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.

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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.

 

Not the right teacher, in the right place, at the right time

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve been thinking about this alot lately. Teachers become extremely defensive whenever we try to talk about effectiveness. But the reality is that our kids need to learn and be in the best environment to do so. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an in effective teacher all the time everywhere – it doesn’t mean that you didn’t earn your degree and learn how to be a teacher – it just means that you are not the right teacher, in the right place, at the right time.

I remember a friend of mine who is a teacher at a charter school here in Atlanta and she mentioned how she is going to be taking over some classes for a teacher who is leaving. I was amazed! Their school actually has attentive students (though not for lack of effort but into it), flexible curriculum, basically a teacher’s dream compared to traditional public school settings. Yet, she still didn’t feel comfortable in that setting. She apparently needed an even more controlled, smarter, more motivated group of kids to teach. The upside is that she knows that, and she seeks it out.

Perhaps we go too far when we say “ineffective teacher” because surely there is a classroom environment that this teacher would thrive in. But we all have to be willing to acknowledge when a situation is not one that the teacher or the students thrive in. There may not be enough positions available in all the schools with attentive and engaged students for all the teachers who best work in that environment. But that does not mean that the students who are harder to teach should suffer with a mismatched teacher.

Many of the teachers who would thrive in a more controlled classroom are simply less equipped to teach today’s students. a decade or two ago we all lived in a different environment. Kids were simply easier to teach in those days. Today’s teachers need to be able to compensate for the social emotional disadvantages our poorest children suffer from. They need to have stellar classroom management skills – and not the bossy, military style threaten and yell style, but a compassionate and firm style that teaches classroom standards without shredding students of their dignity with punishment and yelling.

Then there is the “real” reason we have a problem. I would bet that a majority of teachers don’t have a second career lined up. I’m willing to bet there are few immediate opportunities available to teachers if they are not teaching. Perhaps in part to the subpar education they themselves earned. When a teacher is challenged about their role as a teacher, what do you think is a pretty common reaction? Their own self interest. The school district has a responsibility to the students first and foremost. But the teacher may have a responsibility to his or her family over the students in his/her class. If a teacher has a choice between putting the classes first or putting their own family first…..I’ll bet the family comes first most of the time. Therefore, even if it is in the best interest of the students to have a different teacher, their teacher will stay for the paycheck. For their family.

No matter how hard it is to do, the school district has a responsibility to the students first and teachers second. If that means letting some teachers go and hiring teachers that are more adequately prepared to manage a classroom today, then it needs to be done. The school district can’t weigh the needs of the teacher to support his/her family over the needs of students.

My public school was not a quality education

My public school was not a quality education

RI Mayoral AcadmiesI no longer live in the community that I went to K-12 school in but I am still connected to many folks through FB. This morning a Warwick, RI city councilor posted an article I did not agree with, making a comment about how she was against the Mayoral Academies. I thanked her for the post, but told her I disagreed with her position. My experience at my high school was not quality and here are some of the various reasons why:

  • There was no direction. We took classes but it didn’t mean anything. There were some outside the box classes, I was part of a marine program once a week that I left the building for, there was a business/finance class I took, we had some history electives I liked where we actually read novels of people in history. Those made sense, whereas “history class” did not. I made no connection between my classes and my life.
  • There are no guidance. In fact my guidance counselor was the worst. and guess what? She was also the head of the RI Guidance Counselors Association for a period of time. What a union waste of time. Never mind that there was no guidance in terms of what you might want to do with your life, but guidance was basically just college applications. My counselor was obnoxious and rude and did not actually help me. I had a healthy list of 7 or so schools, with at least one reach school, one safety school and several match schools. My reach school was GWU. She told me I’d never get in.
    • First – that’s a terrible thing to tell a student.
    • Second, if you are going say something that abrasive to a student you MUST offer some alternatives. I had two schools in Wash. DC on my list. She “nixed” one of them. She NEVER suggested any other DC schools. Could I have done more research, sure. But at the college fair I went to, I only saw those two schools in DC (GWU and Trinity U.) She should have asked me if I knew of others schools in DC besides GWU that I may want to apply to. Because maybe I could have gotten into UMD, or American, or Marymount or something else
    • Third, She never talked with me about what I was interested in or help me find any other schools that might have fit my needs.
  • I graduated with a B+/A- grades and had no idea what I wanted to do. As I ended up in more a social service field – why couldn’t more of the classes fill those topics?
  • The best teachers were the newest ones, which a few exceptions. One of my worst teachers was a senior teacher and he just talked all day. I don’t even remember doing any work. Years later when I returned to get involved in the community, turns out this teacher is the President of the Warwick Teachers Union. What a croc! You want to know why I don’t like teachers unions, because they have leadership that I know was a terrible teacher! What kind of representation is that?
  • I never really learned how to write. I was baffled in senior year English why I couldn’t get a higher grade. I just didn’t learn to write in the way the teacher had expected. All I could do was write in a research based manner. Look something up, and regurgitate it onto the paper. I never learned any analysis or persuasion. I didn’t figure this out until college, where I quickly figured it out and managed to learn how to write in other styles.
  • I could go on but it actually is making me sad how much high school didn’t help me. If you really want to know more, ask.