Saturday, January 29, 2011

Teachers and RIFS

Here we go.

Is it inevitable that we will be RIFing teachers? Good question. In SPS, maybe. In other districts, probably.

In this morning's Seattle Times is a story about Rep. Rodney Tom who is sponsoring a bill that would make teacher effectiveness the main factor in RIFs.

Okay, so first of all, someone who is a lawyer, help me out. If they pass this law, it overcomes the teachers contracts that have already been signed? That seems wrong to me.

What is weird to me is that we know the SEA contract has a new evaluation process in it so the district is getting there. We also know that the district and Board negotiated the contract WITH seniority being the main criteria. So they knew very well what they were signing even though parents told them they didn't like seniority as the first criteria.

From the article:

Mary Lindquist of the Washington Education Association said lawmakers started last year to move toward a new teacher-evaluation system. About 17 school districts are researching, developing and testing model systems, some of which may be scaled up to be used across the state. This new approach likely will change the way districts lay off teachers, but Lindquist said school administrators and teachers need time to develop the new system.

"We're going into new territory. We need to take it slowly and make sure we're approaching it rationally and calmly and not in the midst of a heated and very divisive debate," Lindquist said Friday.

Here's Tom's reply:

Tom said any other initiative aimed at improving student learning as much as one that ensures the best teachers remain in the classroom would cost the state billions of dollars. In other words, if his proposal is ignored and the system remains unchanged, a big potential savings would be lost, he argues.

About the bill:

Tom's bill, Senate Bill 5399, would require school districts facing layoffs to first lay off teachers who received the lowest average evaluation ratings during their two most recent evaluations, based on a formula that gives a weight of 60 percent to the most recent evaluation and 40 percent to the previous one.

The bill also proposes that school districts give teachers with high evaluation scores, who for some reason haven't been placed in a job with the district, first dibs on new jobs.

The bill, if it becomes a law, would require all future teacher collective-bargaining agreements to adhere to this policy.

Rep. Tom did cite research from UW's Center for Education Data and Research about district policies and student results and said that student achievement could drop after seniority-based layoffs (between 2.5 to3.5 months). This is using value-added data.

Coincidentally, I just listened to a podcast of a researcher named Eric Hanushek from the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University. His basic premise is that you can put a monetary value on good teaching as relates to how our economy.

He says using test scores, you can measure improvement over time (like MAP). While you can't attribute all of improvement to teachers, you can certainly see patterns from teacher to teacher. He said a good teacher can improve a student's learning up to 1 1/2 years versus a poor teacher who might only be able to teach the equivalent of half a year of learning.

Going on the belief that students with more skills and more education earn more money over time as adults, then teachers who teach 25 students a year could add $500M to our economy.

He says if we replaced the bottom 5-8% of poor performing teachers just with average teachers, it would be worth up to $100 trillion dollars to our economy.

Okay, so now I can see how getting rid of the bottom 5% really could make a difference. I was having a hard time believing that few teachers were having that great an impact.

But we are back to the issue of evaluations and the research that shows value-added data doesn't really work AND we are already in the process of creating fair evaluations. Add the issue that we don't know how many teachers will be RIFed and how many of them are good teachers, then I find that Rep. Tom's bill is likely to add more chaos to the problem than solve anything.


ericb said...

Of course contracts must conform to state law and the law takes preference. According to the SEA contract

"2. The parties agree that should there be changes in legislation, administrative code, or funding
either party may initiate negotiations over the impact of the changes. Further, either party may
initiate negotiations over matters related to efforts to implement the intent of the Preamble of
this Agreement to close the achievement gap or any provision of this Agreement that either
party feels thwarts this effort.
3. If any provisions or any applications of this Agreement shall be found contrary to law, the
provisions or application shall not be valid except to the extent permitted by law, but all other
provisions or applications shall continue in full force and effect for the term of this Agreement.
Adjustment or modification of any provisions of this Agreement found to be contrary to law will
be subject to bargaining provisions of Chapter 41.59 RCW."
So passage of such a law would cause a renegotiation of the relevant sections.

Mr. Edelman said...

Bad teachers should be "evaluated out." There is a process for that, and it takes time, as it should. No one should lose a job because he had a bad year after his mother died (for instance).

We can argue about whether we approve or disapprove of the system we now have, but it's undeniable that we have a system.

