Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
From the article:
Teaching is an incredibly complex art, and prescribing this high a percentage in terms of one area . . . undervalues teachers," said Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County Education Association. He said the regulations might jeopardize the county's peer-review evaluation system, which uses observations, test scores and other factors to determine how well teachers are doing.
Wrong. You can keep your peer review if you simply choose to revamp what you've already got. And what undervalues teachers, is having teachers get paid based on whether they show up for work, and for how many years they keep doing it, rather than whether they deliver a high quality product. Every day an ineffective teacher remains in their job is an insult to the teachers who work hard every day to be good at what they do.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
If this is the state's way of calling out MCPS, then I'm all for it. It's time MCPS and MCEA engage in real meaningful reform that incentivizes the teaching profession. Come up with a system that rewards teachers for doing their job well. Reward teachers who work hard, not those who just get by. There is room to create this reform, even within or with additions to the current PGS and PAR system, but only if they engage the process. MCPS should lead and initiate like places such as New Haven, Connecticut are already doing. The alternative is to continue to make arguments for the status quo. Figure out how teachers can track their performance using a value-added approach to student performance. Figure out how to do the same for administrators who could potentially have more power under new system. It's high time we improved the profession once and for all.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Two of the more convincing points were made by Terry Moe, a professor of political science at Stanford University:
On average, it takes two years, $200,000, and 15% of the principal's total time to get one bad teacher out of the classroom. As a result, principals don't even try. They give 99% of teachers -- no joke -- satisfactory evaluations. The bad teachers just stay in the classroom. Well, if we figure that maybe 5% of the teachers, that's a conservative estimate, are bad teachers nationwide, that means that 2.5 million kids are stuck in classrooms with teachers who aren't teaching them anything. This is devastating...
...The seniority rules often require districts to lay off junior people before senior people. It's happening all around the country now. And some of these junior people are some of the best teachers in the district. And some of the senior people that are being saved are the worst. Okay. So just ask yourself, would anyone in his right mind organize schools in this way, if all they cared about was what's best for kids? And the answer is no. But this is the way our schools are actually organized. And it's due largely to the power of the unions.
I would like to add that I do take issue with the way the debate question is framed (Don't blame teacher unions for our failing schools), even if done just for the sake of spurring interest in debate. Blaming one variable for such a dynamic issue is irresponsible and an over simplification. But unions are, as currently organized, and by the issues that they choose to champion, major impediments to reform. It is for this reason that I believe teacher unions need to under go major institutional and ideological changes if they are going to contribute to a better educational system.
Unions like to argue that if administrators had the power to fire more senior teachers they would do so at a whim, or to pursue personal vendettas. Let's just go out on a limb and say this is 100% true. Welcome to real life. It pays to get along with your boss. And it's certainly not arbitrary.
On the other hand, let's say that principals' pay were based on the performance of the school. He or she would then have a vested interest in getting rid of the least effective teachers. Incentives matter. It's how the real world works, and it's how education should work.
Finally, it is well within the power of unions to come up with a less arbitrary system, that would not hurt its students or the profession of teaching. Yet unions simply argue that last hired first fired is the only fair way. I say, if you are so concerned that adminstrators are unable to do what's best for schools in their current circumstance, come up with a new way to get rid of the worst teachers. I'm quite certain there is a better way, and that it is within the power of the union to do so. Anything else is protecting unions, not education.
Referral Rate for Experienced Teachers
Since the program began in the 2000-2001 school year, 315 tenured MCPS teachers have been referred to PAR.3 District officials have raised the question about why this number is “so low.” Principals were asked precisely this. The answers, varied and instructive, fall into the six categories of response, described below:
Unwillingness to give up on teachers—The majority of principals are interested in helping teachers to improve their practice. They believe, “If I just try a little harder, work a little more with this teacher” things will get better. In MCPS, placing an experienced teacher in PAR sends a signal that the teacher is at risk of being terminated.4 One principal’s comments sum up the views of many: “It’s gut-wrenching. These [teachers] are not strangers. You know their stories. They’re not evil people.”
Concern that referral to PAR reflects negatively on the principal—A number of principals expressed concern that referring an experienced teacher to PAR reflects negatively on them as principals. The teacher being referred is often someone the principal has selected, or helped to select, for the position at the school. Some significant fraction of principals believe that if they refer teachers to PAR, it indicates, “we made a mistake selecting that teacher in the first place” and that “mistake” will translate into something negative on the principal’s evaluation.
Not wanting to roil school waters—Some principals say that knowledge that an experienced teacher has been referred to PAR creates tension at the school. “Other teachers become nervous, or think I’m picking on the teacher.” As a result, some principals admit, they do not refer teachers who ought to be referred to PAR so as to keep peace among the faculty.
The time factor—A number of principals admit that they refer fewer tenured teachers to PAR than might benefit from the assistance because of the time it takes for them to prepare a submission to the PAR Panel. Principals are required to complete two formal observations (down from three). Each of these, by some estimates, requires as long as three hours of the principal’s time. “Sometimes I just miss the deadline because I don’t get the work done in time,” commented one principal whose remarks spoke for a number of colleagues.
