Thursday, May 21, 2015

Teacher loses it when boy takes too long in bathroom

Ohio teacher Nicole Lemire was furious with a fifth-grade boy who took too long to go to the bathroom.

And so she stood him up at the front of the room and asked the other students to try to remember everything bad he had ever done. Everytime he objected, she recorded a check mark for a recess that would be taken away from him.

How bad was this boy?

Not bad enough that Ms. Lemire had ever reported a problem to his parents. 

Here's the truth that most of us have known for years: some teachers are vicious bullies.

Here's a truth that most people don't know: teacher culture promotes anger and retaliation far more than it promotes truth-finding and reasoned responses to problems. A lot of teachers eat lunch in their rooms because the teachers' lounge is so full of vitriol.  In my experience, students are the favorite targets of lounge gossip, followed by parents, administrators and other teachers.

Now Ms. Lemire, who has been reprimanded and suspended multiple times, has been fired.

And what does she want now?  She wants the chance to defend herself--the very opportunity that she denied to the boy in her care.  I think a court case would be a good thing, in part to teach the students in Lemire's class how accusations are supposed to be handled in a free society.

The district noted the following in its decision to fire Ms. Lemire (see pages 93 and 94 in this document):

Ms. LeMire has displayed a repeated and persistent pattern of exercising poor professional judgment. Ms. LeMire engaged in the conduct stated in paragraphs #1, 2, 3 and/or 4, and incorporated herein, even though she received an Unpaid Suspension for ten (10) days dated December 23, 2014, and an Unpaid Suspension for two (2) days dated June 10, 2014, which both were due to missed deadlines and a lack of and/or poor communication. Ms. LeMire also received a Written Reprimand dated April 11, 2014 for poor communication and a Written Reprimand dated November 11, 2013 for leaving her class unattended. These incidents reflect poor judgment and Ms. LeMire’s December 23, 2014 suspension notice specifically stated if she “engage[d] in any further unprofessional or unethical behavior, violate Olentangy Board policy or do not follow an administrative directive, you will face disciplinary action up to and/or including termination.”
Ms. Lemire, ironically, doesn't seem to want to listen when others have complaints about her:

In December, she was suspended for 10 days after she did not respond to emails about her teacher’s evaluation from her principal at Glen Oak Elementary. She missed the deadline to submit a growth plan and failed to reply to repeated e-mails from her administrator. In response, LeMire-Hecker said she misunderstood and initially didn’t think she was required to submit a plan, according to district records. She also admitted that she had other priorities and did not read an e-mail the principal sent.
--Olentangy teacher fights elementary school’s effort to fire her 
by
The Columbus Dispatch 





Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WHAT IT MEANS FOR A GIANT BANK TO PLEAD GUILTY TO A CRIMINAL CHARGE

WHAT IT MEANS FOR A GIANT BANK TO PLEAD GUILTY TO A CRIMINAL CHARGE

Today, five major U.S. and European banks – including giant Citicorp and JPMorgan Chase -- agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay more than $5 billion in penalties to settle charges their traders manipulated the $5.3-trillion-a-day foreign exchange currency market for the banks' profit. Their self-described “cartel” used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate national exchange rates in ways that benefited their own trading positions. It’s one of the biggest bank swindles of all times. 

But is any top executive going to jail? 
Not a chance. 
Black and Latino teenagers are locked up for selling ounces of marijuana. 
Bankers who fleece the rest of us for trillions of dollars get fat bonuses.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan (pictured below), has been lobbying on Capitol Hill to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act and eviscerate other bank regulations. If, as the Supreme Court says, corporations are people, then when Citicorp and JPMorgan plead guilty to criminal charges their top brass (including Dimon) should feel the pinch.
What do you think?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sacramento Report: What the Hell Are We Doing? Assemblywoman Shirley Weber tries to help teachers improve


After I posted a comment on this page yesterday about the California Teachers Association's opposition to Assemblymember Shirley Weber's admirable efforts to improve teacher performance, I got a nasty, anonymous and untraceable phone call from a woman who sounded completely calm and sober.  She had a nice, ordinary voice, not the drug-addled, ignorant-sounding voice of most abusive phone callers.  I've been wondering who it could have been, and this morning I decided that it was very likely a teacher who was motivated by my comment in Voice of San Diego.

I considered changing my comment. I realized it was too harsh.  I should have done a better job qualifying my statement.

But I am not going to edit my comment in Voice of San Diego.

Instead, I'll qualify it in this response.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that ANYONE WHO RISES TO POWER IN ANY ORGANIZATION ON THIS PLANET is subject to a lot of pressure. I know for a fact that perfectly-decent people who become school administrators or school board members not-infrequently set aside their principles under pressure. They go along to get along, just like officials of CTA--and members of the California Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans.

Also, I think there's a big problem with the Vergara decision.  It puts the cart before the horse.  It gets rid of tenure WITHOUT HAVING A GOOD EVALUATION SYSTEM IN PLACE.  This is a very bad idea.  Vergara would increase the politics in schools instead of increasing the effectiveness of teacher evaluations. 

But isn't this exactly why CTA should agree to a plan like Shirley Weber's?


My conclusion is that CTA wants teacher evaluations to remain political. Why?  Because sometimes the worst teachers are the most loyal supporters of CTA officials and their pals.


Here's the comment I published yesterday in Voice of San Diego regarding the difficulties Democrats have in resisting the power of the California Teachers Association:
A few years ago at the California Teachers Association's yearly conference for the presidents of all the local affiliates, I heard then-executive director Carolyn Doggett tell teachers that they needed to take responsibility for good teaching or the responsibility would be taken from them.  [I was not a union official, just a lowly teacher.]  Clearly, CTA continues to refuse to take responsibility.  I'm afraid that the type of teacher that rises to power in CTA is not the type that's deeply interested in children.

