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.

 

How do we get to a fair funding formula?

Jarod Apperson recently wrote a response to one of Maureen Downey’s articles about the new proposed teacher salary model. He is a graduate of NYU in both finance and accounting, Apperson is pursing a doctorate in economics at Georgia State University, focusing on education data analysis. He writes the Grading Atlanta blog and serves on the board of the public, non-profit charter Kindezi Schools.

Having a focus on education data analysis and Ph.D. in economics I would ask Jarod what he thinks would be an acceptable new funding formula. Maybe he has made a recommendation and I have missed it?

Maureen agrees with Jarod in this synopsis of his comments:

It makes no sense to rely on the Legislature for a deep-dive reform of education. Lawmakers have neither the expertise to address what are complex questions nor the ability to respond with agility and accuracy to the fast-changing education landscape, witnessed by the fact the funding formula they’re attempting to revise goes back three decades.

Jarod describes the current formula this way:

Our current funding system, introduced in 1985, is complicated but the crux of it can be boiled down to this:  about 63 percent of the money earned is based on needs of the students served while 37 percent of the money is driven by characteristics of the teachers employed, incentivizing schools to hire teachers who fit certain profiles that the state deems more valuable.

A state-level incentive structure makes sense if legislatures are incentivizing schools to do things that lead to greater achievement, but it is inefficient if the state is incentivizing things that don’t work.

The evidence suggests that Georgia’s Legislature is not very good at prescribing education approaches, and the current incentive structure implemented by the state does not align with what we know about the relative value of training and experience.

His demonstration of the legislature incentivizing things that do not lead to greater student achievement is how the pay scale jumps greatly for advanced degrees, but takes a teacher with a bachelor’s degree 14 years to make the same as a teacher with an advanced degree and no teaching experience. He recommends that we reward years of experience over the advanced degree also in an effort to retain our teachers.

For example, there is clear evidence teacher experience matters, and year-to-year improvements are particularly dramatic early in a teacher’s career. A fifth-year teacher is substantially more effective than a rookie.

If the state’s incentive structure were strategic, it would give teachers large raises in the first five years. Instead, Georgia teacher earnings grow a paltry $2,036 over that period, or about 1.5 percent a year. That’s measly compared to the early-career salary growth seen in other skilled professions like technology, accounting or engineering.

Rather than paying teachers substantially more as they gain valuable early-career experience, the state offers huge incentives for something that does not lead to greater student achievement: advanced degrees.

In Georgia, it takes 14 years for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to reach the starting salary of someone with zero experience and a specialist degree.  This emphasis on advanced degrees over experience is not strategic. It doesn’t benefit students and doesn’t make teaching a more attractive profession. Instead, the only real winners from this scheme are the degree-granting institutions that collect tuition from Georgia’s teachers.

Funding formulas are a problem all over the country. Some legislatures, like in Massachusetts, don’t want to admit that they haven’t met their own benchmark for funding schools because of the automatic infusion of cash required to fix it. So they make little tweaks to get by, but won’t commit to really fully funding schools.

The one thing I will say for Massachusetts that I don’t believe Georgia does, is MA adjusts its state contribution based on a formula of what the LEA can pay. In Worcester, the state paid ~75% of the total LEA budget. But in other LEA’s where the city could pay more of their share, the state paid a smaller % (and because the communities were affluent the cities contributed funds over the budgeted amount). It appears that in DeKalb County, the state contributes closer to 30% of the costs to run the school system and the county has to make up the remaining 70%.

It also sounds like the state is in a catch 22 where I assume the legislators want to see progress before they contribute more funding, but the schools are trying to say they need more funding to demonstrate progress.

 

 

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.