Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merit pay plan for teachers

From the PG:


Questioner said...

A question is how teacher improvement plans fit into all of this.

Some have reported that principals have been required to put 40% of teachers on "improvement plans" and that placement on these plans have been triggered by things like failure to stand in the hall at a particular time.

Will these measures really "empower" teachers?

Anonymous said...

In a word? No.

This whole thing doesn't address all sorts of issues, either. For instance, what if a teacher is given a class with the least motivated, most trouble behaviorally students, while another teacher gets the motivated, receptive kids in class? Even if each of those groups is only 25% of a class as a whole, it's certainly enough to affect test scores.

It wouldn't be hard for a principal to tank (or float) a teacher just with class selection.

Never mind the fact that teachers are written up for being off-script or are now expected at many elementary schools to follow a daily guide for how many minutes are to be spent on each little part of the lesson. What if those times and techniques aren't working?

The teacher will have to either use his/her best judgment and risk being written up for not following procedures OR give the scripted curriculum as is and let the test score chips fall wherever.

I think that if all their plans go as they hope, there will be a mass exodus of teachers from the city. Now, in many cases there are plenty of teachers looking for jobs (especially at elementary) -- but who's to say that those (new) teachers are going to be better, especially at first, than those they replace? I wouldn't want my child to be taught in any year by a majority of new teachers.

Questioner said...

Once again, it seems strange to require someone to follow a script and then fire them if the script doesn't work.

And shortages or oversupplies of certain types of teachers are likely to prevent consistent application of the plan. There have been problems for example finding enough language teachers.

anon1 said...

I know there are several outstanding items to be ironed out such as incentive pay for non-core-curriculum teachers like the art teacher, the music teacher, the gym teacher, etc. How about social workers and guidance counselors, are they part of the teachers' contract and will they be part of the empowering effective teachers project? I may not know all the right terminology to ask the questions clearly and I have not been crazy about several teachers my kids have had but there are some I worry about. They may have challenged decisions and may not be "connected" as some are.

anon1 said...

I think the term is "pacing" that tells teachers what they should be teaching and when in the roadmap. It seems so at odds with the differentiated instruction parents are told about that is expected to keep all kids moving forward.

So how the evaluation process is created has got to be flawless and leave NOTHING open to interpretation. Good luck with that.

Questioner said...

It's an experiment, just like the Gates experiments with small schools and a technology intensive high school. We'll see how it goes. If it doesn't pan out efforts can be redirected to something else. A downside, though, is that the $45M that will be sought to go along with the Gates $40M might be pulled from other initiatives. There are a lot of worthy programs that could have a huge impact with just a fraction of that money.

Stephanie said...

And what happens to the lower achieving students and students with disabilities? Will the teachers try and have them removed from thier classes? Perhaps talking the families into a more segerated placement? "Where they can service your student better?"

Questioner said...

We need an "inclusiveness index" that is reported widely and matters to the foundations. Then this issue will get some attention.

Stephanie said...

Maybe there should be an extra incentive built in if the lower achieving and special ed kids make progress on their own goals? The adm. need to support their teachers and provide them with the appropriate training whether it’s in a specific learning disability category or differentiated instruction.
Perhaps an incentive for the Principal that “thinks outside the box” and provides a variety of trainings that their teachers need and request.

Questioner said...

In general there doesn't seem to be an interest in having those outside the administration think outside the box. But in terms of incentives for special ed kids to achieve their own goals- is that taken care of by the fact that special ed is a separate category that must make AYP for the school to make AYP?

amymoore said...

I am not sure that I remember the details, but if they use the PVASS (PA value added system), the teachers who teach the lower-achieving might have some advantage. From what I remember, the students who started at the lower level showed much more improvement than the students who started out higher. Although we are of course concerned about the lowest levels and high drop-outs, the PVAS also showed that the higher achieving students' needs are not being met either.

Questioner said...