Democrats should be ashamed of kowtowing to CTA instead of supporting principled reformers like Shirley Weber.

Below is an article from Voice of San Diego .--Maura Larkins


...During the Assembly Education Committee’s Wednesday hearing, the San Diego Democrat gave an inspired speech in support of her bill to require that student achievement be used as a factor in job evaluations of teachers and school administrators. Weber’s bill is one of several competing proposals for a comprehensive revision to the state’s teacher evaluation rules.

“Unlike the current way of doing things, AB 1495 would structure our evaluations around student achievement and help teachers improve their classroom outcomes,” Weber said.

Weber, who is considered one of the legislature’s most knowledgeable members on education issues, lined up support from several of the state’s leading education groups, including EdVoice, StudentsFirst and Students Matter. But her bill had one very powerful opponent: the California Teachers Association.

That opposition from the state’s teacher’s union was enough to kill the bill on a 3-2 vote — with fellow Democrats Kevin McCarty and Tony Thurmond opposed and Republicans Rocky Chavez and Young Kim backing Weber. (Other members abstained from voting, which meant the bill didn’t have enough votes in favor to move on.)

The hearing was shocking on several fronts. First, it’s rare for a member of the majority party to have one of their priority bills – on their expert subject matter – fail in committee. Even if members are opposed to the bill, they’ll commonly pass the bill out as a courtesy.

Second, Weber’s not a far-right ideologue that views the California Teachers Association as “the worst union in America.” Rather, she’s been featured frequently in the CTA’s magazine and received the California Federation of Teachers‘ endorsement for her re-election.

Finally, she’s chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, a position that gives her influence over every lawmaker’s pet project or legislative agenda.

The fight over AB 1495 reflects a growing divide among California Democrats over how to respond to Vergara v. California, the pending challenge to the state’s teacher tenure and dismissal process. On one side, those loyal to the state’s teacher’s union have refused to cede any ground, while others, such as Weber, view Vergara as “a wake-up call.”

“If we are not about improving the lives of children,” asked a frustrated Weber, “then what the hell are we doing? … What am I going to do after 40 years of working in a system I am frustrated by? Just go along to get along?”...

Chlamydia Outbreak Hits Texas High School With No Sex Ed

Apparently ignorance isn't as great as some people think.

Chlamydia Outbreak Hits Texas High School With No Sex Ed
PHOTO: A colorized scanning electron micrograph shows a cultured human cell infected by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria, appearing as small round particles inside the cell wall.
A Texas high school is in the middle of a chlamydia outbreak, officials say. But according to the school district's student handbook, it does not offer sexual education.
Several students in one Crane, Texas, school district contracted chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, according to a letter obtained by ABC News that went home to parents Monday. According to the letter, the surrounding counties were also in the middle of an outbreak.
"Crane Independent School District would like to make our parents aware or more aware of a problem that has been identified in our teenagers and young adults of our community," the letter reads.
Crane County has had three reported chlamydia cases in the last two weeks, but health workers have seven days to report them to the state, according to the Texas State Department of Health.
Chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's caused by a bacteria, and can be passed between sexual partners who aren't using condoms, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is treated with antibiotics, according to the NIH.
Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms, but some men and women can develop discharge, burning and tenderness, according to the NIH. In women, chlamydia can prompt pelvic inflammatory disease or liver inflammation. It can also make it harder for women to get pregnant.
PHOTO: A letter sent home to parents of students in the Crane Independent School District in Crane, Texas states that several cases of chlamydia have been reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Crane Independent School District
PHOTO: A letter sent home to parents of students in the Crane Independent School District in Crane, Texas states that several cases of chlamydia have been reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The school does not have a sexual education program, according to Crane's student handbook for the 2014-15 school year, which is posted online.
"Currently, Crane ISD does not offer a curriculum in human sexuality," the handbook says, explaining that if it ever does institute such a program, the parent can opt out. According to the handbook, state law requires more attention must be spent on abstinence than other behavior.
The school district did not respond to a request by ABC News for comment beyond the letter.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor for ABC News and practicing OBGYN, said half of her patients are women under 21 years old.
"The factual knowledge regarding [sexually transmitted infections] is generally poor," she said, adding that it prompted her to write a book, "The Body Scoop for Girls."
"Reproductive health or sex ed courses have enormous variability in their content and teaching approach. Factors such as geographic region, school district and teacher beliefs/comfort with this subject matter all come into play," Ashton noted.

"Abstinence only may sound ideal but it's not realistic," Ashton said. "And in theory, better education reduces adverse outcomes."


