Monday, February 22, 2010

Race to the Top/Teacher Negotiations

We haven't had a lot of discussion here about the upcoming teacher negotiations and how they may (or may not) be tied into Race to the Top money. For some reason, some here believe that the coalition group of education groups that I belong to that wrote a Values Statement on the upcoming teachers' contract and the issues around it, is a sinister group bent on supporting Race to the Top and undermining teachers. (Or we are naifs who have been hoodwinked.)

Here's the first thing to understand (and the takeaway message): every single thing in the teacher's contract affects how your child may be taught, the length of time they are in class, everything. That is why the teacher's contracts should interest every single parent and anyone who cares about education. The Values Statement we created was about PARENTS. As I have said in the past, NO one is going to advocate for children except parents. Not teachers, not principals, not the Board, not the district.

We wanted to create a document that stated what matters to parents. Yes, the first page is quite the Mom and Apple Pie page (we've heard that from all corners) but we wanted to be very clear it is about student, teacher, principal and district. The following two pages (we kept it short and simple) does indeed give some specifics.

Also, I'm sorry if the word "effective" is lost to some of you as a word. It seems it is some educational code word. I take credit for it being in the values statement because I didn't want to use offensive or derogatory language like "poor", "bad" or "terrible". I think it would hurt to have those kinds of words used and I thought "effective" gave the statement of a teacher who did his or her job well. But that word was not chosen to be or used as any code.

About Race to the Top. I don't believe it will work and I believe it is just the Gates Foundation grants on steroids. I could reel off many reasons but really, I think that it will send into motion many projects that will never see fruition. Could all 40 states who applied get the money? And just how much money could it be if they all did? I think that will enlarge the grasp of charter schools that are still unproven as working better AND will divert energy away from existing schools.

Harium told us at his community meeting that Washington state couldn't qualify for RttT because of the charter issue (or rather, we lose 50 big points for not having them). What about our innovative non-charter schools? None, I repeat none, will count because each school has to be able to control its staff and its budget. The new STEM school over in the Tri-Cities? Won't count because it has three districts instead of one. You'd think that was innovation in getting three small district together to create something great but no.

Want many expert opinions? Here you go. This link is to the National Journal Online and they invited experts of all stripes to weigh in on RttT. One overarching criticism is that Arne Duncan promised transparency and yet the RttT reviewers are not to be named nor is it to be explained how they were selected. There is worry how it may affect rural districts, states without charters or what happens if a state doesn't follow thru on what it says it will do in its application.

Here's on of my favorite quotes from this group, a guy named Steve Peha from Teaching That Makes Sense:

"Innovation-via-bribery or even via compensation, doesn’t really work. Yes, Apple made the iPod to make money. But they didn’t make it because they had money. Even with more money than God, Microsoft has produced only the flaccid Zune to compete with it. When it comes to innovation, I’ll take Steve Jobs in a cabin for a weekend with three felt pens and a pad of sticky notes over a building full of Microsoft code jockeys, three years, and all the free Mountain Dew they can guzzle."

Me, too.

40 comments:

wseadawg said...

RTTT is blackmail, bribery and bullying all wrapped in a slick shiny suit. Shame on Duncan and Obama, W, Rs and Ds.

250 million is a drop in the bucket. What does it amount to, $80 per student? And how much reaches the classroom after the private contractors take their cut? Less than half, you can bet.

Want to know how RTTT will play out? See Iraq and Afghanistan - private contractors

Melissa Westbrook said...

And I think that's why Texas said no. It's a lot of work, both in filling out the documentation AND taking steps just to make sure you are eligible to apply. I think Texas said nah, not worth it.

blumhagn said...

I have a question about the upcoming negotiations. I heard of an incident where a teacher had a couple of significant safety issue (one was taking kids off school grounds w/o a permission slip). While they didn't have a catastrophe like losing a child outside the grounds, it's clearly a problem and needs to be addressed.

Is there a means for the District/SEA to review incidents like these and determine if any further disciplinary action needs to be taken? If not, is there a way for parents to influence the process to get something like this added?

I would want this to be a fair process. I don't see a need to hand down a major punishment for isolated incidents. However, if there are repeat issues that place the safety of the kids in doubt, I'd like to see the teacher removed from the classroom.

Thanks for your help,

Eric

seattle citizen said...

We can hope that Texas said no because they saw it for what it is: Bribery, with our tax dollars, by people with an agenda (a wrong-heaed agenda, in my opinion) who want to twist the arms of every district in the country in order to have things their way.
Charters; Merit Pay; Constractors; standardized assessments and standardized instruction.