That's true. There seem to be no assurances that the jump from below basic to basic is comparable to the jump from proficient to advanced, or that moving a class from 20% proficent to 30% proficient is comparable to moving from 60% proficient to 70%.

anon1 said...

Many parents I know will soon not have a horse in this race. Graduation for a lot of friends is just a year or two away. There are some missteps made by the administration that have a long recovery time. The 50% grading process was one. At the time it was re-enacted as a process I could feel the tension it caused. I have a hunch why it was attempted. I think the empowering project will do the same, making the work environment unpleasant. My point is, this will make the learning environment less pleasant for the kids and that makes me livid since you know it impacts their performance. Until recently teachers had done a good job of never letting on to parents that anything was less than hunky-dory. Look and listen closely and you might see hints of the dejection, I know I have.

Anonymous said...

To anon at 9:10, I can only say this: teachers caught on to Mr.Roosevelt's agenda early on. They caught onto the idea that truly, there is no union other than in name only. They caught on to Mr.Roosevelt's business acumen, from the dismissal of true administrators--veterans who knew their schools and their staffs and weren't afraid to say so--to the 50% policy, to the Promise, to public relations dominating public perception.

And the staff never let it trickle down to the kids. That's because they're professionals who are dedicated and understand the task at hand: helping the kids.

This is just another attack on teachers. Somehow, only the doings of Steelers administration gets people riled up in this town. No one else cares. I salute the readers here for seeing the reality of this situation.

Teachers will vote this in as they did the past two contracts. They will put faith in a man that must have true union leaders doing flips in their graves.

Anonymous said...

Go one step further about the PFT. Some teachers still feel they can complain about work conditions and discuss the matter with union reps. These reps get in touch with building principals who subsequently target the teacher, even though they violate contract issues. Those targeted teachers are dismissed or the subject of continued intimidation tactics.
This is your school district...and this is our union.
Pittsburgh was a union town in all regards from the outset. These are amazing times.

Anonymous said...

John Tarka needs to be ousted asap. According to the PG article he said the teachers will go for the merit pay system rather than the seniority scale system. How does he know what the teachers will go for when he hasn't even addressed the Union to ask members? What kind of Union leader is he? The corporate kind? These are SCARY times. Wake up teachers and other staff. This is a way to get rid of whoever they want to get rid of only to have positions replaced by others who won't be able to do any better of a job educating kids from dysfunctional homes and communities. Your jobs are no longer safe with Tarka at the helm so it's time to wake up and get militant. We've taken enough abuse from Roosevelt already and now our "Union" seems to be more for Roosevelt then for it's members. SCARY!!!!

Observer said...

I guess I am most interested in just who will lose in all of this because truly, someone has to. Will there be a base salary? If so, what is it? Some teachers who have worked 11 years or more are making $83K. Some who are just starting are making maybe half of that. As such, just how is base pay arranged? I know that administrators have base salaries.

I'm concerned about vague wording in the agreement about student progress and teachers being automatically dismissed if they don't show progress among students. Define progress. What is a standard definition? Who can say and how do you use the definition from employee to employee?

I understand corporate logic. I understand that as an employee, you follow policy that emanates from the top. This is a people profession and the product involves intellectual, social, emotional and psychological issues, and yet, this method of doing things seeks to eliminate any human touch to the proceedings. So be it. They are the bosses. It's my opinion that students will suffer. So be it. I don't have to like or agree with administration and truly, I would regretfully disagree with almost everything that comes from Bellefield Ave these days, but they didn't seek my opinion.

I agree with some here that now more than ever, getting rid of a teacher will be simple. And I agree here that what John Tarka has allowed--and I say this prior to any presentation to teachers--is reprehensible, a total failure where his rank and file are concerned. Al Fondy, where are you?

In a way, parents, this is what you wanted. You vote individuals into school board positions and they make poor decisions. And you forget come election time.

I have no doubt a great many teachers will lose jobs thanks to this "win" for the PFT and PPS. I know that many have already been focused. Sadder still, I know many students will not get the kind of education they could have had decisions been made in an equitable manner.

