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Archive for Friday, March 4, 2011

First Bell: Teacher tenure under attack in Missouri?; Wichita company seeks to supply students early; looking back at budget cuts decided a year ago

March 4, 2011

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A few education-oriented items from around the area:

As the Jayhawks prepare to cross the border to play Missouri’s Tigers this Saturday in basketball, teachers in Lawrence just may have their eyes on another battle brewing in the Show Me State.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City are busy considering a bill that would push school districts into ranking their teachers and then paying them accordingly.

According to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the legislation would:

• Strip teachers of tenure.

• Award teachers contracts based on performance rankings, with those in the top of four tiers getting four-year contracts; teachers in the bottom tier would get one-year contracts.

• Reduce salaries for thousands of teachers, as teachers in the top tier could earn twice as much as those in the bottom group; the bill would require that a third of each district’s teachers be in the bottom tier.

The bill is being considered in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and is considered “one of the top priorities of the House Republican leadership.”

Back here in Lawrence, negotiations opened Wednesday between Lawrence school district administrators and teachers regarding a new teacher contract for 2011-12.

•••

I received a note Thursday from the folks at Packademics, a Wichita-based company that says it can fill orders for school supplies online for essentially any school, anywhere.

I went ahead and followed the link, and came across a long list of schools in Lawrence.

I’m not saying the site should be a first option for buying school supplies, or even if it would be appropriate. There are plenty of local retailers — both locally owned and national chains — that have all the supplies a student would need.

I do have a bit of an issue, however, with this quote from the note I’d received: “The firm gathers school supply lists for every grade in each school, and does the shopping — and shipping — so the supplies are delivered to the home in time for the school year.”

In time for the school year? It’s March, folks. The next academic year doesn’t start until August, and I’d hope they could fill an order by then.

Of course, they’ll have to wait for the updated supply lists, which won’t be available for, oh, at least a few more weeks (or months, I should say).

•••

Members of the Lawrence school board know that next year’s budget likely will need to be $3 million smaller, given anticipated reductions in state revenue.

What remains unclear is just where board members intend to make cuts to make ends meet.

Thus far, only one plan has moved forward with any sort of recommendation: closure of Wakarusa Valley School for next year, as recommended by the Lawrence School Facility Vision Task Force. Board members are scheduled to discuss the recommendation — and others contained in the task force’s report — during a board meeting March 14, then come back with a formal public hearing on the closure issue March 28.

The closure would be expected to save the district nearly $500,000 next year, according to data provided to the task force.

Where would other cuts come? Who knows? But to see where cuts were approved at this time last year — March 9, 2010 — check out this memo provided to members of the task force.

— The First Bell e-mailbox is always open: mfagan@ljworld.com.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

"• Strip teachers of tenure.

• Award teachers contracts based on performance rankings, with those in the top of four tiers getting four-year contracts; teachers in the bottom tier would get one-year contracts.

• Reduce salaries for thousands of teachers, as teachers in the top tier could earn twice as much as those in the bottom group; the bill would require that a third of each district’s teachers be in the bottom tier."

What an idiotic idea. It would absolutely destroy the education system.

Oh, wait, that's the whole point, isn't it?

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SynjynSmythe 3 years, 5 months ago

Interesting. At page 2 of the itemization link you provided, they listed "school closure": Combine East Height, New York & Kennedy into New York & Kennedy as a PK -6 school, for savings of 350,000 now and cumulatively saving 4,128,239. The other documents they gave the taskforce indicated that combining NY and Kennedy would result in $225,000 in operational savings and another $835,000 in savings from capital outlay requirements to keep those 2 schools operating. That's an additional $1 million + savings! NY is the smallest school in the district, Kennedy awaits mold testing. What a miserable situation!!!!!

