Thursday, May 26, 2011

LIFO and 2 proposals to fix it

LIFO – a lot of talk about the inequality of LIFO.  Why does a “highly effective”  new teacher get canned so a lowly 25 year “stale and ineffective” teacher gets to keep their job. 

First gratitude.  The Union is one half of the parties that came up with LIFO.  The Union is the half that is fighting to keep all teachers (not laying-off anyone, including those affected by LIFO).  Its the Union that wants keep young teachers and fight for more funding for education.  It is the other half of the LIFO negotiation team that is the political side, which wants to repeal LIFO.  Its the political side that is not seeking for solutions to get education funding or respect its needs.  Its the political side that is at the whimsy of pundits and education neophytes.  If I were a new teacher, I would think I sew my alliances.

New teachers are doubly susceptible to the “highly effective” craze.  For one thing, being “highly effective” is the only way a new teacher can claim to be more deserving than a veteran.  New teachers don’t have anything but test scores to compare against veteran teachers so when a new teacher talks about highly effective, they need to emphasize test scores.

Highly effective widget A is better than ineffective widget B and therefore A is better than B.  Unless A and B are different.

New Teachers and Veterans are different.  I don’t know if this is a regression to the mean, or experience. The more I’ve taught the “less effective” I’ve become.  When I was a new teacher the only way I new if I was doing “good” was student test scores.  I watched every assessment and made all sorts of comparisons that probably weren’t valid to justify that I was highly effective.  I more than tripled student’s test scores in my first year now I make modest gains.  My teaching has gotten better, but my desire to prove my worth through test scores went away.

 After a little time of teaching you realize that other things besides test scores are important too and focusing on test scores is not the sole way to help improve outcomes for my students.  I look at the students that come back and tell me they are going to college or appreciated something I did in class as a measure of success.  I for one did not get into teaching to explicitly raise student test scores.  I think most “veterans” see test scores as useful tool, an abstract marker of success.  But any great teacher moved past test scores pretty soon into their career.

Why is LIFO getting so much noise.  The people at the volume switch tend to be people who left the teaching profession after just a few years, that early stage of teaching when test scores are your sole source of validation.  For as much good as Teach For America does, turning out alumni who advocate for education policy changes after just a couple years in the class means turning out a bunch of people with a very short sighted view of what a teacher does.  The fact that TFA places so much emphasis on data and “highly effective” blinds many TFA’ers from a lot of the other great work they are doing.  Looking at the people behind many of the “reform” groups in LA, they are usually staffed by TFA alumni and you don’t see a lot of differing perspective from Families that Can, reform LAUSD, Parent Revolution, Teacher Plus.  One other thing about TFA, they tend to be highly effective according to ThomasKane at Harvard (pdf), but just about every other new teacher performs lower than a veteran.

Two possible solutions to dealing with LIFO.

1.  TFA has a track record of producing “highly effective” teachers, give TFA kids tenure when they start teaching.

2.  The Survivor Method. One thing I can agree on is that there are some spectacularly crappy teachers who should be removed.  Most studies I peruse put the number of crappy teachers at between 5 and 10 percent.   I recommend the “Survivor” method, whereby a school can vote off the island (metaphor for school) a crappy teacher per 20 teachers at the school site.  I don’t even think you need to develop any criteria, just do the process for a few years.  If a teacher is voted off, do the lemon dance.  If a teacher cannot find a home in 3 different tries, they are out of the district.  In a budget crisis like we have now, have more votes to vote more people off the island.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

PSC is not “public school choice,”

maybe call it LAUSD “Drastic School Reform”
I think this is more than semantics, but lets review PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE or PUBLIC school choice or PUBLIC SCHOOL choice or public SCHOOL CHOICE/ CHOICE.  No matter how you parse it, PSC is a terrible name for LAUSD's Drastic School Reform program.  Like a Geocities site, PSC has a lot of flash, but no clear objective. A better name might get the lowest performing LAUSD schools a track to get on.

Public - it is not
Anyone participating in PSC complains about the “public” because you can’t create an equitable representation of the public when you segregate and assign the public different values based on one version of school interaction.  Specifically weighting a community vote,  parent vote, faculty vote is fundamentally flawed, though noble in its effort.  Also not everyone likes certain parts of the public that show up to vote and disagree with them, something about democracy or political meddling.   Romer viewed schools as community center where everyone in the neighborhood would have an interest in the school, Cortines/Deasy view of school as a service to students and parents.  I prefer the broader view.

