Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fix White Liberals Instead of Black Students?

Here is an excellent Community Voices post by Lynnell Mickelsen.  Thoughts? 

MinnPost Forget about 'fixing' black kids: What If we fixed white liberals instead?


Anonymous said...

I was not going to say anything so I am going to keep it short. I do not teach in Minneapolis but I teach in a school with over 50% of the students coming from poverty. Our district keeps spending money on evaluating the teachers, training the teachers testing the students retraining the teachers yet they never ask the teachers who work with the students everyday what the problem is! And it is not just our district, it is the media, politicians, corporations, .... All telling the teachers what to do and how to do it.

Teacher see students in groups of 30 for about 50 minutes at a time. Students spend 16 hours a day outside of school. The impacts of their lives outside of school are brought into the classroom the student is not ready to learn and a teacher who is responsible for 29 other students many who also have issue does not have the time and resources to deal with the crisis at the moment.

Why not fix poverty! Why not make sure everyone who works can have a living wage, a decent place to live, time to spend with family,.... Why not have more programs available for students in poverty?

When you look at the latest international test data on student performance in math and reading and compare U.S. Students with other countries with the same level of poverty we rank at the top! However US schools on average have much higher levels of poverty.

If we are unwilling or unable to fixes all of the issues related to poverty than we need to stop going after teachers and accept failure for many of these students.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link going over the latest Timss study


John said...

Nasspa Blogs Its still not Poverty

John said...

50 years and still not succeeding.

"Why not fix poverty!"

Sean said...

This paragraph is potentially compelling:

"But this would involve asking mostly white middle-class administrators, teachers and employees to change their work lives — i.e. their schedules, assignments, job locations and even pay — around the needs, comfort and convenience of low-income people of color and their children."

Alas, the only things that she ends up suggesting are the same-old bash the unions mantra instead of really looking to see how one could recreate the schools around the needs of low-income people of color and their children.

Anonymous said...

1. So then does her logic imply that we replace the white teachers and administrators with those of color...that this will fix everything. I would doubt it.

2. I view my child's education as my own personal responsibility and the public school system is a suppliment: not the other way around. If one group views it this way and the other group views it the other way, there is bound to be a gap.

3. With #2 above in mind, this is influenced by poverty (not enough time/personal education to spend with kids) but not necessarily as it is a mindset.

4. I am not sure if I agree with the term "people of color" to describe the demographic that needs help. I would rather describe based on income. I recently went to have my daughter tested to get into a university based Math program for gifted kids: about 90% were people of color...India...China. There is also an African American family supporting their son in her current advanced Math program. Clearly they are very involved.


Laurie said...

My school is non union and we have terrible test scores. That said I do think the unions stand in the way of some progress that could be made. Insufficient funding is the most limiting factor at my school.

jerrye92002 said...

Great idea. Let's have a "War on Poverty" and, after 50 years or so, there won't be any poverty and poor kids can once again learn. Unless, of course, it was their COLOR holding them back all this time. wait, what? We had a war on poverty, and poverty won? Now what?

jerrye92002 said...

All your Nasspa link does is make me wonder if we don't have cause and effect wrong, here. We always say that a good education is the way out of poverty, so maybe these kids are poor because they haven't been properly educated, rather than the other way around?

jerrye92002 said...

Can I agree with Sean? I didn't see any realistic solutions here. Remember that the Supt. of Minneapolis schools-- the last three, if I remember correctly, have been "of color" and the needle barely moved. Michelle Rhee (woman of color) made a huge difference in the Dc schools. It isn't color that matters, I'll insist, but it isn't poverty either. What matters is what the schools DO, and it is my belief that we have built into our institutional minds the notion that poverty (and its "marker," color) destine the child to fail, and thus simply don't try to bring the education to where the kid is.

I've seen what happens when it's done the other way and it's wonderful. That's one way in which the article is correct. We don't have to change the people in charge, we have to change how they think. Liberals think everybody is a member of some group with privilege or grievance. They need to start seeing individual kids with needs and opportunities.

John said...

Did you read the comments she left?

1) Pay excellent teachers significantly more to teach at high-poverty schools. Right now, most of our highest paid teachers are at the wealthiest and whitest schools. While we're at it, we should also pay high-caliber math and science teachers more because they're who are particularly hard to hire.

