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Monday, October 11, 2010

How Come?

If Education Reformers, like our own Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, believe that the most critical step we can take to improve our schools and improve outcomes for students is to identify and dismiss all of the bad teachers, then why don't we see them making a real effort to do that?

Why don't we see our superintendent speaking to principals regularly and emphatically about following the process to dismiss all of the teachers in their schools that everyone knows are ineffective? If this is so important then why isn't the superintendent following up with principals about how they are following up on the process to dismiss poor performing teachers? Why don't we hear about all of the pressure she is putting on principals to cull the staff?

Hey, if this were the primary determinant of student performance - as they claim to believe - then they need to start treating it that way. Even if it takes two years to dismiss a poor performing teacher, I would expect them all to be gone after three years - certainly after four. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has had three years and is now in her fourth. Why do we still have this problem - if not for her failure to address it?

Think of your work. If the head of your organization stated that X was the number one key to your organization's success, don't you think that person would make X a focus of activity? Wouldn't you hear about X every single freakin' day at work? Wouldn't the upper management be demanding monthly reports on the X progress? How come that isn't happening with teacher firings in all of these districts led by Education Reformers? Why aren't they all over their principals to work to dismiss the ineffective teachers?

I know that they are working to simplify the process, but they could complete the process in the time it takes them to simplify it.

46 comments:

dan dempsey said...

I believe the answer is that the Broad trained Superintendents' true task is to implement the entire "Ed-Reform" agenda.

To keep task one on track, despite huge evidence against most of its proposals, requires "Strawmen". If the Superintendents dismissed teachers who can be shown to be "inadequate" they would lose one of their favorite "Strawmen"..... and we certainly cannot demonstrate that the current system could actually work with effective administration and with well-researched curricular and structural changes......

... else who would buy the massive quantities of "reform-ed baloney".

seattle said...

"Why don't we see our superintendent speaking to principals regularly and emphatically about following the process to dismiss all of the teachers in their schools that everyone knows are ineffective?"

How do we know if MGJ is, or is not, speaking with principals about removing "bad" teachers? Principals are probably very cautious about speaking publicly, so we may just not hear about it?

Melissa has reported that a couple of "bad" Roosevelt teachers, that were long timers, were fired in the past couple of years. And, I know of a "bad" Eckstein teacher, that was also a long timer, that was fired two years ago. Maybe those conversations are happening? Who knows??

Moose said...

That is a very good point, Charlie. I would add that if the Super is indeed intent on the culling of poor performing teachers, I would like to see these folks lose their job and not just lose their current position. I know of a few instances where some principal sucessfully removed a low performing teacher from the building, only to learn that this same teacher now has a position in a different school in SPS.

wseadawg said...

Folks: I will not stop saying it: Follow the money and you'll find the answers.

Recall the Intellectual Property Provisions in the NTN contract that mimic the time-honored tradition of University research departments developing ideas at taxpayers expense, then obtaining private patents and forming private corporations to earn profits on the ideas developed from publicly funded R&D? Any new ideas developed with our children as the labratory subjects are owned, not by SPS, but by NTN, and we are not allowed to replicate them without paying NTN for it.

This will be replicated over and over all throughout the Reform Movement, where the new ideas and innovations will be vigorously defended via patents and copyrights, along with Cease and Desist letters from Education companies, charter operators and outfits like NTN, and of course, what SPS is more and more afraid of all the time: The Threat of Lawsuits.

This is where the road leads, so of course its not "all about the students." It's all about the Reformers finding ways to maximize profit from the public trough, much like Big Pharma and Big Agriculture.

I'm officially sounding the alarm folks. Before anyone even considers a single reform idea proposed by any corporation, I demand we reach every word of the small print to determine what we might be giving up, or sowing the seeds for that will come back to bite us in the butt later financially.

Can we imagine Garfield High Students not being allowed to use techniques developed at Cleveland High, without paying NTN for the right to do so first, or otherwise get sued for violating intellectual property laws?

