Saturday, August 17, 2013

Progressives Against Improving Schools?

ALEC is concerned that Teacher's unions may lose their influence in Minneapolis if the wrong Mayor is elected. MPP Status Quo vs School Reform  And since I can't get my whole response to post there...  I'll post it here.  One advantage of having your own blog... The lead in is that I asked if they were a member of Education MN.  Based on previous exchanges and their not being willing to be progressive regarding school improvement, I was kind of guessing they were.
"You bet. I also have two children in public, urban schools. I also live in a large urban school district.

Collective bargaining and strong unionization has no correlation to educational outcomes, when comparing right to work states vs. strong union states. If anything, states with strong collective bargaining rights have better performance. The obvious, immediate, and faulty assault on labor is a sure sign that educational achievement takes a back seat to an ideological battle against teachers as professionals.

Why attack something that is not correlated to educational achievement?

A strong neighborhood school in every neighborhood. Period." ALEC

"Thoughts so. How about a correlation between:
1. class size and student achievement?
2. teacher compensation/job security and student achievement?

My guess is that we agree that #1 is important. However I am pretty sure we disagree regarding #2. Especially since I think they may actually be negatively correlated. My rationale is that today teacher comp/security is tied to "years in district" and degrees. Neither of which do I see as strongly correlated to student achievement.

In fact, I call tenure related comp the silver hand cuffs for teachers. Often they are trapped in a district, position or school that they hate and they can't justify changing jobs because they don't want to lose their relatively high comp or tenure related benefits. So how do you think this trapped Teacher performs. (ie good pay/security but unhappy/depressed/frustrated) And of course the administration can't do much except pay them because they are performing marginally, but ok.

Also, do you really think the best and brightest potential teachers are going to sign up to be teachers, when they have wait 20 years to hit the maximum compensation? Especially when the 5 year teacher is forced to teach the same sized class as the potentially burnt out 20 year teacher next door for 70% of the comp? It certainly would tweak me...

Getting rid of tenure related comp and benefits, and going to performance based would be wonderful for the teachers and students. Imagine if a teacher is frustrated they could quit and move to another school that would pay them based on their qualifications and performance. Young gifted teachers could make as much as their older equally capable peers. And if the cost of teachers did drop 10% due to market forces being in play, that means we could hire 10% more teachers and reduce the class sizes by ~10%. Or possibly leave 10% of those community schools open.

Now Oppressed Teacher and yourself may say you are fighting for the kids, but it sounds to me like you are fighting for your tenure related compensation, benefits and job security. (ie union stuff) Remember that most of us educated professionals in the real world earn a pretty good living and are free to change jobs when we are unhappy. Of course the downside is that we have to perform well and add more value than we cost almost everyday, otherwise we will be unemployed...

Thoughts?" G2A

 Then they followed up with this.  MPP A Bet against CB is a Bet against Kids



John said...

I wonder if this page would have been on the Ed MN site if the supposed Progressives had been in charge in 2011? ED MN Teacher Development and Evaluation

My guess the answer is no, they seem happy with and willing to fight for the status quo regarding public schools from what I can tell. (ie give us more money and trust us, while the huge academic gap remains)

I am still trying to get over the idea of a "Professional" only being evaluated once every 3 years. Every where I have been has been once a year or once every 6 months. It must be part of the "trust us" thing.

jerrye92002 said...

Pretty easy to come to the wrong conclusions when you start out with faulty assumptions, like:

1) Class size reduction has a permanent and positive correlation with achievement.
2) Teacher seniority has a positive correlation with achievement, warranting the higher pay they receive.
3) Higher education spending improves student achievement.
4) Higher teacher pay automatically improves student performance.

And this latest nonsense:
5) That unionized teachers are "professionals."
6) That union teachers teach better.

All are tragically false.

John said...

I agree with everything except the class size.

All things equal, having fewer kids in class has to be better.

The exception would be in a lecture situation where no student support is required.

John said...

I agree with everything except the class size.

All things equal, having fewer kids in class has to be better.

