negotiations, the Lawrence Public Schools contract has some great language they can borrow! From this post:

“The Superintendent has the right to lay off teachers and other district staff due to reductions in force or reorganizations resulting from declining enrollment or other budgetary or operational reasons. The Superintendent will establish the selection criteria for layoffs of teachers and other district staff. Such selection criteria may include, but are not limited to qualifications, licensure, work history (including elements such as discipline, attendance, evaluations, etc.), multiple measures of student learning, operational need and the best interests of the students. Where all other factors are equal, seniority may be used as the deciding factor.”

The bill would also allow the district to perform layoffs due to economic circumstances and not just declining enrollment or consolidating schools.

Other Republicans spoke in support of allowing economic reasons as a permitted justification for laying off staff. Current law only allows districts to furlough professional staff if there is a reduction in enrollment, if a program is curtailed or eliminated, or if schools are consolidated or reorganized.

Rep. Kristin Hill, R-Jacobus, said her district had to close its entire home economics program because it didn’t have the flexibility to lay off just some teachers to deal with a budgetary shortfall.

As a former school board member, Hill said she sees Bloom’s bill as giving school boards and administrators the tools necessary to ensure students receive the best education.

The majority of a schools budget is personnel and when you can’t make adjustments (and unions have helped make it so), teachers are keeping their jobs at the expense of kids education. Of course the PA state education union opposes the bill……but not on any really good reasons:

Pennsylvania State Education Association President Mike Crossey was strongly opposed.

He called it “a solution in search of a problem” at a time when the focus should be on getting more teachers into the classroom, “not throw more out.”

Furthermore, he faulted the committee for timing its consideration of the bill during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“I can’t think of a worse way to honor teachers for the great work they do than to vote on a bill like this one,” he said. “Bills like this are a distraction from real issues and just a way to punish teachers for years of hard work and well-earned experience in the classroom.”

Talk about a “distraction from real issues!” So what if the bill if being discussed and voted on during Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s more important that Rep Hill’s district have home economics program than caring what week of the year a bill is being discussed. I swear unions oppose things because it’s touting the union line and no one ever deviates even when it’s in the best interests of kids to do so. Their primary focus is on teachers, not kids.

Of course there are the usual objections about evaluations and funding, but this objection is really not realistic:

Among other concerns, Rep. Mark Longietti, D- Mercer, worried that also extending the probationary period for new teachers from three years to five years before they would be eligible for tenure might discourage people from entering the teaching profession.

But Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover, said the young people he has spoken with say it will have the opposite effect. They want this kind of job protection and not face having to be let go because of an arbitrary, archaic law that protects teachers with more seniority.

Hopefully the bill will pass and the governor will sign it.

 

Please free our schools from the current education monopoly!

Please free our schools from the current education monopoly!

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

This post and response by AJC writer Maureen Downey and local attorney Glenn Delk, a school choice advocate reminds me why we need education reform – and not just because of mishandled funds.

Maureen Downey writes an opposition piece opposing Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District bill defending our need for more funding and questioning how the state could allow these circumstances of cutting education funds for years  – and suddenly come up with an idea and begin caring about students.

But students have suffered since 2003 from $7.6 billion in funding cuts. Hardest hit by the cuts were rural districts that could not make up the lost funds through local property digests, and low-income children for whom lower class sizes and after-school programs mean the difference between passing and failing

When districts complained to the Legislature, the reply was succinct: Do more with less.

Glenn Delk reminds me that it is not just that schools aren’t spending the funding correctly, but that the monopoly that is our education system needs to be broken down.

Like the teachers’ union, the school boards’ association and the superintendents’ association, Ms. Downey chooses to ignore the cold hard fact that, contrary to her claim that we have to rebuild communities before academic performance can improve, organizations such as KIPP, Basis Schools and High Tech High have proven low-income minority students, can and do perform at world class levels without spending more money, if freed from the current monopoly.

For example, Basis students, while receiving $6,500 per student, far less than Georgia’s average of $9,000, outperform the entire world on the international tests.

Ms. Downey and opponents of giving students additional opportunities to escape the monopoly known as district-run schools should attend the April 22 screening in Brookhaven of the documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed.” The movie shows what is possible when the best and brightest are hired to teach, treated as true professionals with freedom and autonomy to teach students who’ve chosen to attend and expected to take ownership of their education.

The movie focuses on High Tech High, a San Diego-based charter network, which, while operating on $7,200 per student, has managed to achieve an 88 percent graduation rate from college. More than 8,000 students apply annually for the 400 slots, while 1,500 teachers apply for 50 positions. High Tech High has no admission tests, with students chosen by a random lottery.

History shows us that monopolies do not give up their power voluntarily.

So yes, schools can be successful and bridge the community gap with less funding. It just needs to be focused in the correct ways. I have heard a former top KIPP administrator in GA talk about the way they engage parents and students in their school community. He admits it is hard work. You can’t just wake up one day and the system is perfectly in place. But these are key samples of things that schools could do now. You know what holds school up from community engagement? Uninterested and unwilling staff and teachers. Charters like KIPP and the MET, build in an expectation that all of their teachers and staff will engage with parents and students regularly and after school hours if necessary. He mentions students who choose to attend these schools and are expected to take ownership of their education. I remember when a Warwick, RI city councilor told me that she mentored kids at the MET and they didn’t respond well to taking ownership of their education. Just because a student doesn’t latch onto an idea initially doesn’t mean it isn’t a skill that needs to be learned and can be learned. I guarantee you that those students who don’t do well taking responsibility are just as lost in traditional public schools.

But, since we are on the topic – please we need to only be paying salaries for effective teachers, effective principals, no excess in school admin positions in the multiple 6 digits, remove the nepotism, and actually make sure that what is “discovered” at the district level is actually being implemented in each school.