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Posted at 7:08 AM ET, 07/31/2010

Do we need another hero?

By Valerie Strauss

The following post was written by Patrick Ledesma, a school-based technology specialist and Special Education Department Chair with Fairfax County Public Schools. He is a National Board-certified teacher and a doctoral student at George Mason University, where he focuses on teacher education, technology, and education policy. He has been a member of the Teacher Leaders Network since 2003. This was originally posted on the website of Teacher Magazine, published by Education Week.


By Patrick Ledesma
You’ve seen them: The education movies about a driven principal who goes to a school to shake things up. Some teachers and parents are portrayed as resistant, but thanks to his charisma and force, the principal endures and makes changes. People eventually buy into the new culture and test scores improve.

If the movie was anything like “Lean on Me” with Morgan Freeman, the test results would be announced in some dramatic fashion in front of a large, energetic, and supportive crowd of students with the small group of detractors watching quietly from the sidelines. When it’s learned that the test scores have shot through the roof, just about everyone cheers, and it’s a happy ending as the music plays and credits roll.

Unfortunately, real life is never as conclusive. There’s always another side to the story—although sometimes it has less immediate appeal.

On July 6, The Washington Post published two interesting articles about education reform. The front page piece, originally published under the headline “Sousa’s Middle March of Progress,” portrayed Principal Dwan Jordon’s “hands-on, data driven tack (as) transforming a D.C. school but also ruffling feathers.”


Another piece in the editorial section
highlighted the significant role played by Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, in the D.C. mayoral race. The piece argued that the upcoming election could be about her “100 miles an hour, the children can’t wait” approach to school reform, characterized by “school closings, teacher layoffs, spending decisions, and principal reassignments,” versus the approach of a mayoral opponent who favors a more cautious and sensitive strategy that emphasizes “community collaboration and buy in.”

Ultimately, we learn, the mayoral race will be about opponents with a “different sense of urgency in reform.” This ongoing story unfolds, according to this editorial, in the context of a city with a long history of troubles with officials who lack the political will to implement and sustain school improvements. Contrast that with the Time magazine cover in December 2008 that featured Rhee with a big broom, ready to sweep the D.C. schools clean—and her quote featured in the Waiting for Superman trailer: “You wake up every morning and you know that kids are getting a really crappy education right now.”

Leading Change

In a movie such as “Lean on Me,” the audience hopes for the principal to be successful.

Morgan Freeman just has that voice and aura that’s too powerful to resist (even if he is condescending and rude to the educators in the film). From the point of view of most people in the audience, the improvements in student achievement validate the “reform can’t wait” urgency and negate any ill effects caused by the ruffling of teacher feathers.

The Post story about Sousa Middle School echoes movies like “Lean on Me.” The article describes how Principal Jordon fired many of his staff, micromanaged classroom teaching, handpicked teacher replacements, and emphasized the rigid use of test data for instructional planning. Like in the movie, test scores rose. Unlike the movie, the story isn’t over.

Critics of Jordon’s leadership style continue to highlight the high turnover of teachers and a feeling of “humiliation” the reporter describes this way:

If students are improving at Sousa, teachers from Jordon’s first year—almost none of whom kept their jobs this year—seem almost traumatized. One teacher accustomed to getting good evaluations said she felt "humiliated" by Jordon’s constant scrutiny. Others said they’d come in at 5 a.m., trying to meet his demands, but still left school in tears.

Critics of Jordan’s approach would argue that lasting change only results from consensus building and the development of organizational capacity. They could cite school leadership experts like Michael Fullan and describe the importance of relationships, knowledge building within an organization, and establishment of a learning culture. As Fullan argues in his book “Leading in a Culture of Change”:

Charismatic leaders inadvertently often do more harm than good because, at best, they provide episodic improvement followed by frustrated or despondent dependency. Superhuman leaders also do us another disservice: They are role models who can never be emulated by large numbers. Deep and sustained reform depends on many of us, not just on the very few who are destined to be extraordinary.

Critics of Jordan’s style would also emphasize the importance of treating teachers as professionals whose expertise and energies would be required for steady and sustained improvement in all areas of learning, not just what’s measured on the tests.

Recently, Post education writer Jay Mathews, in a column titled “Hero or Bully?,” commented on Mr. Jordon’s assertive tactics, noting that “his second year scores, soon to be released, better be good, or any powerful enemies he makes will have more than enough witnesses for their case against him.”

