Lots of kids get stuck for years with various
incompetent teachers, but it doesn't have to be
that way. We can fix the problem. And not spend
any more money!
HERE'S THE PLAN:
An excellent teacher could come into each
classroom for just a few hours a week and
make a huge difference--if that teacher had
responsibility for student success and authority
to make decisions.
Parents should not need political clout to get a
good teacher for their child. Every
student should--and could--have a great
teacher, without wasting time and energy on the
losing battle to fire incompetent teachers.
The truth is that the critical moments in learning
don't happen continuously five hours a day.
They add up to at most a couple of hours each
day, and probably much less. The rest of the
time an ordinary, mediocre teacher can handle
the skill practice and lesson reinforcement,
computer activities, art projects, silent reading
(how much skill is needed to be in charge of
that?) and so on.
GIVING SUPPORT TEACHERS A REAL JOB
At my former school we were paying a top
salary--well over $60,000, for a computer
teacher who was very nice, but her job was
merely to familiarize kids with computer
programs. An aide could have done the job.
When the principal (Ollie Matos) tried to switch
that computer teacher to giving basic reading
and math lessons, the teachers went ballistic.
The story became a sensation in the San Diego
Press, and a group of angry teachers were
named the "Castle Park Five" by San Diego
Union-Tribune editor Don Sevrens. Basically,
what the teachers wanted was 45 minutes a
week in which they could send their students to
another teacher. But in my plan, classroom
teachers would have this kind of help and relief
for more than an entire day each week! The nice
computer teacher could become a master
Resource teachers like computer teachers and
language and math support teachers could
become master teachers. And let's face it: how
much good are those resource teachers able to
do? They go around and offer suggestions, but
they are really doing the equivalent of passing
out band-aids. I would never want such a job. It
might be relaxing not to have direct responsibility
for student learning, but isn't that the point of
being a teacher?
NO MORE ABUSIVE TEACHERS
Academics would not be the only thing that
master teachers would be responsible for.
Abusive, immature teachers with a habit of
undermining students could be overruled and
guided by the master teacher.
WE COULD SAVE MONEY!
Why do we give bad teachers the same
amount of money, as well as the same
responsibilities, as good teachers? It makes
Excellent teachers should be paid much more
than average teachers, and could be
responsible for all students in several
Each classroom could have a full-time regular
teacher who be paid a lower salary, but would be
eligible to become a master teacher. The master
teacher would also be responsible for helping
and guiding the regular teacher.
In California the average teacher salary is
roughly $60,000 (with a starting salary of
We could allow regular teachers to rise in salary
to an average of $50 thousand, and allow
master teachers to rise to an average of $100
thousand--for overseeing four classrooms (or, in
a time of better budgets, three classrooms.
Money for support teachers and teacher aides
would be switched to master teacher positions in
the classrooms. (Of course, special education
would still require teacher aides.) Some people
who are currently teacher aides could become
Here's the comparison for four classrooms and
one extra salary (thousands):
Currently: $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 = $300
New plan: $100 + $50 + $50 + $50 + $50 =
MEANINGFUL EVALUATIONS OF TEACHERS
WOULD BE REQUIRED
Of course, meaningful evaluations of teachers
would have to be instituted to make this plan
work. Current evaluation systems are worse than
useless. My plan would call for frequent
observations by both master and regular
teachers, but they would observe classrooms in
other districts to keep school politics out of the
process as much as possible. The observations
would have a beneficial side effect: they would
allow teachers to pick up new ideas.
I believe it would be good to use student test
scores when choosing who is to be a master
teacher, but I don't think it's absolutely
necessary. The good thing about it is that it
would take some of the politics out of teacher
evaluation. It should be noted that although
student test scores vary widely from year to year
for most teachers, some teachers do get
consistently high scores from their students year
Turnaround venture attracts highly effective
Teacher-Leader Corps Helps Turn Around Schools
By Stephen Sawchuk
April 18, 2011
It’s hard to imagine two schools superficially more different from each other
than Blackstone Elementary, with its labyrinthine 1970s layout, and Orchard
Gardens K-8 School, which opened in 2003, with its modern skylights and
cheery primary-color accents. But they were similar in the way that matters
most in young lives: Both Boston schools were among the poorest-
performing in Massachusetts.
Now, though, district and school leaders think the pair may have turned the
corner, thanks in part to an influx of a corps of top teachers in each school.
Achievement has improved at both. At Orchard Gardens, teacher attrition
seems to be on the wane—no small feat for the school, which has had six
principals in seven years.
Both schools, plus a third in the district, are participating in a novel
turnaround venture here that attracts and seeks to retain highly effective
teachers through a bundle of incentives, including leadership opportunities,
a structure for peer learning, and increased pay.
Now wrapping up its first year, the initiative is providing insights into the role
of teachers in overhauling the culture of a low-performing school—as well
as giving way to new questions about the nature of teacher leadership and
how to develop it.
“It’s where the profession needs to move,” Callie Liebmann, a 5th grade
teacher at Blackstone Elementary School, said about teacher leadership.
Yet she is clear-eyed about the challenges involved in defining the
ambiguous role, as well as the pressure to do right by underserved
“Working within a turnaround school, you have more on the line,” she said.
“The role is more important here; the success or failure of it matters.”
Designing a Strategy
Turnaround Teacher Teams, or T3, as the effort is called, is the result of a
partnership between Teach Plus, a Boston-based nonprofit organization,
and the 57,000-student school district.
Blackstone, Orchard Gardens, and Trotter Elementary are among the 12
Boston schools receiving federal School Improvement Grant money. Under
that program’s turnaround model, each of the T3 schools has a new
principal and has replaced at least half its staff. Additional details were
fleshed out through new state legislation and a memorandum of
understanding with the Boston Teachers Union allowing for extended
learning time and hiring flexibility.
Beyond those prescriptions, though, the T3 initiative has been shaped by
Teach Plus began as an offshoot of the Rennie Center for Education Policy
and Outreach, in Cambridge, Mass., and became an independent nonprofit
in 2009. Its goal, according to founder and Chief Executive Officer Celine
Coggins, is to help create leadership opportunities for teachers in the
“second stage” of their careers that don’t require them to leave the
classroom for administration or higher education.
The T3 initiative grew out of the Teaching Policy Fellows, a program run by
Teach Plus that selectively recruits teachers and gives them opportunities
to study education policy and craft their own proposals for improving
schools. ("Mass. Urban Teachers Being Groomed to Help Sway Policy,"
April 30, 2008.)
In 2009, the Boston fellows outlined a cohort approach to help rectify
inequitable access to high-quality teaching for students in low-performing
schools. The teachers said they were willing to take on the additional
challenge of working in such schools—but wanted to do so with a cadre of
experienced colleagues at their sides.
As such, T3 stands in contrast to incentives states and districts have tried
over the years that have primarily targeted individual teachers with financial
rewards. When crafting the proposal, the fellows felt that even the best
teachers could be overwhelmed by a dysfunctional school environment
without support from a critical mass of experienced peers, Ms. Coggins said.
“An individual goes into a troubled school with their cape and says, ‘I’m a
superhero’—the fellows were like, ‘Why would anyone think that would
work?’ ” she recalled.
T3 teachers now make up a quarter of the staff at each of the schools.
The district’s superintendent, Carol R. Johnson, praised the effort for
supplementing the turnaround model’s emphasis on principal leadership.
“A strong leader attracts better teachers, but we needed another strategy
to attract and retain the best teachers possible to work in schools that
needed significant acceleration,” she said. “While you can have great
individual teachers in a school, unless the teachers work together as a
team to establish a set of beliefs and action steps that are collectively
owned, we won’t see the kind of sustainable improvement that really
T3 participants must have at least three years of classroom experience,
and they must complete a rigorous interview process and provide evidence
of past success in improving learning. The current crop of recruits
averages nine years in the classroom...
The Overrepresentation of
Black Students in Special
in Special Education
Suzette Peterz Chicago,
UUA: Religious Education
Jun 1, 2010 ... The Unitarian
Universalist Association (UUA)
offers lifespan resources for
education, worship, advocacy,
and social action that nurture ...
Main Page Content - Sidebar
Content - Share This Page
American Indian education:
counternarratives in racism,
struggle, ... - Google Books Result
Matthew L. M. Fletcher - 2008 -
Education - 223 pages
... Traverse Band of Ottawa and
Chippewa Indians and the
Michigan Land Use Institute to,
inter alia, improve access to the
cemetery on South Fox Island). ...
The Research and Innovative
Information System By: Jeffrey
A. Drezner, Mary E.
Chenoweth, William Micklish,
Edward W. Merrow
Are our schools failing because no one
has a clue as to how to teach today's
kids? Or is it something else?
|If you find any errors of fact in
this website, Maura Larkins
would like to know. Please
report errors or other
|The San Diego Education
Report reports on Education,
Politics and the Connection
between them in San Diego,
California and the US.