This is serious, serious stuff and we have ample reason to worry. The software and technology companies sue each other like crazy, for sport as much as to leverage and control the marketplace. And look who's all over the Ed Reform movement, Dell, Microsoft, soon Oracle and Apple. All of these companies are veterans in the lawsuit game, and will have us over a barrel before we know it, as our choices will be: a) Do what we say, or b) Cripple your finances defending a lawsuit.

Granted I'm only espousing my worst fears at this point, but those who do not study their history are doomed to repeat it.

So let's start looking at the end of that slippery slope for once, and see what's really down there. It might look a helluva lot better than what the Reformers have in store for us.

wseadawg said...

Sorry if I'm off topic. But to me, the "bad teacher" argument is a canard. We can address that without busting the union and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The Reformers stance that we need more "punishments" for all teachers is proof positive that their efforts are a lot more about demonizing union teachers than getting rid of bad ones. If anyone doesn't see that by now, they haven't been paying attention.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I never said the teachers who left RHS were long-timers. I think it has a lot more to do with a new principal coming in after years of interim principals than Dr. G-J.

Charlie Mas said...

I, too, believe that the "bad" teacher myth is a strawman, a canard. That said, there were 23 teachers dismissed for poor performance last year, which is a lot more than we typically see.

My point - and I do have one - is that this problem cannot be a persistent one if appropriate action is taken.

Let's say that a mere 5% of our teachers - 1 out of 20 - is ineffective. I'm not saying that's the number; I'm just providing a hypothetical for the purposes of illustration. We have about 3,300 teachers, so that would be 165 poor performers.

If "teacher quality" were the critical factor in student performance then it should be a real focus for our district to identify and dismiss the ineffective teachers. Few other efforts could be more dire or urgent.

If it takes two years to grind through the process for dismissing a teacher then we should see the bulk of the ineffective teachers dismissed within three or four years - shouldn't we?

After that, the only ineffective teachers in the system will be new ones - those who are either new to the system (and can be shed much more readily) and those who change and become ineffective after a career of effective instruction. I don't think a lot of teachers go bad each year, so by the end of year five the impact of ineffective teachers should be essentially negated.

After five years this should just no longer be an issue. And that's if we don't make any changes to the process.

wseadawg said...

I'm always amazed at the reformers' aghast complaints about how 98% (or so) of teachers receive "satisfactory" ratings, despite kids' low test scores, etc. Yet, nary a peep about the "bad-ness" of the administrator or principal who gave the scandalous satisfactory rating.

Real comprehensive minds we have fretting over these issues! How about a little knee-jerk realism and reasonableness for a change? If we actually care about solving a problem, that is.

Lori said...

I think Anonymom is on to something. About a year and half ago, I was talking to a teacher friend who teaches at an SPS school outside my neighborhood. I asked what she thought of the Superintendent (although I don't remember why I asked!), and I was surprised that one positive thing she had to say was that it seemed that the Super was very supportive of schools going thru the appropriate processes to remove "bad" teachers. That there had always been a process but most principals did not try very hard to follow it, but that was changing, and it was a good thing. And, this didn't stop at teachers but pressure was coming down on "bad" principals as well.

I'm completely paraphrasing from my memory here, but that was the gist of the conversation, or at least what I took from it.

Sure, it's one anecdote on a blog, and I'm sure other teachers might disagree, but I offer this up for whatever it might be worth. I got the sense that some SPS employees were happy about what was going on "behind the scenes."

Jet City mom said...

Best thread for the month.
We have been hear'n the talk- but we ain't seen any walkin'

Charlie Mas said...

I would LOVE to learn that what Lori reports is common.

I know that way back when all of this accountability talk first started, principals and education directors were included among the folks who would be held accountable. This was right around the time that Joe Drake was in the paper for his administration of John Marshall. I remember Carol Rava Treat and Holly Ferguson telling me that principals would be held accountable for failing to shed bad teachers and education directors would be held accountable for failing to shed bad principals.

