Sunday, December 18, 2011

Teenagers Complain

notyetLAUSD will not back down from bold and innovative food.  We are certain that next to learnings the subject/ verb agreement, learning to eat something other than carnival food is in the realm of possibility for LAUSD students.  LA Times story about LAUSD's capitulation to whining teenagers can be found here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

870 tiny wounds

I'm trying to figure out this UTLA/LAUSD contract.  UTLA doesn't lose any members for the next 3 years because of a hold on PSC (PSC was probably going to die anyway).  Schools now get to get create mini-reformish experiments. Up to this point I am neutral, no real negotiating and as I mentioned, I think this was a mercy rule decision.

 My paranoia:  I can only see teachers fighting with each other at schools.  In the end its not the reforms the district is pushing or the saved jobs that standout.  In the end its moving to a school culture where there is more hostility within the school among teachers.  Now a small fraction of teachers get to work together to change the school towards a few predefined acceptable reforms.  In reality only a small number of teachers will believe enough in these reforms and have the will to make it happen, most likely in the face of a variety of oppositions.  Changing a school would require at least 50% approval on the changes.  Some people will just want the status-quo either due to apathy or they are veterans and know how to get their way regardless of the ed-reform fashion.   I'm not interested in these people.  What about the teachers that want to make changes, but they don't fall in-line with pre-approved script of reforms negotiated by UTLA and LAUSD, these people will also fight.    I've been part of a PSC school and I know that only a few teachers at a given school will have the will to write 300 page plans.

I don't think anyone really comes out ahead on this, but hey its reform.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Update: PSC is not “public school choice

This post is an update to: PSC is not “public school choice"

Update for 12/12/11 contracts, board members, and the limits of self-delusion

Public School Choice is looking to go the way of numerous other district innovations, oblivion.  While most district innovations tend to get ignored from successive bureaucrats, PSC is dying a different death.  PSC’s death is the result of dozens of stakeholders running away from it in different directions, not a simple union vote. 

Death number 1, not with a twenty-foot poll.  Whatever PSC was, no one who worked on it in central wanted to keep it going at a day to day level.  The position to run PSC within the district could not be filled, it got talked about, even posted for a time, but no one wanted to run it.  Who was running it before? The previous keepers of PSC were people that were assigned to run it after their prior jobs were eliminated. 

Death number 2, limits of self-delusion.  PSC relied on some god awful criteria that would have chewed up most of the district’s schools if it had kept increasing raw API 20 points a year up to 800 points.  Whatever PSC was, it was targeted to improve chronically low performing schools, once you’ve tackled all the chronic low performing, why keep it going?   The PSC 3.0 criteria relied on strict achievement measures regardless of the some schools having high Value Added scores, in other words some schools were on PSC because of outside factors and not the teachers.  Once the district crossed streams with its Value Added and PSC goals, they discovered some schools were severely mislabeled and took them off PSC 3.0.  Not only were some schools taken off PSC, once you account for the teacher’s role in educating students via Value added measures, some schools that had appeared to be high achieving were in fact abysmal.   With two different criteria for evaluating schools the district would not be able to keep PSC while pursuing Value Added Models.

Death number 3, Board members found their voices. Tamar Galatzan cracked the veneer when she kept her new schools to herself, she wanted new schools fed by high achieving schools to remain public schools.  Once the idea that fundamental parts of PSC could change, there was a frenzy of board members looking to tweak it.  Why new schools were ever put on the list made little sense, unless it was the district’s way of saying they had no faith in their administrators to handle opening new schools.  Tamar, Kayser, LaMotte, and Zimmer all gave dissents to the status quo with PSC.

Death number 4, Voting. The votes on PSC schools, parent, advisory, community, faculty, etc, really meant nothing until the Board vote.  Keep in mind the vote on PSC schools is not on all schools that got put on PSC, just those that Deasy allowed to get past him.  In other words Deasy was able to come up with new criteria late in the game for PSC 3.0 schools and took a bunch off.  This was the right move and acknowledged just how backwards the PSC 3.0 criteria was, at the same time it meant schools that were not taken off had lost the confidence of the superintendent to keep running under their current formation.  No matter what the public thought, it didn’t matter because their voice had been removed by a report furnished by our new director of parent involvement Maria Casillas, then head of Families in Schools.  Families in Schools was dismayed to see 80% of parents at PSC schools were happy with their school .  The only information the Board members have to vote on is their own presumptions about reform® and Deasy’s passive dismissal of the school when he had a chance to save it.  If your thought the Board followed the recommendations of the readers and the superintendent, please look at PSC 2.0 votes.