San Diego Education Report's
TEACHER EVALUATION PLAN
San Diego High School
New York News - Runnin'
Scared - "Higher Ed"
By Tony Ortega .... White
House Says ARRA Saved
4000 Education Jobs in City;
Post Reveals Fraud -- It ...
Angela Ashman, Animal
New York, Animals, Ann
Coulter, Announcements ...
Health Care, Henry Blodget,
Higher Ed, Hillary Clinton ...
U.S. Department of
Education Senior Advisor to
Discuss Priorities ...
Jun 3, 2010 ... U.S.
Department of Education
Senior Advisor for Early
Learning Jacqueline Jones
will discuss the Obama
for early ...
US Department of Education
Organizational Directory --
April 30 ...
File Format: Microsoft Word
Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Enforcement, Sandra
Battle ...... Charter Schools
Programs, Director, Dean
Kern. Fund for the
Improvement of Education
Director, Linda Jones .....
ECD5 Office Director,
Debora Osgood 1470
/org_directory.doc - Similar
Common Data Set of U.S. Higher
Education Definitions). A. ABD
"all but degree" or "all but
dissertation", Not a formal degree;
...one of the nation's
largest providers of
education financing, Wells
Ginger E. Jacobs received her
J.D. degree with cum laude
honors from Harvard Law
School in 1998 and her
Bachelor of Arts degree with
magna cum laude honors
from Duke University in 1995.
...Ms. Jacobs moved to New
York City and worked as a
litigator at the New York firm of
Cahill Gordon & Reindel and
the international law firm of
Covington & Burling...
corporate clients in state and
federal courts, as well as
before the Securities and
Exchange Commission and
the New York State
Commission on Lobbying. In
2001...Ms. Jacobs decided to
change her focus from
commercial litigation and
white-collar criminal defense
to immigration law. She
moved to San Diego,
California, and practiced with
a well-regarded sole
practitioner for two years
before co-founding the firm
(formerly known as Guerrero
Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP)
with her former law partner
and renowned immigration
advocate, Andrea Guerrero.
* Jacobs Schlesinger
Ople & Sheppard LLP
States get D-plus
By LIBBY QUAID, AP
Jan 29, 2009
WASHINGTON – States are not
doing what it takes to keep good
teachers and remove bad ones,
a national study found.
Only Iowa and New Mexico
require any evidence that public
school teachers are effective
before granting them tenure,
according to the review released
Thursday by the National Council
on Teacher Quality.
"States can help districts do
much more to ensure that the
right teachers stay and the right
teachers leave," said Kate
Walsh, president of the
Hiring and firing teachers is done
locally in more than 14,000
school districts nationwide. But
state law governs virtually every
aspect of teaching, including how
and when teachers obtain
tenure, which protects teachers
from being fired.
Tenure is not a job guarantee.
But it is a significant safeguard,
preventing teachers from being
fired without just cause or due
Nearly every state lets public
school teachers earn tenure in
three years or less, the group
said. In all but Iowa and New
Mexico, tenure is virtually
automatic, the study said.
States were given letter grades in
the study, earning a D-plus on
average. The group gave its
highest overall mark, a B-minus,
to South Carolina, saying the
state does better than any other
at allowing ineffective teachers to
South Carolina requires two
annual evaluations of new
teachers. Teachers there who
get bad reviews are placed on a
plan for improvement. Only those
teachers on probation — not
tenured teachers — can be
dismissed if they don't improve.
The rest of the states earned C's
or worse. Five — Maine,
Montana, New Hampshire,
Rhode Island and Vermont —
earned F's, as did the District of
In all, only 13 states say that
teachers who get multiple bad
reviews can be fired. Only about
half the states, 26 of them, put
teachers on an improvement
plan after one bad review.
The National Education
Association, the biggest teachers
union, said job protections
shouldn't be blamed for keeping
bad teachers on the job.
"No district-union contract in
America states that bad teachers
can never be fired from their
jobs," said Segun Eubanks,
NEA's director of teacher quality.
"Yet too often, district-teacher
union contracts are blamed for
inadequate, ineffective and
misused teacher evaluation
Eubanks said teacher firing
should be part of a broad
evaluation and support system
developed in cooperation with
teachers, either through unions
or teacher groups.
That argument jibes with the
study, which said that states are
sorely lacking when it comes to
Only 23 say new teachers must
be evaluated more than once a
year. Nine states don't require
any evaluation of new teachers.
The study says states do little to
keep teachers on the job, even
raising barriers in some cases.
Also, 20 states insist that
teachers take additional classes
that don't specifically help them
improve. Five states make
teachers get advanced degrees
to be get professionally licensed,
despite research indicating
those degrees don't necessarily
help people teach better. Some
18 states require that teachers
with advanced degrees be paid
The study also wades into a
growing controversy over whether
teachers should be held
accountable for their students'
It said just 15 states require a
look at whether kids are learning
when teachers are evaluated. In
addition, the study gave poor
ratings to 35 states that don't
explicitly connect bonuses or
raises to evidence of student
The NEA and other unions and
teacher groups argue there
should be multiple measures of
teacher performance along with
The study also rated 17 states
poorly for not offering higher pay
or loan forgiveness to teachers
who work in high-needs schools
or in math and science, subjects
where there is a teaching
Bad teachers need
not fear in California
May 7, 2009
...It is encouraging, though, that a
trustee of the Los Angeles Unified
School District wants to replace the
state's years-long and ineffective
process for firing bad teachers who
During a meeting at which the Los
Angeles school board approved
laying off thousands of the newest
teachers, however capable they are,
trustee Marlene Canter proposed
allowing districts to terminate
tenured teachers, even those with the
most seniority, after two consecutive
bad performance reviews. This
audacious idea, so antithetical to
teacher unions' credo that years in
classrooms are the best measure of
teachers' competence, was
assigned to a task force for study.
Its members need only read the Los
Angeles Times article detailing how
state law achieves precisely what the
California Teachers Association
wanted: to give all but impenetrable
job protection even to its
worst-performing members. How
impenetrable? The CTA has more
than 300,000 members statewide.
Statewide, 31 teachers have been
fired in the past five years.
Current state law gives the final
decision on firings to review panels
composed of an administrative
judge, a teacher chosen by the
school district and a teacher chosen
by the teacher facing termination. The
panels seldom approve termination,
even if years of observation and
volumes of documentation establish
atrocious performance. Even a high
school teacher who kept
pornography, pot and cocaine at
school and an older teacher who
couldn't stop frequent fistfights
among her fourth-graders kept their
This process exists not to rid schools
of incompetent or scofflaw teachers.
It exists to ensure that no teacher is
fired because a supervisor dislikes
her, or before the district spends
years trying to teach her to teach.
Neither the students in bad teachers'
classrooms nor the taxpayers who
must keep paying them factor into the
process. Teachers want it that way,
and legislators eager to keep their
seats have kept it that way. Short of
students' mass movement to charter
schools, where usual union rules
don't apply, or a revolt by parents and
others who value educated kids over
lousy teachers, it will stay that way.
What rigid teachers do
instead of education
Rather than learning the
curriculum, some students are
relegated to "instead of"
education. They are kids who
can't get their acts together,
and are refused an education
on that basis. They are given
"lesson" after "lesson" to teach
them to behave a certain way.
Rigid teachers are great for
some kids, destructive to others.
Why not teach all kids the
curriculum rather than denying
problem kids an education?
Aren't we just creating bigger
problems by condemning
problem kids to failure?
Challenging Year Begins
for Many Local Schools
By Maureen Cavanaugh, Hank Crook
September 8, 2009
...CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit about that
firewall that exists in California because I know
Governor Schwarzenegger wants California to get
some of that money and he is pushing reforms to
allow us to change the way we evaluate teachers
in order to get our hands on that money. Tell us
TINTOCALIS: Well, there – A lot of states actually
don't have this firewall. California has this firewall.
Nevada and New York and I think Wisconsin also
have these type of firewalls. And so what the
governor is saying is, look, you know, state
lawmakers, we have this law on the books that
doesn't allow us to connect student test scores to
teacher performance. What we need to do is
remove that firewall through legislative change so
we can become eligible to get some of this
money. And in doing so, we're kind of reshaping
education policy because the governor truly feels
like he's on board with the Obama administration
on this. He believes that there should not be any
type of barrier when it comes to figuring out
whether a teacher is performing poorly or if a
teacher is doing well. So he is, you know, he's
been around the state kind of putting his
message out there, saying that we have to change
this law that's on the book, which is kind of like a
teacher protection law. And he was actually in San
Diego, in Chula Vista actually, for a press
conference to push that message forward and he
was in Chula Vista because the Chula Vista
Elementary School District, they use student data
to evaluate their teachers.