There are other interesting factors that could be discussed in connection with the Sousa Middle School’s recent success—specifically, the school’s new renovation and very low student-to-teacher ratio (56 adults for 230 students). What if the renovation and additional resources had been carried out in concert with a consensus building approach? What if the previous faculty had received more professional development and guidance? Would these school-strengthening efforts be enough to produce results similar to those being hailed by the “reform can’t wait” proponents? More importantly, would the change last?

There are other unknowns. What if Mr. Jordon gets promoted and leaves Sousa? Will the success go with him, or, will the improvements endure since he largely handpicked staff who share his philosophy?

Powerful Stories and Numbers

Whatever might have been done or might happen in the future, one thing is certain, and it’s something educators need to understand in the public debate. The “reform can’t wait” movement has powerful stories involving emotional charismatic leaders who save kids. They have the “hard numbers” that test data provide to justify their bold actions.

It’s a simple, direct, convincing story that is compelling and easy to understand and doesn’t require supporters to have any knowledge of education pedagogy, statistics, leadership philosophy, or policy. Results are more immediate, and don’t require years of building consensus while resistant or “burned out teachers” decide if they want to get on board. And the cultural references—like Morgan Freeman’s charisma, documentaries about charters, or Michelle Rhee’s magazine cover stare-down—are easily at hand.

From the public’s perspective, for better or worse, the expectation for story-telling has been set. Educators and policymakers who argue for the slower consensus-building approach will need equally convincing stories to sway the public. They will need to publicize or create movies of real examples of schools where change occurred internally, within a school, with the same staff, demonstrating that test scores increased and the improvement lasted. Some compelling examples like this would advance the discussions on how to improve schools.

Without this alternate storytelling, the public may not find teacher accounts of feeling humiliated or unprofessionally treated very compelling. That’s unfortunate, because lost along these hardened battle lines are hard working and dedicated educators who strive daily to make a difference. But in the public debate, they get lumped together with the resistant, burnt out, or ineffective teachers.

So does the public portrayal of urgency for school reform trump teachers’ defense of professionalism? Maybe the answer depends on which character you identify with in the movie.

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By Valerie Strauss  | July 31, 2010; 7:08 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  ed week, guest bloggers, jay mathews, lean on me, michelle rhee, school reform, sousa middle school  
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Comments

Dr. Charles "Buck" Offutt has been a teacher at DeMatha Catholic High School for 55 years (and sadly, after suffering a stroke , he is in very poor condition).

Tom Ponton, director of development at DeMatha told this story last year:
"When I came back to work at DeMatha some 10 years after I had graduated, I often turned to Buck for advice on a variety of topics -- music, books, poetry, and yes, even life itself. About eight or nine years ago, I mustered up enough courage to ask Buck the BIG question -- what was the purpose of life? From the outer doorway of my office, he looked at me somewhat surprised and said, "You're still trying to figure that one out, eh? Well, I gave up years ago."

I knew he was lying and he knew that I knew that, so I pressed him again. After a long pause, he told me that the best answer he could come up with was actually handed down to him by a former student, a man he was now friends with, "Tom, it's as simple as this -- help people, don't hurt them."

It is my view that the quote above aptly describes Buck and what he's done for the past 50 plus years at DeMatha Catholic High School."


Help people, don't hurt them.

Posted by: edlharris | July 31, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

David Brooks had a NY Times column some months ago ("In Praise of Dullness," May 19 2009) where he talked about what qualities good CEOs have:

"In 2001, Jim Collins published a best-selling study called “Good to Great.” He found that the best C.E.O.’s were not the flamboyant visionaries. They were humble, self-effacing, diligent and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again. That same year Murray Barrick, Michael Mount and Timothy Judge surveyed a century’s worth of research into business leadership...What mattered was emotional stability and, most of all, conscientiousness — which means being dependable, making plans and following through on them."

The "visionary leader" shtick is also way overhyped when it comes to education. But so is the people-person consensus-building process type. Those who work best are the ones who communicate a single, clear objective and then work quietly and persistently to pursue it.

Posted by: dz159 | July 31, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

A quiet, well argued, essay.

So, now for WaPo and other reporters to use the wealth of longitudinal data on local schools to screen some which, just by the numbers. have a history of positive change. Visit them, and as importantly, dig out the past issues of local press coverage, school notices. There's as much readership for that as there is for "where we live" features on neighborhoods.

Some of the same research staff remaining at WaPo could also identify local schools which have gone through demographic transition, and nonetheless adapted, thrived, and sustained measured academic performance. This isn't even hard enough to qualify as serious play.