These higher pay ideas have been rejected by the teachers' union in Minneapolis. The union insists that all schools are equally challenging in their own way and that it would be unfair to pay great science and math teachers more than great English teachers.---even though they are much harder to hire.

2) Hire more teachers of color; In order to do this we should:

a) Get rid of our least effective teachers. Myself, I’d get rid of the bottom 10 percent, based on their evaluations and student feedback.

b) Open the pipeline so we can hire experienced, licensed teachers from anywhere, but particularly from the South, which produces a lot more teachers of color than Minnesota does. Unfortunately, Minnesota currently makes it very difficult to hire licensed teachers from out-of-state—many have to repeat student teaching or have to pay thousands of dollars for additional credits from Minnesota schools of education;

This solution is also opposed by the state teachers' union as well as local education schools who don’t want to lose the $$$ they earn by providing required extra courses needed for licensing out-of-state teachers.

3) Extend the school day and year at schools where the majority of students are far behind their peers; (Opposed by our local teacher's union because they say teachers don't want to work longer hours---even at higher pay.)

4) Instead of a having 10-12 week vacation in the summer (when low-income kids fall even further behind) have four-five weeks of vacation time in the summer, with another break in the winter ,etc. Like they do in Europe and elsewhere. (Opposed by our local teachers’ union because teachers want the 12-week summer off )

5) Make principals at-will employees so that we can more easily get rid of ineffective ones and hire better ones; (Opposed by local and state teachers’ and principals unions.)

6) Make staffing decisions---i.e. who to hire, who to lay-off—based on evaluations rather than strict seniority so we can keep great teachers in our classrooms. (Opposed by local and state teachers union because they prefer seniority as the main criteria.)

7) If you're a DFLer, tell your legislator, you'd like him or her to show some courageous independence from the dictates of Education Minnesota. I love my party, but our legislators act like a wholly owned subsidiary of Education Minnesota. It hurts kids and it's not right.

John said...

I am not sure why people consider these union busting... Here are some of the comments I left:

I don't think anyone is blaming Teachers for all of the ills in the schools. Personally I only blame the union/system for 20% of the problems within the schools. However it is important to remember that it is the 20% that we could change very quickly if the Unions would allow it.

However for those who are used to having their pay and job security based only on their years served, number of degrees and hours worked, I assume the idea of being accountable for results is very scary.

I keep hoping at some point Ed MN will decide to put the needs of the students before their wants. The idea that the more affluent schools in Mpls with the less challenging students get the most highly paid Teachers makes no logical sense, except to Ed MN.

John said...

Currently Ed MN seems to be motivated to ensure that Teachers with seniority get the most compensation, most job security, they get to pick their classrooms, etc.

What if Ed MN became motivated to ensure that the most effective Teachers and those taking on the most challenging situations get the most compensation and job security?

In other words, they stopped focusing on the wants of gray haired Teachers and started focusing on the needs of bright eyed students.

Again, do you personally pick your service providers based on age or based on effectiveness / value?

Sean said...

"Did you read the comments she left?"

Yep. None of these ideas are new or novel, nor have any of them been conclusively proven to produce results. There's plenty of lousy non-union schools that have provisions along these lines in this state and across the country.

Some of the ideas are not bad ideas, but expecting teachers to unilaterally give up things that are of value to them is not the way a labor market is supposed to work. IF you want to get teachers to accept a longer school day, for instance, you need to give them something to make it worth their while.

I'd also point out that teacher tenure didn't emerge out of nowhere. Unions began to fight for it because at-will teachers were frequently fired for no real cause. I would argue in today's environment, when you have the prospect of false charges against teachers for misconduct (think last year's Rogers HS tweet scandal), that tenure can be a useful check against a rush to judgment that can potentially destroy someone's career.

Laurie said...

about those teacher evaluations- I have some data and a question.

It seems one of the worst performing schools in Mpls also has the worst performing teachers, according to the new evaluation system. And one of the best performing schools has the teachers with the highest performance ratings.

Why is that? And if you were a teacher would you want to accept a job in a low performing school, which will increase your likelihood of a poor performance rating (your evaluation is partly based on student test scores) Also, you will probably be rated poorly on clasroom management and instruction as well, as the low performing schools have many more disruptive students.

I would would do my best to avoid that placement. and get out as soon as I could before I was rated poorly and lost my job.