Now it varies from school to school
and I actually talked to the
superintendent here, his name's
Lowell Billings. And I – Because I didn't
realize Chula Vista does this. And I
should explain that in California,
there's a firewall but there's a
loophole in the law that allows certain
districts to move forward with their
own little ways of doing it. So in Chula
Vista, they have their own way of doing it,
and it's not against the law because there's
this loophole. And so the superintendent,
Lowell Billings, says, you know, this is a
huge part of how we conduct business
down here. This is one way we evaluate
teachers. He didn't say whether or not they
get paid extra or they get dismissed based
on it but he says it's a big part of figuring
out whether a teacher is doing a good job.
And this is what he had to say based on
how there's no standard formula.
LOWELL BILLINGS (Superintendent, Chula
Vista Elementary School District): It varies
from school to school and teacher to
teacher. And the point being is that data's
there to inform instruction. And, you know,
with some teachers it's more direct, with
others it's more influential in terms of just
shaping practice so, you know, there isn't
one set way but the fact that it's there and
it's a prominent part, teachers look at their
outcomes. We print reports that show, gee,
in your class, did students grow or did they
Human Capital Key Worry for
By Lesli A. Maxwell
Corporations have been striving
to perfect the “people side” of
their operations for decades.
Most hunt aggressively for the
right talent, train workers to
produce at high levels, and
reward top performers with
promotions and higher pay.
In public education, though,
school districts have been more
passive in managing this vital
asset. Most rely on colleges and
universities to supply workers,
and pay and promote people for
experience and education levels
rather than for their success in
raising student achievement.
But as the pressure to improve
schools continues to mount—and
reform efforts fall short—a
growing number of school district
leaders, funders, education
thinkers, and policymakers are
zeroing in on developing “human
capital” as the key strategy to
improve student learning...
The Male Professor as
March 21, 2008
...check out Daniel Hamermesh's
paper, Beauty in the Classroom,
which finds that attractive
professors receive better course
evaluations. Hot male profs
receive higher returns to their
attractiveness than do hot female
profs (which also means that
unattractive male profs get
penalized more than unattractive
female profs). The authors argue
that the positive relationship
between beauty and evaluations
represents a productivity effect, not
just a discrimination effect. In other
words, are attractive faculty really
better teachers, perhaps because
students pay more attention?
Could the same apply in high
school? If Alexander Russo's TFA
crushes tell us anything, the
answer may be yes.
BEAUTY IN THE
Daniel S. Hamermesh and
Amy M. Parker
It's not enough
(and it's not even necessary)
to get rid of the worst
teachers...unless teachers are
being laid off...
Only if layoffs are required by budget
cuts is it necessary to get rid of the
worst teachers. Laying off excellent
new teachers while keeping
incompetent tenured teachers is a
shameful practice. Seniority should
not be used to determine which
teachers lose their jobs. (See story
about ACLU lawsuit.)
What jobs should be given to
the worst teachers?
1) Let them work in an assistant
2) Make sure the good teachers get
lots more money in order to attract
the best and brightest.
3) What about the mediocre
The mediocre teachers are
probably the most serious problem,
but one that can be fixed. Mediocre
teachers should not be left
entirely to their own devices.
They should have master teachers filling
in the gaps and overruling their worst
decisions. One master teacher would be
assigned to three or four regular
teachers, and would have ultimate
responsibility for the success of the
students (and be paid much better than
the regular teachers).
Teachers should be
observations by experienced
teachers from other school
districts (to limit the role of
politics). The evaluators
shouldn't even know beforehand
whom they're going to evaluate.
New teachers could
accompany and assist the
evaluators; observing and
assessing is a great way to learn.
There could be a standard list
of traits to look for.
Every teacher would be
given a classification--highly
qualified, qualified, not fully
qualified (apprentice) based
on 4 criteria:
Failure gets a pass:
Examining California public school districts'
effectiveness in removing teachers and other
educators who harm or poorly serve their students.
L.A. Unified pays teachers not to teach
By Jason Song
About 160 instructors and others get salaries for doing nothing while their job fitness
is reviewed. They collect roughly $10 million a year, even as layoffs are considered
because of a budget gap.
Firing tenured teachers a tough and costly task
By Jason Song
A Times investigation finds the process so arduous that many principals don't even
try, except in the very worst cases.
Joseph Walker, former principal of Grant High School in Van Nuys, says that because
of the uphill battles that administrators face in terminating teachers: “You’re not going
to fire someone who’s not doing their job. And if you have someone who’s done
something really egregious, there’s only a 50-50 chance that you can fire them.”
A Times investigation finds the process so arduous that many principals don't even
try, except in the very worst cases. Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she
can't teach is rare.
Path to dismissal
* Failure gets a pass: a Times investigation
To fire or not to fire? [Only 20 out of 159 dismissals were related to poor teaching.]
A look at differing outcomes in the firing process
May 3, 2009
Position: School counselor, Henry Clay Middle School, L.A. Unified School District
Allegations: At after-work gathering in 2006, got in argument in which he grabbed a
female co-worker. Her 57-year-old boyfriend later confronted Britt, 36, and Britt beat
him severely. Britt pleaded no contest to assault.
Defense: He paid restitution, attended AA, anger management classes. Told
commission he was not "totally innocent" but believed others played a significant part
in the incident. His lawyer said Britt acted in self-defense.
Decision: Firing overturned in 2007. L.A. Unified "failed to establish that [Britt's]
misconduct or his conviction has adversely affected students or other district
employees." He's now a counselor at Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School in South L.
Position: Economics and government teacher, Santa Barbara School District
Allegations: Put student in headlock; made offensive remarks such as: "Just because
you're good in bed doesn't mean you can eat in class." Hugged, kissed a girl, told her
to "rub her body all over his."
Defense: He denied some of the statements, said others were not intended as
sexual. Said prominent parents pressured district to dismiss him and he did not get
proper notice of the allegations.
Decision: Firing overturned in 2006. His comments show an unfitness to teach in
some respects but he "did not have improper sexual motivations for his conduct.
Rather he sought to achieve class goals or to counsel students about life choices."
Appellate court upheld earlier decisions reinstating his job.
Position: Special education teacher, Grossmont Union High School District
Allegations: Delayed or denied meals to misbehaving students, sometimes for a full
afternoon. Allowed staff to use foul language, tell inappropriate jokes in front of
Defense: Former recipient of Distinguished Service Award, reputation as dedicated
and skillful. When confronted by an aide about withholding meals, he immediately
Decision: Firing overturned in 2006. Appellate court upheld earlier decisions
reinstating his job.
Paul J. Ewell
Position: Math teacher at Aliso Viejo Middle School, Capistrano Unified School
Allegations: Had an improper relationship with a 14-year-old. Although sexual
relations weren't alleged, the two shared intimate communications despite
complaints from the child's mother that it was "abnormal."
Defense: The former Teacher of the Year said he was "passionate about teaching."
Contended that the inquiry violated his civil rights and that the district was mainly at
fault because it failed to provide teachers with concrete examples of sexual
Decision: Fired in 2008. Commissioners found his conduct "weird, stupid, creepy,
sick, unjustifiable, extremely disturbing, completely inappropriate and beyond the
bounds of professionalism."
Position: Science teacher, Mira Costa High School, Manhattan Beach Joint Unified
Allegations: Threatened to abuse students who didn't do well on test, saying they
would have to "bend over and grab their ankles"; threw objects at students; put some
in headlocks. Advocated inflicting violence against illegal immigrants; sprayed butane
at a student who was toying with a lighted Bunsen burner, threatening to set his
clothes on fire.
Defense: Bhare admitted mistakes and sought "clinical treatment." Many students
said he was one of the best teachers they had ever had.
Decision: Fired in 2003. Commission majority said retaining this "otherwise excellent
teacher" would expose the district to liability.
Position: Third-grade teacher, Longfellow Elementary School, Compton Unified
Allegations: Physically abused students on six occasions in 1994-95. Slapped one
girl who had brought a note from a family member asking Mayers to stop mistreating
her. After an investigation, was returned to the classroom in 1995-96 and physically
abused students on eight more occasions.
Defense: Mayers said she did nothing wrong and "accepts no responsibility for her
conduct," according to documents filed with the state.
Decision: Fired in 1998.
A sampling of cases decided in the last 15 years by Commissions on Professional
Competence, the final administrative arbiters of whether teachers or other
credentialed employees should be fired.
We need evaluations of teachers
conducted by professionals who have
no personal or political connections
with the school or district of the
teacher being evaluated. The ratings
should be used to decide who will be
a regular teacher, and who will be a
master teacher with more
The teacher evaluation process
needs to involve more than
test scores and a subjective
evaluation by a principal.
Principals, like students who
sabotage tests, are sometimes
prone to playing politics. Why
not have a standardized
process that includes student
test scores, teacher test
scores, and observations of the
teacher by professional
evaluators? Why not rate
teachers like the bar
association rates lawyers who
are candidates for judicial
office: highly qualified,
qualified, or not fully qualified.