Finally, within DCPS there is the Fillmore Arts Center, with a 30+ year history of service to an ever growing number of elementary schools. Write a story about how they do it.

Posted by: incredulous | July 31, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Forget the movies and let us look at a school that was turned around in New York by a principal, and now years later without this principal and his methods is now on the list of the worst public schools of New York city.

His name was Frank Mickens and the school he tuned around was Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant of Brooklyn New York. At the time of Mr. Mickens this was a school with 5,000 students.

How did he turn around this school?

Simple, he got the students that would not allow teachers to teach and other students to learn out of the normal classrooms, and created an environment where teachers could teach and children can learn.

He recognized that the best teachers in the world would be totally irrelevant in an environment that hindered learning.

Instead of calling for class room management he simply removed from the classes the student that were preventing other students from learning.

Many of these students found themselves continuously in an auditorium doing nothing, but simply getting them out of the classrooms turned this school around.


"In interviews during his tenure as principal, Mr. Mickens and like-minded administrators and parents maintained that disruptive students should not be forced on the school, causing distractions for their peers who want to learn."
Legacy of Discipline at a Bed-Stuy School
New York Times

So why is the school now on the list of the worst public school.

The actions of Mr. Mickens were illegal and the disruptive can not be removed from normal classrooms.

Americans can complain about teachers as much as they like, and waste billions of dollars on tests, but this will have no affect on public education for the poverty schools in urban areas.

Mr. Mickens was right, and if you do not provide those who are willing to learn with an environment where teachers can teach and students can learn, education will fail.

The poverty public schools are failing since these schools do not provide an environment for learning. All the failing results of national tests for these schools are not an indication of poor teachers, but simply an indication of schools that do not have an environment for learning.

If local governments can not find methods for legally removing the disruptive from classrooms they need to accept the inevitability of providing an inferior education.

Students can only learn in an environment where teachers are allowed to teach and children are allowed to learn.

Frank Mickens taught us that.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 31, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Recruit Training Manual United States Army

Problem recruits should not be brought to the attention of training officers.

Problem recruits are the responsibilities of the non commissioned officers, and training recruits management should be employed with all problem recruits.

Remember it is the responsibility of non commissioned officers to adequately train every recruit. Recruits that enters recruit training are equal, and are entitled to effective recruit training non commissioned officers.

Cases of problem recruits encouraging other recruits to burn down the barracks, should be dealt with by non commissioned officers using training recruits management.

Non commissioned officers should though, report to training officers the burning down of barracks, since these will have to be replaced.

A new recruit training test will be shortly implemented. The results of this test will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of non commissioned officers. Non commissioned offices found ineffective will be transferred to active Army units overseas.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 31, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Edharris,
I plan to tape your post to the wall next to my desk at school. Thank you.

George Wood!!! Let's get a documentary on him and the school he's a principal at.
How can we get this to happen???

Posted by: tutucker | July 31, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Change in complex, layered systems happens continuously - they are adapting, diminishing and coping. If we seek to manage that change and direct it in only ways we see as positive, the variables and actors are fluid and ambiguous as hell. In other words, complex systems don't operate in political time sequences.They don't improve in easily measured and sequential ways. They are chaotic.

BUT in a system/environment of many systems, some will respond for a time in the manner we prefer. They are terribly vulnerable to regression effects over time, but for a period, they can seem miraculous or saved. They aren't.

And when a system does that - overperforms as it were, we seek to explain, then replicate the effects. We fail. But in the short run, we tend to attribute the atypical performance to heroic leadership, a secular version of an omnipotent God. We overestimate such people's causal impact or longterm ability. Indeed, such folks eventually fail us, demonstrating their mere humanity. At that point, most of them retire & write a book accepting credit for the atypical success and blaming the subsequent dissipation on other, less-heroic people who impeded or undermined them.

A great theorist of systems, James March, articulated these principles, much more clearly, over 25 yrs ago (eg, regarding the operation of leadership in systems, he said heroic leadership is irrelevant to planning and longterm effects, and within systems, the best hope for leadership effects is routine competence). More recently, Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers reasserted the randomness and fortuity of exceptional achievement (and conversely, the failure to produce same). Such ideas about humans' lack of control in life are at least as old as hellenic playwrights such as Euripides.

It's understandable that people don't want to believe these ideas, and search for deus-ex-machina leaders, while blaming those currently in charge for the on-going messiness.

So, more heroes?? Please. That is the same as asking for more egocentrism and arrogance. Surely, we have no shortage of that already. Humility is hard won for most, and utterly invisible to many, especially those who seek power and control over others.