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optimist 3 years, 5 months ago

The point is to reward good teachers by paying them what they are worth to retain them and motivate those underperforming teachers to improve or find another job. This is a formula to destroy the current system and rebuild a new system where our kids will benefit from competition by teachers to do their best. Jack Welch applied a similar methodology while CEO of GE and he attributed much of the company’s success to competition in the workforce and regularly trimming the least productive in the workforce in order to bring in new talent and give them an opportunity to advance. You may not like the approach but the fact that it is effective can't be denied. Employees that provided value to the organization greater than their compensation and their competition have “job security”.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

If a teacher isn't doing their job, they can already be removed from their position.

All this would do is create a mostly arbitrary, and cut-throat, situation in schools. Eventually, there'd be a few good teachers at the top couple of pay levels, but just as many at the top levels would be those who are favorites of school boards and administrators, but not necessarily good teachers. Otherwise qualified teachers who get shoved down the pay scale would leave the profession, meaning the majority of teachers at the bottom levels would be those who are content to do the minimum amount of work required to keep their jobs, and the quality of education would decline.

This proposal isn't supposed to promote better education, but rather an ideology that gubmint schools can't be allowed to succeed.

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notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

No. First off, test scores are not an accurate assessment of teacher performance, as all students do not come with identical brains, abilities, and home lives, and some of them transfer in and out of the district during the year. Secondly, what if all the teachers in a district are excellent? By this system, one third of them are MANDATED to be bad or "bottom tier." Each district has to inflict one of these supposedly sub-par teachers on one third of their students. That's supposed to be a motive?

Thirdly, it's a flawed concept. Teachers aren't motivated by money. If they were motivated by money, they'd have majored in something else. Here's a study showing that even large financial incentives didn't make a difference. http://www.rand.org/pubs/reprints/RP1416.html

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Dan Thalmann 3 years, 5 months ago

I'd much rather have my kids being taught by teachers who are coasting through the year, protected by tenure, doing the minimum to get by instead of highly motivated, successful teachers who wants to achieve the best results possible for each student.

Wait... now why do we want to protect tenure?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

There is no tenure-- only a right to due process before a teacher can be fired. Which means an administrator has to actually show evidence that a teacher isn't performing adequately. In other words, they have to actually do their jobs in evaluating teacher performance, rather than just asserting it with no basis.

This has the effect of eliminating arbitrary firings, but I understand that conservatives like arbitrary firings, so this explanation is lost on you.

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Dan Thalmann 3 years, 5 months ago

I've served on a public school board in Kansas and I've attended over a hundred school board meetings. Trying to fire a piece of crap teacher who has tenure is so hard it is next to impossible. KNEA always gets involved and lawsuits are always threatened. There almost has to be video evidence of a tenured teacher doing a crime to fire them these days. Tenure protects a low quality, high cost education system. Why would anyone want to protect bad teachers? Why can't we reward and promote the great teachers? Because of teachers' unions, negotiated agreements, seniority and tenure.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

What that tells me is that you made no attempt to evaluate teacher performance, but rather just picked on the ones you didn't like, and tried to fire them on that basis.

"Why would anyone want to protect bad teachers?"

I don't know. But if you can't define what a bad teacher is, and provide evidence that a teacher you don't like really is bad, it's because you are a bad school board member who hires bad administrators.

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Dan Thalmann 3 years, 5 months ago

I didn't try to fire any teachers when I was on the board, I just learned of the system in which we operate. The really bad apples don't come along very often. For the most part, I think teachers are there for the right reasons, doing good things for the benefit of our kids. It is unfortunate to me that teachers are part of an organization and support agreements like tenure that help protect that small percentage of teachers that aren't there for the right reasons. You can scapegoat it on the administration and board if you like. I think the teachers should be held accountable, rather than just saying the principal didn't do a good job of filling the school's personnel files in case they want to fire a teacher.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

"I think the teachers should be held accountable, "

And who disagrees with you on that? But holding teachers accountable requires boards and administrators to be accountable, as well.

Whining because teachers and their unions insist on accountability from both sides doesn't fix anything.