Those who are not qualified for
full classroom responsibility
wouldn't have to be fired; they
could be given jobs with less
responsibility, and be
supervised by highly qualified
Tear Down that (Fire)Wall!
Improving Education Through Effective Communications
In recent weeks, there has been a great deal
of attention with regard to firewalls and the
linkages between the evaluation of teachers
and the achievement of students. The current draft
criteria for Race to the Top proclaims that states must be able to use student
performance data from their respective state assessments, crosswalking it back to
the classroom to determine which teachers have been effective (and which have
not). In a new era of teacher incentives and merit pay, the trickledown of federal law
will soon demand that good teachers "show" their effectiveness, and that there is no
stronger measure for it than how well their students achieve.
As soon as those draft criteria were written, we started hearing of the legal
obstacles policymakers in California, New York, Nevada, and Wisconsin would
need to overcome (as all four states currently prohibit linking individual teachers to
student achievement data). California claims that while it is prohibited at the state
level, exemplar school districts like Long Beach Unified are already pursuing such
policies. New Yorkers immediately go on the defensive, and claim that the federal
interpretation of laws in the Empire State is incorrect. Wisconsin's soon-to-be
former governor is quickly working with the state legislature to reverse their firewall
issue. And what happens in Vegas is clearly staying there, as we've heard nary a
peep from Nevada on their plans to address a potential stumbling block to RttT
At the heart of the firewall issue is one incredibly important philosophy. If we are to
improve the quality of K-12 education in the United States, we need to ensure
effective, high-quality teaching is happening in classrooms throughout the nation.
To ensure that, we need hard, strong, irrefutable quantitative measures for
determining effective teaching. And the surest path to determining effective teaching
is by measuring the outputs. Good teaching results in effective learning. Effective
learning shows itself on student assessments. Strong student assessments mean
quality teaching in the classroom. Rinse and repeat.
Is it as simple as that? In an era where most of our student assessments are
focused on measuring reading and math proficiency in grades three through eight,
do we really have a full quantitative picture to separate the good teachers from the
bad? Do we really have the data to determine effective teaching from that which
is getting in the way of achievement?...
Don't get me wrong, Eduflack is all for focusing on teacher quality. We have
schools of education who are turning out teachers that lack the pedagogy or
content knowledge to succeed (with most of them ending up in the schools and
communities that need teachers the best). In fact, Harvard University Dean
Merseth recently said that only 100 education schools are doing "a competent
job," while the other 1,200 could be shut down tomorrow...(See more here.)
are the key to
Teachers enjoy the same kind of
grade inflation that students enjoy:
evaluations for little effort. Schools
are rather clubby institutions, with
the teachers' lounge and the
principal's office acting as the
clubhouse and golf links. Most
principals spend very little time in
the classroom, but they spend plenty
of time talking to the aggressively
political teachers who visit their
offices. Sometimes principals even
tell teachers to write their own
evaluations. Some schools are
fortunate to have very professional
staffs, but most staffs are a mixture
of political players and those who
simply try to stay out of their way.
The focus on personal politics
results in lots of subjective decision
making. I agree that observation is
the key to evaluation, but
principals need visiting
professionals who aren't in
the club to do the serious
evaluating and decision
Voice of San Diego
September 28, 2009
...For all these reasons,
simplistic measures of student
learning are ineffective for
teachers. Test scores simply
have too many problems to rely
upon for comparisons about
What does work? Professional
standards of teaching and
observation of teaching
behaviors consistent with those
standards will work.
Things like asking good
questions of students, inspiring
curiosity and motivating inquiry
about the subject. Things like
differentiating the material
based on what the child
already knows, or doesn't
know. Those were the qualities
of teachers that made a
difference in my life. And I'm a
Ph.D. who got 16 percent on
my first algebra test!
Not as easy as scanning test
answer sheets for 500,000
students, but a better way to
recognize good teaching is
when your child experiences it.
Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and
Liz O. Baylen
Los Angeles Times
By Jason Song
May 3, 2009
The eighth-grade boy held out his wrists for teacher Carlos Polanco to see.
He had just explained to Polanco and his history classmates at Virgil Middle School
in Koreatown why he had been absent: He had been in the hospital after an attempt
Polanco looked at the cuts and said they "were weak," according to witness accounts
in documents filed with the state. "Carve deeper next time," he was said to have told
"Look," Polanco allegedly said, "you can't even kill yourself."
The boy's classmates joined in, with one advising how to cut a main artery,
according to the witnesses.
"See," Polanco was quoted as saying, "even he knows how to commit suicide
better than you."
The Los Angeles school board, citing Polanco's poor judgment, voted to fire him.
But Polanco, who contended that he had been misunderstood, kept his job. A
little-known review commission overruled the board, saying that although the teacher
had made the statements, he had meant no harm.
It's remarkably difficult to fire a tenured public school teacher in California, a Times
investigation has found. The path can be laborious and labyrinthine, in some cases
involving years of investigation, union grievances, administrative appeals, court
challenges and re-hearings.
Not only is the process arduous, but some districts are particularly unsuccessful in
navigating its complexities. The Los Angeles Unified School District sees the
majority of its appealed dismissals overturned, and its administrators are far less
likely even to try firing a tenured teacher than those in other districts.
The Times reviewed every case on record in the last 15 years in which a tenured
employee was fired by a California school district and formally contested the
decision before a review commission: 159 in all (not including about two dozen in
which the records were destroyed). The newspaper also examined court and school
district records and interviewed scores of people, including principals, teachers,
union officials, district administrators, parents and students.
Among the findings:
* Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for
principals and administrators that many say they don't make the effort except in the
most egregious cases. The vast majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct,
including sexual abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or
repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.
* Although districts generally press ahead with only the strongest cases, even these
get knocked down more than a third of the time by the specially convened review
panels, which have the discretion to restore teachers' jobs even when grounds for
dismissal are proved.
* Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she
can't teach is rare. In 80% of the dismissals that
were upheld, classroom performance was not even
a factor...(See more here.)
The most obvious problem that
would arise in this situation is
that the regular teachers would
not want to take direction from
the master teachers. Teachers
are notoriously stubborn about
doing things their own way, and
have been known to form groups
to launch political and personal
attacks on any teacher or
principal that wants to do things
differently. My suggestion is to
set up a system of bonuses that
are awarded jointly to the regular
teacher and his/her master
teacher. However, the master
teacher would have the major
responsibility to see that
students are successful.
3. The master teachers should
be paid two to three times
what the regular teachers are
paid in order to attract highly
gifted individuals away from
careers as doctors,
accountants, and CEOs.
I. Frequent direct
[Teachers in the same school
could observe, too, but the
purpose would be less for
evaluation and more for
professional development for
both observer and observed];
Does that sound crazy?
Here's why its not:
It helps them
maintain the fiction
that all teachers are
equally good at
hand out the pink
slips loyal to the
seniority rules -- a
result of state law.
concede state law
restricts the district
to this automated
application of the
"That doesn't mean
the local teachers
union doesn't like
"The teachers union
is willing to howl
about the pain
inflicted by these
cuts on single
schools like Jackson
Elementary, but not
willing to shoulder
any of the blame for
the make up of the
rules that cause it to
When the new grandiose
Lincoln High opened to
students this year, it
attracted too many students.
It also attracted a young
teacher from Chula Vista,
I met Gomez at the teacher's
lounge during lunch at
Lincoln High recently.
Gomez and his colleagues
were planning marches and
various ways to get their
students to express their
displeasure with proposed
school budget cuts around
the state -- cuts that, if fully
implemented as proposed,
would mean 913 school
teachers would be laid off
Gomez would be one of
them. A year and a half ago,
dressed in black formal
wear and smiling, the young
teacher accepted one of the
four awards given each year
to the "teachers of the year"
in the county. He had been a
teacher for 10 years at Vista
Square Elementary School
in Chula Vista.
Despite his success, the
opportunity to teach at
Lincoln High School's new
School of Social Justice
intrigued him, and Gomez
moved not only into a
classroom with older kids
but into a new school district
-- San Diego Unified. He
says he took a $10,000 pay
cut for the chance to teach at
No doubt, Lincoln is an
attractive place. There are
tennis courts on top of the
parking garage and each
classroom has a state-of-
the-art multimedia system.
The executive principal, Mel
Collins, strides around the
campus barking instructions
at security personnel and
haranguing loiterers unsure,
or unwilling to say, where
they're supposed to be.
At the old Lincoln, Collins
said, a group of three young
men, chatting and looking
out over the baseball field
during class time would
have been overlooked, if
seen at all. Not anymore, he
says. In 15 minutes, I saw
the principal dress down
three security guards -- one
for sitting down...
It feels like good things are
happening at Lincoln.
Gomez clearly likes it. Not
too long ago, though, his
new employers repaid this
enthusiasm with a pink slip.