Tom's RIF bill, which I've studied, would make the process more complicated, costly, and--in a district such as SPS which just let go of its only competent HR manager--chaotic. It is a badly written bill that doesn't even account for teachers with multiple endorsements, and it apparently throws out the category system that would tend to preserve the jobs of teachers with relatively rare specialties.

But leaving the stupidity of the bill aside, I do believe it would circumvent the evaluation process and encourage RIFs based on political reasons. I've worked in several careers, and SPS is the most politically charged place I've ever worked. As unfair as the seniority system can be, RIFs based on politics is no more rational. In fact, it's irrational to suppose that it's more rational.

Curious George said...

Typically employment contracts would trump state law.

If something in the contract is illegal (e.g. teachers are required to carry banned narcotics) then that would be "contrary to law" and unenforceable.

seattle citizen said...

"either party may initiate negotiations over matters related to efforts to implement the intent of the Preamble of
this Agreement to close the achievement gap or any provision of this Agreement that either
party feels thwarts this effort."

Why is the above specific to the achievement gap, to "this effort" only? Are there no other reasons to initiate renegotiations (besides legislation, code and funding)?

Has the "Achievement Gap" superceded and done away opportunity to renegotiate on, say, Special Ed or arts or work load....or does everything have to be filtered through the "Acheivement Gap" lens? "We are renegotiating work hours to close the achievement gap."

Are there other things that are important anymore, and worthy of mention as possible causes to renegotiate, besides "The Achievement Gap"?

Anonymous said...

Ode To The Creator!

For 40+ years, our public and private sectors have been lead by the best and the brightest - as shown by how well they pay each other.

From table 619 of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, in 2009 there were appx. 139,000,000 Americans employed. We're in the worst economy since the Great Depression. It is harder to work up the income ladder, and it is easier to fall down the ladder. Security in access to health care is a joke. Security in your marketable skills to retain your income exists for a small percentage of the population. Security in retirement ... ask the leveraged buyout victims of the 80's how that worked for them, in case you're too busy to read your own personal 401(Casino) statement.

WHO was in charge while the largest economy in the world spent 4 decades acting like drunken sailors on leave instead of investing present wealth for the future benefit of all?

WHO has set up a rigged casino economy where paper shufflers are allowed to take 5 billion dollars managing a "hedge fund" while lip service is paid to the incentives to start the next computer chip or steamship industry, employing millions?

The Stand on Children and Rodney Tom crowd are seriously dumb, or, seriously corrupt, or, a serious mix of each. Shouldn't they be shouted down, scorned and shunned? They should be allowed ink and airtime so we can tell them that the earth isn't flat, and their right wing myths are only the center of their right wing brains.

If we we're going to jump to the claims of myths, we deserve having having mythical health care, employment and retirement.


dan dempsey said...

Very interesting.…. in our republic every citizen is supposedly protected by the constitution and existing laws from actions that violate the constitution or existing laws. For the last few years many citizens rights have been taking it on the chin.

I might add that in Seattle for families with school age children the idea of a republic and the Seattle Public Schools’ leadership is beyond complex, given that each of seven directors has taken an oath to:
“support the Constitution and Laws of the United States and the Constitution and Laws of the State of Washington, and will to the best of my judgment, skill and ability, truly, faithfully, diligently and impartially perform the duties of the office of Seattle School Director. ”

Now Senator Rodney Tom proposes new legislation and voices his opinion.

(1) Feb 4, 2010 State looses “NEWS” law suit over continually violating the WA State Constitution’s paramount duty: [preamble article IX] It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex. The judge ruled after extensive testimony the state was not fulfilling its paramount duty.

(2) State appeals this 2/4/10 decision.

(3) Recently in a one day special session the State took $208 million specifically headed to local School Districts via Federal legislation and drops it into the general fund. {Looks a lot like theft from here. Representative Sullivan was quoted as “We think it’s legal.”]

(4) Sen. Tom says: "There's nothing out there that I could do this year that makes a multibillion-dollar difference in education, other than this legislation," and "To leave billions of dollars on the table because we like the status quo is unacceptable."

I believe the multibillion dollar difference is the primary motivation behind this legislation not increasing the quality of education delivered to children.

(5) Is this initiative aimed at improving student learning? Supposedly if his proposal is ignored the system remains unchanged and a big potential savings will be lost. There a lot of ways this system needs changing to improve the learning of academic content by students but the legislature continually avoids the necessary changes to improve education for children in WA State. To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Senator Tom’s initiative is painfully short on data.

dan dempsey said...

