Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who’sFirst?




Here we go again! Another message from “Students First” and, of course, a “Donate” click box included. Once again I replied asking why my previous inquires about executive compensation at “Students First:” was ignored. Finally realizing that my requests were in vain, I did a little research about the head honcho, Michele Rhee. My findings are contained in an article which I have inserted below the attached flyer. It gives me the suspicion that maybe “Students First” should be renamed “Michele and Executives First”.

PS
My suspicions are not reserved for "Students First". There are now organizations that proclaim to be promoting quality education crawling out of the woodwork. Many are fostered by big money interests and education "experts".
Is altruism the real motivation? Maybe, but I'm not so sure!

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Guess Michelle Rhee’s Severance Pay! (Hint: It’s Not Too Shabby)
Posted by Alan Suderman on Oct. 13, 2010 at 6:31 pm
Admit it, you're curious about how much Michelle Rhee's severance paycheck will be, aren't you? That's so rude. Fortunately for you, LL is also rude.
Here's what her contract (provided by a wonderful tipster) says: You shall serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and may be removed in accordance with the Act. In the event that your employment is terminated for any reasons other than (i) criminal conduct, (ii) gross dereliction of duty or (iii) gross misconduct, you shall be entitled to a severance payment of up to 12 weeks of your base salary, plus any accrued leave, as well as an additional 12 weeks of administrative leave.
Additionally, should you choose to terminate your appointment for good cause, you will receive a payment of up to 12 weeks of your base salary, plus any accrued leave, as well as an additional 12 weeks of administrative leave. LL's no lawyer, but that looks like Rhee can get 24 weeks, also known as six months, of severance pay for leaving "for good cause," whatever that means. (It's hard to imagine Rhee didn't ensure her departure falls under that clause when she discussed it with Almost Mayor Vince Gray and Still Mayor Adrian Fenty.)
Her contract, which she signed in 2007, has a base pay of $275,000 plus yearly cost-of-living adjustments. So, for six months' pay, we're talking roughly $140,000 in severance, plus whatever leave she's built up.
LL has tried unsuccessfully to reach various city officials who can provide an authoritative amount, but hasn't gotten much of an answer. (Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson says this: "I don't know that she gets a severance.") LL will update as needed.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

$100,000 Questions About Tenure




The constant cry from those wishing to eliminate tenure is that the cost of firing a tenured teacher is extreme (the claim is up to $100,000).
Why does it cost so much to remove a poorly performing, tenured teacher?
Because lawyers charge school districts exorbitant fees in order to carry out the process.
Instead of ending tenure for all teachers, the majority of whom are doing well, why not limit the cost of firing the poor ones?
We should look at capping the outrageous legal fees that are paid by school systems each year.
The State is certainly very good at capping all other aspects of school district spending why not cap these?
If this was done, some questions might arise. Would lawyers take tenure cases filed by school districts at reduced fees?
Last year, New Jersey admitted 3037 lawyers to the Bar. Estimated job openings were 844 leaving a surplus of 2193 . The median wage for New Jersey lawyers is $43.84 per hour. *
If the law of supply and demand works as claimed, it should be easy to hire lawyers to pursue these actions.
Another question might then be, would districts be able to obtain the “best” lawyers if legal costs were capped?
Well, if the charges brought against an individual are valid and well documented, I don’t think districts need Johnny Cochran to win the case!
Another cost saving measure might be, having the State hiring a group of salaried lawyers to be leased to school districts at nominal rates. These lawyers could then pursue tenure charge cases instead of having districts spend outlandish sums by hiring independent law firms.
If the real motivation behind ending tenure is only so that “poor” teachers can be fired without huge cost why not investigate these alternatives? (My own opinion, this is not the real motivation for the elimination of tenure.)

PS
Does anyone really think that the Governor (who is a lawyer) and the legislature (which is in majority composed of lawyers) would ever even suggest much entertain these types of actions?
I guess he thinks it's much easier and it's  more fun beating up on teachers! (and it probably is).

PSS
I see today in the Ledger, Tom Moran's column describes NJEA as "a union whose highest goal is to protect bad teachers". I guess he's referring to the union's resistance against eliminating tenure.
I'm not a big fan of NJEA but I certainly don't think that "protecting bad teachers" is their objective at all and I would doubt that "Tommy Boy" really believes that either!
And about Vince Giordano's salary, "it is a little over $300K! Yes, that's way too high for a union guy". Again, I'm not a fan of Giordano but who is Moran to decide that his salary is "way too high for a union guy"? The NJEA members should make that decision not Tom Moran.
I guess being involved with a union in any way, shape or form  means you deserve only poor salaries and poor benefits. The only people who deserve good salaries and benefits are in the "private sector"!
(By the way Tom, working for  NJEA is a private sector job!)



