Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lisa Berlanga is wrong about what is needed to turn around schools

UPforED will not make anything better as long as it thinks that teachers are the only interest group that is sabotaging education.

The entrenched and corrupted power of school district politicians and administrators is just as big a problem as the teachers' union. For BOTH groups, kids come second to personal agendas. In order to keep power in the hands of powerful administrators, board members and their union official secret pals, school districts and the teachers union cooperate behind closed doors a lot more than most people know.

It's just too tempting for the leaders of both groups to maintain the status quo.

I agree with Lisa Berlanga that the California Teachers Union has stood in the way of meaningful teachers evaluations--but administrators and politicians are equally guilty. Lisa's organization seems to want to let the wolf replace the fox in the henhouse.

UPforED could actually do some good if it got an effective system of teacher evaluation instituted. The evaluation system would not need to put much, if any, emphasis on student test scores. But it's about time we had eyes in the classrooms, simply recording what teachers are doing.

Principals are not doing, and probably can not do, a proper job of evaluating their own teachers. They have to play politics with powerful teachers to make their schools function. Evaluations should be done by people from outside a school, or, better yet, from outside a school district. Perhaps even volunteer parents could do some of the basic information gathering on teacher performance.

Why not work for meaningful teacher evaluations, Lisa?

Is it just too easy to target the teachers union?

School Board Election Key to Turning Around San Diego Schools
Oct 18, 2012
By LISA BERLANGA
Voice of San Diego

On Nov. 7, San Diego Unified School District moves forward with three new or re-elected board members reconfiguring a board of five, beleaguered by governing questionably in the students' best interests.

In the last few years, we've seen more than our share of controversies that United Parents for Education, or UPforEd, believes served the political expediency of adults to the personal disappointment of parents, and the educational letdown of students. Let's consider just a few decisions made by five people, elected by the majority of San Diego Unified voters that leads us to question their motives.

Recently, San Diego Unified decided not to pursue $15 million dollars in funds under Race to the Top. The Obama administration put forward Race to the Top criteria and guidelines, in an effort to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap. Yet, San Diego Unified chose not to even apply for these funds. A parent has to ask why wouldn't the district pursue another source of funding during such tight budget times?

In another confounding example, the district faced spiraling healthcare expenses in 2010 to the tune of $167 million — the biggest share of cost aside from payroll. The issue came up this year and the unions blocked hearings on proposals from competitors of the California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefits Association without even a public hearing on the matter.

The media brought the issue to light discovering that in 20 years, the district hasn't put the healthcare bid out once despite best practices suggesting soliciting new bids every three to five years.

Because of decisions like these there is not enough money left in the budget to fund teachers. So our teachers, sometimes the best and brightest, get pink-slipped each year.

Yet for all these poor fiduciary decisions, voters continue to elect school board members who maintain the status quo and put what's best for kids' achievement second, placing the full burden on parents and teachers...

Lisa Berlanga response:

Lisa B
posted at 12:10 pm on Fri, Oct 19, 2012

Just for clarification my article was referencing school board members, not the teacher's union. However, I agree with you Maura, let's create a meaningful teacher evaluation system that would provide teachers with ongoing realevant feedback, supports, mentoring and professional development. Let's design a system that actually recognizing exceptional teachers and rewards them in some way. Let's share best practices and what is working amoung all the schools. Let's give the principals the authority to create teams of teachers who work together for years on a population of student's figuring out what works best for them. UPforEd is all for that but we need parents, teachers, administrators, board members and the teacher's union to work together to accomplish this. Anyone who agrees this is a great goal for our district, join us, www.upfored.org.


Maura Larkins response:

Hi Lisa:

It sounds like UPforEd is planning to sit around waiting for "parents, teachers, administrators, board members and the teacher's union to work together" to create a teacher evaluation system.

In the meantime, you're hoping to give administrators more power.

You say, "Let's give the principals the authority..."

If you give principals more authority over teachers BEFORE you have meaningful AND INDEPENDENT teacher evaluations, then you're just supporting the current system of personal agendas and school politics.

That's not exactly the same thing as getting all stakeholders to work together, is it?

You already have about 10% of teachers who have figured out what students need. Successful teaching is not a mystery. The expertise of those teachers should be accessed instead of giving principals more power to reward their (often mediocre) teacher cronies for loyalty.

UPforEd has a huge amount of money--enough to hire you as executive director, which is pretty impressive for a new organization. I suspect that Irwin Jacobs is your major benefactor. If this is true, it should be noted when you publish an opinion piece in VOSD, which is also flourishing due to Jacobs' generosity.

Instead of trying to get rid of the board members who failed to apply for Race to the Top (which means, of course, board members who are supported by the teachers union), why not put your huge amount of cash toward designing a teacher evaluation system, and then campaigning for it?