(6) Sen. Tom puts a lot of faith in the current evaluation system used the last few years in WA state. This faith is not justified.

(7) Recently the Seattle School Board approved the use of Teach for America teachers in low income, high minority schools in Seattle, despite no teacher shortage and the fact that TfA has never shown any positive results when used in a situation where a big supply of highly qualified teachers was available. Note: teachers with five week’s of TfA training are now considered to be highly qualified.

(8) In Nashville only 10% of TfA teachers taught a third year in Nashville. The TfA contract required them to teach at least 2 years. Tennessee had a big shortage of highly qualified teachers.

(9) Seattle approved the New Student Assignment Plan, which increased both income and ethnic imbalances in the school system’s schools. Math Achievement gaps for Black students have been continually increasing over the last decade for Black students. On 2/4/10 Judge Julie Spector ruled the Board made an “Arbitrary and Capricious” decision in approving Key Curriculum Press’s “Discovering” series for high school. She told the Board to review the decision using all the evidence. A month later the Superintendent refused to do that and appealed. Way more than a million dollars of NSF help through UW over the last several years was spent and targeted at professional development of math teachers at various schools. Much of it was aimed at Cleveland and Rainier Beach high schools. The OSPI spring 2010 math test 10th grade pass rates for Black students with the first year of “Discovering” dropped to:
District 12.5%
Cleveland 5.7%
Rainier Beach 3.9%

But Superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson would rather hire lawyers than fix the problem. Appeal court hearing on March 8, 2011, with liberty and justice for fewer and fewer each year.

(10) Education decision making centers not around improving learning. How nice of Senator Tom to remind us of that.

Not Quite said...

Dan: "(8) In Nashville only 10% of TfA teachers taught a third year in Nashville. The TfA contract required them to teach at least 2 years. Tennessee had a big shortage of highly qualified teachers."--you keep citing this, but TFA only started placing corps members in Nashville in 2009 (http://www.teachforamerica.org/the-corps-experience/placement-regions/nashville/). This means that their 2nd year teachers are finishing up this year and there wouldn't be any data around who is sticking around a third year. Where are you getting these figures?

klh said...

I'm not a teacher, but I really agree with LATeacher that teacher quality should evaluated separately from RIFs. If we had a good system (which I think the most recent contracts tried to create) to ensure that all our teachers are good, this wouldn't even be an issue. If all our teachers are good teachers (which is everyone's goal and hope), then RIF's would have to be back on a seniority or other arbitrary basis again.

Chris S. said...

Going on the belief that students with more skills and more education earn more money over time as adults, then teachers who teach 25 students a year could add $500M to our economy.

This rings a little false as I watch so many skilled and educated people unable to find work.

It's fine to make the point that teachers do important work, but this echoes that statistically impossible scenario in which we are all in the top 10% and everything is OK.

dan dempsey said...

Not Quite is Correct. My apologies.

I meant Memphis .. NOT Nashville.

And my recall was off on the numbers as well.

In Memphis here are TfA completion rates at the end of each year (1), (2), (3), (4) for the cohorts named.

Year of
fall start ..(1)..(2) ..... (3) .... (4)

2006.. 100 .. 95.6 .. 15.6 .. 8.9

2007.. 100 .. 100 .. 31.1 .. n/a

2008.. 100 .. 90.4 .. n/a

2009.. 100 .. n/a

So completing 3 years that 15.6% was 7 out of 45
and the 31.1% was 14 out of 45

The four years complete of 8.9% was 4 out of 45.

My point is that TfA is apparently no solution for a problem that does not exist.

The data from Tennessee on the quality of teachers coming out of Tennessee Universities is really discouraging. Vanderbilt produces high performing teachers but few remain teaching in Tennessee.

Tennessee has some really interesting data available about placement and retention grouped by Universities.

dan dempsey said...

I should clarify. Seattle has no teacher shortage. With only 1 class in 200 taught by a non-highly qualified teacher. This ratio is the same for low-income and non low-income schools.

It appears very discriminatory to only aim these T_fA newbies at low income schools.

This is what I meant by TfA is NO Solution for a problem that does not exist.

TfA planning looks very compatible with Sen. Tom's SB 5593 "how to save money by paying cheaper teachers...." and likely only low-income parents would tolerate this TfA newbie plan.

I find it interesting how the test performance of SpEd students dropped under MGJ's changes. Black students' high school math pass rates are totally absurd since the Discovering adoption.