Republican ‘Abstinence-Only’ Crusader’s 17-Year-Old Daughter Is Pregnant

Author:  
Addicting Info
July 10, 2014 
bill-cassidy-congress
A Republican lawmaker who promoted legislation to teach “abstinence-only” sex education in schools announced that his own unmarried high school-aged daughter has gotten pregnant.
Bill Cassidy, a state Senator from Louisiana released a statement to NOLA.com announcing that he was to be a grandfather and expressing his support for his daughter during this “challenging” time:
“Earlier this year, Laura and I learned we will become grandparents this summer. Our children have been the greatest blessing of our lives and we welcome our grandchild as a joyous addition to our family. Our daughter now faces a more challenging future than her peers. She has our unconditional love and support.”
Cassidy has made a name for himself as somewhat of a “abstinence-only” crusader. Last year, he co-sponsored the Abstinence-Only Reallocation Act, which would award grants and special funding to public and private schools which stuck to teaching only abstinence instead of a more comprehensive lesson plan on sexual behavior. The bill, authored by perennial bad ideas machine Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), has been tabled in Congress, but Louisiana teens aren’t in the clear.
Despite efforts by some legislators to address this problem, Louisiana is one of the leading abstinence-only promoters in the country. In roughly one-third of all schools in the state, students are taught exclusively abstinence. No safe sex. No birth control. Nothing but “Don’t do it.” And you know how good kids are at listening to adults when they tell them not to do something…
It might explain why Louisiana currently has the 6th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. And while most of the country has been seeing major declines in teen births, Louisiana’s has hardly changed.
Now, it appears Cassidy’s own daughter contributes to those statistics.
Who could have seen this coming? Oh, right, the scientists who study teen sexual behavior:
States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined.
The researchers looked at teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of those states’ approaches to sex education, as prescribed by local laws and policies.
“Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence indicating that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates,” said Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. [source]...

Friday, May 01, 2015

Sacramento Report: What the Hell Are We Doing? Assemblywoman Shirley Weber tries to help teachers improve


After I posted a comment on this page yesterday about the California Teachers Association's opposition to Assemblymember Shirley Weber's admirable efforts to improve teacher performance, I got a nasty, anonymous and untraceable phone call from a woman who sounded completely calm and sober.  She had a nice, ordinary voice, not the drug-addled, ignorant-sounding voice of most abusive phone callers.  I've been wondering who it could have been, and this morning I decided that it was very likely a teacher who was motivated by my comment in Voice of San Diego.

I considered changing my comment. I realized it was too harsh.  I should have done a better job qualifying my statement.

But I am not going to edit my comment in Voice of San Diego.

Instead, I'll qualify it in this response.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that ANYONE WHO RISES TO POWER IN ANY ORGANIZATION ON THIS PLANET is subject to a lot of pressure. I know for a fact that perfectly-decent people who become school administrators or school board members not-infrequently set aside their principles under pressure. They go along to get along, just like officials of CTA--and members of the California Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans.

Also, I think there's a big problem with the Vergara decision.  It puts the cart before the horse.  It gets rid of tenure WITHOUT HAVING A GOOD EVALUATION SYSTEM IN PLACE.  This is a very bad idea.  Vergara would increase the politics in schools instead of increasing the effectiveness of teacher evaluations. 

But isn't this exactly why CTA should agree to a plan like Shirley Weber's?


My conclusion is that CTA wants teacher evaluations to remain political. Why?  Because sometimes the worst teachers are the most loyal supporters of CTA officials and their pals.


Here's the comment I published yesterday in Voice of San Diego regarding the difficulties Democrats have in resisting the power of the California Teachers Association:


A few years ago at the California Teachers Association's yearly conference for the presidents of all the local affiliates, I heard then-executive director Carolyn Doggett tell teachers that they needed to take responsibility for good teaching or the responsibility would be taken from them.  [I was not a union official, just a lowly teacher.]  Clearly, CTA continues to refuse to take responsibility.  I'm afraid that the type of teacher that rises to power in CTA is not the type that's deeply interested in children.

Democrats should be ashamed of kowtowing to CTA instead of supporting principled reformers like Shirley Weber.

Below is an article from Voice of San Diego .--Maura Larkins









...During the Assembly Education Committee’s Wednesday hearing, the San Diego Democrat gave an inspired speech in support of her bill to require that student achievement be used as a factor in job evaluations of teachers and school administrators. Weber’s bill is one of several competing proposals for a comprehensive revision to the state’s teacher evaluation rules.

“Unlike the current way of doing things, AB 1495 would structure our evaluations around student achievement and help teachers improve their classroom outcomes,” Weber said.

Weber, who is considered one of the legislature’s most knowledgeable members on education issues, lined up support from several of the state’s leading education groups, including EdVoice, StudentsFirst and Students Matter. But her bill had one very powerful opponent: the California Teachers Association.

That opposition from the state’s teacher’s union was enough to kill the bill on a 3-2 vote — with fellow Democrats Kevin McCarty and Tony Thurmond opposed and Republicans Rocky Chavez and Young Kim backing Weber. (Other members abstained from voting, which meant the bill didn’t have enough votes in favor to move on.)

The hearing was shocking on several fronts. First, it’s rare for a member of the majority party to have one of their priority bills – on their expert subject matter – fail in committee. Even if members are opposed to the bill, they’ll commonly pass the bill out as a courtesy.

Second, Weber’s not a far-right ideologue that views the California Teachers Association as “the worst union in America.” Rather, she’s been featured frequently in the CTA’s magazine and received the California Federation of Teachers‘ endorsement for her re-election.

Finally, she’s chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, a position that gives her influence over every lawmaker’s pet project or legislative agenda.

The fight over AB 1495 reflects a growing divide among California Democrats over how to respond to Vergara v. California, the pending challenge to the state’s teacher tenure and dismissal process. On one side, those loyal to the state’s teacher’s union have refused to cede any ground, while others, such as Weber, view Vergara as “a wake-up call.”

“If we are not about improving the lives of children,” asked a frustrated Weber, “then what the hell are we doing? … What am I going to do after 40 years of working in a system I am frustrated by? Just go along to get along?”...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Poway deja-vu? Kinloch, Missouri emulates our own Poway Unified School District by refusing to honor election results

One of the hallmarks of our democracy is the ability to honor election results.

That basic principle of democracy was recently violated by Poway Unified School District in a government-mandated election for school site council. Parent Chris Garnier won, but Principal Mary Jo Thomas arbitrarily overturned the election results and held a new election with new rules.