Many of the tenets of RTTT stink of privatization and ulterior motives. Maybe Texas had the sense to tell Duncan, king of the privateers, to bug off.

Chris said...

Melissa, in addition to the term "effective," would you care to defend the part about teacher evaluations being based in part on student assessments? I really don't see how that is in the interests of children. And it's possible I've simply been lucky, but when I think about advocating for children, my own children and beyond, teacher effectiveness, evaluation, whatever is pretty far down on the list.

I'd also encourage you to discuss the amendment to HB6696 proposed by the PTSA last week.

wseadawg said...

The CVS was not organic at all. It wasn't a mistake or serendipitous that the 4 main points just happen to track perfectly with the language of the house and senate bills.

Whatever the reason for it, or how it was arrived at, it's done and I'm over it. But I predict, in the future, it will be referenced by politicians and reformers who will say "parents in Seattle spoke, and we listened." If that doesn't happen, I'll eat my words. But I'll be listening for it for the next year or so.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, you write that
"As I have said in the past, NO one is going to advocate for children except parents. Not teachers, not principals, not the Board, not the district."
I'm assuming you mean in contract negotiations...don't you? If you do, do mean that the district and the teacher's union won't advocate for children? That seems far-fetched, as children are the reason for both to exist. While it is true that each side is primarily negotiating payment, etc, there are also other considerations that both sides attend to: How much prep? How many hours of after-school meetings? etc etc. Things like this DO revolve around what both sides can come to agree is both good for children and also good work conditions.

Teachers and admins are not as cold-hearted as your statement makes them out to be. Ninety percent of them are there because they made career choices to work with children. I doub that that ALL goes out the window when they sit across from each other at the bargaining table.

If you meant these people don't advocate for children aside from the contract negotiations (which I don't think you meant) well, that's just absurd. And if it's absurd, isn't is also absurd to think that no one advocates for children AT the table? I'm sorry, I just find your statement to be hyperbole, and inflammatory hyperbole at that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I believe that student assessments should be part of a menu of things to be assess and shouldn't be more than 10% of it. That's what I think. No one thing should dominate teacher assessments just because it is easy or convenient.

Do I think others who have power believe this? Sadly, no.

Wseadawg, believe what you will.

adhoc said...

"We can hope that Texas said no because they saw it for what it is: Bribery, with our tax dollars"

Right on Seattle Citizen. That is exactly what is going on. It's time to call a spade a spade.....

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I mean no one is going to advocate for children. You really believe that in contract negotiations that kids come first? Really? Not me.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, there is a differance between not advocating for children and kids coming first in contract negotiations.

Negotiations (as in any thing between employer and employee - it really isn't specific to union negotiations) include a variety of factors. I mean, what does it mean, "kids don't come first"? What does? It's a negotiation with many factors involved. Does fair pay mean a better education for children? Yes. Do healthy working conditions? Yes.
So your dismissive tone about educators and admins, as if they somehow sit at the table and just ignore the students, is, frankly, unwarranted.
Do some teachers, some admins, care merely about money? Yes. But generally? Generally I would guess that contract negotiations, as with any professional hiring and bargaining process, are professional and thoughtful. Nothig comes first - everything is part of the negotiation.

Let me ask you, what does it look like when "kids come first" in discussions between employer and employee?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say they don't care about kids. I didn't say money comes first. You certainly read a lot into a simple statement. I meant that for parents it's their child, for teachers and administrators, it's their job. Yes, they chose to work with children but it's still a job.

dan dempsey said...

Wow RTTT has done something positive.

I've become a lot more knowledgeable about vocabulary words like "extortion" "blackmail" "bribery"

etc.
===================
New book released within the last 10 days:

"Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago"

ISBN -13:
978-0-226-07800-7

Josh Hayes said...

And a little nit-pick, and one that maybe undermines the thesis: don't diss the Zune. I've worked with both iPods and Zunes, and the Zune is better. Better hardware, for sure, and the software is for me better than iTunes.

The point is: what the public clamor labels as "good stuff" is often more about culture, not about the actual goodness of the stuff.

Josh Hayes said...

Melissa says:

I didn't say they don't care about kids. I didn't say money comes first....

No: you said this:

No, I mean no one is going to advocate for children. You really believe that in contract negotiations that kids come first? Really? Not me.

Surely, Melissa, you can see how one might draw the conclusion that you are saying teachers care less for kids than for -- for what? What DO they negotiate in contract talks that isn't money?