Of course, with a third of the prinicpals changing schools and 100% turnover in the education directors, all of that accountability has been re-set.

Also, since nothing else that I was told in that meeting later proved true I extended that experience to the talk about accountability for principals.

Central Mom said...

I'd argue that beyond the NSAP, MGJ's #1 agenda has been getting the MAP test in and implemented to establish "accountability". Cleaning house of the teacher corps could then, naturally follow (and witness that her sneaky summer SERVE proposal to do just that.)

Anyhow, where is the splashiest example of Ed Reform "Tests to Measure Accountability" taking place? NYC of course. And today the NYT has a prominent story following up on the Downward Trend of test scores there as announced in Sept. The story discredits Joel Klein's "gains" and questions their effect on student learning.

My takeaway: All the chest-thumping and biz + politico-backed rah-rahs by Klein in NYC are as inflated as the now-burst test score balloon.

Insert MGJ. Same lesson. Those test scores announced by Bernatek to the Board last month are telling. Are we really going to spend the forseeable future following NYC's questionable tracks?

Eric M said...

The main point is to loudly scream "FIRE" about something (anything really, but of course screaming about your main potential opponents is not a tough choice).

One you have established "FIRE", then you can start screaming" RUN FOR THE STAIRS! RUN FOR THE EXITS! RUN TO THE ROOF!" and because it's a BIG MF EMERGENCY, nobody dares ask questions. And then you can scoop up their wallets.

And that's what we got here. TEACHERS! BAD! SYSTEM SCREWED UP! UNIONS EVIL!

Run for Charter Schools! Run for Merit Pay! Run for the MAP test!

NO! TIME! TO! READ! RESEARCH! MUST! ACT! NOW! NEED MORE! LEVY!

CRUSH! KILL! DESTROY!

(anyone get that last reference?)

Anonymous said...

Are we really going to spend the forseeable future following NYC's questionable tracks?

Unless the Seattle School Board and more of Seattle's parents and teachers wake up, OF COURSE we're going to keep on following NYC's tracks.

I can say with some certainty that MGJ values single public voices a lot less than the voices of her Broad Board cohort...headed by Klein of course.

--Newly Converted Superintendent Skeptic

seattle said...

"Of course, with a third of the prinicpals changing schools and 100% turnover in the education directors, all of that accountability has been re-set."

Does anyone know how many of the old ed directors were re-hired into the new ed director positions?

Cara said...

At curriculum night at my son's high school last week, the only teacher my son has said is 'boring' told us parents that he is examining his options because of the push to use test scores to make teachers solely accountable for student achievement. He did have a dry-as-dust delivery, but I detected some wit in there too.I'm wondering if just the threat of implementing these changes is enough to hasten the retirement of less than stellar teachers? This particular teacher has been teaching science for 26 years.

Dorothy Neville said...

To be fair, I do recall hearing the same sort of things Lori is talking about: that MGJ has been supportive of principals doing their managerial job of removing poor teachers.

I am still intrigued by Charlie's assertion that after four or five years with this supportive environment, if they can reduce principal churn, we really ought to see a significant drop in the number of teachers considered ineffective, yes? And if we have, then why bring in all the costly infrastructure to implement measuring teachers via student test scores?

Because that test score stuff ain't gonna happen overnight. The CBA is very vague, says that the algorithm will be jointly developed by district and union and will be valid and reliable and transparent.

Any bets on how that is gonna go? How long it will take? How reliable and transparent such a value added metric is going to be?

Isn't all this new stuff going to slow down the process of removing poor teachers, at least for the first couple years?

Have the principals signed their contract yet?

ParentofThree said...

Moving Beverly Raines to Lawton is an example of MGJ getting rid of a principal, swifty.

Question is, was this person a bad principal who needed to be removed from the district?

Jet City mom said...

Does anyone know how many of the old ed directors were re-hired into the new ed director positions?

I don't believe more than one of them is- ( and that would be Michael Tolley) & the rest of them are new to the district ( except for Phil Brockman) & I include Michael Tolley (since he came with MGJ)

Aunty Broad said...