Chris Garnier

In the Chris Garnier case, the Principal Mary Jo Thomas had decided against hiring Mr. Garnier as a lunch supervisor at Painted Rock Elementary.  That decision was perfectly defensible, but the principal went too far when she overturned Mr. Garnier's election to site council.

When Ms. Thomas wants to change the rules of an election, she needs to make sure the proper steps are followed, and that the changes are made BEFORE THE ELECTION IS HELD.  If she wants to overturn the results of an election that has already taken place, she needs to ask the site council to do a thorough, transparent investigation and then take a vote.  A school site council is answerable to the public.  It's not a private, members-only, club. 

Thomas should not have behaved like the outgoing administration in Kinloch, Missouri that locked the newly-elected mayor out of city hall.

Although the mayor-elect in Kinloch, Missouri is African-American, race is not the issue in Kinloch since her opponent, Darren Small, is also black.

However, the situation in Poway is more worrisome in regard to the race issue. Chris Garnier is an African-American in an overwhelmingly white, conservative area.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Voice of San Diego failed to see the problem with too much collegiality between the teachers union and Poway Unified


Was the first warning that something was wrong in Poway a May 2012 article by VOSD's Andrew Donohue?

In May 2012 Voice of San Diego presented an idyllic image of the Poway Federation of Teachers in a story about PFT President Candy Smiley.  Editor Andrew Donohue gushed about "the unique lesson Poway has to teach."

Three months later Voice of San Diego did an excellent job explaining Poway Unified's CAB scandal (the capital appreciation bond deal exposed by Joel Thurtell) but VOSD never connected the bond deal to excessive collaboration between Candy Smiley and the district.

I gave information to Voice of San Diego showing that both teacher union officials and school officials have been shirking their duties as they have formed over-friendly relationships with each other. Individuals on both sides have advanced their own personal agendas at the expense of the students and teachers they are paid to serve.  In November 2012 I warned about the dangers of too much collegiality between teacher unions and school districts.

Now, three years later, Voice of San Diego has finally decided that there's a problem:

 How Poway Unified Went from Big Happy Family to Family Feud
Ashly McGlone
For years, Poway Unified School District has existed as a kind of educational Never-Neverland: a place where school officials and the teachers union sailed through negotiations, brokering amicable deals that – for the most part – left both sides content even in tough times.
But that all seems to be unraveling.
It turns out that Poway’s successes occurred while the district and teacher’s union were breaking labor laws that require public notice of their contract talks. Now other labor unions are mad, and new school board members – elected to provide more oversight in the wake of a bond-deal blowup – are seeking change.
At the center of the dispute is Superintendent John Collins and the president of the Poway Federation of Teachers, Candy Smiley.
“John and Candy cut up the pie,” said school board member Charlie Sellers, who was elected in November. “The previous board simply rubber-stamped their action and this board is actually questioning their actions and they don’t like it.”...


VOSD has certainly changed its tune.  It is no longer talking about the "unique lesson that Poway has to teach." The relationship that Andrew Donohue wanted other districts to emulate now seems rather ominous: "Over the last two decades, though, the union and district have forged an uncommonly collaborative bond that started with trust on the budget and has now gone far beyond."

Yes, they were collaborative all the way to a huge scandal about CAB school bonds.

I don't believe that the Poway school board would have been able to pull of the CAB stunt without the blessing of the teachers union.

When there's too much "collegiality" among the people who run schools, different points of view don't get aired. Decisions are made behind closed doors. All the public ever sees is the smiling faces of the people who get along so very well together.

P.S.  I'm waiting for Voice of San Diego to formally announce a big change in its no-anonymous-comments policy.  The policy was suspended in February, when VOSD decided to disconnect links to all commenter profiles.  The explanation given for this decision was that some commenter profiles had been accidentally disconnected due to the launch of the new website.  It's a wonder that VOSD has not been able to reconnect the links over the past two months.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Conflict of interest questions about SDCOE: Lisa Jensen writes checks to husband Chris, private investigator

From the San Diego Reader:

Going off the rails on a gravy train?
Alleged conflicts of interest within county office of education
By  

Since 2003, Jensen's wife Lisa Jensen has worked as senior claims representative for the San Diego County Office of Education. One of Jensen's tasks was to write checks to outside firms, including ESI International.

According to public records obtained by the Reader, Jensen and her colleagues wrote checks to ESI for surveillance work in cases throughout the county, including investigation work in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Scott Eveland, a student and football player at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a game. Eveland's family later settled the lawsuit for $4.375 million in 2012. 

Other documents show Chris Jensen, through ESI, charging the office of education and National City School District nearly $1200 to travel to the downtown Superior Court building to obtain copies of criminal files in an unrelated case. Jensen was also reimbursed for mileage driven and for photocopies made. 

In September 2013, as reported by the Reader, Sweetwater Unified School District's then-superintendant Ed Brand, who has since been accused of collecting thousands in pension benefits while simultaneously collecting a salary, asked his colleagues to pay ESI International over $65,000 to investigate employees. That request was later scrapped. 

A spokeswoman for the office of education says much of the time Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz had already hired ESI before the county agency's joint powers authority made any payments on certain claims. 

The office of education has since suspended future hiring in order to avoid any future potential conflicts.

“[The San Diego County Office of Education] has directed [Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz] to refrain from subcontracting to ESI on any and all [joint powers authority]-related cases in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," writes spokesperson Music Watson...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Voice of San Diego discussion on teacher evaluations


I agree with much of what Heather Poland says in the comments section of yesterday's Voice of San Diego article, but I have to agree with Sherry S. regarding teacher evaluations.  Too many students are failing; something needs to be done. I am appalled by teacher union complacency with the status quo.

Heather says, "We already DO evaluate teachers. It is not a perfect measure, I don't think anything could be..."