The exception would be in a lecture situation where no student support is required.

Laurie said...

If you want a good debate on your questions MPP is the place to be. Alec is my favorite blogger over there and very knowledgeable on education.

I'll put my 2 cents in later, right now I need to head over school to finish moving all my stuff to a new classroom. I bet at a unionized school the custodian would be doing this for me. This is my 4th unpaid day this summer :( -and that's not counting the many hours I have spent assembling learning center games.

John said...

I agree Alec is great, though a bit too pro-union / status quo for me.

Congratulations !!! The life of a "salaried professional" normally means working more to ensure the job gets done right. Be happy you are not working with folks around the world. Between Asia and Europe I leave my phone/email on all the time.

I only had a true "hourly" job for one year at a McDonald's... The freedom to "leave" your job and have hard boundaries would be nice at times, but I don't think it is for me.

Laurie said...

It's easy for you talk about the life of a "salaried professional" when you make double or triple my salary.

I'd comment on your topic, but I have more work to do. How many hours have you put in on your job today?

Also, I am not sure it is worth putting the time in to make comments as you and Jerry seem pretty set in your views, never mind what actual experienced educators have to say.

Anonymous said...

"I agree with everything except the class size. All things equal, having fewer kids in class has to be better."

That smaller class sizes are better seems the conventional wisdom, and makes sense unless you think about it a bit. Unfortunately, neither the research nor common sense agree with you. The research clearly shows that, within reasonable limits (physical classroom space being a big one), class size doesn't impact achievement beyond the third grade. Furthermore, the benefits of small class size (16> class size < 21) disappears by third grade (the same as the benefits of all-day K, by the way). So I'm all for holding down K-2 class sizes, and after that I think they need to be rational and rationalized-- I have a calculation for establishing "function-specific room capacity" that should be used, rather than simply arbitrarily giving teachers less responsibility for the same pay.

That's where I think the logic of the proposition breaks down, too. Certainly a class size of one has its advantages, which may be why home schoolers do so well, but once the class gets larger than, say, a dozen, the pedagogical techniques must necessarily change, and they stay essentially the same until you hit the next breakpoint, somewhere around 50. Then a still different approach is required (lecture hall). So, for my money, I would like to see "good" teachers paid more, and INCLUDED in that evaluation would be the number of students they can effectively engage and instruct. All "things" are NOT equal, especially teachers.


John said...

Why? Do you think "Union Teachers" are better and more effective than you lowly "Non-Union Teachers".

FYI, I used to help my wife set up her classroom before she opened the in home business. You want to talk about low paid teachers. Try being a pre-school teacher. And I wasn't paid at all...

Come to think of it... I am still not paid and I am often fixing or building things around here. Maybe its time to unionize...

Anonymous said...

Laurie, by all means do what you take as your priority, of which conversing with us, as much as we may enjoy it, is probably next to last-- just above giving the cat a bath.

Don't feel as if you are wasting time just because you don't change any minds here. We are paying attention to you, and respect your experience, but we cannot ignore our own experience, common sense and knowledge, either, and we love to "share." :-) And I don't need the experience of having tried to outrun a grizzly bear to recognize it as a bad idea.


John said...

Your class size belief makes no sense. Show us the link to your proof.

Next you will be saying that it doesn't matter what percentage of kids in the class are living in challenging situations. (ie typically measured by % receiving free and reduced lunch, or the % of special ed kids)

Of course I guess you do that often when you say the the inner city schools are "very expensive" with poor results...

The reality is that ALEC is correct in...

"Class size has the greatest affect where it is needed most. The studies negating class size as effective lump all situations together. Even the studies that discount class size say the largest effect is in the low socio-economic classrooms.

You see, poverty is a challenge, but what is even more challenging is concentration of poverty. Where there is a high concentration of high needs, class size has the largest effect.

Imagine a class of 40 that has 2 high needs students, or a class of 30 that has 28 high needs students. The class of 30 is going to be harder to reach the needs of all the students than the class of 40. Equality of opportunity does not mean always mean exactly equal situations." ALEC

G2A Wayzata vs RDale

John said...

