Monday, June 27, 2011

Taking Teachers off the " Sainthood " pedestal and holding them accountable for their work, just like any other professional.

Name the most powerful union in the state of Massachusetts ? The Teamsters ? NOPE....The Public Employees Unions ? Nope.... The Teachers ? YOU GOT IT.

In Massachusetts there is no more powerful Union than the Teachers. While I understand the value of education, the manner in which Teachers have been elevated to " Sainthood " and to be above review by taxpayers defies logic. We pay more per pupil for education in the State of Massachusetts and in return, we get "Meh" for results.

Governor Deval " Spend it all" Patrick and his pal the " Empty Suit ' in the White House want to throw more money at an issue that we have already inundated with cash to no real gain.

The main reason is that the Teachers Unions and the Administrators placed themselves above reproach. They have told us that being a teacher is a thankless task, they have to do soooo much with soooo little, all the while, in reality, we've been giving teachers, administrators and school systems more money than ever. Don't get me wrong, there are GOOD teachers but there are some really god-awful ones and there are more of the latter than the former.

Like any other system, without checks and balances, how can we tell what we are getting back from our educators?? Do Teachers work hard ? YES, they do. But so do many others, with just as much importance to society and without 2 weeks off at Christmas, a Winter break, a Spring break and 10 weeks off for the Summer. And let's not forget " Teacher conference days " that happen 10 times a year.

The problem is that we allowed the UNIONS to build up this idea of the " Teacher as Saint" and no one has been monitoring the work they do. When grades plummeted, we heard a litany of reason like bad parents, too much TV, etc. They used distraction to pull attention that for the last 20 years, we have not had the best educators assisting our children, and without regular reviews, they have been without proper guidance. Any worker who isn't reviewed by a boss on a regular basis will have lower performance. Teachers are no different.

At the same time, we've added a lot more " Administrators " to the public sector in school systems
and they don't contribute anything but more drag to a slow moving system. You need more classroom strength and less fat-arses sitting in offices waiting for retirement.

In the BOSTON GLOBE today was this tripe:

"As state education leaders prepare to vote tomorrow on a sweeping overhaul of the way administrators and teachers are evaluated, local school officials say one key area remains a concern: finding time for overburdened principals to actually do the evaluations."

Well any manager in any other workplace will tell you that they have very little time to spend on evaluating staff BUT that is part of being a cry about it just because you now HAVE to do it in school systems is pretty shallow. Get over yourself School Administators, as all of us in management have been dealing with this same issue for YEARS.

So in the end, we wasted taxpayers money, placed Teachers on a pedestal (whether they were good, bad or indifferent) and allowed the Greedy Union types to game the system. All to the detriment of our country and the education of future generations.

Well as much as the recession has brought misery to far too many, it has also fiscally forced the hands of our school systems to start evaluating those who teach our children. I hope they use a better evaluation than the system they created to teach children with as if the system to evaluate is as bad as the rest of the administrative schlock they have used, we'll get more " Meh " out of an already faulty system of educating our Children.

Teacher Grades: Pass or Be Fired
Published: June 27, 2011

WASHINGTON — Emily Strzelecki, a first-year science teacher here, was about as eager for a classroom visit by one of the city’s roving teacher evaluators as she would be to get a tooth drilled. “It really stressed me out because, oh my gosh, I could lose my job,” Ms. Strzelecki said.

Her fears were not unfounded: 165 Washington teachers were fired last year based on a pioneering evaluation system that places significant emphasis on classroom observations; next month, 200 to 600 of the city’s 4,200 educators are expected to get similar bad news, in the nation’s highest rate of dismissal for poor performance.

The evaluation system, known as Impact, is disliked by many unionized teachers but has become a model for many educators. Spurred by President Obama and his $5 billion Race to the Top grant competition, some 20 states, including New York, and thousands of school districts are overhauling the way they grade teachers, and many have sent people to study Impact.

Its admirers say the system, a centerpiece of the tempestuous three-year tenure of Washington’s former schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has brought clear teaching standards to a district that lacked them and is setting a new standard by establishing dismissal as a consequence of ineffective teaching.

But some educators say it is better at sorting and firing teachers than at helping struggling ones; they note that the system does not consider socioeconomic factors in most cases and that last year 35 percent of the teachers in the city’s wealthiest area, Ward 3, were rated highly effective, compared with 5 percent in Ward 8, the poorest.