Not perfect?  It's a complete joke!   Of course nothing can be perfect.  That's no excuse for maintaining the current failed system. 

Teacher evaluations could easily be much more effective. 

We could start with the obvious: observations by unbiased observers instead of, or in addition to, principals.

Most principals don’t even bother to observe teachers, and why should they?  Few principals have the skills or inclination to work closely with teachers who aren’t part of the clique that controls their school.  

Heather Poland describes the situation accurately: “We have seen how some principals just want teachers who are quiet and do what they say, regardless of their teaching ability. We have also seen great teachers who are also outspoken, be targets.”
And I think student scores should be part of teacher evaluations.  I think teachers should be given more credit for improving the scores of poor kids than for improving the scores of rich kids.

I agree with Heather that teachers should be paid more. At least, the best teachers should be paid more—lots more, maybe twice as much as a regular teacher.  And I don't even think that the less competent teachers should be fired.  The best teachers should be teaching most of the lessons in ALL of the classrooms—but they don’t have to stay all day in one classroom. Less competent teachers could be doing reinforcement of lessons and other activities that they are perfectly well-equipped to handle.

P.S. Regarding school uniforms: 

At my elementary school, children were required to wear black leather-soled shoes. It was a disaster during physical education class and recess. Those poor kids slipped and slid on the asphalt. It was much better when they just wore sneakers to school. But only the ruling clique of teachers had any input on how our school was run, so the problem never got fixed. 

Voice of San Diego
April 16, 2015

...Comments...

Heather Poland

I agree that an unbiased third party should be involved in evaluating teachers. The system now is not a joke, it can work well, but it is up to the principal to make it work. I would like specifics on just how it is a joke? I'm not sure the general public actually understands what goes into the evaluation?

I disagree that most principals do not observe teachers. They do. Yes, some more than others, but they do. Also not every site has a clique that "controls the school". Some schools do have dysfunctional climates, and that definitely needs to be addressed.

How do you know students are failing? There is a big misconception about this...

If you are going to compare country rankings, well, most countries don't educate every single person, like we do. Most western countries also don't have the poverty we do. When you control for poverty, we are actually at the top.



Maura Larkins

Heather, you say that the current teacher evaluation system "can work well", but that it is up to the principal to make it work.

Well, then, Heather, if it only works when there's a good principal to make it work, it doesn't really matter what the system is, does it?  It only matters who the principal is.

You say, "I'm not sure the general public actually understands what goes into the evaluation." 

You yourself already pointed out that principals can be very arbitrary in their evaluations.  So, again, it all depends on the principal, doesn't it?

Also, you say that principals DO observe teachers.
I assure you, Heather, that you are just plain wrong about this.  Many principals don't do observations.  I have gone years without having a principal do an observation, and so have many other teachers.
Of course not all schools are run by teacher cliques.  But when they are, obviously, the principals work with those cliques.  I stand by my statement that few principals have the skills or inclination to work with ALL the teachers in their school.  Of course, even the principals who aren't interested in what is going on in each classroom are plenty interested in the teachers who are part of any clique that might be running their school.


You write, "How do you know students are failing? There is a big misconception about this." You're joking, right, Heather? You think it's acceptable that our colleges have to teach remedial math and reading and writing to the graduates we produce? You think our drop-out rate is acceptable? You make clear that you think we shouldn't be expected to educate poor kids because some other countries don't.  But we're the richest country in the world!  It's not okay that we're creating an  underclass in an economy where employers require more and more education.


Here's a related story from the San Diego Reader:


...Kristin Phatak and Heather Poland, educators and parents who believe that students lose too much class time on test preparation and test taking, hosted the party to encourage parents to opt their kids out of standardized tests.


Heather Poland has two children who attend a local elementary school. She teaches in San Diego Unified School District, is an administrator for a national teachers’ association called BATS, and a California contact for the national United Opt Out group.


Poland said she administered a field test for the new standardized test last year. 


“My students struggled with this test,” said Poland. “One reason was because it’s online and they didn’t have pencil and paper to write things down. Many of them had trouble with the keyboard. The instructions were fairly complicated and even more so for English language learners…. The test will be graded on a curve, which condemns many students to fail.” ...


[Maura Larkins comment: Grading on a curve only condemns students to fail if they perform significantly worse than average. By definition, grading on a curve PREVENTS the majority of students from failing.

You imply that most of your students had trouble with this test so it would seem that almost ALL of them might fail if the test weren't graded on a curve.  

Are you saying that you think that the very lowest students should pass?  Why? Why would you say that?  You want a test that kids can pass whether or not they have mastered the skills being tested?]




...[Heather Poland] said, "I've always incorporated critical thinking into my classroom."



Here's another thread from the Voice of San Diego comments:


George Sheridan









 
San Diego Unified has much more money this year than anytime in the last several years. And it will have more money again next year and the year after. It's true that state funding of schools in California is significantly lower than in most other states. It's also true that we have significant challenges with high rates of poverty and high numbers of students learning English as a second language - factors that have a major impact on student achievement. But more money than last year means the district does not have to cut existing programs to fund raises which are long overdue.

Merit pay for teachers is not an original idea. It has been tried repeatedly over the last fifty years, and it has never worked. Of course it is subject to cronyism. Of course test scores are a terrible measure of teacher quality. But the biggest reason is that good teachers are not motivated primarily by money. Teachers want to be paid fairly. But there are very few teachers who would - or could - work harder or give students more one-on-one attention in exchange for higher pay. The average teacher now is working more than fifty hours per week.