Anyway, the revolving door at the most challenging schools may spin even faster if layoffs become performance based without any other changes.

So what do you think? Are most of those teachers in the most challenging schools really so incompetent? And do the kids in the top performing skills do so well because they have the most talented teachers?

jerrye92002 said...

One of the things I find so curious is that the teachers I talk to, when these questions of pay or layoff, etc. are concerned, is the desire to be "respected as professionals." I keep wanting to tell them that if they want the respect of professionals they must be willing to be treated as professionals-- evaluated as professionals, retained or dismissed based on performance, paid as professionals (which might mean more money), and given the same authority & responsibility to "get the job done" as professionals. None of those things are possible when you're just another union drone/cog in the wheel.

Unfortunately, though a good and perhaps necessary step, I don't think just eliminating the union does much unless all of the other changes in the way teachers are employed also change-- to in fact treat them as professionals. My dream has always been that we would agree (and follow through, of course) to treat them as professionals and they would then (if permitted) leave the union behind.

jerrye92002 said...

"Are most of those teachers in the most challenging schools really so incompetent?"

Laurie, it's yes and no. I think those teachers who are good enough to go elsewhere, for the same or better pay, are going to do so, leaving behind those who do not (I hate to say incompetent, maybe "over-challenged"?) Again, I think the environment for both teachers and students has to change in these "challenging" school environments to create the opportunities for learning. More pay, leading to better teachers, more discipline and challenge, leading to more teacher and student safety, and more learning as a result. And for pete's sake, paint the walls!

John said...

"expecting teachers to unilaterally give up things that are of value to them is not the way a labor market is supposed to work"

This infers that "Teachers" are a "Collective" of drones. It does not emphasize the reality that "a Teacher" is a unique individual with unique capabilities that deserve a unique compensation package and the freedom to shop themselves around to those who will pay them correctly. (ie a Professional)

The reality is that poor Teachers that are high on the steps/lanes scale will lose. And excellent Teachers who are low on the steps/lanes scale will win.

And Teachers in schools with easy students will lose some, and Teachers in schools with challenging students will win some.

Isn't this as it should be for the good of our children?

jerrye92002 said...

"Open the pipeline so we can hire experienced, licensed teachers from anywhere, but particularly from the South, which produces a lot more teachers of color than Minnesota does."

Perhaps you could hire some of those Ed. School graduates from Louisiana, 80% of whom failed the basic skills test for their state. And I'm not willing to let skin color be the only qualification for the job. Besides, those folks talk funny.

John said...

I agree that Teacher performance needs to be graded based on the situation that they are in and the students they are given, not just arbitrarily.

This is what happens in the Private business world. My Supervisor has the responsibility to evaluate my performance relative to my peers and the projects I am assigned. If I am perceived to be doing well, I get a raise, bonus or promotion. If I am perceived to be doing poorly, I get help, no raise and/or fired.

Again. Do we really want Principals and Teachers in our schools when their Supervisors think they are not performing as well as another could?

Is this fair for the students?

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, let me just second what John said. The evaluation system is faulty if it is absolute. Teachers need to be graded "on the curve" rather than in absolutes. Student performance needs to consider the "AYP" that the teacher produces, and the evaluation must also include what can reasonably be expected of the teacher at this point in their career.

The way merit pay worked at my company was to start with "we have X$ for merit pay increases this year." Then "the top 10% will divvy up 20% of the money, the middle 80% gets 80%, and the bottom 10% gets zip." Your actual percentage raise depended on your current pay-- if you were near the top of your pay grade you got less percent. Very fair, very smooth. Does the current teacher evaluation work that way? I doubt it.

Sean said...

Teachers have chosen to be in a union, regardless of what you think of that decision. So let's deal with the world as it is.

You're going to have come to solutions on these issues through the collective bargaining process.

So what can districts give to teachers to help facilitate these changes. Better pay? Sure, that's one piece.

How about more freedom to teach how they want to teach? I hear that complaint from friends and neighbors who are teachers, that they're not given the sort of discretion that would befit a "professional".

More coherent professional development would also be a start. With the new state mandates for teacher evaluation systems in place, each district -- if they're doing their job -- ought to be tying the results of those evaluations to systems and processes to help teachers develop. Because while those on the right have focused on teacher evaluation as a way to fire teachers, the system really needs to be focused on making sure that we take the average teacher and make them a good teacher, and take the good teacher and make them a great teacher.