Posted by: dsacken | July 31, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

David Brooks had a NY Times column

Posted by: dz159
........................
I would not be quoting an article of David Brooks for credibility.

Last yer Mr. Brooks wrote an article questioning the male fortitude of the President to egg the President on to sending more troops to Afghanistan and turn our mission there to nation building.

As far as the quality that is common to all good CEO's, that is simple.

They keep the shareholders happy. If shareholders at one time want dividends the good CEO's milk the company and cut jobs.

Oh and David Brooks is a big fan of off shoring American jobs. In an article regarding our current economic crisis he is in favor of more use of the "talents" of other nation. One loves how cheap labor is described as "talents" by Mr. Brooks.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 31, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Those who work best are the ones who communicate a single, clear objective and then work quietly and persistently to pursue it.

Posted by: dz15
.........................
So if the President of the United States is exclusively using all of the powers of his office to reach his goal of being reelected, you would believe that the American people should be totally satisfied with him.

I do not want leaders that have some theoretical set of qualities.

I want effective leaders that deal with the current problems of this nation.

I want leaders like Harry Truman who when given the role of being President, dealt with the problems of this nation.

I want leaders like General Marshall who when given the role of leading the Army, did deal with the problems of a small and ill equipped Army.

America is in big trouble when it judges leaders on the qualities that they supposedly possess, and not their ability to deal with the problems of this nation.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 31, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

A child at nine years old wants to be President of the United States.

The child when he becomes President of the United States only wants to be reelected.

Somehow I prefer the child that at nine years old wants to be a fireman.

At least one knows this child wants to ride on the fire engine and ring the bell.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 31, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Valerie:

We have examples of success built on deliberative approaches and respect for teachers. Those models, unfortunately, exist in the private schools. It's just that they are not subjected to No Child Left Behind and mayoral takeovers with arrogant chancellors.

Ask President Obama if the teachers at Sidwell Friends are disrespected and blamed for any problems the school might have.

Posted by: vscribe | July 31, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Sorry that I didnt get here soon enough to tell folks that Cspan's Washington Journal from this AM had a call-in segment on RttT, with guest Michele McNeil from Education Week.

Of course, it can still be watched on their website (w/crappy closed caption transcript, but a click on it can get you to the host/guest/caller's location on the video, so you can hear everything they said):

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/229633

Following that was re-aired BlArneY Duncan, his talk w/reporters on July 27th about something he thinks is education, w/Q&A I havent watched it yet. Here it is with same clickable transcript:

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/229338

On WJ, most of the callers were against RttT, some making good points (I advise skipping the sadly muddled 2nd caller - off adrift in pell grants somewhere... and then there's someone who uses DE's win of round 1 to jump to DE's Biden to jump to some rant about Zionism. However, she did, helpfully, begin by saying "Here in Wisconsin we call this "Race to the Trough").

The first caller, a teacher from Michigan, was great. She said she celebrated when she heard MI failed the 2nd round. (Hear! Hear!) She recommended Ravitch's book, too.

Posted by: NYCee | July 31, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Do We Need Another Hero? YES!!!

I have to say, the most glaring HERO's ABSENCE is that of TEACHERS themselves. Teachers as advocates for teachers. Teachers as fighters for teachers. Teachers as winners for teachers. (Colluding and caving union leaders and Dem politicians be damned!)

This is a fight that must be waged by teachers, or we are done. The unraveling will continue, sadly, horribly, and will end in death - death of the American union. To save our unions it looks like, in some cases, we must fight unions, too - those that do not fight for us. Having a union that doesnt champion and protect its workers, that has become too cozy with management or too weak to fight it, well, what's the point? Might as well become "Right to Work," which, not so curiously, sounds harmonious with "Race to the Top."

I, like so many others, am outraged at the whole Rhee/DC teachers raw deal - but the DC teachers voted overwhelmingly for this raw deal! So, while I feel this is a fight for teachers everywhere in this country, I feel it is mostly for those DC teachers in the minority who voted against the contract from hell, but who must now suffer under it, since it was voted for by their - ignorant? scared? confused? pay-hike bedazzled? - colleagues.

Of course, this fight goes much further - it's for teachers everywhere who are under the gun and the machinations of complicit politicians and union leaders like the AFT's head, Randi Weingarten (helped design/push thru Rhee contract) and Michael Mulgrew - NYC, UFT head - who sold NYC teachers down crap's creek without a paddle by flipping on charters and teacher evaluations and signing onto the RttT MOU in a back room deal... while members somehow didnt have a say? (What is wrong with this picture?)

