Saturday, May 29, 2010

In the inbox

The Baltimore Sun said this in their thursday editorial:

Maryland hasn't even taken up some of the more sweeping reforms that other states already have adopted, such as creating greater opportunities for charter schools or alternative certification for teachers. But the Montgomery County school district and several local unions are balking at even the relatively modest changes — particularly, tying teacher evaluations to student test scores — that the General Assembly approved this year.

To which I had a reply in my inbox:

A modest change??? That would change everything, IMHO.

Let there be no doubt, as far as institutional change goes, what the state of Maryland is asking of localities is substantial. But I remember reading somewhere, or maybe I was talking about it with some collleagues, that perhaps what MCPS really has up its sleave is its own RttT application, which would likely come about in a sort of 3rd round of applications.

Maybe the key statement is later down in the Sun editorial:

Montgomery County may turn up its nose at the new standards, believing that its system is better than anything the state could possibly come up with, but what it's objecting to really amounts to ceding control over 30 percent of the evaluation.

I've never been much of a power guy; but I suppose this could be the issue. It'd be a lot easier if we made decisions based on the best ideas. But I suppose that's the same reason why I blog about evaluation instead of making decisions about it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Great conversation

Worth the price of admission (free) to read the comments on Jay Mathews' blog today about how we should evaluate teachers. Any comprehensive evaluation system should have multiple data points that corroborate claims of teacher performance. Practicality aside, I appreciated the following comments:

A list, off of the top of my head, that I would think should be considered are...

1. Several short evaluations by outside evaluators.
2. Several informal evalutations by administrators in the school. (Note: These need to be more realistic then IMPACT, which while a good start is unrealistic in what is expected in 30 minutes AND there is way too much room for intepretation)
3. Student input. Seriously, students know a frightening amount about who are and are not the good teachers. You would have to find a way to separate teachersstudents like vs. those they learn from.
4. Objective measures of professionalism... Does the teacher respond to parents? Does the teacher get to school on time? Does the student engage in professional development and collaboration with their co-workers?
5. What does a teacher do for a school besides his/her direct teaching. Do they run
a club, support tutoring after school, etc...
6. Test Scores- I guess I should list these, because it's going to come up. However, without some method of measuring growth by student, rather then generically, it is just a waste of time at best, and discourages the best teachers from teaching the weakest students at worst.

In other news, MCEA teachers approved the new contract. I voted against it- on principle only.

And finally, the Balitmore Sun blasted MCPS. The more and more I read the more and more I wonder about what is going on behind the scenes. I just don't get the sense that MCPS or MCEA are having any conversations about reform. So I'm just left scratching my head.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's all in the data.

I've been emailing Jay Mathews of the Washington Post about this quote from his May 21st blog:

I asked some Washington area school districts, nationally regarded for their high performance and sophisticated management, what percentage of their teachers were rated satisfactory in the last evaluation. I subtracted the number they gave me from 100 percent to calculate what portion of their teaching ranks could be considered ineffective. The results:Fairfax County 0.9 percent, Montgomery County 5 percent, Loudoun County 1 percent, City of Falls Church 0.45 percent, Prince William County 1.7 percent. I could not find a school district in the area that admitted to having more than 5 percent unsatisfactory teachers. Most said the figure was closer to 1 percent. Experts tell me this is common throughout the land. I don't believe the numbers.

It turns out that Jay may have made a small but understandable, logical misstep. He assumed that if 95% of Montgomery County teachers are currently rated satisfactory, then 5% must currently be rated unsatisfactory. Turns out, that's not quite right. I went to an MCPS annual report and found something different. It seems that 404 of those teachers (amongst the 5%) were novice teachers. They had not yet been evaluated. The other 67 teachers (of that same 5%) were underperforming tenured teachers. Math is not my speciality, but if it is correct then if 471 is 5%, 67 must be about .7%. This means that in 2009, over 99% of Montgomery County teachers were evaluated as satisfactory. That rates right up there with just about every other county in Maryland.