I would also agree with Laurie's suggestion that if you were in a non-union, at-will environment teachers would likely run even faster from schools that had a more challenging demographic.

jerrye92002 said...

"Teachers have chosen to be in a union, regardless"

Really? When did that happen? I was under the impression that MN public schools were "closed shop"? We're not even like Wisconsin, where dues are (partly?)voluntary now.

Sean said...

If teachers were unhappy, they could choose to decertify.

jerrye92002 said...

Well, they are doing so in droves, in Wisconsin, thanks to the new law. Apparently MN does not have a law allowing such an election.

jerrye92002 said...

And we certainly don't allow individual teachers to decide their union membership. Heck, we don't even allow private business owners to do so, if they are child care providers.

Sean said...

"Apparently MN does not have a law allowing such an election."

I don't believe that's correct. See statute 179A.12, which indicates that "An individual employee or group of employees in a unit may obtain a decertification election upon petition to the commissioner stating the certified representative no longer represents the majority of the employees in an established unit and that at least 30 percent of the employees wish to be unrepresented."


jerrye92002 said...

Sean, that's excellent research. But it is obvious that one dissatisfied member isn't going to win such an election, and it would be a very high bar (and no doubt at some risk) for one to actually pursue it. The individual cannot leave the union. In Wisconsin, the union is required to hold a re-certification election every year, and every individual can choose not to join or pay the dues.

John said...

Unfortunately, the half of the Teachers with the most power in the Union are those getting more than their fair share of compensation, benefits and job security.

Why again would they change the system?

I believe most Teachers want the best for the students, however I don't think they will be able to understand and sanction the harm their system is causing the students. People are very gifted at rationalizing their beliefs and actions.

John said...

Though the system is bad for the students, it is very logical.

The senior Teachers who have the most power in Ed MN are receiving more than their fair share of the compensation, benefits, job security and classroom choice. What rational reason would the senior half of the teachers have for accepting more risk and more challenging classrooms?

I mean the Teachers with seniority get to pick their school, get significantly more money than the mean, have the same work load, and are nearly impossible to dismiss. Though they care for the kids, what rational human would want to give up this sweet deal? It is much easier for the rational people to deny their role in the problem and point elsewhere.

It is an interesting situation. People who when spending their personal money would look for the best value and want to be able to dismiss someone who was not performing per their expectation. Yet somehow they rationalize that they deserve steps, lanes and tenure.

jerrye92002 said...

That is precisely why I don't believe the system can be changed from the "inside." The schools, the bureaucracies and the unions have no incentive to change, and the teachers are concerned about change of any kind, as we all are. That's why I wish the NCLB act would have been enforced as written. It would have mandated that failing schools give vouchers to every kid, to find a school elsewhere. I'm not sure it would have been a good solution, but it would have been change forced upon the system from the outside, the only way it's going to happen. If you can somehow figure a way to entice teachers and educrats into it, great.

John said...

Do you really think the answer is to allow the 70,000 teachers in the state to teach what they want in the way they want to?

I personally want them to focus on helping each individual student learn the curriculum /content by adjusting their personal interaction as needed for each student. And to leave the curriculum / content choice to the district's experts.

We had a Teacher who loved Monarch butterflies and dedicated much of the 6th grade science year to them. I am sure that was very fulfilling for her to teach about what she loved. Yet I am pretty sure it did not align to the District's view of effective science instruction since she no longer does it.

How again would students across the state attain a somewhat consistent education if 70,000 Teachers chose their curriculum / content?

John said...

Regarding Testing... The state only requires 2 or 3 tests per year. (ie math, english, science?)

Every other test is part of the school districts individual process. I don't think 1 test per year to ensure progress in a subject area is excessive.

Also, please remember that how the district/Teachers ensure the kids are proficient is pretty much left to them.

jerrye92002 said...

I don't think anybody is arguing that individual teachers should set their own curriculum. Heck, I even think the IDEA of a national "common core"-- a list of what kids should learn and when-- is a good one. But I also know from experience that kids not only have different learning abilities and "readiness," but different learning styles, and I want the teacher to be able to flex with HOW each element of the set curriculum is brought to each individual kid. Hint: you don't have to know the kid's style; you just present the material 3 different ways and eventually you find which ones respond to which approach. (Being careful, of course, not to bore the kids that got it the first time.)

jerrye92002 said...