“Teachers have to be parents, priests, lawyers, clothes washers, babysitters and a bunch of other things” if they work with low-income children, said Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union. “Impact takes none of those roles into account, so it can penalize you just for teaching in a high-needs school.”

Jason Kamras, the architect of the system, said “it’s too early to answer” whether Impact makes it easier for teachers in well-off neighborhoods to do well, but pointed out that Washington’s compensation system offers bigger bonuses ($25,000 versus $12,500) and salary enhancements in high-poverty schools.

“We take very seriously the distribution of high-quality teachers across the system,” he said.

The evaluation system leans heavily on student test scores to judge about 500 math and reading teachers in grades four to eight. Ratings for the rest of the city’s 3,600 teachers are determined mostly by five classroom observations annually, three by their principal and two by so-called master educators, most recruited from outside Washington.

For classroom observations, nine criteria — “explain content clearly,” “maximize instructional time” and “check for student understanding,” for example — are used to rate the lesson as highly effective, effective, minimally effective or ineffective.

These five observations combine to form 75 percent of these teachers’ overall ratings; the rest is based on achievement data and the teachers’ commitment to their school communities. Ineffective teachers face dismissal. Minimally effective ones get a year to improve.

Impact costs the city $7 million a year, including pay for 41 master educators, who earn about $90,000 a year and conduct about 170 observations each. The program also asks more of principals. Carolyne Albert-Garvey, the principal of Maury Elementary School on Capitol Hill, has 22 teachers — she must conduct 66 observations, about one every three school days.

“I’ve really gotten to know my staff, and I’m giving teachers more specific feedback,” Ms. Albert-Garvey said. “It’s empowered me to have the difficult conversations, and that gives everyone the opportunity to improve.”

Several teachers, however, said they considered their ratings unfair.

A veteran teacher who said he did not want to criticize the school system openly, said that a month after he inherited a chaotic world history class from a long-term substitute, the visiting evaluator cut him no slack for taking on the assignment and penalized him because a student was texting during the lesson.

Another teacher who expects to lose her job next month because of low ratings said at a public hearing that evaluators picked apart her seventh-grade geography lessons, making criticisms she considered trivial. During the most recent observation, her evaluator subtracted points because she had failed to notice a girl eating during class, the teacher said.

“I’m 25 years in the system, and before, I always got outstanding ratings,” she said. “How can you go overnight from outstanding to minimally effective?”

A report issued by the Aspen Institute in March said one of Impact’s accomplishments was to align teacher performance with student performance, noting that previously 95 percent of Washington’s teachers were highly rated but fewer than half of its students were demonstrating proficiency on tests. Still, the report quoted teachers who complained of cold-eyed evaluators more interested in identifying losers than in developing winners.

“After my first conversation with my master educator, I felt it was going to be worthwhile — she offered me some good resources,” the report quoted one teacher. “My second master educator was kind of a robot, not generous in offering assistance, a much tougher grader.”

This month, Mary Gloster, who taught science in three states before she was recruited to Impact in 2009, was at Ballou High, one of the city’s lowest-performing schools, to share the results of some classroom visits.

She met with Mahmood Dorosti, a physics teacher who won a $5,000 award this spring. “Don’t even think about it — you’re highly effective,” she told him.

Next was Ms. Strzelecki, 23, who came to Ballou through Teach for America. The two sat at adjoining desks, with Ms. Strzelecki looking a bit like a doe in the headlights.

But Ms. Gloster, who had watched her teach a ninth-grade biology lesson the week before, offered compliments, along with suggestions about how Ms. Strzelecki might provide differentiated teaching for advanced and struggling students.

“You did a really good job, kiddo,” the evaluator ruled, grading her as effective, the equivalent of a B (the same rating she got on previous observations).

“What I liked about Mary was that I felt she was on my side,” Ms. Strzelecki said later. “Some teachers feel the master educators are out to get them.”

That is a common perception, said Mark Simon, an education analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, which receives teachers’ union financing. Ms. Rhee developed the system, he noted, during tough contract negotiations and did not consult with the teachers’ union in its design.

“That was a missed opportunity,” Mr. Simon said, “and it’s created a lot of resentment.”

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