The teachers I know are interested in one thing: being good teachers to the kids in their classrooms, and being given the tools to allow them to do that. I think they'd be offended at the suggestion that their contract negotiations are somehow orthogonal to "advocating for children".

I don't think anyone goes into teaching without caring deeply about children, and I don't think anyone sticks it out for more than a couple of years without having the depth of that caring tested.

Maybe we're all in a muddle about some word choices, but the words we choose are important: we should strive for clarity.

That said, I think the RTTT stuff is utter bull-pucky: It's little failures taken to a national scale.

WenG said...
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WenG said...
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WenG said...

RE: Melissa's statement, I think I understand what she's saying. Of course teachers want to work with students, but in the present climate, to say "no one is going to advocate for children" means that teachers are increasingly placed in an adversarial position of protecting themselves first. Whether you have a great teacher who works around poor materials and still helps their students, or bad teachers enabled by bad principals, at the end of the day, parents are the ones primarily responsible for supporting their kids and their success in school.

Time and again, we're told that schools with involved parents are the best schools, and I think most of us have seen this for ourselves.

Abby G. said...

"As I have said in the past, NO one is going to advocate for children except parents. Not teachers, not principals, not the Board, not the district. " and the discussion that followed this incredibly offensive statement.

Mellissa,

The number 1 priority that teacher are fighting for in contract negotiations is class size. Do you think this is because teachers want to have less work? No it is because any right minded teacher knows that class size is directly related to student achievement, social growth and in the end a student’s view of schools and education. As a teacher I am not a big fan of many things the Teacher Union fights for (keeping bad teachers being the top problem) but teachers are going into negotiations as advocatedsfor education and what will best help us to support every child, not our pocketbooks. I have never been so offended by a statement on this blog before. I support people right to opinion, but as I’m just reminded sometimes that opinion feels like a kick in the crotch. Every day I advocate for each and every one of my students, I advocate for them in the classroom, in staff meetings, in parent conferences, report cards, district meetings, at their dance recitals and sports games (that I attend outside of contracted time because I truly want to support them, not because I feel I have too) and I advocate for them when attending and voting on union issues.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I'm still interested in your ideas about what "kids come first" would look like in contract negotiations.

I hear what you're saying, but I think the range of comments here points out already the various interpretations of "teachers don't advocate." What I'm interested in is how you think all parties might put "kids first" in negotiations. What does that look like?

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Values Statement deliberately doesn't say how anything should be done in negotiations because we, as parents, have no place at the table. That's for the negotiators for each side to work on and through. I'm not trying to say how anything should look or proceed. But do I think that both sides would be looking through a prism of "kids first" as their main criteria? No, and not because they don't care about kids but because it's about their careers and worklives and how this district runs.

I'm not trying to demonize or deify teachers. It's a little sad that after all the years of sticking up for teachers, trying to support teachers, advocating for teachers suddenly I'm the bad guy for pointing out the obvious which is that teachers are human beings too and when their reps come to the table it is as human beings as well.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I, for one, am not trying to demonize you. I know how long and hard you have worked on behalf of students and teachers both.
My issue is with your perception that negotiations are devoid of care for students. I just don't think this is true: educators, both staff and admin, DO advocate, and this happens in negotiations, too. And your statement is so hyperbolic: "none with advocate for kids."
I agree that negotiations are amined more at the working conditions and payment...that's what they're for, for the most part. I'm just not sure a blanket statement such as "they won't advocate for kids" is accurate or helpful
Tell us how you think BOTH sides should advocate for kids at the table. I'm interested.
Afain, I do appreciate all you do, and thanks again. I just disagree with the tenor of your statement on this one.

Abby G. said...

Melissa,

I'm not bashing you, sorry if seemed that way! I’m just surprised and offended that you believe teachers don’t advocate for their students during negotiations. The top three things on the list in order of priority that our rep took to the union are:
1. Class size
2. Appropriate funding for K-8 schools (who have been and continue to be hosed come budget time)
3. Special Education policies regarding in classroom support.
These are all putting kids first, not the Humane treatment of teachers. Again, not bashing you just wholeheartedly disagreeing with your earlier statement.

Dora Taylor said...
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Dora Taylor said...

My question is, whose idea was this in the first place?