Meanwhile you've got the Baltimore Sun reporting that MCPS will not sign on to Maryland's Race to the Top application because of this same evaluation system:

Montgomery's Weast told the board Tuesday that the county will not sign the application because it does not want to give up its own teacher evaluation system. In an interview, he said that the county believes its evaluation system is better than others and that the state has not fully thought through the process for many of the reforms.

Or from Weast's own letter to the Baltimore Sun in which he claims,

MCPS has a comprehensive school reform plan that is working and is mirrored in the right-minded principles promoted by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan as part of the Race to the Top competition. This isn't educational theory; this is real reform, with real results.

It's almost laughable that in a 2004 report (which incidentally, was taken off the interweb by MCPS, but graciously stockpiled here by the Parents Coalition) MCPS was asking itself why so few teachers were referred to PAR, but by 2009 was concluding:

Increases in the number of teachers provided with PAR panel support indicate greater action on the part of principals and supervisors to implement the Teachers Professional Growth System.

A conclusion apparently based on the following data on the number of under performing, tenured teachers referred to PAR:

I'm not sure I'd have come to the same conclusions. But I do have my own reasons for why so few teachers receive an unsatisfactory rating. One thing should be clear, MCPS, like the rest of the state, needs new evaluation methods and new ways to remove ineffective teachers. I still do not understand the reluctance by MCPS officials to embrace a change that could keep MCPS's innovative teacher evaluation system in place, but with added reforms that make it substantially more robust. That seems to be a change everyone should be able to get behind.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Teachers' Unions' Last Stand

Great article in the New York Times magazine entitled The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand. A must but lengthy read on Teachers' Unions and Race to the Top. Read it critically, and then read this blog by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post. I'm definitely skeptical of any claim that charter schools, by the mere act of being charter schools, are any better or worse than public schools.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Game of Teacher Evaluations

Game theory is a way to help us understand how rational individuals and groups make decisions. With broad applications from sociology to economics, I thought I'd give its application a try in the world of teacher evaluations, specifically, to help explain why so few teachers in MCPS are placed into Montgomery County's Peer Assistance and Review program, a program to support struggling teachers who show improvement and dismiss struggling teachers who do not.

The following application of game theory is based on several assumptions. And admittedly, assumptions, like the housing market will always go up, can be dangerous. I also take a complex issue, which involves many variables, and make it simple. But my hope is that even a crude analysis can provide some insights into the problem with evaluation systems in education as they exist today. One important side note: while game theory may help explain why most people act a certain way most of the time, it certainly cannot explain why all people choose to act in the way they do. Now to the good stuff.

In game theory, a payoff matrix is used to help understand the possible outcomes that individuals or groups face given two choices. The figure above is such a matrix. It works under the presumption that people will consider their payoffs when making decisions, which in turn helps us understand why many rational people, faced with the same set of circumstances, make the same decision. The figure above, is the payoff matrix for the choices faced by evaluators and ineffective teachers, to work hard (max effort), or to take it easy (min effort).

Let us first consider the evaluator, the person who is primarily responsible for determining whether a teacher receives a satisfactory or unsatisfactory evaluation. The evaluator has two choices. The first is to exert maximum effort, and thus proceed to document and place considerable time and effort in the process of placing the teacher into the PAR system. The second choice, is to exert minimum effort. In this scenario the evaluator does not place the struggling teacher in the PAR system, but enjoys the added benefit of more time to address other issues. In the payoff matrix, we assume that a rational actor is interested in making their life simpler, and thus minimizing effort. I assign no value to exerting maximum effort, but a (+1) value to exerting minimum effort. I assign additional value to removal of the struggling teacher. If the evaluator is able to remove the teacher through placement into the PAR system, I assign a (+1) value, but if the teacher is not removed, I assign a value of zero. This leaves the following payout structure for the evaluator:

0 = Considerable effort , but no teacher removal

1 = Minimum effort, and no teacher removal

1 = Considerable effort, and teacher removal

2 = Minimum effort, and teacher removal

The ineffective teacher has slightly different payouts, but the same choices. Like the evaluator, the ineffective teacher may exert either maximum or minimum effort, but would prefer to minimize effort. Like the evaluator, I assign a (+1) value to minimizing effort and no value to maximizing effort. On the other hand, the teacher has an incentive to keep his or her job. When he or she keeps their job and thus receives scheduled step increases, I assign a value of (+1). However, because of the negative consequences associated with losing one's job, I assign a (-1) value to this outcome. This leaves the teacher with the following possible payouts:

-1= Considerable effort, and loss of job

0 = Considerable effort, and same rate of pay

0 = Minimum effort, and loss of job

1 = Minimum effort, and same rate of pay

Analysis of the payoff matrix allows us to understand why so few teachers end up dismissed from their job, and why a new system is needed that changes the payout structure for both teachers and evaluators.

Evaluators would like to remove ineffective teachers, but they understand this requires considerable effort. Let's assume evaluators don't mind this extra effort, but only if this effort pays off in the removal of the ineffective teacher. Once the evaluator places the teacher in the PAR system however, the tenured teacher has two options. The first option is to continue to place minimum effort into his or her job. However, already in the PAR system, this option will result in his or her dismissal. There is now a substantial carrot for the ineffective teacher to put in more effort in order to avoid dismissal. The result of the evaluator exerting maximum effort, is thus a payout value of zero for the evaluator, who faces a now motivated teacher willling to do what is necessary to keep their job.

Faced with the likely consequence that a teacher will not be removed even if he or she is placed in the PAR system, the rational evaluator is more likely to put forth minimum effort. In other words, the evaluator will not take the time consuming steps of putting the ineffective teacher in PAR. In this scenario, the ineffective teacher is not placed in the PAR system, but the evaluator does not have the headache associated with documenting the placement. The evaluator's life has become substantially easier. The rational ineffective teacher now has the option to either exert maximum effort to become a better teacher or to exert minimum effort, but devoid of consequences for exerting minimum effort, will likely make this choice.

In game theory, we call the above solution, the solution in which each participant acts in their own self-interest (regardless of the decision made by their "opponent"), the Nash equilibrium. In our game, this means both the evaluator and the ineffective teacher will choose to put forth minimum effort. This of course, has a negative consequence for the state of education as a whole, despite the "positive" outcome associated with the decisions made by the individual.

When teachers and administrators have incentives to do just enough to get by, something is broken. And while no one should believe all teachers are just out for survivial, we must create incentives for performances we value.

Race to the Top (RTTP) may very well give states and districts the opportunity to change this payout structure for both teachers and evaluators. Any effective evaluation system, must not only have negative consequences of failure, but positive consequences of success. And my next entry will try to explain how such a pay-off matrix will look and feel.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why Evaluation Systems must Change

Teacher evaluation systems around the country are in need of reform. But the most important reform that can be made is to link pay and performance. To be sure, evaluations as they exist today are tied too closely to over-worked and thus under-attentive administrators. This is why any new evaluation system must be on-going, robust, and involve multiple administrators and stake-holders. Parents, students, teacher-colleagues, subject specialists, and administrators must all play a role in the qualitative data gathering process. It is also clear that student performance data should be the wheels of any quantitative data gathering process. Considered jointly, these data points can successfully provide a window into the effectiveness of a teacher.

Currently, however, most evaluation systems do not do a very good job identifying struggling teachers, or in the very least, they do not effectively identify very many struggling teachers. As Jay Mathews notes in his Washington Post blog:

I asked some Washington area school districts, nationally regarded for their high performance and sophisticated management, what percentage of their teachers
were rated satisfactory in the last evaluation. I subtracted the number they gave me from 100 percent to calculate what portion of their teaching ranks could be considered ineffective. The results:

Fairfax County 0.9 percent, Montgomery County 5 percent, Loudoun County 1 percent, City of Falls Church 0.45 percent, Prince William County 1.7 percent. I could not find a school district in the area that admitted to having more than 5 percent unsatisfactory teachers. Most said the figure was closer to 1 percent. Experts tell me this is common throughout the land. I don't believe the numbers.