And I might believe that learning "styles" might vary somewhat as a matter of race or socioeconomic status. If so, find it and work with it.

Sean said...

I'm not suggesting that teachers be allowed to toss out the standards of what their kids are supposed to learn, but rather giving them more freedom in how you get there.

The teaching evaluation system mandated by the state requires at least 35% of the teacher's performance rating to be based on results from standardized testing, so there's incentive there not to go completely off the reservation. And, certainly districts would still choose textbooks and the like.

But some districts go beyond that as well in terms of their dictates to teachers. Offering teachers a little more freedom to experiment and innovate (within boundaries) is a good thing, and should be encouraged. Our district, for instance, offers innovation grants to teachers who develop a measurable plan to do things differently or incorporate new tools.

jerrye92002 said...

And long before we had a formal teacher evaluation, every kid and parent knew who the "good" teachers were. They were the ones that challenged students and knew 3 or 4 good ways of getting the material across. The poorest were the ones who stood up front and read from the textbook.

Sean said...

"What rational reason would the senior half of the teachers have for accepting more risk and more challenging classrooms?"

There's isn't one. And reducing protections for teacher employment is only going to make that problem worse, isn't it? If you make it easier to fire teachers, I'm *really* not going to want to go into those challenging situations -- even if you pay me more -- because even if I'm a good teacher it's going to be harder for that to translate into measurable results.

jerrye92002 said...

I think there is a way around this fear teachers have of being evaluated and (possibly) dismissed. I think you start with allowing districts to choose the same money they have, or more money if they choose evaluation. Then you tie pay INCREASES to the evaluation, but not dismissals-- that is a separate track reserved for the really "bad" (in whatever fashion) ones. [After a string of zero raises, the poorest teachers will leave for something else, "voluntarily."] Then, you add in professional development for those needing it, and probably some kind of "career track"-- apprentice, journeyman, master teacher-- that lets great teachers earn lots more money without going into administration that wastes their talent and your tax dollars, and has the side benefit of developing the younger teachers. And I think if you did that, a lot of the administrative overhead would disappear, too, freeing up more dollars for teacher pay, increasing acceptance among teachers (but not administrators), and, finally, improving student achievement by putting better teachers in the classroom, incentivized to teach better.

Sean said...

I actually like quite a bit of what you describe there, Jerry.

John said...

A thought from the MP string

Are you saying that ALL 25 year teachers with 3 degrees are more effective at teaching than ALL 3 year teachers with 1 degree?

Let's assume for argument that a gifted extra hard working 3 year teacher has a classroom with 26 4th graders next door to a somewhat disorganized moderate effort 25 year teacher with a nearly identical classroom. Parents compliment the 3 year Teacher and are frustrated with the other.

Please help me understand your rationale for the disorganized moderate effort 25 year Teacher being paid 2+ times what the gifted 3 year Teacher is. Worse yet, your rationale for wanting to have the more effective teacher laid off if it becomes necessary? Which of these Teachers do you want teaching your child?

By the way this is a very true story from when one of my daughters was in 3rd grade. Thankfully the older Teacher retired a few years later. Unfortunately for the school and the students, the excellent Teacher was gone by then.

As I said, the system is set up and maintained to ensure the older union members get the lion's share of the compensation, benefits and job security.

I whole heartedly agree with you that the system is setup to "reward a person who has devoted more time and effort into their career". It is not set up to ensure that the most effective and hardest working Teachers are paid the most, and placed in the classrooms where they are most needed.

John said...

"I'm *really* not going to want to go into those challenging situations -- even if you pay me more -- because even if I'm a good teacher it's going to be harder for that to translate into measurable results."

Per your logic I sure shouldn't have taken on my current position at work... And based on your perspective, all people are averse to hard work and risk, even if rewards are offered.

Where as I think the most hard working and brightest people strive to take on bigger challenges, especially if they are likely to be rewarded for succeeding.

The current system is so screwed up because we are giving people more rewards while removing their risk. It is definitely backwards. Maybe it is a Liberal vs Conservative thing.

I your perception of reality, who chooses to take the risk to start a small business when the odds are that it will fail within 5 years?

jerrye92002 said...