* http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cooked Up Schemes and Catchy Titles

 I got to thinking about all the educational schemes that are constantly cooked up in Trenton, Washington and throughout the U.S. What really impresses me is not the results they yield but the grandiose sounding names that are dreamt up for these fruitless projects. The ability to continuously conjure up such pretentious titles (and of course, the catchy sounding acronyms) is astonishing especially in light of their constant failure to help improve the education of our children.
The Renaissance Act
The Urban Hope Act
No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
The Race to the Top
The Quality Education Act (QEA)
Thorough and Efficient (T&E)
High School Proficiency (HSPT)
(HSPT9)
(HSTP11)
Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA)
Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) Comprehensive Education Improvement and Financing Act (CEIFA)
The School Funding Reform Act
The New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK)
NJ ASK 3
NJ ASK4.
NJ ASK 3-8
Minimum Basic Skills testing program (MBS)
Early Warning Test (EWT)
Alternate Proficiency Assessment (APA)
Elementary School Proficiency Assessment (ESPA)
Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS)
Professional Improvement Plan (PIP)
None of these programs and tests occurred before the 1970s. Up to that time, education was left in the hands of local school boards and teachers.
The system must have worked quite well since during the that prior time a record number of people were graduated from high school and college, America remained and improved its position as a world economic power, we sent men to the moon, we instituted civil rights for all and we backed down the Soviet Union.
Not bad for a country with an inferior educational system that was seen to require all the remedies which have been proposed and imposed during the past forty years!
I can only think of a few reasons as to why such a plethora of dictates are constantly issued from the DOEs.
(1) it is an attempt to justify the positions of public officials and the executives in the DOE (public education has to be saved and they are the ones who will do it)
(2) the state no longer trusts local school boards and teachers to provide the best possible education for their children (even though they did so for decades prior)
(3) the state feels that local school boards and teachers are incapable of providing sound education (even though they did so for decades prior)
(4) teacher's salaries have become too high and we need justification to lower them
(5) politicians will be able to better promote the privatization of public schools thereby allowing select individuals and corporations to reap the rewards
(6) maybe they really do think that education can be improved by the myriad of programs and proposals. I would like to think that this is their motive so that I might view them as being misguided rather than sinister - but I’m not so sure this is the case?
What do you think?

PS
I have contacted the NJDOE and asked who constructs and publishes the aforementioned tests (and is well paid with taxpayer money I am sure). Of course, once again, no one was there to answer my questions. “They will call back” was the reply from the secretary.
I left my number and email address.
So far, I have received the same reply as that from “Students First” – NONE!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tenure - Going, Going, Gone!

       I read another editorial in the Ledger today about a new great savior of the Newark Public School system, Cami Anderson. “Cami Anderson sees her job as helping all kids in Newark to learn, charter schools are not a threat, they are a help” she is quoted.
My question is “help” to do what?
Maybe “help” to gain ground in the efforts to privatize the New Jersey Public School System?
Additionally, the editorial goes on to tell how she has placed a hundred staffers in an “excess labor pool” because of their poor performance and how she can’t fire them due to tenure laws.
When I read this several questions arose.
I know that it is not good to have poorly performing anybody in any job but should tenure for the vast majority be eliminated for the sins of a tiny minority?
I looked up the statistics pertaining to the Newark School System. It employs 108,591 full time teachers. One hundred therefore represents 0.092%.
Another question is, did these poorly performing people receive unsatisfactory evaluations in the past from the well performing administrators who supervised them? If not, then maybe the administrators who are said to be performing well really weren’t performing that well after all.
Were any increments withheld in these prior years? Tenure charges are not required to allow increment withholding and costs the district almost nothing except possibly the costs to respond to a grievance filing by the teacher.
I also decided to look at the biography of Ms. Anderson. I found that she has excellent credentials however when I noticed her actual teaching experience, it was very disappointing. It appears that she has taught a mere two years (1993 – 1995) in California. It seems to me that this is another case of those who really haven’t done the job are assigned to tell others how to do it! I guess it plays right into the Christie proposal of allowing those with no teaching experience but having “managerial experience” (maybe even managing a Wendy’s) to be appointed as superintendents.*
As I was searching the Internet for information pertaining to this article, I happened to notice some other interesting facts relating to tenure and its elimination.
Tenure was originally established to prevent the kind of thing that will surely occur if it is eliminated and public schools are privatized.
“Tenure emerged in response to the spoils system in public schooling, under which teachers were hired (and fired) as a consequence of the political process rather than their competence or fit. Advocates intended it to be part of teachers’ total compensation, helping to attract and retain teachers by making up for relatively low starting salaries and back-loaded pension benefits through long-term job stability.”
I also discovered other interesting statements and facts. The well publicized documentary (or should I call psuedo documentary after reading the facts) called “Waiting For Superman”, made numerous erroneous statements about teaching and tenure that those who seek to eliminate tenure constantly cling to.
Here are some, " ...in Illinois, 1 in 57 doctors loses his or her medical license, and 1 in 97 attorneys loses his or her law license, but only 1 teacher in 2500 has ever lost his or her credentials."
“In reality, only 121 doctors lost their licenses in Illinois in 2009, out of 43,670 physicians, rather than 1 in 57, as the movie claims. That means an average of 0.3% of doctors per year lost their licenses; or 3 out 1,000 per year. And according to data reported by the American Bar Association, 26 lawyers in Illinois were disbarred in 2009, out of a total of 58,457 - in some cases, by mutual consent. The total number of lawyers disbarred in the entire country, either involuntarily or by mutual consent, is 800 per year out of 1,180,386; which is about .07%”**
To summarize, it appears that many who desire to place our educational system and its teachers in the hands of corporations and profitable companies are playing hard ball. They will go to any means necessary to disparage teachers and the teaching profession. Meanwhile teachers and teacher's unions chose to play Whiffle Ball!