Even if a public vote and superintendedent were to agree on one plan, its is ultimately the Board that has final decision.  The board  is in fact the only equitable representation of the public (albeit at 8% public voter turn out).  This is ultimately flawed too since the impression is that the public vote is the public part of p(ublic)sc.

Public school - it is not

Public schools are funded by the public and controlled by the public through School Site Councils and a public voter approved Board.  Charters do not have to meet this requirement, though they can.  Most of the charters that have chosen to participate in PSC (CMO style charters) receive outside funding that far out paces traditional public schools.  Its great for students to receive additional funding, but from an administrative view, how independent is the school that relies on substantial funding from outside sources?  When ICEF had to get bailout money it came with strings attached that caused it to reshape its operations, in effect outside money changed the policies and not the public.  When it comes to school governance CMO boards are not publicly elected or formed.  How is a charter that has participated in PSC a public school, besides accepting or operating with public money minus the representation.  

School Choice/Choice - It does not promote

As the number of schools going through PSC goes up, the number of school choices for students changes with no safeguards for a positive increase.  If the number of schools operating under a CMO goes up, both school style and distances potentially goes down.  The more schools that teach the Alliance way, the fewer options for parents to choose a different way.  The more CMOs can consolidate their geographical space, then one of the prime benefits of charters go away.  Because there are so many charters spread out over LA and usually attached to community centers like churches and commercial space, charters provide greater localization than public schools alone.  If a CMO closes one of its outside operations to move onto a traditional school space, the distance a parent must travel to access a choice increases.  Prop39 also threatens to increase the distance parents must travel to exercise a choice.  While PSC aims to increase school excellence we need to balance it with an appreciation for access to choices.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Yesterday I read this: 

Public School Choice 

Which kind of made me think of this:
Rally for deceased poorly ranked LAUSD teacher 

Which in my twisted logic, necessitated this from the perspective of someone at Beaudry:

Working Draft:
SACOM made the following observations about Foxconn, we at LAUSD feel that we don’t want to be labeled  as “overbearing” so we should learn from Foxconn’s mistakes.

Excessive overtime is routine, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.

LAUSD: “Overtime means you are being paid for your extra hours ie, teachers time spent lesson planning/ grading/ community outreach. This work outside of the school day is not overtime its unpaid time.”

Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.

LAUSD:  “We don’t make iPads, but we do make API’s and CST scores which parents/ teachers/ administrators line up to see when they come out.  If a teacher is working so hard that they are only getting 1 day off every 2 weeks to get their CST scores up, we should point out that its not contracted and they have that summer/furlough time coming up afterwards.”

In some factories badly performing workers are required to be publicly humiliated in front of colleagues.

LAUSD. “Thank god for the LA Times publicly shaming out teachers for us, we get teachers to leave out of shame and we can say we care about our employees.  I wonder if there is a trade press in China where employers could shame their employees without being directly linked to the press.  Thankfully we can use people’s misunderstandings of AGT and their faith in the supremacy of numbers to shame “low growth” schools and teachers.”

Crowded workers' dormitories can sleep up to 24 and are subject to strict rules. One worker told the NGO investigators that he was forced to sign a "confession letter" after illicitly using a hairdryer. In the letter he wrote: "It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again."

LAUSD. “I am sure every teacher understands the explicit fire hazard of hair dryers and would agree to such a policy.  Note...add no hairdryers to list of things teachers can’t have in a classroom”

In the wake of a spate of suicides at Foxconn factories last summer, workers were asked to sign a statement promising not to kill themselves and pledging to "treasure their lives".

LAUSD. “Rigoberto Ruelas, taught us that we need to push our mental health services division which is included in select health care plan options.  This might mean rejecting some of the pricier health care options for employees that do not include the mental health benefits to deal with the added stress of single dimensional evaluation.  A no-suicide pact would be a good addition to our 800 number for employee suicides and might be seen as more engaging and less passive than a listing the District phone book. I’m attaching an example below


Inagural disclamer

Sometimes to come up with tenable solutions to problems facing LAUSD you need to go to extremes.