Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Food for Thought - Talking About Teachers

Tacoma School District's Nate Bowling was recently selected as Washington State's Teacher of the Year.  Mr. Bowling teaches at Tacoma's Lincoln High (which is a success story unto itself.)  He teaches AP Government & Politics and AP Human Geography.  He is one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year.  That award will be announced in April. 

Part of the role of being selected seems to be going out and telling the world the story of public education from a teacher's POV.  Mr. Bowling seems to be doing this quite well but pulls no punches.  (I will also note he is a "founding member" of Teachers United which is an ed reform teachers group.) 

He recently wrote this piece for his own blog, a Teacher's Evolving Mind, called The Conversation I'm Tired of Not Having.  He's pretty blunt from the get-go.  I encourage you to read the entire piece (italics his.)
I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.(italics his)
He goes on:
As a nation, we’re nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we’re ignoring the immutable core issue: much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding. We have the schools we have, because people who can afford better get better. And sadly, people who can’t afford better just get less--less experienced teachers, inadequate funding and inferior facilities.
He then lights into "the 'burbs" for their role:
Through white flight and suburbanization, wealthy and middle class families have completely insulated themselves from educational inequality. 
He talks about resegregation of schools but doesn't mention the role of charter schools in that evolution.  (I'll put up a separate thread on that issue.  Schools were already somewhat segregated but charters have certainly added to that.)

He uses this stat:
“61% of Blacks, 55% of Hispanics support gov't intervention to address school segregation. Vast majority of whites (72%) say nope!”
He got this from a tweet from a writer and I tweeted them both to ask for the citation

His feeling is that the most needy students need the best teachers.  Further, he says that his work will include:
  • Fighting the impacts of systemic racism and white supremacy in our schools and among teachers.
  • Helping, through my speaking opportunities, to recruit passionate people, especially people of color into the profession. 
  • Supporting policies aimed at identifying, developing and retaining effective teachers.
  • Advocating for the creation of systems that encourage our most effective and passionate teachers to stay in the profession and supporting them in working with our most needy schools.
  • Encouraging policymakers to make the work of effective teachers rewarding and sustainable by trusting them and not burdening them with new and ever changing mandates.
  • Giving teachers opportunities to lead, within the profession, while remaining in the classroom.
Mr. Bowling was also a guest on KUOW's The Record today, talking about teaching (the topic was about the teacher shortage in Washington State. )  He spoke both about the lack of respect for the profession and some ideas he has.
“Being a teacher has become a position that some people see as less desirable,” said Gibbs-Bowling. “A lot of teachers have their work dictated to them and don’t feel like they have autonomy. And if you compound that with not being treated like a professional and low pay, it’s kind of a no brainer.”
 "We take teachers for granted."
He said it was "problematic" that all teachers "were treated the same" and yet they aren't.  He said that teachers who get better results with students, those teachers should get more autonomy while being held accountable for outcomes.
"I would like to see Washington policymakers move towards a system where we basically encourage our most effective teachers to go to our highest needs schools and then leave them alone. Don't add new mandates to their work.  Workload for teachers is a huge issue."
He gave this mandate issue:
"A lot of accountability measures introduced in the last several years, the system we have right now that is intended to identify low-performing teachers actually makes the work of high-performing teachers more difficult and more time-consuming. The evaluation packet between teacher and principal can go to 60 pages. "
He also had a shout-out for his high school and others:
"Our building essentially has some of the highest-poverty populations in the state of Washington and we're getting results commensurate with some suburban schools and we're on the rise and it's getting better every year.  That's the story that's happening here in Lincoln High School and that same story is happening in Tukwila at Foster High School and in Rainier Beach in south Seattle."
Coincidentally, Crosscut has an article by UW College of Education professor, Kenneth Zeichner about wanting the district to continue its support for the Seattle Teacher Residency program.  That program was started three years ago among the district, the Alliance for Education, UW's College of Education and the SEA.

He is very high on this program and I am, too.
In the first three years of STR, an average of 44 percent of the 78 residents and teachers who have entered the district have been teachers of color compared to 12 percent of the district’s other “new to the profession” hires.
One hundred percent of the first cohort of STR graduates are still teaching in Seattle Public Schools in their second year. Nationally, teacher residency programs that meet the high standards of the National Center for Teacher Residencies (STR is one of these) have a retention rate of 84 per cent after three years.
But, as in my thread earlier today about our district starting programs and then not supporting them, you can add this one to the list.  Many of us read the contract early on and went, "uh oh" as SPS was going to take on larger and larger financial responsibility.  We knew this was probably not sustainable and, sure enough, SPS wants to cut back their portion - from $250K a year to $50K - that the program probably can't go on.
A recent Seattle Times editorial reported that the district intends to cut its financial contribution to the Seattle Teacher Residency program next year from $250,000 to $50,000 because the district believes that “the program is financially unstable, takes up too many resources, and hasn’t generated enough recruits per year.” As a practitioner and researcher of teacher education for the past 40 years, I believe that this is a shortsighted decision that is not in the best interest of students in the district. 
Professor Zeichner provides evidence that the program is working but he also fails to explain that the rate of attrition out of low-income schools, where the new teachers must start, is because those teachers can't leave for at least three years.  