* We do however unfortunately, have kind of a precedent for this. The previous NJ Commissioners of Education was a lawyer and I don’t believe had any public school teaching experience.

** Feedblitz.com

PS

With regard to Christie's latest tyrant about NJEA, here are some of my thoughts.
So eliminating tenure, starving the pension plan, eliminating benefits, firing well paid teachers so as to hire cheaper replacements and connected people, bashing teachers and privatizing schools so as to enrich corporations who will run the schools will cure the ills of "failing schools"?
Who the hell is he kidding. What a bunch of arrogant, ignorant  BS.
Is NJEA the best? Absolutely not! Why?
They don't have the courage to demand respect and call for a state wide strike! Instead they hide in their Trenton offices, put out sappy ads and engage in name calling. Name calling will never suffice for meaningful action.
As my mother used to say " If you're willing to take a lot of crap just wait, there's more coming."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Back to the Future

Back in the “old days” of teaching, the 1960s and 1970s, teachers and the teaching profession fought long and hard to gain bargaining rights and respect. Prior to that time, salary negotiations, employee grievances and teacher rights were unheard of issues.
Only by “stand up” tactics was the tide changed. Teacher strikes and the threat of strikes pervaded the state. Teachers stood tall and demanded respect and fair compensation and benefits. Some people went to jail rather than continue to work as second class citizens without benefits, equitable grievance procedures and a solid (but not extravagant) pension system.
Today, all that was fought for and attained in those bygone years is being lost with little or no outcry from those effected. I see no massive response from teachers and teacher's organizations, only the whimpers and whines that occasionally appear on the newspaper's Letters to the Editor page. Is the timid reaction a tacit approval of “education reform” measures taken by the state or is it just pervasive apathy?
They say that it is impossible to relive the past but without a loud, forceful rebuttal teachers and the teaching profession will soon do so.
I am sure that some might say, “they only raised health care contributions a few percent, it's not so bad, we can afford it”.
I am sure that some might say, “they raised the retirement age but I'm far from that and I'll worry about it then, not now”.
I am sure that some might say, “they increased the denominator for pensions but again, I'm far from that and I'll worry about it then, not now”.
I am sure that some might say, “they eliminated the C.O.L.A. from the pension, but I'm far from that and I'll worry about it then, not now”.
I am sure that some might say, “they under-funded the pension and are still not contributing, but I'm far from that and I'll worry about it then, not now”.
They severely capped school spending and the chances of maintaining a decent wage are slim but “I'll let the negotiators worry about that – it's their job!”.
They are creating more and more “private public schools” “but that's only in the urban areas and it won't effect me”.
They want to institute “merit pay” but “that won't effect me (unless a connected person wants your job or you are at the top of the salary scale or you're on the administration's shit list) because I'm a good teacher and I would never get poor evaluations”.
They want to eliminate tenure but “I wouldn't be let go, I've been here for years with a good record” (see the previous sentence).
They want to end seniority (LIFO) but “I wouldn't be replaced by a younger, lower paid teacher. I'm a good teacher and they know it!” (again, see the previous sentences).
Now, you might ask “why do you care? You've been retired for years and most of these factors don't effect you at all!”
Well, here's why. I was seriously involved in improving the plight of the teaching profession for many years and I find it difficult to see all the hard work done by myself and many others go “down the drain”. Additionally, when people ask me about my career I want to be able to proudly proclaim that I was a public school teacher without fearing that I would be viewed as having been one of a group which demands little respect and is willing to continually suffer degradation and humiliation without protest.