Some new movies, kids.

No on the levy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xocYTMtmJ4s

A chat with the Oligarchy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGoYGRnsXeA

Rich Beyond Our Wildest Dreams
http://www.youtube.com/user/auntyBROAD#p/u/1/QTg70QXWe-A

The Ed-Reform Nazgul
http://www.youtube.com/user/auntyBROAD#p/u/3/6_JUuoDgYrU

seattle said...

"Does anyone know how many of the old ed directors were re-hired into the new ed director positions?"

"I don't believe more than one of them is- ( and that would be Michael Tolley) & the rest of them are new to the district "

I know that one of the Ed directors was doing a terrible job (in my opinion). Were the others not doing a great job either? If so, does that mean that MGJ is moving toward accountability? It certainly does appear that she is cleaned house with this move.

Honestly, it does appear to me that MGJ has made some progress since she's been here. At least with getting rid of ineffective employees.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"At least with getting rid of ineffective employees."

Okay, maybe with Ed directors but honestly? Not so much. There's a lot of people who are not doing this district a lot of good (actually if she got rid of a few key people it might help a lot).

Jet City mom said...

I do think that Phil Brockman has a very good reputation, but I expressed concern that the others were brand new to the district.
I won't quibble that there are a few other key people in admin, that I would contribute to a farewell party for, but I don't think getting people with zero experience in Seattle is necessarily the way to build trust and respect in the district.

Dorothy Neville said...

They may have gotten rid of one terrible Ed Director (if it is who I think it is, that person is still with the district) but they brought in a woman for the NW that has folks scratching their heads. Not much experience with teaching or leadership, not a lot of longevity with past jobs in education, so hard to see how she could work well with principals and be an effective leader. Has a strong charter school focus to previous jobs.

ParentofThree said...

Here's the Org chart from 10/09.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/m_aboutus/spsorgchart.pdf

Would like to know if any of these Ed. Directors got different positions in SPS, or where they laid off?

Jet City mom said...

Just one previous director has been named to the new oversight panel: Michael Tolley, who has overseen high schools since 2007.

Two new directors have been named to the oversight panel: Phil Brockman, who has been principal of Ballard High School for the past five years; and Aurora Lora, founder and administrator of the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women in Portland Public Schools.

The district is still recruiting to fill the other two new spots, which pay in the range of $103,000 to $142,000, according to a job posting on the district's website.

The new directors will provide support, supervision and evaluation of principals, the district said. They will also play a key role in implementing the new student-assignment plan.

remaining former directors are going in different directions. Gloria Mitchell has retired. Patrick Johnson has taken a new job in Tacoma Public Schools. Pat Sander will take on a new, as yet undefined, role with the district. And Ruth Medsker has been appointed interim principal at West Seattle High School.

seattle said...

"Okay, maybe with Ed directors but honestly? Not so much."

How about what Charlie said, Melissa

" That said, there were 23 teachers dismissed for poor performance last year, which is a lot more than we typically see."

It seems like progress. Baby steps for sure, but at least it is progress. And more than Olschefski and Manhaus did (in this area) combined.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You know for sure how many teachers got exited under our last two superintendents - and you can't spell their names? It's Manhas and Olchefske.

Josh Hayes said...

@Eric M: Yes, I certainly DO get the reference, dammit, and now that stupid theme music is stuck in my head. Thanks a WHOLE LOT. :)

I'd like to inject a cautionary statistical note here, to wit: if teachers are ranked by some set of performance measures, it is a given that some will fall in, say, the bottom 10%. Let's say we wave a wand and send those people on their way.

But wait! Hey presto: now, strangely, if we rank the remaining teachers, exactly 10% of them will fall into the bottom 10%! It's some weird math thing!

The point is, even after dinging obviously sub-par teachers, central admins will still feel that strange tingling dinging itch. And they'll look for scapegoats. The fact that any kind of ordination will perforce identify the "bottom" may provide too much temptation for a human being to resist: it will always be the first response to fire the "poor performers", regardless of whether there's anyone better available.