The evaluations are usually done by principals and subject specialists. I suppose they could be told to identify the bottom 10 percent, as some companies do, and offer them the severance funds, but as Hanushek points out their union representatives might object to that approach.

So the question remains, why are so few teachers identified as ineffective? Several years ago, MCPS asked itself this very question. It is unclear they had any definitive answers. I will spend some time now trying to answer this question.

In part, the answer is related to the fact that there is usually only one evaluator with the soul responsibility of determining whether a teacher should be identified as ineffective. But secondly, and most importantly, it is because there is virtually no incentive for an administrator to make this identification. And without performance based pay, this is unlikely to change in the near future.

In my next entry, I will attempt to show, using my admittedly limited knowledge of game theory, why so few teachers are identified as ineffective. I'll also offer a solution for improving the current state of teacher evaluations.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buyout for teachers saves money

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post blogged about this today. The article he cites essentially admits that buying out the oldest teachers is not the best way to go, but it is the most practical way. I like practical. But we must also push toward new evaluation processes that help the education field more readily identify who should be dismissed and when.

I was over at this blog of Accomplished California Teachers and was drawn to this thought provoking article from the Wall Street Journal about performance reviews in the business world. Great read. And it has got me thinking more on how we should evaluate teachers in the real world.

No furloughs

An extensive summary on the Montgomery County budget here. Word is still that 200 to 300 teachers will be dismissed this year. New teachers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I've been doing some listening. And reading. And thinking. And I've noticed a resounding juxtaposition in what I hear from educators.

First, there's this idea amongst union members that teachers are not respected, that we are not appreciated for the work for we do, and that we should be rewarded by having fewer requirements placed on us by administrators. A few select quotes from the MCEA discussion board to demonstrate this premise:

“Her point was that we don't stand up for ourselves. We have such an important task in front of us yet we are willing to settle for conditions that stand in the way of our success”

“Once again, this is a question of professionalism and how we are treated. “

“Nothing will change about our workload/time issues unless teachers find some way to say 'enough'.”

“It is time for us to let the county know that what is essential for good instruction, teachers, and students is the time to plan effective lessons, assess student progress, reteach and reassess. Right now teachers are working well beyond what they are paid to prepare for their students.”

"We are being asked to blindly accept a watered down contract with a few minor provisions in exchange for not getting anything of substance to appease an already divided work force"

On the other hand, I don't hear anyone saying that we wouldn't do this work if it weren't required. In fact, much of the work done by teachers when we're not teaching is not done out of contractual duty, but rather out of a good-hearted understanding of the nature of our job. We want students to achieve. And we're willing to do what is necessary to make sure this happens.

What I hear, is that teachers want to be rewarded and appreciated for this hard work. For eating lunch with one hand, while reteaching and retesting with the other. For going to a sporting events just to build a teacher-student relationship. For chaperoning an event at 7pm when they could finally be spending quality time with their family.

This reward, and here is where my views of the teaching profession are different than many of my colleagues, should be a merit based pay system. It is what we desperately want, but what we have convinced ourselves is not possible to attain.

As a profession, we're so afraid that we won't be evaluated fairly, we have boxed ourselves into a system that rewards us based on years of service instead of what we would desperately prefer. We don't really want one less meeting, or one less chaperon duty. What we really want is someone to come into our classroom and say to us, "you are doing all you can do, and you do it so well, that it with great honor and much appreciation that I inform you of your raise for next year."

Perhaps the largest obstacle to the creation of this new system, is that teachers have such an intricate understanding of the considerable variables that go into doing our job effectively, that we can't imagine a system that could effectively capture that success. But is precisely this intricate knowledge, that should be pooled together in the creation of a new evaluation system. Our knowledge is not the problem, it is the solution; an evaluation system created by us and for us that determines the amount of "step" or "raise" in any given year.