On the list of participants of this CVS, there is the Alliance who was parading around the NCTQ which is harsh on teachers and refers to them as "human capitol",and dispenses the Broad and Gates' money, the League of Education Voters who just seems to grab folks' e-mail and make them feel like they are part of a larger movement and is totally in support of RTTT funding and the PTSA whose national president has signed on to RTTT hook, line and sinker. And that's just off the top of my head.

So, I am curious as to who started this chain of events? Whose brainchild was this CVS?

Dora Taylor said...

Bill 6696, the Ed Reform bill that was in the State Senate, got approved today and is now going into the Ways and Means Committee.

Check out this phrase that was added to the bill and let me know what you think it means:

(c) The four-level rating system used to evaluate the certificated
classroom teacher must describe performance along a continuum that
indicates the extent to which the criteria have been met or exceeded.
When student growth data, if available and relevant to the teacher and subject matter, is referenced in the evaluation process it must be
based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based, and state-based tools. As used in this
subsection, "student growth" means the change in student achievement
between two points in time.

Dora Taylor said...

I think that the "student achievement
between two points in time" is referring to the MAP test brought to us by the generous contribution of Bill Gates.

Joan NE said...

Melissa wrote "We wanted to create a document that stated what matters to parents."

You also wrote (on Jan 13) "But the Board and the district and the SEA have to hear from us or they may make some assumptions about what they believe they know about our communities. This [CSV that is M. is helping to write] is our opportunity to make our voices heard in a big way.
"

The development, wording, and even the existence of this document are problematic for several reasons.

1. vagueness
2. use of terms and phrase that have specific meanings in regressive education reform (RTT is promoting regressive reform)
3. The assertion - implied in the title and in the second quote above that this document represents the community's values
4. That you (Melissa) were selected to be on the drafting committee.

Explanation:

1. The vagueness problem: I already wrote about this in clear manner on Jan 13 on this strand: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/01/seattle-organizers-values-statement-for.html. See the very last posting(Jan 23).

2. The use of regressive reform terminology.

I am referring to these terms:

"effective teachers," "instructional leadership, "core academics," and "equitable access to core academics."

These are loaded terms in regressive edu-reform speak. The use of these terms makes it possible for regressive ed reform advocates to say that the "community" supports regressive edu-reform priorities.

3. The assertion that the CVS represents the community's values.

LEV, StandForChildren, CPPS, PTA together don't necessarily represent the community's values. I know that all of these orgs (or their parent orgs) are pro-RTT, and, therefore, are pro-regressive edu reform. I doubt that more than a small handful of those members of PTA that did vote to endorse the CVS realized that they were implicitly supporting regressive edu-reform. Most of these people probably don't even know what regressive edu-reform is. Did Ramona H. and Heidi B. know that this doc could be used by edu-reformers? I suspect so.

4. Mellissa was recruited to be on the panel of drafters. It must have been flattering to be invited. A person is not a "member of the coalion." Coalitions are made up of organizations. So Melissa's participation was sought, most likely, because it would appear that the CSV has been endorsed not just by this individual (Melissa), but by the majority of the (many thousands perhaps?) "members" of the blog that Melissa is associated with.
Did Melissa know about the edu-form code words? I doubt it. She can tell us.

Does having Mellisa on the coalition panel of drafters mean that the thousands perhaps of people that read and/or write to this blog support the CSV, and, implicitly, regressive edu-reform?

Of course not.

But that is how Melissa's participation will represented as meaning by edu-reformers who use it to show large-scale grass-roots support for the agenda they are promoting.

Like Dora, I would like to know where the idea for this doc was born. Who were the individuals that were the prime movers for this project?

Dora - this post from Mellisa on Jan 13 has some of the information that you are asking for:


"I have been part of a coalition group to form a joint values statement for parents/community groups to give to the School Board, district and SEA. The groups include Campana Quetzel, Seattle Council PTSA, Successful Schools in Action, CPPS, Stand for Children and others. Organized by the good folks at the League of Education Voters (our leader is Kelly Munn of LEV)"

Dora Taylor said...

Thanks Joan, then that answers my question.

The League of Education Voters has been pushing the RTTT agenda since Arne Duncan came up with the term.

wseadawg said...

Wow, JoanNE: I couldn't have said it better myself.

