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

© Paynich

© 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.


PA could start laying off teachers through evals, not seniority

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. 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.


65% of teachers support: hiring + firing decisions based on teacher’s performance in the classroom, not seniority

I happened across this article from PennCANThe path to success in 2015: Money AND reform” and wanted to share this piece of research:

Third Way, a prominent Democratic think-tank, recently commissioned Jeff Pollack, a prominent Democratic pollster, to analyze voter sentiment on education reform.

The results will be surprising only to those not involved in the daily grind of education policy.

Sixty-five percent of teachers and 86 percent of all respondents said that they either “strongly support” or “support” the following policy proposal: Ensure “hiring and firing decisions are made based on a teacher’s performance in the classroom, not seniority.”

PennCAN found similar results in a poll we conducted in 2013, as have other education reform organizations that have done polling on this issue.

Seems like the only people who don’t want to hold teachers accountable for classroom performance are teachers unions.

The article also talks about how we need Money AND Reform to make a serious positive impact on our kids’ education. This is a message that was loud and clear when I worked at Stand for Children. Stand started as an advocacy group for all children’s issues. It transitioned over time to focusing exclusively on education issues, mostly funding policy. After years of securing hundreds of thousands of dollars for education, the achievement gap still persisted. Instead of sticking to the status quo, they decided that money AND reforms were going to be needed to move our education system forward.

Unfortunately it’s not just about more money. It’s how we spend it and what programs are being utilized. And we must have an excellent teacher in each class and we can only determine that through effective evaluations.

PennCan’s article continues…

Ask any business leader and they will tell you of their disbelief that there is even a debate around this issue. Ask any political insider about this issue and they’ll say it’s impossible to get it done because of opposition from the teachers unions.

But the tide is turning and it isn’t just because teachers themselves are with us. It’s because of lawsuits like Vergera, where Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that seniority and tenure laws have a disproportionately negative effect on minority and low-income students by placing and retaining ineffective teachers in their schools. Politics usually eats policy for breakfast, until the policy becomes so bad that it’s indefensible.

Seems like the truth is that Education reformers want money AND reform and unions just want to pour more money into the system…we’re not against reforms unions want, but unions aren’t inclusive of the reforms necessary to move our education system forward. In essence, education reformers want to see more done to improve and unions want to exclude reforms that are helping students.

2015 will be an interesting year for PennCAN–we have a newly elected Democratic Governor who based his campaign on the development and implementation of a new school funding formula and a Republican legislature that isn’t interested in throwing more money into the same old system.

To be successful in this political climate, advocates will have to devise a plan for bridging this gap. Luckily for us, PennCAN agrees with both the Governor-elect and the Legislature. We have always been and always will be the organization that fights for more money AND more reform. In the next few years, we hope to have both.


I have many questions about teacher pay

I have many questions about teacher pay. Please help me!

Do salary scales help or hurt teachers? Here are two sample from GA Dept of Ed and Gwinnett County.

GA salary schedule

So lets see, I think from another schedule I determined that a teacher with a masters degree starts at T-5. Starting Salary of $38,438 + 3,203? Not sure how to read that but lets assume thats what it is. Not the worst of starting salaries (but maybe not great for someone with a masters) but it woulds take 8 years to make 10K more? and 20 total years just to make 60K? These are pretty awful. So question, when teachers “get a raise” does that mean the whole salary schedule increases? Or they just get that bump? Because as it stands, it looks like salary scheduled hinder teachers as they are crippled to make more substantial income until they have served for 10-20+ years. Many professional career starting salaries are more than what teachers make in 10 or 20 years.

Now when I lived in RI I started doing some research. I wanted to know why teachers can’t negotiate their own salaries (like every other professional) and at the same time why school districts can’t hire directly and offer their own compensation packages. Doing some legislative research it appeared that in RI it was written into the law many years ago that school districts had to collectively bargain with unions. And the salary schedule is part of law. Well, knowing that, at least in RI that unions own the general assembly, I can see how those laws go there, and why we also end up keeping them. I found out when Stand for Children was negotiating the recent law tying teacher evals to tenure that the MA Teacher’s Association has 20 lobbyists every day that flood the MA Capital. That’s how laws like collective bargaining stay on the books. (But apparently, against all 20 lobbysits, MTA ended up negotiating with Stand for Children to get our law tying teacher tenure to evals because MTA was afraid of a ballot initiative).