That is where an effective merit pay system comes into its own. The 25-year teacher who is doing reasonably well will have received raises that, at minimum, keep her even with inflation, because she remains "effective" even while the bar gets a little higher each year because of her seniority. If she is a touch better and graduates to "master teacher" and begins developing others (apprentice teachers are presumed to be less skilled), then she gets a bump in pay automatically and sits lower in that pay grade, so gets a restart on the ladder of merit pay increases, depending on how well she handles the additional duties. Otherwise, the raises get smaller and become less frequent, but keeping up with inflation, as she "coasts" towards retirement.

The younger teacher may prove excellent, and receive some large merit pay increases the first few years, to bring her up to where some more senior teachers with less displayed ability are. She might also have received more pay right out of the box for accepting a more challenging class environment, and then get greater increases for the same result as in a less challenging class.

Laurie said...

About being rated as effective or high performing in one's job I think there are few jobs where this is as difficult as working in a school with with a very challenging popultation and where test results are a significant part of one's evaluation.

I didn't pull up data so I am going off memory - in my school the top performers might have about 25% of their students pass MCA tests and low performers maybe a 15% pass rate. I think under Mpls evaluation system all teachers in my bldg might be rated as ineffective (and we have some outstanding teachers.) I think evaluations in my bldg are less harsh, as few people are fired, (though we do have a lot of people quit)

Does your company have divisions/teams in which every employee fails in their job performance?

John said...

What you describe is roughly how all private / capitalistic and personal purchase situations are run for better or worse.

I am still looking for a liberal individual who will pay twice as much for the "older" roofing crew, the "older" dentist, the "older" doctor, etc. For a group who supposedly shuns stereotypes, they certainly like to support the view that all "older" teachers are more effective.

Remember what I said... "My Supervisor has the responsibility to evaluate my performance relative to my peers and the projects I am assigned."

Who ever is charge of approving your school's operating license should have the authority to evaluate it's relative performance and take action if necessary.

Unfortunately the status quo Public School / Union near monopoly and their efforts to avoid accountability have contributed to escalating the situation.

John said...

In my world, people would acknowledge that the project was very risk and success would require extra resources to work on the project. And the company may move the most effective personnel to that project.

The strange hold status quo Publics and Ed MN have on school funding prevent this extra funding from being provided to your charter school. Remember that RDale moth balled an elementary school rather than letting Beacon Hill academy rent it. The status quo schools do not want you competing with them, even if you are better at helping certain students. It takes money from them.

And in the Mpls school district, the senior / high paid Teachers for the most part get to pick their school. They already have the rewards (compensation / job security), why again would they pick the risky school where the kids need the "best" teachers?

In my company, employees work where management needs their expertise and performance the most. This is how companies stay in business in a very competitive world.

John said...

Your comment reminds me of a discussion with a friend/co-worker. He was complaining about only getting a cost of living raise.

Me being me, I asked him if he had learned any new skills or taken on any additional responsibility? He said "no". So I asked why he thought he deserved more than cost of living adjustment? He had no reason other he thought it sounded good.

Senior employees typically get extra vacation to reward them for long service, I have never understood people who believe they should also get rewarded with significantly higher compensation when they are doing exactly the same job as a younger employee.

jerrye92002 said...

"Does your company have divisions/teams in which every employee fails in their job performance?" -- Laurie

Not that I know of. What I would suggest to you is that the evaluation system which finds such is faulty. Now, it cannot be the same as the MBO (management by objectives) system that we use, where you and management mutually agree what you will tackle over the year (including when and "how much") and then you are rated on how well you did ALLOWING FOR things outside your control, or management's midstream change to the objectives. The goals AND the evaluation are based on what you should, with your seniority and "classification," be capable of. So, the salary review is largely objective, but there is the subjective component of what should be and what actually was possible for you.

In the case of a teacher, the objective part is how much the average kid learned between day 1 and day 200. That should be compared with "1 year's learning" and not against some arbitrary standard for what X grade students should know. I think there should be some subjective factors in there, too, like how well the kids in your class have improved deportment (or not), plus any "special" things you might have done with them (field trip, whatever). For example, one class here looked after the fish tank. Then, after evaluation, only pay increases are determined, not dismissals. Repeated zero % raises are usually sufficient to convince "bad" employees to go where they are better "appreciated."

jerrye92002 said...

And I LOVE those extra vacation days!