After you make it inevitable that effective teacher evaluations will be implemented, then the "parents, teachers, administrators, board members and the teacher's union" can finalize the details.

But that's not your goal, is it? You don't want effective, unbiased teacher evaluations. You just want more arbitrary power for administrators.


MORE COMMENTS


Wiz1 posted at 11:35 am on Wed, Oct 24, 2012.

As for Up for Ed, it started in 2011


ScrippsDad posted at 1:25 pm on Wed, Oct 24, 2012.

...UPforED started well before 2011, and again, you ignore the facts and you don't bother to do the research. I'm not sure how you can lay claim to the truth when you weren't there; I was and have been throughout so folks can take what you say as an uniformed outsider...


Maura Larkins posted:

Dear Scripps Dad:

I tried to take your advice about researching the beginnings of UPforEd, but it wasn't easy. I couldn't find this information on the UPforEd website.

I looked through three pages of Google results, and the earliest date I could find connected with UPforEd was Feb. 20, 2011, the date the organization registered its domain name.

I assume that most of the people involved in UPforEd had made efforts to change schools before the organization started--but you can't predate the start of the organization to the time when some members first started making efforts for schools.

In fact, weren't most of the founders of UPforEd once organized under the name San Diegans 4 Greater Schools? And didn't they start UPforEd after SD4 garnered some bad publicity during its failed effort to pack the SDUSD board with unelected members?

Perhaps you intend to say that UPforEd and SD4 are the same organization? Is that how you justify saying that UPforEd started before 2011?

If that's the justification for your statements, then you need to come out and state that UPforEd is simply a new name for an older organization. Otherwise, it will appear that you're trying to fudge the facts.

Until you make that argument, I think Wiz1 is correct when he states that UPforEd started in 2011.



ScrippsDad posted at 4:10 pm on Thu, Oct 25, 2012

Maura - so not true about UPforED being an offshoot or newer iteration of SD4 and I can tell you that straight because I am not or ever was in agreement with SD4 and was not a participant in SD4 and I'm a founding Board member of UP4ED.



Maura Larkins posted at 10:45 am on Tue, Oct 30, 2012

Dear Scripps Dad,
Where did UPforEd get so much money so quickly? Is Irwin Jacobs a major contributor? How about Rod Dammeyer and Buzz Woolley? Were assets transferred to UPforEd from SD4GS?


ScrippsDad posted at 7:54 pm on Tue, Oct 30, 2012

Maura - keep grasping at straws. No, Irwin Jacobs is not a major, or even, minor contributor. No assets (what assets might those be anyway?) were transferred fromSD4GS.

Seems you guys will believe what you want, make up what you want to believe regardless of facts...



Maura Larkins posted

Dear Scripps Dad:

I’ll respond to your statements one at a time.

“Maura - keep grasping at straws.”

Since when is asking questions the same as “grasping at straws”? Well, I suppose it is somewhat similar when the only answers that are forthcoming are as flimsy as stalks of dried grass. For example, what does it mean when you say that something is “not so true”? It sounds that you’re saying that it’s somewhat true. I believe you when you say that you did not support SD4, but why not admit that many SD4 people joined UPforEd when SD4 shut down? Here are just a couple of them:

1. Erica Holloway, spokesperson for SD4, is now spokesperson for UPforEd.
2. David Page, a major figure in SD4 (he would have been one of a small group of people given the responsibility for choosing several board members), is a board member of UPforEd.



“No, Irwin Jacobs is not a major, or even, minor contributor.”

Did you forget to include Rod Dammeyer and Buzz Woolley in this statement? Or am I to conclude that Dammeyer and Woolley are contributors? Now that you mention it, this does feel like grasping at straws. You seem to offer answers, but when I examine them, I see that there’s really not much there.

“No assets (what assets might those be anyway?) were transferred fromSD4GS.”

I suspect you’re being disingenuous when you ask what assets I might be talking about. Surely you read the stories Emily Alpert wrote about the big donors who gave many hundreds of thousands of dollars to SD4, enabling it to hire the La Jolla Group to circulate its petition. www.voiceofsandiego.org/education/article_c0d00cae-7b15-11e0-bfd6-001cc4c03286.html Nevertheless, I’ll take your answer at face value.

“Seems you guys will believe what you want, make up what you want to believe regardless of facts.”

Well, now, Scripps Dad, that is a very personal observation. You have no justification for saying this to me. And by the way, I was surprised when the editor published your insulting comment to Wiz1 when you said that he must be a bad science teacher since he expressed views for which you have contempt. I thought that VOSD had a policy of no ad hominem attacks. I am happy to see that your comment has now been removed. But I wonder, why are you so angry? Do you feel that the privacy of UPforEd is not being respected adequately? What’s wrong with having a calm, civilized discussion about who’s who among those who are spending large amounts of money to affect San Diego schools?

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