Now, talk to most anyone in
the education world and
they'll assure you that
Gomez and 912 of his
colleagues who have gotten
the pink slips probably won't
lose their jobs. They'll say
the governor and Legislature
will come to a compromise
and the eventual cuts will
probably be small enough
that they can be "absorbed."
You have to love that term in
government budgets. It
usually means that the
infection of troubled times is
handled not with a shocking
amputation of services or fat
but with something more like
an injection of some kind of
calming but lethal poison
into the system. The
symptoms of the budget's
troubles are delayed, but the
system's bones rot.
"Everybody knows there's not
going to be a 10 percent hit
to education," said Camille
Zombro, the president of the
local teachers union, the
San Diego Education
Association. She added:
"One or two percent can be
...Gomez is one of 18
certified teachers at Lincoln
who got the letter. It's not
because the district and
school don't value him and
the others. They might like
them very much. The
problem is that Gomez is
considered a new teacher in
the city of San Diego. His
years in Chula Vista mean
nothing to the blind
bureaucracy of school
And since Lincoln is a new
school that recruited a lot of
new teachers and transfers
from other districts and
charter schools, the
disruption of layoffs -- if they
aren't fictional -- will be
exaggerated. If the district
must cut, Lincoln will lose 18
teachers. This is compared
to seven at Clairemont High
School, eight at Mira Mesa,
10 at Morse High and nine at
Point Loma High School.
The same thing is
happening -- though worse
-- at Jackson Elementary
School, just south of San
Diego State in east San
Diego, where 24 of the
school's 26 teachers
received notices that they will
be laid off if the budget cuts
are as severe as they
possibly can be.
Sure, they will be replaced.
But the people who come in
will have gotten bumped
down from schools where
they wanted to be. They may
have done all they could, in
fact, to get away from places
like Jackson and Lincoln...
The old Lincoln was
troubled. The new Lincoln is
just getting started. If you
rotate out a fifth of its
teachers after the first year,
you're not giving it much of a
chance at the beginning.
Why would anyone choose
to hammer Jackson and
Lincoln and leave other
schools in more prosperous
neighborhoods much less
...In the teachers lounge that
day were some of Gomez'
colleagues, many of whom
had also received notices
that their employment was
There was Edward Moller,
an art teacher, who's been a
teacher for nine years -- in
the San Diego Unified
School District. But because
his first job was at O'Farrell
Community School, a charter
school, he's denied seniority
under rules devised by the
teachers union and district.
Moller was let go after cuts
from O'Farrell last year. But
his colleague, an English
teacher named Chris Dier,
left O'Farrell just because he
wanted to be part of the new
Dier's enthusiasm was also
welcomed with a pink slip...
But a guy like Moller has to
act on his pink slip. He can't
rest his financial future on
the blind hope that the
teachers union president is
correct when she scoffs that
the governor can't possibly
be serious about cutting the
Moller is currently applying
for other jobs, hoping that
the charter school High Tech
High, where he once had an
opportunity, might be willing
to hire when the rest of the
district fires. In times of
trouble, charter schools have
latitude to make budgeting
changes that protect teacher
School leaders hand out the
pink slips loyal to the
seniority rules -- a result of
state law. Even reformers
concede state law restricts
the district to this
automated application of
That doesn't mean the local
teachers union doesn't like
The teachers union is
willing to howl about the
pain inflicted by these cuts
on single schools like
Jackson Elementary, but
not willing to shoulder any
of the blame for the make
up of the rules that cause it
Ask union officials about
the disproportionate effect
the layoffs would have on a
place like Lincoln and they
will say something like
what Zombro told me.
"The school board should
have known it was going to
have this effect when they
decided to do this," she
To do what? The layoffs
were coming, we were told,
from the governor's
recommended cut of the
education budget that
would result in $80 million
in cuts for San Diego
So what could San Diego
Unified have done to avoid
"They could have decided
not to lay off teachers,"
It's sort of like arguing that
the Chargers could have
avoided losing last year's
AFC Championship Game by
deciding to score more
points than the Patriots.
Yes, they could have. But
Zombro claims the district
is top-heavy, and she
rattled off some stats.
Across the state, the
average ratio is one student
for every 394
administrators. In San
Diego, she said, it is one
student for every 282
It's a good point -- ironically
reminiscent, actually, of
conservative gripes about
the education system. OK,
so say they cut
administrators at San Diego
Unified. There's a bit of a
problem: remember what
happens to them when you
cut their jobs? They don't
line up for unemployment,
they bounce someone else
out of a lower position. And
the cascade of doom slides
down to the guy at Lincoln.
So give me something else.
Well, it's simple, the unions
contend, the state shouldn't
The district won't have to
lay off teachers if the state
doesn't cut its budget...
There are other ironies.
Jackson Elementary, the one
facing a brutal turnover in the
event of the layoffs becoming
reality, was just Wednesday
listed as one of the
Schools." According to a
piece put together recently by
the California Department of
Education, the school has
narrowed the much-fretted-
about achievement gap and
improved its situation
Now, again, 24 of the
school's 26 teachers could
be replaced this year.
No manager of a major
organization would institute
layoffs like this. Even
government agencies, like
the city of Chula Vista, give
their departments a chance
to hit budget targets....
Without a change in state
law, the teachers could
never be evaluated by merit
when discussing layoffs...
A report from the U.S.
Census bureau last week
put all the numbers out on
California ranked right in
the middle when you
compare how much the
state spends per student
on education. No. 25 out of
The average state in the
country spends $9,138 per
year per student. California
spends just below that --
11. Lee wrote on April 10,
2008 2:29 PM:
"I taught for 35 years and
knew several 'Teachers of
the Year', and, although
many were good teachers,
many were also chosen
because of their popularity or
their ability to promote
themselves. The very best
teachers I knew were never
the most popular, just the
14. Ochoa wrote on April 10,
"RE: ZOLLNER.... I also
teach at Lincoln, two rooms
down from Mr. Gomez. This
is a great piece and it's an
honor to work w/ an
extraordinary educator who
helps his students in and
out of the classroom. In
regards to the 10,000 pay-
cut and the comments made
by "ZOLLNER", districts
always make exceptions to
their "6 Year" rule and honor
all years of service. The
SDUSD did this for
Guillermo and the reason
why he had to take a pay-cut
is due to the fact that the
SDUSD ranks at the very
bottom in salaries for
teachers compared to other
school districts. A teacher in
Chula Vista w/ the exact
same number of years
makes about 10,000 more
than one in the San Diego
Unified School district. The
move was obviously about
contributing to his
community, not his own
Leaders Split on
How to Measure
By EMILY ALPERT
Voice of San Diego
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009
San Diego Unified has
used the same process to
evaluate its teachers for
decades. It rarely pegs
teachers with negative
ratings, gives them years to
improve, and seldom forces
their dismissal. No tenured
teachers were fired for
poor performance last
The school district wants to
change that process. The
teachers union does not. It
is a delicate issue that
looms in the halting
between the union and the
district: How to improve
decent teachers and boot
bad ones without unfairly
persecuting teachers who
simply differ with
principals or work with
students who are harder
Though San Diego Unified
staffers and school board
members are tightlipped as
union bargaining continues
behind closed doors, their
proposal and internal
reports reveal general
dissatisfaction with the
existing way that teachers
are evaluated, particularly
the lack of hard data used
to judge their work. The
union counters that the
process works and has
proposed less frequent
evaluations for veteran
teachers with good records
to save time.
Coaching and mentoring are
supposed to be part and
parcel of teacher evaluation...
Some principals give up or
never bother. Others try to
counsel bad teachers out of
the profession, advising
them of other career options
that suit their skills...
Very few tenured San Diego
Unified teachers get
negative evaluations and
even fewer are removed out
of more than 6,500 tenured
teachers now working in
the school district.
Twenty-three teachers are
now under scrutiny after a
negative evaluation, said
Tim Asfazadour, director of
certificated staffing in San
Diego Unified. Two teachers
resigned last year to avoid
being officially fired. And
none were terminated for
"Knowing that you can call a
special evaluation at any
time" if a teacher is
struggling, Zombro said,
"why not allow the flexibility
for teachers and principals to
agree to a longer cycle?"
The arguable shortcomings
of teacher evaluation have
gained more and more
attention among education
reformers in recent years as
schools nationwide weigh
the idea of paying some
teachers more than others to
reward good work. They tout
connecting evaluations more
closely to student
achievement and instruction
and setting clearer
standards for the people
"Most teacher evaluation is
superficial -- nothing more
than a principal walking into
a classroom once or twice a
year for a few minutes, toting
a checklist of behaviors that
often don't even relate to
student achievement," said
Thomas Toch, co-director of
the nonpartisan think tank
One possible change is
allowing other people to
evaluate teachers, relieving
the burden on busy
principals. School board
member Richard Barrera
wants to bring other
teachers into the process
so that teachers can get
more frequent and detailed
feedback and deemphasize
the threat of firing in favor
of encouraging teachers to
improve. Toch likewise
praised Connecticut and
Ohio programs that bring in
several trained evaluators
to do lengthy visits and link
teacher training to their
Unions have historically
fought those ideas, leery of
outsiders and letting
teachers supervise other
Pouring more time into
evaluation also has a price:
Toch estimated that his
favorite programs cost
$1,000 to $5,000 per
teacher. Such a system
would cost at least $8 million
in San Diego Unified...