There is no secret sauce for improving education. But everyone knows what good schools look like. We need to make sure all our students have access to the resources typical in the best schools, including fully staffed libraries, art and music and drama and career education and classes small enough for one-on-one attention. Really good schools work, not only because they have the resources to provide opportunity for all, but also because the educators work as a team. Merit pay is destructive of that necessary collaboration.


Maura Larkins

There are two obvious ways to combat cronyism  in teacher evaluations: use unbiased outsiders to do observations, and use student standardized test scores.
Test scores aren't a perfect measurement, but they are surely not affected by cronyism.  Over a period of years, student scores are a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness.  And the top 15% of teachers can be revealed even more quickly by student test scores: their students are consistent year after year.

Studies have shown that graduates of the best colleges have been shying away from the education field more and more over the past few decades.  As other fields open up, more women are choosing to become doctors and lawyers and executives, etc.  We need to bring some of these women back to teaching, and high pay--equivalent to the pay of those careers I just mentioned--would likely lure some excellent candidates to the teaching profession.

There are huge differences between teachers.  Some are much, much better teachers than others.  They should NOT be paid the same.  We should institute effective teacher evaluations for many reasons, such as identifying which teachers should be given extra help.  The best teachers should be utilized differently from mediocre teachers: they should be teaching more of the lessons and doing fewer of the activities that can be handled by their  less-skilled colleagues.


George Sheridan









 Almost everyone would like a better teacher evaluation system. The California Teachers Association has proposed what Professor Linda Darling-Hammond says would be the best system in the country. It would focus on formative assessment (the kind that says "Here's how you can improve") and would include peer observation and feedback. Obviously this won't work if people's pay is tied to those evaluations.

Your statement about test scores over a period of years is not supported by data. The best predictor of student test scores is the zip code where the students live.

Even in a given school, teachers do not usually have comparable classes. The best and most dedicated teachers often are assigned or volunteer to teach the most difficult students. As a result, their test scores may be lower than those of other teachers. In the same way, the very best hospitals often have the highest mortality rates, because they treat the sickest patients.

The psychometricians who design these tests caution that they are not valid and reliable for purposes of assessing teacher quality. Nonetheless, evaluation by test scores has been tried in a number of states in recent years, with entirely predictable results. The Teacher of the Year, found "highly effective" one year, is rated "unsatisfactory" the next on the basis of test scores.

Teacher pay needs to be raised across the board. Teachers are underpaid compared to other professionals with comparable levels of education. They are underpaid compared to other workers with comparable levels of responsibility. Teachers in SDUSD are underpaid compared with colleagues in neighboring districts. Many are taking home less money now than seven years ago. Raising teacher salaries won't fix every issue in the schools. But continued failure to raise those salaries will make things worse and worse.




Maura Larkins











 I am appalled that you would make this statement: "Your statement about test scores over a period of years is not supported by data."

You must know that the student test data used to evaluate teachers is the "value added" by the teacher to the students' test scores.

You are absolutely wrong when you deny that the top 15% of teachers (as well as the bottom 15% of teachers, by the way) can be spotted by the consistency of the value they add each year to their students' test scores, while the middle 70% of teachers tend to have dramatically fluctuating value-added scores.  It takes a number of years to figure out how well most teachers are actually performing.

Why would you deny this? You yourself admit, "The Teacher of the Year, found "highly effective" one year, is rated "unsatisfactory" the next on the basis of test scores."

You also say, "The best predictor of student test scores is the zip code where the students live."  Of course it is, but no one is suggesting that teachers should get credit for how high the scores are to start with.  Test scores are used to figure out how much the teacher IMPROVED the students' test scores.

I would have agreed with you if you had said that it is harder to raise the scores of kids who are below grade level.  But that problem can easily be fixed by tweaking the formulas for calculating a teacher's "value-added" score.

First you say, "But there are very few teachers who would - or could - work harder or give students more one-on-one attention in exchange for higher pay."

Then you say, "Obviously this [evaluation plan] won't work if people's pay is tied to those evaluations."

Aren't you contradicting yourself?

At first you seem to say that teachers always give everything they've got, no matter what they're paid.

Then you seem to be saying that there is some connection between pay and performance.
Or perhaps you meant something else.  Are you suggesting that merit pay would cause evaluators to falsify their evaluations of their peers?

In fact, even if pay isn't tied to peer evaluations, there are other motives for falsifying peer evaluations.  School politics exerts amazing influence over the ethics of teachers.  Teacher culture is not unlike high school clique culture.  And the situation is further complicated by genuine friendships between teachers.

So I'm not at all convinced that CTA has the best evaluation system.
Why not have observations by teachers from outside the school district, or at least outside the school?
I do think that there's no reason to fire teachers based on evaluations.  I think teachers who can't manage to achieve a high level of effectiveness should have different responsibilities and different pay than the most highly-effective teachers.

George Sheridan at the 2015 HRC Foundation’s Time To THRIVE Conference February 19, 2015
NEA Executive Committemember George Sheridan addresses the Time To THRIVE Conference in Portland, OR...

Published on Apr 3, 2014
George Sheridan appreciates your support in NEA Denver 2014]

 George Sheridan

A formative assessment system can only work if all parties are free to be completely honest about any weaknesses. It would take a very brave (some would say naive) teacher to tell an evaluator about his or her own weaknesses, knowing that the evaluation would determine the teacher's pay. But without such honesty, an evaluation system will do little to help the teacher improve.

The possibility of rating teachers based on the value they have added to student test scores was an interesting hypothesis ten or fifteen years ago. It has been thoroughly discredited by all major groups involved in education research and evaluation. See for example this article in Educational Leadership, and the citations at the end of the article. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/nov12/vol70/num03/Value-Added@_The_Emperor_with_No_Clothes.aspx

 Maura Larkins note:

 Here's the board of directors of ASC.  It seems to be an organization of school administrators--including a "chief strategy officer"--with a couple of associate professors and business people  thrown in.  When you get school administrators together, I've noticed, you generally have a bunch of people who want to influence policy rather than conduct open inquiry.  