I think the over-arching difficulty is how to bring about the "improvements" we want in the schools without embracing large scale "reforms" with all the strings attached. Frankly, I don't see much need for many of the so-called "reforms," which might as well be called the "monetization" of education policy. From merit pay to STEM schools, the Friedmanesque "profit motive" is driving marketplace ideals into our schools and into many of our discussions about schooling. The presumption being that people will work harder for more pay, and nothing makes people work harder than the threat of being rendered obsolete or undercut by cheaper competitors in the marketplace. This directly conflicts with what I see as our schools' missions, which is not to do whatever they must to garner the biggest share of some pie, but to be thorough and disciplined to achieve positive outcomes, not the ones that look best on paper. Doe we want the type of cherry-picking of data they've used on Wall Street to fleece all of us for decades. Data, data, data and more data will lead to just that.

With all due respect, I do believe that folks panic at the thought at missing out on RTTT dollars, imagining how that extra 250 mil could help our schools. I'd love to have that money too, but not for what's being demanded and blackmailed out of us by the Fed Government & Dept of Ed.

Look at all the new levels of bureaucracy the new legislation establishes. Where's the money for all that new work going to come from? The classrooms. It mandates highly paid outside consultants, just like NCLB mandates outside tutoring agencies, barring SPS from providing its own tutoring, even though SPS could do so, at a far lower price.

This legislation is a wolf, or turkey (take your pick), but I see nothing besides new accountability measures aimed at teachers and principals that is likely to have any effect. What's more, with bad teachers and principals being about 5% of the problem in our schools, this legislation is aimed about 90% right at those groups.

Can you say "scapegoating?" Can you say "misallocation of resources?" Can you say "fleecing the public?" That's mostly what I see in the new legislation.

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

The Myth of the "Powerful" Teachers' Union

For another perspective on the matter, here is an interesting article that dispels some underlying premises and prejudices about teachers and the unions:

http://www.counterpunch.org/ macaray03202009. html http://tinyurl. com/ca2kce
The Myth of the "Powerful" Teachers' Union

By DAVID MACARAY

There’s a myth circulating out there that not only threatens to ruin the reputation of America’s school teachers, but has the potential to side-track any realistic hopes of education reform. It’s the assertion that “powerful” teachers’ unions are responsible for the decline of public education in the United States in general, and California in particular.

Propagators of this myth claim that the reason test scores of American children have sunk so low in recent years is because our public school teachers are too incompetent and lazy to provide adequate instruction.

Moreover, because the teachers’ unions are so domineering and evil—because their leaders will do anything to maintain union hegemony, including not allowing demonstrably inferior teachers to be fired—school administrators are powerless to act.

You hear these charges everywhere. Arianna Huffington, the late-to-the- party liberal and celebrity blogger, has been echoing such claims for years. For Huffington to be riffing on the state of public education is, in itself, remarkable, given that she lives in Brentwood, her daughters attend prestigious private schools, and the closest she’s ever come to an inner-city school was the day she accidentally drove by one, causing her to hastily lock the doors and windows of her Prius and speed away.

On Friday, March 13, comedian and uber-liberal Bill Maher joined the attack on his HBO show. In one of his signature tirades, Maher, a California resident, railed against the “powerful” California teachers’ union, accusing it of contributing to the crisis in public education by not allowing the school district to remove incompetent teachers.

Maher came armed with statistics. He noted with dismay that the U.S. ranked 35th in the world in math, 29th in science, and that barely 50% of California’s public school pupils manage to graduate from high school. He blamed the teachers for this.

[CONT'D]

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

[CON'T]

Although every teacher in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), has a college degree and a teaching credential and managed to survive the scrutiny of a lengthy probationary period, Maher piously maintained that these teachers were unqualified to run a classroom.

Granted, Maher is a professional comic trolling for laughs, and not a “social scientist” dispensing wisdom, so we shouldn’t be looking to this man for enlightenment. Still, considering his liberal creds (from the environment to civil liberties to corporate mischief to drug law reform), it was demoralizing to hear someone this hip say something so stupid and simplistic.


Maher made a huge deal of the fact that, because of the union’s protective shield, less than 1% of California’s tenured/post- probationary teachers get fired. Although this ratio clearly outraged him (he appeared visibly upset by it), had he taken five minutes to research the subject, he’d have realized that this figure represents the national average—with or without unions.

In Georgia, where 92.5% of the teachers are non-union, only 0.5% of tenured/post- probationary teachers get fired. In South Carolina, where 100% of the teachers are non-union, it’s 0.32%. And in North Carolina, where 97.7% are non-union, a miniscule .03% of tenured/post- probationary teachers get fired—the exact same percentage as California.

An even more startling comparison: In California, with its “powerful” teachers’ union, school administrators fire, on average, 6.91% of its probationary teachers. In non-union North Carolina, that figure is only 1.38%. California is actually tougher on prospective candidates.