Federal money for teacher
improvement is available but
is often used elsewhere, as
in San Diego Unified, where
roughly half of that money not
to improve teachers but to
hire more of them and keep
Using standardized test
scores to judge teachers is
forbidden by their union
contract and by California
The current system "does
nothing to improve teacher
Chief Human Resources
Officer Sam] Wong said,
adding, "Teachers need to
know, 'What is it that I am
striving for?' If you don't
have an endpoint then
anything will do."
A METHOD FOR
In a perfect world, teachers who
are not good at their jobs would
be steered to different careers.
In this world, there are two
powerful forces preventing this.
One is the teacher's union. But
another, more powerful reason
is that we don't have enough
gifted teachers who are willing
to fill our classrooms. If we
valued giftedness in teachers,
and paid for it as we do for
superior ability among doctors
and lawyers and accountants,
then we could afford to follow
the advice of Evan Thomas and
Pat Wingert in this article.
Schools need to start evaluating
teachers effectively whether or not
any teacher is ever laid off. Teachers
are leaving schools all the time, and
it's often the best teachers who are
pushed out or who choose to leave.
(Guillermo Gomez and I both left
Chula Vista Elementary School
The tests given to teachers
would be used to determine
(a) which teachers need training;
(b) which teachers can do the
training. They would also be
used to determine who is given
master teacher status.
Los Angeles Unified School District
GRADING THE TEACHERS
Who's teaching L.A.'s kids?
A Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at
which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.
By Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times
August 14, 2010
The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same
world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima
neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends
to the stray bullets of rival gangs.
Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never
finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful
distance and trust educators to do what's best.
The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same
chapter of the same book.
Get breaking news alerts delivered to your mobile phone. Text
BREAKING to 52669.
Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the
other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the
size of the class, the students or their parents.
It's their teachers.
With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains
on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom
third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average,
according to a Times analysis. John Smith's pupils next door have
started out slightly ahead of Aguilar's but by the end of the year have
been far behind.
In Los Angeles and across the country, education officials have long
known of the often huge disparities among teachers. They've seen
the indelible effects, for good and ill, on children. But rather than
analyze and address these disparities, they have opted mostly to
Most districts act as though one teacher is about as good as another.
As a result, the most effective teachers often go unrecognized, the
keys to their success rarely studied. Ineffective teachers often face no
consequences and get no extra help.
Which teacher a child gets is usually an accident of fate, in which the
progress of some students is hindered while others just steps away
Though the government spends billions of dollars every year on
education, relatively little of the money has gone to figuring out which
teachers are effective and why.
Seeking to shed light on the problem, The Times obtained seven
years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified
School District and used the information to estimate the effectiveness
of L.A. teachers — something the district could do but has not.
The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added
analysis, which rates teachers based on their students' progress on
standardized tests from year to year. Each student's performance is
compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for
outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior
learning and other factors.
Though controversial among teachers and others, the method has
been increasingly embraced by education leaders and policymakers
across the country, including the Obama administration.
In coming months, The Times will publish a series of articles and a
database analyzing individual teachers' effectiveness in the nation's
second-largest school district — the first time, experts say, such
information has been made public anywhere in the country.
This article examines the performance of more than 6,000 third-
through fifth-grade teachers for whom reliable data were available.
I think schools need to protect students,
and also to protect good teachers from
false allegations. So why not have a
desk job alternative available for
teachers accused of molestation, and for
verbally abusive teachers. These
teachers could correct papers, design
worksheets (perhaps schools could make
a profit by selling these worksheets),
Teachers who are incompetent but nice
could be given jobs as assistants to
A more effective evaluation system will ameliorate the current
situation, in which teachers are almost always fired for political, not
"...There is an INTENTIONAL disposing of quality teachers hidden by a pretense
that they need to dispose of bad teachers, which is undermining the core of our
educational system, and thus our democracy...
"This may be difficult to fathom, but so were the priests abusing boys and
pretending this is not happening only seals our fate as a nation."
--Comment by teacherkh July 29, 2010 re the following:
Reactions to Rhee
By Anthony Rebora
July 26, 2010
Valerie Strauss, in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, argues that D.C.
Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's decision to fire 165 teachers for poor
performance last week was driven by a dubious teacher-evaluation system. Called
IMPACT, the system is designed to gauge teacher effectiveness based on a
combination of test score data and classroom observations. But in practice,
according to Strauss, neither measure can be considered terribly reliable:
The overall impact of IMPACT is not only unfair but not likely to do the job it is
supposed to do: Root out bad teachers. Some great teachers are likely to be
tossed out, and others, who know how to play along when the observers come in
but don't do much when they aren't, could get a pass.
On the other hand, a Newsweek political blog--after suggesting that Rhee's bold
action is validation for the magazine's infamous cover story on the need to fire bad
teachers--states confidently that IMPACT "was designed by Rhee's staff with input
from 500 district teachers, and could become a national model." (Emphasis
"If we had a fair and
collegial system for
would become the
key to retention --
regardless of a
teacher's age or wage.
But the School District
has entirely bought the
union dictate of
seniority over any other
washed its hands of
faculties by teacher
experience which would
benefit all students
across the city."
Ridding schools of
San Diego Union Tribune
Letters to the Editor
May 12, 2009
racket/Bad teachers need not
fear in California” (Editorial, May
I was in full agreement with your
article until one of the last
statements: “Neither the students
in bad teachers' classrooms nor
the taxpayers who must keep
paying them factor into the
process. Teachers want it that
way. . . . ” I know of a number of
teachers from kindergarten to
high school, myself included, who
fully support a redesign of the
process to rid schools of
incompetent teachers. And, yes,
all of us have tenure.
But we also recognize the
lack of meaning in the current
system that often credits
teachers with a “Meets
Expectations” evaluation for
a teacher who was never
observed by an administrator,
or who often shows up late,
rarely coordinates with their
peers or who lacks the ability
to help students. But gosh,
their college prep students had
good test scores, and they have
tenure, so they must be great
teachers. Hopefully, voting
parents will become aware and
will care enough about their
children getting the best
education possible that they will
make a big fuss about it. Then
things might start to change.
An unhealthy teacher culture that
fears change and protects mediocre
and poor performers causes many
good teachers to leave, including
some who are simply too disgusted
to stay. We can't fire weak teachers
because we don't have anyone to
replace them, but professional
observers should evaluate all
teachers, and poor performers
should be supported and supervised
by good teachers.
How teacher development could revolutionize our
By Bill Gates
February 28, 2011
...In K-12, we know more about what works.
We know that of all the variables under a school's control, the single most
decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It is
astonishing what great teachers can do for their students.
Yet compared with the countries that outperform us in education, we do
very little to measure, develop and reward excellent teaching. We have
been expecting teachers to be effective without giving them feedback and
To flip the curve, we have to identify great teachers, find out what makes
them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can
enjoy top teachers and high achievement.
To this end, our foundation is working with nearly 3,000 teachers in seven
urban school districts to develop fair and reliable measures of teacher
effectiveness that are tied to gains in student achievement. Research
teams are analyzing videos of more than 13,000 lessons - focusing on
classes that showed big student gains so it can be understood how the
teachers did it. At the same time, teachers are watching their own videos
to see what they need to do to improve their practice.
Our goal is a new approach to development and evaluation that teachers
endorse and that helps all teachers improve.
The value of measuring effectiveness is clear when you compare teachers
to members of other professions - farmers, engineers, computer
programmers, even athletes. These professionals are more advanced
than their predecessors - because they have clear indicators of
excellence, their success depends on performance and they eagerly learn
from the best.
The same advances haven't been made in teaching because we haven't
built a system to measure and promote excellence. Instead, we have
poured money into proxies, things we hoped would have an impact on
student achievement. The United States spends $50 billion a year on
automatic salary increases based on teacher seniority. It's reasonable to
suppose that teachers who have served longer are more effective, but the
evidence says that's not true. After the first few years, seniority seems to
have no effect on student achievement.
Another standard feature of school budgets is a bump in pay for
advanced degrees. Such raises have almost no impact on achievement,
but every year they cost $15 billion that would help students more if spent
in other ways.
Perhaps the most expensive assumption embedded in school budgets -
and one of the most unchallenged - is the view that reducing class size is
the best way to improve student achievement. This belief has driven
school budget increases for more than 50 years. U.S. schools have almost
twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960, yet achievement
is roughly the same.