As a profession, it is clear to me that we need that affirmation. We need that reward. And not mind you, at the expense of collectively bargained pool of funds, but a redivision of those collectively bargained funds based on the delivery of quality instruction as judged by an evaluation system created by teachers themselves.

This is what we crave.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More on seniority

Ok, so this is nothing new... but if you like reading about why seniority rules don't help anyone, give it a try. And even if you want no part of reading about seniority, you can still click and complete the poll questions: Do you believe aliens have visited Earth within the last 100 years?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

MCPS: a summary

So it's all quite fascinating, really. Teacher pay in Montgomery County is frozen. The County is fighting itself over furloughs. Montgomery County teachers are now voting on a contract that freezes pay for at least one additional year after that. And now the Obama administration could be sending money to help. Meanwhile, the state of Maryland wants to become another Race to the Top state, which the state's largest county, Montgomery, is happy to support so long as they don't actually have to change.

My head hurts.

Did MCPS get the memo? About the change? Notice what New Haven, CT titles this page -school reform documents. That's more catchy than school stay the same documents.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Wheels of Change Spin Elsewhere

With New York now evaluating teachers based on four benchmarks, highly effective, effective, developing, ineffective, the state lines up as perhaps the biggest state ready to receive Race to the Top funds. I just don't see these same conversations about evaluations happening in Maryland, which is disconcerting. Instead its just a lot of bickering and blaming, which is not a win for anyone. A new evaluation system will allow us to dismiss ineffective tenured teachers more expeditiously, and put in place merit based incentives for the most effective teachers. From An Editorial from the New York Daily News:

A teacher rated ineffective would be entitled to coaching. After two ineffective ratings in a row, a district could seek termination before an arbitrator mandated to accept the rating as significant grounds for firing and to decide within 60 days.

Such sureness and speed would be a marked break from the near impossibility of letting an incompetent teacher go today... Only instructors who wound up on the lowest rung for two straight years would face a swift ax.

Dan Brown, a teacher in New York, remarked that this is actually a win for teachers. I cannot agree with his logic more emphatically. As he puts it in his opinion piece from the same paper:

Teacher evaluations were long overdue for an overhaul. Last year, fewer than 2% of New York City teachers were rated "unsatisfactory." You can practically count on one hand the number of city teachers fired for incompetence over the past two years. That's crazy, and it reflects poorly on all teachers to have such a softball system in place.

Maybe what Maryland needs is an article about rubber rooms or some other travesty of our educational system for more people to hop on board the reform train. Colorado's aboard. I have intentions to write the Montgomery County Board of Education on this matter when things slow down at school (at the local level, the Board of Education must initiate evaluation changes). When I do write, I'll be sure to report what I find.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Until this is fixed

...we're just a union like any other.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Montgomery County Budget Woes

I suppose I don't really have much to say about the budget and furloughs and the politics that goes along with it. It's all just a bit much, and there are other websites that do a heck of a job following the mess of a process. I read those articles, and associated commentary, and then I try to read messages delivered by my union representatives and I can only come to one conclusion: I've got almost no idea what is actually happening. County Councilmen are claiming they have to raise the reserve requirement from 5% to 6% to maintain a AAA credit rating while the union reports back that only one of three rating agencies suggested this was really necessary (but that 3rd one is more concerned about other areas). So the council would lie because... (seriously, someone help me out)??? And now the Board of Education has approved a law suit against the county council for cutting funds because somehow the county council is not in charge of the budget, even though they think they are, or something more sophisticated than that but not really. As I've said before, this is more than any good citizen should have to bare.