Death number 5, The Mercy Rule.  There is simply too much embarrassment for the district to continue PSC as the PSC policy would begin to attack wealthier and wealthier schools with it's backwards criteria. UTLA came in with a mercy offer to embed language that nullified PSC in it's new contract.  UTLA makes it look like they fought off PSC with the district to look good for its members and LAUSD gets to drop PSC.  It’s a win for both bureaucracies, LAUSD doesn’t admit a wrong the UTLA gets to pretend it got a “major victory” for its members.
At the end of the day we have to ask is getting rid of PSC for the wrong reasons acceptable, or could we have had an honest conversation so we could learn?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guide to Recruiting and Retaining Winning Students like a charter

notyetLAUSD’s Public School Guide to Recruiting and Retaining Winning Students

LAUSD is failing miserably at competing for students.  Tamar Galatzan got it right in her recent LA times op-ed piece declaring thing is clear: If LAUSD wants to compete for students, and if it wants to survive and thrive as a system it needs to encourage reform, innovation and excellence at every school, from every teacher and every principal. It needs to champion reform, from the inside out.”  LAUSD needs to reform how it competes for students.  Currently LAUSD just sits on its laurels and lets students just come to them. The goal of notyetLAUSD is to teach students in the public, not every member of the public, they can go to notyetCharter schools.

 In the spirit of best practices notyetLAUSD is taking a page from Charter Schools; to train administrators and teachers on how to recruit and retain winning students.  Many charter schools send their teachers and administrators into the community to recruit students to their schools when they first open.  This is notyetLAUSD’s guide to be distributed to every teacher and administrator so they can become highly effective recruiters.

Where to recruit.  Did you ever see that Kevin Bacon movie where he goes to Africa to find the next basketball star because tall people are found in Africa?  Its like that.  LAUSD is Africa and our teachers and administrators are thousands of Kevin Bacons searching for the right families.  Like Kevin Bacon who knew that going to the tribal parts of Africa would yield the best talent, our talent scouts need to know where to look.

Single Family vs Apartments. Avoid apartments and converted houses.When buying a home you quickly learn that a single family home on a block with apartments is worth less than one built on a street with other single family homes.  Single family homes even in poor neighborhoods are still more valuable than apartments. Single family homes are typically the more affluent working poor, and if your lucky you will knock on a door where one parent is able to stay home.  Single family residencies are more likely to yield involved parents.

Clean lawns.  Look at the front of a house. Messy houses are usually run by people whose lives are a mess and their kids are a mess too.  

Network.  Once you find a single family where one parent can stay home make sure to network with this parent, look for other families to contact and for areas to avoid.  One well connected stay at home parent can give you a road map to fulfill your quota of contacts.

Know your section 8 housing. This should be pretty simple.  While section 8 parents might have more free time to volunteer, there is a reason they have that free time.  Use your networking skills from above to help determine these houses, usually they are  apartments anyway.

Bring your Bibles.  Every once in a while you come to a seemingly nice house and the front looks inviting, but as soon as you go inside you see the picture of a kid in a wheelchair.  The best solution is here it to pretend to be part of some church.  Instead of talking about your school, pull out a bible.  If by accident you already started talking about your school, make up something about how the accommodations would be better served at another school.

Don’t walk up any ramps.  A house with a ramp means a wheel chair and a wheel chair means an IEP.  You want to stay away from families with IEPs because these kids cost lots of money, money that would otherwise go towards your annual test score performance bonus pay.  You bring in one IEP student and there goes tens of thousands of dollars from the bonus pool.  Besides its better that all the IEP kids go to one or two IEP schools where they have the cost advantage to buy in bulk.

Foster Kids.  No

Timing is essential.  You will want to do your recruiting right after school lets out for the summer and right before the start of the year.  Parents with money and thus those who can afford additional opportunities for students will send their kids off in the middle of the summer.  The two weeks of vacation that bookend the start and end of the school year are great times to show up to a house and assess the students who answer the door.  

Policy Change:  First LAUSD needs to end the neighborhood school clause that mandates students be given guaranteed placement in their neighborhood school.  By eliminating neighborhood schools we free public schools from the shackles of lazy parents who aren’t willing to compete for their child’s education.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mash-Up Madness Tamar Galatzan Vs. notyet LAUSD

I love mash-ups

In the spirit of Mash-ups I've taken Tamar Galatzan's recent LA Times Op-ed on the need for reform®.  Tamar's words remain unchanged.  notyetLAUSD is in red

By Tamar Galatzan  and notyet LAUSD

November 29, 2011 and December 1, 2011

Our school system is fracturing. While the Los Angeles Unified School District and its bargaining partners, the unions, endlessly debate how best to fix the system, parents and students are walking away from LAUSD. People move, the economy sucks and LA is high rent.

 I know because I'm not only a member of the school board, I'm the mother of two elementary school students in the district. 