WV sounds like some exotic cocktail to me: cingingi!

Charlie Mas said...

So, just to be sure that all of the dots are connected, let me run through the thinking again.

Let's say that the process for shedding a non-performing teacher is time-consuming and too long. Let's say that it takes two years.

Let's also presume that the superintendent actually believes, as she has stated any number of times, that providing an effective teacher is the most important thing that the district can do to boost student achievement.

Let's also presume that she acts on her beliefs and makes it her top priority to cull the non-performing teachers from the district.

If she and her principals work diligently to remove or re-train the non-performing teachers - and she could not have any higher priority - and if it takes two years to fire a teacher, then after three or four years in office they should nearly all have been removed. Shouldn't they? It's not like I'm saying that I expect the job to take just two years.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has been superintendent for over three years. This is her fourth year. By the end of this school year shouldn't she have shed nearly all of the non-performing teachers? And, if she hasn't, then why not?

Either she didn't make it enough of a priority and impress her principals with how critical this matter is, or her principals failed to follow her priorities and do the work, or the principals somehow screwed it up. Now, remember that I have allowed four years, so if they blew it or didn't get the message for a year they have a chance to make it up or get the message.

And, once she has cleaned house, it should be relatively simple to keep it clean. She should have no trouble discontinuing the contracts of any new teachers who lack promise and the few remaining experienced non-performing teachers should be easy to identify and dismiss.

At that point how critical will it be to have a quicker, more robust system in place? Much less so.

I'm reminded of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. One in which Calvin complains that cleaning his room will take all day. Hobbes says it isn't that big of a job. Calvin agrees, but reminds Hobbes that he's going to be griping about it for another hour before he even gets started.

It would be quicker to do the work under the current system than to change the system.

Once the work is done, you can change the system with less urgency and strife. Also, when people see the benefits of a more selectively chosen staff and have seen that they are not threatened by the process, it should be an easier sell.

seattle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said...

Reformists say that we have to many "bad" teachers in public schools. They say that the current system to exit those bad teachers doesn't work. They say that unions protect bad teachers. They want to use desperate measures, like tying student academic performance to teacher evaluations to weed out "bad" teachers.

We ourselves have long complained that the current system eosen't work well. We say the process is to slow. Principals say it is to political, and very time consuming. Many of them turn the other cheek rather than dealing with ineffective teachers. And students suffer.

Some how, some way, though, MGJ is making the current, cumbersome, system, that all sides complain about, work for her. She is taking action and getting the job done. She exited 24 teachers in ONE YEAR (according to crosscut), and removed all but one Ed director from their positions. She is making the current system work well, or at least better. I think she deserves some credit for that.

For all the talk we do about a lack of accountability in SPS, I believe that exiting 24 teachers in ONE year is a step toward accountability, at least in this one area.

Jet City mom said...

How many teachers & certificated staff- like librarians, counselors.. have been laid off altogether?-
Hardly a move in the right direction if we are losing two valuable educators for every one that needs " retraining"

And how many administrators do we have again????

Charlie Mas said...

I'm with anonymom on this.

If the superintendent has been putting pressure on principals to identify and dismiss the ineffective teachers,

If the superintendent has been putting pressure on principals to work through the process to dismiss those teachers,

If the superintendent has been putting pressure on education directors to put pressure on principals to do the work of shedding ineffective teachers,

If that's the case, then she is to be commended for walking her talk.

If that's the case, then she should let people know that she is doing that work.

Maureen said...

anonymom, where is the data on exited teachers by year? Is there historical data on performance rating as well? Thanks!

Chris S. said...

Watch the superintendent updates from one of the September meetings - Dr. Enfield introduces the 5 new "executive" ed directors. Then she introduces a bunch of other "directors" of this and that. At least one former ed director is in this group, although probably on of the better ones. I'd be careful about concluding that any not re-hired into the executive positions have been "exited."

Chris S. said...