I do know this. MCPS is a huge bureaucracy that has grown considerably over the last decade. From the PAR program, to the Northeast Consortium, to the creation of staff developers in every school building, to other expenses no one thinks twice about, hundreds of millions of dollars in programs have been put into place. I've got no problem with any of these programs as a stand alone program. But the problem is they are never truly reevaluated. Maybe I'm wrong, but does anyone have a sense that red pens are ever taken to these programs? We are never trimming fat, only adding it. We add these programs and they immediately become fixed costs that cannot be sacrificed. Then, when the budget gets smaller, there's nothing to cut. It's time like these that private businesses make hard and difficult decisions to become leaner and more efficient. They cut investments in physical capital, and unfortunately, human capital. They do this, so that when business returns to normal, they deliver a higher quality service than when they started. The question I have is whether furloughs will do this.

The seniority system defended by the union prevents MCPS from becoming a better, higher functioning educational system. No one likes to fire people, and I certainly benefit from the protections of tenure, but our youngest teachers should not bare the brunt of firings simply and only because they are youngest. Imagine how much students would benefit if 300 of the least effective educators were fired instead of 300 of the youngest?

That's the sad part of this whole quagmire: MCPS and the County are going to be no better off when this is over than when it started.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another Progressive Union

This one in Washington. Or wait, this other one in Indiana. Young teachers going again before the tenured ones. Do you know that as a teacher, the only thing you can do to "earn" more money is to do something besides teach? That's right, do something besides focus on the quality of your teaching, and you can earn more money. Be a baseball coach (everyday after school) and you can earn more money. Stay and work on a killer lesson, and you get nothing. Now that's progressive.

From the Seattle News Tribune:

Gordon, 27, teaches English - including Advanced Placement English. He's the faculty adviser for the school's Key Club, Latino Club and the junior class. He mentors students at First Creek Middle School.

On this particular week, he also is helping students organize a blood drive. And he will end the week as an emcee at the school's spring sports pep rally, where he will also be named most inspirational male teacher.

In his four years on the Mount Tahoma staff - first as a student teacher, then three years as a full-fledged faculty member Gordon has become a fixture at the school that is also his alma mater.

But his days as a Thunderbird are numbered, because of declining student enrollment and seniority rules that govern how teachers are moved within the school district.

"A lot of our teachers are getting displaced for next year, and they're doing it by seniority," said Mount Tahoma junior Addison Sandoval. "Younger teachers are going to have to leave. Those are the teachers that are active in the school community."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A new Professional Growth System and Contract for MCEA

I do have some ideas here. And while I agree with certain principles like merit based pay, I really don't know what the specifics should look like. This op-ed in the Washington Post comes off a little extreme in my estimation, although I agree with the sentiment. It seems to me like MCEA could/should endorse an idea that ensures the right to collective bargaining while still promoting competition among its members to be the best possible teachers they can be. Let me just throw out a number. What if 10% of each teacher's salary was determined by a rating scale that evaluated teachers based on, among other things, student achievement data? What is so repulsive about that?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How Change Occurs

Was reading The Challenge to Care in Charm City, and came across reference to this article by Beverly Anderson in Educational Leadership. It made me think about whether the change Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to implement is inevitable. Perhaps all the bickering is just all the powers that be trying to look good with their respective constituents, rather than an honest resistance to change. Here are the six stages of institutional changes as found in the article:

Stages of Systemic Change
Six stages of change characterize the shift from a traditional educational system to one that emphasizes interconnectedness, active learning, shared decision making, and higher levels of achievement for all students. Although Figure 1 displays the six developmental stages as linear and distinct, change is unlikely to follow a linear path. An education system will seldom be clearly at one of these stages but will usually experience “Brownian motion,” going back and forth from one stage to another on the path toward an ideal situation. The six stages are:

Maintenance of the Old System:
Educators focus on maintaining the system as originally designed. They do not recognize that the system is fundamentally out of sync with the conditions of today's world. New knowledge about teaching, learning, and organizational structures has not been incorporated into the present structure.

Awareness: Multiple stakeholders become aware that the current system is not working as well as it should, but they are unclear about what is needed instead.

Exploration: Educators and policy-makers study and visit places that are trying new approaches. They try new ways of teaching and managing, generally in low-risk situations.

Transition: The scales tip toward the new system; a critical number of opinion leaders and groups commit themselves to the new system and take more risks to make changes in crucial places.