So why can’t teachers negotiate their own salaries? And do salary schedules hold back earning potential?

Recent police incidents lead me to think about teachers

I’ve been thinking alot about the recent incidents with police and how we’ve potentially been exposed to the truth that there are some police out there that don’t always act in the public interest and we’ve had some very alarming fatalities – on both sides. Generally speaking, the police are the good guys, right? But we know that there are police who aren’t. And they probably amount to a small percentage overall. But are they still a risk to our community? Shouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure as many of our police are the “good guys?” I hardly think someone would argue that we should knowingly continue to allow a police officer to continue working if he/she was clearly a danger.

I believe the same goes for teachers. The percentage of teachers who really should not be teaching is probably a very small percentage. However, aren’t they also creating harm by ineffectively teaching students? Every single day that a student has an ineffective teacher is one that he/she will never gain back. School days that turn into weeks and years, of potentially wasted educational time. Time that students and parents and taxpayers expected our schools to deliver effective teaching that will also help develop effective, caring citizens.

I am not anti-teacher. I, myself, love teaching, I want to be a teacher, I am a licensed school counselor, I want to make our school the best they can be. I want to pay great teachers more for the great value they provide. It’s unfortunate that the only way teachers make more money is through step increases and it may take 20-30 years to make 70-100K IF the teacher lasts that long. But I can’t stand paying any teacher that isn’t effective in the classroom. And I agree there are a great many that fall into that category that have not been properly supported through administration and appropriate professional development including an effective evaluation. And we owe those teachers the support, an extensive evaluation and appropriate professional development to meet their teaching needs.

But there is a small portion of teachers just like the small portion of police that aren’t doing their jobs. And we wouldn’t be doing ours as citizens if we weren’t looking out for our communities and taxpayer dollars.

I’m the neighborhood watch coordinator for my neighborhood and crime is constantly a struggle. But for me, it’s about the kids that our education system (and maybe their parents too) have failed, and they have few choices but to lead a life of crime. We can’t fight crime with more police, we need to fight crime with a quality education with effective teachers for every student.

We’re for high quality, effective teachers

The last segment of Diane Ravitch’s comments from the Tennessean:

And she said public school teachers today are seen as “public enemies,” pointing to evaluation systems, like the one in Tennessee, that measure teachers in part by test scores.

“Reformers say their plans will elevate teaching as a profession, but their plans are destroying teaching as a profession,” she said.

First of all, society as a whole has created an environment in which we have created ineffective teachers. You can read a more thorough post here on this topic. I admit, we have all contributed to the lack of support for teachers, lack of resources, poorly planned and executed professional development, lack of a comprehensive evaluation to help teachers know where to improve their skills. Yet, all of this has occurred under the watchful eye of the teacher’s unions. I still can’t quite figure out what it is that they have accomplished for teachers all this time.

Oh yes…its about union dues….as I wrote about here. Not about teacher quality or students. Maybe working conditions for teachers (which does contribute) but not enough about making sure that teachers grow into and remain quality teachers.

But now we realize we’ve made some errors and are beginning to correct them. Every single person on every side of the the isle wants our students to have an effective teacher. We just seem to differ on what that effective teacher looks like and to which students it matters that they have a quality teacher. The union position is to save any and all teacher jobs and the ed reform movement wants to make sure every student has an effective teacher.

I’ll admit we, as a society made mistakes with our teachers for far too long. It’s not necessarily the teacher’s fault. They have been doing the best they can in the 150 yr old school system they have been given. But if current teachers can’t take this new opportunity to teach students new universal standards, be given evaluations that will help them improve their skills and allow for targeted professional development and participate in some of the activities that our kids in poverty need like staying later hours, improving communication with parents, differentiated instruction, and project -based hands on learning where appropriate – then I don’t want you teaching in my kid’s classroom.

Interestingly, when Michelle Rhee offered to a union supporter in DC to give that parent’s kids the ineffective teachers that she fired, so she could save their job….the parent declined.

Here are a couple of ways we can improve teaching conditions. The education reform movement is not the public enemy of teachers, we’re just pro high quality, effective teachers.