Some old discussions that may be relevant.
G2A EPI Penalty

Laurie said...

As I have to finish my beer before turning in I will share a small dose of my acquired wisdom on your education topic.

Progressives are not against improving schools and teachers should be paid more, not 10% less.

John said...

woulda coulda shoulda...

I agree that good and excellent Teachers should be paid more. I disagree that "more experienced or educated" Teachers should be paid more just because they are "more experienced or educated"...

They should be paid more because they are good, excellent and our productive Teachers. And if they want even more money they need to be able to take on more responsibility. (ie Head Teacher, Team Leader, Staff Supervisor, etc)

I am happy that engineers are relatively well paid to start out. However they plateau pretty quickly. (ie maybe 50% over starting pay) To increase that further one needs to start Supervising or Leading Projects. That way one can use their expertise to help others and increase their value to the company.

So Teachers have decided that steps/ladders, relatively fixed hours, summers off, protecting all and job security are very important. What would they be willing to give up for a higher salary?

Laurie said...

If I lived in Mpls or St Paul I would send my kids to a neighborhood school because they are better than nearly all charter schools.

If I was the director of a charter school I would do a better job managing personnel than what I've seen. Sometimes people are fired unfairly, like after only 6 weeks and sometimes people that cannot manage a class are kept on. I'd also try harder to keep the best teachers by offering them more pay and responsibility. My school lost 4 good teachers over the summer, including one who was outstanding. Maybe if she was given a significant amount of more money to train/mentor new and struggling teachers she might have stayed.

Your performance based ideas have SOME merit, but from what I've seen charter schools are not implementing them well.

John said...

And how much would be enough?

If you think a "one classroom Teacher" should make as much as the "avg college grad", that is probably unrealistic.

I mean some of those "avg college grads" are likely now running whole departments or companies... Meaning they have great deal more responsibility than they did when they started 25 yrs ago.

Whereas that "one classroom teacher" still has one classroom.

This is dated, however it is still relevant.
G2A Teacher Comp

jerrye92002 said...

Here you go, though I’m tired of being asked for proof of what I know. Unfortunately I cannot find a link to the study I have been relying on for my comments – a multivariate analysis of several hundred studies on class-size, condensed into a single chart. It showed clearly that smaller class sizes in kindergarten and first grade produce a significant improvement in academic achievement, but continuing those small class sizes does not produce further achievement gains over standard class sizes, and in fact the difference narrows over time, beyond the third grade. The studies below have several additional conclusions, to varying degrees of certainty, such as: A) class-size is far from the most important determinant of student achievement, B) the class-size reduction required to see significant improvement is more costly than many other approaches, C) that disadvantaged children see greatly more improvement from class-size reduction (I was a bit surprised but it makes a lot of sense, and matches my own experience), D) that arbitrary statewide reductions in class-size are not effective but ARE costly, E) reducing class size is almost meaningless if an under-qualified teacher is hired, or if the teacher does not adapt teaching style to the reduced class-size, F) our international competitors routinely outperform us with class sizes much larger, and G) the “significant improvement” is “equivalent to 3 months of additional schooling 4 years later.”

jerrye92002 said...

As far as teacher pay goes, I agree with the Gov. Pawlenty approach of creating a "career track" for teaching, similar to that in the most enlightened engineering companies. Teachers would start out as an "apprentice," and then advances they were able through journeyman, master, and maybe a 4th – consulting – status, each of which had more responsibility and carry greater pay. This avoids the common problem that we have now, where the only way for a teacher to make "big bucks" is to move over into administration, thereby losing our best teachers and getting a ho-hum or even unnecessary administrator in the bargain. Obviously these rankings would require a performance evaluation, but that ought to happen anyway and it doesn't. And notice that the DFL legislature just canceled the law requiring that teachers even be qualified in the subject that they teach!