Laurie said...

I just skimmed over the first comment again and thought about at my school we don't think about poverty at all. We are 96% low income and 94% English learner. Our focus is all about ELL, though I am sure poverty is impacting us a great deal as well.

Many days I think they should give us more money, so we could offer summer school and extended day, or just shut us down.

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, I think it's criminal that your school doesn't get at LEAST the same per-pupil funding as the other schools in your district. I strongly suspect it is because you are non-union and you (and your students) are being punished severely for that. I wish I had a solution other than equal vouchers for everybody, which is unlikely with the unions in charge.

Laurie said...

We are a charter school and $ comes from the state, with some money from the federal government for title 1 and special education. If we haven't improved sufficiently in three years it will be the state which shuts us down.

Our being shut down could be for the best for our students, except I think many of our families would enroll in another poorly performing charter, although some might choose schools that are having greater success.

Then again, if measures other than MCA tests results are used to judge our results maybe we are not doing so badly.

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, I would really like to know more. You will be shut down in 3 years (a total of 5?) if you don't "improve enough"? How is that measured? Why aren't other schools in the District shut down for failing just as badly with the same demographic? Do you think your school is doing as well as it could, or are you being less effective for lack of funding? What do other schools in your district get, by comparison, and would that "do it" for your school?

Laurie said...

We are in the first year of a three year improvement process.

State identifies 155 struggling schools, nearly half in the Twin Cities

Minnesota Aims to Ratchet Down Achievement Gap

The state has set an ambitious goal for us on our test scores and I expect we won't achieve it. I think shutting us down is only one option if we don't achieve it and there are other possibilites such as replacing staff. What happens if we don't make it is rarely talked about.

So far the improvement process is very slow moving and we have made no signifant changes or improvements.

John said...

You can always count on Ed MN for some interesting comment.

Denise Specht, the head of the state's teachers union Education Minnesota, said the latest release of school rankings show troubling results for schools clustered in the state's high poverty areas.

"That tells me Minnesota must find better ways to meet the special needs of these students," Specht said. "Which could mean more training for the educators in the building, additional support staff like counselors and librarians, or even offering the broader range of mental and physical health care treatments found in full-service community schools."

Specht also cautioned parents from relying too much on the rankings to determine how well schools and teachers are doing.

Recently there's been growing worry among some teacher and parents that students spend too much classroom time preparing for, and taking, assessments tests.

Daniel Sellers, executive director of the education reform group MinnCan, said the results of the MMR rankings show just how important test scores like the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments are.

"I worry that any attempts to get rid of standards-based assessments takes away an important piece of data that we have to determine whether or not we're on track for closing our achievement gaps," Seller said."

John said...

I think some of Denise's comments make sense, however "providing more training" to Teachers in high risk schools seems kind of ironic coming from the group who let's their senior teachers avoid these schools.

jerrye92002 said...

"So far the improvement process is very slow moving and we have made no signifant changes or improvements."

We could say that about MANY schools in the urban core, but for many of them it has been 20 years or more, not the first of three. And what it points out is that there MUST be new approaches to reach these kids "where they are" and move them to "where they need to be." It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It's also the public schools.

And those folks wanting less time spent on testing are simply trying to hide their failures. Besides, if the teachers "teach to the test," at least the kids would be learning SOMETHING.

Sean said...

"Per your logic I sure shouldn't have taken on my current position at work... And based on your perspective, all people are averse to hard work and risk, even if rewards are offered.

Where as I think the most hard working and brightest people strive to take on bigger challenges, especially if they are likely to be rewarded for succeeding."

By your theory, then, tenured teachers should be flocking to the more challenging school environments. But we know this isn't what is actually happening.

Is it merely because there isn't increased pay in those schools? That may be part of it, but I suspect it's not all of it.

What's your theory?

Sean said...

"I your perception of reality, who chooses to take the risk to start a small business when the odds are that it will fail within 5 years?"

Or maybe teachers have different motivations than entrepreneurs.

John said...

Everything is relative. And most people are similar. People typically are motivated by extrinsic and intrinsic factors.
People typically want a chance to receive higher rewards (ie financial or other) if they are going to be required to expend extra effort or if they will be exposed to higher risk.