Traditional, district-run schools are seen as bureaucratic, handcuffed by red tape, and a growing number of parents are choosing charter schools instead.
The op-ed opinion of the head of our school district.  I like charter schools because they can kick out the kids we don’t like and my child is surrounded by other children whose parents were motivated, like me, to take the time to apply.   There are now nearly 200 charter and affiliated-charter schools in Los Angeles serving nearly 100,000 students. Each charter approved by the Board.  These are public schools run by private organizations, with more autonomy than traditional schools. They take public money, they are not mandated to teach every child like a traditional school.  Can we stop calling charters public.  The assumption (Good word choice here) is that, except for the hard-to-get-into magnets or the highest-performing neighborhood schools, the best way to get a good education in L.A. is to head for classrooms dedicated to reform.  As a parent do I send my child to the school with the 900 API score but a 2.2 AGT or do I send my kid to the 650 API school with a 5.0 AGT.  If I really cared about my child learning I would send them to a high AGT school, but any self respecting parent would send their kid to the 900 API school.    Not surprisingly, a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of charters, while only 24% considered traditional schools effective.  Cherry picked goodness.

In fact, that's not true. But one thing is clear: If LAUSD wants to compete for students
What students are public schools competing for?  Which students are more desirable than others.  Competing for students is like Grand Theft Auto, hit the high CST scorers and your school get points but if you hit the uninvolved parent that won’t apply to a “choice” system then your school loses points., and if it wants to survive and thrive as a system, it needs to encourage reform, innovation and excellence at every school, from every teacher and every principal. It needs to champion reform, from the inside out. What “reform” are you talking about the pejorative sense of reform®, those reforms don’t actually improve student outcomes.  Why don't we stop making races and competitions for a universal right?  

 To do that means removing impediments to change.
 The district's central administration needs to be more flexible and open. But that alone won't lead to reform from within the district. We also need the district's partners, the unions, to become more flexible.  Does this mean central administration will actually sign off a single ESBBM waiver.

For example, district schools need to be allowed to control their destinies. That means giving them local control over their finances and over professional development. It means giving individual schools the ability to hire their own staff, using criteria that aren't limited to seniority. And it means allowing schools to adopt a stronger, fairer, more complete teacher evaluation system.
Does this mean when a community picks a principal, they will actually get their first or second choice and not a Deasy must place (see Woodland Hills academy in your district).  I’m not against changing the stull, but it would be nice if my administrator actually did the current 1 page stull.  I doubt giving me two administrators with 63 measures multiple times over the year is actually going to do anything positive for me.  I’m not against choosing new hiring criteria, but we had a system up to 2007 for dealing with hard to staff schools equitably that the board dismantled.   As for the value of seniority, Thomas Kane, patron saint of Value Added has shown consistently that seniority beats out the inexperienced (save for TFA kids who are test obsessed teachers, typically not in it for the long haul).    When we say control destinies who gets to define a successful school, the community or Central still gets final say.  If LAUSD had made the model T their slogan would've been “you can paint your car any color you want as long as it ends up black.”  What good is community input if the only yardstick $5 billion LAUSD will use is the State's CST scores.

The district and the union have already agreed to loosen contract rules in some instances — for specific pilot programs, and under waivers for plans submitted under the Public School Choice program. PSC allows district outsiders (mostly charter operators) or insiders (teachers and administrators) to apply to institute a reform plan at failing schools. But the union has capped pilot programs, and waivers are hard to get. 
And central doesn’t sign off on a waiver when a community asks for one.

On top of that, as a board member, I've been told that teachers and administrators are pressured to submit only PSC plans that conform to union rules.  In the end, district insiders are often frustrated because the outsiders' PSC applications tend to win the day — often because the outsiders can provide the reforms and local school control parents want. 
How does a school plan lose to a charter, when the charter never even applied to run the school (Clay MS).   Are you saying you vote for Charter backed plans simply because they don’t have union rules.  Do you even bother to read the plans to see which one serves the community best?  Do you know the needs of schools that are not in your community    Are you aware that 80% of charters do not outperform their public peers?

The origin of union rules and the reasoning behind the union contract protections are understandable. An overwhelming majority of our teachers work hard, in challenging conditions. They are not paid what they are worth to Los Angeles. But even with appropriate protections from angry parents and unfair supervisors, union rules were never meant to prevent flexibility or accountability or to force out talented new teachers. 
Duh, that is why talented officials at the district came up with means to distribute these talented teachers across the district and shield them from layoffs.  This is also where Board members that authorize charters that do not outperform their public peers could close low performing charters and return those class seats and teaching positions back to the “young talented teacher.”  BTW the research suggests such rookies teachers are extremely uncommon.

Going charter cannot be the only viable to path to reform for Los Angeles schools.
But it is the only one the Board votes for, see affiliated charter school boom in 900 API plus schools desperate to keep those low performers from transferring in.  The union must give our teachers and principals the chance to generate in-district reform, or the LAUSD ( I think you meant The LAUSD) will splinter. The district is packed with principals and teachers with passion, energy and innovative ideas.  These ideas can happen with existing rules, it takes teachers and administrators to take the time to read the rules and make their ideas work. .  It's time to support them, with compromises to increase pilot programs and waivers, with support that will increase their success in taking charge of PSC schools, and with new contracts that allow teachers and principals — the district insiders — to be reformers too.  We must experiment with your top down ®eforms?  Why doesn't Central start signing off on internal reforms (ESBMM and others) and then we talk about what contract rules need to change.