The other way I would, and have suggested for improving teacher pay is to simply pay based on the number of students in the class (who are effectively learning, of course). Right now with the average class-size of 20, assuming a state average per pupil spending of $10,000, says that the average teacher should be making $200,000 per year. I'm guessing that is not the case, which is part of the problem. But once that is corrected, imagine if that same teacher could effectively teach 22 students instead of 20. An instant 10% pay raise!

Laurie said...

I would be content to make $75,000 (which would be about a 50% raise for me). Then I would be able to contribute more to my children's college education. My older son was on the fence all summer about moving home to save money, but has decided to go further into debt to stay on campus.

I have long been curious about how charter school funding compares with Mpls or St. Paul public school districts. Charter school teachers are paid significantly less.

John said...

Is that $75,000 for 12 months work, or 9 months plus change?

The nice thing about public employees is that it seems the contracts are in the public domain.
RDALE Teacher Contract See pg 51 Appendix A for comp.

RDALE Salaries and Benefits

75K adjusted for only working 9.5 mths equals $59,375. It looks like a Masters and 9 years can get one there.

Of course do to the silver handcuffs of tenure, steps and lanes, I assume you have to stay there 9 years. No job hunting for a better paying position in this system. No higher pay because one is a GREAT Teacher.... The steps and lanes must rule, so says the union...

I think the big problem with charters is that they don't really have access to local funds, and I know the traditional districts work hard to keep them out of our vacant public school buildings.

RDALE has left Pilgrim Lane Elementary sit idle for years rather than letting Beacon Academy use/rent it.. Even though it was the state and local funds that paid for its construction. RDALE feared the competition to the point where they would rather let the mice have it...

The Public schools like to flex their near monopolistic powers, kind of like the unions. No wonder the system is expensive, idle buildings while the charters have to rent elsewhere.

John said...

Along those lines, Wayzata was trying to woo one of RDALE's best HS teachers with some sweet offer. I wonder how they could do that???

John said...

As an experienced licensed teacher, would you have to start at the bottom of the steps/lanes if you went to a traditional public school? (ie union controlled)

If licensed experienced Teachers move into the state???

Laurie said...

Districts can choose to pay a new hire teacher for their full years of experience, though most won't. I suppose they could further sweeten the deal with added pay/ responsibilities.

The charter school I am at did give me credit for years worked elsewhere, so I guess I should be grateful for that.

If I was a charter school principal I would try harder to hang onto my best staff members(which are usually the ones to leave) by treating them very professionally, paying them as much as I could for added responsibilities, showing appreciation etc. People like to have some control in their job and feel appreciated.

I would have a hard time firing people, though not as much if it was a young person who has lots of time to establish themselves in a more suitable career. A teacher in my school who can't control his class is a guy in his fifties. What's he going to do at that age, when it is hard to find a different job or make a living working as a sub.

Have you fired many people?

Laurie said...

Mostly I think it is hard for teachers to move, as districts don't want to pay for many years of experience. Say a teacher who has worked for 15 years being offered step 5. I don't know this for sure but I have heard stories.

There probably are exceptions, like when someone has the right connection or has something about them that makes them an outstanding candidate. Teachers licensed/experienced in areas that have less of a surplus or slight shortage of teachers probably do better also.

John said...

"Don't want to pay for many yeaars of experience..."

Is that strange to you? Do you pay an accountant 2 times as much to do basic household taxes just because they've been doing it 20 years instead 5 years? Especially if they both have good references...

I won't, however I will pay someone more who can show they offer extra value. (Ie specialist, better qaulity, can carry bigger load, reduce my loaad, etc)


jerrye92002 said...

We always joked at work that, when hiring, you had to distinguish between somebody with 10 years of experience and somebody with two years of experience 5 times. I think, again, that teachers should be paid on merit, including how many students they can teach and how effectively, and that such merit should be expected to increase every year. If it does not, a good merit pay system will keep their salary stagnant, losing ground against inflation, until eventually they find a more promising line of work. You don't have to fire anybody.