There goes Diane again with her rhetoric, instead of adding to the conversation in a productive way, she’s just spewing more of her own self-made facts.

Refuting Anthony Cody – Part 1

Valarie Strauss of the Washington Post recently interviewed Anthony Cody for his new book, “The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges Bill Gates. I will refute his points one by one. Today, the first.

Valerie Strauss: The title of your new book is intriguing, “The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation.”  What is the challenge?

Anthony Cody: In my book, I share a series of challenges that I posed to the Gates Foundation, and to Bill Gates himself. The real challenge we face is that which the Gates Foundation states it has taken on — how to make our society, and our education system, more equitable. However, when I look at the approach they have taken, I see some basic problems. Their approach has been to pursue standardization and the metrics of test scores in order to put market forces in the driver’s seat in education. This has had very bad effects on students, who are not at all standard, and on teachers, as well. I challenge them with the understanding I gained in my 24 years working in Oakland, where I came to understand the sort of collaborative environment we need to foster growth among teachers.

What Anthony Cody seems to be forgetting to mention is that our public education was not and has not be functioning at a high level for quite some time…doing it “your way” hasn’t worked. To criticize those who are trying to actually trying to make public schools better, is contrary to the best interests of kids – because what we were doing before was NOT WORKING.

One of the problems with the Gates Foundation is that they have had an almost unlimited source of funding over the past decade. And they are conducting a large-scale experiment with the children of the nation. Nobody voted for them to do this. They use the power of their money to pay for research, to pay organizations to support their agenda, and this undermines democratic decision-making, especially in communities that, due to poverty, lack effective political power.

Let me guess, if Gates was pumping money into teacher’s unions and directly into district administrations (and who knows what happens to that money), I bet you’d be singing a different tune? You know what? Gates realized that your strategy WASN”T WORKING. I believe that is what Albert Einstein referred to as “insanity”: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Also, I can think of some other groups that are also, as you say “They use the power of their money to pay for research, to pay organizations to support their agenda, and this undermines democratic decision-making, especially in communities that, due to poverty, lack effective political power.” with “almost unlimited source of funding over the past decade” I think it’s called a Teacher’s union and your organization, NPE also fits that description. Nobody elected you, your organization OR teachers unions. In fact I challenge that taxpayer dollars go directly to teachers unions through salaries, paid for by tax payer dollars – and taxpayers didn’t elect teachers unions either.

I have no great wealth, no real access to political power. I am a retired science teacher with a blog. I saw the effects their agenda had on the schools in Oakland and across the country, and I challenge them to take a closer look and see what is happening. See what happens when you increase class sizes, as Bill Gates suggested. See what happens when you tie teacher evaluations to test scores. See what happens when your policies ignore the very real effects of poverty. See what happens when you attempt to “personalize” instruction by the use of computers instead of human beings. I am one teacher, but as more and more people realize the experiment we have all become unwilling subjects of, more will join me in challenging this oligarch. Because money may give you the power to do all this, but might does not make right.

If students are going to be held accountable to test scores their teachers should be too. We need to find a way to determine which are the best teachers so we can ensure each student has a high quality teacher. What was the old way of evaluating teachers? Oh yes, the one page checklist…so informative!! Maybe that’s why we have so many struggling teachers. But you don’t want to really evaluate teachers, but I assume that you do want to ensure each student has a high quality teacher…a bit of a contradiction.

Don’t blame Gates for ignoring poverty….unless you have a Harlem Children’s Zone or an intensive wraparound services program, it’s not likely that you are combating poverty well for students. In fact, two groups that come to mind who are combating poverty are TFA and KIPP…but I am sure you’ll argue the opposite. What are traditional public schools, teachers unions doing to combat poverty?

“personalize” instruction by the use of computers instead of human beings – computers give a wealth of opportunities for students, especially those in poverty who may not have access to a computer. Let’s face it, the future is full of technology. and Gates has a company that has the power and interest in donating a bunch of computers. I believe Apple does it too…Do you have a case against them too? How can we expect to prepare students for the technical careers of now and the future if we don’t give them computers? Excellent teachers find ways to provide personalized instruction AND use a computer.