2014–15 Board of Directors and Executive Director

Nancy Gibson, President

Associate Professor
Concordia University
19W 233 Old Tavern Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523
E-mail

Becky J. Berg, Immediate Past President

Superintendent
Marysville School District
4220 80th Street, NE
Marysville, WA 98270
E-mail

Marie Adair 

Executive Director
New Jersey ASCD
3001 East Chestnut Avenue, #F49
Vineland, NJ 08361
E-mail

Ronal Butler

President
Networking & Engineering Technologies, Inc.
2750 Killarney Drive, Suite 205
Woodbridge, VA 22192
E-mail

Susie Carr

Retired Assistant Superintendent, Whitehall City Schools
Galloway, OH 43119
E-mail

Jon Chapman

Chief Strategy Officer
EverFi, Inc.
3299 K Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20007
E-mail

Joshua Garcia

Deputy Superintendent
Tacoma School District
601 S. 8th Street, 8th Floor
Tacoma, WA 98405
E-mail

David Mathis

Superintendent
Saluda County Schools
404 N. Wise Road
Saluda, SC 29138
E-mail

Matt McClure

Chief Learning and Financial Officer, Cross County School District
LEAD 21 Program Coordinator/Facilitator, Arkansas Tech University
346 Highway 321
Beebe, AR 72012
E-mail

William Potts-Datema

Acting Senior Advisor
Division of Adolescent and School Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1412 Sever Creek Drive
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
E-mail

Lorraine Ringrose

Retired Principal, Patricia Heights Elementary School
114 Dormie Park Crescent
Vernon, British Columbia V1H 1Y7
Canada
E-mail

Pam Vogel

Superintendent
East Union Community School District
1916 High School Drive
Afton, IA 50830
E-mail

Judith Zimmerman

Associate Professor Emeritus
Bowling Green State University
17669 Ravine Drive
Elmore, OH 43416
E-mail

Judy Seltz

Executive Director
ASCD
Alexandria, Virginia


Maura Larkins' response to George Sheridan
  
Well, my goodness, you didn't mention that your evaluation system relied on teachers reporting their own weaknesses!

People often can't see their own weaknesses, so you have a problem here.

But I certainly agree with you that a self-evaluation system should ABSOLUTELY NOT BE CONNECTED TO PAY!

The truth is that most people would be loath to reveal their weaknesses to any but their closest friends.  This sounds like a pretty bogus evaluation plan.  It sounds more like a mentor plan. It needs to be accompanied by an effective empirical evaluation.

I suppose we'll all shrivel and die before CTA comes up with a meaningful evaluation plan.
And I wouldn't put much stock in an article by ASCD. Judging from its board of directors, it looks like an association of school administrators.

Maura Larkins

By the way, regarding that "Teacher of the Year" you mentioned who was found effective one year and then unsatisfactory on the basis of test scores: what measure was used to find the teacher effective in the beginning?  It wasn't by any chance a principal who happened to be a political ally, was it?  The finding wasn't based on popularity or charisma, was it?  In fact, in Los Angeles Unified it was discovered that MANY of the charming teachers who had been deemed superior by their cronies turned out to add little or nothing to their students' test scores. It's lovely for a teacher to be popular, but parents have a right to know when popular teachers aren't actually delivering results.



Gina Amodeo 








Maura, are you saying that principals don't need to be accountable for executing the evaluation properly?  If administrators used the resources available to them to evaluate and mentor teachers (and dismiss them if necessary), then we wouldn't be having this discussion. 
Additionally, I don't think Heather is saying that we shouldn't be expected to education "poor" kids.  I think she is saying that comparisons to other countries should be adjusted by the poverty factor, based on the fact that we do educate all children.

Also, regarding your language that teachers "produce" graduates.  This sounds like you are applying the corporate model of production to education, which is inappropriate.  Teachers teach to the needs of each individual child.  And each individual child comes into school with different resources, background, and baggage.  The best predictor of success in school is parent income and education level, not because that's where the best schools are, but because those students come "pre-loaded" with experiences and skills that children born in poverty do not have.  Children born in higher income households usually have early access to books, parents that read to them and talk to them, exposure to engaging educational experiences, and healthy nutrition.  Children raised in lower income communities have lower nutrition and other kinds of life experiences that might include having a parent in jail, neighborhood violence and crime, siblings in gangs, or an unstable home (e.g. homelessness).

Do you expect these students to learn at a faster rate in order to catch up with those students who enter school already knowing how to read?  Instead of blaming teachers, we should be thanking teachers who are teaching a class of 30 kids with 30 different sets of needs and experiences
 
 











Gina:
You've come up with some amazing ideas that you seem to want to attribute to me.  How carefully did you read what I wrote?

I would love to have principals be held accountable for their performance, but how do you propose to hold them accountable for evaluating teachers effectively when you have no way of measuring whether or not their evaluations were accurate?  You need some objective measurement of teacher performance.

You can't evaluate principals properly when you can't evaluate teachers effectively.

An obvious means of evaluating principals is the same "value-added" system being used to evaluate teachers.  In other words, we'd measure how much improvement a principal brought about in teacher performance as measured by student test scores.

Schools produce graduates, Gina.  It has nothing to do with a corporate model of production.  You produce good results all day long, I'm sure, in your own life.  That doesn't mean you're applying a corporate model.  I really think it's better if we focus on ideas rather than trying to find political agendas in perfectly good words like "produce". 