Mulgrew - (See the comments for an earful and enjoy well-deserved gotcha of "gossip girl") http://gothamschools.org/2010/05/11/what-to-expect-from-todays-teacher-evaluation-agreement/?comments=true

Randi Weingarten - (How she helped Rhee, from Rhee's mouth! - with added Rhee message for NY!)
http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/06/13/2010-06-13_dc_school_chancellor_michelle_rhee_says_new_york_must_learn_from_her_groundbreak.html

Posted by: NYCee | July 31, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

And what's more... California, here I come...

Wanted: Another Hero for Teachers

Perhaps I have a nominee (singular as in collective)

I think teachers (certainly NY's) might benefit if this hero were to provide intensive nationwide workshops to teach teachers how to stand strong, how NOT to roll over and approve those dreadful contracts and RttT MOUs in their state's RttT plan, (which unions must sign onto to get states more "points" to WIN!), and not go along with craven pols and union hacks.

I nominate (((drumroll)))

The California Teachers Association

... which includes the many California unions who stood strong and refused to sign the MOUs on the state's submitted and resubmitted plan for RttT. (Time to play hooky from PD - ugh - and buy a ticket to CA?)

See, I like this: Unions again balk at Race to the Top http://educatedguess.org/2010/05/25/unions-again-balk-at-race-to-the-top/

"Friday was the last day for districts and unions to sign a memorandum of understanding. Of the half-dozen unified districts that formed the working group for Race to the Top, only unions in Fresno and Sanger, a small rural district, signed on. The big ones – in Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Clovis – in the end said no. Of the 43 unions that signed, about half represented teachers in charter schools.

snip/ The boldest changes would deal with how teachers would be evaluated, promoted and paid. Teachers would have a say in designing the evaluations, but at least 30 percent of an evaluation would be based on the growth in student test scores. /snip

Those would be dramatic changes. But superintendents and school board can promise all they want; many of the Race to the Top commitments would be unenforceable unless the unions signed an MOU committing to make changes in their contracts. And many teachers remain staunchly behind job protections under tenure and opposed to using test scores as part of their evaluations."

=======*======
And I like this: From the California Teachers Association on RACE to the TOP:

Here's the title, for starters;

Race to the Top: One-Size-Fits All Hurts Students

http://www.cta.org/Issues-and-Action/RTTT/CTA-Position-Paper.aspx

So chapeaux and a nomination for hero to California teachers (might as well throw in CA nurses - they, too, seem to know what to fight for and how to fight.)


Posted by: NYCee | July 31, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Wish it wasnt just me leaving a string of comments... very quiet here today.

But I cant leave without...

Special Mention: To San Diego teachers (and all in solidarity in the community), not only because their union didnt sign the RttT MOU, but also because they sent their Klein-like Superintendent, Alan Bersin, and his autocratic cult edu-leader (imported from NYC), Anthony Alvarado, packing!

If you dont have a clue about Alvarado, see here: http://www.rockawave.com/news/2005-05-06/Columnists/206.html

And if you see Anthony Alvarado coming to "fix" your teaching "problem" ... run, dont walk, in the opposite direction... FAST!


Posted by: NYCee | July 31, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Perfect:

- Bsallamack's concept of the child who know that he wants to be a fireman to ring the bell and ride on the truck

_NYCee's naming of Blarny Duncan

Posted by: efavorite | July 31, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh hi, efavorite. Yeah, I was happy to see how smoothly blarney fit. Many times an apt word will not.

I am going to pop over to the previous post (Snooki-civil rights) - maybe there's more action there. I had an insight-flash re Obama that I shall dare to share.


Posted by: NYCee | July 31, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Valerie for your constant effort to showcase those who have volumes to teach us about what is real with education rather than the usual WaPo spin and individualistic hype.
I truly appreciate reading your column as I get ready to send my child to middle school-our third charter in 3 years in DC --in the hope that sanity prevails.(Dont have a DCPS MS in our community)
You and the writer of this balanced essay are my heroes today- people who work with integrity to make a simple and meaningful difference and who do not hurt but definitely share wisdom to help others along the way.
Again thank you.

Posted by: rastajan | July 31, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Hear, hear! rastajan. That's a lovely post.

Valerie really is a find, especially given the reportage black hole on this topic - from the pro-teacher/pro-teaching side.

Which makes me ask: why oh why... did those DC teachers vote for hell?

I imagine most of them will spend most of the pay gain they got on therapy... if they have any time for it.

Good luck with your child's school year.