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JayhawksandHerd 3 years, 5 months ago

"You can scapegoat it on the administration and board if you like. I think the teachers should be held accountable, rather than just saying the principal didn't do a good job of filling the school's personnel files in case they want to fire a teacher."

It amazes me that you fail to see the irony in your statement. If the principal is in the position of hiring and firing (or at least recommending either to the board), it's absolutely his or her responsibility to provide concrete evidence. That's not "being scapegoated," that's being held accountable for job performance.

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notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

So you'd rather punish a third of all teachers than risk the occasional bad apple that is by your own admission pretty rare?

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Dan Thalmann 3 years, 5 months ago

I'd rather get rid of the bad apple efficiently. I just don't understand why you all are defending bad teachers. Protect the bad apple to protect a third of all of them? Hell no.

They are there to teach our kids. Our kids only have one shot at a quality education. Do you want bad teachers in front of your kids?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

This is a straw man argument.

Due process does not protect bad teachers. It protects good teachers from baseless charges by school boards and/or administrators who aren't doing their jobs properly.

And there is nothing "efficient" about firing 1/3 of a teaching staff just to get rid of a couple of bad teachers that might (or might not) get caught up in the purge.

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Dan Thalmann 3 years, 5 months ago

Firing a third? They said group into thirds, not fire the bottom third. Facts are such a problem for libs.

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notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

Assuming one third of all teachers are bad is not getting rid of bad apples efficiently.

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notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

I'd rather have teachers that have a financial motive to cheat on my kids' scores and are engaged in petty infighting because one third of them have to be rated as bottom tier. Oh wait, no, I'd rather have tenure, thanks.

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average 3 years, 5 months ago

The unacknowledged problem in that proposal is that, especially before the recession hit, it was exceedingly difficult to find enough teachers to fill many spots, particularly science and math in urban districts. Still hard as heck to fill those.

It's not that administrators were looking to hire any mediocre teachers. They were hiring the best people available to them. That's the problem. There isn't some large pool of outstanding top-notch teachers, willing to take the current pay (or less) who are currently shut out of the system. This bill, and so many others, just assumes there must be.

Sure, some 3rd grade teachers who became realtors during the bubble are back in the system, so we don't quite have the shortage there we had five years back. But, a whole lot of current teachers are over 55. The 'require 1/3 of teachers in a district to be bottom-tiered paid, no matter how well the district does' isn't encouraging today's college kids to go into education.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

The educational system in America has been a mess for many decades, at least. Maybe it's time we admitted that no one has a clue as to how to fix the problem. Everyone from the President of the U.S. to the janitors cleaning the bathrooms has an idea but they all have failed for years.
That said, I'll give my two cents worth (yes I know I'm opening myself up to the comment that that's all my post is worth). Parents, many of you are the problem. Too many of you drop off your kids at school and expect schools to produce a quality education. It's a partnership and too many of you are busy with your lives and not getting involved. That old saying that 10% of the parents do 90% of the work, it's true. Teachers, you know that some in your profession do not belong. You are in the best position to police yourselves. But until you do, you will not get the respect you deserve. As long as you tolerate mediocrity from some in your profession, you will be tainted by that mediocrity. Administrators, not every idea that some crackpot needs to be tried. We've seen programs designed to do this and programs designed to do that. The road to h*ll is paved with good intentions. Hey, I have an idea. How about we teach the basics. There is too much trying to make everyone feel good about themselves. Put all the kids who work hard and excel in one class. Put the disruptive kids in another. Quit trying to solve the problems of the world (and failing) and solve the problems in the schools. As we go forward, maybe we should go backwards. Teach the three R's and kick the problems kids out.

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booyalab 3 years, 5 months ago

I agree that problem kids need to be expelled. You hear stories of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds "beating all odds" (as if poor usually= stupid) to succeed in school. You hear stories of adults going back on their own volition to get a GED. But you don't hear about teenage gang-bangers stealing and smoking crack one day and the next day waking up and saying "by golly, I sure am glad my public school teachers yelled at me for being a nuisance instead of expelling me. I'll be a straight-A student from here on!" If they change, it's because they want to change and it usually happens when they're older and wiser.