What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students in
front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and
asking them to take on four or five more students. Part of the savings
could then be used to give the top teachers a raise. (In a 2008 survey
funded by the Gates Foundation, 83 percent of teachers said they would
be happy to teach more students for more pay.) The rest of the savings
could go toward improving teacher support and evaluation systems, to
help more teachers become great.
Compared with other countries, America has spent more and achieved
less. If there's any good news in that, it's that we've had a chance to see
what works and what doesn't. That sets the stage for a big change that
everyone knows we need: building exceptional teacher personnel systems
that identify great teaching, reward it and help every teacher get better.
It's the thing we've been missing, and it can turn our schools around.
II. interview of
teacher (also see below
"Interviewing to keep your job";
this would give teachers a
chance to give more
information to evaluators);
III. standardized tests
taken by the teachers;
IV. students' test
How should the
1. Every classroom would have
one standard teacher and one
A standard teacher would have
responsibility for one classroom,
while the master teacher would
have responsibility for several
classrooms, teaching part time in
each, taking responsibility for
guiding and educating both the
students and the standard
teachers. The master teacher
would give the most basic tasks
to the poorest teachers, and
might even deputize the highest
performing standard teachers to
act as master teacher.
2. Average-to-poor teachers
would be placed in a standard
teaching job, but they would
have the possibility of
improving their scores and
rising to master teacher level.
"In my 24 years of
education, I have
never seen a
due to their
lose some of the
people who work
the most or are
effective, that's just
The truth is that few administrators have
a clue as to which teachers have their
acts together, and which ones are
struggling to survive another year.
And other teachers don't know, either,
although some of them think they do.
Why? Because principals
and teachers seldom do
But they should. Teachers
could help with evaluations,
and they could learn a lot in
Perhaps another part
of the problem with
schools is that
administrators have the
lowest GRE scores
compared to other
NEWS---August 5, 2011
Obama's efforts to improve teaching
Arne Duncan outlines vision for teacher reform
Education Secretary Arne Duncan launched a $5 billion proposal
Wednesday aimed at improving the teaching profession at every
By Amanda Paulson
Christian Science Monitor
February 15, 2012
The Obama administration is focused on teaching again – but this time it’s
hoping to reform the entire profession itself.
“Our goal is to support teachers in rebuilding their profession – and to elevate the
teacher voice in shaping federal, state, and local education policy,” Secretary Duncan
told the teachers, according to prepared remarks. “Our larger goal is to make teaching
not only America’s most important profession – [but also] America’s most
The program, dubbed the RESPECT Project (Recognizing Educational Success,
Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching), would be structured like another
version of Race to the Top: a competitive grant program that would ask states to submit
The details would be hammered out in discussions with Congress, but
Duncan has promised that it would look comprehensively at the teaching
profession, touching on a few main areas:
• Reforming teacher colleges and making them more selective.
• Reforming compensation – including tying earnings to performance,
paying teachers more for working in tough environments, and
making teacher salaries more competitive with other professions.
• Creating new career ladders for teachers (in which they could develop
some leadership and administrative skills but still be in the
• Reforming tenure.
• Improving professional development, giving teachers more time for
collaboration, and giving some teachers more autonomy.
• Building teacher evaluation systems based on multiple measures.
...But, despite the uncertain nature of the proposal, it’s jump-starting a
conversation on what the teaching profession needs – and is getting buy-in
from diverse corners, in part because it includes tough new
accountability standards for the profession as well as increased
pay, support, training, and respect for teachers.
“They’re focusing on both higher standards and better rewards for
teachers,” says Timothy Daly, president of the New Teacher Project,
which recruits and trains teachers for high-needs schools. “You can’t do
one but not the other.”
Mr. Daly also lauds the structure of the proposal, saying that a competitive
grant program will give incentives to states to “do the difficult stuff.”
...“This proposal represents a critical first-step in ensuring that all students
have access to a range of high-quality resources, including qualified and
licensed teachers who are empowered to innovate and inspired to take on
ever-growing challenges,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the
National Education Association, in a statement...
Some of what the administration is proposing – including better teacher
evaluations, more accountability in exchange for tenure, and a
compensation system more closely tied to student performance – has been
on its agenda for a while and has been part of Race to the Top or other
But this is the first time the administration has taken such a comprehensive
look at the overall teaching profession – including the teacher-training
programs that feed into it.
“Many of our schools of education are mediocre at best,” Duncan
said Wednesday. “Many teachers are poorly trained and isolated in their
...Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship
Foundation and former president of Columbia University’s Teachers
College, says that in a study he did a few years ago, he identified a few
strong teacher-training programs in most parts of the country. “But most
of the programs I saw were mediocre to poor,” Mr. Levine says...
Some of the problems with existing programs: low admissions and
graduation standards, academic and in-classroom components that are
disconnected from each other, not enough time spent in schools, and
curricula that are dated and theoretical...
One possibility that could make a big impact: simply collecting and
publishing data on how graduates of various teacher-training
“We’ve built this system, and ... it isn’t focused on outcomes,” says Timothy
Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of
Chicago. More than anything, Mr. Knowles wants to see education
schools held accountable for the performance of their graduates –
though he believes they will protest – and he hopes that Duncan’s proposal
could help launch such an effort.
Without those kinds of data, Knowles says, “the teacher-training
industry is really like a cartel – not accountable for what it delivers,
has a total corner on the market, and the places that actually hire
teachers can exert no control over the supply.”
Despite Duncan's harsh words for some of the current teaching colleges,
the Education secretary had nothing but praise for teachers in his meeting.
And he's framed this proposal as a way to improve not only the quality of
teaching, but also the attractiveness and stature of the profession.
“We need to change society’s views of teaching – from the factory model of
yesterday to the professional model of tomorrow, where teachers are
revered as thinkers, leaders, and nation-builders,” Duncan told teachers.
“No other profession carries a greater burden for securing our
economic future. No other profession holds out more promise of
opportunity to children and young people from disadvantaged
backgrounds. And no other profession deserves more respect.”...
|San Diego Education Report
Here's how every child can have
an excellent teacher--without
firing or laying-off any teachers!
"There’s very good evidence that teacher quality
matters a lot in terms of student performance in
school and success later on in life.
The economist Raj Chetty of Harvard, for
example, has found that students randomly
placed with more experienced kindergarten
teachers not only perform better on tests but
earn more and save more for retirement as
adults, are likelier to go to college, and go to
better colleges than their peers with less
Eric Hanushek of Stanford
estimates that a good
teacher–defined as at the
students with test scores
an increase of
and $46,000 in
The $4 Million Teacher
...The South Korean education
market is so profitable that it
attracts investments from
firms like Goldman Sachs,
the Carlyle Group and A.I.G.
It was thrilling to meet Mr. Kim—a teacher who earns the kind of
money that professional athletes make in the U.S.
An American with his ambition and abilities might have to
become a banker or a lawyer, but in South Korea, he had become
a teacher, and he was rich anyway...
Evaluating teachers and doctors
The system isn't working in either case.
The problem begins--and usually ends--at the local workplace.
Office politics and group culture allows incompetent teachers and
doctors to rely on their pals for protection. And it allows highly
competent teachers and doctors to be targeted by those who play
From SDER Blog:
"Hospitals' peer review committees — the internal panels of medical staff
that oversee and review complaints against clinical personnel — often do a
"'Much of the bottleneck in the physician discipline system is in the peer
review committees,' says Philip Levitt, a retired Florida neurosurgeon who
served as chief of the medical staff at two hospitals. 'Virtually everything of
serious consequence gets balled up or blocked in the peer review process.'
T"he peer review system is rife with bias, Levitt says, noting that doctors on
the committees often are inclined to protect their colleagues — or go after
those who cross or compete with them. That dynamic invites lawsuits from
doctors who say they've been treated unfairly, so hospitals generally are
wary of suspending even those doctors who commit egregious misconduct,
Levitt adds. Instead, they tend to look for a deal to persuade the doctor to
leave quietly with no misconduct finding."--USA Today
Stutz v. Larkins update:
I'm appealing the default Judge
Judith Hayes granted to Stutz
in defamation case
The judge refused to allow jury trial
See all posts regarding Stutz v. Larkins
This defamation case, filed against me by
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz on October 5,
2007, is still clawing its way through the
justice system. Four years ago San Diego
Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes threw
out my opposition and all my evidence and granted Stutz Artiano
Shinoff & Holtz' a win in its defamation case against me...
I repeatedly asked for the jury trial that I am entitled to regarding
damages for defamation. But Stutz law firm and its supporter Judge
Hayes didn't want me to have the opportunity to explain to a jury the
evidence I have proving the truth of the statements Stutz has
The funny thing is that there never was any finding of fact
regarding defamation...So why wasn't Stutz law firm jumping up and
down for joy? ...
Carlsbad Unifed cancels FFF contract
Is it time for the school attorneys at Fagen
Friedman Fulfrost to change the name of their
What did Fagen Friedman Fulfrost law firm do
to cause the Carlsbad Unified school board to
cancel its contract? The explanation can be
The question now becomes, who will end up doing the $100,000 worth
of legal work that was going to go to FFF, and will the new firm behave
any differently than FFF?...