As well, there is a bill in the legislature for alternative certification to be a teacher in order to try to meet this demand that is the double-whammy from retirements delayed during the recession and the passage of 1351. 

Our state does make it hard for teachers with out-of-state certification to come in and be teachers here and, as well, makes it hard for others who might be great teachers (because of their professional background) but don't have the time to go thru all the hoops for regular certification.  (For example, my late husband had thought about spending his last years before retirement, teaching high school math but said he didn't want to have to take years for certification.  He was a computer science and engineering professor at UW so it would have been a pretty good fit for high school math.)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it"

It's been my experience that the only people really cared about are those who are particularly wealthy, famous, or intelligent. Everyone else is on their own. Not sure if this is different in other countries.

-realistic cynic

Josh Hayes said...

Just FYI, there is at least one program, and probably others, that would get an otherwise-qualified individual a teaching certificate in 12 months: the "alternate routes to certification" (ARC) program at Seattle Pacific University. I entered that program in July of 2013, took a fairly hefty courseload while doing my internship at Roosevelt HS (a full year: first day of school to the last), and in Summer 2014, got my residency teaching certificate.

It's not cheap. It's a HELL of a lot of work. But it got this fifty-something Ph.D. a teaching cert in Biology, Chemistry, and General Science, and into a job this year that I love. (And, I think I'm pretty darn good at it!)

This doesn't address the issue of the vast differences between wealthy largely-white schools and less well provisioned largely-kids of color schools. But if there are mature folks with college degrees who'd like to get a teaching cert and make a difference, there are ways to do that!

mirmac1 said...

Josh, YOU are a shining example of what alt routes was intended. Clearly not TFA. My child's outstanding, experienced IA used Route 2 to get her teaching cert. Terrific!

Outsider said...

I am sure Mr. Bowling is a great guy, but he gets away with saying a lot of loose and unhelpful things because no one would dare challenge him. OK, fine, I'll be the bad guy.

"... much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding."

He totally misses what is going on in our society.

First of all, most whites, working class as well as wealthy, desperately want segregated schools. They are very afraid (not without reason) that their children would not be well served in integrated schools. The greatest stress on middle class white families is trying to afford a house in a neighborhood with a mostly white (A.K.A. highly rated) school. "Perfectly happy" doesn't even begin to capture the emotions. A lot of PC cowards and Lexus liberals won't admit this without help of a waterboard, but it's true. Real estate prices tell the tale clearly enough. It's a long discussion, but this also isn't going to change.

Second of all, where is the inequity in funding? The essence of McCleary is to fund schools equitably by separating funding from property taxes. It's a long political slog to get there, but it represents a social consensus. Ultimately, the state formula will provide higher funding to high-poverty schools, won't it? The emerging de facto political consensus is somewhat separate (based on residential patterns) and unequal (higher funding to minority schools). Ultimately, the lowest per-student funding will be in white middle class schools, with rich white (Bellevue, Mercer Island) and majority-minority schools better funded. Does Mr. Bowling have any numbers or evidence to the contrary? I am all ears. Already in Seattle, a large diverse district, the per-student budgets of high poverty schools are much higher, often double, compared to mostly white schools, no? Why is this discussion so evidence-free?

"Advocating for the creation of systems that encourage our most effective and passionate teachers to stay in the profession and supporting them in working with our most needy schools."

1) Doesn't the state already top up teacher salaries by $10K to work in high poverty schools? That's a non-trivial 10-20% bonus. If that is not enough, can Mr. Bowling please say what is enough, rather than making vague statements that ignore programs in place.

2) If the bureaucrats at SPS aren't already doing what Mr. Bowling says, what do we pay them for? Whenever someone talks about "creating systems" they are saying nothing, and actually undermining the conversation. What systems? Aren't the bureaucrats already creating systems by the score? If those systems are no good, why are they no good?

"A lot of accountability measures introduced in the last several years, the system we have right now that is intended to identify low-performing teachers actually makes the work of high-performing teachers more difficult and more time-consuming. The evaluation packet between teacher and principal can go to 60 pages."

Probably everyone agrees with this. But the teachers' union would have a major say in how to separate high performing teachers who would get autonomy and be exempt from evaluation vs. ordinary teachers who are hyper-evaluated and micromanaged. What is the union position on this?

Anonymous said...

If, high poverty schools get higher per pupil spending, then, where does all the money go?

High poverty schools have facilities like Bellevue or Mercer? Small class size? The most experienced and respected teachers in the district? The highest in seniority, the most nationally board certified, the most stability with the lowest turnover rates? No.

Where's the money go? It's not resulting in the metrics that matter.

-NNNCr

Anonymous said...

I read Mr. Gibbs-Bowling's essay in today's Seattle Times and liked it. He teaches in Tacoma. He mixed with a different crew at the Teacher of the Year convention. Seattle's Teacher of the Year was Mr. green, guitar strumming, walking school bus, save the earth and take the CC test kind of guy. That's cool too and a good reflection of Seattle.

cat nip