So, despite Maher’s display of civic pride and self-righteous indignation (“We need to bust this union,” he declared), he was utterly mistaken. The statistics not only don’t support his argument, they contradict it.

Fact: During the 1950s and 1960s, California’s public school system was routinely ranked among the nation’s finest. You can look it up. More significantly, the teachers in those classrooms were union members. The same teachers who were winning those awards for excellence belonged to the “powerful” teachers’ union. Let that sink in a moment: Good schools, good teachers, big union.

Which raises the question: Has anything else changed in California (and the rest of the country, for that matter) in the last 40 years to lead one to believe there might be causes other than labor unions to explain the drop in graduation rates? Have there been any significant changes in, say, cultural attitudes or demographics?

For openers, how about the disintegration of the American family and the decline in parental supervision/ involvement? Being a good student requires discipline, application and, perhaps, a certain level of respect for authority. Have we witnessed any “breakdowns” in these areas over the last 40 years?

Or how about the rise in urban poverty? Or the hollowing-out of the middle-class (the average worker hasn’t received a pay increase, in real dollars, since 1973)? Or the assimilation of non-English- speaking immigrants? Or the decrease in per capita funding on California public education? Or the chaos created by school boards arbitrarily mandating wholesale changes in “educational ideology” every two years (LAUSD has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on consultants)?

Ask any teacher, child psychologist, sociologist, or real estate agent, and they’ll tell you the same thing: As a general rule, good schools are found in good neighborhoods, and bad schools are found in bad neighborhoods. Simple as that.

[CON'T]

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

[CON'T]

Moreover, people know this “formula” to be true. Not only is the promise of good schools one reason why people with kids buy homes in good neighborhoods, it’s not uncommon for parents in California to lie about their home addresses in order to get their children assigned to better schools.

An experiment: Try moving those “good” teachers from decent school districts—where the kids show up each day, on time, prepared, bright-eyed and attentive, having completed their homework, having eaten a nutritious breakfast, etc.—to one of those South Central LA shit-holes, where crime is rampant, neighborhoods are ravaged, families are in crisis, and 40% of the students live in foster care.


See if these “good” teachers, by virtue of their innate “classroom abilities,” are able to improve the test scores of these stunted, overmatched and underprivileged kids. See if these “good” teachers can do what a generation of parents themselves, and society itself, can’t seem to do; see if the graduation rates in these depressed communities rise significantly.

And, as part of that same experiment, move the “incompetent” teachers to these healthy, self-sustaining districts and see if the students in these schools don’t continue to score significantly higher, even with the “bad” teachers now running the show.


Fact: Oregon has a good public school system. So do South Dakota, Vermont, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine and Washington, among others. Is that because the folks living in these states are exceptionally bright? Is it because their teachers are extraordinarily talented?




Or is it because these school districts are stable, relatively homogeneous, and don’t face a fraction of the challenges facing California?


For the record, the teachers in these aforementioned good schools are overwhelmingly unionized. Oregon and Washington teachers are 100% unionized; Wisconsin is 98%; Connecticut is 98%; etc.


Also, comparing the scores of American students in foreign countries is a bit misleading. The United States was not only the first nation in the world to offer free public education, it was the first to make it compulsory.


In the U.S., by law, you must attend school until at least age 16 (some states have even higher age requirements) . That means our national average is going to incorporate test scores of every kid from every background in every neighborhood in the country.


In India (where I once lived and worked), great emphasis is placed on education; accordingly, India has a decent school system, one that scores well. But school attendance is not mandatory. Indeed, India has 400 million people who are illiterate. One wonders what their national test scores would be if those many millions who can’t read or write were factored in.

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

[FINAL INSTALLMENT]:

Fact: Teachers can be fired. Who honestly believes a teachers’ union—whether in California, Oregon or Connecticut—has the authority to insist that management keep unqualified teachers? Since when does a labor union dictate to management? Since when does the hired help tell the bosses what to do? The accusation is absurd on its face.

Fact: During the first two years of employment, any teacher in the LAUSD can be fired for any reason, with no recourse to union representation and no access to the grievance procedure. Two full years. If the district doesn’t like you for any reason, they fire you. No union. No grievance. Nothing. Could any arrangement be more favorable to management?

Yet, the myth persists, the myth of the Unqualified Teacher. Instead of identifying the real problems facing California’s schools (daunting as they may be), and trying to solve them, people stubbornly insist that thousands of our teachers—every one of them college-educated, credentialed, and having survived two years of scrutiny—need to be fired.