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notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

Spoken like a white-privileged champ.

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Dan Thalmann 3 years, 5 months ago

Why do the libs always resort to name-calling?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

Why do conservatives always resort to baseless over-generalizations?

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mcku 3 years, 5 months ago

jhawkinsf - I completely agree with what you are saying about parents and acknowledging that teachers tolerate mediocrity. Good points made.

However, your point how to teach ("teach the basics", "put all disruptive kids in same class", and"kick the problems kids out") is completely uninformed. Teachers do teach the basics, perhaps too much, but do so to pass the state assessments. Science is sometimes ignored becuase of teaching the basics.

Also , if you want a fast road to a higher crime rate, a community full of drug problems, then kicking problem kids out of school may be your answer. You have to understand that these kids don't just disappear. I also hear others talk about teachers "trying to make everyone feel good about themselves." This is another uninformed statement. Teachers do not teach this. Schools have counselors and social workers to work with kids who have mental health issues. Again, if these services are axed, be prepared for even more disruption in class as well as these students having mental health issues as adults.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

There are some unfortunate truths in this world. Go into any kindergarden class and look at the children. Some will grow up to be doctors, lawyers and such. Others will wind up in jail or on the streets. It's very sad but true. During the early years of education, can it be predicted who will fall into each group? Not with any certainty but it can probably be predicted with some probability. By junior high, I'll bet all the teachers, all the counselors, all the social workers know with some level of certainty who will fall into which group. While condemning the underachievers, especially at this early age, may sound harsh, it's equally unfair to those succeeding in school to have to be held back. Too often classes are taught at the pace of the slowest person in the class. It's that philosophy that increases the likelihood that the slowest performers will drag down those in the middle.
What are the predictors and what can schools do about it? From my experience, one of the best predictors is something completely outside the control of schools. It's parental involvement. Schools can try to get them involved, but they cannot force parents to value education. I know it may not be the fault of the children, but if they are underachieving and disruptive to others, they should be removed from the classroom. If they can't control their behavior and their parents don't care enough to become involved, then they should be removed to a place where they are not slowing down the process of those who do value education.
I do not advocate a reduction of mental health services. I do not think services for children with special needs should be reduced. Just the opposite. Services should be provided, just apart from classrooms where children doing well are trying to learn. Mainstreaming disruptive children in the hope that they will do better is not fair to those following the rules. There is a road to higher crime rates. Some of those kindergardeners are on that road and there is nothing we can do to change that very unfortunate reality without parental involvement. I've seen charter schools (part of public school systems) where the only thing required for admittance was a parental commitment of significant hours of volunteering. With great certainty, I know which road those children are on.

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troll 3 years, 5 months ago

Would be interesting to see this be pushed through to publicly funded universities. I've never seen anything crazier than college prof who is having his tenure taken away.

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usnsnp 3 years, 5 months ago

One problem that has not been brought up. How can teachers make a student learn if the student does not want to learn. The best teacher in the world cannot make a student learn if this student does not want to learn. People say vouchers and private schools will fix the problem, but all that will happen is the private schools will pick off the best students and not take the problem students, and if the private school is for profit it will cost the tax payer more money to educate this student. It is time to stop blaming the teachers for all the problems, its time for everybody to take responsibility for the problems. Every group has to stop pushing their own agenda.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

You've highlighted a problem, fine, what's your solution?

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pittstatebb 3 years, 5 months ago

Facism.

Intelligence test required to apply for a license to have a child.
Mandatory sterilization if you fail said test.
A required amount of money saved prior to child license being granted, say 25k per child.

This would certainly fix education, don't know about democracy.

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GardenMomma 3 years, 5 months ago

"Teachers in the top tier could earn twice as much as those in the bottom group." Okay, that would motivate me to be a better teacher and actually help my students learn.