Holdover concerns about MCEA—A few principals report they are reluctant to refer experienced teachers to PAR because they are worried, based on history, that “MCEA will make things difficult”. None of the principals interviewed could point to an actual instance in which, since the inception of PAR, the union has attempted to stymie the process. Nevertheless, there is an anticipatory reaction among principals that seems to make some of them more reluctant than they otherwise might be to
recommend tenured teachers to PAR.
Newness of the system, newness of many principals—Finally, PAR is a relatively new system for MCPS. Given the staggered implementation of the PGS, some principals have had a year or two of experience with PAR, but fully one-third of principals began to implement the system just this school year. Compounding the newness of the system is the newness of many principals. Familiarity and comfort with the process likely will encourage greater use of it.
Again, the last pagagraph is simply not supported by the data. The time factor rings home to me. Although, I might call it the "it's a pain" factor.
I will tell you this, and let there be no doubt, if principals were paid extra for great assessment data, more teachers would be on PAR.
Julie Sanders, a 7th grade teacher in Montgomery County, is a strong believer in the idea behind PAR, which she calls a “get-well plan” for teachers, but she isn’t convinced that it adequately captures everyone who needs help.
“It would overwhelm the system,” Ms. Sanders said. “I think [the PAR panelists]
probably need to get rid of a lot more people than they actually do.”
And because of rigorously enforced timelines and the extensive documentation required to refer a teacher to peer assistance and review, some principals continue to use the “excessing” process to rid their buildings of poor-quality instructors, Ms. Sanders said. (Teachers who are removed from schools as a result of program changes, but still are employed by the district, are deemed “excessed.”)
That is a place where administrators need to be held accountable on making better use of the system, said Ms. Lawrence, the Toledo union president.
“It isn’t an easy thing to say to a teacher, ‘You have performance problems and you need to be referred to assistance,’ ” she said. “But that’s part of what being a manager means.”
Phillip Gainous, the vice president of the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Supervisory Personnel and the co-chairman of the Montgomery County district’s PAR panel, thinks that the referral process is gradually improving. Principals are gradually coming to view PAR not as a hammer, he said, but as a genuine route to improvement.
This last paragraph is certainly not in line with the data that shows fewer and fewer tenured teachers being referred to the PAR program.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD.
Total novices: 446
Nonrenewed: 16 (3.6%)
Granted 2nd year of PAR: 32 (7.2%)
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD.
(teachers on staff: 9,371)
Teachers in intervention: 9
Extra year of intervention: 2
to classroom: 0
Nine tenured teachers referred to the system for the 07-08 school year. None of them deemed worthy of returning to the normal professional growth system. Seven dismissed. This system cannot be valuable if so few tenured teachers are referred, and those that are referred are dismissed. How many teachers would have been dismissed if that number were 900 rather than 9? How many teachers could benefit from being in the PAR program?
Friday, April 23, 2010
The district that appears most up in the air is Montgomery County, the largest district in the state with an enrollment of 142,000. Montgomery County schools spokesman Dana Tofig said the county wants more time to consider the details of the 250-page application before deciding whether to agree to the reforms. Montgomery school Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said in an op-ed piece in The Baltimore Sun this week that the county already has a teacher evaluation policy that works.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
We have not changed our evaluation in anyway. We have no intention of doing so. The Teacher Professional Growth System has served us well for the past ten years and is a model for other systems around the country. The focus on collecting authentic data through formal and informal observations, bolstered by other data sources (including student achievement) has provided more meaningful feedback to teachers than the previous evaluation system or that currently being used by any other county in Maryland. The structured support for teachers and other educators the system provides is also unique in our state.
If MCEA doesn't think our evaluation system should imporve, or that the current law doesn't provide an opportunity to improve it, they are taking a decidedly narrow approach. It takes two years to remove even the most ineffective tenured teacher. Further, test scores are used in name only. Two out of six standards by which teachers are evaluated have mention of the use of assessment data. To say that test scores are already a significant portion of the Montgomery County evaluation system could not be further from reality.
Monday, April 19, 2010
How does the MCEA choose the candidates it supports? Apparently there are a lot of criteria. Lots of "ours" and "contracts" and not a lot of "what's best for students." Just saying.
MCEA bases its recommendations on a number of factors, including:
1. Voting Record
For County Council and County Executive, primary consideration is given to votes approving funding for our contracts and votes on tax issues to provide adequate funding for the public school system. For Board of Education, primary consideration is given to votes approving our contracts, as well as votes on other educational policy issues that affect the working conditions of MCEA unit members. For the General Assembly MSTA [the state teachers] compiles a voting record. For example, during the last legislative term, the MSTA scorecard includes 12 votes in the Senate and 15 in the House over the four year term. In some situations the listed votes were unanimous. In other situations there were multiple votes on the same bill. Listed votes included numerous tax issues related to ensuring adequate funding for education, as well as votes on use of public tax dollars for private schools, as well as high profile votes on the Thornton school funding plan, the pension enhancement, and the proposed state take-over of 11 public schools in Baltimore.