Posted by: NYCee | July 31, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

@ bsmallack: I am a big fan of your comments. I think you're mostly right. I agree with you about David Brooks, but what the hay, sometimes even the blind cat catches a dead mouse.

Posted by: dz159 | August 1, 2010 12:54 AM | Report abuse

This article explains very well the frustrations I have had lately with the public debate.

I agree with the author that people who aren't teachers are likely to see nothing wrong with a dramatic "my way or the highway" approach.

Teachers are heroes. I suppose Valerie or someone could have us write in about a time we dramatically turned around a student's life. I'm sure every teacher has done that at least once.

To the commentors:

I did listen to Cspan on the Race to the Top today. I felt the education reporter was very good at explaining positively about the Race to the Top money. She glossed over a few things, though, such as why can't more states get the money. It did appear that word had gotten to the Race to the Top people that the whole thing wasn't being perceived too well, she addressed some of the issues, but not so much the testing issues and how much the testing could effect teacher evaluations. She said they could measure student growth, and then went on to explain that whole idea, as if it was something new that they had thought up.

I assume the DC teachers were pressured to not to vote "no". I assume that because many didn't vote. I also assume that those who voted yes figured they probably wouldn't stay long, so why not try to get a raise while they are offering it. A few years ago didn't DC not pay the right amount or something? I can't remember the details.

I think many non-tenured teachers are not big fans of typical union "perks" because often they are for the tenured teachers. I think generally unions are great because the teachers need the lawsuit protection and because the unions are sometimes really good at knowing the conditions on the ground. Many unions put the kids' interests first and back up the teachers too. But sometimes they have dumb little rules that hurt part-timers, substitutes or non-tenured people. I remember once as a 20% teacher (one class) I was required to buy eye insurance. I didn't want to buy any insurance while I was only teaching one class. Unions really don't help teachers who move around a lot either. This is my case. Every five years or so I move, so I am constantly being evaluated. I just think many of the DC teachers may not want to work there for long, judging by how "crappy" their boss thinks they are. Why would you lower yourself to work for someone who calls you "crappy", to the press? I know why, the money. Thus, the contract.

Posted by: celestun100 | August 1, 2010 1:56 AM | Report abuse

celestun100 wrote: I assume the DC teachers were pressured to not to vote "no". I assume that because many didn't vote. I also assume that those who voted yes figured they probably wouldn't stay long, so why not try to get a raise while they are offering it. A few years ago didn't DC not pay the right amount or something? I can't remember the details.
---------------------
I don't think pressure to vote one way or the other has anything to do with how many people voted. I am the union rep at my school in Montgomery Co. and it is like pulling teeth to get people to vote on our contracts. Why? They are just too busy. I call several meetings to inform them about what is in the contract and I typically get about 50% attendance. I send informational emails out presenting both sides of the argument and I make voting very easy--taking about 15 seconds --to be done at each teacher's convenience in my classroom which is right across the hallway from the cafeteria. I literally have to chase people down to get them to vote. Our local teacher's association has about 11,000 members yet we have about 4K members actually vote. Even more interesting is the fact that the vocal members--those that participate routinely--on our online union discussion board--often vote no on the contracts. Their schools often do as well. Yet we still vote for the contracts regardless.

The bottom line is that we teachers are often like sheep. We just continue to vote yes--particularly if there is any kind of pay raise--then we complain about the contract throughout its duration. Many MCPS teachers were frustrated over what was not in our new contract. I'm not talking about pay raises but rather some no cost working condition issues. It's almost as if we feel we are undeserving of anything that might be seen as a benefit. Teachers have been trained to think that they must sacrifice their own well being for the benefit of their students. Sadly, this type of sacrifice really doesn't help the students at all!

Posted by: musiclady | August 1, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The "Soundings" program developed by Mark Springer in Radnor Middle School in Wayne, PA is another example of successful teaching practice. Soundings graduates have done well on state testing, while teachers in the high school (I have visited both schools) uniformly described Soundings graduates as being more self-aware, curious, and self-motivated than non-Soundings students.

Dr. Springer's book, "Soundings," describes the program in detail. John Lounsbury, one of the giants of middle school education, has described it as an examplar of how to put into practice the principles of "This We Believe," produced by the National Middle School Association, which lists the 16 research-based characteristics of successful middle schools. As a middle school teacher myself, I can strongly recommend both books and the ideas they propose.