I expect teachers to make improvements in their students' educational levels. You've belabored the obvious about differences in children.  As I said before, it is harder to raise scores of low-income kids than to raise scores of high-income kids, but that's no excuse for teachers to insist that no one should hold them accountable for bringing about measurable academic gains in their students.


Dennis

Maura, are you one of these plants?:

http://www.alternet.org/education/anti-union-group-studentsfirst-launched-astroturf-campaign-undermine-teachers
 
 











To Dennis M. Doyle:
Dennis, you should know exactly who I am.  I worked in Chula Vista Elementary School District when you were Assistant Superintendent, before you went to National School District.  You inspired me to try to do something about serious problems in schools.  Do you seriously not remember me?????

I'm actually not a big fan of Michelle Rhee.  I was disgusted that she tried to raise scores in DC schools by focusing on the middle class kids, whose scores are easier to improve, while abandoning the poor kids.  What thoughts do you have about Michelle Rhee?

My ideas are completely my own.  What are your ideas, Dennis? Do you have some criticism of something I've said? If so, why you don't share your ideas with us? 

P.S.  It occurs to me that you are in a position to confirm that when you were at CVESD many principals failed to perform even minimally-adequate observations of teachers.  For a short time in the early 90s CVESD principals were required to do full-lesson observations complete with detailed notes and a follow-up interview, then the requirement was mysteriously dropped.  Please tell us why that requirement was dropped.


 Dennis

Maura, I am sorry to say but you have me mixed up with someone else. I am not "smart" enough to be an administrator.

I am just someone who feels strongly about public education and its importance to our society.



Maura

So, what is your last name, Dennis, if it's not actually Doyle?  We're not supposed to be anonymous here.  All the links to commenters' profiles seem to have gotten broken when VOSD set up its new website.  But since you yourself brought up the issue of "plants", I am surprised that you have chosen to continue to give only your first name.  In fact, I'm surprised that someone concerned about the integrity of the comments section would have chosen a first-name-only username.  If you look at the other usernames, you'll see that many, if not most, of us have given at least give the initials of our last names, if not our full last names.

It's interesting that you seem to think that school administrators are notably "smart".  I doubt that a teacher would have written that statement.  In fact, I can't think of anyone who would have made that statement--except a school administrator.

For years many people have marveled at the spectacularly-low GRE scores of school administrators. I have long suspected that the average teacher is smarter than the average school administrator.

Here's something I've never heard anyone mention: if we recruited more teachers from the highest-performing tier of college graduates, we'd get an added bonus: smarter school administrators--since almost all school administrators started out as teachers.

If you feel strongly about public education and its importance to our society, why don't you express some of your thoughts about teacher evaluations or some other issue I've addressed here?  Why do you limit yourself to merely suggesting that I might be a "plant" and that school administrators are smart?











Each of your assertions about Value-added measurement of teacher effectiveness is contradicted by the research reported in this article. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/14/the-odd-thing-arne-duncan-told-congress/


Maura
(to George Sheridan)

You have linked to an opinion piece, not a research article.  At least the author of the article is honest about having cherry-picked a couple of "worst-case scenarios" and relied on "five articles" published by AERA.  And what is AERA?  "Within the AERA community of education researchers, members belong to one or more of...over 155 special interest groups (SIGs)."

And you yourself have made an amazing blanket statement, Mr. Sheridan.  You claim that each of my assertions is contradicted by the article!

I take it that you are claiming that Value Added scores do not fluctuate wildly for most teachers, as I stated?

Sorry, Mr. Sheridan, the article clearly backs me up on this.  Valerie Strauss writes, "[T]he five articles detail problems with the instability of VAM results “year to year...'"

You are claiming that the top 15% and the bottom 15% of teachers do NOT have more consistent Value Added scores?

Again, the article does not back you up.

The author correctly states that there are problems with VAM, but what else is new?

The author has not attempted to be even-handed in her piece.  She makes misleading claims about what VAM supporters say. Obviously, no formula can adjust an individual child's score for the fact that he has a stomach ache.  The author is dishonest to imply that VAM claims to be able to adjust a child's score for stomach aches.

All statistical analysis requires a large-enough sample so that a stomach ache won't affect the outcome.  (Of course, if an entire classroom had food poisoning, the analysis would be thrown off.)
Both Valerie Strauss and you, Mr. Sheridan, must surely know that when you take the scores of an entire classroom you can get a composite score that is reasonably reliable despite the fact that some kids have stomach aches.

Shame on both of you for ignoring this basic principle underlying all statistical conclusions.

And I don't see anything in the article that contradicts my claim that teachers need to be evaluated by unbiased observers in order for evaluations to be accurate.

You are opposed to any type of effective evaluation of teachers, aren't you, Mr. Sheridan? It's not just about test scores, is it?


Dennis

Maura, no subterfuge with my name although I am a little apprehensive posting because of news like this: http://vamboozled.com/tag/arizona/
My knowledge is with SDUSD. Don't know hardly a thing about South Bay schools.
I apologize if the "plant" comment upset you. It was meant to be tongue in cheek. My humor doesn't get through the keyboard sometimes. Just wanted to show you the depth in which the oligarchs so called "reform movement" is reaching to upend public education.


Maura Larkins

VOSD instituted a policy a few years ago of not allowing any commenter to be anonymous, but obviously you are able to conceal your last name.  In fact, I noticed in February that your profile had been disconnected, Dennis.  I reported the problem to VOSD, and next thing I knew, ALL the profiles of all commenters were disconnected.  I was told that the relaunch of the VOSD website caused the problems.

I'm waiting for VOSD to either reconnect the links to commenter's profiles, or to announce a new policy allowing anonymity.