Emergence of New Infrastructure: Some elements of the system are operated in keeping with the desired new system. These new ways are generally accepted.

Predominance of the New System: The more powerful elements of the system operate as defined by the new system. Key leaders begin to envision even better systems.

I admit I don't know that many people, but many of those I've talked with- teachers, parents, or just concerned citizens- seem supportive of an institutional change to the way things are done. Maybe tipping the scales is not so far away. Not sure if this letter by the Maryland State Education Association to the Maryland State Department of Education is completely genuine, or is any indication, but at least its a step in the right direction.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tomorrow can't come soon enough.

The educators and professionals of tomorrow wonder why the teachers of today are so afraid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Readers Respond: Baltimore Sun

Some of my thoughts on the hand-wringing going on over teacher evaluations in Montgomery County. Seems like the pendulum is in motion in other states, and it'd be best for MCPS and MCEA to get on board or be left behind.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More on the evaluation system

State Senator Paul Pinsky wrote this op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun. Of course, at the bottom of this op-ed is the little disclaimer that Paul Pinsky is actually an employee of MCEA. I can't even fathom that our great state has employees of interest groups working as lawmakers, but perhaps that's another matter. What I really don't understand is the the attitude of MCEA on this matter. When the legislation was worded that student achievement data had to be a "significant" factor in evaluations MCEA just celebrated that no change was ncessary. Now that Nancy Grasmick is suggesting that the MCPS evaluation system might need to be changed after all, the union is up at arms. The current evaluation system is NOT perfect. It's not! Why wouldn't the MCEA want to reevaluate their system if it possibly means it could improve? What they really want to change is nothing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Furloughs to come

Teacher furloughs, that is. Couple that with a wage freeze and it looks like MCPS teachers are in for a pay decrease. I do find it kind of interesting how the state budgets seem to lag the rest of the economy. After all, the economy has actually been growing for six months, and the states are just now getting slammed by smaller revenues.

Can't say I'm thrilled but I'm happy that the county council is taking a stand. The following seems to be the key:

“Years of spending without regard for sustainability coupled with a global economic meltdown got us into this situation. Since 2006, a new County Executive working with this Council has steadily decreased the growth in the spending. This year we will actually spend less than we did last year. Going forward, we must insure that spending is sustainable over the short and long term,” continued Elrich.

I'm not sure I completely understand why there should be a big "to do" every year over the budget. If there were a list of pre-recongnized cuts that were initiated were the county to experience a short-fall in revenues in any given year, we could all just go about our business rather than yelling and screaming and lobbying. Something tells me the quote above is lip-service, though. Sure hope I'm wrong.

Now we'll just have to wait and see how the Montgomery County School Board decides to proceed. The Parents' Coalition seems to think this is all one big waste.

Monday, May 3, 2010

70% Funded

Will be looking at this to look at why on Earth we've created a retirement system that is dependent on the fiscal health of our good state. Seems to me there could be a better way, given that I contribute 5% of my salary every year.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Racing to the middle

An argument that MCPS is not as great as it thinks it is.


Anybody have a good resource that explains how teacher pensions are funded? I get the general premise, but I'm looking for the specifics. The state matches my contribtion to the fund? The state puts in more than my contribution? I suppose there is a law I can read? I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Make Administrators Accountable for Student Achievement

Recent debate about Race to the Top funds has centered around whether teachers should be held accountable for student achievement. But I have not seen much discussion of holding administrators accountable for the student achievement that occurs in their school. This might be even more important than holding teachers accountable. If principals were held accountable, they would actually have an incentive to get rid of ineffective teachers. Currently, principals fail to get rid of most ineffective teachers because its too much of a pain... guilt, documentation, time, effort, and for what? It's easier just to let them slide by. After all, principals are not punished when an ineffective teacher continues to teach in their building. But what if they were? What if their salaries were determined by the amount of learning that occured in their building? I'd bet you'd see alot more ineffective teachers dismissed than we do now.