Posted by: billi01370 | August 1, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

When 81% Passing Suddenly Becomes 18%
New York Times

At some schools, the drop was breathtaking. At Public School 85 in the Bronx, known as the Great Expectations School, there was a literal reversal in fortune, with proficiency on the third-grade math test flipping from 81 percent to 18 percent. At the main campus of the Harlem Promise Academy, one of the city’s top-ranked charter schools, proficiency in third-grade math dropped from 100 percent to 56 percent.

In New York City, charter schools, a touchstone of school reform, had been outperforming traditional schools on state tests. But due to steep losses, they are now even with traditional schools on the English test, though they maintained an advantage in math. Statewide, the proficiency rate for charter schools is now one point lower in math and 10 points lower in English than at traditional schools.

Much of the city’s progress in reducing the achievement gap between minority and white students was eroded by the new numbers, revealing that more black and Hispanic students had been barely passing under the old standards.
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Recalibrate scoring of state tests in New York to reality, and suddenly the evidence of the effectiveness of all of the "reform" elements of Race To The Top vanish into the air.

Public charter schools are no more effective in improving education than public schools.

State standardized tests are not effective in either evaluating improvements in education or evaluating teachers.

The high common state standard that New York has had for decades is not sufficient in itself to improve public education.

Time to start looking at what hinders education in the Title 1 poverty public schools in urban areas and develop targeted policies and ideas regarding the real problems instead of the pie in the sky ideas of Race To The Top that have already been shown to be ineffective.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line is that we teachers are often like sheep. We just continue to vote yes--particularly if there is any kind of pay raise--then we complain about the contract throughout its duration. Many MCPS teachers were frustrated over what was not in our new contract. I'm not talking about pay raises but rather some no cost working condition issues. It's almost as if we feel we are undeserving of anything that might be seen as a benefit. Teachers have been trained to think that they must sacrifice their own well being for the benefit of their students. Sadly, this type of sacrifice really doesn't help the students at all!

Posted by: musiclady
..........................

You are right about the members, but this does not excuse the union leaders.

Their job is not to simply present an agreement to members to vote on but to ensure in negotiations that nothing appears in the contract that is not in the interests of teachers.

Presenting a contract for a vote by the union indicates a contract that the union leaders approve of.

This is not a vote to strike or not to strike which teachers would carefully consider but a vote to approve the contract that the union leaders have accepted.

It is interesting that not a single contract of the unions of teachers contains any mention of violence in schools. Perhaps if school violence was included in union contracts these problems would not be ignored and would actually dealt with.

Imagine a contract where high levels of school violence triggers higher pay for the teachers at the schools of a specified level of school violence.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

For musiclady
.............................
It is interesting that not a single contract of the unions of teachers contains any mention of violence in schools. Perhaps if school violence was included in union contracts these problems would not be ignored and would actually dealt with.

Imagine a contract where high levels of school violence triggers higher pay for the teachers at the schools of a specified level of school violence.
.................
I forgot to mention that the NAACP would be in favor of the above idea for union contracts since they are very concerned about safety in the public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

musiclady:

I agree - the pay raises are becoming the only thing that is a win in contracts these days. I think teachers should focus more on the protections/job impacting measures, at this point in time, because these are being hacked away at lightening speed.

Also, there are some important things that need to be brought into existence, that have never been won. For example, the way those who dont have to use it just impose bad curriculum on teachers - it can turn out to be pricey and, worse, junk - yet teachers are told, "Well, its not in the contract that you have a say! (by union leaders) As if that puts the final curtain on it. Hey, sick leave didnt used to be in the contract either. You make things get in the contract by first thinking you should try! And fight!

Although teachers and union leaders (the latter should be leading toward the light) have let the contracts get so weakened, I would say holding onto and retrieving (previously won) protections should be the priority right now.

I too dont buy the pressured explanation. What pressure? Who knows how you voted? You dont have it published with your name next to it! By not voting against it, they have now truly dealt themselves a world of pressure!

Good on you, btw, for making such efforts to get the votes from colleagues. It sounds like the ones who do get involved tend to know what they are doing - refusing deals with the devil.

It is disgraceful to me that the head of the AFT, formerly UFT - NYC, Randi Weingarten, helped Rhee oil that contract thru. Any union head who does that should not head a union, in my book.


None other than Michelle Rhee complimented her, in her awful op-ed, wherein she lectured NY to get with the new reform age (up is down), recreate a "good" union from the old school "bad" union, like she did... with the help of the president of the 2nd largest union! New York's own, Randi Weingarten!