Teaching in poor schools where long hours are likely and the risk of failure/burnout is high should justify higher compensation and performance bonuses. Instead, those who are guaranteed higher compensation and lower risk are given the freedom to choose schools with an easier student body.

The impact of the comp policy is terrible for the kids who need excellent Teachers the most.

What would be great for those kids would be if Teaching positions in the failing schools had the highest compensation and bonuses that were tied directly to student achievement?

Of course I don't think the Teachers in Wayzata would be happy to see their comp cut to offset the extra costs.

Sean said...

I don't disagree that districts should be able to pay higher salaries in poorer-performing schools. What's stopping this from occurring? School boards that don't insist on this in their negotiations with unions, and their failure to provide some other sort of provisions that would encourage the unions to make the tradeoff.

John said...

"School Boards insist"... Now you must be joking... Ed MN has most of the leverage and the current system rewards those in power at Ed MN. (ie Older teachers) I mean when the Union chooses to strike during the school year, the boards are forced to capitualte.

Please remember that Private companies fail when the Union demands make the company too ineffective, inefficient and non-competitive. Whereas it is the unlucky students who suffer most when the Union demands make the company too ineffective, inefficient and non-competitive.

The funds are are not allowed to go to a competitor, they simply become poorly allocated, productivity is decreases and the poor kids get left behind.

John said...

Assuming the yearly total funding invested in the MN K-12 schools is adequate, what would you offer the Teachers to encourage them to send their best Teachers to the schools with the students that need them the most?

How would you encourage them to police themselves to ensure incompetent or burnt out Teachers are removed from MN K-12 education and the classroms of our children?

Sean said...

" what would you offer the Teachers to encourage them to send their best Teachers to the schools with the students that need them the most?"

I've already addressed this.

"How would you encourage them to police themselves to ensure incompetent or burnt out Teachers are removed from MN K-12 education and the classroms of our children?"

That is the job of the administration. Procedures to get rid of incompetent teachers already exist, it should be pointed out. It's just up to the administration to follow them.

Sean said...

State law also sharply prohibits the ability of teachers to strike. In fact, there hasn't been a teachers strike in the state since 2005.

John said...

Public Employment Labor Relations

Contract Rules

Those procedures to get rid of poor Teachers are time consuming, expensive, open to law suits, etc. During that whole period the Teachers often stay in the classroom. I would like the Principals helping the good Teachers and the students, not struggling to evict a poor Teacher.

I looked back through the comments and could not find where you gave reasonable cost neutral ideas that would ensure the most capable Teachers in a District were placed in the most challenging schools.

All I saw was more training, more money for Teachers in those schools, some other trade off, etc. All of these would require budget increases. Please remember that the Mpls District tried to make lots of positive changes for the kids. Just to be shot down by the Union.

Please remember that the Union is there to maximize income, benefits, job security, etc for their more powerful members. It is not their to maximize the benefit for the poor students who attend the schools.

Thankfully my children have my wife and I to advocate for them.

Sean said...

"I would like the Principals helping the good Teachers and the students, not struggling to evict a poor Teacher."

Well, if it's important, you do the right thing for the students.

"I looked back through the comments and could not find where you gave reasonable cost neutral ideas that would ensure the most capable Teachers in a District were placed in the most challenging schools."

So you're suggesting we cut pay for teachers in less challenging schools?

John said...

Yes I think if we really want to get serious about helping the unlucky kids, closing the achievement gap and eliminating poverty, we need to change things so that the most capable Teachers are encouraged to and rewarded for working with these children.

The current system rewards Teachers for longevity, not for capability or helping the students who need it most.

And it frustrates the efforts of Administrators who are trying to do their best to put the most effective Teachers where they are most needed. And it makes the removal of poor performers much too difficult and time consuming.

The strange choices we make as a society....

jerrye92002 said...

PMFBI, but I think both of you are missing two things: First, I think a lot of teachers who can, just like the students who would if they could, leave the "challenging" (sounds better than "failing") schools for fears about their personal SAFETY. Survival trumps pay. Second would be the frustration that must come from being tossed into a situation where you don't have the control necessary to make it better. You're bound by the rules, the structure, the lack of expectations all around you. Fix those things and THEN I think pay would matter.

This is all difficult to impossible, of course, which is why I think reconstituting the school may be the quickest and most effective approach.

jerrye92002 said...


And this one seems to thread the needle nicely.


John said...


Resconstitution 2