Dropping from really absurd to totally absurd.

So instead of fixing anything the SPS under MGJ hires more lawyers and heads to appeals court on March 8, 2011 to support the SPS crappy HS math adoption.


Let us have another commission on equity to dance around achievement gaps, do nothing, so we can say we tried.

Southeast Education Initiative -- we tried -- SPS did no research into what actually works nor did the UW... The SPS tries what they would like to have work. For Math texts they buy what they want to have work. The fact none of their ideas are successful ... seems to be unimportant.

dan dempsey said...

another correction

Senator Tom's bill is Senate Bill 5399

suep. said...

This proposed bill is bad legislation and bad news and should be tossed. See "Listen Up Teachers!"

--Sue p.

Anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen,

Those other things are not as cathartic, heartwrenching, whatever's-convenient, to use to get an unsuspecting lamb to baaa-gree.


Any "researcher" who throws around 100 trillion dollars like so many mardi gras beads deserves to turn in their PhDs.


seattle citizen said...

Yes, scoffer, I was very surprised to read that if we replace just a few teachers, we will create 100 trillion dollars for the economy. Something's fishy in Denmark. Does that mean that the other 90-95% of teachers NOT replaced are creating 1000 trillion dollars of value? Teachers are underpaid, eh?

kprugman said...

I agree that the claims made by school reformers such as Hanushek are grossly exaggerated. Firing the 5% of teachers who probably work with the lowest segment of test-scoring students sounds almost amoral. Claiming it will add $100 Trillion to our economy makes me ask for whom. I will be sure not to look back while I'm leaving this catastrophe.

kprugman said...

Try firing any 5% of the teachers at any school. It costs a district more in the long run to replace those teachers than it would be to simply provide more professional opportunity for growth and development.

As with any organization, everyone would be asking - Will I be next? Chances are you will see principal evaluations go down. Think about the interesting comments I get to read like - uses threats, bullys and intimidates teachers.

It is far easier to provide incentives for retiring teachers so they'll leave teaching sooner. Improve textbooks and provide better training (hasn't been done since Sputnik). Fail students when they fail to perform and give them incentives when they do perform. Give low performing students more alternatives and provide them with some job training. That's what they need the most right now.

kprugman said...

I almost threw this away but I fished it out of the trash. Another wonderdog from the Broadie nursery -

"I taught social studies for six years and for the past nine years I have been a high school and middle school administrator..."

"As with any change of administration new expectations are shared with our school community. We will be addressing these changes with our students and our student forum as we continue this semester. We ask that you review these policies with your students.

1. Attendance Policy will be revisited and enforced! We have a tardy problem.

2. Dress code policy will be revisited with students and enforced! We will be addressing with students forum.

3. Drug Awareness program. We will address with the whole school community."


Standards-reform is the action of an inattentive, self-absorbed government who believes it is easier to run a society that self-medicates on illicit drugs, consumes junk-food that is more chemistry than real food, watches reruns of Lost, and looks forward to weekly shopping sprees at Walmart.

How could our economy possibly do all that if schools were actually educating most of their students?

This is an age where we are teaching most of our students it is better to cheat society. You will come to find that names are meaningless and we will be forced to use our aliases depending on whom we're speaking to.

ttln said...

is the $208 million separate from the $282 million taken (proposed to be taken), or is it from the $282 mil, leaving us with $80 mil?

(students doing a project on this "robbery"...we need more info, and sources, please?)

Anonymous said...

For additional information regarding Bill 5399 check out No! To Senate Bill 5399.

Anonymous said...

If you disagree with this bill, please contact the following representatives who will be determining if this bill becomes law.

If nothing else, contact Senator McAuliffe who is Chair of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee
(360) 786-7600 mcauliffe.rosemary@leg.wa.gov

The other Senators to contact are:
Senator Lisa Brown
(360) 786-7604 brown.lisa@leg.wa.gov

Senator Maralyn Chase
(360) 786-7662 maralyn.chase@leg.wa.gov

Senator Nick Harper (360)786-7674 nick.harper@leg.wa.gov

Senator Bob Hasegawa
(360) 786-7862 hasegawa.bob@leg.wa.gov

Senator Adam Kline
(360) 787-7688 adam.kline@leg.wa.gov

Senator Sharon Nelson
(360) 787-7667 sharon.nelson@leg.wa.gov

Senator Rodney Tom
(360) 787-7694 tom.rodney@leg.wa.gov