"The bill would require that a third of each district's teachers be in the bottom tier." What happens when there is no large difference between the top tier and the bottom tier? Suppose the teachers in the top tier are ranking at 98% and those in the bottom tier are ranking at 96%?

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notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

Except the RAND study that shows that no, it wouldn't motivate you to be a better teacher and help students learn. Teachers already do their best. And yes, exactly that on your second point. There's no room in this bill for all teachers to be excellent. It's mandated that one third of them are bad. They could be graduating rocket scientists, and one third of them would still be bad. That's just stupid.

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wow365 3 years, 5 months ago

Why isn't closing Cordley being considered? There will be much more savings as the school is in disrepair. The land could also be sold - it is prime real estate area.

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GardenMomma 3 years, 5 months ago

Because the Cordley Neighborhood would be mad (as anyone would be) and won't vote for the bond issue to consolidate schools in three years.

Oops! Did I say that? I meant to say "it's all politics."

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

To RuralWanderer

Sorry, I guess I was misinterpreting the sloppy language of your previous post.

"Protect the bad apple to protect a third of all of them?"

Regardless, the whole point of the plan proposed in this article is tantamount to firing the "lowest third." It's nothing but a lazy legislator making not a plan for improving the quality of education, but rather making the ideological statement that he has no respect for teachers.

You apparently share that ideology.

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Kelly Johnson 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm really annoyed that the school board/task force is trying to get away with CLOSING 4 SCHOOLS by calling it "Closing one and 'consolidating' six schools."

In case anyone is missing my point: consolidating six schools into three results in THREE MORE SCHOOLS CLOSED.

Last year there was a major problem when there was talk of closing three schools, but this year since it's only talk of closing one suddenly it seems acceptable?

Let's reframe it: assuming Wakarusa Valley kids are transferred to Broken Arrow, Schwegler, and Sunflower, then it's actually "consolidating" ten schools. Ten, out of 15!

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motuorg 3 years, 5 months ago

The whole notion of good teacher/bad teacher is completely overstated! I am a public school teacher in a building of 155 teachers. I can think of maybe 1 or 2 that are sub-par. Procuring a teaching position is somewhat competitive so administrators can pick and choose from among the best. In my district, if a teacher is not so good, THEY ARE LET GO BEFORE RECEIVING TENURE (hope you can hear that). Here is is my prediction:

  1. Society at large will come to blame all its ills on public school teachers (not corrupt politicians, or fat wall street pigs, or greedy CEOs)

  2. They will exorcise those who are deemed bad teachers (hey, just join the throngs of the unemployed)

  3. People will then expect the U.S. to zoom to the top of the international aptitude stockpile.

but, what will happen?

  1. NOTHING!

Here's a clue for those of you who don't teach, or are too blind to see the problem. Societies ills are not the fault of teachers. I get kids for 6 hours a day. When they leave, for the remaining 18 hours, they enter a dumbed-down, media driven, pop-culture, that doesn't really value education to begin with, (simply compare avg. American TV programming with those of other countries) and then I am asked to fix the problem the next day, and set them on their way. In China, and India (the countries we are compared to) only the best students are offered the best education. Yet, here, I have to educate EVERYONE! EVERYONE! Not only the best, but the worst. Those of you out there who shun science and math...yes...I have to educate you! Those of you who had parents that really didn't give a damn, and devalued your education, I have to educate you. I have to sell you something you don't wanna buy. You know who you are. Unless you're a teacher you haven't a clue what that entails. If I should raise the bar really high, which I have done, I get yelled at by parents whose children are now not getting straight "A"s, but some "B"s (even though I know that their kids could get "A"s if they worked harder). I get blamed for that "B" As to salaries: The avg. salary of the American school teacher is $56,000 - greedy bastards. Yes, America will begin its frontal assault on teacher tenure and salaries, but will find in truth, that it was only a Red-Herring, when we remain at the bottom of the stockpile.

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