Judge Judith Hayes
The dance of the lemons--as well as the
The dance of the lemons is more pronounced among administrators
than among teachers. It is very easy for an administrator to get a job
at a new district when he or she is no longer wanted at his old district,
partly because it's impossible for an outsider to know what happened.
Since firings are so political, a fired administrator is quite likely to be a
successful employee. The truth doesn't seem to come out until several
schools districts have been negatively impacted.
Problem administrators are often protected so the school board
members who hired them and approved their actions can get
Even though Libia Gil, Rick Werlin and Dennis Doyle can't seem to
get jobs in any public school in the country, the board members who
supported them year after year stay in power. Am I right, Pam Smith,
Larry Cunningham and Cheryl Cox? Bertha Lopez and Patrick Judd
eventually got in trouble, but for different problems (gifts from
contractors and sexual harassment, respectively).
SDER's Teacher Pay
and Evaluation Plan
Update on school lawyers suing me
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
v. Maura Larkins defamation
lawsuit post #108
(This case will be six years old next week, with no jury trial and no end in
sight. Judge Judith Hayes seems to have made a mess of it.)
I liked the article published in the San Diego Reader about my case. The
one error can pretty much be blamed on Stutz law firm and Judge Judith
Hayes, who each claimed that I published the comment, “…Shinoff makes
Vito Corleone look like an altar boy. Shinoff has destroyed the lives of
many individuals and families; only God knows what his body count is.”
I did not write the comment. It's not my style. I'm not quite as dramatic as
the anonymous person who posted it. After all the trouble that Dan Shinoff
has caused me, Vito Corleone still looks bad to me. But I've got to admit
that the commenter has mastered the art of hyperbole...
School investigator Ed Saucerman and
Fagen Friedman Fulfrost--a match made in
Mr. D'Emilio, a teacher in Claremont Unified School
District must think so. Thankfully, Mr. D'Emilio has
been reinstated and it is now Ed Saucerman whose
checkered past is being looked at, along with his
friendship with FFF partners Fulfrost and Friedman
(the two Howards).
In San Diego, school attorney Dan Shinoff's
investigator pal Robert Price has raised eyebrows.
Why most school cultures fail:
6 Signs Your Company's Culture Stinks
1. You've got gossips in your ranks.
No one likes jerks. But almost as detrimental to being jerky is being a
gossip queen. This is the antithesis of transparency and
collaboration. Even if it is not malicious, it erodes an organization’s
culture and energy over time. Cliques form and employees find
comfort in their connection to each other through trash-talking--
instead of building relationships based on accomplishments and
2. Your leadership team has bad habits.
Culture is a normative inheritance, much like child rearing. Kids look and
act like their parents despite how hard they try to do otherwise. The same
holds true in your organization. Your leadership is the best indicator of
the entire organization and so employees' bad tempers, sloppiness, lack
of collaboration, and general attitude provide valuable insight into the
health of the company.
3. Your managers' hands are too clean.
When managers are not willing to get their hands dirty with the troops or
do hard work, there's no number of free lunches that can help your
company. There are severe culture consequences when
managers are disengaged from the front lines...
4. Your employees are competing--with each other.
Competition is great. It’s imperative. I believe that you should compete
with yourself. What is not necessary is competing internally. You
know you have a rotten culture when employees
spend more time competing with each other than
with external forces...
[Maura Larkins' comment: I loved the following because I had the same
thought regarding Chula Vista Elementary School District.]
You know, you can't take an article called "why your high school
stinks" and just change the title...
guest 09/04/2013 11:20 AM
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A Promise Neighborhood staff
member works with students
after school in the Castle Park
Elementary computer lab in
Chula Vista, Sept. 19, 2013.
|News, information and ideas about our
Science Roundup: Swarm Intelligence...
Jane J. Lee National Geographic October 4, 2013
...As long as the overarching goal of the group
remains the same—such as the ultimate destination for migrators
or where to forage for food—a diversity of opinion on how
to reach those goals results in smarter decisions.
Published in the November issue of the journal American Naturalist, the
study looked at how group members in a computer simulation fared
under different conditions. Groups with limited information in uncertain
environments made much better decisions about what to do when they
included a diversity of opinion than if they all wanted to reach their goal
in the same way.
"These results provide a strong argument in the
interest of all stakeholders for not excluding other
(e.g., minority) factions from collective decisions,"
wrote the study authors.
See earlier stories HERE.
Education Reform--Evaluating Teachers
School attorney Dan Shinoff
wants no mention of
or criminal charges
in San Ysidro Schools case
Interestingly, reporter Aaron Bergin, who wrote about the burned records,
has been laid-off from the San Diego Union-Tribune. In addition, the
teacher who blew the whistle about the burned documents was placed on
Our tax dollars for schools are hard at work in San Ysidro School District
where the public is paying uber-lawyer Dan Shinoff to tell the Superior
Court that the burning of district records had nothing to do with a pending
$18 million lawsuit about San Ysidro School District's decision to drop a
Mr. Shinoff also claims that a cash handout from a contractor to
Superintendent Manuel Paul sheds no light on how San Ysidro officials
make decisions about contractors!
But Mr. Shinoff, who was hired by the district to deal with civil
matters only, and his private investigator Bob Price, appear to
have been involved with Mr. Paul in the effort to obtain a
statement from a printer of campaign posters--after Mr. Paul was
placed on administrative leave. (See email timeline on this page.)
Perhaps most of all, Mr. Shinoff doesn't want to discuss current criminal
charges against his clients in civil court. He says they are unrelated.
But if this is true, why was Mr. Shinoff's partner Gil Abed sitting next to Mr.
Paul at his scheduled arraignment last January 7?
In fact, Ms. Karen Dalton, the public affairs officer for the court, caused a
bit of a scene in the gallery on that day when someone apparently tried to
snap a photo of Mr. Paul and Mr. Abed, who were sitting a few rows behind
me. Ms. Dalton furiously scolded a person sitting behind Paul and Abed.
I didn't try to get a photo, but I wondered why Mr. Abed was in attendance,
almost certainly on the taxpayer's dime.
Both Mr. Shinoff's law firm, Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, and the California
Bar Association agree that public entity lawyers have no obligation to the
public and are only beholden to the public officials they represent.
School lawyers are paid tax dollars to keep events in schools secret from
the courts and the voters, helping board members and administrators
retain power and keeping voters clueless at election time.
I think a school district belongs to the people who pay for it and the people
for whose benefit it was created, not to the officials and others who have
obtained power in its hierarchy.
Stutz law firm was chosen by San Diego County Office of Education's Joint
Powers Authority, which provides legal liability insurance to schools.
See also Dan Shinoff tries to conceal how much San Ysidro School District
is paying his firm.
P.S. I am wondering why the San Diego Union-Tribune laid off Watchdog
reporter Aaron Bergin right after he exposed Fagen Friedman Fulfrost's
shenanigans at Carlsbad School District. SDUT owner Doug Manchester
doesn't want his Watchdogs to actually cause changes in schools, it
San Ysidro tries to limit testimony
District wants cash handoff, criminal charges excluded from civil matter
By Jeff McDonald
Nov. 17, 2013
Manuel Paul, 61, San Ysidro schools superintendent, is accused of filing
false documents, perjury, and accepting gifts above state limits Manuel
Paul, 61, San Ysidro schools superintendent, is accused of filing false
documents, perjury, and accepting gifts above state limits.
Lawyers for the San Ysidro School District filed several motions last week
in an $18 million lawsuit over solar installations, attempting to exclude any
mention of cash handoffs, burning of district records or criminal charges
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, which has fought hard to conceal events in
the EcoAlliance case, would have been involved in the decision to place
this teacher on administrative leave.
Did Manuel Paul illegally burn San Ysidro School
Whistleblower placed on
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Aug. 4, 2013
Curious reports continue regarding burned papers retrieved from a burn
barrel in the maintenance yard of the San Ysidro School District...
A new twist to the story, however, is that the district has placed
the whistleblower on administrative leave.
The sequence of events on July 3 began when a San Ysidro school
teacher got a call from his union president who informed him of
the possible burning of documents. He called his acquaintance,
Art Castanares, one of the owners of EcoAlliance, a solar-power
company. EcoAlliance has filed a breach-of-contract suit against the
The teacher and Castanares showed up at district headquarters at about
the same time and found the burn barrel. They called the FBI and the
San Diego police.
“I can’t even have an open burn in my backyard," said the teacher
in a recent interview. "It doesn’t look right for someone in the
district to be doing this.” The teacher said what appeared to be
legal documents were visible among the ashes.
Though the teacher declined to release his name until he meets with his
attorney, he worries he is already suffering the consequences of being a
whistleblower. The district placed him on administrative leave on
Tuesday, July 30...