On the list of firings, though, I think mine has to be a favorite. I was told, "we're going to have to let some people go, you know. We could try to push out the young guys--strict seniority-- and hope the business lasts long enough for the old guys to retire, or we could get rid of the deadwood and keep the best performers, but we've pretty much already done that. So what we've decided to do is let go the people we feel have the best chance of finding another job, and your name is at the top of that list." Gee, thanks!

John said...

That is the most interesting termination story I have ever heard. In my case they did the legaleeze corporate script thing with 2 supervisors present. (ie very cold and formal) On the other hand, where the local folks were jerks at best, the corporate folks were excellent and tried to encourage me to move to another facility.

The good news is that I have always kept training/learning, and other businesses are usually willing to pay market rate for people who do this. In my case I had 2 offers within ~2 months of sending my first resume.

I ended up accepting a position in town that paid ~15% less because I wanted the freedom to work 4 days/wk in the Summer, I thought it looked interesting and my teen age girls weren't interested in moving to Peoria IL. (surprize) And I also realize that my previous employer did provide high pay and benefits.

So I can understand the fear that Teachers have. I mean they work their way up the scale to the point that they are earning more than the market rate, they have high job security, etc. (ie market rate = what they could make if they applied to another district) No wonder they are scared and fighting for tenure, steps, lanes, etc.

I mean it is a great deal for the 15+ yr teachers if you can get it. Higher than market wage, higher than normal job security, incredible benefits, few measureable goals, little to no performance management, etc.

Of course the idea of being bound to that one district for my whole career would drive me crazy. See after 6 yrs with my first company, I wanted another learning opportunity and happily took a 20% raise for the new opportunity at a new company. Maybe I am just less risk averse than the typical teacher.

Laurie said...

With teaching one classroom/school is usually pretty much like another. The main reason to want o move is because of a preferred location.

So how would you set up the pay scale for teaching? In my experience some teachers are clearly outstanding ( ~10%), some teachers are struggling (~ 10%) and the rest are average. One could give the outstanding ones extra responsibilities like coaching, fire the struggling ones, but what about the average majority? What would you pay them in the first few years? How about after 30-40 years?

John said...

How much variation do you think should exist between accountants that are doing the same job with similar responsibility, throughput and quality?

My view is that 80% of Teachers should start at ~$45K and top out at ~$70K if they only have responsibility for "one classroom". And I know this is a foreign concept, but the 30-40 yr Teacher may be only earning $50K. And a 5 yr Teacher may be earning $70K. (take these times 12/9.5 to adjust them to a yearly equivalent, ~57K to ~$88)

Also, the lower 10% should be fired and/or retrained into a new career. The top 10% could probably exceed the upper income by 20% of more, depending on how much their expertise, leadership and productivity is valued.

The 80% would need to do what is typical in private business if they want to earn more. Lead teams of personnel, become a manager, etc.

What do you think they should be paid?

Should a Teacher be paid more just because they have been doing it longer? (ie 5 yrs vs 35 yrs)

John said...

ALEC is back criticizing those that want to improve the public education system.

MPP ALEC Morphing

jerrye92002 said...

Tee-hee. It is too laugh. When a left-wing rag says that ALEC is against improving schools, you have to assume they are projecting at best, or just flat out denying all reality. A quick scan of their complaints shows that what ALEC favors is ACTUAL school reform-- anathema to the leftists and union thugs.

jerrye92002 said...

By the way, while I disagree with your split on who gets the raises and who gets fired, I think that is the nitty-gritty for the schools' "management" to decide. Our merit program was broken down something like 10-40-40-10, with the top 10% getting a 6-10% in 12 months, the next 40% getting a 3-4% raise in 12 months, the next 40% getting a 5% raise in 24 months, and the bottom 10% getting a 3% raise every 36 months, or less. The numbers varied depending on how much money was available for merit pay each year, how the jobs compared to the competitive survey, and where each employee was relative to the "cap" for their job-- new kids got bigger raises than old guys near the peak of their profession. And where you fit in line was strictly a matter of merit-- a mostly objective assessment, reviewed by two levels of management above you.