Let’s be clear; no one is suggesting that all teachers are “excellent.” Obviously, you’re going to find marginal workers in any profession. But, realistically, how many “bad” teachers could there be?

Surely, America’s colleges, universities, and credentialing system can’t be so hideously flawed that we no longer trust their output—that our teachers aren’t worth a damn. Moreover, if it’s the unions who are protecting them, why does South Carolina—where 100% of the teachers are non-union—fire only one-third of one-percent of them?

Fact: The fault for unqualified teachers remaining on the payroll lies entirely with the school administrators. These overpaid, $120,000 a year, gutless bureaucrats want us to believe that we live in a world turned upside down. A world where, fantastically, the bosses answer to the employees.

Arguably, the problems facing America’s public schools are staggering. But because politicians are essentially spineless—fearful of doing or saying anything that would risk antagonizing their “base”—they refuse to address the real issues. Instead, they play little mind-games with the voters. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s where we stand.

And if television personalities like Arianna Huffington and Bill Maher honestly believe all this anti-union propaganda being circulated, they’re more gullible than we thought.

-- David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright (“Borneo Bob,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink. net

Joan NE said...

Thanks for the amazing article, Seattle-Ed.

For WSEA-DAWG's post and for the Seattle-ED post, there are two facts thatmight be important to know.

1. In reference to WSEA-DAWG's post: Any money this state gets from RTT has to be used as SEED MONEY for a (regressive) reform project, and the state incurs future budget obligations.

2. In reference to article reproduced here by Seattle-Ed 2010: Schools that get Title 1 funds and that are made by the district to use the funds for a "School-Wide Program" (SWP) instead of for "Targetted-Assitance" are REQUIRED under Federal Title 1 to have a program design that repels good teachers.

Explanation of relevance.

1. Uses of RTT "winnings."

Each state's RTT application will include a decription of new projects that RTT grant - if won - would support in year 1 of the new program. The applications will be scored in part on the strength of these project proposals. RTT reviewers will evaulate whether the money will be put to what they view as good use.

RTT "winnings" can NOT be used to address impending cuts in the state's K-12 spending. Furthermore, the State incurs future budget obligations, since the State has to commit to continuing to support the new ed-reform program after the seed money runs out.

So in reality, RTT (SB6696) will, over the long haul, EXACERBATE state budget/revenue difficulties.


2. Teaching in a Title-1 school (i.e. a school with a Title-1 supported SWP) is unpleasant for any teacher, due to the fact the Education Reform Accountability Regime (ERAR) is forced on the school.

ERAR means a drill-and-kill/teach-to-the-test/narrowly-focused often low-rigor/uninteresting curriculum. It also means data-driven accountabilyt, which means high stakes testing.

Federal law says title 1 funds CANNOT be used to reduce class size or add instructional assistance in the classrooms. Is this just mean? Title-1 funds can only be used for more of what already hasn't worked for the kids!
Most Title-1 schools already have ERAR in place BEFORE they are targetted for restructuring.

ERAR is, from what I read and hear, the pits for a teacher. The Title-1 designation means teachers cannot be creative. The activities of teachers are highly constrained, and the principal is expected to enforce the teaching contraints. (This is what "Instructional Leadership" and, in RTT, "Great Leaders" really mean.)

I suspect that ERAR is reason it is hard to entice good teachers to teach in Title 1 schools

ERAR is also the pits for the kids. Not an interesting place to be thirty hours and five days a week.

Title-1 schools are doomed to failure BECAUSE of ERAR and because of the strings attached to title 1 funds when used in SWPs instead of Targetted Assistance!!!!!

Joan NE said...

(continued)

The high rate of NCLB-defined failure of Title-I schools is certainly due in part to the big obstacles faced by low-income/minority children that lack family support and whose parents have low-educational attainment.

But other factors taken together may well dwarf the importance of family-of-origin factors.

These factors include

1. lack of high quality preschool experiences

2. lack of a high-quality, well=supported K-12 social skills curriculum

3. inadequate psycosocial, health, and academic support services in these Title 1 schools (in SPS, only schools with high-need special ed students get more than 0.2 FTE nursing.)

4. poor quality, outdated, damaged textbooks and workbooks.

5. inadequate supply of textbooks and curriculur materials

6a. having ERAR that instead of intellectually challenging, engaging, student-centric, democratic and egalitarian, culturally and ethnically relevant flexible curriculum.