Rhee said:

"Use Randi Weingarten. I don't like to get in the middle of someone else's negotiation and I know that there is a long and complicated history between Weingarten and Klein. However, based on my experiences negotiating with Weingarten, she is very much able to see the direction the nation is heading in and the fact that unions need to be a part of the solution. Both Klein and Mulgrew should lean on her."

D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee says New York must learn from her groundbreaking union deal

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/06/13/2010-06-13_dc_school_chancellor_michelle_rhee_says_new_york_must_learn_from_her_groundbreak.html#ixzz0vOXjnly6

How sad that this is being seen as a model for the nation.

Well, as RttT leader Obama said of Rhee: "She's a wonderful new superintendent!"

Posted by: NYCee | August 1, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack--I believe our contract might have something about violence. I teach in a title I elementary school with an extremely diverse population. My district has made classroo environment a priority. We have implemented PBIS which is a behavior intervention system created in conjunction with Sheppard Pratt Hospital. I've been at my school for 25 years and I remember years when it was a zoo. It isn't anymore. Our kids are actually quite well behaved considering the demographics of our student body. Many of the schools in MCPS have gotten grant money to implement PBIS and soon most will be using it. It does require a commitment from the entire staff. They are advised of such during interviews. It's amazing the results you can get when everyone shares the same vision and follows the same procedures for dealing with discipline issues. You can read more about PBIS at http://www.pbis.org

There are a lot of interventions that can and should be used in title I schools, but they are pricey. The first one would be smaller class sizes. We typically have about 15 students in a class at the primary grades and 20-22 at the upper grades. It makes a huge difference.

As far as the contract goes--we voted last year and this year to give up our raises in order to keep class sizes low and to keep our support personnel. It would be nice to get a raise, but quite honestly, I would rather work in a good situation where I feel supported and where I feel I have an impact then to take a small raise and attempt to teach large classes with no support. Those are choices that we've made a number of times during tight economic times. Unfortunately that fact is often overlooked as teachers are portrayed as selfish over paid bureaucrats who only care about money and benefits. I know that we are all busy, but teachers really need to start being proactive and advocating for themselves. It's obvious that no one else will do it for us.

Posted by: musiclady | August 1, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack--I believe our contract might have something about violence. I teach in a title I elementary school with an extremely diverse population. My district has made classroo environment a priority. We have implemented PBIS which is a behavior intervention system created in conjunction with Sheppard Pratt Hospital. I've been at my school for 25 years and I remember years when it was a zoo.

Posted by: musiclady
...............................
I know that some of the poverty schools are making an effort in these.

My complaint is that Race To The Top does provide any funding to assist the states to deal with these problems.

No politicians is demanding Americans are entitled to safe schools and classroom environments where teachers can teach and children can learn.

These are the major problems in the Title 1 poverty public schools of large urban areas and they are simply ignored.

I still believe that union leaders that accepted the idea of firing teachers based on test results was absurd.

Believe me in the 1950's and 1960's there were poverty schools in New York City where at the least one could take for granted safety in the schools and classroom environments where teachers could teach and children could learn.

There appears to me, to be no possibility of improving education at any school if these basic requirements are not met.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Rewrite and really getting sloppy

bsallamack--I believe our contract might have something about violence. I teach in a title I elementary school with an extremely diverse population. My district has made classroo environment a priority. We have implemented PBIS which is a behavior intervention system created in conjunction with Sheppard Pratt Hospital. I've been at my school for 25 years and I remember years when it was a zoo.

Posted by: musiclady
...............................
I know that some of the poverty schools are making an effort in these areas.

My complaint is that Race To The Top does not provide any direct funding to assist the states to deal with these problems.

Based on Race To The Top the problems do not even exist,

No politicians is demanding that American students are entitled to safe schools and classroom environments where teachers can teach and children can learn.

These are the major problems in the Title 1 poverty public schools of large urban areas and they are simply ignored.

I still believe that union leaders that accepted the idea of firing teachers based on test results were negligent.

Believe me in the 1950's and 1960's there were poverty schools in New York City where at the least one could take for granted safety in the schools and classroom environments where teachers could teach and children could learn.

There appears to me, to be no possibility of improving education at any school if these basic requirements are not met.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 1, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

tutucker,
You are welcome.
If you would like to read more about Dr. Charles "Buck" Offutt, go here:
http://www.dematha.org/news/express.aspx?StartDate=2/12/2009
He told Tom Ponton, when he worked summer camp 1979,
"that it was important I find a way to single out each camper at some point during the session and make him feel good about himself. That was the primary objective, I was told."

Posted by: edlharris | August 1, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

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