Oh yeah, and I know Dr. Enfield was central in "exiting" one principal after the shuffling by MGJ. It's possible she deserves credit more broadly -- anyone know? Still, I guess I have to give MGJ credit for hiring a decent CAO.

seattle said...

I know for certain that one ineffective Dean of Students was demoted at an SPS high school this year. His position, Dean of Students, was eliminated and replaced by a position for an Assistant Principal. Even though he was qualified to be an Assistant Principal, and he applied for the position, he was not offered the spot. He is still at the school but is a teacher now.

Mr. Edelman said...

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with my principal about the subject of teacher dismissals.

1. He said that the number he'd heard for teacher dismissals due to performance in 2009-2010 was 19. He also acknowledged that an undermined number of teachers retired before they could be dismissed. One of those teachers was at our school.

2. He said that in the past the union has not been an obstacle to dismissing poorly performing teachers. So what changed?

3. He said that last year for the first time principals were given a manual on how to "evaluate out" teachers. In the past, they've had to do their own legal research on the proper steps to follow.

My questions:

* To what extent has the union been the scapegoat for the failure to evaluate out poorly performing teachers?

* Why did it take so long for the district to give their principals the guidance they need to do their jobs?

seattle said...

"He said that last year for the first time principals were given a manual on how to "evaluate out" teachers. In the past, they've had to do their own legal research on the proper steps to follow."

This alone is a HUGE accomplishment, and in my opinion it is another move toward accountability in the area of teacher quality. And again MGJ is working WITHIN the current system, and within the union guidelines.

Maureen, I wish I had access to historical data on how many teachers were exited in previous years, however, I haven't seen any. And I don't know where to find it. does anyone else? I don't, however, ever recall hearing about teachers being exited in the past, except under scandalous circumstances, like accusations of sexual abuse, etc. But that's just my recollection, I could certainly be wrong.

wseadawg said...

If these things are happened last year, under the then-current rules, then everything Charlie and I have been saying about principals needing to do the hard part of their jobs was 100% true, and we therefore didn't need to make major changes to the union contract to make proper use of the teacher evaluation system, including the "removing bad teachers" part.

In fact, if those statistics and numbers are true as represented, it BANKRUPTS the reformers' chief argument that THE UNION was standing in the way of removing bad teachers, now doesn't it?

Okay folks: My folding chair is out and my feet are up. Show me the parade of mea culpas!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Aunty Broad!

Keep 'em comin'.

I put two up on the SeattleEd blog and will continue to add them during the week.

Dora

Charlie Mas said...

Why am I not surprised that the District wasn't supporting principals any more than they were supporting teachers?

Why am I not surprised that people were scapegoating the union as an obstacle to dismissing ineffective teachers?

I am, however, pleased to see a change in these dysfunctions.

They didn't, of course, require any change in the teacher contract.

wseadawg said...

Because it's not about "bad teachers" Charlie. Obviously, it's about good and bad teachers falling in line and towing the line for the Reformers, or else.

The scapegoat of the "bad teacher" is just this eras version of the fanciful and fake "family farmer" losing everything because of the Federal Estate Tax (Never happened. Not once, anywhere in the nation), nor Reagan's infamous, and wholly imaginary welfare queen from Chicago who supposedly owned a fleet of Cadillacs and had seven social security numbers. She didn't exist, but the angry and resentful swallowed the lies whole, regardless, and the rich and powerful laughed all the way to the bank, like their now doing in education.

Again, politics 101.

When will we ever learn?

wseadawg said...

I should clarify: The "bad teacher" scapegoating does not mean there aren't bad teachers. There are. The over-hyping of the problem and the laser-like focus on it to the deliberate exclusion of all the other factors such as poor leadership, lack of resources, and of course poverty and dysfunction in the community, while lumping all teachers into the same camp is what has conflated, handicapped and tortured the process ensuring good teaching by putting all the blame and responsibility on the backs of teachers.

That type of scapegoating is shameful. Is it the bus driver's fault that Metro wastes money? Come on.

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