6b. having ERAR, which appears to repel good teachers.

7. inadequately staffed and stocked libraries

8. too-large class sizes. [I would favor Title-1 qualified schools getting extra funding for class sizes that are smaller than mandated for non-Title-1-qualified schools. Remember that schools with Title-1 SWPs cannot use Title-1 funds to reduce class sizes).]

9. inadequate free tutoring whether during our outside of school hours for kids trying to succeed in challenging academic courses

10. disallowing remedial courses in high school (this is SPS' policy).

11. insufficient offering of interesting electives

12. not having enthnically-relevant and culturally relevant humanities/social science courses or electives.

13. not allowing for genuine honors and APP courses (opening these courses to any student, regardless of whether the student is adequately prepared for the advaced, faster paced courses)

14. inadequate high quality vocational education courses in high school

15. Making algebra a high school graduation requirement

16. Increasing required course load to 24 1-yr classes for 9th-12th. This leaves no time for electives

17. Increasing the hurdles for on-time high school graduation by having high stakes testing regime
and an anti-social promotion policy.

18. Indadequate college and career counselling, and elective, high-quality, paid (subsidized) job-internship opportunities for high school students.

19. being a title-1 or title-1 qualified school, and therefore at greatest risk of getting targetting for being restructured according to one of the four (Federal) models in the RTT Final program announcement (Federal Register, Nov. 2009)

20. school staff and parents not having any say in whether a principal stays or not, and when a vacacny occurs or is created, not having the right to choose the new principal.

A report School reform in Chicago: Lessons for the Nation (from Designs for Change, its on the web) shows that the most successful Title I-qualified elementary schools in Chicago are those that have most or all of a certain "five pillars" in place, including having an intellectually challenging and engaging curriculum, and having the right to choose their principal.

gavroche said...

Despite all the accusations of selfishness and mediocrity that "ed reformers" are currently hurling at the teaching profession, there are still stories like this one that put the lie to the idiotic insinuation that teachers don't care about kids:

Teacher's heroic act ends school shooting
news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100224/ap_on_re_us/us_colo_school_shooting_26#mwpphu-container

He's a math teacher, by the way, with a Ph.D. -- in other words, the kind of well-educated, "older" teacher that the ed reformers regularly like to slander. Wonder if he belongs to an 'evil' union too.

gavroche said...

Blogger Melissa Westbrook said...

And I think that's why Texas said no. It's a lot of work, both in filling out the documentation AND taking steps just to make sure you are eligible to apply. I think Texas said nah, not worth it.


Actually, Texas Gov. Perry had a lot more cogent and significant reasons than mere pesky paperwork for not capitulating to the Obama govt's demands of RTTT. Such as, federal "overreach," and "surrendering control of our education system and throwing our arms open to a raft of yet to be written national standards in exchange for as little as $75 per student ... is a bad idea." (see/hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gA9VSq-TZY)

Now this may also or actually be a "states rights" type of argument that Texas is making, which is dicey ground historically and politically. But, the "reforms" Obama/Duncan are mandating are not matters of justice and equality, but controversial and flawed concepts like charter schools and merit pay that are being pushed by private and political interests who have an agenda to privatize public education and break the teacher's union in the process.

Extortion is what it is, plain and simple.

By the way, a new study indicates that charter schools are creating more racial segregation in our school system: http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/news/pressreleases/pressrelease20100204-report.html
New Report Explains that Charter Schools' Political Success is a Civil Rights Failure

More from Gov. Perry:

"Texas will fight ANY attempt by the federal government to take over our school system."

"You're giving up permanent control of your state curriculum standards for a one-time cash payment of $75 a child. That's enough money to run the Texas State Public School System for two days. And you're giving up control to the federal government forever."

Perhaps a bit of hyperbole there on the "forever" part, but this does beg the legitimate question: Why are politicians in state like WA or cities like Seattle so eager to give up their right to choose the best kind of school system for their own communities? This surrender of autonomy is what applying for RTTT amounts to.

Why are local legislators and organizations like LEV and the Alliance and co. pushing for our state to lose its independence like this?

(Surely a sign of the Apocalypse when a Repub. Gov of Texas makes a little bit of sense...!)

Patrick said...

Thanks for posting that, Gavroche. I can just see the NCTQ folks on that teacher's evaluation: "It's very nice that you saved some students' lives and all, but that really doesn't mean very much without raising their standardized test scores..."

Dora Taylor said...

That's right Patrick because all teachers are, according to the NCTQ, is "human capitol".