Anonymous said...

observer, making it easier to fire ineffective teachers is a good thing and one thing that has stymied public school improvement in the past. While I am a strong union advocate, I have witnessed first hand the PFT's protection of teachers that clearly are in the wrong profession or are burnt out. We need better teacher evaluations badly. I am just not sure that this administration can and will implement effective changes or that the changes will not negatively affect good teachers.

Before there is a slew of posts railing against putting all the blame on teachers, let me preempt by stating that ineffective teachers are just one part of the problem, not the whole problem by far.

Observer said...

Here's my problem with your posting, anon: describe ineffectiveness. Who makes the call? And let's go one step further, shall we? The principal, vice principal and administrative ranks are comprised by a huge number of individuals whom we would call "failed teachers". They got into administration because they could not hack it in the classroom (and truly, I could list a plethora of names and backgrounds here). You are saying that these people should not only receive extra pay thanks to the efforts of their teaching staffs but also have a great deal of day so on the pay or future of that staff, as well?

You are asking teachers to place trust in administration, from Roosevelt, to his curriculum chief right down to principals, when it has become apparent that a basic appreciation of teachers is lacking. Some would say that teachers are an annoyance to this crew.

That's asking a great deal.

Ineffective administration has built ineffective policies and curricula, which has helped make teachers ineffective, as well.

There is a great deal of financial waste in this district and most of it comes via administrative types that don't make it into the classroom. These people should be the first whose work is reviewed. Then, let's go over to the South Side and review what PFT staffers have done. How are they being paid? Why should they be exempt from the classroom?

This effort has little to do with making teachers effective. It has everything to do with continuing the corporate strategy of running a district.

It's their call and I will comply, but if you are going to look for ineffectiveness, start at the top.

Anonymous said...

Observer, I do not disagree with anything in your last post except that ineffectiveness of the current administration is totally to blame for ineffective teachers. Yes, current efforts have demoralized many teachers, good and bad, but I have been in the public school system for 18 years as a parent and have seen absolutely horrid teachers under several administration.

You are right in that defining "effectiveness" is a difficult task. Some of what the district is proposing will help, like hiring earlier. But I also do not trust this admin to get the rest right.

One simple measure to ensure that new hires make the grade would be to have a better eval process in the 3 years before they are vested in the union. I have heard of new hires that have stated that no one came into their classroom during those first three years. Another proposal would be to take teachers at the end of an illustrious career, before they are burnt out, and assign them as mentors to new hires as opposed to and expensive and talent draining "Academy".

At any rate, we are in agreement that the current admin has gotten little right over the last 4 years so they have earned little trust to get this right.

parent one said...

As a parent what concerns me most is the trickle down stress factor mentioned in an earlier post. It seems there are always a lot of people on hand to share glory but few to share the burden of anything less than success. The timing is off for me to be happy about any new eval process for teachers. The curriculum still has too many bugs. Differentiated instruction is screwing with pacing. I am keeping notes of examples of flaws as I monitor my kid's work.

I like the idea Anon 9:52 had for the teachers academy. It would go a long way to prepare new teachers to be effective with all types of kids in classroom. Pittsburgh kids. Not kids mentioned in some textbook for teachers or in some study done in some faraway place.

The one problem now is going to a parent meeting to say "I saw this idea mentioned on a blog..." might cause the audience to shut down their listening function.

Anonymous said...

parent one, know this: you would have seen trickle down stress some time ago. This is no new revelation. Most of us predicted this direction some time ago.

I am hopeful that PG writer Joe Smydo will take the opportunity to investigate the number of teacher dismissals when the time comes. I am hopeful that he will have the gumption and determination to ask hard questions about the dismissals and inquire about the process. I am hopeful that he will feel both the moral and ethical fortitude to ask Mr.Roosevelt about his experience in the classroom, and about his lieutenants who put forth policy.